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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
Has the Arms Industry Captured Trump’s Pentagon?
The way personnel spin through Washington’s infamous revolving door between the Pentagon and the arms industry is nothing new. That door, however, is moving ever faster with the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense. Shanahan had previously been... 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
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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
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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
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
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
Who could forget it? There were the $37 screws (no need to say who was getting screwed), the $2,043 nut (McDonnell Douglas made it specially for the U.S. Navy), the $7,622 coffee pot, the $74,165 aluminum ladder, and the $640 plastic toilet seats for the Air Force. All of those examples of Pentagon waste were... Read More
On the campaign trail in 2016, Donald Trump wasn’t shy when it came to the issue of debt. As he told Norah O’Donnell of CBS This Morning at the time, “I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt and if things... Read More
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Today’s War-Financing Strategies Will Only Increase Inequality
In the name of the fight against terrorism, the United States is currently waging “credit-card wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Never before has this country relied so heavily on deficit spending to pay for its conflicts. The consequences are expected to be ruinous for the long-term fiscal health of the U.S., but they... Read More
American Wars and Self-Decline
Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim. If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a... Read More
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The Gravy Train Rolls On
“The United States of Amnesia.” That’s what Gore Vidal once called us. We remember what we find it convenient to remember and forget everything else. That forgetfulness especially applies to the history of others. How could their past, way back when, have any meaning for us today? Well, it just might. Take the European conflagration... Read More
The Military-Industrial Complex Strikes (Out) Again
Did you know the U.S. Air Force is working on a new stealth bomber? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t, since the project is so secret that most members of Congress aren’t privy to the details. (Talk about stealthy!) Known as the B-21 Raider, after General Doolittle’s Raiders of World War II fame, it’s designed... Read More
Remember Donald Trump’s magical plan to turn $200 billion in federal money... hey, presto!... into $1.5 trillion in investment in America’s aging, underfunded infrastructure (to which the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a grade of D+ in 2017)? Why should you, especially since that plan is now officially dead in the water in Congress... Read More
Mark Karlin: How much money has gone to the U.S. war on terror and what has been the impact of this expenditure? Tom Engelhardt: The best figure I’ve seen on this comes from the Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project at Brown University and it’s a staggering $5.6 trillion, including certain future costs to care... Read More
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Pay and benefits are out of control
America’s Republican politicians complain that “entitlements,” by which they mean pensions and medical care, are leading the country to bankruptcy even as they fatten the spending on the Pentagon, which now takes 12 percent of the overall budget. And it should be noted that while workers contribute to the social programs during all their years... Read More
The U.S. Military Takes Us Through the Gates of Hell
[This essay is the introduction to Tom Engelhardt’s new book, A Nation Unmade by War, a Dispatch Book published by Haymarket Books.] As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into... Read More
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Sanguijuelas, Garrapatas, Piojos, Capulinas, Lampreys
A few thoughts on our disastrous trillion-dollar military: It is unnecessary. It does not defend the United States. The last time it did so was in 1945. The United States has no military enemies. No nation has anything even close to the forces necessary to invade America, and probably none the desire. A fifth of... Read More
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Blitzkrieg Overseas, Sitzkrieg in the Homeland
Overseas, the United States is engaged in real wars in which bombs are dropped, missiles are launched, and people (generally not Americans) are killed, wounded, uprooted, and displaced. Yet here at home, there’s nothing real about those wars. Here, it’s phony war all the way. In the last 17 years of “forever war,” this nation... Read More
Normalizing Budgetary Bloat
Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage. Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in... Read More
What company gets the most money from the U.S. government? The answer: the weapons maker Lockheed Martin. As the Washington Post recently reported, of its $51 billion in sales in 2017, Lockheed took in $35.2 billion from the government, or close to what the Trump administration is proposing for the 2019 State Department budget. And... Read More
Recently, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, Randall Schriver, told senators that the Afghan war would cost this country’s taxpayers $45 billion in 2018, including $5 billion for the Afghan security forces, $13 billion for U.S. forces in that country, and $780 million in economic aid. How the other $26 billion would be spent is unclear... Read More
Something for Everyone (in the Military-Industrial Complex)
Think of it as the chicken-or-the-egg question for the ages: Do very real threats to the United States inadvertently benefit the military-industrial complex or does the national security state, by its very nature, conjure up inflated threats to feed that defense machine? Back in 2008, some of us placed our faith, naively enough, in the... Read More
When it comes to the art of the deal, at least where arms sales are concerned, American presidents, their administrations, and the Pentagon have long been Trumpian in nature. Their role has been to beat the drums (of war) for the major American weapons makers and it’s been a highly profitable and successful activity. In... Read More
Brought to You By the Nuclear-Industrial Complex
[This piece has been updated and adapted from William D. Hartung’s “Nuclear Politics” in Sleepwalking to Armageddon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, edited by Helen Caldicott and just published by the New Press.] Until recently, few of us woke up worrying about the threat of nuclear war. Such dangers seemed like Cold War relics, associated... 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
Flush With Cash, Running on Empty
One of the never ending claims made by proponents of the military technical revolution is that emerging complex weapons technologies create more combat power per unit of labor — that we are substituting capital for labor and technology-intensive capital goods are the key America’s competitive advantage, given America’s high cost labor. This claim is bullshit... Read More
My Safety ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Security
From the time I was little, I went to the movies. They were my escape, with one exception from which I invariably had to escape. I couldn’t sit through any movie where something or someone threatened to jump out at me with the intent to harm. In such situations, I was incapable of enjoying being... Read More
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
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
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
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
Of Oodle-oops and Error
I recently found in The American Conservative a piece called Forty Years of the Fighter Mafia, this mafia being a subset of the “Military Reformers,” who have insisted for many years that weaponry used by the Pentagon “doesn´t work” because it is too complex. They additionally were the people who brought you the imaginary $600... Read More
An Inside Look at the Defense Industry
In early 2035, the thirty-fourth year of the war against Al Qaeda, the Pentagon issued a White Paper saying that the F22 Raptor, the front-line fighter plane of the United States, was nearing the end of its useful life and needed to be replaced. Not everyone agreed. Various budget-cutting organizations argued that the Raptor had... 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
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
NEW YORK – In the colorful, pithy Scottish language, there’s a delightful expression, “greet an’ gurn.” Which means to loudly moan and groan. That’s what’s happened this week across the United States as the fiscal Ides of March grow close. On March 1, unless Congress and the White House come to an agreement on cutting... Read More
Journalism Explained
I want my money back.I recently bought The Complex, by Nick Turse. It purports to deal with the militarization of American society, its economy, education, and so on. I can think of no more important topic. The militarization is happening. Huge sums go for weapons we don’t need to fight enemies we don’t have. Much... Read More
A Call to Democrats
The United States Military is the greatest destabilizing force in the world today. With over 700 bases in over 130 countries its tentacles extend to every corner of the earth. In its current incarnation, under the rubric of the war on terror, the military is being employed for the sole purpose of securing the world's... Read More
Category Classics
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
While other top brass played press agents for the administration’s war, William Odom told the truth about...
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?