Tom Engelhardt – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 28 Nov 2021 06:27:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 Mars Attacks Earth! And we’re the Martians in this Picture https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/attacks-martians-picture.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/attacks-martians-picture.html#respond Wed, 24 Nov 2021 05:02:45 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=201410 ( Tomdispatch.com) – Who knew that Martians, inside monstrous tripodal machines taller than many buildings, actually ululated, that they made eerily haunting “ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla” sounds? Well, let me tell you that they do — or rather did when they were devastating London.

I know that because I recently reread H.G. Wells’s 1898 novel War of the Worlds, while revisiting an early moment in my own life. Admittedly, I wasn’t in London when those Martian machines, hooting away, stalked boldly into that city, hungry in the most literal fashion imaginable for human blood. No surprise there, since that was almost a century and a quarter ago. Still, at 77, thanks to that book, I was at least able to revisit a moment that had been mine long enough ago to seem almost like fiction.

Yes, all those years back I had been reading that very same novel for the very first time under the covers by flashlight. I still remember being gripped, thrilled, and scared, at a time when my parents thought I was asleep. And believe me, if you do that at perhaps age 12 or 13, you really do feel as if you’ve been plunged into a futuristic world from hell, ululations and all.

But of course, scary as it might have been, alone in the dark, to secretly live through the Martian desolation of parts of England and the slaughter of countless human beings at their hands (actually, more like the tentacles of octopi), as if they were no more than irritating bugs, I was always aware of another reality as well. After all, there was still the morning (guaranteed to come), my breakfast, my dog Jeff, my bus trip to school with my friend Jim, my anything-but-exciting ordinary life, and my sense, in the ascendant Cold War America of the 1950s, of a future extending to the distant horizon that looked boring as hell, without even a stray Martian in sight. (How wrong I would turn out to be from the Vietnam War years on!)

I felt that I needed some Martians then. I needed something, anything, to shake up that life of mine, but the sad truth is that I don’t need them now, nor do the rest of us. Yet, in so many ways, in an America anything but ascendant, on a planet that looks like it’s in a distinctly War-of-the-Worlds-style version of danger, the reality is that they’re already here.

And sadly enough, we Americans and humanity in general seem little more effective against the various Martian stand-ins of today than the human beings Wells wrote about were then. Remember that his Martians finally went down, but not at the hands of humanity. They were taken out, “after all man’s devices had failed,” as the novelist expressed it then, “by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” The conquerors of those otherwise triumphant Martians were, he reported, “the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared.”

If only we were so lucky in our own Wellsian, or do I mean Trumptopian (as in dystopian, not utopian) world?

Living in a Science-Fiction (or Science-Fact) Novel?

In the 1950s, I went on to read, among other books, John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids (about giant killer plants taking humanity apart), Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy which sent me into distant galaxies. And that was before, in 1966, I boarded the USS Enterprise with Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock to head for deep space in person — at least via my TV screen in that pre-Meta era.

Today, space is evidently something left to billionaires, but in the 1950s and 1960s the terror of invading aliens or plants with a taste for human flesh (even if they had perhaps been bioengineered in the all-too-Earthbound Soviet Union) had a certain strange appeal for the bored boy I was then. The future, it seemed, needed a Martian or two or a Triffid or two. Had I known, it wouldn’t have mattered in the least to me then that Wells had evidently created those Martians, in part, to give his British readers some sense of what it must have felt like for the Tasmanians, living on an island off the coast of Australia, to be conquered and essentially eradicated by British colonists early in the nineteenth century.

So, yes, I was indeed then fascinated by often horrific futures, by what was coming to be known as science fiction. But honestly, if you had told me that, as a grownup, I would find myself living in a science-fiction (or do I mean science-fact?) novel called perhaps Trumptopia, or The Day of the Heat Dome, or something similar, I would have laughed you out of the room. Truly, I never expected to find myself in such a world without either those covers or that flashlight as protection.

As president, Donald Trump would prove to be both a Martian and a Triffid. He would, in fact, be the self-appointed and elected stand-in for what turned out to be little short of madness personified. When a pandemic struck humanity, he would, as in that fictional England of 1898, take on the very role of a Martian, an alien ready to murder on a mass scale. Though few like to think of it that way, we spent almost two years after the Covid-19 pandemic began here being governed (to use a word that now sounds far too polite) by a man who, like his supporters and like various Republican governors today, was ready to slaughter Americans in staggering numbers.

As Trump’s former White House Covid-19 response coordinator Deborah Birx recently testified, by rejecting everything from masking to social distancing in the early months of the pandemic (not to speak of personally hosting mass superspreader events at the White House and elsewhere), he would prove an all-too-literal murderer — though Birx was far too polite to use such a word. In the midst of a pandemic that has, by now, killed an estimated 17 million people globally and perhaps more than a million Americans, he would, she believed, be responsible for at least 130,000 of those early deaths. That’s already slaughter on a monumental scale. (Keep in mind that, in the Trumpian tradition, from Florida’s Ron DeSantis to Texas’s Greg Abbott, Republican governors have continued in that distinctly murderous tradition to this very moment.)


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And when it came to slaughter, the Trumpian/Republican response to Covid-19 will likely prove to be the milder kind of destruction they represented. As a climate denialist (it was a Chinese hoax!) and a major supporter of the fossil-fuel industry (no wonder the Saudis adored him!), The Donald would prove all too ready to all-too-literally boost the means to destroy this planet.

And wouldn’t you say that the various Trump supporters who now make up what’s still, for reasons unknown, called the Republican Party are ululating all too often these days, as they hover over dead and dying Americans, or at least those they would be perfectly willing to see wiped off this planet?

Lights Off, Flashlights On?

Sadly enough, however, you can’t just blame Donald Trump and the Republicans for our increasingly endangered planet. After all, who needs giant Martians or monstrous human-destroying plants when carbon dioxide and methane will, in the long run, do the trick? Who needs aliens like Martians and Triffids, given the global fossil-fuel industry?

Keep in mind that more representatives of that crew were accredited as delegates at the recent Glasgow climate-change talks than of any country on the planet. That industry’s CEOs have long been all too cognizant of climate change and how it could ravage this world of ours. They have also been all too willing to ignore it or even to put significant funds into climate-denial outfits. If, in 2200, there are still historians left to write about this world of ours, I have little doubt that they’ll view those CEOs as the greatest criminals in what has been a sordid tale of human history.

Nor, sadly enough, when it comes to this country, can you leave the Democrats out of the picture of global destruction either. Consider this, for instance: after the recent talks in Glasgow, President Biden returned home reasonably triumphant, swearing he would “lead by example” when it came to climate-change innovation. He was, of course, leaving behind in Scotland visions of a future world where, according to recent calculations, the temperature later in this century could hit 2.4 to 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.32 to 4.86 degrees Fahrenheit) above that of the pre-industrial age. That, of course, would be a formula for destruction on a devastating scale.

Just to consider the first leading “example” around, four days after Glasgow ended, the Biden administration began auctioning off to oil and gas companies leases for drilling rights to 80 million acres of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico. And that, after all, is an administration headed by a president who actually seems committed to doing something about climate change, as in his ever-shrinking Build Back Better bill. But that bill is, of course, being Manchinized right now by a senator who made almost half a million dollars last year off a coal brokerage firm he founded (and that his son now runs). In fact, it may never pass the Senate with its climate-change elements faintly intact. Keep in mind as well that Manchin is hardly alone. One in four senators reportedly still have fossil-fuel investments and the households of at least 28 of them from both parties “hold a combined minimum of $3.7 million and as much as $12.6 million in fossil-fuel investments.”

Take one small story, if you want to grasp where this country seems headed right now. As you may remember, the Trump administration worked assiduously to infringe upon national parks and indigenous lands to produce yet more fossil fuels. Recently, President Biden announced that his administration, having already approved a much-protested $9 billion pipeline to carry significant amounts of oil through tribal lands in Minnesota, would take one small but meaningful remedial step. As the New York Times described it, the administration would move “to block new federal oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, one of the nation’s oldest and most culturally significant Native American sites.”

I know you won’t be shocked by what followed, sadly enough. The response was predictable. As the Times put it, that modest move “generated significant pushback from Republicans and from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry.” Natch! And that, of course, is but the smallest of stories at a time when we have a White House at least officially committed to dealing in some reasonable fashion with the overheating of this planet.

Now, imagine that the Republicans win the House and Senate in the 2022 elections and Donald Trump (or some younger version of the same) takes the 2024 presidential election in a country in which Republican state legislators have already rejiggered so many voting laws and gerrymandered so many voting districts that the results could be devastating. You would then, of course, have a party controlling the White House and Congress that’s filled with climate-change denialists and fossil-fuel enthusiasts of the first order. (Who cares that this country is already being battered by fire, flood, and heat in a devastating fashion?) To grasp what that would mean, all you have to do is expand the ten-mile radius of that New Mexican story to the country as a whole — and then the planet.

And at that point, in all honesty, you could turn off the lights, flick on that old flashlight of mine, and be guaranteed that you, your children, and your grandchildren will experience something in your everyday lives that should have been left under the covers. As almost happened in The War of the Worlds, it’s possible that we could, in essence, kiss this planet goodbye and if that’s not science fiction transformed into fact of the first order, what is?

The Martians Have Arrived

You know, H.G. Wells wasn’t such a dope when it came to the future. After all, his tripodal Martian machines had a “kind of arm [that] carried a complicated metallic case, about which green flashes scintillated, and out of the funnel of this there smoked the Heat-Ray.” In 1898, he was already thinking about how heat of a certain sort could potentially destroy humanity. Today, the “Martians” stepping out of those space capsules happen to be human beings and they, too, are emerging with devastating heat rays.

Just ask my friend journalist Jane Braxton Little, whose town, Greenville, largely burned down in California’s record-breaking Dixie Fire this fall, a climate-change-influenced inferno so vast and fierce that it proved capable of creating its own weather. Imagine that for our future.

Of course, in another sense, you could say that we’ve been living in a science-fiction novel since August 6, 1945, when that first American nuclear bomb devastated Hiroshima. Until then, we humans could do many terrible things, but of one thing we were incapable: the destruction of this world. In the nearly eight decades that followed, however, the Martians have indeed arrived and we human beings have taken over a role once left to the gods: the ability to create Armageddon.

Still, the truth is that we don’t know how our own sci-fi tale will end. As in War of the Worlds, will some equivalent of those bacteria that took down the Martians arrive on the scene, perhaps some scientific discovery about how to deal so much better with the greenhouse gases eternally heading into our atmosphere? Will humanity, Greta Thunberg-style, come together in some new, more powerful way to stop this world from destroying itself? Will some brilliant invention, some remarkable development in alternative energy use, make all the difference in the world? Will the United States, China, and other key fossil-fuel burners finally come together in a way now hardly imaginable?

Or will we truly find ourselves living in Trumptopia?

Stay tuned.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com)

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The World the “American Century” Made: Quagmires, Wars and Serial Demonization https://www.juancole.com/2021/11/american-quagmires-demonization.html Wed, 03 Nov 2021 04:16:42 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200993 ( Tomdispatch.com ) – On February 17, 1941, less than 10 months before the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor and the U.S. found itself in a global war, Henry Luce, in an editorial in Life magazine (which he founded along with Time and Fortune), declared the years to come “the American Century.” He then urged this country’s leaders to “exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit.”

And he wasn’t wrong, was he? Eight decades later, who would deny that we’ve lived through something like an American century? After all, in 1945, the U.S. emerged triumphant from World War II, a rare nation remarkably unravaged by that war (despite the 400,000 casualties it had suffered). With Great Britain heading for the imperial sub-basement, Washington found itself instantly the military and economic powerhouse on the planet.

As it turned out, however, to “exert upon the world the full impact of our influence,” one other thing was necessary and, fortunately, at hand: an enemy. From then on, America’s global stature and power would, in fact, be eternally based on facing down enemies. Fortunately, in 1945, there was that other potential, if war-ravaged, powerhouse, the Soviet Union. That future “superpower” had been an ally in World War II, but no longer. It would thereafter be the necessary enemy in a “cold war” that sometimes threatened to turn all too hot. And it would, of course, ensure that what later came to be known as the military-industrial complex (and a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying many planets like this one) would be funded in a way once historically inconceivable in what might still have passed for peacetime.

In 1991, however, after a disastrous war in Afghanistan, the Soviet empire finally collapsed in economic ruin. As it went down, hosannas of triumph rang out in a surprised Washington. Henry Luce, by then dead almost a quarter of a century, would undoubtedly have been thrilled.

The Indispensable Superpower

In the meantime, in those cold-verging-on-hot-war years, the U.S. ruled the roost in what came to be known as “the free world,” while its corporations came to economically dominate much of the planet. Though it would be a true global imperial power with hundreds of military bases scattered across every continent but Antarctica, there would prove to be significant limits to that power — and I’m not just thinking of the Soviet Union or its communist ally (later opponent), Mao Zedong’s China.

At the edges of what was then called “the Third World” — whether in Southeast Asia during and after the disastrous Vietnam Waror in Iran after 1979 — American power often enough came a cropper in memorable ways. Still, in those years, on a planet some 25,000 miles in circumference, Washington certainly had a remarkable reach and, in 1991, when the Soviet Union disappeared, it seemed as if Luce had been a prophet of the first order. After all, the United States as the ultimate imperial power had — or so, at least, it appeared at that moment — been left without even a major power, no less another superpower, as an enemy on a planet that looked, at least to those in Washington, like it was ours for the taking. And indeed, take it we soon enough would try to do.

No wonder, in those years, American politicians and key officials filled the airwaves with self-congratulation and self-praise for what they liked to think of as the most “exceptional,” “indispensable,” “greatest” power on the planet and sure to remain so forever and a day.

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In another sense, however, problems loomed instantly. Things were so desperate for the military-industrial complex in a country promised a cut in “defense” spending, then known as a “peace dividend,” thanks to the triumph over the Soviets, that enemies had to be created out of whole cloth. They were, it turned out, fundamental to the organization of American global power. A world without them was essentially inconceivable or, at least, inconvenient beyond imagining. Hence, the usefulness of Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein who would be not-quite-taken-down in the first Gulf War of 1991.

Perhaps the classic example of the desperate need to create enemies, however, would occur early in the next century. Remember the “Axis of Evil” announced (and denounced) by President George W. Bush in his January 2002 State of the Union address? He called out three states — Iran, Iraq, and North Korea — that then had not the slightest way of injuring the U.S. (“States like these, and their terrorist allies,” insisted the president, “constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.”) Of course, this was, in part, based on the claim that Iraq might have just such weapons of mass destruction (it didn’t!) and that it would, in turn, be willing to give them to terror groups to attack the U.S. That lie would become part of the basis for the invasion of that country the next year.

Think of all this as the strangest kind of imperial desperation from a superpower that seemed to have it all. And the result, of course, after Osama bin Laden launched his air force and those 19 mostly Saudi hijackers against New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, was the Global War on Terror, which would soon prove a self-imposed, self-created disaster.

Or think of it another way, when considering the imperial fate of America and this planet: the crew who ran Washington (and the U.S. military) then proved — as would be true throughout the first two decades of the twenty-first century — incapable of learning even the most basic lessons history had to offer. After all, only a decade after the Soviet Union collapsed, thanks in significant part to what its leader called its “bleeding wound,” a disastrous war in Afghanistan in which the Red Army became endlessly mired, the Bush administration would launch its own disastrous war in Afghanistan in which it would become — yep, endlessly mired. It was as if this country, in its moment of triumph, couldn’t help but take the Soviet path into the future, the one heading for the exits.

Cold Wars and Hot Wars

In November 2021, just three decades after the implosion of the Soviet Union, no one could imagine any longer that such a vision of victory and success-to-come caught the underlying realities of this country or this century. The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House five years earlier had been the most visible proof of that.

It’s hard to imagine today that he wasn’t the truest of all products of that very American Century, a genuine message from it to us and the rest of the world. He was, after all, the man who, in his key slogan in 2016 as this country’s first declinist candidate for president — “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) — suggested that it had been all over for a while when it came to this country being the first player in history. He had, in fact, been coughed up by an authoritarian system already in formation. He vaulted into office not just claiming that the American system was a fraud, but that it had lost its firstness and its greatness. In response to that message, so many Americans who felt that they, too, had lost their way, that they were, in fact, being crushed by history, voted for him. In a mere four years in the Oval Office, he would bring a true sense of enemy-ness home in a new and shattering way, creating a world in which the enemy was distinctly American and needed to be overthrown.

The topsy-turvy nature of the Trumpian version of the American century is something this country — and certainly the Biden administration — still hasn’t fully come to grips with. For decades, we had indeed led the rest of the world and this is what we had led them into: the conspiracy theory of history (almost any conspiracy theory you want to mention), the “fraudulent” election now being eternally denounced by Donald Trump, the coup attempt of January 6th, a Republican Party that’s become the opposition from hell, a planet on which fossil-fuel companies (often American) knew decades ago just what was happening with the climate and invested their extra funds in making sure that other Americans didn’t, and… but why go on? If you don’t sense the depth and truth of this tale of the American Century, just ask Joe Manchin.

Its final decades seem to be a time when this country’s politicians can hardly agree on a thing, including how to keep Americans safe in a pandemic moment. Check out the New York Times Covid-19 “global hotspots” map and, in these last months, it’s looked like a replay of the Cold War, since the U.S. and Russia are the two largest “hotspots” of death and destruction on the planet, each colored a wild red. Think of it as a new kind of hot war.

And little wonder at the confusion of it all. I mean, talk about a superpower that proved incapable of learning from history! In response to the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11 — and mind you, something like 3,000 Americans were being slaughtered every two days most of this year thanks, in part, to the murderous leadership of various Trumpian figures in this pandemic moment — the greatest power ever decided that the only response imaginable to 9/11 was to launch its own war in Afghanistan. Thank you, Soviet Union, for your example (not to speak of our own example in Vietnam back when)! And yes, 20 years later, on a planet far more filled with Islamist terror groups than might have seemed even faintly imaginable on September 11, 2001, failure is just another word for a “new cold war.”

Oh, yes, in 2021, there is indeed another power rising on this planet, one it’s necessary to organize against with all due haste — or so the Biden administration and the U.S. military would like us to believe. And no, I’m not thinking about the power of a fast-heating climate, which threatens to take down anyone’s century. I’m thinking, of course, about China.

An Upside-Down Version of 1991

As we head into the final two decades of the all-American era that Luce predicted, think about this: the American Century has been a disaster of the first order. In the wake of the implosion of the Soviet Union, the U.S. decided to remake the world and did so — at least in the sense of allowing climate change to run riot on Planet Earth — while, in the process, unmaking itself.

So, 80 years after Henry Luce proclaimed its existence, welcome indeed to the American Century, or rather to the increasingly nightmarish planet it’s left us on. Welcome to an age of billionaires (that could even one day see its first trillionaire); to levels of desperate inequality that would once have been unimaginable here; to large-scale death due to a pandemic from hell mismanaged by men who were functionally murderers; and to a literally hellish future that, without the kind of war-style mobilization Joe Manchin among others is ensuring will never happen, will sooner rather than later envelop this country and the planet it meant to rule in a climate disaster.

Honestly, could the Chinese century — not that it’s likely, given how the world is trending — be worse? You don’t even have to leave this country and go to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, or Yemen to judge that question anymore.

And sadly, the one thing the triumphalists of 1991 agreed on — and American politicians have never changed their minds about, no matter the course of our wars — was funding the military-industrial complex in a way that they never would have funded either the bolstering of human health or the halting of climate change. That urge to dump taxpayer dollars into the American war machine, despite failure after failure in war after war, has never been stanched. It remains more or less the only thing congressional Democrats and Republicans can still agree on — that and the need for an enemy to endlessly prepare to fight.

And now, of course, the imperial power that simply couldn’t exist without such enemies and has left Afghanistan and much of the rest of its War on Terror (despite the odd drone strike) largely in the lurch, is in the process of creating its newest enemy for a new age: China. Think of the new cold war that the Biden administration (like the Trump administration before it) has been promoting as 1991 turned upside down when it comes to enemy-ness. The ultimate moment of American triumph and then of despair both needed their distant enemies, an ever-more well financed military-industrial-congressional complex, and an ever more “modernized” nuclear arsenal.

Oh, the hubris of it all. We were the country that would remake the world in our image. We would bring “liberation” and “democracy” to the Afghans and the Iraqis, among others, and glory to this land. In the end, of course, we brought them little but pain, displacement, and death, while bringing American democracy itself, with all its failings, to the autocratic edge of hell in a world of “fraudulent” elections and coupsters galore.

Now, it seems, we are truly living out the end of the American Century in the world it created. Who woulda thunk it?

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Droning On: Assassins-in-Chief and Their Brood https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/droning-assassins-chief.html Wed, 29 Sep 2021 04:02:55 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200326 ( Tomdispatch.com ) – What a way to end a war! Apologies all around! We’re so damn sorry — or actually, maybe not!

I’m thinking, of course, about CENTCOM commander General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.’s belated apology for the drone assassination of seven children as the last act, or perhaps final war crime, in this country’s 20-year-long Afghan nightmare.

Where to begin (or end, for that matter) when considering that never-ending conflict, which seems — for Americans, anyway — finally to be over? After all these years, don’t ask me.

Hey, one thing seems clear to me, though: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley undoubtedly didn’t apologize for that last Hellfire missile attack — he, in fact, originally labeled it a “righteous strike” — or the endless civilian deaths caused by American air power, because he’s had so many other things on his mind in these years. As a start, he was far too preoccupied calling his Beijing opposite, General Li Zuocheng, to warn him that the president of the United States, one Donald Trump, might have the urge to start a war with China before leaving office.

Actually, had Milley called me instead, I would have assured him that I believed The Donald then incapable of doing anything other than watching Fox News, going bonkers over the election, and possibly launching an attack (nuclear or otherwise) on Joe Biden and the Democrats, no less Congress — remember January 6th! — or even his own vice president, Mike Pence, for certifying the vote. Maybe, in fact, Milley should have skipped the Chinese entirely and called Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Anthony Gonzalez to warn them that, sooner or later, the president might go nuclear on them.

Of course, in our increasingly mad, mad world, who really knows anymore?

I do know one thing, however, mostly because I wrote it so long ago and it stuck in my mind (even if in no one else’s): ever since the presidency of George W. Bush, who reportedly kept “his own personal scorecard” in a White House desk drawer of drone-killed or to-be-killed “terrorists,” every American president has been an assassin-in-chief. No question about it, Joe Biden is, too. I don’t know why the label never caught on. After all, assassination, once officially an illegal act for a president, is now, by definition, simply part of the job — and the end of the Afghan War will do nothing to stop that.

I first labeled our future presidents that way in 2012, after the New York Times reported that Barack Obama was attending “Terror Tuesday” meetings at the White House where names were regularly being added to a “kill list” of people to be droned off this planet. The first such Obama assassination, as Jo Becker and Scott Shane wrote at the time, would, prophetically enough, kill “not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and [leave] behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents.” Sound faintly familiar so many years later when U.S. drones and other aircraft have reportedly knocked off at least 22,000 civilians across the Greater Middle East and Africa?

Killers on the Loose

OMG, apologies all around! There I go, in such an all-American fashion, droning on and on.

Still, it’s hard to stop, since it’s obvious that presidential drone assassinations will go on and on, too. Just think about the thrill of what, in the wake of Afghanistan, Joe Biden has started to call “over-the-horizon capabilities” (of the very sort that killed those seven kids in Kabul). In fact, it seems possible that this country’s forever wars of the last two decades will now morph into forever drone wars. That, in turn, means that our 20-year war of terror (which we always claimed was a war on terror) will undoubtedly continue into the unknown future. After all, in the last two decades, Washington’s done a remarkable job of preparing the way for such strikes, at least if you’re talking about ensuring that extreme Islamist terror groups would spread ever more widely across ever larger parts of this increasingly shambolic planet.

Here’s the thing, though: if, in 2021, you want to talk about assassins-in-chief who never feel the urge to apologize while putting so many in peril, you don’t have to head over the horizon at all. Take my word for it. You need look no further than former president Donald Trump or, at a state level, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, among others, or simply most Republican politicians these days. Once you refocus on them, you’re no longer talking about drone-killing foreign terrorists (or foreign children), you’re talking about the former president (or governor or senator or congressional representative or state legislator) assassinating American citizens. When it comes to being that kind of assassin, by promoting unmasking, super-spreader events (including unmasked school attendance), and opposition to vaccine mandates, among other things, you’re speaking of the murder of innocents right here in the U.S. of A.

Do you even remember how President Trump, returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after his own case of Covid-19 had been treated, stepped out onto a White House balcony to rip off his mask in front of every camera in town? With 690,000 Americans now dead from the pandemic (and possibly so many more), one thing is clear: the simplest of precautions would have radically cut those numbers.

And if you don’t mind my droning on yet more about that crew of assassins (and you might throw in, among others, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin who, in 2020, made $491,949 from his stock holdings in the West Virginia coal brokerage firm he founded years ago), what about all the politicians who have promoted the heating of this planet to what could someday be the boiling point? After all, if you happen to be on the West Coast, where the fire season no longer seems to end and “heat domes” are a new reality, or in large parts of the country still experiencing a megadrought of the sort never seen before in U.S. history, you’d have to say that we’re already living in the Pyrocene Age. And I’m not even referring to the recent U.N. report suggesting that, if things don’t change quickly enough, the temperature of this planet might rise 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.86 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. That would, of course, produce an all-too-literal hell on Earth (and mind you, such scientific predictions about climate change have often proven underestimates).


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The U.S. left Afghanistan in a scene so chaotic that it captured media attention for days, but don’t for a moment imagine that such a sense of chaos was left behind at Kabul airport. After all, it’s clear enough that we now live in a world and a country in increasing disarray.

Of the two great imperial powers of the last century, the USSR and the U.S., one is long gone and the other in growing disrepair, not just abroad but at home as well. This country seems to be heading, however slowly, for the exit (even as its president continues to proclaim that “America is back!“). And don’t count on a “rising China” to solve this planet’s problems either. It is, after all, by far the greatest greenhouse gas emitter of our moment and guaranteed to suffer its own version of chaos in the years to come.

Downhill All the Way?

I mean, I’m 77 years old (and feeling older all the time) and yet, in the worst sense possible, I’m living in a new world as a pandemic rages across America and climate change continues to show off its all-too-visibly grim wonders. Just go to the New York Times website any day of the week and look at its global map of Covid-19 “hotspots.” What you’ll find is that the country our leaders have long loved to hail as the most extraordinary, indispensable, and powerful on the planet is now eternally an extreme pandemic “hot spot.” How extraordinary when you consider its wealth, its access to vaccines and masks, and its theoretical ability to organize itself! But give some credit where it’s due. America’s assassins have been remarkably hard at work not just in Afghanistan or Iraq or Somalia, but right here at home.

In those distant lands, we eternally used Hellfire missiles to kill women and children. But when you fight such wars forever and a day abroad, it turns out that their spirit comes home in a hellfire-ish sort of way. And indeed, those forever wars certainly did come home with Donald Trump, whose accession to the White House would have been unimaginable without them. The result: the U.S. is not only an eternal global hotspot for Covid-19 (more than 2,000 deaths a day recently), but increasingly a madhouse of assassins of every sort, including Republican politicians determined to take out the American democratic system as we knew it, voting law by voting law, state by Republican-controlled state. And that madness, while connected to Trump, QAnon, the anti-vaxxers, and the like, is also deeply connected to how this country decided to respond to the tragedy of 9/11 — by launching those wars that America’s generals and the military-industrial complex fought so disastrously but oh-so-profitably all these years.

By now, this country is almost unimaginable without its drone assassins and the conflicts that have gone with them, especially the one that began it all in Afghanistan. In the wake of that war (though don’t hold your breath for the next time an American drone takes after some terrorist there and once again kills a bunch of innocents), the Biden administration has moved on to far more peaceful activities. I’m thinking, for instance, of the way it’s guaranteed the Australians nuclear submarines and the U.S. military, with a mere 750 military bases around the planet, will, in return, get a couple of more such bases in that distant land.

Hey, the French were pissed (for all the wrong reasons) and even withdrew their ambassador from Washington, feeling that Joe Biden and crew had no right to screw up their own arms deals with Australia. The Chinese were disturbed for most of the right reasons (and undoubtedly a few wrong ones as well), as they thought about yet another set of undetectable nuclear subs in the waters off the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.

So it goes, as officials in Washington seem incapable of not having war of one sort or another, hot or cold, on the brain. And keep in mind that I haven’t even begun to describe our deathly new reality, not in a country where the Delta strain of Covid-19 has run wild, especially in states headed by gubernatorial assassins. Meanwhile, too much of the rest of the world remains an unvaccinated hothouse for potentially new strains of a pandemic that may be with us, if you don’t mind such a mixed metaphor, until hell freezes over.

But you know all this! You’ve long sensed it. You’re living it! Who isn’t?

Still, since I’m at it, let me just quote myself (the very definition of droning on) from that article I wrote a decade ago on the president as assassin-in-chief:

“But — though it’s increasingly heretical to say this — the perils facing Americans, including relatively modest dangers from terrorism, aren’t the worst things on our planet. Electing an assassin-in-chief, no matter who you vote for, is worse. Pretending that the Church of St. Drone offers any kind of reasonable or even practical solutions on this planet of ours, is worse yet. And even worse, once such a process begins, it’s bound to be downhill all the way.”

In 2012, the phrase “over the horizon” hadn’t yet become presidential, but “downhill all the way” seems like a reasonable enough substitute. And how sad it is, since other, better futures are genuinely imaginable. Just mask up and give it some thought.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Note for TomDispatch Readers from Tom Engelhardt: I just have to thank all of you who have so generously donated recently to keep this site afloat in tough times. Believe me, my appreciation is unbounded! And if you still have the urge, you know what to do. Just go to the TD donation page and do your damnedest! Tom]

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Post-Afghanistan, Nation (Un)Building Comes Home https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/afghanistan-nation-unbuilding.html Wed, 08 Sep 2021 04:02:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199932

See Tom Engelhardt’s important note at the end of this article.

( Tomdispatch.com) – They weren’t kidding when they called Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.” Indeed, that cemetery has just taken another imperial body. And it wasn’t pretty, was it? Not that anyone should be surprised. Even after 20 years of preparation, a burial never is.

In fact, the shock and awe(fulness) in Kabul and Washington over these last weeks shouldn’t have been surprising, given our history. After all, we were the ones who prepared the ground and dug the grave for the previous interment in that very cemetery.

That, of course, took place between 1979 and 1989 when Washington had no hesitation about using the most extreme Islamists — arming, funding, training, and advising them — to ensure that one more imperial carcass, that of the Soviet Union, would be buried there. When, on February 15, 1989, the Red Army finally left Afghanistan, crossing the Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan, Soviet commander General Boris Gromov, the last man out, said, “That’s it. Not one Soviet soldier or officer is behind my back.” It was his way of saying so long, farewell, good riddance to the endless war that the leader of the Soviet Union had by then taken to calling “the bleeding wound.” Yet, in its own strange fashion, that “graveyard” would come home with them. After all, they returned to a bankrupt land, sucked dry by that failed war against those American- and Saudi-backed Islamist extremists.

Two years later, the Soviet Union would implode, leaving just one truly great power on Planet Earth — along with, of course, those very extremists Washington had built into a USSR-destroying force. Only a decade later, in response to an “air force” manned by 19 mostly Saudi hijackers dispatched by Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi prince who had been part of our anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan, the world’s “sole superpower” would head directly for that graveyard (as bin Laden desired).

Despite the American experience in Vietnam during the previous century — the Afghan effort of the 1980s was meant to give the USSR its own “Vietnam” — key Bush administration officials were so sure of themselves that, as the New York Times recently reported, they wouldn’t even consider letting the leaders of the Taliban negotiate a surrender once our invasion began. On September 11, 2001, in the ruins of the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had already given an aide these instructions, referring not just to Bin Laden but Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein: “Go massive. Sweep it up, all up. Things related and not.” Now, he insisted, “The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders.” (Of course, had you read war reporter Anand Gopal’s 2014 book, No Good Men Among the Living, you would have long known just how fruitlessly Taliban leaders tried to surrender to a power intent on war and nothing but war.)

Allow a surrender and have everything grind to a disappointing halt? Not a chance, not when the Afghan War was the beginning of what was to be an American triumph of global proportions. After all, the future invasion of Iraq and the domination of the oil-rich Greater Middle East by the one and only power on the planet were already on the agenda. How could the leaders of such a confident land with a military funded at levels the next most powerful countries combined couldn’t match have imagined its own 2021 version of surrender?

And yet, once again, 20 years later, Afghanistan has quite visibly and horrifyingly become a graveyard of empire (as well, of course, as a graveyard for Afghans). Perhaps it’s only fitting that the secretary of defense who refused the surrender of the enemy in 2001 was recently buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. In fact, the present secretary of defense and the head of the joint chiefs of staff both reportedly “knelt before Mr. Rumsfeld’s widow, Joyce, who was in a wheelchair, and presented her with the flag from her husband’s coffin.”

Meanwhile, Joe Biden was the third president since George W. Bush and crew launched this country’s forever wars to find himself floundering haplessly in that same graveyard of empires. If the Soviet example didn’t come to mind, it should have as Democrats and Republicans, President Biden and former President Trump flailed at each other over their supposedly deep feelings for the poor Afghans being left behind, while this country withdrew its troops from Kabul airport in a land where “rest in peace” has long had no meaning.

America’s True Infrastructure Spending

Here’s the thing, though: don’t assume that Afghanistan is the only imperial graveyard around or that the U.S. can simply withdraw, however ineptly, chaotically, and bloodily, leaving that country to history — and the Taliban. Put another way, even though events in Kabul and its surroundings took over the mainstream news recently, the Soviet example should remind us that, when it comes to empires, imperial graveyards are hardly restricted to Afghanistan.

In fact, it might be worth taking a step back to look at the big picture. For decades, the U.S. has been involved in a global project that’s come to be called “nation building,” even if, from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to Afghanistan and Iraq, it often seemed an endless exercise in nation (un)building. An imperial power of the first order, the United States long ago largely rejected the idea of straightforward colonies. In the years of the Cold War and then of the war on terror, its leaders were instead remarkably focused on setting up an unparalleled empire of military bases and garrisons on a global scale. This and the wars that went with it have been the unsettling American imperial project since World War II.

And that unsettling should be taken quite literally. Even before recent events in Afghanistan, Brown University’s invaluable Costs of War Project estimated that this country’s conflicts of the last two decades across the Greater Middle East and Africa had displaced at least 38 million people, which should be considered nation (un)building of the first order.

Since the Cold War began, Washington has engaged in an endless series of interventions around the planet from Iran to the Congo, Chile to Guatemala, as well as in conflicts, large and small. Now, with Joe Biden having withdrawn from America’s disastrous Afghan War, you might wonder whether it’s all finally coming to an end, even if the U.S. still insists on maintaining 750 sizeable military bases globally.


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Count on this, though: the politicians of the great power that hasn’t won a significant war since 1945 will agree on one thing — that the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex deserve yet more funding (no matter what else doesn’t). In truth, those institutions have been the major recipients of actual infrastructure spending over much of what might still be thought of as the American century. They’ve been the true winners in this society, along with the billionaires who, even in the midst of a grotesque pandemic, raked in profits in a historic fashion. In the process, those tycoons created possibly the largest inequality gap on the planet, one that could destabilize a democracy even if nothing else were going on. The losers? Don’t even get me started.

Or think of it this way: yes, in August 2021, it was Kabul, not Washington, D.C., that fell to the enemy, but the nation (un)building project in which this country has been involved over these last decades hasn’t remained thousands of miles away. Only half-noticed here, it’s been coming home, big time. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, amid election promises to end America’s “endless wars,” should really be seen as part of that war-induced (un)building project at home. In his own strange fashion, The Donald was Kabul before its time and his rise to power unimaginable without those distant conflicts and the spending that went with them, all of which, however unnoticed, unsettled significant parts of this society.

Climate War in a Graveyard of Empires?

You can tell a lot about a country if you know where its politicians unanimously agree to invest taxpayer dollars.

At this very moment, the U.S. is in a series of crises, none worse than the heat, fire, and flood “season” that’s hit not just the megadrought-ridden West, or inundated Tennessee, or hurricane-whacked Louisiana, or the tropical-storm-tossed Northeast, but the whole country. Unbearable warmth, humidity, fires, smoke, storms, and power outages, that’s us. Fortunately, as always, Congress stands in remarkable unanimity when it comes to investing money where it truly matters.

And no, you knew perfectly well that I wasn’t referring to the creation of a green-energy economy. In fact, Republicans wouldn’t hear of it and the Biden administration, while officially backing the idea, has already issued more than 2,000 permits to fossil-fuel companies for new drilling and fracking on federal lands. In August, the president even called on OPEC — the Saudis, in particular — to produce significantly more oil to halt a further rise in gas prices at the pump.

As America’s eternally losing generals come home from Kabul, what I actually had in mind was the one thing just about everyone in Washington seems to agree on: funding the military-industrial complex beyond their wildest dreams. Congress has recently spent months trying to pass a bill that would, over a number of years, invest an extra $550 billion in this country’s badly tattered infrastructure, but never needs time like that to pass Pentagon and other national security budgets that, for years now, have added up to well over a trillion dollars annually.

In another world, with the Afghan War ending and U.S. forces (at least theoretically) coming home, it might seem logical to radically cut back on the money invested in the military-industrial complex and its ever more expensive weaponry. In another American world on an increasingly endangered planet, significantly scaling back American forces in every way and investing our tax dollars in a very different kind of “defense” would seem logical indeed. And yet, as of this moment, as Greg Jaffe writes at the Washington Post, the Pentagon continues to suck up “a larger share of discretionary spending than any other government agency.”

Fortunately for those who want to keep funding the U.S. military in the usual fashion, there’s a new enemy out there with which to replace the Taliban, one that the Biden foreign-policy team and a “pivoting” military is already remarkably eager to confront: China.

At least when the latest infrastructure money is spent, if that compromise bill ever really makes it through a Congress that can’t tie its own shoelaces, something will be accomplished. Bridges and roads will be repaired, new electric-vehicle-charging stations set up, and so on. When, however, the Pentagon spends the money just about everyone in Washington agrees it should have, we’re guaranteed yet more weaponry this country doesn’t need, poorly produced for thoroughly exorbitant sums, if not more failed wars as well.

I mean, just think about what the American taxpayer “invested” in the losing wars of this century. According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, $2.313 trillion went into that disastrous Afghan War alone and at least $6.4 trillion by 2020 into the full-scale war on terror. And that doesn’t even include the estimated future costs of caring for American veterans of those conflicts. In the end, the total may prove to be in the $8 trillion range. Hey, at least $88 billion just went into supplying and training the Afghan military, most of which didn’t even exist by August 2021 and the rest of which melted away when the Taliban advanced.

Just imagine for a minute where we might really be today if Congress had spent close to $8 trillion rebuilding this society, rather than (un)building and wrecking distant ones.

Rest assured, this is not the country that ended World War II in triumph or even the one that outlasted the Soviet Union and whose politicians then declared it the most exceptional, indispensable nation ever. This is a land that’s crumbling before our eyes, being (un)built month by month, year by year. Its political system is on the verge of dissolving into who knows what amid a raft of voter suppression laws,wild claims about the most recent presidential election, an assault on the Capitol itself, and conspiracy theories galore. Its political parties seem ever more hostile, disturbed, and disparate. Its economy is a gem of inequality, its infrastructure crumbling, its society seemingly coming apart at the seams.

And on a planet that could be turning into a genuine graveyard of empires (and of so much else), keep in mind that, if you’re losing your war with climate change, you can’t withdraw from it. You can’t declare defeat and go home. You’re already home in the increasingly dysfunctional, increasingly (un)built U.S. of A.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Featured image: afghanistan by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

Note for TomDispatch Readers: TD is back and, as always, I’m urging you, its faithful readers, to take a moment to visit our donation page. Whatever you can contribute will help keep this website heading into a future that it’s been all too sadly accurate about. Very simply, you’re what keeps us going in good times and bad and we’re in a country where TomDispatch-style coverage of our world and its perils is needed now more than ever. Let me also thank those of you who have contributed in these last weeks. I always see your individual donations and feel deeply appreciative (even if also regretful that I don’t have the time to thank you each individually). And now, back to that world of ours. Tom]

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Our Slow-Motion Apocalypse just Speeded Up https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/motion-apocalypse-speeded.html Fri, 13 Aug 2021 04:04:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199452 ( Tomdispatch.com ) –

Admittedly, I hadn’t been there for 46 years, but old friends of mine still live (or at least lived) in the town of Greenville, California, and now… well, it’s more or less gone, though they survived. The Dixie Fire, one of those devastating West Coast blazes, had already “blackened” 504 square miles of Northern California in what was still essentially the (old) pre-fire season. It would soon become the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history. When it swept through Greenville, much of downtown, along with more than 100 homes, were left in ashes as the 1,000 residents of that Gold Rush-era town fled.

I remember Greenville as a wonderful little place that, all these years later, still brings back fond memories. I’m now on the other coast, but much of that small, historic community is no longer there. This season, California’s wildfires have already devastated three times the territory burned in the same period in 2020’s record fire season. And that makes a point that couldn’t be more salient to our moment and our future. A heating planet is a danger, not in some distant time, but right now — yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Don’t just ask the inhabitants of Greenville, ask those in the village of Monte Lake, British Columbia, the second town in that Canadian province to be gutted by flames in recent months in a region that normally — or perhaps I should just say once upon a time — was used to neither extreme heat and drought, nor the fires that accompany them.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re no longer just reading about the climate crisis; we’re living it in a startling fashion. At least for this old guy, that’s now a fact — not just of life but of all our lives — that simply couldn’t be more extreme and I don’t even need the latest harrowing report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to tell me so. Whether you’ve been sweating and swearing under the latest heat dome; fleeing fires somewhere in the West; broiling in a Siberia that’s releasing startling amounts of heat-producing methane into the atmosphere; being swept away by flood waters in Germany; sweltering in an unprecedented heat-and-fire season in Greece (where even the suburbs of Athens were being evacuated); baking in Turkey or on the island of Sardinia in a “disaster without precedent“; neck-deep in water in a Chinese subway car; or, after “extreme rains,” wading through the subway systems of New York City or London, you — all of us — are in a new world and we better damn well get used to it.

Floods, megadrought, the fiercest of forest fires, unprecedented storms — you name it and it seems to be happening not in 2100 or even 2031, but now. A recent study suggests that, in 2020 (not 2040 or 2080), more than a quarter of Americans had suffered in some fashion from the effects of extreme heat, already the greatest weather-based killer of Americans and, given this blazing summer, 2021 is only likely to be worse.

By the way, don’t imagine that it’s just us humans who are suffering. Consider, for instance, the estimated billion or more — yes, one billion! — mussels, barnacles, and other small sea creatures that were estimated to have died off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, during the unprecedented heat wave there earlier in the summer.

A few weeks ago, watching the setting sun, an eerie blaze of orange-red in a hazy sky here on the East Coast was an unsettling experience once I realized what I was actually seeing: a haze of smoke from the megadrought-stricken West’s disastrous early fire season. It had blown thousands of miles east for the second year in a row, managing to turn the air of New York and Philadelphia into danger zones.

In a way, right now it hardly matters where you look on this planet of ours. Take Greenland, where a “massive melting event,” occurring after the temperature there hit double the normal this summer, made enough ice vanish “in a single day last week to cover the whole of Florida in two inches of water.” But there was also that record brush fire torching more than 62 square miles of Hawaii’s Big Island. And while you’re at it, you can skip prime houseboat-vacation season at Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border, since that huge reservoir is now three-quarters empty (and, among Western reservoirs, anything but alone!).

It almost doesn’t matter which recent report you cite. When it comes to what the scientists are finding, it’s invariably worse than you (or often even they) had previously imagined. It’s true, for instance, of the Amazon rain forest, one of the great carbon sinks on the planet. Parts of it are now starting to release carbon into the atmosphere, as a study in the journal Nature reported recently, partially thanks to climate change and partially to more direct forms of human intervention.

It’s no less true of the Siberian permafrost in a region where, for the first time above the Arctic Circle, the temperature in one town reached more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit on a summer day in 2020. And yes, when Siberia heats up in such a fashion, methane (a far more powerful heat-trapping gas than CO2) is released into the atmosphere from that region’s melting permafrost wetlands, which had previously sealed it in. And recently, that’s not even the real news. What about the possibility, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that what’s being released now is actually a potential “methane bomb” not from that permafrost itself but from thawing rock formations within it?

In fact, when it comes to the climate crisis, as a recent study in the journal Bioscience found, “some 16 out of 31 tracked planetary vital signs, including greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat content, and ice mass, set worrying new records.” Similarly, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide “have all set new year-to-date records for atmospheric concentrations in both 2020 and 2021.”

Mind you, just in case you hadn’t noticed, the last seven years have been the warmest in recorded history. And speaking of climate-change-style records in this era, last year, 22 natural disasters hit this country, including hurricanes, fires, and floods, each causing more than $1 billion in damage, another instant record with — the safest prediction around — many more to come.

“It Looked Like an Atomic Bomb”

Lest you think that all of this represents an anomaly of some sort, simply a bad year or two on a planet that historically has gone from heat to ice and back again, think twice. A recent report published in Nature Climate Change, for instance, suggests that heat waves that could put the recent ones in the U.S. West and British Columbia to shame are a certainty and especially likely for “highly populated regions in North America, Europe, and China.” (Keep in mind that, a few years ago, there was already a study suggesting that the North China plain with its 400 million inhabitants could essentially become uninhabitable by the end of this century due to heat waves too powerful for human beings to survive!) Or as another recent study suggested, reports the Guardian, “heatwaves that smash previous records… would become two to seven times more likely in the next three decades and three to 21 times more likely from 2051-2080, unless carbon emissions are immediately slashed.”


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It turns out that, even to describe the new world we already live in, we may need a new vocabulary. I mean, honestly, until the West Coast broiled and burned from Los Angeles to British Columbia this summer, had you ever heard of, no less used, the phrase “heat dome” before? I hadn’t, I can tell you that.

And by the way, there’s no question that climate change in its ever more evident forms has finally made the mainstream news in a major way. It’s no longer left to 350.org or Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement to highlight what’s happening to us on this planet. It’s taken years, but in 2021 it’s finally become genuine news, even if not always with the truly fierce emphasis it deserves. The New York Times, to give you an example, typically had a recent piece of reportage (not an op-ed) by Shawn Hubler headlined “Is This the End of Summer as We’ve Known It?” (“The season Americans thought we understood — of playtime and ease, of a sun we could trust, air we could breathe and a natural world that was, at worst, indifferent — has become something else, something ominous and immense. This is the summer we saw climate change merge from the abstract to the now, the summer we realized that every summer from now on will be more like this than any quaint memory of past summers.”) And the new IPCC report on how fast things are indeed proceeding was front-page and front-screen news everywhere, as well it should have been, given the research it was summing up.

My point here couldn’t be simpler: in heat and weather terms, our world is not just going to become extreme in 20 years or 50 years or as this century ends. It’s officially extreme right now. And here’s the sad thing: I have no doubt that, no matter what I write in this piece, no matter how up to date I am at this moment, by the time it appears it will already be missing key climate stories and revelations. Within months, it could look like ancient history.

Welcome, then, to our very own not-so-slow-motion apocalypse. A friend of mine recently commented to me that, for most of the first 30 years of his life, he always expected the world to go nuclear. That was, of course, at the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. And then, like so many others, he stopped ducking and covering. How could he have known that, in those very years, the world was indeed beginning to get nuked, or rather carbon-dioxided, methaned, greenhouse-gassed, even if in a slow-motion fashion? As it happens, this time there’s going to be no pretense for any of us of truly ducking and covering.

It’s true, of course, that ducking and covering was a fantasy of the Cold War era. After all, no matter where you might have ducked and covered then — even the Air Force’s command center dug into the heart of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado — you probably wouldn’t have been safe from a full-scale nuclear conflict between the two superpowers of that moment, or at least not from the world it would have left behind, a disaster barely avoided in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. (Today, we know that, thanks to the possibility of “nuclear winter,” even a regional nuclear conflict — say, between India and Pakistan — could kill billions of us, by starvation if nothing else.)

In that context, I wasn’t surprised when a home owner, facing his house, his possessions, and his car burned to a crisp in Oregon’s devastating Bootleg Fire, described the carnage this way: “It looked like an atomic bomb.”

And, of course, so much worse is yet to come. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a planet on which the Amazon rain forest has already turned into a carbon emitter or one in which the Gulf Stream collapses in a way that’s likely to deprive various parts of the planet of key rainfall necessary to grow crops for billions of people, while raising sea levels disastrously on the East Coast of this country. And that just begins to enumerate the dangers involved, including the bizarre possibility that much of Europe might be plunged into a — hold your hats (and earmuffs) for this one — new ice age!

World War III

If this were indeed the beginning of a world war (instead of a world warm), you know perfectly well that the United States like so many other nations would, in the style of World War II, instantly mobilize resources to fight it (or as a group of leading climate scientists put it recently, we would “go big on climate” now). And yet in this country (as in too many others), so little has indeed been mobilized. Worse yet, here one of the two major parties, only recently in control of the White House, supported the further exploitation of fossil fuels (and so the mass creation of greenhouse gases) big time, as well as further exploration for yet more of them. Many congressional Republicans are still in the equivalent of a state of staggering (not to say, stark raving mad) denial of what’s underway. They are ready to pay nothing and raise no money to shut down the production of greenhouse gases, no less create the genuinely green planet run on alternative energy sources that would actually rein in what’s happening.

And criminal as that may have been, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and crew were just aiding and abetting those that, years ago, I called “the biggest criminal enterprise in history.” I was speaking of the executives of major fossil-fuel companies who, as I said then, were and remain the true “terrarists” (and no, that’s not a misspelling) of history. After all, their goal in hijacking all our lives isn’t simply to destroy buildings like the World Trade Center, but to take down the Earth (Terra) as we’ve known it. And don’t leave out the leaders of countries like China still so disastrously intent on, for instance, producing yet more coal-fired power. Those CEOs and their enablers have been remarkably intent on quite literally committing terracide and, sadly enough, in that — as has been made oh-so-clear in this disastrous summer — they’ve already been remarkably successful.

Companies like ExxonMobil knew long before most of the rest of us the sort of damage and chaos their products would someday cause and couldn’t have given less of a damn as long as the mega-profits continued to flow in. (They would, in fact, invest some of those profits in funding organizations that were promoting climate-change denial.) Worse yet, as revealing comments by a senior Exxon lobbyist recently made clear, they’re still at it, working hard to undermine President Biden’s relatively modest green-energy plans in any way they can.

Thought about a certain way, even those of us who didn’t live in Greenville, California, are already in World War III. Many of us just don’t seem to know it yet. So welcome to my (and your) extreme world, not next month or next year or next decade or next century but right now. It’s a world of disaster worth mobilizing over if, that is, you care about the lives of all of us and particularly of the generations to come.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Imperial Overstretch: Is the American Empire going the way of the Soviet Union? https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/imperial-overstretch-american.html Wed, 28 Jul 2021 04:01:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199123 By Tom Engelhardt | –

( Tomdispatch.com ) – It was all so long ago, in a world seemingly without challengers. Do you even remember when we Americans lived on a planet with a recumbent Russia, a barely rising China, and no obvious foes except what later came to be known as an “axis of evil,” three countries then incapable of endangering this one? Oh, and, as it turned out, a rich young Saudi former ally, Osama bin Laden, and 19 hijackers, mostly of them also Saudis, from a tiny group called al-Qaeda that briefly possessed an “air force” of four commercial jets. No wonder this country was then touted as the greatest force, the superest superpower ever, sporting a military that left all others in the dust.

And then, of course, came the launching of the Global War on Terror, which soon would be normalized as the plain-old, uncapitalized “war on terror.” Yes, that very war — even if nobody’s called it that for years — began on September 11, 2001. At a Pentagon partially in ruins, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, already aware that the destruction around him was probably Osama bin Laden’s responsibility, ordered his aides to begin planning for a retaliatory strike against… Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Rumsfeld’s exact words (an aide wrote them down) were: “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

Things related and not. Sit with that phrase for a moment. In their own strange way, those four words, uttered in the initial hours after the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, still seem to capture the twenty-first-century American experience.

Within days of 9/11, Rumsfeld, who served four presidents before recently stepping off this world at 88, and the president he then worked for, George W. Bush, would officially launch that Global War on Terror. They would ambitiously target supposed terror networks in no less than 60 countries. (Yep, that was Rumsfeld’s number!) They would invade Afghanistan and, less than a year and a half later, do the same on a far grander scale in Iraq to take down its autocratic ruler, Saddam Hussein, who had once been a hand-shaking buddy of the secretary of defense.

Despite rumors passed around at the time by supporters of such an invasion, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11; nor, despite Bush administration claims, was his regime then developing or in possession of weapons of mass destruction; nor, if we didn’t act, would an Iraqi mushroom cloud have one day risen over New York or some other American city. And mind you, both of those invasions and so much more would be done in the name of “liberating” peoples and spreading American-style democracy across the Greater Middle East. Or, put another way, in response to that devastating attack by those 19 hijackers armed with knives, the U.S. was preparing to invade and dominate the oil-rich Middle East until the end of time. In 2021, almost two decades later, doesn’t that seem like another lifetime to you?

By the way, you’ll note that there’s one word missing in action in all of the above. Believe me, if what I just described had related to Soviet plans during the Cold War, you can bet your bottom dollar that word would have been all over Washington. I’m thinking, of course, of “empire” or, in its adjectival form, “imperial.” Had the Soviet Union planned similar acts to “liberate” peoples by “spreading communism,” it would have been seen in Washington as the most imperial project ever. In the early years of this century, however, with the Soviet Union long gone and America’s leaders imagining that they might reign supreme globally until the end of time, those two words were banished to history.

It was obvious that, despite the unprecedented 800 or so military bases this country possessed around the world, imperial powers were distinctly a thing of the past.

“Empires Have Gone There and Not Done It”

Now, keep that thought in abeyance for a moment, while I take you on a quick tour of the long-forgotten Global War on Terror. Almost two decades later, it does seem to be drawing to some kind of lingering close. Yes, there are still those 650 American troops guarding our embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and there is still that “over-the-horizon capacity” the president cites for U.S. aircraft to strike Taliban forces, even if American troops only recently abandoned their last air base in Afghanistan; and yes, there are still about 2,500 American troops stationed in Iraq (and hundreds more at bases across the border in Syria), regularly being attacked by Iraqi militia groups.

Similarly, despite the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia as the Trump years ended, over-the-horizon airstrikes against the terror group al-Shabaab, halted when Joe Biden entered the Oval Office, have just been started again, assumedly from bases in Kenya or Djibouti; and yes, the horrendous war in Yemen continues with the U.S. still supporting the Saudis, even if by offering “defensive,” not “offensive” aid; and yes, American special operators are also stationed in staggering numbers of countries around the globe; and yes, prisoners are still being held in Guantanamo, that offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice created by the Bush administration so long ago. Admittedly, officials in the new Biden Justice Department are at least debating, however indecisively, whether those detainees might have any due process rights under the Constitution (yes, that’s the U.S. Constitution!) and their numbers are at a historic low since 2002 of 39.

Still, let’s face it, this isn’t the set of conflicts that, once upon a time, involved invasions, massive air strikes, occupations, the killing of staggering numbers of civilians, widespread drone attacks, the disruption of whole countries, the uprooting and displacement of more than 37 million people, the deployment at one point of 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan alone, and the spending of untold trillions of American taxpayer dollars, all in the name of fighting terror and spreading democracy. And think of it as mission (un)accomplished in the truest sense imaginable.

In fact, that idea of spreading of democracy didn’t really outlast the Bush years. Ever since, there’s been remarkably little discussion in official Washington about what this country was really doing as it warred across significant parts of the planet. Yes, those two decades of conflict, those “forever wars,” as they came to be called first by critics and then by anyone in sight, are at least winding, or perhaps spiraling, down — and yet, here’s the strange thing: Wouldn’t you think that, as they ended in visible failure, the Pentagon’s stock might also be falling? Oddly enough, though, in the wake of all those years of losing wars, it’s still rising. The Pentagon budget only heads ever more for the stratosphere as foreign policy “pivots” from the Greater Middle East to Asia (and Russia and the Arctic and, well, anywhere but those places where terror groups still roam).


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In other words, when it comes to the U.S. military as it tries to leave its forever wars in someone else’s ditch, failure is the new success story. Perhaps not so surprisingly, then, the losing generals who fought those wars, while eternally promising that “corners” were being turned and “progress” made, have almost all either continued to rise in the ranks or gotten golden parachutes into other parts of the military-industrial complex. That should shock Americans, but really never seems to. Yes, striking percentages of us support leaving Afghanistan and the Afghans in a ditch somewhere and moving on, but it’s still generally a big “thank you for your service” to our military commanders and the Pentagon.

Looking back, however, isn’t the real question — not that anyone’s asking — this: What was America’s mission during all those years? In reality, I don’t think it’s possible to answer that or explain any of it without using the forbidden noun and adjective I mentioned earlier. And, to my surprise, after all these years when it never crossed the lips of an American president, Joe Biden, the guy who’s been insisting that “America is back” on this failing planet of ours, actually used that very word!

In a recent news conference, irritated to find himself endlessly discussing his decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, he fielded this question from a reporter: “Given the amount of money that has been spent and the number of lives that have been lost, in your view, with making this decision, were the last 20 years worth it?”

His response: “I argued, from the beginning [in the Obama years], as you may recall — it came to light after the administration was over… No nation has ever unified Afghanistan, no nation. Empires have gone there and not done it.”

So, there! Yes, it was vague and could simply have been a reference to the fate in Afghanistan, that famed “graveyard of empires,” of the British empire in the nineteenth century and the Soviet one in the twentieth century. But I can’t help thinking that a president, however minimally, however indirectly, however much without even meaning to, finally acknowledged that this country, too, was on an imperial mission there and globally as well, a mission not of spreading democracy or of liberation but of domination. Otherwise, how the hell do you explain those 800 military bases on every continent but Antarctica? Is that really spreading democracy? Is that really liberating humanity? It’s not a subject discussed in this country, but believe me, if it were any other place, the words “empire” and “imperial” would be on all too many lips in Washington and the urge to dominate in such a fashion would have been roundly denounced in our nation’s capital.

A Failing Empire with a Flailing Military?

Here’s a question for you: If the U.S. is “back,” as our president has been claiming, what exactly is it back as? What could it be, now that it’s proven itself incapable of dominating the planet in the fashion its political leaders once dreamed of? Could this country, which in these years dumped trillions of taxpayer dollars into its forever wars, now perhaps be reclassified as a failing empire with a flailing military?

Of course, such a possibility isn’t generally acknowledged here. If, for instance, Kabul falls to the Taliban months from now and U.S. diplomats need to be rescued from the roof of our embassy there, as happened in Saigon in 1975 — something the president has vehemently denied is even possible — count on one thing: a bunch of Republicans and right-wing pundits will instantly be down his throat for leaving “too fast.” (Of course, some of them already are, including, as it happens, the very president who launched the 2001 invasion, only to almost instantly refocus his attention on invading Iraq.)

Even domestically, when you think about where our money truly goes, inequality of every sort is only growing more profound, with America’s billionaires ever wealthier and more numerous, while the Pentagon and those weapons-making corporations float ever higher on taxpayer dollars, and the bills elsewhere go unpaid. In that sense, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about the United States as a failing imperial system at home as well as abroad. Sadly, whether globally or domestically, all of this seems hard for Americans to take in or truly describe (hence, perhaps, the madness of Donald Trump’s America). After all, if you can’t even use the words “imperial” and “empire,” then how are you going to understand what’s happening to you?

Still, forget any fantasies about us spreading democracy abroad. We’re now in a country that’s visibly threatening to lose democracy at home. Forget Afghanistan. From the January 6th assault on the Capitol to the latest (anti-)voting laws in Texas and elsewhere, there’s a flailing, failing system right here in the U.S. of A. And unlike Afghanistan, it’s not one that a president can withdraw from.

Yes, globally, the Biden administration has seemed remarkably eager to enter a new Cold War with China and “pivot” to Asia, as the Pentagon continues to build up its forces, from naval to nuclear, as if this country were indeed still the reigning imperial power on the planet. But it’s not.

The real question may be this: Three decades after the Soviet empire headed for the exit, is it possible that the far more powerful American one is ever so chaotically heading in the same direction? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com

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An All-American Horror Story: How we Sacrificed our Health on the Altar of useless Nuclear Arsenals https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/american-sacrificed-arsenals.html Fri, 02 Jul 2021 04:01:59 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198665 ( Tomdispatch.com ) – Yes, once upon a time I regularly absorbed science fiction and imagined futures of wonder, but mainly of horror. What else could you think, if you read H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds under the covers by flashlight while your parents thought you were asleep? Of course, that novel was a futuristic fantasy, involving as it did Martians arriving in London to take out humanity. Sixty-odd years after secretly reading that book and wondering about the future that would someday be mine, I’m living, it seems, in that very future, however Martian-less it might be. Still, just in case you hadn’t noticed, our present moment could easily be imagined as straight out of a science-fiction novel that, even at my age, I’d prefer not to read by flashlight in the dark of night.

I mean, I was barely one when Hiroshima was obliterated by a single atomic bomb. In the splintering of a moment and the mushroom cloud that followed, a genuinely apocalyptic power that had once rested only in the hands of the gods (and perhaps science-fiction authors) became an everyday part of our all-too-human world. From that day on, it was possible to imagine that we — not the Martians or the gods — could end it all. It became possible to imagine that we ourselves were the apocalypse. And give us credit. If we haven’t actually done so yet, neither have we done a bad job when it comes to preparing the way for just such a conclusion to human history.

Let’s put this in perspective. In the pandemic year 2020, 76 years after two American atomic bombs left the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in ashes, the world’s nuclear powers actually increased spending on nuclear weapons by $1.4 billion more than they had put out the previous year. And that increase was only a small percentage of the ongoing investment of those nine — yes, nine — countries in their growing nuclear arsenals. Worse yet, if you happen to be an American, more than half of the total 2020 “investment” in weaponry appropriate for world-ending scenarios, $37.4 billion to be exact, was plunked down by our own country. (A staggering $13.3 billion was given to weapons maker Northrop Grumman alone to begin the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, the one thing our thoroughly troubled world obviously needs.) In all, those nine nuclear powers spent an estimated $137,000 a minute in 2020 to “improve” their arsenals — the ones that, if ever used, could end history as we know it.

In the Dust of the History of Death

Imagine for a second if all that money had instead been devoted to creating and disseminating vaccines for most of the world’s population, which has yet to receive such shots and so be rescued from the ravages of Covid-19, itself a death-dealing, sci-fi-style nightmare of the first order. But how could I even think such a thing when, in the decades since this country dropped that first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, it’s learned its atomic lessons all too well? Otherwise, why would its leaders now be planning to devote at least $1.7 trillion over the next three decades to “modernizing” what’s already the most modern nuclear arsenal on the planet?

Let me just add that I visited Hiroshima once upon a time with a Japanese colleague who had been born on an island off the coast of atomically destroyed Nagasaki. In 1982, he took me to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which, despite exhibiting a carbonized child’s lunchbox and permanently imprinted human shadows, can obviously offer a visitor only a hint of what it was actually like to experience the end of the world, thanks to a single bomb. And yet I found the experience so deeply unsettling that, when I returned home to New York City, I could barely talk about it.

Admittedly, though nine countries now possess nuclear weapons, most of them significantly more powerful than the single bomb that turned Hiroshima into a landscape of rubble, not one has ever been used in war. And that should be considered a miracle on a planet where, when it comes to weapons and war, miracles of any sort tend to be few and far between. After all, it’s estimated that, in 2020, this country alone had more than 5,000 nuclear weapons, at least 1,300 of them deployed and ready to use — enough, that is, to destroy several worlds.


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Consider it an irony of the first order, then, that U.S. leaders have spent years focused on trying to keep the Iranians from making a single nuclear weapon, but not for a day, not for an hour, not for a second on keeping this country from producing ever more of them and the delivery systems that would distribute them anywhere on this planet. In that light, just consider, for instance, that, in 2021, the U.S. is preparing to invest more than $100 billion in producing a totally new ICBM, whose total cost over its “lifespan” (though perhaps the correct word would be “deathspan”) is already projected at $264 billion — and that’s before the cost overruns even begin. All of this for a future that… well, your guess is as good as mine.

Or consider that, only recently, the American and Russian heads of state, the two countries with by far the biggest nuclear arsenals, met in Geneva, Switzerland, and talked for hours, especially about cyberwar, while spending little appreciable time considering how to rein in their most devastating weaponry and head the planet toward a denuclearized future.

And keep in mind that all of this is happening on a planet where it’s now commonplace scientific knowledge that even a nuclear war between two regional powers, India and Pakistan, could throw so many particulates into the atmosphere as to create a nuclear winter on this planet, one likely to starve to death billions of us. In other words, just one regional nuclear conflict could leave the chaos and horror of the Covid-19 pandemic in the unimpressive dust of the history of death.

A Slow-Motion Hiroshima?

And yet, here’s perhaps the strangest thing of all: we’re still convinced that, since the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no matter how much world-ending weaponry has been stockpiled by China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, none has been used. Unfortunately, that should increasingly be seen as a Martian-less fantasy of the first order.

While it’s seldom thought of that way, climate change should really be reimagined as the equivalent of a slow-motion nuclear holocaust. Hiroshima took place in literally seconds, a single blinding flash of heat. Global warming will prove to be a matter of years, decades, even centuries of heat.

That all-too-apocalyptic phenomenon was set off in the nineteenth century via the coal-burning that accompanied the industrial revolution, first in Great Britain and then elsewhere across the planet. It’s only continued over all these years thanks to the burning, above all, of fossil fuels — oil and natural gas — and the release of carbon (and methane) into the atmosphere. In the case of climate change, there are no ICBMs, no nuclear-missile-armed submarines, no nuclear bombers. Instead, there are oil and natural gas companies, whose CEOs, regularly abetted by governments, have proven all too ready to destroy this planet for record profits. They’ve been perfectly willing to burn fossil fuels in a criminal fashion until, quite literally, the end of time. Worse yet, they generally knew just what kind of harm they were causing long before most of the rest of us and, in response, actively supported climate denialism.

No, there was no mushroom cloud, but rather a “cloud” of greenhouse gases forming over endless years beyond human vision. Still, let’s face it, on this planet of ours, not in 2031 or 2051 or 2101 but right at this very moment, we’re beginning to experience the equivalent of a slow-motion nuclear war.

In a sense, we’re already living through a modern slo-mo version of Hiroshima, no matter where we are or where we’ve traveled. At this moment, with an increasingly fierce megadrought gripping the West and Southwest, the likes of which hasn’t been experienced in at least 1,200 years, among the top candidates for an American Hiroshima would be Phoenix (118 degrees), Las Vegas (114 degrees), the aptly named Death Valley (128 degrees), Palm Springs (123 degrees), and Salt Lake City (107), all record temperatures for this season. A recent report suggests that temperatures in famed Yellowstone National Park are now as high or higher than at any time in the past 20,000 years (and possibly in the last 800,000 years). And temperatures in Oregon and Washington are already soaring in record fashion with more to come, even as the fire season across the West arrives earlier and more fiercely each year. As I write this, for instance, California’s Big Sur region is ablaze in a striking fashion, among growing numbers of western fires. Under the circumstances, ironically enough, one of the only reasons some temperature records might not be set is that sun-blocking smoke from those fires might suppress the heat somewhat.

You should know that you’re on a different planet when even the most mainstream of news sources begins to put climate change in the lead in environmental pieces, as in this recent first sentence of a CNN report: “The incredible pictures of a depleted Lake Mead, on the Nevada-Arizona border, illustrate the effects of drought brought on by climate change.”

You could also imagine our modern Hiroshimas in the Florida Keys, where inexorably rising sea levels, due in part to the massive melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica, are already threatening that especially low-lying part of that southern state. Or perhaps the Gulf Coast would qualify, since the heating waters of the Atlantic are now creating record tropical-storm and hurricane seasons that, like the heat and fires in the West, seem to arrive earlier each year. (One Florida city, Miami, is already contemplating building a massive seawall to protect itself against devastating future storm surges.)

In this desperately elongated version of nuclear war, everything being experienced in this country (and in a similar fashion around the world, from Australia’s brutally historic wildfires to a recent heat wave in the Persian Gulf, where temperatures topped 125 degrees) will only grow ever more extreme, even if, by some miracle, those nuclear weapons are kept under wraps. After all, according to a new NASA study, the planet has been trapping far more heat than imagined in this century so far. In addition, a recently revealed draft of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggests that our over-heating future will only grow worse in ways that hadn’t previously been imagined. Tipping points may be reached — from the melting of polar ice sheets and Arctic permafrost (releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere) to the possible transformation of much of the Amazon rain forest into savannah — that could affect the lives of our children and grandchildren disastrously for decades to come. And that would be the case even if greenhouse-gas releases are brought under control relatively quickly.

Once upon a time, who could have imagined that humanity would inherit the kinds of apocalyptic powers previously left to the gods or that, when we finally noticed them, we would prove eerily unable to respond? Even if another nuclear weapon is never used, we stand capable, in slow-motion fashion, of making significant parts of our world uninhabitable — or, for that matter, if we were to act soon, keeping it at least reasonably habitable into the distant future.

Imagine, just as a modest start, a planet on which every dollar earmarked for nuclear weapons would be invested in a green set of solutions to a world growing by the year ever warmer, ever redder, ever less inhabitable.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Our National Security Elite has China on the Brain: Does that really make us Safer? https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/national-security-really.html Mon, 07 Jun 2021 04:01:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198228 ( Tomdispatch.com ) – Let me start with my friend and the boat. Admittedly, they might not seem to have anything to do with each other. The boat, a guided-missile destroyer named the USS Curtis Wilbur, reportedly passed through the Straits of Taiwan and into the South China Sea, skirting the Paracel Islands that China has claimed as its own. It represented yet another Biden-era challenge to the planet’s rising power from its falling one. My friend was thousands of miles away on the West Coast of the United States, well vaccinated and going nowhere in Covid-stricken but improving America.

As it happens, she’s slightly younger than me, but still getting up there, and we were chatting on the phone about our world, about the all-too-early first wildfire near Los Angeles, the intensifying mega-drought across the West and Southwest, the increasing nightmare of hurricane season in the Atlantic and so on. We were talking about the way in which we humans — and we Americans in particular (though you could toss in the Chinese without a blink) — have been wreaking fossil-fuelized havoc on this planet and what was to come.

And oh yes, we were talking about our own deaths, also to come at some unknown future moment but one not as far away as either of us might wish. My friend then said to me abashedly, “I sometimes think it’s lucky I won’t be here to see what’s going to happen to the world.” And even as she began stumbling all over herself apologizing for saying such a thing, I understood exactly what she meant. I had had the very same thought and sense of shame and horror at even thinking it — at even thinking I would, in some strange sense, get off easy and leave a world from hell to my children and grandchildren.

Nothing, in fact, could make me sadder.

And you know what’s the worst thing? Whether I’m thinking about that “destroyer” in the Strait of Taiwan or the destruction of planet Earth, one thing is clear enough: it wouldn’t have to be this way.

China on the Brain

Now, let’s focus on the Curtis Wilbur for a moment. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Joe Biden and his foreign-policy team have China on the brain. No surprise there, though, only history. Don’t you remember how, when Biden was still vice president, President Obama announced that, in foreign and especially military policy, the U.S. was planning a “pivot to Asia“? His administration was, in other words, planning on leaving this country’s war-on-terror disasters in the Greater Middle East behind (not that he would actually prove capable of doing so) and refocusing on this planet’s true rising power. Donald Trump would prove similarly eager to dump America’s Greater Middle Eastern wars (though he, too, failed to do so) and refocus on Beijing — tariffs first, but warships not far behind. Now, as they withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Biden team finds itself deep in its own version of a pivot-to-Asia strategy, with their collective foreign-policy brain remarkably focused on challenging China (at least until Israel briefly got in the way).

Think of it as a kind of pandemic of anxiety, a fear that, without a major refocus, the U.S. might indeed be heading for the imperial scrapheap of history. In a sense, this may prove to be the true Achilles heel of the Biden era. Or put another way, the president’s foreign-policy crew seems, at some visceral level, to fear deeply for the America they’ve known and valued so, the one that was expected to loom invincibly over the rest of the planet once the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991; the imperial power our politicians (until Donald Trump) had long hailed as the greatest, most “exceptional” nation on the planet; the one with “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known” (Barack Obama), aka “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” (George W. Bush).

We’re talking, of course, about the same great power that, after almost 20 years of disastrous wars, drone strikes, and counterterror operations across vast stretches of the planet, looks like it is sinking fast, a country whose political parties can no longer agree on anything that matters. In such a context, let’s consider, for a moment, that flu-like China obsession, the one that leaves Washington’s politicians and military leaders with strikingly high temperatures and an irrational urge to send American warships into distant waters near the coast of China, while regularly upping the ante, militarily and politically.

In that context, here’s an obsessional fact of our moment: these days, it seems as if President Biden can hardly appear anywhere or talk to anyone without mentioning China or that sinking country he now heads and that sinking feeling he has about it. He did it the other week in an interview with David Brooks when, with an obvious on-the-page shudder, he told the New York Times columnist, “We’re kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China.” Brrr… it’s cold in here (or maybe too hot to handle?) in an increasingly chaotic, still partly Trumpian, deeply divided Washington, and in a country where, from suppressing the vote to suppressing the teaching of history to encouraging the carrying of unlicensed weapons, democracy is looking ill indeed.

Oh, and that very same week when the president talked to Brooks, he went to the Coast Guard Academy to address its graduating class and promptly began discussing — yes! — that crucial, central subject for Washingtonians these days, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. (“When nations try to game the system or tip the rules in their favor, it throws everything off balance. That’s why we are so adamant that these areas of the world that are the arteries of trade and shipping remain peaceful — whether that’s the South China Sea, the Arabian Gulf, and, increasingly, the Arctic.”) You didn’t know, did you, that a guided-missile destroyer, not to speak of aircraft carrier battle groups, and other naval vessels had been anointed with the job of keeping “freedom of navigation” alive halfway across the planet or that the U.S. Coast Guard simply guards our coastlines.

These days, it should really be called the Coasts Guard. After all, you can find its members “guarding” coasts ranging from Iran’s in the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. Evidently, even the coast of the island of Taiwan, which, since 1949, China has always claimed as its own and where a subtle dance between Beijing and Washington has long played out, has become just another coast for guarding in nothing less than a new “partnership.” (“Our new agreement for the Coast Guard to partner with Taiwan,” said the president, “will help ensure that we’re positioned to better respond to shared threats in the region and to conduct coordinated humanitarian and environmental missions.”) Consider that a clear challenge to the globe’s rising power in what’s become ever more of a showdown at the naval equivalent of the O.K. Corral, part of an emerging new cold war between the two countries.

And none of this is out of the ordinary. In his late April address to Congress, for instance, President Biden anxiously told the assembled senators and congressional representatives that “we’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the twenty-first century… China and other countries are closing in fast” — and in his own strange way, Donald Trump exhibited similar worries.

What Aren’t We Guarding?

Now, here’s the one thing that doesn’t seem to strike anyone in Congress, at the Coast Guard Academy, or at the New York Times as particularly strange: that American ships should be protecting “maritime freedom” on the other side of the globe, or that the Coast Guard should be partnering for the same. Imagine, just for a second, that Chinese naval vessels and their Coast Guard equivalent were patrolling our coasts, or parts of the Caribbean, while edging ever closer to Florida. You know just what an uproar of shock and outrage, what cries of horror would result. But it’s assumed that the equivalent on the other side of the globe is a role too obvious even to bother to explain and that our leaders should indeed be crying out in horror at China’s challenges to it.


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It’s increasingly clear that, from Japan to the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, Washington is pushing China hard, challenging its positions big time and often in a military fashion. And no, China itself, whether in the South China Sea or elsewhere, is no angel. Still, the U.S. military, while trying to leave its failed terror wars in the dust, is visibly facing off against that economically rising power in an ever more threatening manner, one that already seems too close to a possible military conflict of some sort. And you don’t even want to know what sort of warfare this country’s military leaders are now imagining there as, in fact, they did so long ago. (Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame only recently revealed that, according to a still-classified document, in response to the Chinese shelling of Taiwan in 1958, U.S. military leaders seriously considered launching nuclear strikes against mainland China.)

Indeed, as U.S. Navy ships are eternally sent to challenge China, challenging words in Washington only escalate as well. As Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks put it in March, while plugging for an ever larger Pentagon budget, “Beijing is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system… Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin and I believe that the [People’s Republic of China] is the pacing challenge for the United States military.”

And in that context, the U.S. Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard are all “pacing” away. The latest proposed version of an always-rising Pentagon budget, for instance, now includes $5.1 billion for what’s called the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, “a fund created by Congress to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.” In fact, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is also requesting $27 billion in extra spending between 2022 and 2027 for “new missiles and air defenses, radar systems, staging areas, intelligence-sharing centers, supply depots and testing ranges throughout the region.”

And so it goes in the pandemic world of 2021.

Though seldom asked, the real question, the saddest one I think, the one that brings us back to my conversation with my friend about the world we may leave behind us, is: What aren’t we guarding on this planet of ours?

A New Cold War on a Melting Planet?

Let’s start with this: the old pattern of rising and falling empires should be seen as a thing of the past. It’s true that, in a traditional sense, China is now rising and the U.S. seemingly falling, at least economically speaking. But something else is rising and something else is falling, too. I’m thinking, of course, about rising global temperatures that, sometime in the next five years, have a reasonable chance of exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius limit (above the pre-industrial era) set by the Paris Climate Accords and what that future heat may do to the very idea of a habitable planet.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the U.S., the Atlantic hurricane season is only expected to worsen, the mega-drought in the Southwest to intensify (as fires burn ever higher in previously wetter mountainous elevations in that region), and so on. Within this century, major coastal cities in this country and China like New Orleans, Miami, Shanghai, and Hong Kong could find themselves flooded out by rising sea levels, thanks in part to the melting of Antarctica and Greenland. As for a rising China, that supposedly ultimate power of the future, even its leadership must know that parts of the north China plain, now home to 400 million people, could become quite literally uninhabitable by century’s end due to heat waves capable of killing the healthy within hours.

In such a context, on such a planet, ask yourself: Is there really a future for us in which the essential relationship between the U.S. and China — the two largest greenhouse gas emitters of this moment — is a warlike one? Whether a literal war results or not, one thing should be clear enough: if the two greatest carbon emitters can’t figure out how to cooperate instead of picking endless fights with each other, the human future is likely to prove grim and dim indeed. “Containing” China is the foreign-policy focus of the moment, a throwback to another age in Washington. And yet this is the very time when what truly needs to be contained is the overheating of this planet. And in truth, given human ingenuity, climate change should indeed be containable.

And yet the foreign-policy wing of the Biden administration and Congress (where Democrats are successfully infusing money into the economy under the rubric of a struggle with China, a rare subject the Republicans can go all in on) seem focused on creating a future of eternal Sino-American hostility and endless armed competition. In the already overheated world we inhabit, who could honestly claim that this is a formula for “national security”?

Returning to the conversation with my friend, I wonder why this approach to our planet doesn’t seem to more people like an obvious formula for disaster. Why aren’t more of us screaming at the top of our lungs about the dangers of Washington’s urge to return to a world in which a “cold war” is a formula for success? It leaves me ever more fearful for the planet that, one of these days, I will indeed be leaving to others who deserved so much better.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

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No, getting out of Afghanistan doesn’t end America’s Forever Wars: A Lifetime “at War” https://www.juancole.com/2021/04/afghanistan-americas-lifetime.html Fri, 30 Apr 2021 04:01:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197517 ( Tomdispatch.com ) Here’s the strange thing in an ever-stranger world: I was born in July 1944 in the midst of a devastating world war. That war ended in August 1945 with the atomic obliteration of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the most devastating bombs in history up to that moment, given the sweet code names “Little Boy” and “Fat Man.”

I was the littlest of boys at the time. More than three-quarters of a century has passed since, on September 2, 1945, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu signed the Instrument of Surrender on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, officially ending World War II. That was V-J (for Victory over Japan) Day, but in a sense for me, my whole generation, and this country, war never really ended.

The United States has been at war, or at least in armed conflicts of various sorts, often in distant lands, for more or less my entire life. Yes, for some of those years, that war was “cold” (which often meant that such carnage, regularly sponsored by the CIA, happened largely off-screen and out of sight), but war as a way of life never really ended, not to this very moment.

In fact, as the decades went by, it would become the “infrastructure” in which Americans increasingly invested their tax dollars via aircraft carriers, trillion-dollar jet fighters, drones armed with Hellfire missiles, and the creation and maintenance of hundreds of military garrisons around the globe, rather than roads, bridges, or rail lines (no less the high-speed version of the same) here at home. During those same years, the Pentagon budget would grab an ever-larger percentage of federal discretionary spending and the full-scale annual investment in what has come to be known as the national security state would rise to a staggering $1.2 trillion or more.

In a sense, future V-J Days became inconceivable. There were no longer moments, even as wars ended, when some version of peace might descend and America’s vast military contingents could, as at the end of World War II, be significantly demobilized. The closest equivalent was undoubtedly the moment when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, the Cold War officially ended, and the Washington establishment declared itself globally triumphant. But of course, the promised “peace dividend” would never be paid out as the first Gulf War with Iraq occurred that very year and the serious downsizing of the U.S. military (and the CIA) never happened.

Never-Ending War

Consider it typical that, when President Biden recently announced the official ending of the nearly 20-year-old American conflict in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from that country by 9/11/21, it would functionally be paired with the news that the Pentagon budget was about to rise yet again from its record heights in the Trump years. “Only in America,” as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore wrote recently, “do wars end and war budgets go up.”


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Of course, even the ending of that never-ending Afghan War may prove exaggerated. In fact, let’s consider Afghanistan apart from the rest of this country’s war-making history for a moment. After all, if I had told you in 1978 that, of the 42 years to follow, the U.S. would be involved in war in a single country for 30 of them and asked you to identify it, I can guarantee that Afghanistan wouldn’t have been your pick. And yet so it’s been. From 1979 to 1989, there was the CIA-backed Islamist extremist war against the Soviet army there (to the tune of billions and billions of dollars). And yet the obvious lesson the Russians learned from that adventure, as their military limped home in defeat and the Soviet Union imploded not long after — that Afghanistan is indeed the “graveyard of empires” — clearly had no impact in Washington.

Or how do you explain the 19-plus years of warfare there that followed the 9/11 attacks, themselves committed by a small Islamist outfit, al-Qaeda, born as an American ally in that first Afghan War? Only recently, the invaluable Costs of War Project estimated that America’s second Afghan War has cost this country almost $2.3 trillion (not including the price of lifetime care for its vets) and has left at least 241,000 people dead, including 2,442 American service members. In 1978, after the disaster of the Vietnam War, had I assured you that such a never-ending failure of a conflict was in our future, you would undoubtedly have laughed in my face.

And yet, three decades later, the U.S. military high command still seems not faintly to have grasped the lesson that we “taught” the Russians and then experienced ourselves. As a result, according to recent reports, they have uniformly opposed President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from that country by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In fact, it’s not even clear that, by September 11, 2021, if the president’s proposal goes according to plan, that war will have truly ended. After all, the same military commanders and intelligence chiefs seem intent on organizing long-distance versions of that conflict or, as the New York Times put it, are determined to “fight from afar” there. They are evidently even considering establishing new bases in neighboring lands to do so.

America’s “forever wars” — once known as the Global War on Terror and, when the administration of George W. Bush launched it, proudly aimed at 60 countries — do seem to be slowly winding down. Unfortunately, other kinds of potential wars, especially new cold wars with China and Russia (involving new kinds of high-tech weaponry) only seem to be gearing up.

War in Our Time

In these years, one key to so much of this is the fact that, as the Vietnam War began winding down in 1973, the draft was ended and war itself became a “voluntary” activity for Americans. In other words, it became ever easier not only to not protest American war-making, but to pay no attention to it or to the changing military that went with it. And that military was indeed altering and growing in remarkable ways.

In the years that followed, for instance, the elite Green Berets of the Vietnam era would be incorporated into an ever more expansive set of Special Operations forces, up to 70,000 of them (larger, that is, than the armed forces of many countries). Those special operators would functionally become a second, more secretive American military embedded inside the larger force and largely freed from citizen oversight of any sort. In 2020, as Nick Turse reported, they would be stationed in a staggering 154 countries around the planet, often involved in semi-secret conflicts “in the shadows” that Americans would pay remarkably little attention to.

Since the Vietnam War, which roiled the politics of this nation and was protested in the streets of this country by an antiwar movement that came to include significant numbers of active-duty soldiers and veterans, war has played a remarkably recessive role in American life. Yes, there have been the endless thank-yous offered by citizens and corporations to “the troops.” But that’s where the attentiveness stops, while both political parties, year after endless year, remain remarkably supportive of a growing Pentagon budget and the industrial (that is, weapons-making) part of the military-industrial complex. War, American-style, may be forever, but — despite, for instance, the militarization of this country’s police and the way in which those wars came home to the Capitol last January 6th — it remains a remarkably distant reality for most Americans.

One explanation: though the U.S. has, as I’ve said, been functionally at war since 1941, there were just two times when this country felt war directly — on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and on September 11, 2001, when 19 mostly Saudi hijackers in commercial jets struck New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And yet, in another sense, war has been and remains us. Let’s just consider some of that war-making for a moment. If you’re of a certain age, you can certainly call to mind the big wars: Korea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1954-1975) — and don’t forget the brutal bloodlettings in neighboring Laos and Cambodia as well — that first Gulf War of 1991, and the disastrous second one, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Then, of course, there was that Global War on Terror that began soon after September 11, 2001, with the invasion of Afghanistan, only to spread to much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, and to significant parts of Africa. In March, for instance, the first 12 American special-ops trainers arrived in embattled Mozambique, just one more small extension of an already widespread American anti-Islamist terror role (now failing) across much of that continent.

And then, of course, there were the smaller conflicts (though not necessarily so to the people in the countries involved) that we’ve now generally forgotten about, the ones that I had to search my fading brain to recall. I mean, who today thinks much about President John F. Kennedy’s April 1961 CIA disaster at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba; or President Lyndon Johnson’s sending of 22,000 U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965 to “restore order”; or President Ronald Reagan’s version of “aggressive self-defense” by U.S. Marines sent to Lebanon who, in October 1983, were attacked in their barracks by a suicide bomber, killing 241 of them; or the anti-Cuban invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada that same month in which 19 Americans were killed and 116 wounded?

And then, define and categorize them as you will, there were the CIA’s endless militarized attempts (sometimes with the help of the U.S. military) to intervene in the affairs of other countries, ranging from taking the nationalist side against Mao Zedong’s communist forces in China from 1945 to 1949 to stoking a small ongoing conflict in Tibet in the 1950s and early 1960s, and overthrowing the governments of Guatemala and Iran, among other places. There were an estimated 72 such interventions from 1947 to 1989, many warlike in nature. There were, for instance, the proxy conflicts in Central America, first in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas and then in El Salvador, bloody events even if few U.S. soldiers or CIA agents died in them. No, these were hardly “wars,” as traditionally defined, not all of them, though they did sometimes involve military coups and the like, but they were generally carnage-producing in the countries they were in. And that only begins to suggest the range of this country’s militarized interventions in the post-1945 era, as journalist William Blum’s “A Brief History of Interventions” makes all too clear.

Whenever you look for the equivalent of a warless American moment, some reality trips you up. For instance, perhaps you had in mind the brief period between when the Red Army limped home in defeat from Afghanistan in 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, that moment when Washington politicians, initially shocked that the Cold War had ended so unexpectedly, declared themselves triumphant on Planet Earth. That brief period might almost have passed for “peace,” American-style, if the U.S. military under President George H. W. Bush hadn’t, in fact, invaded Panama (“Operation Just Cause”) as 1989 ended to get rid of its autocratic leader Manuel Noriega (a former CIA asset, by the way). Up to 3,000 Panamanians (including many civilians) died along with 23 American troops in that episode.

And then, of course, in January 1991 the First Gulf War began. It would result in perhaps 8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi deaths and “only” a few hundred deaths among the U.S.-led coalition of forces. Air strikes against Iraq would follow in the years to come. And let’s not forget that even Europe wasn’t exempt since, in 1999, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the U.S. Air Force launched a destructive 10-week bombing campaign against the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia.

And all of this remains a distinctly incomplete list, especially in this century when something like 200,000 U.S. troops have regularly been stationed abroad and U.S. Special Operations forces have deployed to staggering numbers of countries, while American drones regularly attacked “terrorists” in nation after nation and American presidents quite literally became assassins-in-chief. To this day, what scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson called an American “empire of bases” — a historically unprecedented 800 or more of them — across much of the planet remains untouched and, at any moment, there could be more to come from the country whose military budget at least equals those of the next 10 (yes, that’s 10!) countries combined, including China and Russia.

A Timeline of Carnage

The last three-quarters of this somewhat truncated post-World War II American Century have, in effect, been a timeline of carnage, though few in this country would notice or acknowledge that. After all, since 1945, Americans have only once been “at war” at home, when almost 3,000 civilians died in an attack meant to provoke — well, something like the war on terror that also become a war of terror and a spreader of terror movements in our world.

As journalist William Arkin recently argued, the U.S. has created a permanent war state meant to facilitate “endless war.” As he writes, at this very moment, our nation “is killing or bombing in perhaps 10 different countries,” possibly more, and there’s nothing remarkably out of the ordinary about that in our recent past.

The question that Americans seldom even think to ask is this: What if the U.S. were to begin to dismantle its empire of bases, repurpose so many of those militarized taxpayer dollars to our domestic needs, abandon this country’s focus on permanent war, and forsake the Pentagon as our holy church? What if, even briefly, the wars, conflicts, plots, killings, drone assassinations, all of it stopped?

What would our world actually be like if you simply declared peace and came home?

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel Frostlands (the second in the Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Via Tomdispatch.com

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