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The American
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

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

New From The American Empire Project

No Good Men Among the Living
America, the Taliban, and the War
through Afghan Eyes

by
Anand Gopal

Told through the lives of three Afghans, the stunning tale of how the United States had triumph in sight in Afghanistan—and then brought the Taliban back from the dead

Read more about No Good Men Among the Living

The American Empire Project Blog

The Missing Women of Afghanistan
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law

By Ann Jones

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.  Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted.  (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

10/30/2014

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State

By Peter Van Buren

You know the joke? You describe something obviously heading for disaster -- a friend crossing Death Valley with next to no gas in his car -- and then add, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Such is the Middle East today. The U.S. is again at war there, bombing freely across Iraq and Syria, advising here, droning there, coalition-building in the region to loop in a little more firepower from a collection of recalcitrant allies, and searching desperately for some non-American boots to put on the ground.

Here, then, are seven worst-case scenarios in a part of the world where the worst case has regularly been the best that’s on offer. After all, with all that military power being brought to bear on the planet’s most volatile region, what could possibly go wrong?

10/16/2014

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Obama's New Oil Wars
Washington Takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia

By Michael T. Klare

It was heinous. It was underhanded.  It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life.  It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs.  It was "the oil weapon" -- and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it's smart, it's effective, and it's the American way.  The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops.  It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.

10/9/2014

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ISIS in Washington
America's Soundtrack of Hysteria

By Tom Engelhardt

It happened so fast that, at first, I didn't even take it in. 

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were heading into the Phillips Museum in Washington, D.C., to catch a show of neo-Impressionist art 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?"

"No," I replied, "I'm from New York."

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 danger lies in American life.  ISIS, not so much.

10/7/2014

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Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century

By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for... well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of "spycraft" gains its own name: LOVEINT.

9/30/2014

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Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea
In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman

By Nick Turse

[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.]

“The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally,” says Loic Moudouma.  And he should know.  Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the Economic Community of Central African States, and a Gabonese Navy commander, his focus has been piracy and maritime crime in the region for the better part of a decade.  

9/25/2014

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Apocalypse Now, Iraq Edition
Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over

By Peter Van Buren

I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and he presciently declined, saying sardonically, “So you're gonna be the one to write the last book on failure in Iraq?”

9/23/2014

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Ceasefires in Which Violations Never Cease
What’s Next for Israel, Hamas, and Gaza?

By Noam Chomsky

On August 26th, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) both accepted a ceasefire agreement after a 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,100 Palestinians dead and vast landscapes of destruction behind. The agreement calls for an end to military action by both Israel and Hamas, as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.

This is, however, just the most recent of a series of ceasefire agreements reached after each of Israel's periodic escalations of its unremitting assault on Gaza. Throughout this period, the terms of these agreements remain essentially the same.  The regular pattern is for Israel, then, to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it -- as Israel has officially recognized -- until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality. These escalations, which amount to shooting fish in a pond, are called "mowing the lawn" in Israeli parlance. The most recent was more accurately described as "removing the topsoil" by a senior U.S. military officer, appalled by the practices of the self-described "most moral army in the world."

9/9/2014

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Oil Is Back!
A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America

By Michael T. Klare

Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path.  By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy.  As it happens, the opposite is occurring.  U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone -- and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next.

9/4/2014

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How America Made ISIS
Their Videos and Ours, Their “Caliphate” and Ours

By Tom Engelhardt

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now.  After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings 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 Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S.  Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.”  We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.

9/2/2014

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How Many Minutes to Midnight?
Hiroshima Day 2014

By Noam Chomsky

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era).  The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but -- so the evidence suggests -- not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

8/5/2014

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China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?

By Nick Turse

Juba, South Sudan -- Is this country the first hot battlefield in a new cold war?  Is the conflict tearing this new nation apart actually a proxy fight between the world’s two top economic and military powers?  That’s the way South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth tells it.  After "midwifing" South Sudan into existence with billions of dollars in assistance, aid, infrastructure projects, and military support, the U.S. has watched China emerge as the major beneficiary of South Sudan’s oil reserves.  As a result, Makuei claims, the U.S. and other Western powers have backed former vice president Riek Machar and his rebel forces in an effort to overthrow the country’s president, Salva Kiir.  China, for its part, has played a conspicuous double game.  Beijing has lined up behind Kiir, even as it publicly pushes both sides to find a diplomatic solution to a simmering civil war.  It is sending peacekeepers as part of the U.N. mission even as it also arms Kiir’s forces with tens of millions of dollars worth of new weapons.

7/31/2014

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Dead Is Dead
Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment

By Peter Van Buren

You can't get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted -- about one-third of the text is missing -- Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

7/24/2014

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Twenty-First-Century Energy Wars
Global Conflicts Are Increasingly Fueled by the Desire for Oil and Natural Gas -- and the Funds They Generate

By Michael T. Klare

Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Seas: wherever you look, the world is aflame with new or intensifying conflicts.  At first glance, these upheavals appear to be independent events, driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic circumstances.  But look more closely and they share several key characteristics -- notably, a witch’s brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that have beenstirred to the boiling point by a fixation on energy.

7/8/2014

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Whose Security?
How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector

By Noam Chomsky

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. -- and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

7/1/2014

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Who Won Iraq?
Lost Dreams, Lost Armies, Jihadi States, and the Arc of Instability

By Tom Engelhardt

As Iraq was unraveling last week and the possible outlines of the first jihadist state in modern history were coming into view, I remembered this nugget from the summer of 2002.  At the time, journalist Ron Suskind had a meeting with “a senior advisor” to President George W. Bush (later identified as Karl Rove).  Here’s how he described part of their conversation:

6/19/2014

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Don’t Walk Away from War
It’s Not the American Way

By Tom Engelhardt

The United States has been at war -- major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions -- nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began.  That’s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions.

Given the historical record, those conclusions should be staring us in the face.  They are, however, the words that can’t be said in a country committed to a military-first approach to the world, a continual build-up of its forces, an emphasis on pioneering work in the development and deployment of the latest destructive technology, and a repetitious cycling through styles of war from full-scale invasions and occupations to counterinsurgency, proxy wars, and back again.

6/10/2014

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The 95% Doctrine
Climate Change as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

By Tom Engelhardt

Who could forget?  At the time, in the fall of 2002, there was such a drumbeat of “information” from top figures in the Bush administration about the secret Iraqi program to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and so endanger the United States.  And who -- other than a few suckers -- could have doubted that Saddam Hussein was eventually going to get a nuclear weapon?  The only question, as our vice president suggested on “Meet the Press,” was: Would it take one year or five?  And he wasn’t alone in his fears, since there was plenty of proof of what was going on.  For starters, there were those “specially designed aluminum tubes” that the Iraqi autocrat had ordered as components for centrifuges to enrich uranium in his thriving nuclear weapons program.  Reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon hit the front page of the New York Times with that story on September 8, 2002.

5/23/2014

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The U.S. Military’s New Normal in Africa
A Secret African Mission and an African Mission that’s No Secret

By Nick Turse

What is Operation New Normal? 

It’s a question without an answer, a riddle the U.S. military refuses to solve. It’s a secret operation in Africa that no one knows anything about. Except that someone does. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee Magee. He lives and breathes Operation New Normal. But he doesn’t want to breath paint fumes or talk to me, so you can’t know anything about it. 

Confused? Stay with me.

5/15/2014

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The Snowden Saga Begins
“I Have Been to the Darkest Corners of Government, and What They Fear Is Light”

By Glenn Greenwald

[This essay is a shortened and adapted version of Chapter 1 of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State.]

On December 1, 2012, I received my first communication from Edward Snowden, although I had no idea at the time that it was from him.

The contact came in the form of an email from someone calling himself Cincinnatus, a reference to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer who, in the fifth century BC, was appointed dictator of Rome to defend the city against attack. He is most remembered for what he did after vanquishing Rome’s enemies: he immediately and voluntarily gave up political power and returned to farming life. Hailed as a “model of civic virtue,” Cincinnatus has become a symbol of the use of political power in the public interest and the worth of limiting or even relinquishing individual power for the greater good.

5/13/2014

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Washington's Pivot to Ignorance
Will the State Department Torpedo Its Last Great Program?

By Ann Jones

Often it’s the little things coming out of Washington, obscured by the big, scary headlines, that matter most in the long run. Items that scarcely make the news, or fail to attract your attention, or once noticed seem trivial, may carry consequences that endure long after the latest front-page crisis has passed. They may, in fact, signal fundamental changes in Washington’s priorities and policies that could even face opposition, if only we paid attention.

5/1/2014

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This Land Isn’t Your Land, This Land Is Their Land
An Empire in Decline (City by City, Town by Town)

By Peter Van Buren

As America's new economy starts to look more like the old economy of the Great Depression, the divide between rich and poor, those who have made it and those who never will, seems to grow ever starker. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Once upon a time, I worked as a State Department officer, helping to carry out the occupation of Iraq, where Washington’s goal was regime change. It was there that, in a way, I had my first taste of the life of the 1%. Unlike most Iraqis, I had more food and amenities than I could squander, nearly unlimited funds to spend as I wished (as long as the spending supported us one-percenters), and plenty of U.S. Army muscle around to keep the other 99% at bay. However, my subsequent whistleblowing about State Department waste and mismanagement in Iraq ended my 24-year career abroad and, after a two-decade absence, deposited me back in “the homeland.”

5/1/2014

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How the U.S. Created the Afghan War -- and Then Lost It
The Unreported Story of How the Haqqani Network Became America's Greatest Enemy

By Anand Gopal

It was a typical Kabul morning. Malik Ashgar Square was already bumper-to-bumper with Corolla taxis, green police jeeps, honking minivans, and angry motorcyclists. There were boys selling phone cards and men waving wads of cash for exchange, all weaving their way around the vehicles amid exhaust fumes. At the gate of the Lycée Esteqial, one of the country’s most prestigious schools, students were kicking around a soccer ball. At the Ministry of Education, a weathered old Soviet-style building opposite the school, a line of employees spilled out onto the street. I was crossing the square, heading for the ministry, when I saw the suicide attacker.

4/29/2014

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An Apartheid of Dollars
Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy

By Peter van Buren

There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don't know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here's a part of my own story I've not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I'd earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I'd worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.

4/24/2014

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AFRICOM Goes to War on the Sly
U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa

By Nick Turse

What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things -- especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa.  For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts.   At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent.  Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story -- but they weren’t speaking with the media.  They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet.  They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.  

4/14/2014

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Open Systems and Glass Ceilings
The Disappearing Woman and Life on the Internet

By Astra Taylor

The Web is regularly hailed for its “openness” and that’s where the confusion begins, since “open” in no way means “equal.” While the Internet may create space for many voices, it also reflects and often amplifies real-world inequities in striking ways.

An elaborate system organized around hubs and links, the Web has a surprising degree of inequality built into its very architecture. Its traffic, for instance, tends to be distributed according to “power laws,” which follow what’s known as the 80/20 rule -- 80% of a desirable resource goes to 20% of the population.

4/10/2014

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How Many Watch Lists Fit on the Head of a Pin?
Post-Constitutional America, Where Innocence is a Poor Defense

By Peter Van Buren

Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a U.S. student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the U.S. but unbeknownst to her, the FBI sent her name to the no-fly list.

Ibrahim was no threat to anyone, innocent of everything, and ended up on that list only due to a government mistake. Nonetheless, she was not allowed to reenter the U.S. to finish her studies or even attend her trial and speak in her own defense. Her life was derailed by the tangle of national security bureaucracy and pointless “anti-terror” measures that have come to define post-Constitutional America. Here's what happened, and why it may matter to you.

4/7/2014

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Hijacking the American Plane of State
Old Scripts and Empty Stories Signal a New Age

By Tom Engelhardt

Isn’t there something strangely reassuring when your eyeballs are gripped by a “mystery” on the news that has no greater meaning and yet sweeps all else away?  This, of course, is the essence of the ongoing tale of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  Except to the relatives of those on board, it never really mattered what happened in the cockpit that day.  To the extent that the plane’s disappearance was solvable, the mystery could only end in one of two ways: it landed somewhere (somehow unnoticed, a deep unlikelihood) or it crashed somewhere, probably in an ocean.  End of story.  It was, however, a tale with thrilling upsides when it came to filling airtime, especially on cable news.  The fact that there was no there there allowed for the raising of every possible disappearance trope -- from Star Trekkian black holes to the Bermuda Triangle to Muslim terrorists -- and it had the added benefit of instantly evoking a popular TV show.  It was a formula too good to waste, and wasted it wasn’t.

4/3/2014

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Carbon Delirium
The Last Stage of Fossil-Fuel Addiction and Its Hazardous Impact on American Foreign Policy

By Michael Klare

Of all the preposterous, irresponsible headlines that have appeared on the front page of the New York Times in recent years, few have exceeded the inanity of this one from early March: “U.S. Hopes Boom in Natural Gas Can Curb Putin.”  The article by normally reliable reporters Coral Davenport and Steven Erlanger suggested that, by sending our surplus natural gas to Europe and Ukraine in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the United States could help reduce the region’s heavy reliance on Russian gas and thereby stiffen its resistance to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior. 

4/1/2014

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U.S. Military Averaging More Than a Mission a Day in Africa
Documents Reveal Blinding Pace of Ops in 2013, More of the Same for 2014

By Nick Turse

The numbers tell the story: 10 exercises, 55 operations, 481 security cooperation activities.

For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are small scale. Its public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on that continent, including a remarkably modest presence when it comes to military personnel.  They have, however, balked at specifying just what that light footprint actually consists of.  During an interview, for instance, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman once expressed worry that tabulating the command’s deployments would offer a “skewed image” of U.S. efforts there.

3/27/2014

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Silencing Whistleblowers Obama-Style
Supreme Court Edition?

By Peter Van Buren

The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.

3/4/2014

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The Bleached Bones of the Dead
What the Modern World Owes Slavery (It’s More Than Back Wages)

By Greg Grandin

Many in the United States were outraged by the remarks of conservative evangelical preacher Pat Robertson, who blamed Haiti’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake on Haitians for selling their souls to Satan. Bodies were still being pulled from the rubble -- as many as 300,000 died -- when Robertson went on TV and gave his viewing audience a little history lesson: the Haitians had been "under the heel of the French" but they "got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.'"

2/24/2014

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Documenting Darkness
How a Thug State Operates

By Tom Engelhardt

Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many secret files National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he headed for Hong Kong last June. Brace yourself: 1.7 million. At least they claim that as the number he or his web crawler accessed before he left town. Let’s assume for a moment that it’s accurate and add a caveat. Whatever he had with him on those thumb drives when he left the agency, Edward Snowden did not take all the NSA’s classified documents. Not by a long shot. He only downloaded a portion of them. We don’t have any idea what percentage, but assumedly millions of NSA secret documents did not get the Snowden treatment.

2/20/2014

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Misremembering America’s Wars, 2003-2053
The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment

By Nick Turse

It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online.  At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States.  Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay.  And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you.  Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record, and Amazooglebook search history.  (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals.  (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.)  So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline. 

2/18/2014

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The Two Faces of Empire
Melville Knew Them, We Still Live With Them

By Greg Grandin

A captain ready to drive himself and all around him to ruin in the hunt for a white whale. It's a well-known story, and over the years, mad Ahab in Herman Melville's most famous novel, Moby-Dick, has been used as an exemplar of unhinged American power, most recently of George W. Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq.

But what's really frightening isn't our Ahabs, the hawks who periodically want to bomb some poor country, be it Vietnam or Afghanistan, back to the Stone Age.  The respectable types are the true "terror of our age," as Noam Chomsky called them collectively nearly 50 years ago.  The really scary characters are our soberest politicians, scholars, journalists, professionals, and managers, men and women (though mostly men) who imagine themselves as morally serious, and then enable the wars, devastate the planet, and rationalize the atrocities.  They are a type that has been with us for a long time.  More than a century and a half ago, Melville, who had a captain for every face of empire, found their perfect expression -- for his moment and ours.

1/26/2014

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The Special Ops Surge
America's Secret War in 134 Countries

By Nick Turse

They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America.  They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa.  They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific.  They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia.  All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed -- until now.

1/16/2014

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You Can't Opt Out
10 NSA Myths Debunked

By Peter Van Buren

The debate Edward Snowden envisioned when he revealed the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans has taken a bad turn. Instead of a careful examination of what the NSA does, the legality of its actions, what risks it takes for what gains, and how effective the agency has been in its stated mission of protecting Americans, we increasingly have government officials or retired versions of the same demanding -- quite literally -- Snowden’s head and engaging in the usual fear-mongering over 9/11. They have been aided by a chorus of pundits, columnists, and present as well as former officials offering bumper-sticker slogans like "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," all the while claiming our freedom is in direct conflict with our security.

1/13/2014

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Peak Oil Is Dead
Long Live Peak Oil!

By Michael T. Klare

Among the big energy stories of 2013, “peak oil” -- the once-popular notion that worldwide oil production would soon reach a maximum level and begin an irreversible decline -- was thoroughly discredited.  The explosive development of shale oil and other unconventional fuels in the United States helped put it in its grave.

1/9/2014

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America’s Black-Ops Blackout
Unraveling the Secrets of the Military’s Secret Military

By Nick Turse

“Dude, I don’t need to play these stupid games. I know what you’re trying to do.”  With that, Major Matthew Robert Bockholt hung up on me.

More than a month before, I had called U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with a series of basic questions: In how many countries were U.S. Special Operations Forces deployed in 2013? Are manpower levels set to expand to 72,000 in 2014?  Is SOCOM still aiming for growth rates of 3%-5% per year?  How many training exercises did the command carry out in 2013?  Basic stuff.

1/7/2014

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The Great American Class War
Plutocracy Versus Democracy

By Bill Moyers

I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document.  By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and -- in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular -- the defense of a free press.

12/12/2013

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Welcome to the Memory Hole
Disappearing Edward Snowden

By Peter Van Buren

What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, I’m not suggesting some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind.

What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released, every interview he gave, every documented trace of a national security state careening out of control could be made to disappear in real-time? What if the very posting of such revelations could be turned into a fruitless, record-less endeavor?

12/3/2013

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Scared to Death
My Safety ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Security

By Tom Engelhardt

From the time I was little, I went to the movies.  They were my escape, with one exception from which I invariably had to escape.  I couldn’t sit through any movie where something or someone threatened to jump out at me with the intent to harm.  In such situations, I was incapable of enjoying being scared and there seemed to be no remedy for it.  When Jaws came out in 1975, I decided that, at age 31, having avoided such movies for years, I was old enough to take it.  One tag line in ads for that film was: “Don’t go in the water.”  Of the millions who watched Jaws and outlasted the voracious great white shark until the lights came back on, I was that rarity: I didn’t. I really couldn’t go back in the ocean -- not for several years.

11/25/2013

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Surviving Climate Change
Is a Green Energy Revolution on the Global Agenda?

By Michael T. Klare

A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware!  Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels.  If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on “unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble.  In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

11/18/2013

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A Trail of Tears
In a World Without Privacy, There Are No Exemptions for Our Spies

By Ann Jones

In 2010, I began to follow U.S. soldiers down a long trail of waste and sorrow that led from the battle spaces of Afghanistan to the emergency room of the trauma hospital at Bagram Air Base, where their catastrophic wounds were surgically treated and their condition stabilized.  Then I accompanied some of them by cargo plane to Ramstein Air Base in Germany for more surgeries at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, or LRMC (pronounced Larm-See), the largest American hospital outside the United States.

11/14/2013

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Mistaking Omniscience for Omnipotence
In a World Without Privacy, There Are No Exemptions for Our Spies

By Tom Engelhardt

Given how similar they sound and how easy it is to imagine one leading to the other, confusing omniscience (having total knowledge) with omnipotence (having total power) is easy enough.  It’s a reasonable supposition that, before the Snowden revelations hit, America’s spymasters had made just that mistake.  If the drip-drip-drip of Snowden’s mother of all leaks -- which began in May and clearly won’t stop for months to come -- has taught us anything, however, it should be this: omniscience is not omnipotence.  At least on the global political scene today, they may bear remarkably little relation to each other.  In fact, at the moment Washington seems to be operating in a world in which the more you know about the secret lives of others, the less powerful you turn out to be.

11/12/2013

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Veterans Day, 95 Years On
The Enduring Folly of the Battle of the Somme

By Adam Hochschild
Illustrations by Joe Sacco

In a country that uses every possible occasion to celebrate its “warriors,” many have forgotten that today’s holiday originally marked a peace agreement. Veterans Day in the United States originally was called Armistice Day and commemorated the ceasefire which, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, ended the First World War.

11/11/2013

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They Didn’t Know What They Were Getting Into
The Cost of War American-Style

By Ann Jones

The last time I saw American soldiers in Afghanistan, they were silent. Knocked out by gunfire and explosions that left them grievously injured, as well as drugs administered by medics in the field, they were carried from medevac helicopters into a base hospital to be plugged into machines that would measure how much life they had left to save. They were bloody.  They were missing pieces of themselves. They were quiet.

11/7/2013

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A Field Guide to Losing Friends, Influencing No One, and Alienating the Middle East
Obama’s Washington Is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Region

By Bob Dreyfuss

Put in context, the simultaneous raids in Libya and Somalia last month, targeting an alleged al-Qaeda fugitive and an alleged kingpin of the al-Shabab Islamist movement, were less a sign of America’s awesome might than two minor exceptions that proved an emerging rule: namely, that the power, prestige, and influence of the United States in the broader Middle East and its ability to shape events there is in a death spiral.

11/5/2013

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Ramblin' Man
John Kerry is a Figure of His Times (and That's Not a Good Thing)

By Peter Van Buren

In the 1960s, John Kerry was distinctly a man of his times. Kennedy-esque, he went from Yale to Vietnam to fight in a lost war. When popular sentiments on that war shifted, he became one of the more poignant voices raised in protest by antiwar veterans. Now, skip past his time as a congressman, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, senator, and presidential candidate (Swift Boated out of the race by the Republican right). Four decades after his Vietnam experience, he has achieved what will undoubtedly be the highest post of his lifetime: secretary of state. And he’s looked like a bumbler first class.  Has he also been -- once again -- a true man of his time, of a moment in which American foreign policy, as well as its claim to global moral and diplomatic leadership, is in remarkable disarray?

11/4/2013

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X-Ray of a Flagging Presidency
Will Obama Block the Keystone Pipeline or Just Keep Bending?

By Bill McKibben

As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has worn on -- and it’s now well over two years old -- it’s illuminated the Obama presidency like no other issue. It offers the president not just a choice of policies, but a choice of friends, worldviews, styles. It’s become an X-ray for a flagging presidency. The stakes are sky-high, and not just for Obama. I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh, amid 7,000 enthusiastic and committed young people gathering to fight global warming, and my guess is that his choice will do much to determine how they see politics in this country.

10/28/2013

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Always and Everywhere
The New York Times and the Enduring “Threat” of Isolationism

By Andrew J. Bacevich

The abiding defect of U.S. foreign policy? It’s isolationism, my friend. Purporting to steer clear of war, isolationism fosters it. Isolationism impedes the spread of democracy. It inhibits trade and therefore prosperity. It allows evildoers to get away with murder. Isolationists prevent the United States from accomplishing its providentially assigned global mission. Wean the American people from their persistent inclination to look inward and who knows what wonders our leaders will accomplish.

10/24/2013

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Fossil Fuel Euphoria
Hallelujah, Oil and Gas Forever!

By Michael T. Klare

For years, energy analysts had been anticipating an imminent decline in global oil supplies.  Suddenly, they’re singing a new song: Fossil fuels growing scarce?  Don’t even think about it!  The news couldn’t be better: fossil fuels will become ever more abundant.  And all that talk about climate change?  Don’t worry about it, they chant.  Go out and enjoy the benefits of cheap and plentiful energy forever.

10/15/2013

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The Forgotten War
12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole

By Ann Jones

Will the U.S. still be meddling in Afghanistan 30 years from now?  If history is any guide, the answer is yes.  And if history is any guide, three decades from now most Americans will have only the haziest idea why.

Since the 1950s, the U.S. has been trying to mold that remote land to its own desires, first through an aid “war” in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union; then, starting as the 1970s ended, an increasingly bitter and brutally hot proxy war with the Soviets meant to pay them back for supporting America’s enemies during the war in Vietnam.  One bad war leads to another.

10/1/2013

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Bragging Rights
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century

By Tom Engelhardt

But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

-- Barack Obama, address to the nation on Syria, September 10, 2013

Let’s be Americans, which means being exceptional, which also means being honest in ways inconceivable to the rest of humanity.  So here’s the truth of it: the American exceptionalism sweepstakes really do matter. Here. A lot.

9/26/2013

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Letter to an Unknown Whistleblower
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You

By Tom Engelhardt

Dear Whistleblower,

I don’t know who you are or what you do or how old you may be. I just know that you exist somewhere in our future as surely as does tomorrow or next year. You may be young and computer-savvy or a career federal employee well along in years. You might be someone who entered government service filled with idealism or who signed on to “the bureaucracy” just to make a living. You may be a libertarian, a closet left-winger, or as mainstream and down-the-center as it’s possible to be. 

9/17/2013

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Giving New Meaning to the Day After 9/11
Why Saying No to Syria Matters (and it's not about Syria)

By Peter Van Buren

Once again, we find ourselves at the day after 9/11, and this time America stands alone. Alone not only in our abandonment even by our closest ally, Great Britain, but in facing a crossroads no less significant than the one we woke up to on September 12, 2001. The past 12 years have not been good ones.  Our leaders consistently let the missiles and bombs fly, resorting to military force and legal abominations in what passed for a foreign policy, and then acted surprised as they looked up at the sky from an ever-deeper hole.

9/12/2013

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The Hill to the Rescue on Syria?
Don't Hold Your Breath

By Andrew J. Bacevich

Sometimes history happens at the moment when no one is looking.  On weekends in late August, the president of the United States ought to be playing golf or loafing at Camp David, not making headlines.  Yet Barack Obama chose Labor Day weekend to unveil arguably the most consequential foreign policy shift of his presidency.  

In an announcement that surprised virtually everyone, the president told his countrymen and the world that he was putting on hold the much anticipated U.S. attack against Syria.  Obama hadn't, he assured us, changed his mind about the need and justification for punishing the Syrian government for its probable use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.  In fact, only days before administration officials had been claiming that, if necessary, the U.S. would "go it alone" in punishing Bashar al-Assad's regime for its bad behavior.  Now, however, Obama announced that, as the chief executive of "the world's oldest constitutional democracy," he had decided to seek Congressional authorization before proceeding.

9/8/2013

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The Pivot to Africa
The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent

By Nick Turse

They're involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands.  And that's just the ABCs of the situation.  Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.  From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work.  Base construction, security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network, all undeniable evidence of expansion -- except at U.S. Africa Command.

9/5/2013

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And Then There Was One
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower

By Tom Engelhardt

In an increasingly phantasmagorical world, here's my present fantasy of choice: someone from General Keith Alexander's outfit, the National Security Agency, tracks down H.G. Wells's time machine in the attic of an old house in London.  Britain's subservient Government Communications Headquarters, its version of the NSA, is paid off and the contraption is flown to Fort Meade, Maryland, where it's put back in working order.  Alexander then revs it up and heads not into the future like Wells to see how our world ends, but into the past to offer a warning to Americans about what's to come.

9/3/2013

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Movements Without Leaders
What to Make of Change on an Overheating Planet

By Bill McKibben

The history we grow up with shapes our sense of reality -- it’s hard to shake. If you were young during the fight against Nazism, war seems a different, more virtuous animal than if you came of age during Vietnam.  I was born in 1960, and so the first great political character of my life was Martin Luther King, Jr. I had a shadowy, child’s sense of him when he was still alive, and then a mythic one as his legend grew; after all, he had a national holiday. As a result, I think, I imagined that he set the template for how great movements worked. They had a leader, capital L.

8/19/2013

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