MoJo Author Feeds: Tom Engelhardt | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en What Would a Time Traveler From 1963 Make of the Global War on Terror? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>As 2015 begins, let's take a trip down memory lane. Imagine that it's January 1963. For the last three years, the United States has unsuccessfully faced off against a small island in the Caribbean, where a revolutionary named Fidel Castro seized power from a corrupt but US-friendly regime run by Fulgensio Batista. In the global power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union in which much of the planet has chosen sides, Cuba, only 90 miles from the American mainland, finds itself in the eye of the storm. Having lost Washington's backing, it has, however, gained the support of distant Moscow, the other nuclear-armed superpower on the planet.</p> <p>In October 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted an <a href="">embargo</a> on US trade with the island that would, two years later, be strengthened and <a href="">made permanent</a> by John F. Kennedy. On entering the Oval Office, Kennedy also inherited a cockamamie CIA scheme to use Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro. That led, in April 1961, to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in which, despite major Agency support, the exiles were crushed (after which the CIA would hatch various <a href="">mad plots</a> to assassinate the new Cuban leader). What followed in October 1962 was "<a href=",_%22the_most_dangerous_moment,%22_50_years_later/">the most dangerous moment in human history</a>" &mdash;the Cuban missile crisis&mdash;a brief period when many Americans, my 18-year-old self included, genuinely thought we might soon be nuclear toast.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, imagine yourself in January 1963, alive and chastened by a world in which you could be obliterated at any moment. Imagine as well that someone from our time suddenly invited you into the American future some 52 Januaries hence, when you would, miracle of miracles, still be alive and the planet still more or less in one piece. Imagine, as a start, being told that the embargo against, and Washington's hostility toward, Cuba never ended. That 52 futile years later, with Cuba now run by Fidel's "younger" brother, 83-year-old Raul, the <a href="">11th</a> American president to deal with the "crisis" has finally decided to <a href="">restore</a> diplomatic relations, <a href="">ease</a> trade restrictions, and encourage American visitors to the island.</p> <p>Imagine being told as well that in Congress, more than half a century later, a possible majority of representatives remained nostalgic for a policy that spent 52 years not working. Imagine that members of the upcoming 2015 Senate were already swearing they <a href="">wouldn't hand over</a> a plug nickel to the president or the State Department to establish a diplomatic mission in Havana or confirm an ambassador or ease the embargo or take any other steps to change the situation, and were denouncing the president&mdash;who, by the way, is a black man named Barack Obama&mdash;as a <a href="">weakling</a> and an "<a href="">appeaser-in-chief</a>" for making such a move.</p> <p>Perhaps that American visitor from 1963 would already feel as if his or her mind were being scrambled like a morning egg and yet we're only beginning. After all, our visitor would have to be told that the Soviet Union, that hostile, nuclear-armed communist superpower and partner of Washington in the potential obliteration of the planet, no longer exists; that it unexpectedly imploded in 1991, leaving its Eastern European empire largely free to integrate into the rest of Europe.</p> <p>One caveat would, however, need to be added to that blockbuster piece of historical news. Lest our visitor imagine that everything has changed beyond all recognition, it would be important to point out that in 2015 the US still confronts an implacably hostile, nuclear-armed communist state. Not the USSR, of course, nor even that other communist behemoth, China. (Its Communist Party took the "capitalist road" in the late 1970s and never looked back as that country rose to become the globe's <a href="">largest economy</a>!)</p> <p>Here's a hint: it fought the US to a draw in a bitter war more than six decades ago and has just been <a href="">accused</a> of launching a devastating strike against the United States. Admittedly, it wasn't aimed at Washington but at Hollywood. That country&mdash;or <a href="">some group</a> claiming to be <a href="">working</a> in its interests&mdash;broke into a major movie studio, Sony (oh yes, a Japanese company is now a significant force in Hollywood!), and released <a href="">gossip</a> about its inner workings as well as the nasty things actors, producers, and corporate executives had to say about one another. It might (or <a href="">might not</a>), that is, have launched the planet's first cyber-gossip bomb.</p> <p><a name="more"></a></p> <p>And yes, you would have to tell our visitor from 1963 that this hostile communist power, North Korea, is also an oppressive, beleaguered, <a href="">lights-out</a> state and in no way a serious enemy, not in a world in which the US remains the "last superpower."</p> <p>You would, of course, have to add that, 52 years later, Vietnam, another implacable communist enemy with whom President Kennedy was escalating a low-level conflict in 1963, is now a <a href="">de facto US ally</a>&mdash;and no, not because it lost its war with us. That war, once considered the <a href="">longest</a> in US history, would at its height see more than 500,000 American combat troops dispatched to South Vietnam and, in 1973, end in an unexpectedly bitter defeat for Washington from which America never quite seemed to recover.</p> <p><br><strong>2015 and Baying for </strong><strong>More</strong></p> <p>Still, with communism a has-been force and capitalism triumphant everywhere, enemies have been just a tad scarce in the twenty-first century. Other than the North Koreans, there is the fundamentalist regime of Iran, which ran its Batista, the Shah, out in 1979, and with which, in the 35 years since, the US has never come to terms&mdash;though Barack Obama <a href="">still might</a>&mdash;without ever quite going to war either. And of course there would be another phenomenon of our moment completely unknown to an American of 1963: Islamic extremism, aka jihadism, along with the rise of terrorist organizations and, in 2014, the establishment of the first <a href=",_the_escalation_follies/">mini-terror state</a> in the heart of the Middle East. And oh yes, there was that tiny crew that went by the name of <a href="">al-Qaeda</a>, 19 of whose box-cutter-wielding militants hijacked four planes on September 11, 2001, and destroyed two soaring towers (not yet built in 1963) in downtown New York City and part of the Pentagon. In the process, they killed themselves and thousands of civilians, put <a href="">apocalyptic-looking</a> scenes of destruction on American television screens, and successfully created a sense of a looming, communist-style planetary enemy, when just about no one was there.&nbsp;</p> <p>Their acts gave a new administration of <a href="">right-wing fundamentalists</a> in Washington the opportunity to fulfill its <a href=",_war_is_a_drug/">wildest dreams</a> of planetary domination by launching, only days later, what was grandiloquently <a href="">called</a> the Global War on Terror (or the Long War, or World War IV), a superpower <a href="">crusade</a> against, initially, almost no one. &nbsp;Its opening salvo would let loose an "all-volunteer" military (no more draft Army as in 1963) universally believed to be uniquely powerful. It would, they were sure, wipe out al-Qaeda, settle scores with various enemies in the Greater Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and leave the US triumphant in a way no great power had been in history. In response to a few thousand scattered al-Qaeda members, a <em>Pax Americana</em> would be created on a global scale that would last generations, if not forever and a day.</p> <p>Washington's enemies of that moment would have been so unimpressive to Americans of 1963 that, on learning of the future that awaited them, they might well have dropped to their knees and thanked God for the deliverance of the United States of America. &nbsp;In describing all this to that visitor from another America, you would, however, have to add that the Global War on Terror, in which giant ambitions met the most modest of opponents any great power had faced in hundreds of years, didn't work out so well. You would have to point out that the US military, allied intelligence outfits, and a set of <a href="">warrior corporations</a> (almost unknown in 1963) mobilized to <a href="">go to war</a> with them struck out big time in a way almost impossible to fathom; that, from September 2001 to January 2015, <a href=",_a_record_of_unparalleled_failure/">no war</a>, invasion, occupation, intervention, conflict, or set of operations, no matter how under-armed or insignificant the forces being taken on, succeeded in any lasting or meaningful way. It was as if Hank Aaron had come to the plate for a more than a decade without ever doing anything but striking out.</p> <p>For our by now goggle-eyed visitor, you would have to add that, other than invading the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada against no opposition in 1983 and <a href="">Panama</a> against next to no opposition in 1989, the mightiest power on the planet hasn't won a war or conflict since World War II. And after explaining all this, the strangest task would still lie ahead.</p> <p>Our American beamed in from 1963, who hadn't even experienced defeat in Vietnam yet, would have to be filled in on the two wars of choice Washington launched with such enthusiasm and confidence in 2001 and 2003 and could never again get out of. I'm talking, of course, about Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries that would barely have registered on an American radar screen 52 years ago, and yet would prove unparalleled quagmires (a Vietnam-era term our observer wouldn't have yet run across). &nbsp;We would need to explain how the "lone superpower" of the twenty-first century would transform each of them into competitors for the "<a href="">longest American war</a>" ever.</p> <p><a href=""><img align="left" alt="" hspace="6" src=""></a>Washington's Iraq War began in 1991, the year the Soviet Union would disappear, and in one form or another essentially never ended. It has involved the building of major war-making coalitions, invasions, a full-scale occupation, air wars of various sorts, and god knows what else. As 2015 begins, the US is in its third round of war in Iraq, having committed itself to a new and <a href=",_the_escalation_follies/">escalating</a> conflict in that country (and Syria), and in all that time it has won nothing at all. It would be important to remind our visitor from the past that Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 on the <a href="">promise</a> of getting the US out of Iraq and actually <a href="">managed</a> to do so for three years before plunging the country back in yet again.</p> <p>The first American war in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was a CIA <a href="">Cold War operation</a> that began in 1979 just after the Soviets invaded the country and was meant as payback for Vietnam. And yes, to confuse that visitor even more, in its first Afghan War, the US actually supported the crew who became al-Qaeda and would later attack New York and Washington to ensure the launching of the second Afghan War, the one in which the US invaded and occupied the country. That war has been going on ever since. Despite much talk about winding it down or even <a href="">ending</a> the mission there 13 years later, the commitment has been <a href="">renewed</a> for 2015 and <a href="">beyond</a>.</p> <p>In both countries, the enemies of choice proved to be lightly armed minority insurgencies. In both, an initial, <a href="">almost ecstatic</a> sense of triumph following an invasion slowly morphed into a fear of impending defeat. To add just a fillip to all this, in 2015 a Republican majority in the Senate as well as in the House&mdash;and don't forget to explain that we're no longer talking about Eisenhower Republicans here&mdash;will be <a href="">baying</a> for more.</p> <p><br><strong>The National Security State as a Self-Perpetuating </strong><strong>Machine</strong></p> <p>So far, America's future, looked at from more than half a century ago, has been little short of phantasmagoric. To sum up: in an almost enemy-less world in which the American economic system was triumphant and the US possessed by far the strongest military on the planet, nothing seems to have gone as planned or faintly right. And yet, you wouldn't want to leave that observer from 1963 with the wrong impression. However much the national security state may have seemed like an amalgam of the Three Stooges on a global stage, not everything worked out badly.&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, in these years the national security state triumphed in the nation's capital in a way that the US military and allied intelligence outfits were incapable of doing anywhere else on Earth. Fifty-three years after the world might have ended, on a planet lacking a Soviet-like power&mdash;though the US was by now involved in "<a href="">Cold War 2.0</a>" in eastern Ukraine on the border of the <a href="">rump energy state</a> the Soviet Union left behind&mdash;the worlds of national security and surveillance had grown to a size that beggared their own enormous selves in the Cold War era. They had been engorged by <a href="">literally trillions</a> of taxpayer dollars. A new domestic version of the Pentagon called the Department of Homeland Security had been set up in 2002. An "intelligence community" made up of <a href="">17</a> major agencies and outfits, bolstered by <a href="">hundreds of thousands</a> of private security contractors, had expanded endlessly and in the process created a <a href=",_you_are_our_secret/">global surveillance state</a> that went beyond the wildest imaginings of the totalitarian powers of the twentieth century.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the process, the national security state enveloped itself in a <a href=",_the_national_security_complex_and_you/">penumbra of secrecy</a> that left the American people theoretically "safe" and remarkably ignorant of what was being done in their name. Its officials increasingly existed in a <a href=",_the_national_security_state_%22works,%22_even_if_nothing_it_does_works/">crime-free zone</a>, beyond the <a href=",_knowledge_is_crime/">reach</a> of accountability, the law, courts, or jail. Homeland security and intelligence complexes grew up around the national security state in the way that the military-industrial complex had once grown up around the Pentagon and similarly engorged themselves. In these years, Washington filled with newly constructed <a href="">billion-dollar</a> intelligence headquarters and <a href="">building complexes</a> dedicated to secret work&mdash;and that only begins to tell the tale of how twenty-first-century "security" triumphed.</p> <p>This vast investment of American treasure has been used to construct an edifice dedicated in a passionate way to dealing with a single danger to Americans, one that would have been unknown in 1963: Islamic terrorism. Despite the several thousand Americans who died on September 11, 2001, the dangers of terrorism rate <a href=",_the_100%25_doctrine_in_washington/">above shark attacks</a> but not much else in American life. Even more remarkably, the national security state has been built on a foundation of almost total failure. Think of failure, in fact, as the spark that repeatedly sets the further expansion of its apparatus in motion, funds it, and allows it to thrive.</p> <p>It works something like this: start with the fact that, on September 10, 2001, global jihadism was a microscopic movement on this planet. Since 9/11, under the pressure of American military power, it has exploded geographically, while the number of jihadist organizations has multiplied, and the number of people joining such groups has regularly and repeatedly <a href="">increased</a>, a growth rate that seems to <a href="">correlate</a> with the efforts of Washington to destroy terrorism and its infrastructure. In other words, the Global War on Terror has been and remains a global war for the production of terror. And terror groups know it.</p> <p>It was Osama bin Laden's greatest insight and is now a commonplace that drawing Washington into military action against you increases your credibility in the world that matters to you and so makes recruiting easier. At the same time, American actions, from invasions to drone strikes, and their "collateral damage," create pools of people desperate for revenge. If you want to thrive and grow, in other words, you need the US as an enemy.</p> <p>Via taunting acts like the beheading videos of the Islamic State, the new "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, such movements bait Washington into action. And each new terrorist crew, each "<a href="">lone wolf</a>" terrorist undiscovered until too late by a state structure that has cost Americans trillions of dollars, each plot <a href="">not foiled</a>, each failure, works to bolster both terrorist outfits and the national security state itself. This has, in other words, proved to be a deeply symbiotic and mutually profitable relationship.</p> <p>From the point of view of the national security state, each failure, each little disaster, acts as another <a href=",_the_united_states_of_fear/">shot of fear</a> in the American body politic, and the response to failure is predictable: never less of what doesn't work, but more. More money, more bodies hired, more <a href="">new outfits</a> formed, more elaborate defenses, more offensive weaponry. Each failure with its accompanying jolt of fear (and often <a href=",_inside_the_american_terrordome">hysteria</a>) predictably results in further funding for the national security state to develop newer, even more elaborate versions of what it's been doing these last 13 years. Failure, in other words, is the <a href=",_entering_the_intelligence_labyrinth/">key to success</a>.</p> <p>In this sense, think of Washington's national security structure as a self-perpetuating machine that works like a dream, since those who oversee its continued expansion are never penalized for its inability to accomplish any of its goals. On the contrary, they are invariably promoted, honored, and assured of a golden-parachute-style retirement or&mdash;far more likely&mdash;a golden journey through one of Washington's revolving doors onto some corporate board or into some cushy post in one complex or another where they can essentially lobby their former colleagues for private warrior corporations, rent-a-gun outfits, weapons makers, and the like. And there is nothing either in Washington or in American life that seems likely to change any of this in the near future.</p> <p><br><strong>An Inheritance From Hell</strong></p> <p>In the meantime, a "war on terror" mentality slowly seeps into the rest of society as the warriors, weapons, and gadgetry come home from our distant battle zones. That's especially obvious when it comes to the police nationwide. It can be seen in the expanding numbers of <a href=",_one_nation_under_swat/">SWAT teams</a> filled with <a href="">special ops vets</a>, the piles of <a href="">Pentagon weaponry</a> from those wars being <a href="">transferred</a> to local police forces at home, and the way they are taking on the <a href="">look</a> of forces of occupation in an alien land, operating increasingly with a mentality of "<a href="">wartime policing</a>." &nbsp;Since the events of Ferguson, all of this has finally become far more evident to Americans (as it would, with some explanation, to our visitor from 1963). It was no anomaly, for example, that Justice Department investigators found a banner hanging in a Cleveland police station that identified the place sardonically as a "forward operating base," a term the military uses, as the <em>New York Times</em> <a href="">put it</a>, "for heavily guarded wartime outposts inside insurgent-held territory."&nbsp;</p> <p>In the wake of Ferguson, the "<a href="">reforms</a>" being proposed&mdash;essentially better training in the more effective use of the new battlefield-style gear the police are acquiring&mdash;will only militarize them further. This same mentality, with its accompanying gadgetry, has been moving heavily <a href="">into</a> America's <a href="">border areas</a> and <a href="">into schools</a> and other institutions as well, including an enormous increase in <a href=",_the_net_closes_around_us/">surveillance systems</a> geared to streets, public places, and even the home. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In the meantime, while a national security state mentality has been infiltrating American society, the planners of that state have been rewriting the global rules of the road for years when it comes to torture, kidnapping, drone assassination campaigns, global surveillance, national sovereignty, the launching of cyberwars, and the like&mdash;none of which will, in the end, contribute to American security, and all of which has already made the planet a less secure, more chaotic, more <a href=",_the_great_concentration_or_the_great_fragmentation/">fragmented</a> place. In these last years, in other words, in its search for "security," the US has actually become a force for destabilization&mdash;that is, insecurity&mdash;across significant swaths of the planet.</p> <p>Perhaps one of these days, Americans will decide to consider more seriously what "security," as presently defined by the powers that be in Washington, even means in our world. There can, as a start, be no question that the national security state does offer genuine security of a very specific sort: to its own officials and employees. Nothing they do, no matter how dumb, immoral, or downright criminal, ever seems to stand in the way of their own upward mobility within its structure.</p> <p>As an example&mdash;and it's only one in an era filled with them&mdash;not a single CIA official was dismissed, demoted, or even reprimanded in response to the <a href="">recent release</a> of the redacted executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's <a href="">torture report</a>. It hardly mattered that the report included actual criminal behavior (even by the degraded "enhanced interrogation" standards <a href="">green-lighted</a> by the Bush administration) and the grimmest kinds of abuse of prisoners, some <a href="">quite innocent</a> of anything. In an America in which, economically speaking, security has not exactly been the gold standard of the twenty-first century, it is hard to imagine any group that is more secure.</p> <p>As for the rest of us, insecurity will surely be the story of our lives for the rest of the twenty-first century (as it was, of course, in 1963). After all, on August 6, 1945, when we consciously entered the age of the apocalyptic possibility at Hiroshima, we had no way of knowing that we had already done so perhaps 200 years earlier as the industrial revolution, based on the burning of fossil fuels, took off. Nor almost 20 years later, did that American of 1963 know this. &nbsp;By 1979, however, the science adviser for the president of the United States was well <a href=";pg=PA309&amp;lpg=PA309&amp;dq=jimmy+carter%27s+science+adviser,+global+warming,+frank+press&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=AcWRtAh8Us&amp;sig=BI01Zj9_LAuAWfp84JhkYavixps&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=q_KlVIz0NcidNtvXg6AM&amp;ved=0CCoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&amp;q=jimmy%20carter%27s%20science%20adviser%2C%20global%20warming%2C%20frank%20press&amp;f=false">aware</a> of global warming. When Jimmy Carter <a href="">gave</a> his infamous "malaise" speech promoting a massive commitment to alternative energy research (and got laughed out of the White House), he already knew that climate change&mdash;not yet called that&mdash;was a reality that needed to be dealt with.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, the rest of us know, or at least <a href="">should know</a>, and so&mdash;with what is likely to be the <a href="">hottest year</a> on record just ended&mdash;would be obliged to offer our visitor from 1963 a graphic account of the coming dangers of a globally warming world. There has always been a certain sense of insecurity to any human life, but until 1945 not to all human life. And yet we now know with something approaching certainty that, even if another nuclear weapon never goes off (and across the planet nuclear powers are <a href="">upgrading</a> their arsenals), chaos, acidifying oceans, melting ice formations, rising seas, flooding coastal areas, mass migrations of desperate people, food production problems, devastating droughts, and monster storms are all in a future that will be the definition of human-caused insecurity&mdash;not that the national security state gives much of a damn.</p> <p>Admittedly, since <a href="">at least 2001</a>, the Pentagon and the US Intelligence Community have been engaged in <a href="">blue-skies thinking</a> about how to <a href="">give good war</a> in a globally warming world. The national security state as a whole, however, has been set up at a cost of trillions of dollars (and <a href="">allowed</a> to spend <a href="">trillions more</a>) to deal with only one kind of insecurity&mdash;terrorism and the ever-larger line up of enemies that go with it. Such groups do, of course, represent a genuine danger, but not of an existential kind. Thought about another way, the <a href=",_the_biggest_criminal_enterprise_in_history/">true terrorists</a> on our planet may be the people running the Big Energy corporations and about them the national security state could care less. They are more than free to ply their trade, pull <a href="">any level</a> of fossil fuel reserves from the ground, and generally pursue mega-profits while preparing the way for global destruction, <a href="">aided</a> and <a href="">abetted</a> by Washington.</p> <p>Try now to imagine yourself in the shoes of that visitor from 1963 absorbing such a future, bizarre almost beyond imagining: all those trillions of dollars going into a system that essentially promotes the one danger it was set up to eradicate or at least bring under control. In the meantime, the part of the state dedicated to national security conveniently looking the other way when it comes to the leading candidate for giving insecurity a new meaning in a future that is almost upon us. Official Washington has, that is, invented a system so dumb, so extreme, so fundamentalist, and so deeply entrenched in our world that changing it will surely prove a stunningly difficult task.</p> <p>Welcome to the new world of American insecurity and to the nightmarish inheritance we are preparing for our children and grandchildren.</p> <p><em>Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the </em><a href=""><em>American Empire Project</em></a><em> and the author of </em>The United States of Fear<em> as well as a history of the Cold War, </em><a href="">The End of Victory Culture</a><em>. He runs the Nation Institute's </em><a href=""></a><em>. His new book is </em><a href="">Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World</a><em> (Haymarket Books). To stay on top of important articles like these, <a href=";id=1e41682ade" target="_blank">sign up</a> to receive the latest updates from</em></p> <p>Follow <em>TomDispatch</em> on Twitter and join us on <a href="">Facebook</a>. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's <em><a href="">Men Explain Things to Me</a></em>, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, <em><a href="" target="_blank">Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World</a></em>.</p></body></html> Politics Tom Dispatch Wed, 07 Jan 2015 01:15:55 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 267661 at How Will We Look Back on Drone Strikes in 2019? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>It was December 6, 2019, three years into a sagging Clinton presidency and a bitterly divided Congress. That day, the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's long fought-over, much-delayed, heavily redacted report on the secret CIA drone wars and other American air campaigns in the 18-year-long war on terror was finally released. That day, committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) took to the Senate floor, amid the warnings of his Republican colleagues that its release might "<a href="" target="_blank">inflame</a>" America's enemies leading to violence across the Greater Middle East, and <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>"Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone through a great deal of introspection about whether to delay the release of this report to a later time. We are clearly in a period of turmoil and instability in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, that's going to continue for the foreseeable future, whether this report is released or not. There may never be the 'right' time to release it. The instability we see today will not be resolved in months or years. But this report is too important to shelve indefinitely. The simple fact is that the drone and air campaigns we have launched and pursued these last 18 years have proven to be a stain on our values and on our history."</p> </blockquote> <p>Though it was a Friday afternoon, normally a dead zone for media attention, the response was instant and stunning. As had happened five years earlier with the committee's similarly fought-over report on torture, it became a 24/7 media event. The "revelations" from the report poured out to a stunned nation. There were the CIA's own figures on the <a href="" target="_blank">hundreds</a> of <a href="" target="_blank">children</a> in the backlands of Pakistan and Yemen killed by drone strikes against "terrorists" and "m<a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a>ilitants." There were the "<a href="" target="_blank">double-tap strikes</a>" in which drones returned after initial attacks to go after rescuers of those buried in rubble or to take out the funerals of those previously slain. There were the CIA's own statistics on the stunning numbers of unknown villagers killed for every significant and known figure targeted and finally taken out (<a href="" target="_blank">1,147</a> dead in Pakistan for 41 men specifically targeted). There were the unexpected internal Agency discussions of the imprecision of the robotic weapons always publicly hailed as "surgically precise" (and also of the weakness of much of the intelligence that led them to their targets). There was the joking and commonplace use of dehumanizing language ("<a href="" target="_blank">bug splat</a>" for those killed) by the teams directing the drones. There were the "<a href="" target="_blank">signature strikes</a>," or the targeting of groups of young men of military age about whom nothing specifically was known, and of course there was the raging argument that ensued in the media over the "effectiveness" of it all (including various emails from CIA officials admitting that drone campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen had proven to be mechanisms not so much for destroying terrorists as for creating new ones).</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/12/how-will-we-look-back-drone-strikes-2019"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 18 Dec 2014 22:30:43 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 266966 at 4 Things the Media Missed Covering Chuck Hagel's Resignation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn't have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama's third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the <a href="" target="_blank">phrase</a> of the moment, he had "resigned under pressure." Sayonara, Chuck!</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>With a <a href="" target="_blank">unanimity</a> that <a href="" target="_blank">crossed</a> political <a href="" target="_blank">lines</a>, the <a href="" target="_blank">accounts</a> read as if written by a single reporter. The story went something like this: two years earlier, President Obama had brought in Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Republican senator with a reputation for being leery about the overuse of American military power, to wind down the war in Afghanistan, rein in military critics, and put the Pentagon budget on something closer to a peacetime footing. After a bruising Senate confirmation hearing from which he never recovered, he proved poor at "<a href="" target="_blank">messaging</a>" the president's policies, had a "<a href="" target="_blank">crappy relationship</a>" with National Security Adviser (and Obama buddy) Susan Rice, proved a weak manager at the Department of Defense as well as a "weak link" in the Obama national security team, and could never break into the president's tight-knit circle of insiders who&mdash;everyone agreed&mdash;had a nasty habit of "<a href="" target="_blank">micromanaging</a>" America's wars (rather than, it seemed, letting the military do what needed to be done). In the end, the president "<a href="" target="_blank">lost confidence</a>" in him. It was a "<a href="" target="_blank">mutual</a>" firing or at least Hagel had advanced somewhat voluntarily toward the edge of the cliff before being pushed off.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/12/4-things-media-missed-covering-chuck-hagels-resignation"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Military Tom Dispatch Fri, 05 Dec 2014 23:54:28 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 266016 at How Would the US React If Russia Invaded Afghanistan Again? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Let's play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there's another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We're talking about full-scale invasions, long-term occupations, and nation-building programs, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>In both countries, that power quickly succeeded in its stated objective of "regime change," only to find itself mired in deadly conflicts with modestly armed minority insurgencies that it simply couldn't win. In each country, to the tune of <a href="">billions</a> and <a href="">billions</a> of dollars, it built up a humongous army and allied "security" forces, <a href="">poured money</a> into "reconstruction" projects (most of which proved disasters of <a href=",_imperial_reconstruction_and_its_discontents/">corruption</a> and <a href="">incompetence</a>), and spent <a href="">trillions</a> of dollars of national treasure.</p> <p>Having imagined that, ask yourself: How well did all of that turn out for this other power? In Afghanistan, a recent news story highlights something of what was accomplished. Though that country took slot <a href="">175</a> out of 177 on Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, though its security forces continue to suffer <a href="">grievous casualties</a>, and though parts of the country are <a href="">falling</a> to a <a href="">strengthening</a> Taliban insurgency, it has for some years proudly held a firm grip on one record: Afghanistan is the leading narco-state on planet Earth.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/11/how-would-us-react-if-russia-invaded-afghanistan-again"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 265491 at How ISIS and Ebola Took Over the Midterm Elections <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Sometimes it seemed that only two issues mattered in the midterm election campaigns that just ended. No, I'm not talking about Obamacare, or the inequality gap, or the country's sagging infrastructure, or education, or energy policy. I mean two issues that <em>truly</em> threaten the wellbeing of citizens from <a href="" target="_blank">Kansas</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Colorado</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Iowa</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">New Hampshire</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">North Carolina</a>. In those states and others, both were debated heatedly by candidates for the Senate and House, sometimes almost to the exclusion of anything else.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>You know what I'm talking about&mdash;two issues on the lips of politicians nationwide, at the top of the news 24/7, and constantly trending on social media: <a href="" target="_blank">ISIS</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Ebola</a>. Think of them as the two horsemen of the present American apocalypse.</p> <p>And think of this otherwise drab midterm campaign as the escalation election. Republican candidates will arrive in Washington having <a href="" target="_blank">beaten</a> the war and disease drums particularly energetically, and they're not likely to stop.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/11/how-isis-and-ebola-took-over-midterm-elections"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Elections International Tom Dispatch Tue, 04 Nov 2014 22:09:34 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 263966 at "A Golden Age to Spy on Everyone:" A Conversation With Director Laura Poitras <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Here's a Ripley's Believe It or Not! stat from our new age of national security. How many Americans have security clearances? The <a href="" target="_blank">answer</a>: 5.1 million, a figure that reflects the explosive growth of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. Imagine the kind of system needed just to vet that many people for access to our secret world (to the tune of billions of dollars). We're talking here <a href="" target="_blank">about</a> the total population of Norway and significantly more people than you can find in Costa Rica, Ireland, or New Zealand. And yet it's only about 1.6% of the American population, while on ever more matters, the unvetted 98.4% of us are meant to be left in the dark.</p> <p>For our own safety, of course. That goes without saying.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>All of this offers a new definition of democracy in which we, the people, are to know only what the national security state cares to tell us. Under this system, ignorance is the necessary, legally enforced prerequisite for feeling protected. In this sense, it is telling that the <a href=",_knowledge_is_crime/" target="_blank">only crime</a> for which those inside the national security state can be held accountable in post-9/11 Washington is not potential <a href="" target="_blank">perjury</a> before Congress, or the <a href="" target="_blank">destruction</a> of evidence of a crime, or <a href="" target="_blank">torture</a>, or <a href="" target="_blank">kidnapping</a>, or <a href=",_assassin-in-chief/" target="_blank">assassination</a>, or the <a href="" target="_blank">deaths</a> of prisoners in an extralegal prison system, but <a href=",_in_washington,_fear_the_silence,_not_the_noise/" target="_blank">whistleblowing</a>; that is, telling the American people something about what their government is actually doing. And that crime, and only that crime, has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law (and beyond) with a vigor <a href="" target="_blank">unmatched</a> in American history. To offer a single example, the only American to go to jail for the CIA's Bush-era torture program was John Kiriakou, a <a href="" target="_blank">CIA whistleblower</a> who revealed the name of an agent involved in the program to a reporter.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/10/laura-poitras-director-edward-snowden-greenwald"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Tom Dispatch NSA Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 262926 at Why America Is Panicking About Terror—Again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>It happened so fast that, at first, I didn't even take it in.</p> <p>Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were heading into the Phillips Museum in Washington, D.C., to catch a show of <a href="" target="_blank">neo-Impressionist art</a> when we ran into someone he knew, heading out. I was introduced and the usual chitchat ensued. At some point, she asked me, "Do you live here?"</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>"No," I replied, "I'm from New York."</p> <p>She smiled, responded that it, too, was a fine place to live, then hesitated just a beat before adding in a quiet, friendly voice: "Given ISIS, maybe neither city is such a great place to be right now." Goodbyes were promptly said and we entered the museum.</p> <p>All of this passed so quickly that I didn't begin rolling her comment around in my head until we were looking at the sublime pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat and his associates. Only then did I think: ISIS, a danger in New York? ISIS, a danger in Washington? And I had the urge to bolt down the stairs, catch up to her, and say: whatever you do, don't step off the curb. That's where <a href="" target="_blank">danger lies</a> in American life. ISIS, not so much.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/10/america-panic-terror-isis-iraq"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Tue, 07 Oct 2014 23:14:11 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 261846 at America Spends $68 Billion a Year on 17 Major Intelligence Agencies. So Why Do We Keep Getting Caught Off-Guard? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>What are the odds? You put about <a href="" target="_blank">$68 billion</a> annually into a maze of <a href="" target="_blank">17</a> major intelligence outfits. You build them <a href="" target="_blank">glorious headquarters</a>. You create a global surveillance state <a href=",_you_are_our_secret/" target="_blank">for the ages</a>. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities. Your employees even <a href="" target="_blank">morph</a> into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on <a href="" target="_blank">visits</a> to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around <a href="" target="_blank">naked photos</a> of them just for... well, the salacious hell of it. Your employees even use aspects of the system you've created to <a href="" target="_blank">stalk</a> former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of "spycraft" gains its own name: LOVEINT.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>You <a href="" target="_blank">listen in</a> on foreign leaders and politicians across the planet. You bring on board <a href="" target="_blank">hundreds of thousands</a> of crony corporate employees, creating the <a href="" target="_blank">sinews</a> of an intelligence-corporate complex of the first order. You <a href="" target="_blank">break into</a> the "backdoors" of the data centers of major Internet outfits to collect user accounts. You create <a href=",_the_jason_bourne_strategy/" target="_blank">new outfits</a> within outfits, including an ever-expanding secret military and intelligence crew <a href="" target="_blank">embedded</a> inside the military itself (and not counted among those 17 agencies). Your leaders <a href="" target="_blank">lie</a> to Congress and the American people without, as far as we can tell, a flicker of self-doubt. Your acts are subject to <a href="" target="_blank">secret courts</a>, which only hear your versions of events and regularly <a href="" target="_blank">rubberstamp</a> them&mdash;and whose judgments and <a href="" target="_blank">substantial body</a> of lawmaking are far too secret for Americans to know about.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/09/america-intelligence-off-guard-isis-arab-spring"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Civil Liberties Military Tom Dispatch NSA Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:23 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 261316 at What's the Point of Being a Superpower, Anyway? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>It's possible I've lived most of my life on the wrong planet&mdash;and if that sounds like the first sentence of a sci-fi novel maybe, in its own way, it is. I thought I knew where I was, of course, but looking back from our helter-skelter world of 2014, I wonder.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>For most of the last several hundred years, the story in view might be called the Great Concentration and it focused on an imperial struggle for power on planet Earth. That rivalry took place among a kaleidoscopic succession of European "great powers," one global empire (Great Britain), Russia, a single Asian state (Japan), and the United States. After two world wars that devastated the Eurasian continent, there emerged only two "superpowers," the US and the Soviet Union. They were so stunningly mighty and over-armed&mdash;great inland empires&mdash;that, unlike previous powers, they could not even imagine how to wage war directly upon each other, not without obliterating much of civilization. The full planet nonetheless became their battlefield in what was known as the Cold War only because hot ones were banished to "the peripheries" and the conflict took place, in part, in "the shadows" (a situation novelist John le Carr&eacute; caught with particular incisiveness).</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/09/america-world-superpower-right-iraq-afghanistan"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Tom Dispatch Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:04:36 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 260401 at ISIS Is America's Legacy in Iraq <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>Whatever your politics, you're not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there's Ferguson (the <a href="" target="_blank">whole world</a> was watching!), an <a href="" target="_blank">increasingly unpopular</a> president, a Congress whose <a href="" target="_blank">approval ratings</a> make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list. Abroad, from <a href="" target="_blank">Libya</a> and Ukraine to Iraq and the <a href="" target="_blank">South China Sea</a>, nothing has been coming up roses for the US Polls reflect a general American <a href="" target="_blank">gloom</a>, with <a href="" target="_blank">71%</a> of the public claiming the country is "on the wrong track." We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>What Americans have needed is a little pick-me-up to make us feel better, to make us, in fact, feel distinctly <a href="" target="_blank">good</a>. Certainly, what official Washington has needed in tough times is a bona fide enemy so darn evil, so brutal, so barbaric, so inhuman that, by contrast, we might know just how exceptional, how truly necessary to this planet we really are.</p> <p>In the nick of time, riding to the rescue comes something new under the sun: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), recently renamed Islamic State (IS). It's a group so extreme that even al-Qaeda <a href="" target="_blank">rejected</a> it, so brutal that it's brought back <a href="" target="_blank">crucifixion</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">beheading</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">waterboarding</a>, and amputation, so fanatical that it's ready to <a href="" target="_blank">persecute</a> any religious group within range of its weapons, so grimly beyond morality that it's made the beheading of an innocent American a global propaganda phenomenon. If you've got a label that's really, really bad like <a href="" target="_blank">genocide</a> or <a href="" target="_blank">ethnic cleansing</a>, you can probably apply it to ISIS's actions.</p> <p>It has also proven so effective that its relatively modest band of warrior jihadis has routed the Syrian and Iraqi armies, as well as the Kurdish pesh merga militia, taking control of a territory larger than Great Britain in the heart of the Middle East. Today, it rules over at least <a href="" target="_blank">four million people</a>, controls its own functioning oil fields and refineries (and so their <a href="" target="_blank">revenues</a> as well as infusions of money from looted banks, kidnapping ransoms, and Gulf state patrons). Despite opposition, it still seems to be <a href="" target="_blank">expanding</a> and claims it has established a caliphate.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/09/isis-americas-legacy-iraq"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics International Iraq Tom Dispatch Tue, 02 Sep 2014 23:43:49 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 259496 at