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Authors: Tom Engelhardt

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The United States of Fear

The United States of Fear
Tom Engelhardt
 
 
 
 

Haymarket Books
Chicago, Illinois

© 2011 by Tom Engelhardt

Published in 2011 by Haymarket Books
PO Box 180165
Chicago, IL 60618
www.haymarketbooks.org
773-583-7884
[email protected]

EAN: 9781608461547

Trade distribution:
In the US, Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, www.cbsd.com
In Canada, Publishers Group Canada, www.pgcbooks.ca
In the UK, Turnaround Publisher Services, www.turnaround-uk.com
In Australia, Palgrave Macmillan, www.palgravemacmillan.com.au
All other countries, Publishers Group Worldwide, www.pgw.com

Cover design by Eric Ruder

Published with the generous support of Lannan Foundation
and the Wallace Global Fund.

Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication data is available.

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Praise for
The United States of Fear

“Tom Engelhardt, as always, focuses his laser-like intelligence on a core problem that the media avoid: Obama’s stunning embrace of Bush’s secret government by surveillance, torture, and sanctioned assassination. A stunning polemic.”

—Mike Davis, author of
In Praise of Barbarians
and
Planet of Slums

Praise for
The American Way of War

“A tour de force.”

—Jeremy Scahill, author of
Blackwater

“There are a lot of ways to describe Tom Engelhardt’s astonishing service to this country’s conscience and imagination: you could portray him as our generation’s Orwell, standing aside from all conventional framings to see afresh our dilemmas and blind spots, as the diligent little boy sending in regular dispatches on the nakedness of the emperor and his empire, as a Bodhisattva dedicated to saving all beings through compassion and awareness, but analogies don’t really describe the mix of clear and sometimes hilarious writing, deep insight, superb information, empathy, and outrage that has been the core of Tom’s TomDispatches for almost a decade, or the extraordinary contribution they’ve made to the American dialogue. Check out this bundle of some of the best from that time span.”

—Rebecca Solnit, author of
Hope in the Dark
and
A Paradise Built in Hell


They
may have Blackwater/Xe, Halliburton, aircraft-carrier battle groups, deadly drones by the score, and the world’s largest military budget, but we have Tom Engelhardt—and a more powerful truth-seeking missile has seldom been invented. Long-time fans like me will be happy to see some of his most memorable pieces reprinted here, although woven together in a way that makes them still stronger; for anyone not yet familiar with his work, this is your chance to meet one of the most forceful analysts alive of our country’s dangerous, costly addiction to all things military.”

—Adam Hochschild, author of
To End All Wars
and
King Leopold’s Ghost

“Tom Engelhardt is the I. F. Stone of the post–9/11 age—seeing what others miss, calling attention to contradictions that others willfully ignore, insisting that Americans examine in full precisely those things that make us most uncomfortable.”

—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of
Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

“Tom Engelhardt is among our most trenchant critics of American perpetual war. Like I. F. Stone in the 1960s, he has an uncanny ability to ferret out and see clearly the ugly truths hidden in government reports and statistics. No cynic, he always measures the sordid reality against a bright vision of an America that lives up to its highest ideals.”

—Juan R. Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan

“Like an extended Motown shuffle with some hard-hitting Stax breaks, and never devoid of an all-too-human sense of humor and pathos, Tom’s book takes us for the ride. . . . [I]nvaluable in showing how the empire walks the walk and talks the talk.”

—Pepe Escobar,
Asia Times

“In
The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s
, Tom Engelhardt provides a clear-eyed examination of U.S. foreign policy in the Bush and Obama years, and details unsparingly how Obama has inherited—and in many cases exacerbated—the ills of the Bush era. . . . [A]n important book for anyone hoping to understand how the U.S. arrived at its current predicament during the Bush years, and how it remains in this predicament despite Obama’s best efforts—or perhaps because of them.”

—Inter Press Service

“Tom Engelhardt’s biting look at United States militarism,
The American Way of War
. . . [is] pithy . . . [and] alarming. . . . He takes on our war-possessed world with clear-eyed, penetrating precision.”


Mother Jones

“Essential . . . seamlessly edited . . . establishes him as one of the grand chroniclers of the post-9/11 era.”

—Dan Froomkin,
Huffington Post

“These simple pleas for readers to reconsider an idea they might previously have taken for granted are one of the strengths of this book. Demonstrating Engelhardt’s experience as a professional editor, he avoids the overly strident or self-righteous condescension that characterizes too much online political writing, instead using clear and unvarnished prose to attack the fundamental principles of the post–September 11 mindset.”


Foreign Policy in Focus

“American history does not begin with 9/11, yet the worldview of so many in the United States since then has been shaped by how the mainstream media had colored events following the terrorist attacks. But to break free from that distorted perception which bears little resemblance to reality—as people once knew it—one needs the help of a little imagination. In Tom Engelhardt’s
The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s
, you could step back and see all the views that you had taken for granted challenged, as you indulge yourself in a world of ideas that are logical and straightforward but just were not quite vis-ible to you before. All of course are backed by key facts, sound analysis and invaluable context.”


Middle East Online

“With an excellent mind and an equally fine pen, Engelhardt demonstrates true patriotism to the American founding. . . . Reading such good prose invigorates like little else in this world of sorrows. But one should not consider Engelhardt merely a writer of golden prose. This body has a soul as well, and Engelhardt convincingly presents evidence as well as argument throughout the book. . . .
The American Way of War
is brimming with insights.”


American Conservative

“Excellent. . . . Anyone who wants to rebuild an antiwar movement . . . should read
The American Way of War
. . . . Reading this book feels like poking around with a flashlight in the unexamined corners of the post-9/11 American imperial mindset. . . . Sharp wit runs throughout the book. The section about the lack of media coverage of air campaigns, for example, is wonderfully titled ‘On Not Looking Up.’ Not only does this humor make
The American Way of War
a surprisingly entertaining read given the subject matter, it reminds us of something all great antiwar movements have known—the war machine is not just evil, it’s often absurd.”


Socialist Worker

Praise for TomDispatch

“One of my favorite websites.”

—Bill Moyers

“At a time when the mainstream media leave out half of what the public needs to know, while at the same time purveying oceans of official nonsense, the public needs an alternative source of news. Tom Engelhardt’s TomDispatch has been that for me. With unerring touch, he finds the stories I need to read, prefacing them each day with introductions that in themselves form a witty, hugely enjoyable, brilliant running commentary on the times. He is my mainstream.”

—Jonathan Schell

“Tom Engelhardt [is] the finest and hardest working essayist and editor of the post–9/11 era, who has kept a steady eye on Washington’s ‘baser’ intentions since even before the 2003 invasion.”

—Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

“These are the traits of a TomDispatch essay: unapologetically intellectual, relentlessly original, a little bit dangerous. For many of us, these are the key pieces of analysis that make sense of our post-9/11 world. How odd that many of them have never actually been printed. Until now.”

—Naomi Klein

“TomDispatch is one of the wonders of the electronic age. A touch of the finger and you get the juiciest, meatiest information and analysis, so rich a feast of intelligence and insight I often felt short of breath.”

—Howard Zinn

“TomDispatch is essential reading. It is a one-stop shop where you can find the most provocative thinkers writing the most eloquent and hard-hitting articles about the most pressing issues of the day. Read, get mad, and take action.”

—Amy Goodman

Introduction
American Warscapes
A World Made by War

When you look at me, you can’t mistake the fact that I’m of a certain age. But just for a moment, think of me as ten years old. You could even say that I celebrated my ninth birthday recently, without cake, candles, presents, or certainly joy.

I’ve had two mobilized moments in my life. The first was in the Vietnam War years; the second, the one that leaves me as a ten-year-old, began on the morning of September 11, 2001. I turned on the TV while doing my morning exercises, saw a smoking hole in a World Trade Center tower, and thought that, as in 1945 when a B-25 slammed into the Empire State Building, a terrible accident had happened.

Later, after the drums of war had begun to beat, after the first headlines had screamed their World War II–style messages (“The Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century”), I had another thought. And for a reasonably politically sophisticated guy, my second response was at least as off-base as the first. I thought that this horrific event taking place in my hometown might open Americans up to the pain of the world. No such luck, of course.

If you had told me then that we would henceforth be in a state of eternal war, as well as living in a permanent war state, that, to face a ragtag enemy of a few thousand stateless terrorists, the national security establishment in Washington would pump itself up to levels not faintly reached when facing the Soviet Union—a major power with thousands of nuclear weapons and an enormous military—that “homeland”—a distinctly un-American word—would land in our vocabulary never to leave, and that a second Defense Department dubbed the Department of Homeland Security would be set up not to be dismantled in my lifetime, that torture (excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”) would become as American as apple pie and that some of those “techniques” would actually be demonstrated to leading Bush administration officials inside the White House, that we would pour money into the Pentagon at ever-escalating levels even after the economy crashed in 2008, that we would be fighting two potentially trillion-dollar-plus wars without end in two distant lands, that we would spend untold billions constructing hundreds of military bases in those same lands, that the CIA would be conducting the first drone air war in history over a country we were officially not at war with, that most of us would live in a remarkable state of detachment from all of this, and finally—only, by the way, because I’m cutting this list arbitrarily short—that I would spend my time writing incessantly about “the American way of war” and produce a book with that title, I would have thought you were nuts.

But every bit of that happened, making clear that, like human beings everywhere, I have no special knack for peering into the future. If it were otherwise, I would undoubtedly now be zipping through fabulous spired cities with a jetpack on my back (as I was assured would happen in my distant youth). But if prediction isn’t our forte, then adaptability to changing circumstances may be—as my trajectory for the past ten years proves.

A decade ago, in response to the bizarre spectacle of this nation going to war while living at peace, even if in a spasmodic state of collective national fear, I did something I hardly understood at the time. I launched a nameless listserv of collected articles and my own expanding commentary that ran against the common wisdom of that October moment when our second Afghan War was just beginning. A little more than a year later, thanks to the Nation Institute, it became a website with the name TomDispatch.com. And because our leaders swore we were “a nation at war,” because we were in fact killing people in quantity in distant lands, because the power of the state at home was being strengthened in startling ways, while everything still open about our society seemed to be shutting down, even as the military was being pumped up to Schwarzeneggerian dimensions, I started writing about war.

At some level, I can’t tell you how ridiculous that was. After all, I’m the most civilian and peaceable of guys. I’ve never even been in the military. I was, however, upset with the Bush administration, the connect-no-dots media coverage of that moment, and the repeated 9/11 rites that proclaimed us the planet’s greatest victim, survivor, and dominator, leaving only one role, greatest Evildoer, open for the rest of the planet (and you know who auditioned for, and won, that part hands down).

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