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TomDispatch

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As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every... Read More
Five Ways to Think about Iran under the Gun
It's like old times in the Persian Gulf. As of this week, a second aircraft carrier battle task force is being sent in -- not long after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen highlighted planning for "potential military courses of action" against Iran; just as the Bush administration's catechism of charges against the... Read More
The bloodstream of the global energy war is the pipelines that crisscross the planet’s potential imperial battlefields.
Introduction by Tom Engelhardt At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil—which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009—rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming... Read More
Pipelineistan in Conflict
Back in March, Pepe Escobar, that itchy, edgy global reporter for one of my favorite on-line publications, Asia Times, began laying out the great, ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia, or what he likes to call Pipelinestan for its web of oil and natural gas pipelines. In his first report, he dealt with the embattled energy... Read More
Iran and the Pipelineistan Opera
Back before email, a world traveler who wanted to keep in touch and couldn't just pop into the nearest Internet café, might drop you a series of postcards from one exotic locale after another. Pepe Escobar, that edgy, peripatetic globe-trotting reporter for one of my favorite on-line publications, Asia Times, has been doing just that... Read More
Future historians may well agree that the 21st century Silk Road first opened for business on December 14, 2009. That was the day a crucial stretch of pipeline officially went into operation, linking the fabulously energy-rich state of Turkmenistan (via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) to Xinjiang province in China’s far west. Hyperbole did not deter the... Read More
Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable
In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without... Read More
So Many Ways to Strut Your Democratic Stuff in a New World
They can’t help themselves. Really, they can’t. Like children, the most monstrous of secret police outfits evidently come to believe themselves immortal. They lose all ability to imagine that they might ever go down and so keep records to the very moment of their collapse. Those records, so copious, damning, and unbearably detailed (which doesn’t... Read More
The Decline and Fall of Just About Everyone
Pepe Escobar, that ever-energetic, globetrotting correspondent for Asia Times, has long been on the Pipelinestan beat for TomDispatch, covering the skeletal geography of energy that girds the planet. Today, however, he leaves pipelines behind to consider the planet they service -- or is it we who service them? His topic: if the West is going... Read More
Following the Money in the Iran Crisis
These days, with a crisis atmosphere growing in the Persian Gulf, a little history lesson about the U.S. and Iran might be just what the doctor ordered. Here, then, are a few high- (or low-) lights from their relationship over the last half-century-plus: Summer 1953: The CIA and British intelligence hatch a plot for a... Read More
Neoliberal Dragons, Eurasian Wet Dreams, and Robocop Fantasies
Last December, a super-secret RQ-170 Sentinel, part of a far-reaching program of CIA drone surveillance over Iran, went down (or was shot down, or computer-jacked and hacked down) and was recovered intact by the Iranian military. This week, an Iranian general proudly announced that his country’s experts had accessed the plane’s computer -- he offered... Read More
Washington’s Iranian Future
Imagine, for a moment, a world in which the United States is a regional power, not a superpower. A world in which the globe’s mightiest nation, China, invades Mexico and Canada, deposing the leaders of both countries. A world in which China has also ringed the Americas, from Canada to Central America, with military bases.... Read More
Two Nations, Two Dreams, One Pacific
Yes, the predictions are in. By 2016 (or 2030?), China will have economically outpaced the U.S. So say the economic soothsayers. And behind them lie all those, in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington, who secretly fear that, if nothing is done to contain it, China will within decades be dominant in the Pacific, the... Read More
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Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower
In an increasingly phantasmagorical world, here’s my present fantasy of choice: someone from General Keith Alexander’s outfit, the National Security Agency, tracks down H.G. Wells’s time machine in the attic of an old house in London. Britain’s subservient Government Communications Headquarters, its version of the NSA, is paid off and the contraption is flown to... Read More
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The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east... Read More
Here’s a question for you: Can a military tiptoe onto a continent? It seems the unlikeliest of images, and yet it’s a reasonable enough description of what the U.S. military has been doing ever since the Pentagon created an Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007. It’s been slipping, sneaking, creeping into Africa, deploying ever more forces... Read More
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Don’t Hold Your Breath
Sometimes history happens at the moment when no one is looking. On weekends in late August, the president of the United States ought to be playing golf or loafing at Camp David, not making headlines. Yet Barack Obama chose Labor Day weekend to unveil arguably the most consequential foreign policy shift of his presidency. In... Read More
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Andrew Bacevich’s post on the congressional debate on Syria couldn’t be timelier in two ways -- in terms of the debate itself, scheduled to begin Monday, but also because his powerful new book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, is officially published this Tuesday in the... Read More
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Why Saying No to Syria Matters (and it's not about Syria)
Once again, we find ourselves at the day after 9/11, and this time America stands alone. Alone not only in our abandonment even by our closest ally, Great Britain, but in facing a crossroads no less significant than the one we woke up to on September 12, 2001. The past 12 years have not been... Read More
Looked at one way at least, the president's Syrian war proposal -- itself an ever shifting target -- couldn’t be more brain-dead. The idea that one country, on its own, has the right to missile and bomb another to resolve the question of a chemical attack and war crime should, on the face of it,... Read More
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How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Dear Whistleblower, I don’t know who you are or what you do or how old you may be. I just know that you exist somewhere in our future as surely as does tomorrow or next year. You may be young and computer-savvy or a career federal employee well along in years. You might be someone... Read More
Re-Purposing America's War Machine
A trillion dollars. It's a lot of money. In a year it could send 127 million college students to school, provide health insurance for 206 million people, or pay the salaries of seven million schoolteachers and seven million police officers. A trillion dollars could do a lot of good. It could transform or save a... Read More
In the preface to his 1974 classic, The Permanent War Economy, Seymour Melman decried America’s choice of guns over butter. He wrote: The time couldn’t have looked riper for beating swords into plowshares. After more than 10 years, U.S. combat in Vietnam had ended and President Nixon had recently begun normalizing relationswith China, that Communist... Read More
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The NSA Isn’t the Only Government Agency Exploiting Technology to Make Privacy Obsolete
For at least the last six years, government agents have been exploiting an AT&T database filled with the records of billions of American phone calls from as far back as 1987. The rationale behind this dragnet intrusion, codenamed Hemisphere, is to find suspicious links between people with “burner” phones (prepaid mobile phones easy to buy,... Read More
In the U.S. these days, privacy is so been-there-done-that. Just this week, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret outfit that hears only the government side of any argument and has generally been a rubberstamp for surveillance requests, declassified an opinion backing the full-scale collection and retention of the phone records (“metadata”) of American citizens.... Read More
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Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential... Read More
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The Greater Middle East’s Greatest Rebuff to Uncle Sam
What if the sole superpower on the planet makes its will known -- repeatedly -- and finds that no one is listening? Barely a decade ago, that would have seemed like a conundrum from some fantasy Earth in an alternate dimension. Now, it is increasingly a plain description of political life on our globe, especially... Read More
Among the curious spectacles of our moment, the strangeness of the Obama presidency hasn’t gotten its full due. After decades in which “the imperial presidency” was increasingly in the spotlight, after two terms of George W. Bush in which a literal cult of executive power -- or to use the term of that moment, “the... Read More
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12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole
Will the U.S. still be meddling in Afghanistan 30 years from now? If history is any guide, the answer is yes. And if history is any guide, three decades from now most Americans will have only the haziest idea why. Since the 1950s, the U.S. has been trying to mold that remote land to its... Read More
The Afghan War is officially winding down. American casualties, generally from towns and suburbs you’ve never heard of unless you were born there, are still coming in. Though far fewer American troops are in the field with Afghan forces, devastating “insider attacks” in which a soldier or policeman turns his gun on his American allies,... Read More
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How the Pentagon Is Using Your Tax Dollars to Turn Italy into a Launching Pad for the Wars of Today and Tomorrow
The Pentagon has spent the last two decades plowing hundreds of millions of tax dollars into military bases in Italy, turning the country into an increasingly important center for U.S. military power. Especially since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has been shifting its European center of gravity south... Read More
This may be a propitious moment to offer an up-to-date version of a classic riddle: Which came first, the chicken or the terrorist? For many in this country, the Kenyan mall horror arrived out of the blue, out of nowhere, out of a place and a time without context. Next thing you know, it’s all... Read More
Sometimes, the world sends you back to school. These last months have offered us a crash course -- call it Surveillance 101 -- in how Washington, enveloped in a penumbra of extreme secrecy, went to work creating a global surveillance state on a scale almost beyond the imagination. It was certainly beyond the imaginations, not... Read More
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Mining Your Information for Big Brother
Big Bro is watching you. Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products marketed by contractors to the government that can follow you around anywhere. No longer the wide-eyed fantasies of conspiracy theorists, these technologies are routinely installed in all of our data devices by companies that sell... Read More
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Letters to Colonel Manners (Ret.)
[Editor’s Note: In the sequester and government-shutdown era, the classic military newspaper Stars and Stripes is facing some of the problems of its civilian brethren and sodownsizing its print edition. Among the features to go: Dear Abby. As it happens, TomDispatch is ready to step into the breach. We’ve called on an old and knowledgeable... Read More
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A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare
From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews “bludgeoned” and “left for dead” by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast... Read More
In case you hadn’t noticed, Israel has been in the news a lot lately. After all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the U.N. in the midst of an Iranian “charm offensive,” just as presidents Obama and Rouhani were having the first conversation between Iranian and American heads of state since Jimmy Carter’s day,... Read More
It’s no news (and in fact rarely makes it off the inside pages of our newspapers) that the U.S. dominates -- one might almost say monopolizes -- the global arms market. In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, U.S. weapons makers tripled their sales to $66.3 billion and were expected to remain... Read More
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Disaster Capitalism on the Battlefield and in the Boardroom
There is a new normal in America: our government may shut down, but our wars continue. Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the U.S. military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the Afghan War can still be prosecuted, Italy can be garrisoned by American troops (putting the “empire”... Read More
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The Coming Era of Tiny Wars and Micro-Conflicts
In terms of pure projectable power, there’s never been anything like it. Its military has divided the world -- the whole planet -- into six “commands.” Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades. Its Air Force has ruled the global skies,... Read More
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The New York Times and the Enduring “Threat” of Isolationism
The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission. Wean the American... Read More
Hey, Private First Class Dorothy: when that next tornado hits Kansas, it’s slated to transport you not to Oz, but to somewhere in Africa, maybe Chad or Niger or Mauritania. And that’s war, American-style, for you, or so reports the New York Times’s Eric Schmitt from Fort Riley, Kansas, where an Army brigade is gearing... Read More
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How Does the Global War on Terror Ever End?
[This epilogue to Scahill’s bestselling book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, is posted with the kind permission of its publisher, Nation Books.] On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Just as he had promised when he began his first campaign for president... Read More
The foreign leaders are dropping like flies -- to American surveillance. I’m talking about serial revelations that the National Security Agency has been spying on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, two Mexican presidents, Felipe Calderón (whose office the NSA called “a lucrative source”) and his successor Enrique Peña Nieto, at least while still a candidate, and... Read More
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John Kerry is a Figure of His Times (and That's Not a Good Thing)
In the 1960s, John Kerry was distinctly a man of his times. Kennedy-esque, he went from Yale to Vietnam to fight in a lost war. When popular sentiments on that war shifted, he became one of the more poignant voices raised in protest by antiwar veterans. Now, skip past his time as a congressman, lieutenant... Read More
If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium -- the title of a 1969 romantic comedy -- could now fit two intertwined phenomena: the madcap global travels of Secretary of State John Kerry and the nonstop journey of the latest revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In mid-August, there was Kerry in Brazil, lamely... Read More
When Barack Obama took office, the sky was the limit in the Greater Middle East. After all, it seemed the U.S. had hit rock bottom. President Bush had set the region aflame with a raging debacle in Iraq, a sputtering conflict in Afghanistan, and a low-level drone war in Pakistan. The outgoing president was wildly... Read More
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Obama’s Washington Is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Region
Put in context, the simultaneous raids in Libya and Somalia last month, targeting an alleged al-Qaeda fugitive and an alleged kingpin of the al-Shabab Islamist movement, were less a sign of America’s awesome might than two minor exceptions that proved an emerging rule: namely, that the power, prestige, and influence of the United States in... Read More
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The Cost of War American-Style
The last time I saw American soldiers in Afghanistan, they were silent. Knocked out by gunfire and explosions that left them grievously injured, as well as drugs administered by medics in the field, they were carried from medevac helicopters into a base hospital to be plugged into machines that would measure how much life they... Read More
Back in the distant year 2003, my novel about a world I had inhabited for decades, The Last Days of Publishing, came out. In its last pages, three superannuated book editors huddled in a coffee shop in Manhattan, dreaming about DIY publishing. A decade later -- for me -- fiction has become reality. Today, with... Read More