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The forcible separation of parents and children for “months or longer” under any circumstances, even for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, would have to rank high in the annals of cruelty and heartlessness. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced recently, the U.S. now has just such a “zero tolerance” policy at that border. No more “smuggling” (as the AG put it) of children into this country, though we’re largely talking about parents and kids, even toddlers, fleeing grim violence in their homelands. The Trump administration considers such a stance a “deterrence policy,” though — typical of the Trump era — it’s based on a false statistic. Such separations have, in fact, been going on in a less official fashion since the administration took office. And don’t even blame Jeff Sessions for the policy. We now know that the urge to rip children out of the arms of their parents comes directly from the White House, from the heart, such as it is, of one Donald J. Trump.

As Michael Shear and Nicole Perlroth reported in the New York Times recently, a presidential rant at a cabinet meeting against the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, that almost caused her to resign, was in part over this very matter:

“One persistent issue has been Mr. Trump’s belief that Ms. Nielsen and other officials in the department were resisting his direction that parents be separated from their children when families cross illegally into the United States, several officials said. The president and his aides in the White House had been pushing a family separation policy for weeks as a way of deterring families from trying to cross the border illegally.”

TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg has already written for this site on the staggering numbers of children displaced by Washington’s wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa, who are now, of course, denied any hope of sanctuary here (another kind of zero-tolerance stance of the Trump era). Today, however, she focuses on a different kind of Trumpian separation policy, one directed at divorcing us from the very language we speak, the words we normally use to describe reality, which are now to be officially banished to the borderlands of our consciousness.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Immigration 
The U.S. Military Takes Us Through the Gates of Hell
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[This essay is the introduction to Tom Engelhardt’s new book, A Nation Unmade by War, a Dispatch Book published by Haymarket Books.]

As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into America’s war on terror from September 12, 2001, through fiscal year 2018. That figure: a cool $5.6 trillion (including the future costs of caring for our war vets). On average, that’s at least $23,386 per taxpayer.

Keep in mind that such figures, however eye-popping, are only the dollar costs of our wars. They don’t, for instance, include the psychic costs to the Americans mangled in one way or another in those never-ending conflicts. They don’t include the costs to this country’s infrastructure, which has been crumbling while taxpayer dollars flow copiously and in a remarkably — in these years, almost uniquely — bipartisan fashion into what’s still laughably called “national security.” That’s not, of course, what would make most of us more secure, but what would make them — the denizens of the national security state — ever more secure in Washington and elsewhere. We’re talking about the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. nuclear complex, and the rest of that state-within-a-state, including its many intelligence agencies and the warrior corporations that have, by now, been fused into that vast and vastly profitable interlocking structure.

In reality, the costs of America’s wars, still spreading in the Trump era, are incalculable. Just look at photos of the cities of Ramadi or Mosul in Iraq, Raqqa or Aleppo in Syria, Sirte in Libya, or Marawi in the southern Philippines, all in ruins in the wake of the conflicts Washington set off in the post–9/11 years, and try to put a price on them. Those views of mile upon mile of rubble, often without a building still standing untouched, should take anyone’s breath away. Some of those cities may never be fully rebuilt.

And how could you even begin to put a dollars-and-cents value on the larger human costs of those wars: the hundreds of thousands of dead? The tens of millions of people displaced in their own countries or sent as refugees fleeing across any border in sight? How could you factor in the way those masses of uprooted peoples of the Greater Middle East and Africa are unsettling other parts of the planet? Their presence (or more accurately a growing fear of it) has, for instance, helped fuel an expanding set of right-wing “populist” movements that threaten to tear Europe apart. And who could forget the role that those refugees — or at least fantasy versions of them — played in Donald Trump’s full-throated, successful pitch for the presidency? What, in the end, might be the cost of that?

Opening the Gates of Hell

America’s never-ending twenty-first-century conflicts were triggered by the decision of George W. Bush and his top officials to instantly define their response to attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center by a tiny group of jihadis as a “war”; then to proclaim it nothing short of a “Global War on Terror”; and finally to invade and occupy first Afghanistan and then Iraq, with dreams of dominating the Greater Middle East — and ultimately the planet — as no other imperial power had ever done.

Their overwrought geopolitical fantasies and their sense that the U.S. military was a force capable of accomplishing anything they willed it to do launched a process that would cost this world of ours in ways that no one will ever be able to calculate. Who, for instance, could begin to put a price on the futures of the children whose lives, in the aftermath of those decisions, would be twisted and shrunk in ways frightening even to imagine? Who could tote up what it means for so many millions of this planet’s young to be deprived of homes, parents, educations — of anything, in fact, approximating the sort of stability that might lead to a future worth imagining?

Though few may remember it, I’ve never forgotten the 2002 warning issued by Amr Moussa, then head of the Arab League. An invasion of Iraq would, he predicted that September, “open the gates of hell.” Two years later, in the wake of the actual invasion and the U.S. occupation of that country, he altered his comment slightly. “The gates of hell,” he said, “are open in Iraq.”

His assessment has proven unbearably prescient — and one not only applicable to Iraq. Fourteen years after that invasion, we should all now be in some kind of mourning for a world that won’t ever be. It wasn’t just the US military that, in the spring of 2003, passed through those gates to hell. In our own way, we all did. Otherwise, Donald Trump wouldn’t have become president.

I don’t claim to be an expert on hell. I have no idea exactly what circle of it we’re now in, but I do know one thing: we are there.

The Infrastructure of a Garrison State

If I could bring my parents back from the dead right now, I know that this country in its present state would boggle their minds. They wouldn’t recognize it. If I were to tell them, for instance, that just three men — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — now possess as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, of 160 million Americans, they would never believe me.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Military Spending 
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It’s already long forgotten here, but the theocratic regime in Iran was really our baby. After all, in 1953, the CIA and British intelligence engineered a coup to replace a democratic government in Iran with the autocratic Shah and so gave Iranians just what they didn’t want (including his creepy secret police, the Savak). In those days, however, blowback from such American acts didn’t arrive with the speed of the Internet. It took a quarter of a century for our man in Iran to go down and the theocrats to rise. They were, of course, born of us (as in the U.S.), but no one talks about that anymore.

Then Washington switched partners. The administration of Ronald Reagan found someone else in the region we could really admire, another strongman by the name of — does this ring a bell? — Saddam Hussein. He ruled Iraq, not Iran, and like the Saudis of today (and the Israelis of just about any time), he wanted to take out the Iranian theocrats. (How familiar does that sound now that Donald Trump has done his best to smash the Iran nuclear deal?) In 1980, Saddam launched a war of aggression against that country. As the U.S. military now helps the Saudis with targeting intelligence and weaponry in their brutal war in Yemen, so it then helped Saddam, targeting Iranian military contingents, even knowing that Saddam’s troops were likely to use chemical weapons against them. Five hundred thousand or so Iranians died in that invasion and the eight-year disaster of a war that followed. Then, in another curious reversal, Saddam suddenly became “Hitler,” the ultimate evil one. In 1990, the U.S. military (and its allies) drove his troops out of Kuwait, and in 2003 the administration of George W. Bush took him out completely. And just in case you’ve forgotten that “mission accomplished” moment, let me remind you that, like so much else the U.S. has done in the region in these years, it didn’t exactly work out splendiferously.

Now, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out, we seem to be on a path to a Third Gulf War. Once again, Iran is the enemy. Once again, as in 2003, a president is surrounded by bellicose advisers intent on just such a war and looking for the right excuse to launch it. And if this doesn’t seem eerily repetitive to you, well, what can I say — except that this little history gives grim new meaning to the adage, often credited to philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iran 
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Imagine that you paid a special visit to a family you hardly knew halfway around the world and they were so pleased to see you that they spent an estimated $68 million on your welcome, while mounting “festivities” like the one in which you danced with them sword in hand? Yes, you’d probably be thrilled, even if you weren’t Donald Trump, a man who seemingly can’t get enough of other people making a fuss over him. What I’m describing, of course, was the initial stop on his first trip abroad as president in May 2017. He landed in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where that country’s royal family — especially the canny fellow behind the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — feasted and fetêd him, while praising him everlastingly. Extravaganza though it was, it would prove to be little more than an initial down payment, a drop in the bucket, in an ongoing Saudi campaign to shape the new administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East, as Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, and TomDispatch regular William Hartung so vividly explain today.

If that doesn’t frighten you, it should. After all, the Saudi royals have one thing in mind above all else: the destruction of Iran. And now, from the president who wants to shred the nuclear deal with that country (“Insane. Ridiculous. It should have never been made”) to his latest national security adviser, John Bolton (who’s long had the urge to “bomb, bomb Iran”), to his latest secretary of state, Mike Pompeo (another first-class Iranophobe), it’s an administration primed to take on — and possibly try to take out — the Iranian regime. Only the other day, Pompeo finished off his first trip as secretary of state by “swaggering” through the Middle East hawking a harder than hard line on Iran and that nuclear deal.

So many eyes here are focused right now on the Koreas, not Iran. Eighteen Republican members of the House, for instance, just nominated the president for a Nobel Prize for making peace in Korea (a nomination that fits well on the preemptive path blazed by Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize). While peace is threatening to break out in Asia, the Saudis may get their well-financed wish — and it won’t be for peace in the Middle East. For the Trump administration, a shredded nuclear deal and a new set of conflicts in a region that has proven disastrous for the U.S. seems to have real potential for a future prize all its own. (Maybe the Norwegian Booby Prize.) Even for the Saudis, the results of that $68 million investment could prove anything but appetizing, as in the old adage: be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.

So think of the Saudi-Trump relationship, to use a phrase from Freeman and Hartung’s piece, as the love affair from hell.

And a Planet in Ruins
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They are the extremists. If you need proof, look no further than the Afghan capital, Kabul, where the latest wave of suicide bombings has proven devastating. Recently, for instance, a fanatic set off his explosives among a group of citizens lining up outside a government office to register to vote in upcoming elections. At least 57 people died, including 22 women and eight children. ISIS’s branch in Afghanistan proudly took responsibility for that callous act — but one not perhaps quite as callous as the ISIS suicide bomber who, in August 2016, took out a Kurdish wedding in Turkey, missing the bride and groom but killing at least 54 people and wounding another 66. Twenty-two of the dead or injured were children and the bomber may even have been a child himself.

Such acts are extreme, which by definition makes the people who commit them extremists. The same is true of those like the “caliph” of the now-decimated Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who order, encourage, or provide the ideological framework for such acts — a judgment few in this country (or most other places on the planet) would be likely to dispute. In this century, from Kabul to Baghdad, Paris to San Bernardino, such extreme acts of indiscriminate civilian slaughter have only multiplied. Though relatively commonplace, each time such a slaughter occurs, it remains an event of horror and is treated as such in the media. If committed by Islamists against Americans or Europeans, suicide attacks of this sort are given 24/7 coverage here, often for days at a time.

And keep in mind that such extreme acts aren’t just restricted to terror groups, their lone wolf followers, or even white nationalists and other crazed men in this country, armed to the teeth, who, in schools, workplaces, restaurants, and elsewhere, regularly wipe out groups of innocents. Take the recent charges that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad used outlawed chemical weapons in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, that country’s capital, killing families and causing havoc. Whether that specific act proves to have been as advertised or not, there can be no question that the Assad regime has regularly slaughtered its own citizens with chemical weapons, barrel bombs, artillery barrages, and (sometimes Russian) air strikes, destroying neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, markets, you name it. All of this adds up to a set of extreme acts of the grimmest kind. And such acts could be multiplied across significant parts of the planet, ranging from the Myanmar military’s brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign against that country’s Rohingya minority to acts of state horror in places like South Sudan and the Congo. In this sense, our world certainly doesn’t lack either extreme thinking or the acts that go with it.

We here in the United States are, of course, eternally shocked by their extremism, their willingness to kill the innocent without compunction, particularly in the case of Islamist groups, from the 9/11 attacks to ISIS’s more recent slaughters.

However, one thing is, almost by definition, obvious. We are not a nation of extreme acts or extreme killers. Quite the opposite. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we sometimes kill. Yes, we sometimes even kill the innocent, however mistakenly. Yes, we are also exceptional, indispensable, and great (again), as so many politicians and presidents have been telling us for so many years now. And yes, you might even say that in one area we are extreme — in the value we put on American lives, especially military ones. The only thing this country and its leaders are not is extremist in the sense of an al-Qaeda or an ISIS, an Assad regime or a South Sudanese one. That goes without saying, which is why no one here ever thinks to say it.

Brides and Grooms in an Extreme World

Still, just for a moment, as a thought experiment, set aside that self-evident body of knowledge and briefly try to imagine our own particular, indispensable, exceptional version of extremity; that is, try to imagine ourselves as an extreme nation or even, to put it as extremely as possible, the ISIS of superpowers.

This subject came to my mind recently thanks to a story I noticed about another extreme wedding slaughter — this one not by ISIS but thanks to a Saudi “double-tap” airstrike on a wedding in Yemen, first on the groom’s party, then on the bride’s. The bride and possibly the groom died along with 31 other wedding goers (including children). And keep in mind that this wasn’t the first or most devastating Saudi attack on a wedding in the course of its brutal air war in Yemen since 2015.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Terrorism 
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It began, of course, with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the second Afghan war of our era. In November 2002, in Yemen, the CIA conducted its first drone assassination strike outside of Afghanistan, killing six al-Qaeda suspects in a car. (More strikes would follow there years later, along with Special Operations raids of various sorts, and finally in 2015, the devastating U.S.-backed Saudi war.) In March 2003, there was the invasion of Iraq, the second Iraq war of our era. Then, in 2004, there would be the first drone strike in Pakistan. (At least another 429 were to follow.) In 2011, the U.S. and its NATO allies intervened in Libya, taking down that country’s autocratic ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, and causing chaos, the rise of a branch of ISIS, the disintegration of the country into a failed state, and the spreading of Gaddafi’s looted arsenals of weapons to terror groups from Africa to Syria. In 2014, after ISIS militants swept into major cities in Iraq and the American-backed Iraqi military collapsed and fled, abandoning vast stores of U.S.-supplied equipment, Iraq War 3.0 was launched with what would develop into a vast air campaign beginning that August and also extending the American wars of this era to Syria. And I haven’t even included Somalia in this list, a country where, in a sense, American intervention and conflict have been intermittent since the Black Hawk Down era of the early 1990s and where U.S. air strikes have doubled and U.S. special ops missions have similarly increased in the Trump era.

And don’t forget Niger, the West African country where even key American senators had no idea the U.S. was fighting until four Green Berets died in action against a local terror outfit last October. The U.S. military is now finishing the construction there of a $110 million airbase, from which armed drones will, according to the New York Times, “be used to stalk or strike extremists deep into West and North Africa.” So America’s conflicts in Africa are essentially guaranteed to spread as the Trump administration, which recently launched a barrage of more than 100 missiles against three Syrian targets, threatens to add one more country to its Middle Eastern list as well: Iran.

In other words, from Pakistan to Niger, across thousands of miles over the last 16-plus years, the U.S. has conducted what was initially known as the “Global War on Terror” (or GWOT), then the lower-cased “war on terror,” and now a no-name set of conflicts that have been uprooting millions, turning major cities into rubble, and spreading terror outfits in its wake. And as TomDispatch regular U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, author of Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge, writes today, in not a single one of these conflicts, whether against a country (as in Afghanistan and Iraq) or insurgents, or both (as in Syria), has Congress declared war. Yes, “authorizations” or “resolutions” have passed, but an actual declaration of war? No way. Think of it as the abdication of the power of the people through their elected representatives when it comes to perhaps the most devastating decision a country can make. But let Sjursen explain.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, War on Terror 
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Almost 17 years after Washington’s war on terror was launched, déjà vu all over again hardly sums up the situation. Still, it’s a place to start. Take a headline from nearly a decade ago — July 2009, to be exact. By then, the American war in Afghanistan (the second Afghan War of our era) was already years old and not exactly going well. “U.S. Marines pour into Helmand,” went that headline, “in biggest offensive against Taliban for five years.” That July, in the first year of the Obama administration, more than 4,000 Marines were being dispatched to the heartlands of Helmand Province to secure Afghanistan’s major opium-poppy-growing region. That was, of course, nearly eight years after the Bush administration had declared the country “liberated” by an American invasion. By the fall of 2014, after five more years of fighting the Taliban and advising Afghan security forces in Helmand — and hundreds of American deaths — those troops were finally withdrawn from “one of the few bright spots in the Afghan war.” However, a corrupt Afghan government and its security forces, filled with “ghost soldiers” and “ghost police” (mostly paid for with U.S. funds), couldn’t even hold onto their paychecks, no less the parts of the province that had been “liberated” from the Taliban and the remarkably irrepressible opium trade that went with it. Slowly, much of the province fell back into Taliban hands as opium farming only spread and flourished.

And so in January 2017, headlines like this one began popping up: “U.S. Marines headed back to Taliban hotspot 2 years after pullout.” And not long after, several hundred Marines were indeed rushed back into a Helmand that seemed on the verge of falling to the Taliban. In January 2018, a second rotation of Marines was sent in (a number of whom had been deployed to the same province before 2014, undoubtedly giving that déjà vu feeling a deeply personal meaning) and soon after you got headlines like this: “Inside the Marines’ new mission in Afghanistan: Taking back territory previously won.”

Imagine, then, the headlines still to come in 2020 or beyond in what has now, in American military lingo, become not permanent war but “infinite war” across significant stretches of the planet. One thing not to wait for: headlines like “Taliban defeated, Helmand Province completely in government hands.” To put this twenty-first-century version of American war in context, consider the truly long view offered by a man who gained such a vantage point firsthand, TomDispatch regular and former Vietnam War correspondent Arnold Isaacs.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military 
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Recently, I visited New York’s Guggenheim Museum for a show of conceptual art by Danh Vo, whose family fled Vietnam as the American war there ended in 1975. He was four years old when he became a refugee and, through a series of flukes, found himself in Denmark, which has been his home ever since. Much of his work is focused on that grim war and the colonial history leading up to it. Among the eerie exhibits at the Guggenheim are two chairs (stripped down and exhibited in bits and pieces) that originally came from the White House cabinet room. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President John F. Kennedy used them while discussing key Vietnam decisions. Jackie Kennedy gave them to McNamara after her husband’s death (and Vo bought them at a Sotheby’s auction). There are also a series of notes that Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and then secretary of state, a man deeply involved in the horrors of that same war, sent to the New York Post’s Broadway gossip columnist Leonard Lyons. In those letters, successively framed on a wall, Dr. K responds to offers of free ballet and Broadway show tickets that Lyons seems to have regularly dangled in front of him. They capture the smallest scale form of corruption imaginable but are no less eerie for that. In perhaps the creepiest one, Kissinger writes Lyons jokingly in May 1970, “Dear Leonard, You must be a fiend. I would choose your ballet over contemplation of Cambodia any day — if only I were given the choice. Keep tempting me; one day perhaps I will succumb.” Keep in mind that this was just months after he had transmitted a presidential order to the U.S. military to intensify the devastating secret bombing of that land with these words: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” Ballet indeed.

Those ticket offers, of course, were something less than a Teapot Dome scandal, but they certainly should be considered a reminder that Washington has been and remains a swamp in every sense of the word. In his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump swore that he would drain that very swamp, shut down K Street lobbying activities, and bring that city’s myriad revolving doors to a halt. Instead, a year and a quarter into his presidency, he and his administration are already involved in a staggering set of activities guaranteed to swamp the drain in Washington. We don’t know about ballet or theater tickets for Trump administration figures yet. (That will perhaps await some conceptual artist of the mid-twenty-first century.) We do, however, already know about a veritable deluge of everyday corruption at the highest levels, ranging from condo rentals to plane flights to dining room furniture — and that’s just the churn at the edges of that drain. There are already at least 10 investigations of, for instance, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s profligate spending habits. And at the center of that vortex of corruption lies the president and his family, the man whose taxes remain an American mystery and who couldn’t even get them in on time this year. He’s brought his family operation directly into the Oval Office, along with his daughter and son-in-law, and they’ve all but raised his Golden Letters over the building. So I’m sure you won’t be surprised that his new hotel, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, has become a must-stop spot for every lobbyist, foreign diplomat, or anyone else who cares to influence the Oval Office.

The question, of course, is: Who exactly will find the ultimate piece of tape on the latch of the Trump Organization’s basement door? TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, suspects that it’s likely to be a classic “bean counter” and, with that in mind, she’s written a paean of prospective praise to the one or ones who will someday take down the president. Think of it as an ode not on a Grecian urn, but on a gimlet-eyed accountant.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump 
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In her new book, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, Nomi Prins remembers how the 9/11 attacks affected her. She was, at the time, working for Goldman Sachs (which has been sending key former employees directly into top government posts ever since, most recently, of course, Steven Mnuchin as Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary). Before that, she had been working for the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which crashed and burned so dramatically, helping trigger the great financial crisis of 2007-2008. Here’s what she writes:

“We each have our stories from those days, where we were, what went through our minds, how it changed us as people, as a nation. For me, those tense moments walking up Broadway away from Wall Street, with the acrid, debris-filled smoke of the Twin Towers in the air, was a last straw. I left Goldman Sachs. Partly because life was too short. Partly out of disgust at how citizens everywhere had become collateral damage, and later hostages, to the banking system. Since then, I’ve dedicated my work to exposing the intersections of money and power and deciphering the impact of the relationships between governments and central and private bankers on the citizens of the world.”

Because 9/11 did something similar to me, and this website, TomDispatch, resulted from my own urge to decipher a puzzling post-9/11 world, I couldn’t be more sympathetic. Now, almost 17 years later, as the U.S. military pursues its unending wars across the planet, the central bankers of the same planet pursue… well, let Nomi Prins explain it to you.

• Category: Economics • Tags: Donald Trump, Wall Street 
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Recently, President Trump declared war on undocumented immigrants heading for the southern border — you know, all those marauding “rapists” and their pals — and, as seems appropriate in any “war,” he promptly ordered the mobilization of the National Guard. Troops from its ranks were to be dispatched border-wards permanently, or at least until his Great Wall could be funded and built by someone or other. (“We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” he said proudly, in announcing the move.) Up to 4,000 National Guard troops are officially to take on the task, except that so far only a scattered 900 or so from the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have actually made it to the border — with another 400 promised by California Governor Jerry Brown, as long as they fulfill none of the anti-immigrant duties that Trump has in mind for them. Are you with me so far? Add to this the fact that the troops going into battle will be doing so unarmed and with no authority to act directly in any way in relation to immigrants of any sort. (As the memo that Secretary of Defense James Mattis signed put it, the National Guard troops will not “perform law enforcement duties or interact with migrants or other persons detained by U.S. personnel.”)

Think of this as Syria in the Southwest. In response to presidential tweets and boasts, the U.S. military is searching for a way to visually fulfill his promises — oh, those missiles sent into Syria, more than twice as many as the last time! — while actually doing as little as humanly possible to achieve his goals. Mission accomplished! In fact, those National Guard troops could essentially hit the border and twiddle their thumbs, while the endless advanced systems of high-tech surveillance implanted in our ever more fortified and militarized borderlands do most of the work for them. TomDispatch regular Todd Miller, author most recently of Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, has been following all of this for years now and today offers a sense of how ordinary — despite all the hype — Trump’s military moves have actually been in the context of recent American border politics. It’s a grim tale without an end in sight. Fortunately, Miller is on the job.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Immigration 
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