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It’s been a long time since I stood in a classroom and taught anyone anything, but each June for years I’ve appeared before classes of college seniors to give a graduation address ushering them into our grim world. True, those speeches didn’t take place before flesh-and-blood audiences but on what I’ve come to call “the campus of my mind” (and were then posted at TomDispatch). Still, I faithfully tried to usher class after class of graduates into an ever more godforsaken American world. The other day, however, I realized just how deeply the age of Trump had gotten to me. In 2017, I seem not to have had the urge to give such a speech and so graduated no one into anything.

That led me back to my last attempt to do so: June 5, 2016, a moment when Donald Trump already had every media eye in America glued to his orange comb-over, his incipient “authoritarianism” had become an issue, and I was imagining the possibility that he might indeed be elected president. With that in mind, I gave an address to that year’s graduates, which I titled “Donald Trump Is the Mosquito, Not the Zika Virus.” In it, I said: “Few bother to consider the ways in which the foundations of authoritarianism have already been laid in this society — and not by disaffected working class white men either. Few bother to consider what it means to have a national security state and a massive military machine deeply embedded in our ruling city and our American world… or what it means for that state within a state, that shadow government, to become ever more powerful and autonomous in the name of American ‘safety,’ especially from ‘terrorism’ (though terrorism represents the most microscopic of dangers for most Americans)…

“It’s clear enough… that our American system is morphing in ways for which we have no names, no adequate descriptive vocabulary. Perhaps it’s not just that we have no clear bead on what’s going on, but that we prefer not to know.” And I then implored the Class of 2016 to step into that world and “tell us who we are and where we are.”

So, more than a year and a half later, who are we? Where are we? Barely a week after the latest mass slaughter by a disturbed teenager carrying an AR-15 assault rifle into a Florida school, I’m not sure I even want to know. Fun fact: you need to be 21 in Florida to legally purchase alcohol, but only 18 to get that combat rifle. Fun fact: in February 2017, by rescinding an Obama-era regulation, President Trump made it easier for people with mental problems to buy guns. Fun fact: Thanks to the killing of 17 students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, Columbine is no longer the worst high school mass killing in our history. Fun fact: In the United States, there is now, on average, a “mass shooting” (four or more people shot) nine out of every 10 days of the year. Talk about terror! Talk about terrorism! And so it goes in the age of The Donald.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that my urge to graduate anyone into such a world hit rock bottom last year, which is why I find something heartwarming about today’s piece by TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon — about, that is, anyone willing at this moment to face the daunting task of helping the young learn how to navigate an American world that seems more unnerving and unbalanced by the day. So here’s a small bow to Gordon and the students who take the journey with her onto what is increasingly an alien planet damaged in ways that should deeply disturb us all.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Guns, Mass Shootings 
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Recently, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, Randall Schriver, told senators that the Afghan war would cost this country’s taxpayers $45 billion in 2018, including $5 billion for the Afghan security forces, $13 billion for U.S. forces in that country, and $780 million in economic aid. How the other $26 billion would be spent is unclear and, given the Pentagon’s record in these years, Schriver’s estimate could prove a low-ball figure. All in all, it’s just another year in this country’s endless war there. Still, if Schriver is on the mark, in Afghanistan alone the American taxpayer will spend more than a fifth of the $200 billion the Trump administration is urging Congress to put up for the rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure. (The estimated cost of the full war on terror in President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, according to the Costs of War Project, is approximately… yep, you guessed it: $200 billion.) And, of course, all of that is next to nothing when compared to the $5.6 trillion the Costs of War Project estimates the war on terror has already cost us (with certain future expenses added in).

Under the circumstances, isn’t it remarkable that the government has sent so many taxpayer dollars tumbling down the rabbit hole of its failed wars and the “reconstruction” scams in Afghanistan and Iraq that once passed for “nation-building”? (By 2014, the U.S. had already sunk more money into “reconstructing” Afghanistan than it had once put into the Marshall Plan to rebuild all of Western Europe — and compare the results of each of those investments!) More remarkable still, for all the bitter political disputes in these years about how government money should be spent, there has never been real disagreement here, no less significant protest, over the decision to put such staggering sums into America’s wars. Imagine for a moment anything like the same amount of money being spent on this country’s crumbling infrastructure or just about anything else domestically and you know that there would have been protests of every imaginable sort and such decisions would have become the heart and soul of endless election campaigns.

Instead, in 2018, Congress has, in a thoroughly bipartisan fashion, agreed to shovel yet more dollars into the U.S. military and its wars with hardly a complaint from the American public. Keep the strangeness of this in mind as you read U.S. Army major and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen’s account of how, via one key document, the Pentagon is preparing the way for the next bipartisan flood of dollars into those wars and the military-industrial complex. Someday, this may seem like one of the true scandals of our age, but if so, that day has yet to come. In the meantime, the lack of opposition to such spending should be considered a great mystery of our era.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Military Spending 
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When it comes to America’s wars, more than 16 years later our generals are victorious. Not, of course, in the distant lands where those conflicts grind on unendingly, but in the one place that matters: Washington, D.C. Could there be a more striking sign of that than the elevation of three of those generals to key positions in the Trump administration? If any of them are going down any time soon, the wars this country has been conducting abroad won’t be responsible, though one retired commander, John Kelly, now White House chief of staff, was wounded only last week fighting a rearguard action against the #MeToo movement.

If anything, recent weeks have offered remarkable evidence of just how victorious this country’s losingest commanders and their colleagues really are in our nation’s capital. In the bipartisan style that these days usually applies only to the U.S. military, Congress has just settled on giving an extra $165 billion to the Pentagon over the next two years as part of a formula for keeping the government open. As it happens, the 2017 Pentagon budget was already as large as the defense spending of the next seven nations combined. And that was before all those extra tens of billions of dollars ensured that the two-year military budget (for 2018 and 2019) would crest at a total of more than $1.4 trillion.

That’s the sort of money that only goes to winners, not losers. And if this still seems a little strange to you, given that military’s dismal record in actual war-fighting since 9/11, all I can say is: don’t bring it up. It’s no longer considered polite or proper to complain about our wars and those who fight them or how we fund them, not in an age when every American soldier is a “hero,” which means that what they’re doing from Afghanistan to Yemen, Syria to Somalia, must be heroic indeed.

In a draft-less country, those of us not in or connected to our military are expected to say “thank you” to the warriors and otherwise go about our lives as if their wars (and the mayhem they continue to generate abroad) were not a fact of global life. This is the definition of a demobilized public. If you happen to be that rarest of all creatures in our country these days — someone in active opposition to those wars — you have a problem. That means Stephanie Savell, who co-runs the Costs of War Project, which regularly provides well-researched and devastating information on the spread of those wars and the money continually being squandered on them, does indeed have a problem. It’s one she understands all too well and describes vividly today.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
A Trip Down Memory Lane, Pentagon-Style
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If you’re in the mood, would you consider taking a walk with me and, while we’re at it, thinking a little about America’s wars? Nothing particularly ambitious, mind you, just — if you’re up for it — a stroll to the corner.

Now, admittedly, there’s a small catch here. Where exactly is that corner? I think the first time I heard about it might have been back in January 2004 and it was located somewhere in Iraq. That was, if you remember, just nine months after American troops triumphantly entered a burning Baghdad and the month after Iraq’s autocratic ruler, Saddam Hussein, was captured near his hometown, Tikrit. Yet despite President George W. Bush’s unforgettable May 1, 2003, “mission accomplished” moment when, from the deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego, he declared “major combat operations in Iraq… ended,” the American war there somehow never actually stopped. An insurgency had already flared, U.S. bases were being periodically mortared, and American officials feared that some kind of civil war was in the offing between the country’s formerly reigning Sunni minority and its rising Shiite majority.

It was then that Major General Charles Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, mentioned that corner (and as you’ll gather from his comments, it wasn’t even the first time he’d brought the subject up). Here, as New York Times correspondent John Burns reported it, was Swannack’s assessment of the situation:

“The general, a large, imposing figure renowned among his troops for his no-nonsense ways, began his remarks by reminding the reporters that he had appeared in Baghdad six weeks ago, about the time of the insurgents’ Ramadan offensive, and had said he believed [troops] in his area were ‘turning the corner.’

“Now, he said, ‘I’m here to tell you that we’ve turned that corner. I can also tell you that we are on a glide path towards success, as attacks on our forces have declined by almost 60 percent over the past month.’”

As it happened, Americans would remain on the glide path to that corner of ultimate success for some time, not just in Iraq but in Washington, too. There, as Rowan Scarborough reported more than a year later, in March 2005, “in the privacy of their E-ring offices, senior Pentagon officials have begun to entertain thoughts that were unimaginable a year ago: Iraq is turning the corner. ‘This is still a tough fight. We don’t want anyone to think that it is not,’ said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a military analyst who strongly supports Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. ‘But the momentum is in our direction.’”

Corner-less Iraq

Here was the problem: every time American troops actually turned that corner, what they found there were insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and other weaponry, sometimes even American-produced arms. In addition, the streets around that corner turned out to be pitted with half-buried improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, those same insurgents could build from instructions on the Internet and that could destroy the most well-armored Humvee for the price of a pizza. (Early on, in fact, some of the places down which American troops had to turn were already being given grimly sardonic names like “RPG Alley.”) There were, as it happened, so many corners to turn and yet, from 2003 on, seemingly nowhere to go.

I don’t doubt that those of you of a certain age preparing for our little walk are already thinking about a somewhat more perilous image from another war: the infamous “light at the end of the tunnel” that will forever be connected with Vietnam. That phrase was repeatedly used by Americans to describe the glide path to victory in that conflict and would long be associated with the commander of U.S. forces, General William Westmoreland. He used it to remarkable effect in 1967, a mere 10 weeks before the enemy launched its devastating Tet Offensive.

However, the general was anything but alone in his choice of imagery. That “tunnel” was also occupied by a range of top U.S. officials, from President Lyndon Johnson to National Security Advisor Walt Rostow. And it wasn’t the newest of images either. After all, General Henri Navarre had used it a decade and a half earlier in the French version of that losing war.

For those in the antiwar movement of the era, it was an image that always had a particularly ominous resonance, since you weren’t just heading for “the corner” but deep inside a dark tunnel where, just beyond the light glimmering at its end, it was easy enough to imagine a train bearing down on you. By the way, lest you think there’s anything especially original about the American military in the twenty-first century, Westmoreland also spoke with hope in 1967 (but assumedly before he found himself in that tunnel) of how the U.S. “had turned the corner in the war” and how its end had begun “to come into view.”

In Iraq, the light at the end of the corner would prove no more evident than it had been in that Vietnamese tunnel and, as a result, the corner itself simply disappeared. In fact, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2008, U.S. commander (and Iraq surge general) David Petraeus even admitted, however reluctantly, that “we haven’t turned any corners, we haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel.” And soon after that, corners of any sort were largely abandoned (at least as figures of speech). Or perhaps, thought of another way, the problem of finding a corner, no less any good news on the other side of it, would be solved by a change in tactics in the second iteration of Washington’s Iraq War in this century: the one against the Islamic State. From August 2014 on, the U.S. Air Force would be called in to play a major role in turning Iraq’s embattled cities, from Fallujah to Mosul, into so much rubble. No corners, no problems, you might say.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iraq War 
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Think of President Trump and his administration as a den of thieves. There is, of course, the obvious thievery: what they will in the end, as with the recently passed tax “reform” bill, steal from ordinary citizens and offer as never-ending presents to the already staggeringly wealthy, among them the president himself (possible savings up to $15 million annually) and son-in-law Jared Kushner (possible savings: up to $12 million annually). According to the Congressional Budget Office, government cash reserves are already starting to fall faster than expected as a result of lost revenue from that bill. And the modest gains offered to ordinary taxpayers to give cover to a vast increase in the wealth of the top 1% will all sunset in the 2020s, while that bill’s corporate tax cuts are meant for eternity.

Think of such moves not as acts of petty theft, but as robbery of the most basic sort, since they involve stealing from the future to fund an increasingly plutocratic present. The Donald, in other words, isn’t just stealing from us but from our children and grandchildren. And if that’s true of his tax bill, it’s so much truer of his energy policies, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes clear in a newsworthy manner today. That the president’s addiction to fossil fuels, his belief that freeing Big Energy from every form of restriction and regulation, is crucial to future American global domination has, Klare informs us, been embedded in the administration’s recently released National Security Strategy. In other words, the exploitation of fossil fuels in North America is now officially the heart and soul of the global policy-making of President Trump and his generals.

This isn’t just a matter of stealing future money from our children and grandchildren, or even of polluting the American environment in which they’ll grow up in a fashion familiar to anyone — like Donald Trump (or me) — who was raised in the 1950s. It’s a matter of stealing everything from them, including potentially the very environment that’s nurtured generation after generation of children on this planet for all the thousands of years of human history. If the president and his crew of climate deniers have their way and a fossil-fuelized version of energy “dominance” comes to rule our American world, while the path to alternative energy growth is crippled, then they will have stolen from the future in the most basic way imaginable for the comfort of just a few human beings now. As part of what can only be thought of as a semi-conscious plan to further warm the planet, President Trump’s energy policy will, without any doubt, represent not just thievery, not just the crime of this century, but terracide, the destruction of the planet itself, which will be the crime of any century. Keep that in mind as you read Klare’s piece today.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump 
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Donald Trump has, it seems, finally offered his plan for dealing with the opioid crisis in America. He did so during his State of the Union address to Congress, filled with Republican applause (none louder than The Donald’s), introducing the country to an Albuquerque policeman who had decided to adopt the future baby — now named “Hope” — of a homeless, pregnant heroin addict he found preparing to shoot up behind a convenience store. Previously, the president had directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid epidemic to be a “national emergency.” He didn’t, however, come up with an extra cent of federal money to make it so. As a result, his response to the present national crisis of addiction turns out to be a nod of approval to the possibility of police officers adopting the babies of opioid addicts.

And that’s the closest his administration has come to forward thinking on the issue of drug wars in his first year in office. The president has, in fact, been a major enabler of what may be the leading addiction crisis in America. I’m thinking about the Pentagon and its drug of choice: money. At a time when, from infrastructure to health care, money is desperately needed and seldom found, only the Pentagon is still mainlining dollars as if there were no tomorrow. It’s shooting up in full view of the world and Donald Trump is aiding and abetting the process, eternally calling for yet more money to pump up that military (as well as the U.S. nuclear arsenal).

Today, TomDispatch regular Nick Turse offers a tale about just where such an addiction can lead — not just when it comes to those proliferating “drug” wars (the ones the U.S. military is so addicted to from Afghanistan to Somalia and just can’t stop fighting) but to the squandering of taxpayer dollars in staggering sums across much of the planet. In the cases of U.S. Africa Command and Central Command, that includes what passes for actual counternarcotics activities in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Let Turse tell you a true-life story of squandered money and drug wars that catches the essence of what may be the true opioid crisis of twenty-first-century America.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military 
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He took a remarkable star turn at Davos — and, no, I don’t mean President Trump. I was thinking about Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017, when he claimed the title of globalist-in-chief in a highly praised speech to the world’s assembled CEOs and plutocrats. He was then promoting a “community of shared future for mankind” versus you-know-who’s America First policies! In the process, he won admirers galore. This year, he stayed home to oversee the development of yet more Confucius Institutes, China’s government-sponsored language-teaching programs that now exist in dozens of countries, and to supervise further planning on China’s ambitious projected 65-nation One Belt One Road initiative. That’s the vast economic program meant to tie together much of Eurasia (as well as other parts of the planet, including former U.S.-dominated bailiwicks in Latin America and the Caribbean) in a Chinese-sponsored web of construction and trade projects that, if successful, might someday give “imperial” a new meaning. This year Xi sent his key economic adviser to Davos in his place, ceding center stage to Donald Trump who flew in with seven cabinet members, didn’t drool or tweet insultingly on stage, and was similarly applauded by the globe’s leading billionaires as he declared America “open for business.” (No matter that he was already planning for a State of the Union address that would highlight his desire to wall off his country and further shut it down to outsiders.)

If you followed the America media, which simply can’t get enough of The Donald, day in, day out (minute in, minute out?), you would have experienced his performance at Davos as a grand, not to say surprising presidential triumph of the first order in front of the very crowd of globalists he spent his election campaign blasting. And if you had done so, you might well have been wrong because, even without Xi present, China, not Trump, was, as Ishan Tharoor of the Washington Post wrote, “the elephant in the room,” its “vast investments around the world and increasing geopolitical assertiveness… frequent subjects of panel debates and chatter at cocktail parties.” Keith Bradsher of the New York Times reached a similar conclusion, reporting that at Davos “geopolitical momentum lay with Beijing, not Washington” and that Xi, not The Donald, was once again the “real star” of the gathering.

And as TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro, author (appropriately enough) of After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World, points out today, that’s just the beginning of the way President Trump has been ceding ground to the Chinese leadership. Despite his regular attacks on China for committing the “greatest thefts in the history of the world,” when it comes to its trade policies with the U.S. (not to speak of that classic Chinese “hoax,” climate change), the president has, as Hiro vividly explains, turned out to be China’s greatest promoter on the world stage — and, as it happens, hasn’t done so badly for Russia either.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Donald Trump 
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The groundwork is already laid for America’s next war(s) in the Middle East and, in the process, one of the last relatively undamaged areas of Syria (at least before the Turkish military began to pound it with air strikes and artillery, then moving in tanks) is about to be added to the rubble of the region. The damage that began with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 could now spread to yet another country, Turkey, already filled with Syrian refugees but relatively unscathed so far. At the moment, an autocratic Turkish president, angry over American backing for Kurdish forces in northern Syria and jockeying for popularity in his own country, is potentially repeating on a small scale the American blunder of 2003. He’s blithely invading Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Syria, assuming that all will go splendidly, while President Trump’s military finds itself, as it has so many times in these years, between a rock and a hard place.

The U.S. has approximately 2,000 troops in northern Syria and, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only recently announced, they are slated to stay there not just until the last ISIS fighter is wiped off the face of the Earth, but possibly until the end of time (a decision for which the Trump administration naturally has no congressional sanction). Washington’s latest stated goal: to support Kurdish fighters in the region and play a role in undermining both Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and its Iranian backers. (Good luck with that!) Those troops now find themselves caught between NATO ally Turkey (which has let Washington use a key military base against ISIS) and American-trained and -armed leftist Syrian Kurds, who have done most of the hard fighting (and dying) against the Islamic State “caliphate.” The Turks, who consider those Kurds “terrorists” (and backers of longtime Kurdish insurgents in Turkey), are angrily demanding that all U.S. troops immediately and unconditionally leave the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij before they move in militarily (a demand already rejected by the head of U.S. Central Command). And oh, yes, the remnants of ISIS, driven back and no longer a “caliphate” or much of anything else, are still fighting.

So much for Donald Trump’s “victory” in Syria. While no one can possibly know what will come of all this, as with so much else in American war-making over these last 17 years, it’s reasonable to assume that it won’t be good, or peaceable, or end particularly well, or possibly at all. Count on one thing: you won’t soon read about an American military unchallenged and victorious in a Syria brought to order. Quite the opposite: if recent years are any indication, the damage will only spread, more civilians will die, more homes will be destroyed, more populations will be uprooted, and embittered locals, angry at the U.S. among other participants in this mayhem, will be primed to join yet newer terror groups.

TomDispatch regular and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel William Astore looks at this now eerily familiar process of American war-making, twenty-first-century style, and suggests what kinds of damage it’s already done, not just in distant lands, but here at home and what we, the people (formerly, “We, the People”), might consider doing about it.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Syria 
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There’s no way to measure just how cheery this period really is — not if you’re the CEO of a major company. Just as the World Economic Summit was opening in Davos, Switzerland, and President Donald Trump was flying in to put his mark on the moment, PwS, a global consulting firm, released its annual survey of 1,300 CEOs. “The report,” wrote the Washington Post‘s Tory Newmyer, “found CEO optimism at a record high — with 57% predicting growth would accelerate worldwide this year — after lodging its biggest single-year leap, up from just 29% who predicted as much last year.” In the wake of the passage of staggering tax cuts for corporations and the truly wealthy, the most ebullient among them were, of course, North American CEOs!

And that wasn’t even the best news, not if you lived in a penthouse somewhere on this planet anyway. As Davos began, Oxfam issued “Reward Work, Not Wealth,” its new report indicating that “82% of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.” Oh, and here’s a footnote of further cheer from Oxfam: “It takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. In the U.S., it takes slightly over one working day for a CEO to earn what an ordinary worker makes in a year.”

In that context, Donald Trump gave an America First, exceptionalist pep talk at Davos filled with expectable falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations to a crowd — “some of the remarkable citizens from all over the world,” as he put it — primed to applaud (though there were a few hisses and boos and the rare protest, too). “There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest, and to grow in the United States,” the American president insisted.

“America is open for business, and we are competitive once again… I will always put America first… but America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world… America is roaring back, and now is the time to invest in the future of America. We have dramatically cut taxes to make America competitive. We are eliminating burdensome regulations at a record pace. We are reforming the bureaucracy to make it lean, responsive, and accountable. And we are ensuring our laws are enforced fairly.”

Yes, indeed, it could all hardly be fairer — if you happen to be a CEO or a billionaire. There’s only one possible small hitch in the general global exuberance and, maybe because it’s so minor, few in a media world obsessed 24/7 with the president and his team have even bothered to bring it up. That’s why we need TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents’ Bankers, right now. Who else even thinks to point out that the millionaire and billionaire deregulators extraordinaire of the Trump administration might be taking a “brand-new America” (as the president called it) down a rather old path leading to… well, not to put too fine a point on it, economic meltdown. But let Prins, whose must-read new book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, is slated to appear in May, fill you in herself.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Donald Trump 
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If I were to pick a single decision by an American president and his team in this century as our own August 1914, I would choose the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. Of course, in that era of the “sole superpower,” there were no other great powers (as in the World War I moment) ready to leap into the fray, so the unraveling that followed across a significant part of the planet would prove not to be a world war but a one-power hell on Earth. And it’s continued to unfold over nearly a decade and a half. That invasion, which the geopolitical dreamers and supporters of the administration of George W. Bush guaranteed would be a “cakewalk,” cost next to nothing, and leave the United States forever dominant in the Middle East, that moment when Iraqis were sure to greet their American “liberators” with flowers and hosannas, that moment when hubris would gain new meaning proved an unmitigated disaster. The U.S. would punch a hole directly through the oil heartlands of the region and from that there would be no turning back.

Occupation, civil war, ethnic cleansing, terror movements, abuses of every sort — and as far as we know, we may still not be near the end of its effects. Parts of the Middle East already lie in ruins, city after city reduced to rubble, whole populations in flight. In 2017, for instance, the Syrian city of Raqqa, the former “capital” of the Islamic State, was subjected, among so many other things, to 20,000 “coalition” (i.e. American) bombs. The U.N. has now declared 80% of it “uninhabitable.” In the wake of what passes for “victory” over the “caliphate” of the Islamic State (itself born in an American military prison camp) — one of a number of similar “victories” in these years, starting with the U.S. military’s taking of Baghdad in April 2003 — ISIS has gone underground, but not disappeared. Meanwhile, all the resentments, grudges, and conflicts that invasion and occupation released are still festering; the money for rebuilding is nowhere in sight; and the next iteration of the ongoing wars in the region has already been launched by NATO ally Turkey against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. So now, the Turks, the Kurds, Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, local militias of every sort, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS guerillas, various al-Qaeda-linked groups, Russia, and Iran are all in the mix. And the Trump administration has committed its military to remaining in both Iraq and Syria until, it seems, the end of time. What could possibly go wrong?

And keep in mind that one other nightmare lurks just offshore (so to speak): Iran. The top officials of the Trump administration, Iranophobes all, are eager to finish the job started by the Bush administration so long ago by taking down Iran. It tells you something about the mood in Washington today that Defense Secretary James Mattis, who as CENTCOM commander in 2011 essentially lost his job thanks to his urge to go after Iran, is now considered the voice of reason on the subject in Washington.

In February 2003, I marched with vast crowds protesting the coming invasion of Iraq and the devastation it might bring. We knew that such an invasion couldn’t turn out well — and so many more reasonable choices were available that would have left us in a better world. And keep in mind that Iraq was just one decision on the road to Donald Trump. Today, TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich looks back over that past world of choices and picks 11 all-American moments between the fall of the Berlin Wall and election 2016 that might have given us a different world and assumedly a different president.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iraq War 
Tom Engelhardt
About Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the 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. 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 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