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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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David Petraeus Finally Answers His Own Question
It took 14 years, but now we have an answer. It was March 2003, the invasion of Iraq was underway, and Major General David Petraeus was in command of the 101st Airborne Division heading for the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Rick Atkinson, Washington Post journalist and military historian, was accompanying him. Six days into a lightning... Read More
Will Washington Never Learn?
Eight years ago, when I wrote a book on the first days of Guantanamo, The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days, I assumed that Gitmo would prove a grim anomaly in our history. Today, it seems as if that “detention facility” will have a far longer life than I ever imagined and that it,... Read More
Karen Greenberg first arrived at TomDispatch in January 2005 in tandem with defense attorney Joshua Dratel. Their book The Torture Papers was just being published and they were asking questions. Thirty-seven of them, to be exact, all pointed, all uncomfortable, all directed at then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, all focused on the Bush administration’s torture... Read More
“Bring the war home”: once, a long, lost time ago -- in October 1969, to be exact -- that slogan represented a promise made by the most radical wing of the vast movement against the war in Vietnam. Wearing football helmets and wielding lead pipes, that tiny crew of extreme leftists carried out what they... Read More
Counterinsurgency, Policing, and the Militarization of America’s Cities
“This... thing, [the War on Drugs] this ain't police work... I mean, you call something a war and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors... running around on a damn crusade, storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts... pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your f**king enemy.... Read More
Your Tax Dollars Support Troops of Defense Contractor CEOs
Here’s a question for you: How do you spell boondoggle? The answer (in case you didn’t already know): P-e-n-t-a-g-o-n. Hawks on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. military routinely justify increases in the Defense Department's already munificent budget by arguing that yet more money is needed to “support the troops.” If you’re already nodding in... Read More
I’m sure you’ve heard about the $65 million. Or was it $86 million? Or was it even more? You know, the funds the Pentagon sunk into that hotshot plane it was preparing for its Afghan drug interdiction program. You haven’t? Well, as Megan Rose reported at ProPublica, with its “electro-optical infra-red video capacity,” that counternarcotics... Read More
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Sixteen Years, But Who’s Counting?
Consider, if you will, these two indisputable facts. First, the United States is today more or less permanently engaged in hostilities in not one faraway place, but at least seven. Second, the vast majority of the American people could not care less. Nor can it be said that we don’t care because we don’t know.... Read More
Even though the article was buried at the bottom of page eight of the September 28th New York Times, it caught my attention. Its headline: “Russia Destroys Chemical Weapons and Faults U.S. for Not Doing So.” In a televised ceremony, wrote reporter Andrew Higgins, Russian President Vladimir Putin “presided over the destruction of his country’s... Read More
Who Makes the Story Possible?
We were already roaring down the road when the young man called to me over his shoulder. There was a woman seated between us on the motorbike and with the distance, his accent, the rushing air, and the engine noise, it took a moment for me to decipher what he had just said: We might... Read More
We tend to think of them as separate and distinct wars: the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq. Yet it’s not hard to trace the ways in which America’s knee-jerk overreaction to the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the “preemptive” invasion of Iraq that followed in 2003 destabilized whole regions, spreading conflict like the... Read More
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Or How to Further Enrich “The Masters of the Universe”
[This interview has been excerpted from Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, the new book by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian to be published this December.] David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is striving to... Read More
I first “met” Noam Chomsky in 1969 by reading these words of his about the My Lai massacre: Discussing various of America’s criminal acts in the larger war in Vietnam, Chomsky then added of the My Lai massacre itself: Chomsky wrote “After Pinkville” -- areas like Song My were then colored pink on American military... Read More
Women and The Donald in Everyday Life
Back in 1992, a certain New York real estate mogul told a reporter from New York magazine that you have to treat women “like shit.” That was a perfect summary of his philosophy, but it may be an even better descriptor for the way many women treat themselves -- or, rather, how they’re treated by... Read More
Women make up more than half the population of the United States, about 51%. We women are 55% of college students and we take more degrees than men. About 44 million of us between the ages of 15 and 50 have children, but only 5 million or so are stay-at-home moms. That’s because we go... Read More
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How It Might Actually Be Fought
[This piece has been adapted and expanded from Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.] For the past 50 years, American leaders have been supremely confident that they could suffer military setbacks in places like Cuba or Vietnam without having their system... Read More
At the U.N. recently, Donald Trump followed up on his bloodcurdling threat to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen” (essentially a warning of nuclear terror) with an even grimmer threat: to “totally destroy” that country. In his histrionic bluntness, Trump was not alone in raising the nuclear issue.... Read More
It drove me crazy throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton (with all those high-priced consultants and aides) just kept pounding away at Donald Trump’s personality, which his many followers adored, and those unreleased tax returns of his, even though Americans have always loved hucksters capable of outwitting the government. That was so apparent to... Read More
Yes, He Is Running America Like One of His Businesses
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that our country was run terribly and needed a businessman at its helm. Upon winning the White House, he insisted that the problem had been solved, adding, “In theory, I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case... Read More
Fiddling Through the Smoke in 2025
It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases,... Read More
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The American Military’s Repetition-Compulsion Complex
Here we go again! Years after most Americans forgot about the longest war this country ever fought, American soldiers are again being deployed to Afghanistan. For almost 16 years now, at the command of three presidents and a sadly forgettable succession of generals, they have gone round and round like so many motorists trapped on... Read More
Last year, an internal report commissioned by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America and other U.S. government-supported foreign news outlets, examined the “perception of U.S. international media in Afghanistan.” This study, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, concluded that Afghans saw U.S.-backed media as “useful” and... Read More
The United States just experienced its largest rainfall event in memory. For the first time in recorded weather history, two category 4 hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, hit in a single season (not yet over). And San Francisco, famed for its chilliness, experienced an unheard of 106 degree day as September began, while a record West... Read More
Militarizing Homeland Security in the Climate-Change Era
Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of... Read More
In 1985, at age 41, I visited Disney World for the first time. I remember the experience for two things: the endless lines so cleverly organized that you never knew how long they truly were and the Hawaiian Luau dinner I attended. Yes, a genuine Hawaiian feast that reminded me of American Chinese food circa... Read More
On Burning Books But Not Ideas
The organizers of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville last month knew just what they were doing when they decided to carry torches on their nocturnal march to protest the dethroning of a statue of Robert E. Lee. That brandishing of fire in the night was meant to evoke memories of terror, of past parades... Read More
After 19 al-Qaeda militants armed only with box-cutters and knives hijacked four American commercial airliners, the U.S. military moved with remarkable efficiency to rectify the problem. In the years since, in its global war on terror, the Pentagon has ensured that America’s enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere have regularly been able to arm... Read More
Out Everywhere and Winning Nowhere
When it comes to the “world’s greatest military,” the news has been shocking. Two fast U.S. Navy ships colliding with slow-moving commercial vessels with tragic loss of life. An Air Force that has been in the air continuously for years and yet doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its combat jets. Ground troops who find... Read More
In the early 1950s, my father ran a gas station on Governors Island, a military base in New York harbor. In those years, it would be my only encounter with the suburbs. And there, for maybe a dime on any Saturday afternoon, I could join the kids from military families at the local movie house... Read More
Or Buck Rogers in the 21st Century
[This piece has been adapted and expanded from Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.] Not quite a century ago, on January 7, 1929, newspaper readers across America were captivated by a brand-new comic strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It... Read More
In some closet, I still have toy soldiers from my 1950s childhood. They played a crucial role in an all-American world of good guys and bad guys I learned about, in part, from the westerns and war movies my father took me to at local movie theaters. I can still remember playing out those long-lost... Read More
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When It Comes to the War in the Greater Middle East, Maybe We’re the Bad Guys
I used to command soldiers. Over the years, lots of them actually. In Iraq, Colorado, Afghanistan, and Kansas. And I’m still fixated on a few of them like this one private first class (PFC) in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011. All of 18, he was short, scrawny, and popular. Nine months after graduating from high school,... Read More
In America’s Wars, Failure Is the New Success
It was bloody and brutal, a true generational struggle, but give them credit. In the end, they won when so many lost. James Comey was axed. Sean Spicer went down in a heap of ashes. Anthony Scaramucci crashed and burned instantaneously. Reince Priebus hung on for dear life but was finally canned. Seven months in,... Read More
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Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother
[This piece has been adapted and expanded from the introduction to Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.] In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to... Read More
When historian Alfred McCoy began his long journey to expose some of the darkest secrets of the U.S. national security establishment, America was embroiled in wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Almost 50 years later, the United States is, in one way or another, involved in so many more conflicts from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and... Read More
The Times They Are A-Changin’ in North Korea
The United States has beaten its head against the wall of North Korea for more than 70 years, and that wall has changed little indeed as a result. The United States, meanwhile, has suffered one headache after another. Over the last several weeks, the head banging has intensified. North Korea has tested a couple of... Read More
If you happen to be a dystopian novelist, as TomDispatch regular John Feffer is, then you’re in business these days. Back in 2015, when Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency was just heating up and Feffer was writing Splinterlands, his vivid look back from the year 2050 at our shattered planet, he named the massive... Read More
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump
Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours. We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its... Read More
And All the Men and Women Merely Soldiers
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been fighting a “war on terror.” Real soldiers have been deployed to distant lands; real cluster bombs and white phosphorus have been used; real cruise missiles have been launched; the first MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, has been dropped; and real cities have... Read More
Ever since 2001, when President George W. Bush launched an endless “global war” not on al-Qaeda but on a phenomenon, or perhaps simply a feeling (“terror”) and those who could potentially induce it, America’s all-too-real conflicts have become, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon writes today, ever more metaphorical. In a sense, they have come to... Read More
You may have sensed it for a while. A significant group of American voters certainly did, since they elected a declinist president in 2016. Still, here’s the news of the month: the Pentagon has finally acknowledged it, too, as the title of a report from the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute makes clear:... Read More
A Rare Pentagon “Success” Story
Winning! It’s the White House watchword when it comes to the U.S. armed forces. “We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing -- you know what that is? Win! Win!” President Donald Trump exclaimed earlier this year while standing aboard... Read More
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The Post-Cold-War Consensus Collapses
Like it or not, the president of the United States embodies America itself. The individual inhabiting the White House has become the preeminent symbol of who we are and what we represent as a nation and a people. In a fundamental sense, he is us. It was not always so. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president... Read More
“Through the National Revolution its people were purged of alien diseases and America became American again.” So ends A Cool Million, Nathanael West’s now largely forgotten skewering of classic American rags-to-riches stories. Beginning like a pluck-and-luck Horatio Alger tale, West’s very own “Ragged Dick” -- Lemuel Pitkin -- is mercilessly brutalized over the course of... Read More
Think of Donald Trump as the plutocratic id loosed in the White House. And who hasn’t noticed the results? Civil war and uproar in Washington with bodies regularly carried out of the Oval Office. There are the constant tweet assaults on his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There’s his disgruntled secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, taking... Read More
Golf Is Trump
While waiting for Trump to jump the tracks, let’s savor the day when his inevitable train wreck first passed through a critical safety switch. On June 9th, President Trump alienated his true base -- the reactionary rich -- by driving his golf cart onto the green at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New... Read More
Over the years, Ann Jones has confronted some of the most daunting and depressing issues on the planet: the abuse of women, African civil wars, the disaster that is Afghanistan, and -- as reflected in her book They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- the plight of American casualties of the... Read More
Medicare for All in One State
You may have noticed that quite a few of the formerly united states of America have been choosing to go their own way. My own state, Massachusetts, now blooms with sanctuary cities sworn to protect residents from federal intrusion. Its attorney general, Maura Healey, was among the first to raise the legal challenge to President... Read More
Trump’s Fossil-Fueled Foreign Policy
Who says President Trump doesn’t have a coherent foreign policy? Pundits and critics across the political spectrum have chided him for failing to articulate and implement a clear international agenda. Look closely at his overseas endeavors, though, and one all-too-consistent pattern emerges: Donald Trump will do whatever it takes to prolong the reign of fossil... Read More
When you think about it, isn’t it strange that Donald Trump doesn’t represent the historical norm, that Americans have never before elected a P.T. Barnum president (though Barnum did become the mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut)? After all, as I wrote of Trump during the 2016 election campaign, “What could be more American than his two... Read More
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Topic 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