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 […]

The Race for What's Left

The Unyielding Grip of Fossil Fuels on Global Life

Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply.  According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables will double between now and 2040, jumping from 64 to 131 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs). And here’s the bad news: the consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas is also growing, making it likely that, whatever the advances of renewable energy, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global landscape for decades to come, accelerating the pace of global warming and ensuring the intensification of climate-change catastrophes. The rapid growth of renewable energy has given us much to cheer about.  Not so long ago, energy analysts […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Life on an Increasingly Improbable Planet

Vladimir Putin recently manned up and admitted it. The United States remains the planet’s sole superpower, as it has been since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. “America,” the Russian president said, “is a great power. Today, probably, the only superpower. We accept that.” Think of us, in fact, as the default superpower in an ever more recalcitrant world. Seventy-five years ago, at the edge of a global conflagration among rival great powers and empires, Henry Luce first suggested that the next century could be ours.  In February 1941, in his magazine LIFE, he wrote a famous essay entitled “The American Century.”  In it, he proclaimed that if only Americans would think internationally, surge into the world, and accept that they were already at war, the next hundred years would be theirs.  Just over nine months later, the Japanese attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, plunging the country into […]

Captain America

The New York Times featured a profile of Viggo Mortensen who stars in the new movie ‘Captain Fantastic.’ His character Ben Cash “a former college professor raising his six children in a yurt somewhere in the woodsy Pacific Northwest… For transportation, they have an old hippie school bus, and instead of Christmas they celebrate Noam Chomsky Day… It’s hard to imagine a part tapping more deeply into the inner Viggo. Mr. Mortensen is himself not a back-to-the woods survivalist, exactly, but he knows his Chomsky and lives about as far off the grid as a major movie star can and still get work.” In 2008, Viggo Mortensen, narrated the trailer for the graphic novel edition of Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of American Empire’: Watch the trailer for ‘Captain Fantastic’: Learn more about “Gnome” Chomsky’s! (this photo of “Gnome” Chomsky is courtesy of Sara Bershtel, publisher of Metropolitan Books).

Kill Anything That Moves

The Charmed Life of David Petraeus

I ran into David Petraeus the other night. Or rather, I ran after him. It’s been more than a year since I first tried to connect with the retired four-star general and ex-CIA director — and no luck yet. On a recent evening, as the sky was turning from a crisp ice blue into a host of Easter-egg hues, I missed him again. Led from a curtained “backstage” area where he had retreated after a midtown Manhattan event, Petraeus moved briskly to a staff-only room, then into a tightly packed elevator, and momentarily out onto the street before being quickly ushered into a waiting late-model, black Mercedes S550. And then he was gone, whisked into the warm New York night, companions in tow. For the previous hour, Petraeus had been in conversation with Peter Bergen, a journalist, CNN analyst, and vice president at New America, the think tank sponsoring the […]

Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank

The Influence of Influence in Washington

Although it’s difficult to remember those days eight years ago when Democrats seemed to represent something idealistic and hopeful and brave, let’s take a moment and try to recall the stand Barack Obama once took against lobbyists. Those were the days when the nation was learning that George W. Bush’s Washington was, essentially, just a big playground for those lobbyists and that every government operation had been opened to the power of money. Righteous disgust filled the air. “Special interests” were much denounced. And a certain inspiring senator from Illinois promised that, should he be elected president, his administration would contain no lobbyists at all. The revolving door between government and K Street, he assured us, would turn no more. Instead, the nation got a lesson in all the other ways that “special interests” can get what they want — like simple class solidarity between the Ivy Leaguers who advise […]

Thomas Frank is a historian and writer. He is also the man who tried to save the Democratic Party and our Nation from great harm. He is the great chronicler of one of the most grievous, self-inflicted wounds in modern American history. Twelve years ago, in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Frank tried to warn the Democratic Party’s dominant elites’ that their policies and contempt for workers were pushing a large part of its base out of the Party. Many of the workers that were the Democratic Party’s traditional base were leaving the Party and failing to participate in elections, but some were supporting the far-right wing of the Republican Party. At the national level, the New Democrats’ candidates remained highly competitive, but the Republican Party was able to attain complete political domination of most states. This year, Frank renewed his warnings in […]