Kill Anything That Moves

U.S. Special Operations Command Details Dismal U.S. Military Record

Winning: it’s written into the DNA of the U.S.A.  After all, what’s more American than football legend Vince Lombardi’s famous (if purloined) maxim: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? Americans expect to be number one.  First Lady Michelle Obama recently called the United States the “greatest country on Earth.” (Take that, world public opinion, and your choice of Germany!) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went even further, touting America as “the greatest country that has ever been created.”  Her rival, Donald Trump, who for political gain badmouths the country that made him rich and famous, does so in the hope of returning America to supposedly halcyon days of unparalleled greatness.  He’s predicted that his presidency might lead to an actual winning overload.  “We’re going to win so much,” he told supporters.  “You’re going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President… don’t win so much’… And I’m going to say, ‘No, we have to […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Adventures in an American World of Frustration

Recently, sorting through a pile of old children’s books, I came across a volume, That Makes Me Mad!, which brought back memories. Written by Steve Kroll, a long-dead friend, it focused on the eternally frustrating everyday adventures of Nina, a little girl whose life regularly meets commonplace roadblocks, at which point she always says… well, you can guess from the title!  Vivid parental memories of another age instantly flooded back — of my daughter (now reading such books to her own son) sitting beside me at age five and hitting that repeated line with such mind-blowing, ear-crushing gusto that you knew it spoke to the everyday frustrations of her life, to what made her mad. Three decades later, in an almost unimaginably different America, on picking up that book I suddenly realized that, whenever I follow the news online, on TV, or — and forgive me for this but I’m […]

The Arab of the Future Volume 2 by Riad Sattouf

A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir

An excerpt from The Arab of the Future: Volume 2, the highly anticipated continuation of Riad Sattouf’s internationally acclaimed, #1 French bestseller, which was hailed by The New York Times as “a disquieting yet essential read”

We Meant Well

Apologizing to My Daughter for the Last 15 Years of War

I recently sent my last kid off for her senior year of college. There are rituals to such moments, and because dad-confessions are not among them, I just carried boxes and kept quiet. But what I really wanted to say to her — rather than see you later, call this weekend, do you need money? — was: I’m sorry. Like all parents in these situations, I was thinking about her future. And like all of America, in that future she won’t be able to escape what is now encompassed by the word “terrorism.” Everything Is Okay, But You Should Be Terrified Terrorism is a nearly nonexistent danger for Americans. You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning, but fear doesn’t work that way. There’s no 24/7 coverage of global lightning strikes or “if you see something, say something” signs that encourage you to report thunderstorms. So I felt […]

The Race for What's Left

The Mounting Threat to Climate Progress

In a year of record-setting heat on a blistered globe, with fast-warming oceans, fast-melting ice caps, and fast-rising sea levels, ratification of the December 2015 Paris climate summit agreement — already endorsed by most nations — should be a complete no-brainer.  That it isn’t tells you a great deal about our world.  Global geopolitics and the possible rightward lurch of many countries (including a potential deal-breaking election in the United States that could put a climate denier in the White House) spell bad news for the fate of the Earth. It’s worth exploring how this might come to be. The delegates to that 2015 climate summit were in general accord about the science of climate change and the need to cap global warming at 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius (or 2.6 to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) before a planetary catastrophe ensues.  They disagreed, however, about much else. Some key countries were […]

Kill Anything That Moves

Keeping Track of U.S. Special Ops in Africa

Sometimes the real news is in the details — or even in the discrepancies. Take, for instance, missions by America’s most elite troops in Africa. It was September 2014. The sky was bright and clear and ice blue as the camouflage-clad men walked to the open door and tumbled out into nothing. One moment members of the U.S. 19th Special Forces Group and Moroccan paratroopers were flying high above North Africa in a rumbling C-130 aircraft; the next, they were silhouetted against the cloudless sky, translucent green parachutes filling with air, as they began to drift back to earth. Those soldiers were taking part in a Joint Combined Exchange Training, or JCET mission, conducted under the auspices of Special Operations Command Forward-West Africa out of Camp Ram Ram, Morocco. It was the first time in several years that American and Moroccan troops had engaged in airborne training together, but just […]

War Is Not Over When It's Over by Ann Jones

Making America Pain-Free for Plutocrats and Big Pharma, But Not Vets

A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, “Thank you for your service,” replied: “I didn’t serve, I was used.” That got me thinking about the many ways today’s veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home. Near the end of his invaluable book cataloguing the long, slow disaster of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, historian Andrew Bacevich writes: “Some individuals and institutions actually benefit from an armed conflict that drags on and on. Those benefits are immediate and tangible. They come in the form of profits, jobs, and campaign contributions.  For the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries, perpetual war is not necessarily bad news.” Bacevich is certainly right about war profiteers, but I believe we haven’t yet fully wrapped our minds around what that truly means. This is what […]

America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

An Ode to Ike and Adlai

My earliest recollection of national politics dates back exactly 60 years to the moment, in the summer of 1956, when I watched the political conventions in the company of that wondrous new addition to our family, television.  My parents were supporting President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a second term and that was good enough for me.  Even as a youngster, I sensed that Ike, the former supreme commander of allied forces in Europe in World War II, was someone of real stature.  In a troubled time, he exuded authority and self-confidence.  By comparison, Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson came across as vaguely suspect.  Next to the five-star incumbent, he seemed soft, even foppish, and therefore not up to the job.  So at least it appeared to a nine-year-old living in Chicagoland. Of the seamy underside of politics I knew nothing, of course.  On the surface, all seemed reassuring.  As if by […]

Kill Anything That Moves

When AFRICOM Evaluates Itself, the News Is Grim

It’s rare to hear one top military commander publicly badmouth another, call attention to his faults, or simply point out his shortcomings. Despite a seemingly endless supply of debacles from strategic setbacks to quagmire conflicts since 9/11, the top brass rarely criticize each other or, even in retirement, utter a word about the failings of their predecessors or successors.  Think of it as the camouflage wall of silence.  You may loathe him.  You may badmouth him behind closed doors.  You may have secretly hoped for his career to implode.  But publicly point out failures?  That’s left to those further down the chain of command. And yet that’s effectively exactly what newly installed U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) chief, General Thomas Waldhauser, did earlier this year in a statement to the Senate Arms Services Committee (SASC).  It’s just that no one, almost certainly including Waldhauser himself, seemed to notice or recognize it […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Eternal “Wartime” in America

I recently dug my mother’s childhood photo album out of the depths of my bedroom closet. When I opened it, I found that the glue she had used as a girl to paste her life in place had given way, and on many pages the photos were now in a jumble. My mother was born early in the last century. Today, for most of that ancient collection of photos and memorabilia — drawings (undoubtedly hers), a Caruthers School of Piano program, a Camp Weewan-Eeta brochure, a Hyde Park High School junior prom “senior ticket,” and photos of unknown boys, girls, and adults — there’s no one left to tell me who was who or what was what. In some of them, I can still recognize my mother’s youthful face, and that of her brother who died so long ago but remains quite recognizable (even so many decades before I knew […]