Thu, 07/09/2023 - 23:30

[Today’s piece is adapted from the introduction to Norman Solomon’s book War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine (The New Press, 2023).] The day after the U.S. government began routinely bombing faraway places, the lead editorial in the New York Times expressed some gratification. Nearly four weeks had passed since 9/11, the newspaper noted, and America had finally stepped up its “counterattack against terrorism” by launching airstrikes on al-Qaeda training camps and Taliban military targets in Afghanistan. “It was a moment we have expected ever since September 11,” the editorial said. “The American people, despite their grief and anger, have been patient as they waited for action. Now that it has begun, they will... Read more

Tue, 05/09/2023 - 22:42

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”   That’s what a young Pakistani boy named Zubair told members of Congress at a hearing on drones in October 2013. That hearing was during the Obama years at a time when the government had barely even acknowledged that an American drone warfare program existed.  Two years earlier, however, a Muslim cleric, Anwar Al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, both American citizens, were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen just weeks apart. Asked to comment on Abdulrahman’s killing, Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs said: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if... Read more

Tue, 29/08/2023 - 23:31

A new war, a new alibi. When we think about our latest war — the one that began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, just six months after our Afghan War ended so catastrophically — there is a hidden benefit. As long as American minds are on Ukraine, we are not thinking about planetary climate disruption. This technique of distraction obeys the familiar mechanism that psychologists have called displacement. An apparently new thought and feeling becomes the substitute for harder thoughts and feelings you very much want to avoid. Every news story about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s latest demand for American or European weaponry also serves another function: the displacement of a story about, say, the Canadian fires which this... Read more

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Thu, 24/08/2023 - 23:32

Henry Alfred Kissinger turned 100 on May 27th of this year. Once a teenage refugee from Nazi Germany, for many decades an adviser to presidents, and an avatar of American realpolitik, he’s managed to reach the century mark while still evidently retaining all his marbles. That those marbles remain hard and cold is no surprise. A couple of months after that hundredth birthday, he traveled to China, as he had first done secretly in 1971 when he was still President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser. There — in contrast to the tepid reception recently given to U.S. officials like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry — Kissinger was welcomed with full honors by Chinese... Read more

Tue, 22/08/2023 - 23:36

Blame Donald Trump and all too many of his followers, but don’t just blame him or them. Yes, he was indeed responsible for the nightmare of January 6, 2021, and, in his own fashion, for the incitement of right-wing militia (terror!) groups like the Proud Boys. (“Stand back and stand by!”) But in this country, in this century, violence has become as all-American as apple pie. In these years, it’s been violence and more violence all the way, literally in the case of the Pentagon. But let me start a little more personally. Having lived several years in rural Maryland along the Virginia border, I’ve watched the local political landscape gain ever-deepening fault lines (as is true in the United... Read more

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Thu, 17/08/2023 - 23:13

In his 2005 bestseller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, geographer Jared Diamond focused on past civilizations that confronted severe climate shocks, either adapting and surviving or failing to adapt and disintegrating. Among those were the Puebloan culture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the ancient Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica, and the Viking settlers of Greenland. Such societies, having achieved great success, imploded when their governing elites failed to adopt new survival mechanisms to face radically changing climate conditions. Bear in mind that, for their time and place, the societies Diamond studied supported large, sophisticated populations. Pueblo Bonito, a six-story structure in Chaco Canyon, contained up to 600 rooms, making it the largest building in North America until the... Read more

Tue, 15/08/2023 - 23:08

Too hot. Too dry. Too many weapons. This world needs changing. But that’s too vague. After all, this world is already changing, just not in ways that are good for you and me. You know the facts. July 2023 was the hottest month on record — ever — since we humans started keeping track of the temperature. And it’s only getting hotter. As Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, told the New York Times, the recent all-too-extreme weather is just “a foretaste of the future.” Declaring War on Ourselves It’s not raining. Not at least where (and when) so many of us need it for drinking water or agriculture or recreation. Uruguay is out of water, with... Read more

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Thu, 10/08/2023 - 23:32

On July 24th, the Israeli Knesset passed a measure forbidding the country’s High Court of Justice from in any way checking the power of the government, whether in making cabinet decisions or appointments, based on what’s known as the “reasonability” standard. In the Israeli context, this was an extreme act, since right-wing parliamentarians were defying massive crowds that had, for months on end, demonstrated with remarkable determination against such radical legislation. And that measure was only one part of a wide-ranging redesign of the court system unveiled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January, which deeply alarmed his critics. As exemplified by prominent world historian Yuval Noah Harari, such protestors warned that limiting the functions of the highest court, in... Read more

Tue, 08/08/2023 - 23:29

In his message to the troops prior to the July 4th weekend, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered high praise indeed. “We have the greatest fighting force in human history,” he tweeted, connecting that claim to the U.S. having patriots of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds “who bravely volunteer to defend our country and our values.” As a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from a working-class background who volunteered to serve more than four decades ago, who am I to argue with Austin? Shouldn’t I just bask in the glow of his praise for today’s troops, reflecting on my own honorable service near the end of what now must be thought of as the First Cold War? Yet I confess... Read more

Thu, 03/08/2023 - 23:27

Hey, who knows? It could be the Gulf Stream collapsing or the planet eternally breaking heat records. But whatever the specifics, we’re living it right now, not in the next century, the next decade, or even next year. You couldn’t miss it — at least so you might think — if you were living in the sweltering Southwest; especially in broiling, record-setting Phoenix with 30 straight days of temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit; or in flaming Greece or western China on the day the temperature hit 126 degrees Fahrenheit or sweltering, blazing Algeria when the temperature reached an almost unimaginable 135 (yes, 135!) degrees Fahrenheit; not to speak of broiling Canada with its more than 1,000 fires now burning (a... Read more

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