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 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive

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Imagine, for a moment, a country that no longer rebuilds or reinforces its sagging infrastructure but just can’t stop pouring money into its military. Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine that at all! You just have to look at the United States. This fall, for instance, the president who swore he was going to... Read More
They swore he’d never build, just tear down. He was, after all, the ultimate loner president with a grim history of bankruptcies. It was obvious that, among other things, he’d destroy the country’s alliances. And admittedly, these last two years his strength hasn’t always been in building. Take that “big, fat, beautiful wall” of his.... Read More
This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires -- Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates -- have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I... Read More
It’s not been a good era for migrants -- and no, I’m not talking about those “caravans” of desperate human beings from Central America heading for the U.S. (and the wrath of Donald J. Trump). I’m thinking about birds -- shorebirds, in fact, which are surely the greatest migrants on the planet. The Hudsonian godwit,... Read More
In a Crippled World, All the News That’s Fit to Splint
Breaking News! -- as NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt often puts it when beginning his evening broadcast. Here, in summary, is my view of the news that’s breaking in the United States on just about any day of the week: Trump. Trump. Trump. Trump. Trump. Or rather (in the president’s style): Trump! Trump! Trump!... Read More
What planet do we actually live on? Start with this fact: the last four years -- 2015, 2016, 2017, and (it seems a sure thing) 2018 -- will be the hottest on record. And if that doesn’t seem like evidence enough of something worth noting, how about 20 of the last 22 years being the... Read More
Who could doubt that the world of Donald Trump has recently become yet more embattled? Yes, there’s the Mueller investigation reportedly winding up (or down). And yes, there were those midterm elections, a blow -- as journalist and novelist Ben Fountain explains today -- to The Donald, creating yet another crew ready to investigate, subpoena,... Read More
Whether you realize it or not, we are in a new age of imperial geopolitics on a grand -- and potentially disastrous -- scale. TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy, author of In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, lays out devastatingly just what that is likely to mean... Read More
In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching... Read More
It’s now more than 17 years later, years in which American commanding generals in Afghanistan repeatedly hailed the U.S. military’s “progress” there and regularly applauded the way we had finally “turned a corner” in the Afghan War -- only to find more Taliban fighters armed with RPGs around that very corner. Finally, in the 18th... Read More
I remember Chalmers Johnson once describing to me his surprise on discovering that, after the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union imploded, the whole global military structure that Washington had set up -- which he later came to call “America’s empire of bases” or our “globe-girdling Baseworld” -- chugged right on. It didn't matter... Read More
Whatever you may think of President Trump, it’s important to be fair to him. You might have noticed that, on his recent trip to France (“five days of fury”), officially to mourn and praise America’s war dead on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, he managed to misshis first scheduled ceremony.... Read More
An Affair to Remember
Face it: it’s been an abusive time, to use a word he likes to wield. In his telling, of course, it’s he or his people who are always the abused ones and they -- the “fake news media” -- are the abusers. But let’s be honest. You’ve been abused, too, and so have I. All... Read More
If you happened to notice, news reports on a study in the science journal Nature about the globe’s oceans warming faster than even most climate scientists had imagined should have been eye-opening and potentially devastating news. In another world, that study would certainly have made headlines across the country as the midterm elections bore down... Read More
Death-by-ally: now that, by definition, is a fate from hell. You might at least imagine that such “insider attacks” -- in which a member of the Afghan security forces turns his weapon on his American or NATO trainers or advisers and tries to gun them down -- would be the rarest of events. After all,... Read More
Thoughts on Election Day 2018
Who could forget that moment? The blue [red] wave -- long promised but also doubted -- had, however modestly [however massively], hit Washington and [the Democrats had just retaken Congress] [the Republicans had held Congress] [the Democrats had taken the House]. The media, Fox News and the usual right-wing websites aside, hailed the moment. [Fox... Read More
He was the candidate who, while talking to a foreign policy expert, reportedly wondered“why we can’t use nuclear weapons.” He was the man who would never rule anything out or take any “cards,” including nuclear ones, off the proverbial table. He was the fellow who, as president-elect, was eager to expand the American nuclear arsenal... Read More
Back in the mid-1990s, I wrote the following in my book The End of Victory Culture, with memories of the American world of my 1940s and 1950s childhood in mind: And here’s the curious thing: almost a quarter of a century after I wrote those words, in a
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a warning. As the New York Timesdescribed it: “If the United States deploys new intermediate-range missiles in Europe after withdrawing from a nuclear treaty prohibiting these weapons, European nations will be at risk of ‘a possible counterstrike.’” It was the sort of threat that, in the previous century,... Read More
In June, Austin “Scott” Miller, the special-ops general chosen to be the 17th U.S. commander in Afghanistan, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Like so many of the generals who had preceded him, he suggested that he saw evidence of “progress” in the Afghan war, even if he refused to “guarantee you a timeline... Read More
I felt discouraged recently when it hit home: I’ll never be a Supreme Court justice. Reviewing my life, I came to the realization that I was in no way qualified -- and no, I’m not talking about my utter lack of legal experience (except as a juror). I was thinking instead of the qualifications that... Read More
17 Years of War (and More to Come)
We’re already two years past the crystal anniversary and eight years short of the silver one, or at least we would be, had it been a wedding -- and, after a fashion, perhaps it was. On October 7, 2001, George W. Bush launched the invasion -- “liberation” was the word often used then -- of... Read More
Here’s a strange reality of the last 17 years of the American way of war: in the spring of 2003, before the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, millions of people took to the streets, hundreds of thousands in the United States, to protest a coming war that was likely to lead to disaster. Ever since,... Read More
You want the nitty-gritty on the Bermuda Triangle of injustice that the U.S. created at the CIA’s global black sites and its detention center in Guantánamo, Cuba? Well, here’s a true story about an American National Guardsman at Gitmo who was only pretending to be a recalcitrant prisoner being “extracted” from a cell for training... Read More
The other day as I was passing through a waiting room in my gym, I suddenly saw -- well, who else in 2018? -- Donald Trump on a giant TV screen. He was trying on a specially made hardhat and preparing to address the National Electrical Contractors Association Convention. (“We are truly grateful to our... Read More
Here’s a story that’s never left my mind. Back in 2011, Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis was the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversaw the war on terror across the Greater Middle East, and he was obsessed with Iran. He cooked up a scheme to launch a strike to take out either... Read More
Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Rambo, Red Dawn, and How a Tale of American Triumphalism Was Returned to the Child’s World
[The following excerpt from Tom Engelhardt’s book The End of Victory Culture is posted with permission from the University of Massachusetts Press.] 1. “Hey, How Come They Got All the Fun?” Now that Darth Vader’s breathy techno-voice is a staple of our culture, it’s hard to remember how empty was the particular sector of space... Read More
If you were sleeping in 2010 when the Supreme Court -- you know, the perfectly reasonable one that didn’t yet have Brett Kavanaugh on it -- made political spending a form of free speech with its Citizens United case, you may not yet know that American politics is increasingly a possession of the 1%. In... Read More
One genuine joy in my life is spending time with my grandson. He’s six, like TomDispatchregular Frida Berrigan’s son Seamus, and he reminds me constantly of just how remarkable -- how clever, quick, quirky, inquisitive, and ready to absorb the world -- we human beings are. Unlike a new-born foal that, on arrival, struggles to... Read More
In July 1999, Chalmers Johnson began the prologue to Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire this way: “Instead of demobilizing after the Cold War, the United States imprudently committed itself to maintaining a global empire. This book is an account of the resentments our policies have built up and of the kinds of... Read More
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The Adolts in the Room (and No, That Is Not a Typo!)
When you think about it, the Earth is a relatively modest-sized planet -- about 25,000 milesin circumference at the Equator, with a total surface area of 197 million square miles, almost three-quarters of which is water. It’s not so hard, if you’re in a certain frame of mind (as American officials were after 1991), to... Read More
Like many in my generation, undoubtedly including Donald Trump, I went into space early (and I’m not even counting all those hours in my early teens I spent reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy or H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds by flashlight under the covers while supposedly asleep). I’m thinking of 1966 and 1967, when... Read More
It’s been quite a time for, in the phrase of the moment (which TomDispatch regular John Feffer wields particularly effectively today), “the adults in the room.” We’re talking, of course, about the very Washington insiders whom a “senior administration official” in an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times patted on the back for saving... Read More
Don’t say that Donald Trump isn’t consistent! No one was ever more so when it came to avoiding the truth! On lies and falsehoods of every sort, he’s the greatest! Outstanding! Fantastic! Tremendous! Amazing! Give him credit! He’s never wavered! Not for a moment! Not since he launched his presidential run on the coarsest of... Read More
It was the rarest of graphics in the American news media: a CNN map in which recent Saudi air strikes in Yemen were represented by little yellow explosions. Below them were the number of civilians killed (“97,” “155,” “unknown casualties”) and, below those, the names of the makers of the weapons that had done the... Read More
There’s a clear pattern to Donald Trump’s life. Put simply: he gets away with it. Yes, sometimes (but not usually) he has to pay a penalty, but generally he has a knack for leaving others holding the bag. He’s stiffed untold numbers of people (plumbers, painters, cabinet-makers, waiters, lawyers, bartenders) whom he hired to do... Read More
Honestly, what is it about Fridays, the Trump administration, and the Palestinians? Each of the last three Fridays, “at the direction of the president,” State Department officials have unveiled new cuts to U.S. aid, all aimed at Palestinian civilians (after the U.S. had already made “drastic cuts to its contribution to the U.N. agency for... Read More
Just in case you were with Donald Trump’s new Space Force last week, visiting some distant lodestar, and missed the breaking news about Bob Woodward’s new book (“Crazytown!”), that anonymous New York Times op-ed (“Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants...”), and all the excitement, the buzz,... Read More
I offer you this guarantee: there’s an anniversary coming on October 7th that no one in this country is going to celebrate or, I suspect, even think about. Seventeen years ago, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched the air campaign that began the invasion of Afghanistan. It would prove... Read More
The World According to The Don(ald)
I know you won’t believe me. Not now, not when everything Donald Trump does -- any tweet, any insult at any rally -- is the news of the day, any day. But he won’t be remembered for any of the things now in our headlines. No human being, it’s true, has ever been covered the... Read More
In 2010, H.R. McMaster wasn’t the former national security advisor to you-know-who but a brigadier general and senior adviser to General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. At that time, he came up with a striking name for America’s twenty-first-century wars in the Greater Middle East, then a mere nine... Read More
If I had to pick a single moment when I grasped that we were on a new surveillance planet, it would have been the release of the stunning revelations of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in exile in Vladimir Putin’s Russia (and if there isn’t irony in that, please tell me... Read More
These days, demonstrations follow the president and his policies the way day follows night. There are the determined protesters who go regularly to the Clarence Dillon Public Library in Bedminster, New Jersey, while the president weekends at the Trump National Golf Club nearby. (Trump who, between 2011 and 2016, tweeted endless criticism of President Barack... Read More
In 1958, Chinese leader Mao Zedong launched an attempt at the instant industrialization of an agricultural society, including the creation of little backyard steel furnaces in its rural countryside. That vast convulsion went by the optimistic name of the Great Leap Forward. It ended up disrupting the country’s agricultural system and causing a disastrous famine... Read More
I can remember lying on my bed with a crumpled up piece of paper in my hand and throwing it at the wall while, in my mind, the announcer’s voice carried on: “It’s a long drive to right field... Furillo is going back, back, back... He leaps! He’s got it!” And I would, of course,... Read More
Or How to Fight a War of Ultimate Repetitiousness
Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was... Read More
When it comes to guns and Americans, here (thanks to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) are a couple of stats for you: every year an average of 17,102 children and teens and 116,255 Americans overall are shot in “murders, assaults, suicides, and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.” And this doesn’t... Read More
It looks like TomDispatch may have a few less readers from now on. Perhaps it will surprise you, but judging by the mail I get, some members of the U.S. military do read TomDispatch -- partially to check out the range of military and ex-military critics of America’s wars that this site publishes. Or rather... Read More
Two weeks ago, another Trump business went down in flames. Caught in the whirlpool of her father’s presidency, with major department stores and other retail distributors continuing to drop her brand under pressure from consumer boycotts here and in Canada, daughter Ivanka shut down her line of clothes. This should have surprised no one. When... Read More
Here are a couple of questions for you: If, in this country, terrorism is to be fought by travel bans, if (as Donald Trump once tweeted) “we don’t want ‘em here,” then why are all the travel bans aimed at Muslims? If the most threatening terror types shouldn’t be traveling either to or in this... Read More
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