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 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive

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Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, a former businessman who had helped run companies into the ground, he was widely considered ill-prepared for the presidency, out of his depth, a lightweight in a heavyweight world. Still, having won the Republican nomination and then a uniquely contested election, once in the Oval Office... Read More
Gladiatorial contests were the “sport” of choice of the Roman Empire for more than 650 years. Losing gladiators were regularly wounded or killed, outcomes in which the audience often had the final say (thumbs up or down or a closed fist with two fingers extended). Such decisions were reportedly accompanied by screams of “let him... Read More
David Petraeus Finally Answers His Own Question
It took 14 years, but now we have an answer. It was March 2003, the invasion of Iraq was underway, and Major General David Petraeus was in command of the 101st Airborne Division heading for the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Rick Atkinson, Washington Post journalist and military historian, was accompanying him. Six days into a lightning... Read More
Karen Greenberg first arrived at TomDispatch in January 2005 in tandem with defense attorney Joshua Dratel. Their book The Torture Papers was just being published and they were asking questions. Thirty-seven of them, to be exact, all pointed, all uncomfortable, all directed at then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, all focused on the Bush administration’s torture... Read More
“Bring the war home”: once, a long, lost time ago -- in October 1969, to be exact -- that slogan represented a promise made by the most radical wing of the vast movement against the war in Vietnam. Wearing football helmets and wielding lead pipes, that tiny crew of extreme leftists carried out what they... Read More
I’m sure you’ve heard about the $65 million. Or was it $86 million? Or was it even more? You know, the funds the Pentagon sunk into that hotshot plane it was preparing for its Afghan drug interdiction program. You haven’t? Well, as Megan Rose reported at ProPublica, with its “electro-optical infra-red video capacity,” that counternarcotics... Read More
Even though the article was buried at the bottom of page eight of the September 28th New York Times, it caught my attention. Its headline: “Russia Destroys Chemical Weapons and Faults U.S. for Not Doing So.” In a televised ceremony, wrote reporter Andrew Higgins, Russian President Vladimir Putin “presided over the destruction of his country’s... Read More
I first “met” Noam Chomsky in 1969 by reading these words of his about the My Lai massacre: Discussing various of America’s criminal acts in the larger war in Vietnam, Chomsky then added of the My Lai massacre itself: Chomsky wrote “After Pinkville” -- areas like Song My were then colored pink on American military... Read More
At the U.N. recently, Donald Trump followed up on his bloodcurdling threat to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen” (essentially a warning of nuclear terror) with an even grimmer threat: to “totally destroy” that country. In his histrionic bluntness, Trump was not alone in raising the nuclear issue.... Read More
It drove me crazy throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton (with all those high-priced consultants and aides) just kept pounding away at Donald Trump’s personality, which his many followers adored, and those unreleased tax returns of his, even though Americans have always loved hucksters capable of outwitting the government. That was so apparent to... Read More
Fiddling Through the Smoke in 2025
It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases,... Read More
The United States just experienced its largest rainfall event in memory. For the first time in recorded weather history, two category 4 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, hit in a single season (not yet over). And San Francisco, famed for its chilliness, experienced an unheard of 106 degree day as September began, while a record West... Read More
In 1985, at age 41, I visited Disney World for the first time. I remember the experience for two things: the endless lines so cleverly organized that you never knew how long they truly were and the Hawaiian Luau dinner I attended. Yes, a genuine Hawaiian feast that reminded me of American Chinese food circa... Read More
After 19 al-Qaeda militants armed only with box-cutters and knives hijacked four American commercial airliners, the U.S. military moved with remarkable efficiency to rectify the problem. In the years since, in its global war on terror, the Pentagon has ensured that America’s enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have regularly been able to arm... Read More
In the early 1950s, my father ran a gas station on Governors Island, a military base in New York harbor. In those years, it would be my only encounter with the suburbs. And there, for maybe a dime on any Saturday afternoon, I could join the kids from military families at the local movie house... Read More
In some closet, I still have toy soldiers from my 1950s childhood. They played a crucial role in an all-American world of good guys and bad guys I learned about, in part, from the westerns and war movies my father took me to at local movie theaters. I can still remember playing out those long-lost... Read More
In America’s Wars, Failure Is the New Success
It was bloody and brutal, a true generational struggle, but give them credit. In the end, they won when so many lost. James Comey was axed. Sean Spicer went down in a heap of ashes. Anthony Scaramucci crashed and burned instantaneously. Reince Priebus hung on for dear life but was finally canned. Seven months in,... Read More
If you happen to be a dystopian novelist, as TomDispatch regular John Feffer is, then you’re in business these days. Back in 2015, when Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency was just heating up and Feffer was writing Splinterlands, his vivid look back from the year 2050 at our shattered planet, he named the massive... Read More
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump
Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours. We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its... Read More
Ever since 2001, when President George W. Bush launched an endless “global war” not on al-Qaeda but on a phenomenon, or perhaps simply a feeling (“terror”) and those who could potentially induce it, America’s all-too-real conflicts have become, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon writes today, ever more metaphorical. In a sense, they have come to... Read More
You may have sensed it for a while. A significant group of American voters certainly did, since they elected a declinist president in 2016. Still, here’s the news of the month: the Pentagon has finally acknowledged it, too, as the title of a report from the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute makes clear:... Read More
Think of Donald Trump as the plutocratic id loosed in the White House. And who hasn’t noticed the results? Civil war and uproar in Washington with bodies regularly carried out of the Oval Office. There are the constant tweet assaults on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There’s his disgruntled secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, taking... Read More
Over the years, Ann Jones has confronted some of the most daunting and depressing issues on the planet: the abuse of women, African civil wars, the disaster that is Afghanistan, and -- as reflected in her book They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- the plight of American casualties of the... Read More
When you think about it, isn’t it strange that Donald Trump doesn’t represent the historical norm, that Americans have never before elected a P.T. Barnum president (though Barnum did become the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut)? After all, as I wrote of Trump during the 2016 election campaign, “What could be more American than his two... Read More
You would barely know it, living in this country, but the essence of modern warfare is what our military tends to call “collateral damage”: the killing or wounding of civilians, not combatants. The Global War on Terror -- more than 15 years later a no-name set of conflicts still spreading across the Greater Middle East,... Read More
In May 2012, TomDispatch featured a piece by Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer, both then analysts at the National Priorities Project, headlined “War Pay: The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget.” The two of them ran through the figures for the cumulative annual budget for what we still mysteriously call “national security.” In other words,... Read More
Precision Warfare? Don’t Make Me Laugh
You remember. It was supposed to be twenty-first-century war, American-style: precise beyond imagining; smart bombs; drones capable of taking out a carefully identified and tracked human being just about anywhere on Earth; special operations raids so pinpoint-accurate that they would represent a triumph of modern military science. Everything “networked.” It was to be a glorious... Read More
If you’re looking for fairy tales that are on the grim (not Grimm) side, things that once might only have been in dystopian fiction, look no further than our present planet at our present moment. What about, for instance, that trillion-metric-ton iceberg -- yes, “trillion” is not a misprint -- that broke loose last week... Read More
I was 12. It was 1956. I lived in New York City and was a youthful history buff. (I should have kept my collection of American Heritage magazines!) Undoubtedly, I was also some kind of classic nerd. In any case, at some point during the Suez crisis of that year, I can remember going to... Read More
My childhood was a nuclear one and I’m not talking about the nuclear family. I’m thinking of those duck-and-cover moments when, with air raid sirens screaming outside, we went under our school desks, hands over head, to test out our readiness for a Cold War nuclear exchange and the coming of the end of the... Read More
Dystopian, yes. Unimaginable, no. In fact, a version of our present moment was imagined more than eight decades ago by novelist Sinclair Lewis who wrote a still readable (if now fictionally clunky) novel, It Can’t Happen Here. Its focus: the election as president of a man we might today call a right-wing “populist,” but who,... Read More
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How They Blind Us to Our Troubles
I don’t tweet, but I do have a brief message for our president: Will you please get the hell out of the way for a few minutes? You and your antics are blocking our view of the damn world and it’s a world we should be focusing on! Maybe it was the moment, more than... Read More
Every now and then something lodges in your memory and seems to haunt you forever. In my case, it was a comment Newsweek attributed to an unnamed senior British official “close to the Bush team” before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad,” he said. “Real men want to go... Read More
In America's Afghanistan, it’s all history -- the future as well as the past, what’s going to happen, as well as what’s happened in these last nearly 16 years of war. You’ve heard it all before: there were the various “surges” (though once upon a time sold as paths to victory, not simply to break... Read More
At 36% to 37% in the latest polls, Donald Trump’s approval rating is in a ditch in what should still be the “honeymoon” period of his presidency. And yet, compared to Congress (25%), he’s a maestro of popularity. In fact, there’s just one institution in American society that gets uniformly staggeringly positive votes of “confidence”... Read More
If you want a number, try 194. That’s how many countries there are on planet Earth (give or take one or two). Today, Nick Turse reports a related number that should boggle your mind: at least 137 of those countries, or 70% of them, already have something in common for 2017 and the year’s not... Read More
In an age of billionaires, whether the voters who elected him thought that he was the one who could do what was needed in the nation’s capital or were just giving the finger to Washington, the effect was, as Donald Trump might say, of “historic significance.” His golf courses, hotels, properties of every sort are... Read More
Not that anyone in a position of power seems to notice, but there’s a simple rule for American military involvement in the Greater Middle East: once the U.S. gets in, no matter the country, it never truly gets out again. Let’s start with Afghanistan. The U.S. first entered the fray there in 1979 via a... Read More
If you want to know just what kind of mental space Washington’s still-growing cult of “national security” would like to take us into, consider a recent comment by retired general and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. In late May on Fox and Friends, he claimed that “the American public would ‘never leave the... Read More
In her first interview since President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence and she was released from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Chelsea Manning explained to Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang why she leaked documents about America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We're getting all this information from all these different sources and it's just... Read More
Will Trump Set a Record for the History Books?
In its own inside-out, upside-down way, it’s almost wondrous to behold. As befits our president’s wildest dreams, it may even prove to be a record for the ages, one for the history books. He was, after all, the candidate who sensed it first. When those he was running against, like the rest of Washington’s politicians,... Read More
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had a genuine howler the other day. On NBC’s Meet the Press, he said, “Since the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.” Try instead maybe 1,000 jobs in the... Read More
Remember when “draining the swamp” was something the Bush administration swore it was going to do in launching its Global War on Terror? Well, as we all know, that global swamp of terror only got muckier in the ensuing years. (Think al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, think ISIS.) Then, last year, that swamp left terror... Read More
Back in 2011, thinking about the implosion of the Soviet Union two decades earlier and what followed, I wrote: I had long had a feeling that, of the two superpowers of the Cold War era, one had left the stage in a rush, while the other was slowly inching its way toward the exits enwreathed... Read More
Here’s a reasonable question to ask in our unreasonable world: Does Donald Trump even know where North Korea is? The answer matters and if you wonder why I ask, just remember his comment upon landing in Israel after his visit to Saudi Arabia. “We just got back from the Middle East,” he said. In response,... Read More
In case you hadn’t noticed, as in the Middle East and Europe, we’re in a new Trumpian age in Asia. If you want to confirm that, check out the recently leaked transcript of an April 29th phone conversation between the American and Philippine presidents (published in full at the Intercept). Donald Trump launches the call... Read More
You couldn't make this up, could you? Just before President Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, a genuinely despotic land with an extreme ideology and lacking elections, Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, was swept back into office. It was an exuberant election campaign in which he trounced a hardline fundamentalist opponent, winning 57% of the... Read More
Into the Whirlwind
He’s huge. Outsized. He fills the news hole at any moment of any day. His over-tanned face glows unceasingly in living rooms across America. Never has a president been quite so big. So absolutely monstrous. Or quite so small. He’s our Little Big Man. I know, I know... he induces panic, fear, anxiety, insomnia. Shrinks... Read More
In the first paragraphs of George Orwell’s famed novel 1984, Winston Smith slips through the doors of his apartment building, “Victory Mansions,” to escape a “vile wind.” Hate week -- a concept that should seem eerily familiar in Donald Trump’s America -- was soon to arrive. “The hallway,” writes Orwell, “smelt of boiled cabbage and... Read More
As his polling figures sag, the chaos of his presidency increases exponentially, and the news turns ever grimmer (for him), President Trump faces growing opposition nationwide. As TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer reports today, from boycotting businesses carrying his products to jamming the phone lines of his hotels, an expanding, if somewhat uncoordinated, set of anti-Trump... Read More
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Tom Engelhardt
About Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomdispatch.com is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman's Maus and John Dower's War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan's The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for Tomdispatch.com. He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

His new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books), has just been published.


Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower