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Donald Trump Welcomes in the Age of “Usable” Nuclear Weapons
It was only an announcement, but think of it as the beginning of a journey into hell. Last week, President Donald Trump made public his decision to abrogate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a 1987 agreement with the Soviet Union. National Security Advisor John Bolton, a Cold Warrior in a post-Cold War world, promptly... 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
Militarizing the Economy in the Name of Defense
Given his erratic behavior, from daily Twitter eruptions to upping his tally of lies by the hour, it’s hard to think of Donald Trump as a man with a plan. But in at least one area -- reshaping the economy to serve the needs of the military-industrial complex -- he's (gasp!) a socialist in the... Read More
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
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It’s Not Your Mother’s Cold War
When it comes to relations between Donald Trump’s America, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Xi Jinping’s China, observers everywhere are starting to talk about a return to an all-too-familiar past. “Now we have a new Cold War,” commented Russia expert Peter Felgenhauer in Moscow after President Trump recently announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear... Read More
It was nearly sunset on Easter Saturday when I met Marie Dz’dza. She was sitting on a set of steps in a hospital compound in the town of Bunia. Near her was her mother, Jesinne Dhewedza, and her niece, six-year-old Irene Mave. Two weeks earlier, I might have noticed any number of things about them... Read More
America's Forgotten Vietnamese Victims
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
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Hint: They’re Winning in Other Ways
As America enters the 18th year of its war in Afghanistan and its 16th in Iraq, the war on terror continues in Yemen, Syria, and parts of Africa, including Libya, Niger, and Somalia. Meanwhile, the Trump administration threatens yet more war, this time with Iran. (And given these last years, just how do you imagine... 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
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A Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren 317 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. Dear Senator Warren: As a constituent, I have noted with interest your suggestion that you will “take a hard look” at running for president in 2020, even as you campaign for reelection to the Senate next month. Forgive me for saying that I interpret that... 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
Brett Kavanaugh and the Echoes of Gitmo
Amid the emotional hubbub over the predictable confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, there has been a largely overlooked casualty: the American judiciary. It’s not the end result alone -- his addition to the highest bench in the land where he will sit for life -- that promises to damage the country, but the unprofessional, procedurally irresponsible... 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
The New Islamophobia Looks Like the Old McCarthyism
These days, our global political alliances seem to shift with remarkable rapidity, as if we were actually living in George Orwell’s 1984. Are we at war this month with Oceania? Or is it Eastasia? In that novel, the Party is able to erase history, sending old newspaper articles down the Ministry of Truth’s “memory hole”... 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
How Saudi Money Keeps Washington at War in Yemen
It was May 2017. The Saudis were growing increasingly nervous. For more than two years they had been relying heavily on U.S. military support and bombs to defeat Houthi rebels in Yemen. Now, the Senate was considering a bipartisan resolution to cut off military aid and halt a big sale of American-made bombs to Saudi... Read More
Blowback From U.S. Policy in the Greater Middle East
He was shot in the back, the ultimate act of treachery. On September 3rd, a U.S Army sergeant major was killed by two Afghan police officers -- the very people his unit, the new Security Force Assistance Brigade, was there to train. It was the second fatal “insider attack,” as such incidents are regularly called,... 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
Smoke and Mirrors or a Step Towards War in Space?
On June 18th, President Trump announced that he was directing the Pentagon to develop a new branch of the U.S. military, a “Space Force” that would give the U.S. “dominance” in that realm. It would be, he said -- and here he used a classic phrase from the Jim Crow era of racial segregation --... 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 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
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A Saudi-American War of Terror
It’s the war from hell, the savage one that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, along with seven other Middle Eastern and North African states, have been waging in Yemen since March 2015, with fulsome support from the Pentagon and American weapons galore. It’s got everything. Dead children in the dozens, a never-ending air... 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
The Israel-Palestine Nightmare
When I first traveled to Israel-Palestine in 1994, during the heady early days of the Oslo peace process, I was expecting to see more of the joyful celebrations I’d watched on television at home. The emotional welcoming of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat back to Palestine. The massive demonstrations for peace on the... Read More
One Organization at a Time
Sometimes the good guys do win. That’s what happened on August 8th in San Francisco when the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) decided to extend a policy keeping its members out of the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The APA’s decision is important -- and not just symbolically. Today... 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
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A Simple Equation Proves That the U.S. Armed Forces Have Triumphed in the War on Terror
4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later. But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 -- as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar... 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
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A Private Investigator on Living in a Surveillance Culture
Now that we know we are surveilled 24/7 by the National Security Agency, the FBI, local police, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, hackers, the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, data brokers, private spyware groups like Black Cube, and companies from which we've ordered swag on the Internet, is there still any "right to be forgotten," as... Read More
The Rise of an Anti-Trump Movement Globally -- and on His Home Turf
One thing already seems clear in the Trump era: the world will not turn out to be the American president’s playground. His ultra-unilateralist, rejectionist policies on trade, the Iran denuclearization agreement, the costs of defense, and climate change are already creating an incipient anti-Trump movement globally (and in the United States as well). To a... Read More
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“America First” Versus China’s Strategy of the Four Continents
As the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency and sixth of Xi Jinping’s draws to a close, the world seems to be witnessing one of those epochal clashes that can change the contours of global power. Just as conflicts between American President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Lloyd George produced a failed peace after... 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
The Militarization of Sports and the Redefinition of Patriotism
As long as I can remember, I’ve been a sports fan. As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the military. Until recently, I experienced those as two separate and distinct worlds. While I was in the military -- I served for 20 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force --... 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
Special Ops, Generational Struggle, and the Cooperstown of Commandos
Raids by U.S. commandos in Afghanistan. (I could be talking about 2001 or 2018.) A U.S. drone strike in Yemen. (I could be talking about 2002 or 2018.) Missions by Green Berets in Iraq. (I could be talking about 2003 or 2018.) While so much about the War on Terror turned Global War on Terrorismturned... 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
And Ten Steps to Take to Do So
However ambitious President Barack Obama's domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases... Read More
It’s been almost eight years since Chalmers Johnson died. He was the author of, among other works, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and Dismantling the Empire. He was also a TomDispatch stalwart and a friend . As I watch the strange destructive dance of Donald Trump and his cohorts, I still regularly... Read More
Or Implementing the Sino-Russian Blueprint for a Tripolar World Order
The pundits and politicians generally take it for granted that President Trump lacks a coherent foreign policy. They believe that he acts solely out of spite, caprice, and political opportunism -- lashing out at U.S. allies like Germany’s Angela Merkel and England’s Theresa May only to embrace authoritarian rulers like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North... Read More
The report was devastating -- or would have been, if anyone here had noticed it. "Between 2001 and 2017," it concluded, "U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed." I’m thinking of “Stabilization: Lessons From the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan” put out by the office of the special inspector general... Read More
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Confronting “That Part of the World”
My father and I always had a tacit agreement: “We will never speak of That Part of the World.” He’d grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Norfolk, Virginia. His own father, a refugee from early-twentieth-century pogroms in what is now Ukraine, had been the president of his local Zionist organization. A liberal in... Read More
Give them credit. As TomDispatch’s Nick Turse has so vividly reported over the last decade, America’s previously “elite” Special Operations forces -- once small, specially trained units in a large military -- have now essentially become a military in their own right, all 70,000 of them (larger, in fact, than many national armed forces). And... Read More
The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces
Early last month, at a tiny military post near the tumbledown town of Jamaame in Somalia, small arms fire began to ring out as mortar shells crashed down. When the attack was over, one Somali soldier had been wounded -- and had that been the extent of the casualties, you undoubtedly would never have heard... Read More
Pump Up the Pentagon
Other than shouting about building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, one of Donald Trump’s most frequently proclaimed promises on the 2016 campaign trail was the launching of a half-trillion-dollar plan to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure (employing large numbers of workers in the process). Eighteen months into his administration, no credible proposal for anything near... Read More