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Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower
In an increasingly phantasmagorical world, here’s my present fantasy of choice: someone from General Keith Alexander’s outfit, the National Security Agency, tracks down H.G. Wells’s time machine in the attic of an old house in London. Britain’s subservient Government Communications Headquarters, its version of the NSA, is paid off and the contraption is flown to... Read More
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How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Dear Whistleblower, I don’t know who you are or what you do or how old you may be. I just know that you exist somewhere in our future as surely as does tomorrow or next year. You may be young and computer-savvy or a career federal employee well along in years. You might be someone... Read More
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Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential... Read More
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The Coming Era of Tiny Wars and Micro-Conflicts
In terms of pure projectable power, there’s never been anything like it. Its military has divided the world -- the whole planet -- into six “commands.” Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades. Its Air Force has ruled the global skies,... Read More
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In a World Without Privacy, There Are No Exemptions for Our Spies
Given how similar they sound and how easy it is to imagine one leading to the other, confusing omniscience (having total knowledge) with omnipotence (having total power) is easy enough. It’s a reasonable supposition that, before the Snowden revelations hit, America’s spymasters had made just that mistake. If the drip-drip-drip of Snowden’s mother of all... Read More
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We’re Number One... In Obliterating Wedding Parties
The headline -- “Bride and Boom!” -- was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half. Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New... Read More
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The New Fundamentalists
In a 1950s civics textbook of mine, I can remember a Martian landing on Main Street, U.S.A., to be instructed in the glories of our political system. You know, our tripartite government, checks and balances, miraculous set of rights, and vibrant democracy. There was, Americans then thought, much to be proud of, and so for... Read More
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Your Newspaper, Your Choice
It was 1949. My mother -- known in the gossip columns of that era as “New York’s girl caricaturist” -- was freelancing theatrical sketches to a number of New York’s newspapers and magazines, including the Brooklyn Eagle. That paper, then more than a century old, had just a few years of life left in it.... Read More
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How a Thug State Operates
Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many secret files National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he headed for Hong Kong last June. Brace yourself: 1.7 million. At least they claim that as the number he or his web... Read More
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What Happened to War and the Imperial Drive to Organize the Planet?
There is, it seems, something new under the sun. Geopolitically speaking, when it comes to war and the imperial principle, we may be in uncharted territory. Take a look around and you’ll see a world at the boiling point. From Ukraine to Syria, South Sudan to Thailand, Libya to Bosnia, Turkey to Venezuela, citizen protest... Read More
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Old Scripts and Empty Stories Signal a New Age
Isn’t there something strangely reassuring when your eyeballs are gripped by a “mystery” on the news that has no greater meaning and yet sweeps all else away? This, of course, is the essence of the ongoing tale of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Except to the relatives of those on board, it never... Read More
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Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes in Washington
How the mighty have fallen. Once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a plea deal, spend 13 months behind bars. Involved in setting up the earliest military cyberforce inside U.S. Strategic Command, which he led from 2004 to 2007, Cartwright also played a role in... Read More
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The Empire as Basket Case
For America’s national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does -- torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it -- will ever be brought to court. For none of its beyond-the-boundaries acts will anyone be held accountable. The only crimes that can now be committed in official Washington are by those... Read More
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A TomDispatch Interview With Laura Poitras
Here’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The answer: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access... Read More
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What If It Weren’t Us?
Let’s play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there’s another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We’re talking about... Read More
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The War Party Ascendant
It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was... Read More
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Why There Is No Massive Antiwar Movement in America
There was the old American lefty paper, the Guardian, and the Village Voice, which beat the Sixties into the world, and its later imitators like the Boston Phoenix. There was Liberation News Service, the Rat in New York, the Great Speckled Bird in Atlanta, the Old Mole in Boston, the distinctly psychedelic Chicago Seed, Leviathan,... Read More
Machine Guns, MRAPs, Surveillance, Drones, Permanent War, and a Permanent Election Campaign
I never fail to be amazed -- and that’s undoubtedly my failing. I mean, if you retain a capacity for wonder you can still be awed by a sunset, but should you really be shocked that the sun is once again sinking in the West? Maybe not. The occasion for such reflections: machine guns in... Read More
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1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of "We the People"
Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new... Read More
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Body Counts, Drones, and “Collateral Damage” (aka “Bug Splat”)
In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts? In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count. The Obama administration has adamantly refused to count. Not a body. In fact, for a long time, American officials associated with Washington’s drone assassination campaigns... Read More
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Kept Politicians and Demobilized Americans in a System Without a Name
It couldn’t be a sunnier, more beautiful day to exit your lives -- or enter them -- depending on how you care to look at it. After all, here you are four years later in your graduation togs with your parents looking on, waiting to celebrate. The question is: Celebrate what exactly? In possibly the... Read More
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The Real (Armed) Dangers of American Life
Consider this paragraph a holding action on the subject of getting blown away in America. While I write this dispatch, I’m waiting patiently for the next set of dispiriting killings in this country. And I have faith. Before I’m done, some angry -- or simply mentally disturbed -- and well-armed American “lone wolf” (or lone... Read More
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The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything
The rise and fall of great powers and their imperial domains has been a central fact of history for centuries. It’s been a sensible, repeatedly validated framework for thinking about the fate of the planet. So it’s hardly surprising, when faced with a country once regularly labeled the “sole superpower,” “the last superpower,” or even... Read More
War, Sunny Side Up, and the Summer of Slaughter (Vietnam and Today)
Let me tell you a story about a moment in my life I’m not likely to forget even if, with the passage of years, so much around it has grown fuzzy. It involves a broken-down TV, movies from my childhood, and a war that only seemed to come closer as time passed. My best guess:... Read More
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Fourteen Years Later, Improbable World
Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that? Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the... Read More
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Or How to Be Eternally “Caught Off Guard” in the Greater Middle East
1,500. That figure stunned me. I found it in the 12th paragraph of a front-page New York Times story about “senior commanders” at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) playing fast and loose with intelligence reports to give their air war against ISIS an unjustified sheen of success: “CENTCOM’s mammoth intelligence operation, with some 1,500 civilian, military,... Read More
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Let’s begin with the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, Iraqi oil money held in the U.S. The Bush administration began flying it into Baghdad on C-130s soon after U.S. troops entered that city in April 2003. Essentially dumped into the void that had once been the Iraqi state, at least $1.2 to $1.6 billion... Read More
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It’s the Islamic State’s Dream and Marco Rubio Agrees
Honestly, I don’t know whether to rant or weep, neither of which are usual impulses for me. In the wake of the slaughter in Paris, I have the urge to write one of two sentences here: Paris changed everything; Paris changes nothing. Each is, in its own way, undoubtedly true. And here’s a third sentence... Read More
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Donald Trump, Mass Shootings With an Islamic Terrorist Flavor, and the Rise of the "Spectaculection"
Sometimes what matters most takes up every inch of space in the room and somehow we still don’t see it. That’s how I feel about our present media moment. Let me put it this way: I’m a creature of habit, and one of those habits has long been watching NBC Nightly News, previously with anchor... Read More
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And No Kidding, That’s the Literal Truth When It Comes to War, American-Style
It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr, hitnumber one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation. Even so many years... Read More
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Are We in a New American World?
The other week, feeling sick, I spent a day on my couch with the TV on and was reminded of an odd fact of American life. More than seven months before Election Day, you can watch the 2016 campaign for the presidency at any moment of your choosing, and that’s been true since at least... Read More
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He’s a Sign of American Decline (Just Not in the Way You Think)
"Low-energy Jeb." "Little Marco." "Lyin’ Ted." "Crooked Hillary." Give Donald Trump credit. He has a memorable way with insults. His have a way of etching themselves on the brain. And they’ve garnered media coverage, analysis, and commentary almost beyond imagining. Memorable as they might be, however, they won’t be what last of Trump’s 2016 election... Read More
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And The Ruins Still to Come
There are the news stories that genuinely surprise you, and then there are the ones that you could write in your sleep before they happen. Let me concoct an example for you: Oh wait, that was actually the lead sentence in a May 3rd Washington Times piece by Carlo Muñoz. Honestly, though, it could have... Read More
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Life on an Increasingly Improbable Planet
Vladimir Putin recently manned up and admitted it. The United States remains the planet’s sole superpower, as it has been since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. “America,” the Russian president said, “is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that.” Think of us, in fact, as the default superpower in an... Read More
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Their Precision Weaponry and Ours
On the morning of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda launched its four-plane air force against the United States. On board were its precision weapons: 19 suicidal hijackers. One of those planes, thanks to the resistance of its passengers, crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The other three hit their targets -- the two towers of the World... 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
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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