Tag Archives: tom engelhardt

Step back and see The New American Order

Summary:  This is the second half of Tom Engelhardt’s essay about the New America the 1% erects on the remains of the America-that-once-was. This is the vital fact necessary to understand our situation, the red pill that allows one to see the common factor behind so many of our problems.

Reform is not possible until people realize what’s happening — and care about it. Both are necessary. The second will be much more difficult to achieve. What we do with this information will determine the outcome.  If it’s just entertaining reading for the outer party then Tom’s effort was wasted (the inner party know these things; the proles don’t care).    This is the second half to Step back and see The New American Order.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The New Regime

Second Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

4. Rise of the National Security State as the 4th Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

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The 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old.

Summary: Today’s article by Tom Engelhardt discusses what might be the greatest issue of our age, the fall of the Second American Republic (built on the Constitution) as the 1% builds a new political regime on its ruins. As with Rome’s evolution from Republic to the Empire, the outward forms remain roughly the same while its essence and dynamics change.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Death of the republic

First Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

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How to Create a National Insecurity State.

Summary:  An essential part of leaning as citizens is learning on whom to rely. We don’t do this well, an important part of the FAILure to learn which has imperiled the Republic. Today Tom Engelhard — editor of the invaluable website TomDispatch — shows how since 9/11 a coterie of always-wrong experts have helped build the national security state.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Department of Fear

How to Create a National Insecurity State

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes.  In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again.  If you’re wrong, however… well, take the invasion of Iraq.  Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of course, insurgency.  Meanwhile, at a cost of $25 billion, a whole new military was trained that, years later, summarily collapsed when faced with insurgents led by some of those formerly out-of-work officers.

But the crew who pushed it all on Washington has never stopped yakking (or being listened to).  They’ve been called back at every anniversary of the invasion to offer their wisdom in the New York Times and elsewhere, while those who counseled against such an invasion have been nowhere in sight.  Some of the planners of the invasion and occupation are now advisers to Jeb Bush as he heads into the 2016 election campaign, while the policy wonks who went off to war with the generals (taking regular VIP tours of America’s battle zones) couldn’t be better thought of in Washington today.

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Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility

Summary:  Epistemic closure has infected both Left and Right in America. Examples of this on the Right are legion. Today we look at an example on the Left, and its potentially severe consequences for this already endangered species in America.

The Last Myth

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Contents

  1. Changes in American politics
  2. “Ending the World the Human Way”
  3. Epistemic closure: it’s a bipartisan illness
  4. Cautionary notes about the Left’s strategy
  5. About the author
  6. Important things to remember about global warming
  7. Climate change couture
  8. Comments

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(1)  Changes in American politics: we all fall down

I have seen many changes in American politics during my life.

  • Twenty years as an active Republican, giving money and time.
  • Then Bush’s reactionary economic policies and the mad reaction to 9-11 pushed me to the Left (crossing the hordes moving the other way), joining what they said was the “reality-based community”.
  • Recent years have proven my hope delusional (again).

People I trusted — on whose counsel I relied upon — joined the climate crusade, abandoning the consensus of climate scientists (also spurned by the Right) in favor of doomster prophecies … which bring us to an article by someone I greatly respect, 44 of whose posts are reposted on the FM website, whose website is on the blogroll and at the top of my daily reading list …

The United States Of Fear

Both sides find fear useful

(2)  About the end of the world

Excerpt from “Ending the World the Human Way
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 2 February 2014

{Climate change} could even be considered the story of all stories.  It’s just that climate change and its component parts are unlike every other story from the Syrian slaughter and the problems of Obamacare to Bridgegate and Justin Bieber’s arrest.  The future of all other stories, of the news and storytelling itself, rests on just how climate change manifests itself over the coming decades or even century.  What happens in the 2014 midterms or the 2016 presidential elections, in our wars, politics, and culture, who is celebrated and who ignored — none of it will matter if climate change devastates the planet.

Climate change isn’t the news and it isn’t a set of news stories.  It’s the prospective end of all news.  Think of it as the anti-news.

All the rest is part of the annals of human history: the rise and fall of empires, of movements, of dictatorships and democracies, of just about anything you want to mention.  The most crucial stories, like the most faddish ones, are — every one of them — passing phenomena, which is of course what makes them the news.

Climate change isn’t.  New as that human-caused phenomenon may be — having its origins in the industrial revolution — it’s nonetheless on a different scale from everything else, which is why journalists and environmentalists often have so much trouble figuring out how to write about it in a way that leaves it continually in the news.

… If the carbon emissions from fossil fuels are allowed to continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, the science of what will happen sooner or later is relatively clear, even if its exact timetable remains in question: this world will be destabilized as will humanity (along with countless other species).  We could, at the worst, essentially burn ourselves off Planet Earth.  This would prove a passing event for the planet itself, but not for us, nor for any fragment of humanity that managed to survive in some degraded form, nor for the civilizations we’ve developed over thousands of years. …

Nuclear Dress Rehearsal

Here’s the strange thing: we went through a dress rehearsal for this in the twentieth century when dealing (or not dealing) with nuclear weapons, aka the Bomb — often capitalized in my youth as a sign of how nuclear disaster was felt to be looming over life itself. …

How does Tom know that anthropogenic climate change will pose such a severe threat, a potential apocalypse? He cites as support for this claim only two articles. Nothing from the IPCC or a major climate agency; both are from the New York Times.

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Mission Failure: Afghanistan

Summary: The very first articles articles at DNI, in 2003, expressed skepticism about the Afghanistan War.  By 2009 it was clear that we could achieve nothing useful from the war. But our military exists to feed itself, disconnected from any rational national goals, and only after ten years has the drawdown slowly began. Today Tom Engelhardt begins the long review, necessary if we are to avoid the post-Vietnam amnesia and learn from our expenditure of blood and treasure in that distant land.

A Message Written in Blood That No One Wants to Hear
By Tom Engelhardt
Published at TomDispatch on 31 July 2012. Posted here with his generous permission.

Imagine for a moment that almost once a week for the last six months somebody somewhere in this country had burst, well-armed, into a movie theater showing a superhero film and fired into the audience. That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? James Holmes times 21?  It would dominate the news.  We would certainly be consulting experts, trying to make sense of the pattern, groping for explanations. And what if the same thing had also happened almost once every two weeks in 2011? Imagine the shock, imagine the reaction here.

Well, the equivalent has happened in Afghanistan (minus, of course, the superhero movies).  It even has a name: green-on-blue violence. In 2012 — and twice last week — Afghan soldiers, policemen, or security guards, largely in units being trained or mentored by the U.S. or its NATO allies, have turned their guns on those mentors, the people who are funding, supporting, and teaching them, and pulled the trigger.

It’s already happened at least 21 times in this half-year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths, a 50% jump from 2011, when similar acts occurred at least 21 times with 35 coalition deaths. (The “at least” is there because, in May, the Associated Press reported that, while U.S. and NATO spokespeople were releasing the news of deaths from such acts, green-on-blue incidents that resulted in no fatalities, even if there were wounded, were sometimes not reported at all.)

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America’s Shadow Wars in Africa

Summary:  There’s an institutional drive for growth, just like that in biological entities. Sometimes it become cancerous, inimical to the overall organism. So it is with our mad profitless empire — which makes previous empires (eg, Spain, British) look like works of genius. Here Nick Turse looks at the latest expansion, taking US forces — financed with borrowed money — into Africa. The tyrannical juntas there need our support!

Obama’s Scramble for Africa
Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa
By Nick Turse


Originally published at TomDispatch, 12 July 2012.
Reposted with the author’s generous permission.

Contents

  1. Introduction by Tom Endlehardt
  2. Our main feature by Nick Turse
  3. Reply by Africom, and Turse’s response
  4. About the author
  5. For more information about our empire

(1) Introduction by Tom Englehardt

Here’s an odd question: Is it possible that the U.S. military is present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the Cold War?  It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad).  On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the U.S. had almost no military presence at all.  Now, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire” series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.

Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy.  For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off a bridge in Mali in April.  They died, all three, along with three women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.”  This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents.  Consider this a sample of what Nick Turse calls the U.S. military’s “scramble for Africa” in a seamy, secretive nutshell.

So here’s another question: Who decided in 2007 that a U.S. Africa Command should be set up to begin a process of turning that continent into a web of U.S. bases and other operations?  Who decided that every Islamist rebel group in Africa, no matter how local or locally focused, was a threat to the U.S., calling for a military response?  Certainly not the American people, who know nothing about this, who were never asked if expanding the U.S. global military mission to Africa was something they favored, who never heard the slightest debate, or even a single peep from Washington on the subject.

(2) Our main feature, by Nick Turse

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks.  Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.

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The Great Charter. Its Fate, and Ours.

Summary:  The past decade has seen us stripped of civil liberties dating back to the signing of Magna Carta in 1215, and won through centuries of struggle since then.  As the Founders feared might happen.  Today Noam Chomsky explains how this happened and what it means for us. The next few years might be decisive; America’s future lies in our hands.

The Great Charter, Its Fate, and Ours

By Noam Chomsky. Originally published at TomDispatch. Reposted with their generous permission.

The tomb of Magna Carta

Contents

  1. Introduction by Tom Englehardt
  2. Destroying the Commons. How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta
  3. About the author
  4. For more information

(1)  Introduction by Tom Engelhardt

This week the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and two top special operations forces commanders for “violating the Constitution and international law” in the drone assassination of three American citizens in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman (though no one claims he had anything whatsoever to do with terror campaigns).  The suit is based on the Constitution’s promise of “due process” (“[N]or shall any person… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”), which to the untutored eye of this non-lawyer clearly seems to involve “law.”

Attorney General Eric Holder evidently thinks otherwise and has explained his reasoning when it comes to the right of the Obama administration to order such deaths: “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”  If you’re not inside the National Security Complex, it may be just a tad hard to grasp how “due process” could mean a secret process of review in the White House presided over by a president with a “kill list” (whose legal justification, laid out by the Justice Department, cannot be made public).  And yet that is, as far as we can tell, indeed the claim.

It will be a surprise if this case goes far.  The government is almost certain to bring to bear the usual not-quite-state-secrets-act to squelch it, with its lawyers undoubtedly claiming that any such trial could reveal damaging secrets about our expanding drone wars.  Of course, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and more rarely Somalia are regularly in the news, and have been proudly cited or even boasted about by officials from the president on down, yet they remain somehow “covert” and unmentionable when it suits the administration.  And since just about anything the National Security Complex does evidently now qualifies for classified status, secrecy is increasingly the convenient excuse for just about anything.

In the case of our drone wars, “covert” clearly has little to do with secrecy in any normal sense and a lot to do with lack of accountability to anyone not involved in choosing those to be killed or launching the attacks.  One thing is clear: whatever the ACLU and others do, we now live in a post-legal America, a world in which no act (other than whistleblowing), however illegal, within the national security state can be successfully prosecuted in court.  This has clearly been part of a process by which, since 2001, American liberties have been turned in for “safety.”  Something did change after 9/11 (when “everything” was supposed to have changed) and in a speech at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, reproduced below in full, Noam Chomsky backs up a few centuries to lay out a vivid history of just how this happened.

(2)  Destroying the Commons. How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta
By Noam Chomsky
This is the full text of a speech he gave recently at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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