Nick Turse
Maybe Sandy will also remind us that terrorism was among the least common, if most dramatic, of the dangers we faced then and face now. Though rollercoasters in the surf and cities under water have their own drama — and so does seawater rushing into the pit at Ground Zero.
The U.S. military is regularly praised as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” and yet it is consistently unsuccessful.
When its various wars and interventions don’t work out as planned, its leaders go off in search of the next formula.  Right now, that’s drones, spies, special ops, cyberwar, and proxy armies, but like most U.S. military efforts since World War II, this new brand of warfare has had limited success.
Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort, and treasure the U.S. invests in its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may be meaningless, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do.  
My complete assessment (and an explanation of why America’s top generals are standing on a huge map in civilian clothes and blue hospital booties) is found at TomDispatch.com.  A year’s worth of my reporting on the Pentagon’s new 6-point plan for global warfare can be found in my just-released collection: The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare.
photo credit: D. Myles Cullen /Department of Defense

The U.S. military is regularly praised as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” and yet it is consistently unsuccessful.

When its various wars and interventions don’t work out as planned, its leaders go off in search of the next formula.  Right now, that’s drones, spies, special ops, cyberwar, and proxy armies, but like most U.S. military efforts since World War II, this new brand of warfare has had limited success.

Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort, and treasure the U.S. invests in its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may be meaningless, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do. 

My complete assessment (and an explanation of why America’s top generals are standing on a huge map in civilian clothes and blue hospital booties) is found at TomDispatch.com.  A year’s worth of my reporting on the Pentagon’s new 6-point plan for global warfare can be found in my just-released collection: The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare.

photo credit: D. Myles Cullen /Department of Defense

The U.S. military is regularly praised as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” and yet it is consistently unsuccessful. 
When its various wars and interventions don’t work out as planned, its leaders go off in search of the next formula.  Right now, that’s drones, spies, special ops, cyberwar, and proxy armies, but like most U.S. military efforts since World War II, this new brand of warfare has had limited success.
Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort, and treasure the U.S. invests in its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may be meaningless, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do.  
My complete assessment (and an explanation of why America’s top generals are standing on a huge map in civilian clothes and blue hospital booties) is found at TomDispatch.com.  A year’s worth of my reporting on the Pentagon’s new 6-point plan for global warfare can be found in my just-released collection: The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare.
photo credit: D. Myles Cullen /Department of Defense

The U.S. military is regularly praised as “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” and yet it is consistently unsuccessful. 

When its various wars and interventions don’t work out as planned, its leaders go off in search of the next formula.  Right now, that’s drones, spies, special ops, cyberwar, and proxy armies, but like most U.S. military efforts since World War II, this new brand of warfare has had limited success.

Something akin to the law of diminishing returns may be at work. The more time, effort, and treasure the U.S. invests in its military adventures, the weaker the payback. In this context, the impressive destructive power of that military may be meaningless, if it is tasked with doing things that military might, as it has been traditionally conceived, can perhaps no longer do. 

My complete assessment (and an explanation of why America’s top generals are standing on a huge map in civilian clothes and blue hospital booties) is found at TomDispatch.com.  A year’s worth of my reporting on the Pentagon’s new 6-point plan for global warfare can be found in my just-released collection: The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare.

photo credit: D. Myles Cullen /Department of Defense

theatlantic:

Dearborn, Michigan: Where Bigoted Americans Come to Hate Muslims

Dearborn, a city of 97,000 surrounded on three sides by Detroit, is a must-visit location on 21st-century America’s newly established anti-Muslim protest circuit. The entire city, right-wing critics erroneously claim, is subject to Sharia law. And they warn that the rest of America might soon be, too.
In June, Christian protesters made yet another appearance at the Arab International Festival. Signs threatened Muslims with a “LAKE OF FIRE.” The street fair, which includes standard items like a booth where someone guesses your weight in exchange for a dollar, soon descended into chaos. It was all documented for YouTube: angry young people surrounded the crowd of evangelists, who promptly announced that they were being “stoned” as an avalanche of profanity rained down alongside water bottles and a variety of objects that weren’t nailed down. Aside from one brief chant of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), the incident elicited largely secular profanities, including blunt and colloquial entreaties for oral sex. Other cries were more plaintive: “What are you doing here? What is the point of all this?” Amid the chaos, someone, perhaps accidentally, turned the debate over foreignness and belonging on its head, yelling: “Go home! Do you understand English?”

Read more. [Image: Zoe Strauss]

theatlantic:

Dearborn, Michigan: Where Bigoted Americans Come to Hate Muslims

Dearborn, a city of 97,000 surrounded on three sides by Detroit, is a must-visit location on 21st-century America’s newly established anti-Muslim protest circuit. The entire city, right-wing critics erroneously claim, is subject to Sharia law. And they warn that the rest of America might soon be, too.

In June, Christian protesters made yet another appearance at the Arab International Festival. Signs threatened Muslims with a “LAKE OF FIRE.” The street fair, which includes standard items like a booth where someone guesses your weight in exchange for a dollar, soon descended into chaos. It was all documented for YouTube: angry young people surrounded the crowd of evangelists, who promptly announced that they were being “stoned” as an avalanche of profanity rained down alongside water bottles and a variety of objects that weren’t nailed down. Aside from one brief chant of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), the incident elicited largely secular profanities, including blunt and colloquial entreaties for oral sex. Other cries were more plaintive: “What are you doing here? What is the point of all this?” Amid the chaos, someone, perhaps accidentally, turned the debate over foreignness and belonging on its head, yelling: “Go home! Do you understand English?”

Read more. [Image: Zoe Strauss]

longreads:

A look at how residents in Arkansas are dealing with the health implications of drilling for natural gas in their communities:

Keith didn’t want to think about Iraq, but the tankers and water trucks reminded him of the vehicles he’d seen in Iraq’s oil fields. In Iraq, if an eighteen-wheeler pulled up on him, it either backed off or got blown away.
Tracy had headaches for the entire month of August 2010. Skin lesions and blisters broke out on her back. Her lymph nodes swelled to golf-ball size, she says. Her doctor gave her antibiotics and topical creams, but nothing worked. Keith developed nosebleeds; he’d never had them before. His nose would start running and there would be blood.
A month before the big quake, Tracy blacked out and fell down the stairs. She tore a tendon and chipped a bone in her left ankle. The bone refused to heal. Her doctor didn’t know why.

“Backyard Battlefields.” — J. Malcolm Garcia, Oxford American

longreads:

A look at how residents in Arkansas are dealing with the health implications of drilling for natural gas in their communities:

Keith didn’t want to think about Iraq, but the tankers and water trucks reminded him of the vehicles he’d seen in Iraq’s oil fields. In Iraq, if an eighteen-wheeler pulled up on him, it either backed off or got blown away.

Tracy had headaches for the entire month of August 2010. Skin lesions and blisters broke out on her back. Her lymph nodes swelled to golf-ball size, she says. Her doctor gave her antibiotics and topical creams, but nothing worked. Keith developed nosebleeds; he’d never had them before. His nose would start running and there would be blood.

A month before the big quake, Tracy blacked out and fell down the stairs. She tore a tendon and chipped a bone in her left ankle. The bone refused to heal. Her doctor didn’t know why.

“Backyard Battlefields.” — J. Malcolm Garcia, Oxford American

“A World of Hillbilly Heroin: The Hollowing Out of America, Up Close and Personal”
By Chris Hedges Illustration by Joe Sacco
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in West Virginia, and the state leads the country in fatal drug overdoses. OxyContin — nicknamed “hillbilly heroin” — is king. At a drug market like the Pines it costs a dollar a milligram. And a couple of 60- or 80-milligram pills sold at the Pines is a significant boost to a family’s income. Not far behind OxyContin is Suboxone, the brand name for a drug whose primary ingredient is buprenorphine, a semisynthetic opioid. Dealers, many of whom are based in Detroit, travel from clinic to clinic in Florida to stock up on the opiates and then sell them out of the backs of gleaming SUVs in West Virginia, usually around the first of the month, when the government checks arrive. Those who have legal prescriptions also sell the drugs for a profit. Pushers are often retirees. They can make a few hundred extra dollars a month on the sale of their medications. The temptation to peddle pills is hard to resist.
We meet Vance Leach, 42, with his housemates, Wayne Hovack, 40, and Neil Heizer, 31, in Gary. The men scratch out a meager existence, mostly from disability checks. They pool their resources to pay for food, electricity, water, and heat. In towns like Gary, communal living is common.
Read the rest at TomDispatch.com

“A World of Hillbilly Heroin: The Hollowing Out of America, Up Close and Personal”

By Chris Hedges
Illustration by Joe Sacco

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in West Virginia, and the state leads the country in fatal drug overdoses. OxyContin — nicknamed “hillbilly heroin” — is king. At a drug market like the Pines it costs a dollar a milligram. And a couple of 60- or 80-milligram pills sold at the Pines is a significant boost to a family’s income. Not far behind OxyContin is Suboxone, the brand name for a drug whose primary ingredient is buprenorphine, a semisynthetic opioid. Dealers, many of whom are based in Detroit, travel from clinic to clinic in Florida to stock up on the opiates and then sell them out of the backs of gleaming SUVs in West Virginia, usually around the first of the month, when the government checks arrive. Those who have legal prescriptions also sell the drugs for a profit. Pushers are often retirees. They can make a few hundred extra dollars a month on the sale of their medications. The temptation to peddle pills is hard to resist.

We meet Vance Leach, 42, with his housemates, Wayne Hovack, 40, and Neil Heizer, 31, in Gary. The men scratch out a meager existence, mostly from disability checks. They pool their resources to pay for food, electricity, water, and heat. In towns like Gary, communal living is common.

Read the rest at TomDispatch.com

If you want a quick and thorough history of how American war was outsourced to corporations and robots, you’ll want to check out Tom Engelhardt’s “Remotely Piloted War, How Drone War Became the American Way of War.”
For years, reporters and pundits have fawned over drones as shiny wonder-weapons, but Engelhardt writes, “put drones in a more familiar context, skip the awestruck commentary, and they should have been eerily familiar.”
We should have known that remotely piloted vehicles were heading toward us these last four decades, that they were, in fact, the most natural form of war for the All Volunteer Military (and the demobilized American public that went with it).
To explain, Engelhardt goes back to one of the most momentous, if underrated and little considered, decisions of the “American Century” — the decision, in the wake of Vietnam, to sever the military from potentially unruly draftees and create an all-professional army, while not backing down from the American global mission. The amateurs, a democratic citizenry, were demobilized, sent home, and sidelined as a new American way of war was launched that would grow ever more remote (as in “remotely piloted aircraft”) from most Americans, while corporations, not citizens, would be mobilized for our new wars.  Read the rest here.
photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson 

If you want a quick and thorough history of how American war was outsourced to corporations and robots, you’ll want to check out Tom Engelhardt’s “Remotely Piloted War, How Drone War Became the American Way of War.

For years, reporters and pundits have fawned over drones as shiny wonder-weapons, but Engelhardt writes, “put drones in a more familiar context, skip the awestruck commentary, and they should have been eerily familiar.”

We should have known that remotely piloted vehicles were heading toward us these last four decades, that they were, in fact, the most natural form of war for the All Volunteer Military (and the demobilized American public that went with it).

To explain, Engelhardt goes back to one of the most momentous, if underrated and little considered, decisions of the “American Century” — the decision, in the wake of Vietnam, to sever the military from potentially unruly draftees and create an all-professional army, while not backing down from the American global mission. The amateurs, a democratic citizenry, were demobilized, sent home, and sidelined as a new American way of war was launched that would grow ever more remote (as in “remotely piloted aircraft”) from most Americans, while corporations, not citizens, would be mobilized for our new wars.  Read the rest here.

photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson
 

Even granting the need to spin the assaults as failures, the official American reaction to the coordinated attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital, as well as at Jalalabad airbase, and in Paktika and Logar Provinces, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of guerrilla warfare and, in particular, of the type being waged by the Haqqani network, a crime syndicate transformed by the conflict into a leading insurgent group. Here’s the “lede” that should have run in every newspaper in America: More than 40 years after the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, even after reviving counterinsurgency doctrine (only to see it crash-and-burn in short order), the U.S. military still doesn’t get it.
Even granting the need to spin the assaults as failures, the official American reaction to the coordinated attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital, as well as at Jalalabad airbase, and in Paktika and Logar Provinces, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of guerrilla warfare and, in particular, of the type being waged by the Haqqani network, a crime syndicate transformed by the conflict into a leading insurgent group. Here’s the “lede” that should have run in every newspaper in America: More than 40 years after the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, even after reviving counterinsurgency doctrine (only to see it crash-and-burn in short order), the U.S. military still doesn’t get it.
theatlantic:

Born in the Gulag: Why a North Korean Boy Sent His Own Mother to Her Death

Nine years after watching his mother’s hanging, Shin In Geun squirmed through the electric fence that surrounds Camp 14 and ran off through the snow into the North Korean wilderness. It was January 2, 2005. Before then, no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do it.He was 23 years old and knew no one outside the fence.Within a month, he had walked into China. Within two years, he was living in South Korea. Four years later, he was living in Southern California.
Stunted by malnutrition, he is short and slight — five feet six inches, about 120 pounds. His arms are bowed from childhood labor. His lower back and buttocks are scarred with burns from the torturer’s fire. The skin over his pubis bears a puncture scar from the hook used to hold him in place over the fire. His ankles are scarred by shackles, from which he was hung upside down in solitary confinement. His right middle finger is cut off at the first knuckle, a guard’s punishment for dropping a sewing machine in a camp garment factory. His shins, from ankle to knee on both legs, are mutilated and scarred by burns from the electrified barbed-wire fence that failed to keep him inside Camp 14.
Shin is roughly the same age as Kim Jong Un, the chubby third son of Kim Jong Il who took over as leader after his father’s death in 2011.
Shin was born a slave and raised behind a high-voltage barbed-wire fence. His mother beat him, and he viewed her as a competitor for food. His father, who was allowed by guards to sleep with his mother just five nights a year, ignored him. His older brother was a stranger. Children in the camp were untrustworthy and abusive. Before he learned anything else, Shin learned to survive by snitching on all of them.
Love and mercy and family were words without meaning.
Read more. [Image: AP]

A chilling account of the only person born into a North Korean prison camp and escape. It’ll leave you speechless.

theatlantic:

Born in the Gulag: Why a North Korean Boy Sent His Own Mother to Her Death

Nine years after watching his mother’s hanging, Shin In Geun squirmed through the electric fence that surrounds Camp 14 and ran off through the snow into the North Korean wilderness. It was January 2, 2005. Before then, no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do it.

He was 23 years old and knew no one outside the fence.

Within a month, he had walked into China. Within two years, he was living in South Korea. Four years later, he was living in Southern California.

Stunted by malnutrition, he is short and slight — five feet six inches, about 120 pounds. His arms are bowed from childhood labor. His lower back and buttocks are scarred with burns from the torturer’s fire. The skin over his pubis bears a puncture scar from the hook used to hold him in place over the fire. His ankles are scarred by shackles, from which he was hung upside down in solitary confinement. His right middle finger is cut off at the first knuckle, a guard’s punishment for dropping a sewing machine in a camp garment factory. His shins, from ankle to knee on both legs, are mutilated and scarred by burns from the electrified barbed-wire fence that failed to keep him inside Camp 14.

Shin is roughly the same age as Kim Jong Un, the chubby third son of Kim Jong Il who took over as leader after his father’s death in 2011.

Shin was born a slave and raised behind a high-voltage barbed-wire fence. His mother beat him, and he viewed her as a competitor for food. His father, who was allowed by guards to sleep with his mother just five nights a year, ignored him. His older brother was a stranger. Children in the camp were untrustworthy and abusive. Before he learned anything else, Shin learned to survive by snitching on all of them.

Love and mercy and family were words without meaning.

Read more. [Image: AP]

A chilling account of the only person born into a North Korean prison camp and escape. It’ll leave you speechless.