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Empire Project

Americans have long believed that the very notion of empire is an offense against our democratic heritage, yet in recent months, these two words -- American empire -- have been on everyone's lips. At this moment of unprecedented economic and military strength, the leaders of the United States have embraced imperial ambitions openly. How did we get to this point? And what lies down the road? Read more about The American Empire Project>>
 
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The Books

Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World by David VineBase Nation
How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World
by David Vine

Now Available!


No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by
Anand GopalNo Good Men Among the Living
America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
by Anand Gopal

Now Available!


Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their CountryBreach of Trust
How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
by Andrew Bacevich

Now Available!


Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire By Noam Chomsky and David BarsamianPower Systems
Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire
by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

Now Available!


Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick TurseKill Anything That Moves
The Real American War in Vietnam
by Nick Turse

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichWe Meant Well
How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
by Peter Van Buren

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichIdeal Illusions
How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights
by James Peck

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichWashington Rules
America's Path to Permanent War
by Andrew Bacevich

Now Available!


Dismantling The Empire: America's Last Best Hope by Chalmers JohnsonDismantling The Empire
America's Last Best Hope
by Chalmers Johnson

Now Available!


The Limits Of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew BacevichThe Limits Of Power
The End of American Exceptionalism
by Andrew Bacevich

Now available!


Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World by Noam ChomskyImperial Ambitions

Conversations on the Post-9/11 World
by Noam Chomsky

Now available!


Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism by Greg GrandinEmpire's Workshop
Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism
by Greg Grandin

Now available!


A Question Of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred McCoyA Question of Torture
CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror
by Alfred McCoy

Now available!

Alfred McCoy on How Not to Ban Torture in Congress


Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency by Michael KlareBlood and Oil
The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency
by Michael T. Klare

Now available in paperback, including a new afterword!

 

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News from The American Empire Project
The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century by Sarah Leonard and Bhaskar Sunkara

Recommended Reading

The Future We Want
Radical Ideas for the New Century
Edited by
Sarah Leonard and Bhaskar Sunkara

A stirring blueprint for American equality, from the "breakout stars" (The New York Times) of the young new left

Read more about The Future We Want

The American Empire Project Blog

American Democracy Down for the Count
Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?

By Ann Jones

[This is a joint TomDispatch/Nation article and appears in print in slightly shortened form in the new issue of the Nation magazine.]

Some years ago, I faced up to the futility of reporting true things about America’s disastrous wars and so I left Afghanistan for another remote mountainous country far away. It was the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.

1/26/2016

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Out of Bounds, Off-Limits, or Just Plain Ignored
Six National Security Questions Hillary, Donald, Ted, Marco, et al., Don’t Want to Answer and Won’t Even Be Asked

By Andrew Bacevich

To judge by the early returns, the presidential race of 2016 is shaping up as the most disheartening in recent memory. Other than as a form of low entertainment, the speeches, debates, campaign events, and slick TV ads already inundating the public sphere offer little of value. Rather than exhibiting the vitality of American democracy, they testify to its hollowness.

Present-day Iranian politics may actually possess considerably more substance than our own. There, the parties involved, whether favoring change or opposing it, understand that the issues at stake have momentous implications. Here, what passes for national politics is a form of exhibitionism about as genuine as pro wrestling.

1/26/2016

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The Pentagon’s Progress
Will American “Successes” Lead to More Iraqi Military Failures?

By Nick Turse

There’s good news coming out of Iraq... again. The efforts of a 65-nation coalition and punishing U.S. airstrikes have helped local ground forces roll back gains by the Islamic State (IS). 

Government forces and Shiite militias, for example, recaptured the city of Tikrit, while Kurdish troops ousted IS fighters from the town of Sinjar and other parts of northern Iraq. Last month, Iraqi troops finally pushed Islamic State militants out of most of the city of Ramadi, which the group had held since routing Iraqi forces there last spring.

1/21/2016

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You Won't Like It, But Here's the Answer to ISIS
Giving Advice to a Presidential Candidate Who Wants to “Do Something”

By Peter Van Buren

How can we stop the Islamic State?

Imagine yourself shaken awake, rushed off to a strategy meeting with your presidential candidate of choice, and told: “Come up with a plan for me to do something about ISIS!” What would you say?

What Hasn't Worked

You'd need to start with a persuasive review of what hasn't worked over the past 14-plus years. American actions against terrorism -- the Islamic State being just the latest flavor -- have flopped on a remarkable scale, yet remain remarkably attractive to our present crew of candidates. (Bernie Sanders might be the only exception, though he supports forming yet another coalition to defeat ISIS.)

1/18/2016

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Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy
The Pentagon’s Dangerous “New” Base Plan

By David Vine

Amid the distractions of the holiday season, the New York Times revealed that the Obama administration is considering a Pentagon proposal to create a “new” and “enduring” system of military bases around the Middle East.  Though this is being presented as a response to the rise of the Islamic State and other militant groups, there's remarkably little that’s new about the Pentagon plan. For more than 36 years, the U.S. military has been building an unprecedented constellation of bases that stretches from Southern Europe and the Middle East to Africa and Southwest Asia.

1/14/2016

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The Oil Pricequake
Political Turmoil in a Time of Low Energy Prices

By Michael T. Klare

As 2015 drew to a close, many in the global energy industry were praying that the price of oil would bounce back from the abyss, restoring the petroleum-centric world of the past half-century.  All evidence, however, points to a continuing depression in oil prices in 2016 -- one that may, in fact, stretch into the 2020s and beyond.  Given the centrality of oil (and oil revenues) in the global power equation, this is bound to translate into a profound shakeup in the political order, with petroleum-producing states from Saudi Arabia to Russia losing both prominence and geopolitical clout.

1/12/2016

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Why the Islamic State Is the Minor Leagues of Terror
Putting Threats into Perspective for 2016

By Tom Engelhardt

It’s time to panic!

As 2015 ended, this country was certifiably terror-stricken. It had the Islamic State (IS) on the brain. Hoax terror threats or terror imbroglios shut down school systems from Los Angeles to New Hampshire, Indiana to a rural county in Virginia. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, citing terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, cancelled a prospective tour of Europe thanks to terror fears, issuing a statement that “orchestra management believes there is an elevated risk to the safety of musicians and their families, guest artists, DSO personnel, and travelling patrons.” By year's end, the Justice Department had charged an ”unprecedented” 60 people with terrorism-related crimes (often linked to social media exchanges).

1/5/2016

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America’s Secret African Drone War Against the Islamic State
Predators and the “Neutralization” of 69 People in Iraq and Syria

By Nick Turse

On October 7th, at an “undisclosed location” somewhere in “Southwest Asia,” men wearing different types of camouflage and dun-colored boots gathered before a black backdrop adorned with Arabic script.  They were attending a ceremony that mixed solemnity with celebration, the commemoration of a year of combat that left scores of their enemies slain.  One of their leaders spoke of comraderie and honor, of forging a family and continuing a legacy.     

12/18/2015

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A New World Beckons
The Future Belongs to Renewables

By Michael T. Klare

Historically, the transition from one energy system to another, as from wood to coal or coal to oil, has proven an enormously complicated process, requiring decades to complete. In similar fashion, it will undoubtedly be many years before renewable forms of energy -- wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and others still in development -- replace fossil fuels as the world’s leading energy providers. Nonetheless, 2015 can be viewed as the year in which the epochal transition from one set of fuels to another took off, with renewables making such significant strides that, for the first time in centuries, the beginning of the end of the Fossil Fuel Era has come into sight.

12/10/2015

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Washington to Whomever: Please Fight the Islamic State for Us
Why the Gulf States, the Kurds, the Turks, the Sunnis, and the Shia Won’t Fight America’s War

By Peter Van Buren

In the many strategies proposed to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by presidential candidates, policymakers, and media pundits alike across the American political spectrum, one common element stands out: someone else should really do it. The United States will send in planes, advisers, and special ops guys, but it would be best -- and this varies depending on which pseudo-strategist you cite -- if the Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Sunnis, and/or Shias would please step in soon and get America off the hook.

12/10/2015

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Emperor Weather
Turning Up the Heat on History

By Tom Engelhardt

For six centuries or more, history was, above all, the story of the great game of empires. From the time the first wooden ships mounted with cannons left Europe’s shores, they began to compete for global power and control. Three, four, even five empires, rising and falling, on an increasingly commandeered and colonized planet. The story, as usually told, is a tale of concentration and of destruction until, in the wake of the second great bloodletting of the twentieth century, there were just two imperial powers left standing: the United States and the Soviet Union. Where the other empires, European and Japanese, had been, little remained but the dead, rubble, refugees, and scenes that today would be associated only with a place like Syria.

12/7/2015

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Beyond ISIS
The Folly of World War IV

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Assume that the hawks get their way -- that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what?

Answering that question requires taking seriously the outcomes of other recent U.S. interventions in the Greater Middle East. In 1991, when the first President Bush ejected Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, Americans rejoiced, believing that they had won a decisive victory. A decade later, the younger Bush seemingly outdid his father by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and then making short work of Saddam himself -- a liberation twofer achieved in less time than it takes Americans to choose a president. After the passage of another decade, Barack Obama got into the liberation act, overthrowing the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in what appeared to be a tidy air intervention with a clean outcome. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton memorably put it, “We came, we saw, he died.” End of story.

12/3/2015

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Dead, White, and Blue
The Great Die-Off of America's Blue Collar Whites

By Barbara Ehrenreich

The white working class, which usually inspires liberal concern only for its paradoxical, Republican-leaning voting habits, has recently become newsworthy for something else: according to economist Anne Case and Angus Deaton, the winner of the latest Nobel Prize in economics, its members in the 45- to 54-year-old age group are dying at an immoderate rate. While the lifespan of affluent whites continues to lengthen, the lifespan of poor whites has been shrinking. As a result, in just the last four years, the gap between poor white men and wealthier ones has widened by up to four years. The New York Times summed up the Deaton and Case study with this headline: “Income Gap, Meet the Longevity Gap.”

12/1/2015

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A Post-Paris “Clash of Civilizations”?
It’s the Islamic State’s Dream and Marco Rubio Agrees

By Tom Engelhardt

Honestly, I don’t know whether to rant or weep, neither of which are usual impulses for me.  In the wake of the slaughter in Paris, I have the urge to write one of two sentences here: Paris changed everything; Paris changes nothing.  Each is, in its own way, undoubtedly true.  And here’s a third sentence I know to be true: This can’t end well.

11/19/2015

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Does Eleven Plus One Equal Sixty?
AFRICOM’s New Math, the U.S. Base Bonanza, and “Scarier” Times Ahead in Africa

By Nick Turse

In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of nations on the continent. For a military that has stumbled from Iraq to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts say, into a laboratory for a new kind of war.

11/17/2015

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Afghanistan “After” the American War
Once More Down the Rabbit Hole

By Ann Jones

Ten months ago, on December 28, 2014, a ceremony in Kabul officially marked the conclusion of America’s very long war in Afghanistan. President Obama called that day “a milestone for our country.” After more than 13 years, he said, “our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

That was then. This is now. In between, on September 28, 2015, came another milestone: the Taliban takeover of Kunduz, the capital of the province of the same name in northern Afghanistan, and with a population of about 270,000, the country’s fifth-largest city.

11/5/2015

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Why the Paris Climate Summit Will Be a Peace Conference
Averting a World of Failed States and Resource Wars

By Michael T. Klare

At the end of November, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for what is billed as the most important climate meeting ever held.  Officially known as the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the 1992 treatythat designated that phenomenon a threat to planetary health and human survival), the Paris summit will be focused on the adoption of measures that would limit global warming to less than catastrophic levels. If it fails, world temperatures in the coming decades are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit), the maximum amount most scientists believe the Earth can endure without experiencing irreversible climate shocks, includingsoaring temperatures and a substantial rise in global sea levels.

11/3/2015

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Four Score and Seven Years Ago... at Disney World
The Demobilization of the American People and the Spectacle of Election 2016

By Tom Engelhardt

You may not know it, but you’re living in a futuristic science fiction novel. And that’s a fact.  If you were to read about our American world in such a novel, you would be amazed by its strangeness.  Since you exist right smack in the middle of it, it seems like normal life (Donald Trump and Ben Carson aside).  But make no bones about it, so far this has been a bizarre American century.

Let me start with one of the odder moments we’ve lived through and give it the attention it’s always deserved.  If you follow my train of thought and the history it leads us into, I guarantee you that you’ll end up back exactly where we are -- in the midst of the strangest presidential campaign in our history.

10/29/2015

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Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Special Ops “Successes”
America’s Elite Forces Deploy to a Record-Shattering 147 Countries in 2015

By Nick Turse

They’re some of the best soldiers in the world: highly trained, well equipped, and experts in weapons, intelligence gathering, and battlefield medicine.  They study foreign cultures and learn local languages.  They’re smart, skillful, wear some very iconic headgear, and their 12-member teams are “capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations, from building indigenous security forces to identifying and targeting threats to U.S. national interests.” 

They’re also quite successful.  At least they think so.

10/26/2015

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What If They Gave a War and Everyone Came?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong (October 2015 Edition)

By Peter Van Buren

What if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq in 2003? How would things be different in the Middle East today? Was Iraq, in the words of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the "worst foreign policy blunder" in American history? Let's take a big-picture tour of the Middle East and try to answer those questions. But first, a request: after each paragraph that follows, could you make sure to add the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

10/22/2015

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On Building Armies (and Watching Them Fail)
Why Washington Can’t “Stand Up” Foreign Militaries

By Andrew J. Bacevich

First came Fallujah, then Mosul, and later Ramadi in Iraq.  Now, there is Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan.  In all four places, the same story has played out: in cities that newspaper reporters like to call “strategically important,” security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. military at great expense simply folded, abandoning their posts (and much of their U.S.-supplied weaponry) without even mounting serious resistance.  Called upon to fight, they fled.  In each case, the defending forces gave way before substantially outnumbered attackers, making the outcomes all the more ignominious.

10/13/2015

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Welcome to a New Planet
Climate Change “Tipping Points” and the Fate of the Earth

By Michael T. Klare

Not so long ago, it was science fiction. Now, it’s hard science -- and that should frighten us all. The latest reports from the prestigious and sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make increasingly hair-raising reading, suggesting that the planet is approaching possible moments of irreversible damage in a fashion and at a speed that had not been anticipated.

Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a “linear” fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years.  Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience “non-linear” climate shifts (also known as “singularities” or “tipping points”) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature.  This was the premise of the 2004 climate-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow. In that movie -- most notable for its vivid scenes of a frozen-over New York City -- melting polar ice causes a disruption in the North Atlantic Current, which in turn triggers a series of catastrophic storms and disasters.  At the time of its release, many knowledgeable scientists derided the film’s premise, insisting that the confluence of events it portrayed was unlikely or simply impossible.

10/8/2015

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Debacle, Inc.
How Henry Kissinger Helped Create Our “Proliferated” World

By Greg Grandin

The only person Henry Kissinger flattered more than President Richard Nixon was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. In the early 1970s, the Shah, sitting atop an enormous reserve of increasingly expensive oil and a key figure in Nixon and Kissinger’s move into the Middle East, wanted to be dealt with as a serious person. He expected his country to be treated with the same respect Washington showed other key Cold War allies like West Germany and Great Britain. As Nixon’s national security adviser and, after 1973, secretary of state, Kissinger’s job was to pump up the Shah, to make him feel like he truly was the “king of kings.”

9/28/2015

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U.S. Special Ops Forces Deployed in 135 Nations
2015 Proves to Be Record-Breaking Year for the Military’s Secret Military

By Nick Turse

You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they instructyell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.

These men -- and they are mostly men -- belong to an exclusive military fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops -- Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others -- and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.

9/15/2015

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Grandmaster of the Great Game
Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China

By Alfred W. McCoy

In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic initiatives whose sum is nothing less than a tri-continental strategy to check Beijing’s rise. As these moves unfold, Obama is revealing himself as one of those rare grandmasters who appear every generation or two with an ability to go beyond mere foreign policy and play that ruthless global game called geopolitics.

9/15/2015

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Garrisoning the Globe
How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Undermine National Security and Harm Us All

By David Vine

With the U.S. military having withdrawn many of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans would be forgiven for being unaware that hundreds of U.S. bases and hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still encircle the globe. Although few know it, the United States garrisons the planet unlike any country in history, and the evidence is on view from Honduras to Oman, Japan to Germany, Singapore to Djibouti.

Like most Americans, for most of my life, I rarely thought about military bases. Scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson described me well when he wrote in 2004, “As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.”

9/15/2015

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Problem Partners, Ugly Outcomes
U.S. Special Ops Missions in Africa Fail to Stem Rising Tide of Terror Groups, Coups, and Human Rights Abuses

By Nick Turse (with additional reporting by Gabriel Karon)

"Africa is a challenging place today and one that, if left unattended, is likely to be the birthplace of many more challenges in the future,” Army Secretary John McHugh said recently. Since 9/11, in fact, the continent has increasingly been viewed by the Pentagon as a place of problems to be remedied by military means. And year after year, as terror groups have multiplied, proxies have foundered, and allies have disappointed, the U.S. has doubled down again and again, with America’s most elite troops -- U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) -- leading the way.

The public face of this engagement is a yearly training exercise called Flintlock. Since 2005, it has brought together U.S. special operators and elite European and West African troops to “strengthen security institutions, promote multilateral sharing of information, and develop interoperability among the partner nations of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).”

9/8/2015

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Mantra for 9/11
Fourteen Years Later, Improbable World

By Tom Engelhardt

Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters. Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks. Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance). Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecutionof whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing. Fourteen years of the demobilization of the citizenry. Fourteen years of the rise of the warrior corporation, the transformation of war and intelligence gathering into profit-making activities, and the flocking of countless private contractors to the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, and too many other parts of the national security state to keep track of. Fourteen years of our wars coming home in the form of PTSD, the militarization of the police, and the spread of war-zone technology like drones and stingrays to the “homeland.” Fourteen years of that un-American word “homeland.” Fourteen years of the expansion of surveillance of every kind and of the development of a global surveillance system whose reach -- from foreign leaders to tribal groups in the backlands of the planet -- would have stunned those running the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Fourteen years of the financial starvation of America’s infrastructure and still not a single mile of high-speed rail built anywhere in the country. Fourteen years in which to launch Afghan War 2.0, Iraq Wars 2.0 and 3.0, and Syria War 1.0. Fourteen years, that is, of the improbable made probable.

9/8/2015

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“The Iranian Threat”
Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace?

By Noam Chomsky

Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

8/20/2015

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Double-Dip Oil Rout
Why an Oil Glut May Lead to a New World of Energy

By Michael T. Klare

The plunge of global oil prices began in June 2014, when benchmark Brent crude was selling at $114 per barrel. It hit bottom at $46 this January, a near-collapse widely viewed as a major but temporary calamity for the energy industry.  Such low prices were expected to force many high-cost operators, especially American shale oil producers, out of the market, while stoking fresh demand and so pushing those numbers back up again.  When Brent rose to $66 per barrel this May, many oil industry executives breathed a sigh of relief.  The worst was over.  The price had “reached a bottom” and it “doesn’t look like it is going back,” a senior Saudi official observed at the time.

8/13/2015

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Documenting Violence
Video Recordings and the Hidden Forms of Police Violence

By Gabriel Urza

In the wake of the ever-growing number of videos surfacing which document the physical abuses suffered by persons of color at the hands of police officers, the role of video in documenting this type of violence has been a subject of debate.

Several commentators have written artfully about the threat of violence and death at the hands of law enforcement felt by persons of color in even the most day-to-day activities, arguing that video footage may capture injustice, but should not be considered an effective tool in preventing it. They argue that in the deaths of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland, video footage documents the vulnerability that people of color experience at the hands of law enforcement, but can offer only an impotent rage. As if to prove this point, the video of Samuel DuBose’s killing by a University of Cincinnati police officer fills my computer screen this afternoon. But I feel compelled to address the efficacy of video footage in these circumstances, for two reasons.

8/11/2015

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The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed
U.S.-Iranian Relations Emerge from a 30-Year Cold War

By Peter Van Buren

Don't sweat the details of the July nuclear accord between the United States and Iran. What matters is that the calculus of power in the Middle East just changed in significant ways.

Washington and Tehran announced their nuclear agreement on July 14th and yes, some of the details are still classified. Of course the Obama administration negotiated alongside China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany, which means Iran and five other governments must approve the detailed 159-page “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” The U.N., which also had to sign off on the deal, has already agreed to measures to end its sanctions against Iran.

7/28/2015

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The Confederate Flag at War
(But Not the Civil War)

By Greg Grandin

The Pentagon just can’t let go. In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, Amazon and Walmart have announced that they will no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise. Ebay says it will stop offering Confederate items for electronic auction. Mississippi's Republican speaker of the house calls his state flag, which includes the Stars and Bars in the top left corner, “a point of offense that needs to be removed.” Even Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, agrees that a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in his state's capitol building belongs in a museum.

7/8/2015

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Russia vs. China
The Conflict in Washington Over Who Should Lead America’s Enemies List

By Michael T. Klare

America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray. Top officials lurch from crisis to crisis, improvising strategies as they go, but rarely pursuing a consistent set of policies. Some blame this indecisiveness on a lack of resolve at the White House, but the real reason lies deeper. It lurks in a disagreement among foreign policy elites over whether Russia or China constitutes America’s principal great-power adversary.

Knowing one’s enemy is usually considered the essence of strategic planning. During the Cold War, enemy number one was, of course, unquestioned: it was the Soviet Union, and everything Washington did was aimed at diminishing Moscow’s reach and power. When the USSR imploded and disappeared, all that was left to challenge U.S. dominance were a few “rogue states.” In the wake of 9/11, however, President Bush declared a “global war on terror,” envisioning a decades-long campaign against Islamic extremists and their allies everywhere on the planet. From then on, with every country said to be either with us or against us, the chaos set in. Invasions, occupations, raids, drone wars ensued -- all of it, in the end, disastrous -- while China used its economic clout to gain new influence abroad and Russia began to menace its neighbors.

6/30/2015

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Five Things That Won't Work in Iraq
When at First You Don’t Succeed, Fail, Fail Again

By Peter Van Buren

In one form or another, the U.S. has been at war with Iraq since 1990, including a sort-of invasion in 1991 and a full-scale one in 2003. During that quarter-century, Washington imposed several changes of government, spent trillions of dollars, and was involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. None of those efforts were a success by any conceivable definition of the term Washington has been capable of offering.

Nonetheless, it’s the American Way to believe with all our hearts that every problem is ours to solve and every problem must have a solution, which simply must be found. As a result, the indispensable nation faces a new round of calls for ideas on what “we” should do next in Iraq.

6/25/2015

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Our Jihadis and Theirs
The Real (Armed) Dangers of American Life

By Tom Engelhardt

Consider this paragraph a holding action on the subject of getting blown away in America. While I write this dispatch, I’m waiting patiently for the next set of dispiriting killings in this country. And I have faith. Before I’m done, some angry -- or simply mentally disturbed -- and well-armed American “lone wolf” (or lone wolves) will gun down someone (or a number of people) somewhere and possibly himself (or themselves) as well. Count on that. It’ll be my last paragraph. Think of it as, in a grim way, something to look forward to as you read this piece on American armed mayhem. 

6/22/2015

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Washington in Wonderland
Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole (Again)

By Andrew J. Bacevich

There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she experienced something of the sort.

Yet, as the old adage goes, truth can be even stranger than fiction. For a real-life illustration of this phenomenon, one need look no further than Washington and its approach to national security policy. Viewed up close, it all seems to hang together. Peer out of the rabbit hole and the sheer lunacy quickly becomes apparent.

6/18/2015

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The Truth About Diego Garcia
And 50 Years of Fiction About an American Military Base

By David Vine

First, they tried to shoot the dogs. Next, they tried to poison them with strychnine. When both failed as efficient killing methods, British government agents and U.S. Navy personnel used raw meat to lure the pets into a sealed shed. Locking them inside, they gassed the howling animals with exhaust piped in from U.S. military vehicles. Then, setting coconut husks ablaze, they burned the dogs’ carcasses as their owners were left to watch and ponder their own fate.

The truth about the U.S. military base on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is often hard to believe. It would be easy enough to confuse the real story with fictional accounts of the island found in the Transformers movies, on the television series 24, and in Internet conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

6/14/2015

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The Child Veterans of South Sudan Want to Know
Will Americans Support Them?

By Nick Turse

PIBOR, South Sudan -- “I’ve never been a soldier,” I say to the wide-eyed, lanky-limbed veteran sitting across from me. “Tell me about military life. What’s it like?” He looks up as if the answer can be found in the blazing blue sky above, shoots me a sheepish grin, and then fixes his gaze on his feet. I let the silence wash over us and wait. He looks embarrassed. Perhaps it’s for me.

Interviews sometimes devolve into such awkward, hushed moments. I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans over the years. Many have been reluctant to discuss their tours of duty for one reason or another. It’s typical. But this wasn’t the typical veteran -- at least not for me.

6/11/2015

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Delusionary Thinking in Washington
The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower

By Michael T. Klare

Take a look around the world and it’s hard not to conclude that the United States is a superpower in decline. Whether in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, aspiring powers are flexing their muscles, ignoring Washington’s dictates, or actively combating them. Russia refuses to curtail its support for armed separatists in Ukraine; China refuses to abandon its base-building endeavors in the South China Sea; Saudi Arabia refuses to endorse the U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran; the Islamic State movement (ISIS) refuses to capitulate in the face of U.S. airpower. What is a declining superpower supposed to do in the face of such defiance?

5/28/2015

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Writing History Before It Happens
Nine Surefire Future Headlines From a Bizarro American World

By Tom Engelhardt

It’s commonplace to speak of “the fog of war,” of what can’t be known in the midst of battle, of the inability of both generals and foot soldiers to foresee developments once fighting is underway. And yet that fog is nothing compared to the murky nature of the future itself, which, you might say, is the fog of human life. As Tomorrowlands at world fairs remind us, despite a human penchant for peering ahead and predicting what our lives will be like, we’re regularly surprised when the future arrives.

Remind me who, even among opponents and critics of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, ever imagined that the decision to take out Saddam Hussein’s regime and occupy the country would lead to a terror caliphate in significant parts of Iraq and Syria that would conquer social media and spread like wildfire. And yet, don’t think that the future is completely unpredictable either.

5/19/2015

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The Kids Aren't All Right
Presidential Waivers, Child Soldiers, and an American-Made Army in Africa

By Nick Turse

In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts?

In MALAKAL, South Sudan -- I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me.  There was no anger in his eyes.  His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger.  He didn’t draw a bead on me.  Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my direction. 

It was unnerving.

I don’t know how old he was.  I’d say 16, though maybe he was 18 or 19.  But there were a few soldiers nearby who looked even younger -- no more than 15.

5/18/2015

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Who Counts?
Body Counts, Drones, and “Collateral Damage” (aka “Bug Splat”)

By Tom Engelhardt

In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts?

In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count.

The Obama administration has adamantly refused to count. Not a body. In fact, for a long time, American officials associated with Washington’s drone assassination campaigns and “signature strikes” in the backlands of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen claimed that there were no bodies to count, that the CIA’s drones were so carefully handled and so “precise” that they never produced an unmeant corpse -- not a child, not a parent, not a wedding party. Nada.

5/5/2015

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The Kingpin Strategy
Assassination as Policy in Washington and How It Failed, 1990-2015

By Andrew Cockburn

As the war on terror nears its 14th anniversary -- a war we seem to be losing, given jihadist advances in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen -- the U.S. sticks stolidly to its strategy of “high-value targeting,” our preferred euphemism for assassination.  Secretary of State John Kerry has proudly cited the elimination of “fifty percent” of the Islamic State’s “top commanders” as a recent indication of progress. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself, “Caliph” of the Islamic State, was reportedly seriously wounded in a March airstrike and thereby removed from day-to-day control of the organization. In January, as the White House belatedly admitted, a strike targeting al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan also managed to kill an American, Warren Weinstein, and his fellow hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto.

4/28/2015

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Sex, Drugs, and Dead Soldiers
What U.S. Africa Command Doesn’t Want You to Know

By Nick Turse

Six people lay lifeless in the filthy brown water.

It was 5:09 a.m. when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge in the West African country of Mali.  For about two seconds, the SUV sailed through the air, pirouetting 180 degrees as it plunged 70 feet, crashing into the Niger River.

4/21/2015

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The Renewable Revolution
Four Reasons Why the Transition From Fossil Fuels to a Green Energy Era Is Gaining Traction

By Michael T. Klare

Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels -- oil, natural gas, and coal -- will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere.  For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum.  If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy -- as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries.

4/16/2015

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2044 or Bust
Military Missions Reach Record Levels After U.S. Inks Deal to Remain in Africa for Decades

By Nick Turse

For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign supported by conventional forces, a multinational undertaking that -- if carried out -- might cost hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars and who knows how many lives.

4/14/2015

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The Real Afghan War
How an American Fantasy Conflict Created Disaster in Afghanistan

By Anand Gopal

The sky clotted gray and the winds gusted cold as the men crowded into an old roadside gas station. It was daybreak in Band-i-Timor, early December 2001, and hundreds of turbaned farmers sat pensively, weighing the choice before them. They had once been the backbone of the Taliban’s support; the movement had arisen not far from here, and many had sent their sons to fight on the front lines. But in 2000, Mullah Omar had decreed opium cultivation to be un-Islamic, and whip-wielding police saw to it that production was halted almost overnight. Band-i-Timor had been poppy country for as long as anyone could remember, but now the fields lay fallow and children were going hungry. With the Taliban’s days numbered after the U.S. invasion, the mood was ripe for a change. But could they trust the Americans? Or Hamid Karzai?

4/6/2015

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Plutocracy The First Time Around
Revisiting the Great Upheaval and the First Gilded Age

By Steve Fraser

In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don't get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere.

Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand).American Sniper, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show.

4/2/2015

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War Porn
Hollywood and War from World War II to American Sniper

By Peter Van Buren

In the age of the all-volunteer military and an endless stream of war zone losses and ties, it can be hard to keep Homeland enthusiasm up for perpetual war. After all, you don't get a 9/11 every year to refresh those images of the barbarians at the airport departure gates. In the meantime, Americans are clearly finding it difficult to remain emotionally roiled up about our confusing wars in Syria and Iraq, the sputtering one in Afghanistan, and various raids, drone attacks, and minor conflicts elsewhere.

Fortunately, we have just the ticket, one that has been punched again and again for close to a century: Hollywood war movies (to which the Pentagon is always eager to lend a helping hand).American Sniper, which started out with the celebratory tagline “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history” and now has the tagline “the most successful war movie of all time,” is just the latest in a long line of films that have kept Americans on their war game. Think of them as war porn, meant to leave us perpetually hyped up. Now, grab some popcorn and settle back to enjoy the show.

2/19/2015

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Save Us From Washington’s Visionaries
In (Modest) Praise of a Comforting Mediocrity

By Andrew J. Bacevich

En route back to Washington at the tail end of his most recent overseas trip, John Kerry, America’s peripatetic secretary of state, stopped off in France “to share a hug with all of Paris.” Whether Paris reciprocated the secretary’s embrace went unrecorded.

Despite the requisite reference to General Pershing (“Lafayette, we are here!”) and flying James Taylor in from the 1960s to assure Parisians that “You’ve Got a Friend,” in the annals of American diplomacy Kerry’s hug will likely rank with President Eisenhower’s award of the Legion of Merit to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and Jimmy Carter’s acknowledgment of the “admiration and love” said to define the relationship between the Iranian people and their Shah.  In short, it was a moment best forgotten.

1/29/2015

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More and War
The Tao of Washington

By Tom Engelhardt

When it comes to the national security state, our capital has become a thought-free zone. The airlessness of the place, the unwillingness of leading players in the corridors of power to explore new ways of approaching crucial problems is right there in plain sight, yet remarkably unnoticed.  Consider this the Tao of Washington.

Last week, based on a heavily redacted 231-page document released by the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Charlie Savage, a superb reporter for the New York Times, revealed that the FBI has become a “significant player” in the world of warrantless surveillance, previously the bailiwick of the National Security Agency.  The headline on his piece was: “FBI is broadening surveillance role, report shows.”

1/23/2015

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The Golden Age of Black Ops
Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015

By Nick Turse

In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.  Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight.  It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers.  And it was the second time they failed.

On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day.  Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports.  Most of the militants escaped.

1/20/2015

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America Is Open for Business in Iraq
(Psst... Wanna Buy an M1 Tank?)

By Peter Van Buren

The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL), and then... well, something in Syria to be determined at a later date.

1/15/2015

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Carbon Counterattack
How Big Oil Is Responding to the Anti-Carbon Moment

By Michael T. Klare

Around the world, carbon-based fuels are under attack.  Increasingly grim economic pressures, growing popular resistance, and the efforts of government regulators have all shocked the energy industry.  Oil prices are falling, colleges and universities are divesting from their carbon stocks, voters are instituting curbs on hydro-fracking, and delegates at the U.N. climate conference in Peru have agreed to impose substantial restrictions on global carbon emissions at a conference in Paris later in the year.  All this has been accompanied by what might be viewedas a moral assault on the very act of extracting carbon-based fuels from the earth,in which the major oil, gas, and coal companies find themselv

1/7/2015

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