The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Topics Filter?
2016 Election 9/11 Afghanistan Africa American Media American Military China Civil Liberties Donald Trump Drone War Economics Environment Feminism Foreign Policy Gaza Global Warming Government Surveillance Guantanamo Gun Control Guns History Ideology Immigration Iran Iraq Iraq War ISIS Israel/Palestine Middle East Military Spending Neocons North Korea Nuclear War Nuclear Weapons Oil Oil Industry Poverty Russia Saudi Arabia Science Syria Terrorism Torture Vietnam War War On Terror Academia Addiction Afghan Opium American Prisons Anders Breivik Arab Spring Assassinations Baltimore Riots Banking Banking Industry Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Blacks Border Security Brexit Britain Campaign Finance Censorship Charlie Hebdo Child Abuse Chuck Hagel CIA Civil Rights Class Warfare Climate Change Cold War Corruption Crime Cuba Deep State Democratic Party Detroit Dick Cheney Domestic Terrorism Drones Drought Duterte East Asia Ebola Edward Snowden Egypt Empires Of The Word Energy Eurasia Europe European Union Fake News Fascism Football Fossil Fuels Free Trade George W. Bush Gilded Age Goldman Sachs Government Secrecy Government Shutdown Government Spending Green Energy Hillary Clinton Hiroshima Hispanic Crime Homicide Rate Housing Humor I.F. Stone Illegal Immigration India Inequality Islamophobia Isolationism Israel Israel Lobby Italy Japan Jared Kushner Jeb Bush Jeremy Scahill John Bolton Jonathan Schell Journalism Keystone Pipeline Latin America Libya Litvinenko Mark Twain Mass Shootings Mexico Michigan Militarized Police Minimum Wage Miscellaneous Mohammed Bin Salman Mortality Muslims My Lai Nagasaki New Orleans NFL Nicaragua Nixon Noam Chomsky Nuclear Energy Obamacare Opioids Opium Wars Pakistan Panama Paris Attacks Peak Oil Pentagon Police State Pollution Populism Public Schools Putin Race/Ethnicity Racism Shias And Sunnis Slavery South Korea South Sudan Space Program Sports Student Loans Ukraine Vietnam Wall Street World War I World War II Yemen
Nothing found
Sources Filter?
CounterPunch TomDispatch
Nothing found
 TeasersTom Engelhardt Blogview

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
An Obituary for the Republic
🔊 Listen RSS

What dreamers they were! They imagined a kind of global power that would leave even Rome at its Augustan height in the shade. They imagined a world made for one, a planet that could be swallowed by a single great power. No, not just great, but beyond anything ever seen before — one that would build (as its National Security Strategy put it in 2002) a military “beyond challenge.” Let’s be clear on that: no future power, or even bloc of powers, would ever be allowed to challenge it again.

And, in retrospect, can you completely blame them? I mean, it seemed so obvious then that we — the United States of America — were the best and the last. We had, after all, outclassed and outlasted every imperial power since the beginning of time. Even that other menacing superpower of the Cold War era, the Soviet Union, the “Evil Empire” that refused to stand down for almost half a century, had gone up in a puff of smoke.

Imagine that moment so many years later and consider the crew of neoconservatives who, under the aegis of George W. Bush, the son of the man who had “won” the Cold War, came to power in January 2001. Not surprisingly, on viewing the planet, they could see nothing — not a single damn thing — in their way. There was a desperately weakened and impoverished Russia (still with its nuclear arsenal more or less intact) that, as far as they were concerned, had been mollycoddled by President Bill Clinton’s administration. There was a Communist-gone-capitalist China focused on its own growth and little else. And there were a set of other potential enemies, “rogue powers” as they were dubbed, so pathetic that not one of them could, under any circumstances, be called “great.”

In 2002, in fact, three of them — Iraq, Iran, and North Korea — had to be cobbled together into an “axis of evil” to create a faintly adequate enemy, a minimalist excuse for the Bush administration to act preemptively. It couldn’t have been more obvious then that all three of them would go down before the unprecedented military and economic power of us (even if, as it happened, two of them didn’t).

It was as clear as glass that the world — the whole shebang — was there for the taking. And it couldn’t have been headier, even after a tiny Islamist terror outfit hijacked four American jets and took out New York’s World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. As President Bush would put it in an address at West Point in 2002, “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” In other words, jihadists aside, it was all over. From now on, there would be an arms race of one and it was obvious who that one would be. The National Security Strategy of that year put the same thought this way: “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” Again, anywhere on the planet ever.

Look at more or less any document from the period and you’ll sense that they weren’t shy about touting the unprecedented greatness of a future global Pax Americana. Take, for instance, columnist Charles Krauthammer who, in February 2001, six months before the terror attacks of September 11th, wrote a piece swooning over the new Bush administration’s “unilateralism” to come and the “Bush Doctrine” which would go with it. In the process, he gave that administration a green light to put the pathetic Russians in their nuclear place and summed the situation up this way: “America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.”

“How Did USA’s Oil Get Under Iraq’s Sand?”

And soon enough after September 11th, those unapologetic, implacable demonstrations of will did, in fact, begin — first in Afghanistan and then, a year and a half later, in Iraq. Goaded by Osama bin Laden, the new Rome went into action.

Of course, in 2019 we have the benefit of hindsight, which Charles Krauthammer, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of that crew didn’t have as they applied their Roman-style vision of an imperial America to the actual world. It should be added, however, that the millions of people who hit the streets globally to protest the coming invasion of Iraq in the winter of 2003 — “How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” said a typical protest sign(which Donald Trump would have understood in his own way) — had a far better sense of the world than did their American rulers-to-be. Like the Soviets before them, in fact, they would grievously confuse military power with power on this planet.

More than 17 years later, the U.S. military remains stuck in Afghanistan, bedeviled in Iraq, and floundering across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa on a planet with a resurgent Russia, and an impressively rising China. One-third of the former axis of evil, Iran, is, remarkably enough, still in Washington’s gunsights, while another third (North Korea) sits uncomfortably in a presidential bear hug. It’s no exaggeration to say that none of the dreams of a new Rome were ever faintly fulfilled. In fact, if you want to think about what’s been truly exceptional in these years, it might be this: never in history has such a great power, at its height, seemed quite so incapable of effectively applying force, military or otherwise, to achieve its imperial ends or bring its targets to heel.

 
🔊 Listen RSS

 

Consider it a marriage made in hell. Start with the groom, Donald Trump, the man who once wondered why in the world we make nuclear weapons if we can’t use them; who wouldn’t rule out using nukes, even in Europe; who insisted that a president should be “unpredictable” on the subject; who suggested that it might not be “a bad thing for us” if Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea all became nuclear powers; who threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” before he became a chummy correspondent with its dictator; and who called for a nearly 10-fold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal (among many other, often contradictory, comments he’s made on nuclear matters).

Now, think about the bride, National Security Advisor John Bolton, a “statesman” who never saw a nuclear agreement he didn’t want to nuke. Those included President Richard Nixon’s Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, President Bill Clinton’s Agreed Framework with North Korea, President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal (all of which he helped to deep-six), and most recently President Ronald Reagan’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty (a pact that had actually resulted in thousands of ready-to-use nuclear weapons being scrapped). With the help of his neocon bro, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Bolton recently succeeded in sticking a knife directly in the back of that treaty. He’s undoubtedly now eying the New START treaty, which put limits on long-range nukes and is up for renewal in 2021. (The president has already called it “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration.”)

As TomDispatch regular and former Boston Globe columnist James Carroll points out today, the first new member of Trump’s and Bolton’s nuclear family, a “low-yield” nuke, was only recently born and given the less-than-apocalyptic name, W76-2. It looks as though, in nuclear terms, they are headed for a grim version of connubial bliss. To mix a metaphor or two in the fashion of our president, you might even think of that first progeny of theirs as a minute hand on a ticking clock heading for midnight. nuclear

 
🔊 Listen RSS

 

Think about this for a moment: in a country whose infrastructure is falling apart and where an inequality gap of monumental proportions is still growing, at least we should feel remarkably well-protected. After all, in the last fiscal year, the Pentagon, the one institution in Washington that only seems to receive more taxpayer dollars every year, spent 103 million of them to send thousands of National Guard troops to our southern border. It is expected to spend another $308 million in fiscal 2019 mainly to fund them to string concertina wire and twiddle their thumbs. At least that much (and probably more) will be spent maintaining Army units on that same border, as several thousand more troops are soon to be dispatched there. In 2019, it’s estimated that up to 5,800 troops and 2,300 members of the National Guard will continue to be deployed to support and reinforce the president’s oversized ego in those borderlands.

When it comes to infrastructure, however, despite his past promises of $1.5 trillion in investment and the barest of nods to such financing in his recent State of (Dis)Union Speech, the main infrastructure Donald J. Trump seems intent on financing with all that concertina wire is the shaky set of great walls inside his still expanding head.

If only we could see that set of structures, we would surely be awed. Since we can’t caravan into his brain, however, how about spending a little time instead with TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon. Consider just what that strange and, as she puts it, “unregulated” fellow in the Oval Office, who has already felt so free to send the National Guard off in search of his particular demons on that southern border, may do with those same troops in 2019. Who will be his next set of demons, the next caravanning crew to inhabit his disordered brain and our increasingly disordered world? It might even be us.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 
🔊 Listen RSS

Think of it as the real-world feedback loop from hell. In October 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and launched a “war on terror.” With the invasion of Iraq a year and a half later, that war would begin to spread across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. It would, in the end, collapse states, turn cities into rubble, help spread terror groups across the region, and above all, unsettle and displace staggering numbers of people on a planet already in turmoil. That invasion of Iraq, for instance, led to a Sunni-Shiite civil war, urban ethnic cleansing, a disastrous American occupation, and the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that would later morph into ISIS (whose leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, met other key figures of that future movement in an American military prison). The subsequent war against ISIS began after militants from that terror outfit took several of the country’s largest cities in 2014, while the American-trained Iraqi military collapsed and fled. In the course of that war alone, an estimated 1.3 million Iraqi children were displaced. (According UNICEF, conflicts have displaced 30 million children on this planet in recent years.) Refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan in particular headed for Europe, which, in turn, helped spur the growth of right-wing populist movements there that thrived on anti-immigrant platforms, only increasing the pressure on the displaced of this planet… and so it went.

Developments over the years in Central and South America, thanks in part to a set of grim U.S. policies there, spurred similar rounds of disintegration, displacement, and flight — and in the rich country to the north, a similar growth of right-wing populism. From the moment Donald Trump descended that escalator in Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his entrance into the presidential race, he would denounce immigrants (Mexican “rapists”) and hail the “great, great wall” that he was going to build to protect the United States from them. He followed up with Muslim bans, rejected small numbers of Syrian refugees, and lately has touted the supposed way in which the various migrant feedback loops from American policy merged — Islamic terrorists secretly crossing our southern border (fake news!).

As TomDispatch regular Arnold Isaacs suggests today, the results domestically when it comes to U.S. policy towards migrants (legal or not), the displaced, and refugees could hardly be meaner or uglier. It’s a record of vindictiveness, right down to the mistreatment of even the smallest children at our southern border, that might seem hard to match, but don’t underestimate Donald Trump.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Immigration 
🔊 Listen RSS

In 2013, ExxonMobil CEO and future secretary of state Rex Tillerson — the man who called the president who would fire him a “moron” — summed up our world with eerie accuracy in a single question. Speaking of climate change and ExxonMobil’s role in producing carbon emissions, he asked that company’s shareholders, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” What he clearly meant was: “What good is it to save the planet if ExxonMobil and its shareholders suffer?” On that, if not the moron comment, President Trump continues to agree with Tillerson (and his administration has acted accordingly).

Given the future that seems to be in store for us, our children, and our grandchildren, there may, in fact, be no more important news than this: a president elected by almost half of American voters is ensuring that ExxonMobil, its shareholders, and he himself won’t suffer, even if civilization does. Still, the most essential news on that very subject — carbon emissions rising at a startling clip, the oceans warming with unexpected rapidity, insect and other populations being decimated, the planet’s great masses of ice melting down, temperatures at record levels globally, Australia broiling, you name it — is easy enough to miss these days.

Faced with an ego the size of the Ritz, the mainstream media deluges us, as TomDispatchregular Andrew Bacevich makes clear today, with Donald J. Trump and his doings. Everything else, no matter how crucial, takes second (third? fourth?) place to that. President Trump’s overblown self-image and over-the-moon sense of vanity might be the world’s least-well-kept secret. Otherwise, why would Poland’s president have promoted the idea of an American military base in his country by preemptively dubbing that future post “Fort Trump” on a visit to the White House? Of course, you don’t have to live in Poland to sense what we’re dealing with. You just have to watch the talking heads of cable news to know that never has an ego been stroked this way (even by those who loathe the man) to the obliteration of so much else.

After all, given our obsession with DJT, how much attention has the most inspirational and timely movement of our century gotten? I’m thinking about the arrival of the “climate kids” to tell us that our “house” is quite literally “on fire.” Let Andrew Bacevich, then, plunge you deep into TrumpWorld, as he considers how news about war, American-style, has, like climate change, gone remarkably unnoticed and unattended in the world of Fort Trump.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump 
🔊 Listen RSS

When terrorist attacks killed almost 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, this country promptly launched a Global War on Terror that has, by now, cost trillions of dollars and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. In those years, staggering sums were poured into the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state to deal with the crisis that the war on terror only seemed to spread and, in the process, thousands more Americans died (as, of course, did hundreds of thousands of non-Americans across the Greater Middle East).

In the meantime, year after year, another kind of terror struck in this country with tens of thousands of Americans dying annually from it. This particular reign of terror wasn’t launched by a tiny group of Islamist extremists but by a wing of corporate America, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon so vividly explains today. Its victims die of opioid addiction at a yearly level 20 times that of 9/11, a figure that should stun the imagination. In the process, we have become something like a nation of addicts. And of course, because such “attacks” last all year every year and because they have proved so devastating, this country has mobilized with a swiftness and sureness that’s put the war on terror to shame: a vast treatment structure has been created that now dwarfs the national security state, trillions of dollars have been spent on… whoops, wait a sec, none of that happened!

Since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, however, a president has finally gotten “tough” on opioids. Unfortunately, it’s been in the same the fashion that he’s gotten “tough” on the border — and the effects have been similar. He’s declared a public health emergency (but not a “national emergency,” as he’s threatened to do for his border wall), given a major presidential speech on the opioid crisis, set up a commission, held a “summit,” and it’s all added up to more (or perhaps less) of the same, to what Trump opioid commission member and former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy has called a “charade.” The funds that have been scheduled to go into the drive against opioid addiction — a promised $6 billion over two years (less annually, that is, than Trump is asking for as a down payment on his wall) — were modest at best, even as the president proposed slashing the budget of the Office of National Drug Policy, while leaving the Drug Enforcement Administration with only an acting head.

For all the talk, think of America’s opioid addicts as the Afghans or Iraqis of our domestic world. They can die and die and, as Menon shows, nothing much changes.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Addiction, Opioids 
🔊 Listen RSS

Give Donald Trump credit. As a businessman, he’s brought into office some skills that previous presidents lacked. Take, for example, his willingness to plough staggering sums of money into five casinos destined to go bankrupt (and then jump ship, money in hand, leaving others holding the financial bag). Now, he seems to be applying the same principles to the Pentagon. He’s already insisted on establishing a sixth branch of the armed services, a Space Force, which will cost a pretty penny — as much as $13 billion just to set up its new bureaucracy. And lest that seem too financially ambitious, just the other day he unveiled a 2019 Missile Defense Review aimed at creating a modern version of President Ronald Reagan’s extremely expensive (and failed) Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as “Star Wars.” Its purpose, as he put it, will be to “ensure that we can detect and destroy any [nuclear] missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime.” The cost: possibly up to a trillion dollars without such a system being in any meaningful way capable of taking out Russian or Chinese missiles launched at the U.S. As a plan, however, it could hit the Trumpian trifecta: putting high-tech weaponry in space, heating up a new global nuclear arms race, and busting a Pentagon budget that’s already in the stratosphere.

And give Donald Trump credit for something else as well: he doesn’t let go of his obsessions easily. Take that “great, great wall” of his on our southern border that shut much of the government down for five weeks, could in the end cost tens of billions of dollars, and is likely to achieve next to nothing. (He even focused a significant part of his recent Missile Defense Review presentation on it.) In the process, he’s left open the possibility of declaring a national emergency and essentially pirating the initial construction money from… you guessed it, the Pentagon. Unfortunately, the space equivalent of a great wall (“missile defense”), similarly capable of stopping next to nothing, will in cost terms reduce the border wall to, as comedian Jackie Gleason used to say, a “mere bag of shells.”

As Mandy Smithberger from the Project On Government Oversight and TomDispatch regular William Hartung suggest today, the very Pentagon that President Trump is so eager to launch into space is now filled, from its acting secretary of defense on down, with former officials of, or consultants to, America’s largest arms makers, a crew clearly prepared to give out lucrative contracts for space failure to such firms. Sooner or later, in true Trumpian fashion, they, too, will undoubtedly jump ship — or rather step back through that Washington revolving door and exit the premises, money in hand, before the military version of the Titanic hits an iceberg.

 
🔊 Listen RSS

 

Think of it as a reverse miracle. Seventeen years of American war in this century waged by a military considered beyond compare on a planet that, back in 2001, was almost without enemies. How, then, was it possible, month after month, year after year, to turn the promise of eternal victory so repetitiously into the reality of defeat (and spreading terror movements)? As I read retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore’s latest piece on the subject, I must admit that I felt a certain sense of awe. In fact, I wondered whether, historically speaking, this might not be a one-of-a-kind situation.

Had there ever been an imperial power at the ostensible height of its glory that proved quite so incapable of effectively applying its military and political force globally to achieve its aims? At their height, the Roman Empire, China’s various imperial dynasties, and Europe’s colonial powers, however brutally, generally proved quite capable of impressing their wills and desires on those beyond their borders, even on relatively distant parts of the planet (at least for a time). In fact, in the Cold War years — think of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, or Chile on the first 9/11 (September 11, 1973) — the U.S. proved no less capable, often in similarly brutal ways. And yet, from Afghanistan to Libya, Iraq to Somalia, Syria to Yemen, despite the endless application of U.S. power, the killing of tens of thousands of people (including key figures in various terror movements), the displacement of millions, the rubblization of whole cities, and the creation of a series of partially or fully failed states, nowhere, as TomDispatch regular Astore points out today, has U.S. power succeeded in successfully imposing its will, even as its wars only multiplied.

And here’s another thing I’ve come to wonder about: How did the hearts-and-minds moxie of the leftist national liberation movements of the previous century that decolonized much of the planet get transferred to the extreme Islamist groups of this one? Like the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (the “Vietcong”) and similar groups in the twentieth century, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and other terror outfits regularly suffer extreme casualties and yet somehow maintain their grip on the hearts and minds of significant numbers of people in riven, increasingly ruined lands. They can, it seems, even attract random Americans and Europeans into the fold. It’s a strange and unexpected phenomenon, a grim success story that hasn’t been faced in a serious way here.

I suspect that these two puzzles — how the self-acknowledged greatest power of all time failed to deliver and the extremist resistance to it, against all odds, did — may have to be left to future historians to fully unravel. In the meantime, check out Astore’s striking account of how the U.S. military has repeatedly turned promised victory into dismal defeat in these years. No question about it, it’s a tale for the history books.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military 
Afghanistan and the Implosion of America
🔊 Listen RSS

As I approach 75, I’m having a commonplace experience for my age. I live with a brain that’s beginning to dump previously secure memories — names, the contents of books I read long ago (or all too recently), events, whatever. If you’re of a certain age yourself, you know the story.

Recently, however, I realized that this experience of loss, like so much else in our world, is more complex than I imagined. What I mean is that such loss also involves gain. It’s turned my mind to, and made me something of an instant expert on, one aspect of twenty-first-century America: the memory hole that’s swallowed up parts of our all-too-recent history. In fact, I’ve been wondering whether aging imperial powers, like old men and women, have a tendency to discard what once had been oh-so-familiar. There’s a difference, though, when it comes to the elites of the aging empire I live in at least. They don’t just dump things relatively randomly as I seem to be doing. Instead, they conveniently obliterate all memory of their country’s — that is, their own — follies and misdeeds.

Let me give you an example. But you need to bear with me here because I’m about to jump into the disordered mind of a man who, though two years younger than me, has what might be called — given present-day controversies — a borderline personality. I’m thinking of President Donald Trump, or rather of a particular moment in his chaotic recent mental life. As the New Year dawned, he chaired what now passes for a “cabinet meeting.” That mainly means an event in which those present grovel before, fawn over, and outrageously praise him in front of the cameras. Otherwise, Trump, a man who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of advice or of a meeting, held a 95-minute presidential ramble through the brambles in front of a Game of Thrones-style “[Iran] Sanctions Are Coming” poster of… well, him. The media typically ate it up, even while critiquing the president’s understanding of that HBO TV series. And so it goes in the Washington of 2019.

Excuse me if I seem to be wandering off subject (another attribute of the aging mind), but I’m about to plunge into history and our president is neither a historian, nor particularly coherent. Read any transcript of his and not only does he flip from subject to subject, sentence by sentence, but even — no small trick — within sentences. In other words, he presents a translation problem. Fortunately, he’s surrounded by a bevy of translators (still called “reporters” or “pundits”) and, unlike the translators in the president’s meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, we have their notes.

So here, as a start, is a much-quoted passage of his on this country’s never-ending Afghan War from that cabinet meeting, which reporters and pundits jumped on with alacrity and criticized him roundly for:

“We’re going to do something that’s right. We are talking to the Taliban. We’re talking to a lot of different people. But here’s the thing — because mentioned India: India is there. Russia is there. Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia. So you take a look at other countries. Pakistan is there; they should be fighting. But Russia should be fighting.

“The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally, they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot [of] these places you’re reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan.”

As I said, Donald Trump is no historian. So it’s true that the Red Army didn’t move into Afghanistan in 1979 thanks to a terrorist presence in Russia. And yes, every stray pen or talking head in Washington seemed to skewer the president for his ignorance of that reality, including the Atlantic’s eminent neocon pundit David Frum who basically claimed that the president was simply pushing the latest dish of pasta Putinesca our way. (“It’s amazing enough that any U.S. president would retrospectively endorse the Soviet invasion. What’s even more amazing is that he would do so using the very same falsehoods originally invoked by the Soviets themselves: ‘terrorists’ and ‘bandit elements.’ It has been an important ideological project of the Putin regime to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan…”)

While critics like Frum did begrudgingly admit that the Soviet fiasco in Afghanistan might have had just a teensy-weensy something or other to do with the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, less than two years after the Red Army limped home, the president, they insisted, basically got that wrong, too. The Soviet Union bankrupted by Afghanistan? Not in your dreams, buddy, or as the Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake wrote in a piece headlined “Trump’s Bizarre History Lesson on the Soviet Union, Russia, and Afghanistan”:

“The overlap between the fall of the Soviet Union and its foray into Afghanistan is obvious. The USSR invaded in 1979 and left a decade later, in 1989. The superpower dissolved shortly thereafter in 1991. But correlation is not causation… It was perhaps among the many reasons the USSR collapsed. But it was not the reason.”

And then, of course, came the next presidential tweet, and everyone — except me — moved on with alacrity. I was left alone, still dredging through my memories of that ancient conflict, which, these days, no one but the president would even think of bringing up in the context of the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan. And yet here’s the curious thing when it comes to an aging empire that prefers not to remember the history of its folly: Donald Trump was right that Russia’s Afghan misadventure is a remarkably logical place to start when considering the present American debacle in that same country.

Two Empires Trapped in Afghanistan

 
🔊 Listen RSS

 

More than a week ago, Jayme Closs, a 13-year-old from Wisconsin, escaped her 21-year-old abductor who had killed her parents. When she turned up 66 miles from home, having been missing for almost three months, her relatives, her small town, and even the police celebrated. Her return from a horrific experience, especially for a child, became a riveting national news story for days on end.

I caught a report on Closs at NBC Nightly News just after I first read today’s piece by TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg about what might be thought of as the global war on children (from the U.S.-Mexico border to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and beyond). In reality, there’s a world of Jayme Closses out there and for most of them, unfortunately, no small towns are preparing to celebrate their freedom from a hell on Earth. Across this planet, children are essentially being abducted or worse in staggering numbers. In Yemen, they’re being starved to death by the tens of thousands. Across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, as Greenberg reports today, they’re being armed, sent into wars, killed in those wars, or displaced from their homes by them — and often sent fleeing across international borders. On significant parts of the planet, as Greenberg has pointed out before at this website, children are being deprived of their rightful futures in a host of ways. The cruelty toward, and mistreatment of, the young in this world should take our breath away. Unfortunately, while Americans may focus on an occasional Jayme Closs, the general abuse and misuse of children doesn’t hold a candle to the president’s tweets or his fantasy of a Great Wall. And that’s worse than too bad, as Greenberg suggests today.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Child Abuse 
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