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 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive

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These days, the trade “war” between the Trump administration and China is regularly in the headlines and, sometimes, so are the bases the Chinese are building in the South China Sea, the ships the U.S. Navy is sending ever more provocatively close to them, and the potential clashes that might result. But the global nature... Read More
An Obituary for the Republic
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... Read More
  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... Read More
  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... Read More
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... Read More
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... Read More
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... Read More
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... Read More
  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... Read More
Afghanistan and the Implosion of America
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... Read More
  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... Read More
Let me tell you a little story about Hiroshima and me: As a young man, I was anything but atypical in having the Bomb (we capitalized it then) on my brain, and not just while I was ducking under my school desk as sirens howled their nuclear attack warnings outside. Like many people my age,... Read More
Dahr Jamail, a TomDispatch regular, reported strikingly from Iraq in the years after the 2003 American invasion of that country. Since then, he’s refocused the skills he learned as a war reporter on covering a fossil-fuelized war against the planet (and humanity itself). It goes by the mild name of climate change or global warming... Read More
He arrived on the political scene in 2015 already promoting a future “great, great wall,” even if it was originally no more than a “mnemonic device” invented by his handlers to remind him to bring up the issue of immigration on the campaign trail. Okay, so what? And so what if the original great, great... Read More
They are unending. There’s no way to keep up, much less respond effectively, and it almost goes without saying that they are never to be taken back, corrected, or amended in any way. Call them false claims, lies, untruths, misstatements, whatever you want, but they are what comes out of his mouth just about anytime... Read More
  As TomDispatch’s Nick Turse reminds us today, the United States remains an imperial military presence unlike any other -- not just in this moment but in the history of empire. Never has a single country had so many military bases on so many parts of Planet Earth. Consider that a striking fact of 2019,... Read More
Honestly, This Could Get a Lot Uglier
Sixty-six million years ago, so the scientists tell us, an asteroid slammed into this planet. Landing on what’s now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, it gouged out a crater 150 kilometers wide and put so much soot and sulfur into the atmosphere that it created what was essentially a prolonged “nuclear winter.” During that time, among so... Read More
On December 9th, the Washington Post covered Donald Trump's offhand, if long expected, announcement of the ousting of retired Marine General John Kelly from an embattled White House. Its report focused on the chief of staff’s “rocky tenure” there with a nod to his many merits, among them that he “often talked the president out... Read More
After six all-American decades in business, Toys "R" Us crashed in 2018, closing its 735 U.S. stores and filing for bankruptcy. As it happens, however, the Washington-branded outfit, Mistreatment and Misconduct "R" Us (or M&M "R" Us), continues to thrive, as it has this century so far. In case the holiday season has swept your... Read More
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
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