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Dilip Hiro: The Mystery of Washington’s Waning Global Power

6:43 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

The pentagon rendered to look like a toy.

Washington’s power is waning.

Among the curious spectacles of our moment, the strangeness of the Obama presidency hasn’t gotten its full due. After decades in which “the imperial presidency” was increasingly in the spotlight, after two terms of George W. Bush in which a literal cult of executive power – or to use the term of that moment, “the unitary executive” — took hold in the White House, and without any obvious diminution in the literal powers of the presidency, Barack Obama has managed to look like a bystander at his own funeral.

If I had to summarize these years, I would say that he entered the phone booth dressed as Superman and came out as Clark Kent. Today, TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro, author most recently of the invaluable A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East, points out that, as far as Obama’s foreign (and war) policy, it’s almost as if, when the American president speaks, no one in the Greater Middle East — not even our closest allies or client states — is listening. And true as it may be for that region, it seems, bizarrely enough, no less true in Washington where the president’s recent attempts to intervene in the Syrian civil war were rejected both by Congress (though without a final vote on the subject) and by the American people via opinion polls.

It should be puzzling just how little power the present executive is actually capable of wielding. He can go to the U.N. or Kansas City and make speeches (that themselves often enough implicitly cast him as a kind of interested observer of his own presidency), but nothing much that he says in Washington seems any longer to be seriously attended to. In the foreign policy arena, he is surrounded by a secretary of defense who ducks for cover, a secretary of state who wanders the world blowing off steam, and a national security advisor and U.N. ambassador who seem like blundering neophytes and whose basic ideological stance (in favor of American — aka “humanitarian” — interventions globally) has been rejected in this country by almost any constituency imaginable. Unlike previous presidents, he evidently has no one — no Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, or even Henry Kissinger — capable of working the corridors of power skillfully or bringing a policy home.

Domestically, who ever heard of a presidency already into its second term that, according to just about all observers, has only one significant achievement — Obamacare (whatever you think of it) — and clearly hasn’t a hope in hell of getting a second one? Just as he’s done in Syria, Obama will now be watching relatively helplessly as Republicans in Congress threaten to shut the government down and not raise the debt ceiling — and whatever happens, who expects him to be the key player in that onrushing spectacle? America’s waning power in the Greater Middle East is more than matched by Obama’s waned power in this country. In our lifetime, we’ve never seen a president — not even the impeached Clinton — so drained of power or influence. It’s a puzzle wrapped in an enigma swaddled by a pretzel. Go figure. Tom

A World in Which No One Is Listening to the Planet’s Sole Superpower

The Greater Middle East’s Greatest Rebuff to Uncle Sam

By Dilip Hiro

What if the sole superpower on the planet makes its will known — repeatedly — and finds that no one is listening? Barely a decade ago, that would have seemed like a conundrum from some fantasy Earth in an alternate dimension. Now, it is increasingly a plain description of political life on our globe, especially in the Greater Middle East.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, The American Exceptionalism Sweepstakes

6:18 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I’m proud to say that Andrew Bacevich’s new book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, hits the New York Times bestseller list this Sunday (#16)! It couldn’t be more deserved. The offer we made recently -- a signed, personalized copy of the book in return for a $100 (or more) donation to this site -- is still open. Check out our donation page for the details. Tom]

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.

Barack Obama is only the latest in a jostling crowd of presidential candidates, presidential wannabes, major politicians, and minor figures of every sort, not to speak of a raging horde of neocons and pundits galore, who have felt compelled in recent years to tell us and the world just how exceptional the last superpower really is.  They tend to emphasize our ability to use this country’s overwhelming power, especially the military variety, for the global good — to save children and other deserving innocents.  This particularly American aptitude for doing good forcibly, by killing others, is considered an incontestable fact of earthly life needing no proof.  It is well known, especially among our leading politicians, that Washington has the ability to wield its military strength in ways that are unimaginably superior to any other power on the planet.

The well-deserved bragging rights to American exceptionalism are no small matter in this country.  It should hardly be surprising, then, how visceral is the distaste when any foreigner — say, Russian President Vladimir Putin — decides to appropriate the term and use it to criticize us.  How visceral?  Well, the sort of visceral that, as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez put it recently, leaves us barely repressing the urge to “vomit.”

Now, it’s not that we can’t take a little self-criticism.  If you imagine an over-muscled, over-armed guy walking into a room and promptly telling you and anyone else in earshot how exceptionally good he is when it comes to targeting his weapons, and you notice a certain threatening quality about him, and maybe a hectoring, lecturing tone in his voice, it’s just possible that you might be intimidated or irritated by him.  You might think: narcissist, braggart, or blowhard.  If you were the president of Russia, you might say, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

Yes, if you’re a foreigner, this country is easy enough to misunderstand, make fun of, or belittle.  Still, that didn’t stop the president from proudly bringing up our exceptionalism two weeks ago in his address on the Syrian crisis.  In that speech, he plugged the need for a U.S. military response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military.  He recommended launching a “limited strike,” assumedly Tomahawk missiles heading Damascus-wards, to save Syria’s children, and he made sure the world knew that such an attack would be no passing thing.  (“Let me make something clear: the United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”)

Then, in mid-speech, in a fashion that was nothing short of exceptional (if you were considering the internal logic of the address), he suddenly cast that option aside for another approach entirely. But just because of that, don’t let first impressions or foreign criticism blind you to the power of the president’s imagery.  In this century, as he suggested then and in an address to the U.N. two weeks later, American exceptionalism has always had to do with Washington’s ability to use its power for the greater planetary good.  Since, in the last decade-plus, power and military power have come to be essentially synonymous in Washington, the pure goodness of firing missiles or dropping bombs has been deified.

On that basis, it’s indisputable that the bragging rights to American exceptionalism are Washington’s. For those who need proof, what follows are just eight ways (among so many more) that you can proudly make the case for our exceptional status, should you happen to stumble across, say, President Putin, still blathering on about how unexceptional we are.

1. What other country could have invaded Iraq, hardly knowing the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, and still managed to successfully set off a brutal sectarian civil war and ethnic cleansing campaigns between the two sects that would subsequently go regional, whose casualty counts have tipped into the hundreds of thousands, and which is now bouncing back on Iraq?  What other great power would have launched its invasion with plans to garrison that country for decades and with the larger goal of subduing neighboring Iran (“Everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran”), only to slink away eight years later leaving behind a Shiite government in Baghdad that was a firm ally of Iran?  And in what other country, could leaders, viewing these events, and knowing our part in them, have been so imbued with goodness as to draw further “red lines” and contemplate sending in the missiles and bombers again, this time on Syria and possibly Iran?  Who in the world would dare claim that this isn’t an unmatchable record?

2.  What other country could magnanimously spend $4-6 trillion on two good wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against lightly armed minority insurgencies without winning or accomplishing a thing?  And that’s not even counting the funds sunk into the Global War on Terror and sideshows in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, or the staggering sums that, since 9/11, have been poured directly into the national security state.  How many countries, possessing “the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” could have engaged in endless armed conflicts and interventions from the 1960s on and, except in unresisting Panama and tiny Grenada, never managed to definitively win anything?

3.  And talking about exceptional records, what other military could have brought an estimated 3.1 million pieces of equipment — ranging from tanks and Humvees to porta-potties, coffee makers, and computers — with it into Iraq, and then transported most of them out again (while destroying the rest or turning them over to the Iraqis)?  Similarly, in an Afghanistan where the U.S. military is now drawing down its forces and has already destroyed “more than 170 million pounds worth of vehicles and other military equipment,” what other force would have decided ahead of time to shred, dismantle, or simply discard $7 billion worth of equipment (about 20% of what it had brought into the country)?  The general in charge proudly calls this “the largest retrograde mission in history.” To put that in context: What other military would be capable of carrying a total consumer society right down to PXs, massage parlors, boardwalks, Internet cafes, and food courts to war?  Let’s give credit where it’s due: we’re not just talking retrograde here, we’re talking exceptionally retrograde!

4. What other military could, in a bare few years in Iraq, have built a staggering 505 bases, ranging from combat outposts to ones the size of small American towns with their own electricity generators, water purifiers, fire departments, fast-food restaurants, and even miniature golf courses at a cost of unknown billions of dollars and then, only a few years later, abandoned all of them, dismantling some, turning others over to the Iraqi military or into ghost towns, and leaving yet others to be looted and stripped?  And what other military, in the same time period thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, could have built more than 450 bases, sometimes even hauling in the building materials, and now be dismantling them in the same fashion?  If those aren’t exceptional feats, what are?

5. In a world where it’s hard to get anyone to agree on anything, the covert campaign of drone strikes that George W. Bush launched and Barack Obama escalated in Pakistan’s tribal areas stands out.  Those hundreds of strikes not only caused significant numbers of civilian casualties (including children), while helping to destabilize a sometime ally, but almost miraculously created public opinion unanimity.  Opinion polls there indicate that a Ripley’s-Believe-It-or-Not-style 97% of Pakistanis consider such strikes “a bad thing.”  Is there another country on the planet capable of mobilizing such loathing?  Stand proud, America!

6. And what other power could have secretly and illegally kidnapped at least 136 suspected terrorists — some, in fact, innocent of any such acts or associations — off the streets of global cities as well as from the backlands of the planet?  What other nation could have mustered a coalition-of-the-willing of 54 countries to lend a hand in its “rendition” operations?  We’re talking about more than a quarter of the nations on Planet Earth!  And that isn’t all.  Oh, no, that isn’t all.  Can you imagine another country capable of setting up a genuinely global network of “black sites” and borrowed prisons (with local torturers on hand), places to stash and abuse those kidnappees (and other prisoners) in locations ranging from Poland to Thailand, Romania to Afghanistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan to U.S. Navy ships on the high seas, not to speak of that jewel in the crown of offshore prisons, Guantanamo?  Such illegality on such a global scale simply can’t be matched!  And don’t even get me started on torture.  (It’s fine for us to take pride in our exceptionalist tradition, but you don’t want to pour it on, do you?)

7. Or how about the way the State Department, to the tune of $750 million, constructed in Baghdad the largest, most expensive embassy compound on the planet — a 104-acre, Vatican-sized citadel with 27 blast-resistant buildings, an indoor pool, basketball courts, and a fire station, which was to operate as a command-and-control center for our ongoing garrisoning of the country and the region?  Now, the garrisons are gone, and the embassy, its staff cut, is a global white elephant.  But what an exceptional elephant!  Think of it as a modern American pyramid, a tomb in which lie buried the dreams of establishing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.  Honestly, what other country could hope to match that sort of memorial thousands of miles from home?

8. Or what about this?  Between 2002 and 2011, the U.S. poured at least $51 billion into building up a vast Afghan military.  Another $11 billion was dedicated to the task in 2012, with almost $6 billion more planned for 2013.  Washington has also sent in a legion of trainers tasked with turning that force into an American-style fighting outfit.  At the time Washington began building it up, the Afghan army was reportedly a heavily illiterate, drug-taking, corrupt, and ineffective force that lost one-third to one-half of its personnel to casualties, non-reenlistment, and desertion in any year.  In 2012, the latest date for which we have figures, the Afghan security forces were still a heavily illiterate, drug-taking, corrupt, and inefficient outfit that was losing about one-third of its personnel annually (a figure that may even be on the rise).  The U.S. and its NATO allies are committed to spending $4.1 billion annually on the same project after the withdrawal of their combat forces in 2014.  Tell me that isn’t exceptional!

No one, of course, loves a braggart; so, easy as it might be to multiply these eight examples by others, the winner of the American exceptionalism sweepstakes is already obvious.  In other words, this is a moment for exceptional modesty, which means that only one caveat needs to be added to the above record.

I’m talking about actual property rights to “American exceptionalism.”  It’s a phrase often credited to a friendly nineteenth century foreigner, the French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville.  As it happens, however, the man who seems to have first used the full phrase was Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.  In 1929, when the U.S. was showing few signs of a proletarian uprising or fulfilling Karl Marx’s predictions and American Communists were claiming that the country had unique characteristics that left it unready for revolution, Stalin began denouncing “the heresy of American exceptionalism.”  Outside the U.S. Communist Party, the phrase only gained popular traction here in the Reagan years.  Now, it has become as American as sea salt potato chips.  If, for instance, the phrase had never before been used in a presidential debate, in 2012 the candidates couldn’t stop wielding it.

Still, history does give Vladimir Putin a claim to use of the phrase, however stomach-turning that may be for various members of Congress.  But maybe, in its own way, its origins only attest to… well, American exceptionalism.  Somehow, through pureness of motive and the shining radiance of the way we exercise power, Washington’s politicians have taken words wielded negatively by one of the great monsters of history and made them the signature phrase of American greatness.  How exceptional!

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (recently published in a Kindle edition), runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, What If Congress Says No on Syria?

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Cover of We Meant Well

Whistleblower Peter Van Buren brings his Iraq experience to the Syrian conflict.

Looked at one way at least, the president’s Syrian war proposal — itself an ever shifting target – couldn’t be more brain-dead. The idea that one country, on its own, has the right to missile and bomb another to resolve the question of a chemical attack and war crime should, on the face of it, seem strange to us, like the most random death-dealing response to an already horrific act. Certainly, if done, it would have an effect; it’s just that no one has any idea what that would be, though as with so many military-first acts of the U.S. government in recent years, it already has “This Can’t Turn Out Well” scrawled all over it.

If you believe in the cycles of history, the Obama administration’s Syrian policy should seem eerily cyclic. Last Sunday, after all, Secretary of State John Kerry proudly announced that the Saudis were “backing” an American strike plan (and might even be willing to pay for it). Shouldn’t this have fired some residual brain cells in Washington and produced a bit of a memory buzz? After all, in some twisted way, the present plan developed at the Pentagon, the White House, and an ever more militarized State Department brings us full circle to the moment in the early 1980s when this all began.

In the Syrian nightmare, we see an old alliance being reconstituted. Back then, the Reagan administration (spearheaded by the CIA) and the Saudis, as well as the Pakistanis, supported with money, training, and weaponry the most extreme and fundamentalist of the Afghan mujahedeen in their struggle against the Soviet Union. They were then called “freedom fighters” by the president. Their job, as Washington saw it, was to give the Soviets a bloody nose in their own special Vietnam (and so indeed they did). We know, of course, just where that propitious plan ended.

Now, the Saudis are, it seems, doing the same thing in Syria, once more funding and arming extreme fundamentalist forces and, however reluctantly, the U.S. is backing and being backed by them. As a result, if the Obama administration, with or without congressional agreement, were to launch an attack on Syria, it would functionally be fighting on the same side as, and advancing the fortunes of, al-Qaeda-cloned forces. It’s not exactly an ad man’s — more a Mad Men’s — dream and, if you think about it for a moment, can you doubt that the whole crazed project has “This Can’t Turn Out Well” scrawled all over it?

In the tragicomedy that is now American policy, it may be the president’s good fortune that a seemingly inadvertent comment by his secretary of state (who seems to be a paid staff member of The Daily Show) about how the Assad government could save itself by handing over its chemical weaponry within a week may provide him with an exit ramp. A funny thing happened on the labyrinthine road to Damascus: the Syrians quickly assented and Russian president Putin (clearly playing a smart hand and evidently having the time of his life) offered to help out.

It seems the American people are pitching in as well. Unlike the Obama administration and its congressional backers, opinion polls clearly show that, decades later, as another grim 9/11 of endless war planning passes, Americans have gotten the message. They don’t want to see Washington loose the missiles and drop the bombs. As TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren, the former State Department whistleblower and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, notes, the question is whether, at this late date, Congress is finally capable of responding as well — or whether it will even have the chance. Tom

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.

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Eduardo Galeano, Robots, Drugs, and Collateral Damage

7:25 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Eduardo Aleano’s Children of the Days

It could be any week on that great U.S. military base we know as Planet Earth and here’s the remarkable thing: there’s always news.  Something’s always happening somewhere, usually on more than one continent, as befits the largest, most destructive, most technologically advanced (and in many ways least successful) military on the planet.  In our time, the U.S. military has been sent into numerous wars, failed to win a single one, and created plenty of blowback.  But hey, who has to win a specific war when it’s “wartime” all the time?

These last weeks were the American military equivalent of a no-news period.  Nothing really happened.  I mean, yes, there was the war in Afghanistan, the usual round of night raids, dead civilians, and insider attacks.  Nothing worth spending much time on, other than whether the U.S. might, in frustration over Afghan President Hamid Karzai, exercise the “zero option” after 2014 and leave – or not.  And yes, there was that drone attack last week in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan that killed three “militants” (or so we’re told), despite the complaints of the country’s new government.  (I mean, what say should it have in the matter?)

And there was the news that Washington was seeking an “expanded role” for its military in the Philippines, where the question of the month was: Could the Pentagon “position military equipment and rotate more personnel” there, “while avoiding the contentious issue of reestablishing American bases in the country” — so said “officials from both countries,” according to the New York Times.  After all, if we call the places where our troops are stationed “Philippine bases,” what’s the problem? And, believe me, no one wants to hear a lot of whining about it from a bunch of Filipinos either!

And don’t forget about those American drones now flying over Mali from a base recently established in Niger, part of a blowback-generating set of Pentagon operations on the African continent.  They got a little attention last week.  And one more thing, conveniently on the same continent: since Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey put in calls to their Egyptian counterparts as they were launching a military coup in an ongoing pre-revolutionary situation, the Pentagon has, it seems, never been less than in touch with its Egyptian military pals, a crew significantly trained, advised, and paid for by Washington.

And that’s just what made it into the news in the most humdrum military week of 2013.  Today, Eduardo Galeano, one of the great global writers, takes us from 1916 to late tomorrow night via eight little excerpts from his new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human Historyreminding us of what some really newsworthy moments were like.  Think of it as a kind of highlight reel from almost a century of the American way of war. Tom

Iraq Invades the United States 
And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World 
By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books).] 

The Day Mexico Invaded the United States
(March 9)

On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.

This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.

In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.

Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.

The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.

God’s Bomb
(August 6)

In 1945, while this day was dawning, Hiroshima lost its life. The atomic bomb’s first appearance incinerated this city and its people in an instant.

The few survivors, mutilated sleepwalkers, wandered among the smoking ruins. The burns on their naked bodies carried the stamp of the clothing they were wearing when the explosion hit. On what remained of the walls, the atom bomb’s flash left silhouettes of what had been: a woman with her arms raised, a man, a tethered horse.

Three days later, President Harry Truman spoke about the bomb over the radio.

He said: “We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

Manufacturing Mistakes
(April 20)

It was among the largest military expeditions ever launched in the history of the Caribbean. And it was the greatest blunder.

The dispossessed and evicted owners of Cuba declared from Miami that they were ready to die fighting for devolution, against revolution.

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Bill McKibben: Time Is Not on Our Side

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Sandy from Space

NASA image of Hurricane Sandy from space

When it came to climate change in 2012, the operative word was “hot” (with “record” a close second).  The continental U.S. broiled.  Drought struck with a passion and, as the year ended, showed no sign of going away any time soon.  Water levels on the Mississippi River fell so perilously low as to threaten traffic and business on one of the nation’s busier arteries.  Meanwhile, it’s estimated that record greenhouse gas emissions were pumped into the atmosphere.  And just in case you were thinking of putting those words “hot” and “record” away for a while, the first predictions for 2013 suggest that, drearily enough, they are once again likely to be much in use.  None of us should really be surprised by any of this, since the ill effects of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have for years been outrunning the predictions of sober climate scientists.

Surprising numbers of Americans, from the Jersey shore to the parched Midwest, have met the effects of climate change up close and personal in these last years as billion-dollar “natural” disasters multiply in the U.S.  As a result, there seems to be an increasing awareness that it isn’t some vague, futuristic possible disaster but a growing reality in our lives.  On the TV news, however, “extreme weather” — a phrase that sounds awful but is meant to have no larger meaning — has come to stand in for examples of the climate-change-induced intensification of global weather patterns.  After all, no point in drawing too much attention to a dismal reality.

That’s perhaps why, as last year ended, the only “cliff” we heard about ad nauseam was the “fiscal” one, which would prove a very flexible part of the American landscape.  For a while, in mixed-metaphorical fashion, it “loomed” endlessly, and then it proved to be erasable or moveable — in reality, something closer to a “fiscal bluff,” with whatever double meanings you care to read into that.  But why no emphasis on the “climate cliff” in a year in which, as George Monbiot recently wrote in the Guardian, “governments turned their backs on the living planet, demonstrating that no chronic problem, however grave, will take priority over an immediate concern, however trivial”?

Whatever your mixed metaphor for it might be — melting glacial vortex, drought abyss, or maybe just hell (in the burning sense) — climate change certainly deserves some imagistic attention in a world in which, as TomDispatch regular and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben suggests, time is not on our side. Tom

Obama Versus Physics Why Climate Change Won’t Wait for the President
By Bill McKibben

Change usually happens very slowly, even once all the serious people have decided there’s a problem. That’s because, in a country as big as the United States, public opinion moves in slow currents.  Since change by definition requires going up against powerful established interests, it can take decades for those currents to erode the foundations of our special-interest fortresses.

Take, for instance, “the problem of our schools.” Don’t worry about whether there actually was a problem, or whether making every student devote her school years to filling out standardized tests would solve it. Just think about the timeline. In 1983, after some years of pundit throat clearing, the Carnegie Commission published “A Nation at Risk,” insisting that a “rising tide of mediocrity” threatened our schools. The nation’s biggest foundations and richest people slowly roused themselves to action, and for three decades we haltingly applied a series of fixes and reforms. We’ve had Race to the Top, and Teach for America, and charters, and vouchers, and… we’re still in the midst of “fixing” education, many generations of students later.

Even facing undeniably real problems — say, discrimination against gay people — one can make the case that gradual change has actually been the best option. Had some mythical liberal Supreme Court declared, in 1990, that gay marriage was now the law of the land, the backlash might have been swift and severe.  There’s certainly an argument to be made that moving state by state (starting in nimbler, smaller states like Vermont) ultimately made the happy outcome more solid as the culture changed and new generations came of age.

Which is not to say that there weren’t millions of people who suffered as a result. There were. But our societies are built to move slowly. Human institutions tend to work better when they have years or even decades to make gradual course corrections, when time smooths out the conflicts between people.

And that’s always been the difficulty with climate change — the greatest problem we’ve ever faced. It’s not a fight, like education reform or abortion or gay marriage, between conflicting groups with conflicting opinions. It couldn’t be more different at a fundamental level.

We’re talking about a fight between human beings and physics. And physics is entirely uninterested in human timetables. Physics couldn’t care less if precipitous action raises gas prices, or damages the coal industry in swing states. It could care less whether putting a price on carbon slowed the pace of development in China, or made agribusiness less profitable.

Physics doesn’t understand that rapid action on climate change threatens the most lucrative business on Earth, the fossil fuel industry. It’s implacable. It takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands.

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Michael Klare: The Cheney Effect (in the Obama Administration)

6:44 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Vampire Cheney sucks oil from the Middle East.

Is Obama taking a page from Cheney's playbook? (Photo: Donkey Hotey / Flickr)

Back in September 2001, Dick Cheney was, according to Jane Mayer in The Dark Side, being chauffeured around Washington “in an armored motorcade that varied its route to foil possible attackers.”  In the backseat of his car (just in case), adds Mayer, “rested a duffel bag stocked with a gas mask and a biochemical survival suit.” And lest danger rear its head, “rarely did he travel without a medical doctor in tow.”

Ah, weren’t those the days?  How quiet, how boring his life must be now, his new ticker in place, hosting fundraisers for Mitt Romney in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, auctioning off lunches with himself for charity, and — for a little genuine excitement — slamming President Obama as an “unmitigated disaster.”  And yet, what if thousands of miles from Washington, years from his “taking off the gloves” heyday, promoting “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and plunking for invasions in the Greater Middle East, his ghost still lives in the nation’s capital, and not in some vague way somewhere in the Republican opposition, but deep in the beating heart of the Obama administration.  It’s the sort of thought that should take you aback and yet Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author most recently of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, makes the case that the Cheney ticker is beating hard right now in President Obama’s chest.  Don’t believe it?  Then, take a deep dive into Cheney’s… I mean, Obama’s world. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses imperial geopolitics as the default mode for Washington since 1945, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Is Barack Obama Morphing Into Dick Cheney? Four Ways the President Is Pursuing Cheney’s Geopolitics of Global Energy

By Michael T. Klare

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Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett: Playing for Time on Iran

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Recently, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta finally said it.  The U.S. is “fighting a war” in the Pakistani tribal belt.  Similarly, observers are starting to suggest that “war” is the right word for the American air and special operations campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in southern Yemen.  (There have already been 23 U.S. air strikes there this year.)  Call that a war and you’re already up to three, including the Afghan one.

But consider the possibility that a fourth (partial) American war is underway in the shadows, and that it’s in Iran.  This seems more evident today because of a recent New York Times report on the release of Stuxnet, the advanced cyberworm President Obama ordered sent to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.  Since the Pentagon has defined such a release as an “act of war,” it’s reasonable to suggest that the U.S. is now “at war” with Iran, too.

In fact, you could say that, since at least 2008, when Congress granted the Bush administration up to $400 million “to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran,” including “cross-border” operations from Iraq, war has been the name of the game. Meanwhile, U.S. special operations forces were secretly training members of M.E.K., an Iranian opposition-group-cum-cult that’s still on the State Department’s terror list, at a Department of Energy site in the Nevada desert; the CIA was running a large-scale drone surveillance operation against the country — and that just touches on the shadowy American (as well as Israeli) state of war vis-à-vis Iran.

Having relabeled those conflicts, it might also be worth considering the way we describe our ongoing nuclear mania about Iran.  After all, the world is already chock-a-block full of nuclear weapons, including the thousands the U.S. and Russia still possess, as well as those of Pakistan, a country we seem intent on destabilizing.  And yet, the only nuclear weapon that ever seems to make the news, obsessively, repetitively, is the one that doesn’t exist — the Iranian bomb.

In times long gone, when a Chinese dynasty took over the “mandate of heaven,” one of the early ceremonies carried out by the new emperor was called “the rectification of names.”  The thought was that the previous dynasty had fallen into ruin in part because the gap between reality and the names for it had grown so wide.  We are, it seems, now in such a world.  Some renaming is surely in order.

This, in a sense, is the task Iran experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, who run the Race for Iran blog, take on in their first appearance at TomDispatch.  They remind us, among other things, that an American president did once decide to bring names and reality back together when it came to another rising regional power (which actually had nuclear weapons) — and he traveled to China to do it, startling the world.  Unfortunately, though our planet has its surprises, it’s hard to imagine that a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would be among them when it comes to our country’s Iran policy, which, in terms of reality, is the saddest story of all. Tom

Deep-Sixing the China Option: How the Obama Administration Is Stalling Its Way to War with Iran
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations.  In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.

Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election.  In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.

Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that — strange things can happen in the interim.”  Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy — now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign — told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “undermine the legitimacy of the action.”

New York Times’ journalist David Sanger recently reported that, “from his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons” — even though he knew this “could enable other countries, terrorists, or hackers to justify” cyberattacks against the United States.  Israel — which U.S. intelligence officials say is sponsoring assassinations of Iranian scientists and other terrorist attacks in Iran — has been intimately involved in the program.

Classified State Department cables published by WikiLeaks show that, from the beginning of the Obama presidency, he and his team saw diplomacy primarily as a tool to build international support for tougher sanctions, including severe restrictions on Iranian oil exports.  And what is the aim of such sanctions?  Earlier this year, administration officials told the Washington Post that their purpose was to turn the Iranian people against their government.  If this persuades Tehran to accept U.S. demands to curtail its nuclear activities, fine; if the anger were to result in the Islamic Republic’s overthrow, many in the administration would welcome that.

Since shortly after unrest broke out in Syria, the Obama team has been calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, expressing outrage over what they routinely describe as the deaths of thousands of innocent people at the hands of Syrian security forces.  But, for more than a year, they have been focused on another aspect of the Syrian situation, calculating that Assad’s fall or removal would be a sharp blow to Tehran’s regional position — and might even spark the Islamic Republic’s demise.  That’s the real impetus behind Washington’s decision to provide “non-lethal” support to Syrian rebels attacking government forces, while refusing to back proposals for mediating the country’s internal conflicts which might save lives, but do not stipulate Assad’s departure upfront.

Meeting with Iranian oppositionists last month, State Department officials aptly summarized Obama’s Iran policy priorities this way: the “nuclear program, its impact on the security of Israel, and avenues for regime change.”  With such goals, how could his team do anything but play for time in the nuclear talks?  Two former State Department officials who worked on Iran in the early months of Obama’s presidency are on record confirming that the administration “never believed that diplomacy could succeed” — and was “never serious” about it either.

How Not to Talk to Iran

Simply demanding that Iran halt its nuclear activities and ratcheting up pressure when it does not comply will not, however, achieve anything for America’s position in the Middle East.  Western powers have been trying to talk Iran out of its civil nuclear program for nearly 10 years.  At no point has Tehran been willing to surrender its sovereign right to indigenous fuel cycle capabilities, including uranium enrichment.

Sanctions and military threats have only reinforced its determination.  Despite all the pressure exerted by Washington and Tel Aviv, the number of centrifuges operating in Iran has risen over the past five years from less than 1,000 to more than 9,000.  Yet Tehran has repeatedly offered, in return for recognition of its right to enrich, to accept more intrusive monitoring of — and, perhaps, negotiated limits on — its nuclear activities.

Greater transparency for recognition of rights: this is the only possible basis for a deal between Washington and Tehran.  It is precisely the approach that Iran has advanced in the current series of talks.  Rejecting it only guarantees diplomatic failure — and the further erosion of America’s standing, regionally and globally.

George W. Bush’s administration refused to accept safeguarded enrichment in Iran.  Indeed, it refused to talk at all until Tehran stopped its enrichment program altogether.  This only encouraged Iran’s nuclear development, while polls show that, by defying American diktats, Tehran has actually won support among regional publics for its nuclear stance.

Some highly partisan analysts claim that, in contrast to Bush, Obama was indeed ready from early in his presidency to accept the principle and reality of safeguarded enrichment in Iran.  And when his administration failed at every turn to act in a manner consistent with a willingness to accept safeguarded enrichment, the same analysts attributed this to congressional and Israeli pressure.

In truth, Obama and his team have never seriously considered enrichment acceptable.  Instead, the president himself decided, early in his tenure, to launch unprecedented cyberattacks against Iran’s main, internationally monitored enrichment facility.  His team has resisted a more realistic approach not because a deal incorporating safeguarded enrichment would be bad for American security (it wouldn’t), but because accepting it would compel a more thoroughgoing reappraisal of the U.S. posture toward the Islamic Republic and, more broadly, of America’s faltering strategy of dominating the Middle East.

The China Option

Acknowledging Iran’s right to enrich would require acknowledging the Islamic Republic as a legitimate entity with legitimate national interests, a rising regional power not likely to subordinate its foreign policy to Washington (as, for example, U.S. administrations regularly expected of Egypt under Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak).  It would mean coming to terms with the Islamic Republic in much the same way that the United States came to terms with the People’s Republic of China — another rising, independent power — in the early 1970s.

America’s Iran policy remains stuck in a delusion similar to the one that warped its China policy for two decades after China’s revolutionaries took power in 1949 — that Washington could somehow isolate, strangle, and ultimately bring down a political order created through mass mobilization and dedicated to restoring national independence after a long period of Western domination.  It didn’t work in the Chinese case and it’s not likely to in Iran either.

In one of the most consequential initiatives in American diplomatic history, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger finally accepted this reality and aligned Washington’s China policy with reality.  Unfortunately, Washington’s Iran policy has not had its Nixonian moment yet, and so successive U.S. administrations — including Obama’s — persist in folly.

The fact is: Obama could have had a nuclear deal in May 2010, when Brazil and Turkey brokered an agreement for Iran to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for new fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.  The accord met all the conditions spelled out in letters from Obama to then-Brazilian President Lula and Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan — but Obama rejected it, because it recognized Iran’s right to enrich.  (That this was the main reason was affirmed by Dennis Ross, the architect of Obama’s Iran policy, earlier this year.)  The Obama team has declined to reconsider its position since 2010 and, as a result, it is on its way to another diplomatic failure.

As Middle Eastern governments become somewhat more representative of their peoples’ concerns and preferences, they are also — as in Egypt and Iraq — becoming less inclined toward strategic deference to the United States.  This challenges Washington to do something at which it is badly out of practice: pursue genuine diplomacy with important regional states, based on real give and take and mutual accommodation of core interests.  Above all, reversing America’s decline requires rapprochement with the Islamic Republic (just as reviving its position in the early 1970s required rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China).

Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack.  By doing so, Obama is locking America into a path that is increasingly likely to result in yet another U.S.-initiated war in the Middle East during the first years of the next presidential term.  And the damage that war against Iran will inflict on America’s strategic position could make the Iraq debacle look trivial by comparison.

Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs at Penn State. Hillary Mann Leverett is senior professorial lecturer at American University. Together, they write the Race for Iran blog.  Their new book, Going to Tehran: Why the United States Needs to Come to Terms With the Islamic Republic of Iran (Metropolitan Books), will be published in January 2013.

Copyright 2012 Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Tom Engelhardt: Till Death Do Us Part

7:26 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

“Do you do this in the United States? There is police action every day in the United States… They don’t call in airplanes to bomb the place.” — Afghan President Hamid Karzai denouncing U.S. air strikes on homes in his country, June 12, 2012

Army Security at a Meeting in Afghanistan

(Photo: The US Army / Flickr)

It was almost closing time when the siege began at a small Wells Fargo Bank branch in a suburb of San Diego, and it was a nightmare.  The three gunmen entered with the intent to rob, but as they herded the 18 customers and bank employees toward a back room, they were spotted by a pedestrian outside who promptly called 911.  Within minutes, police cars were pulling up, the bank was surrounded, and back-up was being called in from neighboring communities.  The gunmen promptly barricaded themselves inside with their hostages, including women and small children, and refused to let anyone leave.

The police called on the gunmen to surrender, but before negotiations could even begin, shots were fired from within the bank, wounding a police officer.  The events that followed — now known to everyone, thanks to 24/7 news coverage — shocked the nation.  Declaring the bank robbers “terrorist suspects,” the police requested air support from the Pentagon and, soon after, an F-15 from Vandenberg Air Force Base dropped two GBU-38 bombs on the bank, leaving the building a pile of rubble.

All three gunmen died.  Initially, a Pentagon spokesman, who took over messaging from the local police, insisted that “the incident” had ended “successfully” and that all the dead were “suspected terrorists.”  The Pentagon press office issued a statement on other casualties, noting only that, “while conducting a follow-on assessment, the security force discovered two women who had sustained non-life-threatening injuries.  The security force provided medical assistance and transported both women to a local medical facility for treatment.”  It added that it was sending an “assessment team” to the site to investigate reports that others had died as well.

Of course, as Americans quickly learned, the dead actually included five women, seven children, and a visiting lawyer from Los Angeles.  The aftermath was covered in staggering detail.  Relatives of the dead besieged city hall, bitterly complaining about the attack and the deaths of their loved ones.  At a news conference the next morning, while scenes of rescuers digging in the rubble were still being flashed across the country, President Obama said: “Such acts are simply unacceptable.  They cannot be tolerated.” In response to a question, he added, “Nothing can justify any airstrike which causes harm to the lives and property of civilians.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey immediately flew to San Diego to meet with family members of the dead and offer apologies.  Heads rolled in the local police department and in the Pentagon.  Congress called for hearings as well as a Justice Department investigation of possible criminality, and quickly passed a bill offering millions of dollars to the grieving relatives as “solace.”  San Diego began raising money for a memorial to the group already dubbed the Wells Fargo 18.

One week later, at the exact moment of the bombing, church bells rang throughout the San Diego area and Congress observed a minute of silence in honor of the dead.

The Meaning of “Precision”

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Nick Turse: The Changing Face of Empire

8:18 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article 
originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your
 inbox three times a week, click here.

The frustration has long been growing.  Now, it’s been put into words.  On his recent trip to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has earned a reputation for saying whatever comes into his head, insisted that Washington had just about had it with Pakistan.  “Reaching the limits of our patience” was the way he put it (not once but twice).  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey spoke only slightly more mildly of being “extraordinarily dissatisfied.”  The Obama administration, so went the message, was essentially losing it in South Asia.  It was mad and wasn’t about to take it any more!

Soldiers in combat gear & night vision equipment move though tall grass.

Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander / Flickr

How far Washington has come from the days (back in 2001) when an American official could reportedly march self-confidently into the office of Pakistan’s intelligence chief, and tell him that his country had better decide whether it was for us or against us.  Otherwise, he reportedly added, Pakistan should expect to be bombed “back to the Stone Age.”

In the ensuing years, the great imperial power of our age repeatedly recalibrated its Pakistan policy in growing frustration, only to see it run ever more definitively off the rails.  The Obama administration, in particular, has sent its high officials, like so many caroming pinballs, flying in and out of Pakistan in droves for years now to demand, order, chide, plead, wheedle, cajole, intimidate, threaten, twist arms, and bluster, as it repeatedly flipped from good-guy ally to fierce, missile-wielding frenemy, and back again.

Recently, in the wake of U.S. air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani border guards (without a U.S. apology), it has faced a more-than-six-month closure of its crucial Pakistani war supply lines into Afghanistan.  Its response: to negotiate ever more frenetically, and pull the trigger in its drone war in the Pakistani borderlands ever more often.  Recently, it even announced a multimillion dollar cut-off of funds for Pakistan’s version of Sesame Street, while reaching a highly touted agreement with some former Central Asian SSRs of the former Soviet Union to transport American equipment out of Afghanistan (as our forces draw down there), at up to six times the cost of the blockaded routes through Pakistan.

If you want a living, panting, post-9/11 parable of imperial self-confidence and mastery gone to hell, Pakistan is the first (but not the last) place to look.  Behind the visible failure of U.S. policy in that country lies a devastating self-deception: the thought that, in the twenty-first century, even the greatest of powers, playing its cards perfectly, can control this planet, or simply significant regions of it.

If you want a prospectively breathtaking version of the same disastrous principle check out the latest piece by TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse, co-author of the new book Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.  A new American global way of war is emerging to replace the double disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turse puts its sinews together strikingly, suggesting that Washington is once again bedazzled by the possibility of mastering the planet — in a new, cheaper, less profligate way.  Once again, the top officials of our ever-expanding national security state are evidently convinced of their own prospective brilliance in organizing the next version of the global Great Game.  As with Pakistan in late 2001, so — from Central Africa to the Philippines — this, too, looks like a winner in their eyes. Much on this planet is unpredictable and yet the crash-and-burn fate of what Turse calls the Obama doctrine is painfully predictable. Unfortunately, as it goes down in flames, it may help send the world up in flames, too. Tom

The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global WarSpecial Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare
By Nick Turse

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Peter Van Buren: The Ultimate No-Fly List

7:24 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

State Department building in Washington, DC

State Department building in Washington, DC (Photo: NCinDC / Flickr)

Last week, touching down in India on his way to Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described reality as you seldom hear it in the confines of Washington and, while he was at it, put his stamp of approval on a new global doctrine for the United States.  Panetta is, of course, the man who, as director of the CIA, once called its drone air campaign in the Pakistani borderlands “the only game in town.”  (At the time, as now, it was a classified, “covert” set of air strikes that were a secret to no one in Washington, Islamabad, or anywhere else on Earth.)

In India, expressing his frustration over U.S. relations with Pakistan, he spoke the “W-word” aloud for the first time.  “We are,” he told his Indian hosts, “fighting a war in the FATA [the Pakistani tribal areas].”  How true.  Washington has indeed long been involved in a complex, confusing, escalating, and undoubtedly self-defeating partial war with Pakistan, never until now officially called by that name, even as the intensity of the drone air campaign in that country’s borderlands continues to ratchet up.  So give Panetta credit for rare bluntness.

In India, he said something else previously unspoken, acknowledging a breathtaking new reality: “We have made it very clear that we are going to continue to defend ourselves. This is about our sovereignty as well.”  In other words, he claimed that, while the sovereignty of other countries might be eternally violable, U.S. sovereignty extends inviolably over Pakistani territory.  This is, in fact, the concept that underpins the use of drones there and elsewhere.  When it comes to its presidential version of war-making, only the U.S. has a claim to global sovereignty, against which the more traditional concept of national sovereignty doesn’t stand a chance.

In Washington, a controversy has now broken out over what are clearly administration leaks about our drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and our new cyberwar against Iran.  It’s clear enough that, in its urge to run a Republican-proof election campaign on the image of a tough-guy president, those in the Oval Office, themselves fierce anti-leakers in other circumstances, didn’t know when to stop leaking information they considered advantageous to the president and so badly overplayed their hand.  Now, as prosecutors from the Justice Department (one with a pedigree that should leave the administration shaking in its combat boots) are being appointed to look into the leaks, all bets should be off in the capital.  Hold onto your hats, tell your journalist friends that, as the investigations begin, they are the ones likely to find themselves in the hottest water, and expect almost anything in the coming months.

One thing won’t happen, though.  You’re not going to get tons more Panetta-style realism.  It’s clear that all of Washington’s players, however intensely they might argue with one another, will be pulling together to shut down those leaks and any others heading our way.  We at TomDispatch are convinced, on the other hand, that its time to open the faucets, turn those drips into a steady stream, and let the American people know just what is being done, what wars (even when not called wars) are being fought in their name, what new weapons are being released into the world with their imprimatur (if not their knowledge).

It’s with some pride, then, that TomDispatch turns to its whistleblower-in-residence, State Department official Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, to offer his take on what this controversy really means for us all and just how it looks to someone who has been on the other end of the Obama administration’s fierce crackdown on governmental truth-tellers, rather than image-padders. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Van Buren discusses how Washington has changed when it comes to both leaking and stifling information, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Leaking War
How Obama’s Targeted Killings, Leaks, and the Everything-Is-Classified State Have Fused
By Peter Van Buren

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