Laura Gottesdiener: The king is dead!

On August 5th, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey banded together with 15 other state attorneys general to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspend the implementation of new rules devised by the Obama administration to slow the pace of climate change.  The regulations, announced just two days earlier, sought to reduce power plant emissions of carbon dioxide — a major cause of global warming — by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.  Because the rules are likely to fall most heavily on coal-fired power plants, which emit more carbon than other forms of electricity generation, states that produce and burn coal (mostly led by Republicans) are adamantly opposed to them. Because West Virginia is especially dependent on coal production, it has been selected by Republican leaders and industry lobbyists to lead the charge against the new rules.

“These regulations, if allowed to proceed, will do serious harm to West Virginia and the U.S. economy,” Morrisey said. “That is why we are taking quick action to bring this process to a halt.”

Although pleading the case for West Virginia, which has suffered a sharp rise in unemployment due to the closing of many of its coal mines, Morrisey is clearly acting as the mouthpiece for a larger alliance of coal producers, power utilities, and Republican strategists who seek to sabotage any progress on climate change.  As the New York Times revealed recently, this alliance (don’t call it a conspiracy!) originated at a meeting of some 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists, and Republican strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington last year.

“By the time Mr. Obama announced the regulations at the White House on [Aug. 3rd],” theTimes reported, “the small group that had begun its work at the Chamber of Commerce had expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists ranging from state capitols to Capitol Hill, aided by Republican governors and congressional leaders.  And their plan was to challenge Mr. Obama at every opportunity and take the fight against what, if enacted, would be one of his signature accomplishments to the Supreme Court.”

This process gained further momentum on August 13th, when Morrisey and 14 other state attorneys general petitioned a federal court in Washington to block action on the EPA rules, in the first of several expected legal challenges to the Obama administration measure.

As Laura Gottesdiener demonstrates so graphically in today’s post, many West Virginians are indeed suffering from the decline of the coal industry.  But if they allow themselves to be used as pawns in a struggle by King Coal, corporate lobbyists, and Republican hard-liners to fight progress on climate change, they are doing themselves (and the rest of us) an enormous disservice.  Nothing can save the coal industry in the face of market forces — especially the boom in natural gas extracted from shale deposits via fracking — and the relentless advance of climate change.  If Morrisey and his cohorts had West Virginia’s true interests at heart, they would be petitioning for federal funds to turn the state into an innovation center for clean energy — the only sure path to economic growth in a climate-ravaged world.  In the meantime, let TomDispatch regular Gottesdiener take you on a tour of what’s left of King Coal’s once mighty domain. Michael Klare

Coal dethroned 
In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back 
By Laura Gottesdiener

In Appalachia, explosions have leveled the mountain tops into perfect race tracks for Ryan Hensley’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV). At least, that’s how the 14-year-old sees the barren expanses of dirt that stretch for miles atop the hills surrounding his home in the former coal town of Whitesville, West Virginia.

“They’re going to blast that one next,” he says, pointing to a peak in the distance. He’s referring to a process known as “mountain-top removal,” in which coal companies use explosives to blast away hundreds of feet of rock in order to unearth underground seams of coal.

“And then it’ll be just blank space,” he adds. “Like the Taylor Swift song.”

Skinny and shirtless, Hensley looks no more than 11 or 12. His ribs and collarbones protrude from his taut skin. Dipping tobacco is tucked into his right cheek. He has a head of cropped blond curls that jog some memory of mine, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. He’s pointing at a peak named Coal River Mountain. These days, though, it’s known to activists here as “the Last Mountain,” as it’s the only ridgeline in this area that’s still largely intact.

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Noam Chomsky: Rogue states and nuclear dangers

The first prime-time Republican primary debate of 2015 was an eye-opener of sorts when it came to the Middle East. After forcefully advocating for the termination of the pending nuclear deal with Iran, for example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unleashed an almost indecipherable torrent of words. “This is not just bad with Iran,” he insisted, “this is bad with ISIS. It is tied together, and, once and for all, we need a leader who’s gonna stand up and do something about it.” That prescription, as vague as it was incoherent, was par for the course.

When asked how he would respond to reports that Iranian Qods Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani had recently traveled to Russia in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, GOP billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump responded, “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite.” He then meandered into a screed about trading Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for “five of the big, great killers leaders” of Afghanistan’s Taliban, but never offered the slightest hint that he had a clue who General Soleimani was or what he would actually do that would be “so different.” Questioned about the legacy of American soldiers killed in his brother’s war in Iraq, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush replied in a similarly incoherent fashion: “To honor the people that died, we need to — we need to stop the Iran agreement,” and then pledged to annihilate ISIS as well. Senator Ted Cruz seemed to believe that merely intoning the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” opened a surefire path to rapidly defeating ISIS — that, and his proposed Expatriate Terrorist Act that would stop Americans who join ISIS from using their “passport to come back and wage jihad on Americans.” Game, set, match, ISIS. 

Of the 10 candidates on that stage, only Senator Rand Paul departed from faith-based reality by observing that “ISIS rides around in a billion dollars’ worth of U.S. Humvees.” He continued, “It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.” On a stage filled by Republicans in a lather about nonexistent weaponry in the Middle East — namely, an Iranian A-bomb — only Paul drew attention to weaponry that does exist, much of it American. Though no viewer would know it from that night’s debate, all across the region — from Yemen to Syria to Iraq — U.S. arms are fueling conflicts and turning the living into the dead.  Military spending in the Middle East reached almost $200 billion in 2014, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms sales. That represents a jump of 57% since 2005.  Some of the largest increases have been among U.S. allies buying big-ticket items from American weapons makers. That includes Iraq and Saudi Arabia ($90 billion in U.S. weapons deals from October 2010 to October 2014), which, by the way, haven’t fared so well against smaller, less well-armed opponents. Those countries have seen increases in their arms purchases of 286% and 112%, respectively, since 2005.

With the United States feeding the fires of war and many in its political class frothing about nonexistent nukes, leave it to the indomitable Noam Chomsky, a TomDispatch regular and institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to cut to the quick when it comes to Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, the regional balance of power, and arms (real or imagined). He wades through the spin and speechifying to offer a frank assessment of threats in the Middle East that you’re unlikely to hear about in any U.S. presidential debate between now and the end of time. Nick Turse

“The Iranian threat”
Who is the gravest danger to world peace?
By Noam Chomsky

Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

There are, however, striking exceptions to the general enthusiasm: the United States and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. One consequence of this is that U.S. corporations, much to their chagrin, are prevented from flocking to Tehran along with their European counterparts. Prominent sectors of U.S. power and opinion share the stand of the two regional allies and so are in a state of virtual hysteria over “the Iranian threat.” Sober commentary in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum, declares that country to be “the gravest threat to world peace.” Even supporters of the agreement here are wary, given the exceptional gravity of that threat.  After all, how can we trust the Iranians with their terrible record of aggression, violence, disruption, and deceit?

Opposition within the political class is so strong that public opinion has shifted quickly from significant support for the deal to an even split. Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the agreement. The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Senator Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals among the crowded field of presidential candidates, warns that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an Electro Magnetic Pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United States, killing “tens of millions of Americans.”

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William Astore: Time to hold military boots to the fire

On July 24th, highlighting the first Turkish air strikes against the Islamic State and news of an agreement to let the U.S. Air Force use two Turkish air bases against that movement, the New York Times reported that unnamed “American officials welcomed the [Turkish] decision… calling it a ‘game changer.’” And they weren’t wrong. Almost immediately, the game changed. Turkish President Recep Erdogan promptly sent planes hurtling off not against Islamic State militants but the PKK, that country’s Kurdish rebels with whom his government had previously had a tenuous ceasefire. In the process, he created a whole new set of problems for Washington, including making life more difficult for Kurdish rebel troops in Syria connected to the PKK that the Obama administration was backing in the fight against the Islamic State. Erdogan’s acts also ensured that chaos and conflict would spread to new areas of the Middle East. So game-changer indeed!

The question is: Why does Washington do it time after time? Why has just about every militarized move made in the region been quite so hapless and clueless since the initial invasion of Iraq? If such actions didn’t involve lives (and deaths) and one of the grimmer Islamic extremist movements on the planet, much of this would qualify as theater of the absurd or a comedy of errors. Take the so-called New Syrian Forces. That’s the moniker the Obama administration gave the thousands of “moderate” Syrian fighters it wanted to train and equip to take on the Islamic State (but not the Assad regime) at a cost of $500 million. In other words, Washington was determined to have its own fighting force of non-extreme Syrians with their distinctly Syrian boots on the ground in that chaotic war zone, even if they were American-supplied. What could possibly go wrong? 

So the vetting and training commenced. Many months later, in the fashion of an elephant delivering a mouse, having thoroughly investigated thousands of applicants for their moderateness, the Pentagon finally produced “Division 30,” a fully vetted, fully trained first unit of, depending on what account you read, 54 or possibly 60 Syrian fighters. The cost of those few men has been estimated, per fighter, in the millions of dollars (and another 100 are now in the process of being trained). The U.S. military then deposited that tiny unit in Syria where its two leaders were promptly kidnapped by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, which then attacked the group killing at least one of its members, capturing others, wounding a number, and sending the rest into flight. (Some of them, it seems, have never shown up again.) And here’s the truly bizarre part: according to the New York Times, that attack by an al-Qaeda-linked group the U.S. has denounced and bombed in the past took American officials — who seem to have expected the Front to embrace its force — “by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure.” The real question, of course, is why anyone in the Pentagon or elsewhere in official Washington should have expected any other response from a hostile force which had already taken on CIA-trained Syrians.

The U.S. remains the greatest military power on the planet, but what does that even mean, given the last nearly 14 years of woeful performance, mishaps, defeats, disappointments, and endless war? Honestly, does the U.S. high command really have a thing to teach the rest of us, based on this sorry record? It’s a question raised by TomDispatch regular and former Air Force Academy instructor William Astore. He considers just what America’s future commanders are being taught in the country’s three elite military academies and wonders what a crew that has taken no responsibility for years of disaster in conflict after conflict has to offer anyone and why they are generally held in such high regard in this country. Tom Engelhardt

Seventy years of military mediocrity
The shared failings of America’s military academies and senior officers
By William J. Astore

Thomas Jefferson Hall, West Point’s library and learning center, prominently features two quotations for cadets to mull over. In the first, Jefferson writes George Washington in 1788: “The power of making war often prevents it, and in our case would give efficacy to our desire of peace.” In the second, Jefferson writes Thomas Leiper in 1815: “I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.”

Two centuries ago, Jefferson’s points were plain and clear, and they remain so today: while this country desired peace, it had to be prepared to wage war; and yet the more it avoided resorting to raw military power, the more it would prosper.

Have America’s military officers and politicians learned these lessons? Obviously not. In the twenty-first century, the U.S. unquestionably ranks number one on this planet in its preparations for waging war — we got that message loud and clear — but we’re also number one in using that power aggressively around the globe, weakening our nation in the process, just as Jefferson warned.

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William deBuys: Entering the mega-drought era in America

The other day here in New England it was chilly, rainy, and stormy and I complained. Where was the sun? The warmth? The summer? I happened to be with someone I know from California and he shook his head and said, “It’s fine with me. I like it rainy. I haven’t seen much rain in a while.” It was a little reminder of how insular we can be. California, after all, is in the fourth year of a fearsome drought that has turned much of the North American West, from Alaska and Canada to the Mexican border, into a tinderbox. Reservoirs are low, rivers quite literally drying up, and the West is burning. In rural northern California, where the fires seem to be least under control, the Rocky Fire has already burned 109 square miles and destroyed 43 homes, while the Jerusalem Fire, which recently broke out nearby, quickly ate up almost 19 square miles while doubling in size and sent local residents fleeing, some for the second time in recent weeks.

Fires have doubled in these drought years in California. The fire season, once mainly an autumnal affair, now seems to be just about any day of the year. (This isn’t, by the way, just a California phenomenon. The latest study indicates that fire season is extending globally, with a growth spurt of 18.7% in the last few decades.) In fact, fire stats for the U.S. generally and the West in particular are worsening in the twenty-first century, and this year looks to be quite a blazing affair, with six million acres already burned across the region and part of the summer still to go. And here’s the thing: though “I’m not a scientist,” it’s pretty hard at this point not to notice — though most Republican candidates for president seem unfazed — that this planet is heating up, that today’s droughts, bad as they are, will be put in the shade by the predicted mega-droughts of tomorrow, and that the problem of water in the American West is only going to deepen — or do I mean grow shallower? TomDispatch regular William deBuys, an expert on water in that region and author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, has already written dramatically of a future “exodus from Phoenix.” For clues to what we will all experience sooner or later, he now turns to California, that bellwether state in which, as he writes, the future always seems to play itself out first. Tom Engelhardt

California first
As both climate victim and responder, the national style-setter leads the way
By William deBuys

Long ago, I lived in a cheap flat in San Francisco and worked as the lone straight man in a gay construction company. Strangely enough, the drought now strangling California brings back memories of those days. It was the 1970s. Our company specialized in restoring the Victorian “gingerbread” to the facades of the city’s townhouses, and I got pretty good at installing cornices, gable brackets, and window hoods, working high above the street.

What I remember most, though, is the way my co-workers delighted in scandalizing me on Monday mornings with accounts of their weekend exploits.

We were all so innocent back then. We had no idea of the suffering that lay ahead or of the grievous epidemic already latent in the bodies of legions of gay men like my friends, an epidemic that would afflict so many outside the gay community but was especially terrible within it.

It’s unlikely that many of those guys are alive today. HIV was already in the population, although AIDS had yet to be detected or named, and no one had heard of “safe sex,” let alone practiced it. When the epidemic broke out, it was nowhere worse than in trendsetting San Francisco.

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Michael Klare: Big Oil in retreat

On July 14, 2011, at TomDispatch, Bill McKibben wrote that he and a few other “veteran environmentalists” had issued a call for activists to descend on the White House and “risk arrest to demand something simple and concrete from President Obama: that he refuse to grant a license for Keystone XL, a new pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico that would vastly increase the flow of tar sands oil through the U.S., ensuring that the exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands will only increase.” It must have seemed like a long shot at the time, but McKibben urged the prospective demonstrators on, pointing out that “Alberta’s tar sands are the continent’s biggest carbon bomb,” especially “dirty” to produce and burn in terms of the release of carbon dioxide and so the heating of the planet.

Just over four years later, the president, whose administration recently green-lighted Shell to do test-drilling in the dangerous waters of the American Arctic, opened the South Atlantic to new energy exploration and drilling earlier this year, and oversaw the expansion of the fracking fields of the American West, has yet to make, or at least announce, a final decision on that pipeline. Can anyone doubt that, if there had been no demonstrations against it, if it hadn’t become a major issue for his “environmental base,” the Keystone XL would have been approved without a second thought years ago? Now, it may be too late for a variety of reasons.

The company that plans to build the pipeline, TransCanada Corporation, already fears the worst — a presidential rejection that indeed may soon be in the cards. After all, we’ve finally hit the “legacy” part of the Obama era. In the case of war, the president oversaw the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan soon after taking office, sent in the bombers and drones, and a year ago plunged the country back into its third war in Iraq and first in Syria.  Only late in his second term has he finally overseen an initiative worthy of a less warlike legacy: the embattled Iran nuclear deal. Similarly, the man who headed an “all of the above” administration on energy policy in an era in which the U.S. became “Saudi America” has only now launched a legacy-shaping climate change initiative that could matter, aimed at cutting back carbon dioxide emissions from coal-powered plants. So maybe in this legacy era, the Keystone XL will be next to fall. Or maybe Obama will let his final year and a half play out without a decision on whether or not to build it and turn the issue over to Hillary Clinton, who refuses to commit on the matter, or one of 17 Republicans, all of whom would build a pipeline to anywhere carrying anything rather than enact a single climate change initiative, no matter how mild.

Another factor has, however, entered the picture.  As Michael Klare, TomDispatch’s resident energy expert and the author of The Race for What’s Left, explains, the dynamics of the energy industry may be changing in a way that could sink Canada’s vast tar sands enterprise in a sea of red ink.  If so, the tar sands industry, already hit hard by the plunge in oil prices last year, may face an even more rugged future.

“If you build it, he will come” is the classic tag line from the movie Field of Dreams. For the Keystone XL pipeline, however, that might someday have to be rewritten as: “If you build it, it won’t come.”  Even if built, it might prove to be a pipeline to nowhere. Let Klare explain why. Tom Engelhardt

Double-dip oil rout
Why an oil glut may lead to a new world of energy
By Michael T. Klare

The plunge of global oil prices began in June 2014, when benchmark Brent crude was selling at $114 per barrel. It hit bottom at $46 this January, a near-collapse widely viewed as a major but temporary calamity for the energy industry.  Such low prices were expected to force many high-cost operators, especially American shale oil producers, out of the market, while stoking fresh demand and so pushing those numbers back up again.  When Brent rose to $66 per barrel this May, many oil industry executives breathed a sigh of relief.  The worst was over.  The price had “reached a bottom” and it “doesn’t look like it is going back,” a senior Saudi official observed at the time.

Skip ahead three months and that springtime of optimism has evaporated.  Major producers continue to pump out record levels of crude and world demand remains essentially flat. The result: a global oil glut that is again driving prices toward the energy subbasement.  In the first week of August, Brent fell to $49, and West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for U.S. crude, sank to $45. On top of last winter’s rout, this second round of price declines has played havoc with the profits of the major oil companies, put tens of thousands of people out of work, and obliterated billions of dollars of investments in future projects. While most oil-company executives continue to insist that a turnaround is sure to occur in the near future, some analysts are beginning to wonder if what’s underway doesn’t actually signal a fundamental transformation of the industry.

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Susan Southard: Under the mushroom cloud — Nagasaki after nuclear war

The nuclear age. Doesn’t that phrase seem like ancient history? With the twin anniversaries of the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming around again, this is its 70th birthday. Just a year younger than me, it was my age-mate, my companion all those years I was growing up. Those unshakeable fears, the “unthinkable,” turned out to be eminently translatable into the world of dreams. I still vividly recall my own world-ending nightmares from my teen years and I know I’m not alone. Thoughts of nuclear destruction were then part and parcel of our lives. Once, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it felt as if we might not even make it out of this lifetime.

The byproducts of that moment — raging dinosaurs, world-ending death rays, giant ants, and destroyed planets — ran rampant in pop culture, the classic stuff of B-movies. In those years, when the U.S. and the USSR were each building their arsenals to unimaginable heights and planning for something like world’s end, all of us were, in a sense, “on the beach.” Who didn’t read Neville Shute’s classic novel (or see the movie) and think about that vast cloud of fallout from the ultimate apocalyptic battle of the Cold War heading south or experience what curtains might mean, even in Australia? Who didn’t read the burgeoning post-apocalyptic mutant pulp fiction of that era even as, with A Canticle for Leibowitz, it became “literature”?

And doesn’t all of that, the fearful and the eerily fun-filled, seem the product of another time, long gone and half-forgotten? And yet here’s the eeriest thing of all: on this very day, nine countries with nuclear arsenals of varying sizes still possess, according to the latest estimates, a total of more than 15,000 such weapons, enough, that is, to obliterate countless Earths. And as it happens, 93% of those weapons are in the hands of either the United States or Russia, both of which are proudly and openlymodernizing” their nuclear stocks — in the case of the U.S. at a planned cost of a trillion dollars over the next three decades. Consider that a reminder that, in August 2045 on the 100th anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the former Cold War rivals still have every intention of being nuclear powers.

Most unnerving of all, the planners in those countries simply refuse to acknowledge the most basic nuclear facts — or at least they are utterly unmoved by them and by the thought of the eradication of humanity. It evidently matters little that if those “modest” nuclear powers, India (a mere 110 nuclear weapons) and Pakistan (a mere 120 of them), were to release just part of their arsenals in a South Asian nuclear exchange, the planet would enter “nuclear winter” and humanity would be decimated.

So, on a 70th anniversary in which the madness shows no sign of ending, it’s good to turn to Susan Southard’s monumental new book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, which offers a riveting, if chilling plunge into nuclear realities. Among other things, it reminds us that, unbelievably enough, humanity’s nuclear fate was never just prospective, never just a matter of thoughts, or plans, or dreams, or fantasies. Nuclear destruction of an almost unimaginable sort was the initial reality of the atomic age, with such weaponry actually used on two utterly defenseless cities. Thanks to the kindness of the editors of Viking, TomDispatch today takes you directly beneath the mushroom cloud in an excerpt from Southard’s book that follows five teenage nuclear survivors of the Nagasaki bomb through the very first moments of what has become an unending nuclear age. Tom Engelhardt

Entering the nuclear age, body by body
The Nagasaki experience
By Susan Southard

[This essay has been adapted from chapters 1 and 2 of Susan Southard’s new book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, with the kind permission of Viking.]

Korean and Chinese workers, prisoners of war, and mobilized adults and students had returned to their work sites; some dug or repaired shelters, others piled sandbags against the windows of City Hall for protection against machine-gun fire. In the Mitsubishi sports field, bamboo spear drills in preparation for an invasion had just concluded. Classes had resumed at Nagasaki Medical College. Streetcars meandered through the city.

Hundreds of people injured in the air raids just over a week earlier continued to be treated in Nagasaki’s hospitals, and at the tuberculosis hospital in the northern Urakami Valley, staff members served a late breakfast to their patients. One doctor, trained in German, thought to himself, Im Westen nichts neues (All quiet on the western front). In the concrete-lined shelter near Suwa Shrine that served as the Nagasaki Prefecture Air Defense Headquarters, Governor Nagano had just begun his meeting with Nagasaki police leaders about an evacuation plan. The sun was hot, and the high-pitched, rhythmic song of cicadas vibrated throughout the city.

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Christian Appy: America’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years later

So many decades later, it’s hard to remember the kind of nuclear thinking top American officials engaged in during the Cold War. In secret National Security Council documents of the early 1950s, for instance, the country’s top strategists descended willingly into the charnel house of futuristic history, imagining life on this planet as an eternal potential holocaust. They wrote in those documents of the possibility that 100 atomic bombs, landing on targets in the United States, might kill or injure 22 million Americans and of a “blow” that might result in the “complete destruction” of the Soviet Union.

And they weren’t just whistling Dixie. After all, in 1960, the top military brass found themselves arguing about the country’s first Single Integrated Operational Plan for nuclear war. In it, a scenario was laid out for delivering more than 3,200 nuclear weapons to 1,060 targets in the Communist world. Targets included at least 130 cities, which, if all went well, would cease to exist. Classified estimates of possible casualties from such an attack ran to 285 million dead and 40 million injured. That’s what “the complete destruction” of the Soviet Union and Communist China meant then and, until Dr. Strangelove hit the screens in 1964, those figures were simply part of the sort of “rational” war planning that led to perfectly serious debate about launching a “preemptive strike” — what, if another country were considering it, would have been a “war of aggression” — to eradicate that enemy. To give credit where it’s due, Army and Navy officials did worry “about the lethal impact of downwind fallout, with the Army explicitly concerned about limiting exposure of ‘friendly forces and people’ to radioactive fallout. By contrast, the Air Force saw no need for additional constraints [on surface nuclear blasts].”

It’s this world that we “celebrate,” having now reached the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945). Today, we know that delivering so many nuclear weapons (or, in fact, many less) would have done a lot more than wipe out the “Communist world.” It would have plunged the planet into nuclear winter and undoubtedly eradicated humanity as definitively as the dinosaurs were wiped out by that asteroid 65 million years ago.

Apocalypse was — and remains — us. After all, despite the recent nuclear agreement that will stop a country without nuclear weapons from building them, this planet is still loaded with a world-ending arsenal that is constantly being expanded, updated, and modernized. Call us lucky, but don’t call us particularly thoughtful. Today, Christian Appy, author of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity, considers the way in which — except in rare moments when antinuclear movements gained brief strength here — Americans managed to ignore how this country’s leaders ushered us into the nuclear age by annihilating not one but two cities and killing hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians. Tom Engelhardt

Our “merciful” ending to the “good war”
Or how patriotism means never having to say you’re sorry
By Christian Appy

“Never, never waste a minute on regret. It’s a waste of time.”

— President Harry Truman

Here we are, 70 years after the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I’m wondering if we’ve come even one step closer to a moral reckoning with our status as the world’s only country to use atomic weapons to slaughter human beings. Will an American president ever offer a formal apology? Will our country ever regret the dropping of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” those two bombs that burned hotter than the sun? Will it absorb the way they instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero? Will it finally come to grips with the “black rain” that spread radiation and killed even more people — slowly and painfully — leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?

Given the last seven decades of perpetual militarization and nuclear “modernization” in this country, the answer may seem like an obvious no. Still, as a historian, I’ve been trying to dig a little deeper into our lack of national contrition. As I have, an odd fragment of Americana kept coming to mind, a line from the popular 1970 tearjerker Love Story: “Love,” says the female lead when her boyfriend begins to apologize, “means never having to say you’re sorry.” It has to be one of the dumbest definitions ever to lodge in American memory, since real love often requires the strength to apologize and make amends.

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Karen J. Greenberg: The mass killer and the national security state

You want to profile America’s mass killers? No need at all for the FBI or the national security state. You don’t have to secretly read anyone’s emails or check their phone metadata. You don’t need to follow them on Twitter. All you have to do is narrow down the possibilities in a logical way by looking at the history of mass killing in recent years. That means, as a start, leaving aside half the population, since women make up close to 0% of American mass shooters.

So, start with men. Admittedly, that’s a pretty broad category. Still, among men, you can narrow the field fast. Begin with age. Generally, mass killers are young. Unfortunately, this category isn’t quite as blanket as the no-woman rule. Just recently, in what looked like a copycat mass killing — a repeat of the 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater — a mentally unstable 59-year-old white man in Lafayette, Louisiana, with a chip on his shoulder about women (as well as blacks), opened fire in a theater showing the new Amy Schumer hit, Trainwreck, a film drawing female audiences, and killed two women. Similarly, in February, a disturbed and mentally unstable 36-year-old white man, barred from owning guns, carried out a mass killing of seven in the tiny Missouri town of Tyrone. Nonetheless, when you’re conjuring up the next mass killer, think young man (16-24) and think white.

Now, we’re getting somewhere. One more obvious thing: look for someone carrying a gun, generally obtained quite legally — most likely a semi-automatic pistol or an assault rifle — or come to think of it, three or four or more weapons and lots and lots of ammo. Now, given the 300 million or so guns floating around this country and the spread of “right-to-carry” laws that let anyone bring lethal weaponry just about anywhere, this may not narrow things down quite as much as we’d like. But it should be helpful. And yes, there are other factors, too, that might aid you in setting your sights on the next mass killer. As Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and TomDispatch regular, points out today, these would undoubtedly include feelings of hopelessness and anger, a history of mental instability, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse.

In the grips of a much overblown panic about ISIS-inspired terror in the U.S., the government, Greenberg reports, is about to spend a pile of taxpayer money doing a version of what I just did. Here’s my guarantee: it will cost you a boodle, most of which, as she makes clear, won’t go where it might do some good — that is, to helping unnerved or disturbed young men. And I’ll also guarantee you one more thing: the massed thinking and resources of the national security state won’t do much better than I’ve done above when it comes to the problem of identifying lone-wolf killers. But that state within a state will, as ever, emerge from the experience more powerful and more entrenched. And, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut might once have said, so it goes. Tom Engelhardt

Dealing with mass killings in America
Funding our children, not our wars
By Karen J. Greenberg

Imagine that you’re in the FBI and you receive a tip — or more likely, pick up information through the kind of mass surveillance in which the national security state now specializes. In a series of tweets, a young man has expressed sympathy for the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, or another terrorist group or cause. He’s 16, has no criminal record, and has shown no signs that he might be planning a criminal act. He does, however, seem angry and has demonstrated an interest in following ISIS’s social media feeds as they fan the flames of youth discontent worldwide. He’s even expressed some thoughts about how ISIS’s “caliphate,” the Islamic “homeland” being carved out in Syria and Iraq, might be a place where people like him could find meaning and purpose in an otherwise alienated life.

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Subhankar Banerjee: Fire at world’s end

Normally, Americans love breaking records. (“We’re number one! We’re number one!”) But the latest records to come out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should make anyone’s heart sink. Here’s how the World Meteorological Society put the news in a recent press release: “The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for January to June 2015, as well as for the month of June, was the hottest such period on record.” June itself was a global record-setter for warmth, as had been May and March in this thermometer-busting year, and February might also have squeaked into the number-one spot in recorded history. If so, four of the six months of this year were uniquely, grimly warm. And batten down the hatches since this is now officially an El Niño year in which surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are heating up significantly, possibly to historic levels, and global weather and storm patterns could be affected in major ways.

Where’s that (discredited) “pause” in global warming now that we need it? In the American West, still gripped by a devastating drought, wildfires are raging from California to Western Canada to Alaska. Hundreds of those Canadian wildfires have been burning away and, as desperate people leave the fire areas, a new phrase has entered our language: “wildfire refugees.” Here are two more words that may become more commonplace in the future: “fleeing” (as in “from hotels and campgrounds”) and — in one of our great national parks, Glacier in Montana, part of which is now ablaze — “evacuation.”

TomDispatch regular and award-winning photographer Subhankar Banerjee lives on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington and has recently found himself on the frontlines of the present wildfire season and of climate change. In his latest piece, he takes us into perhaps the single place least likely to be ablaze in America and oh yes, if you haven’t already guessed, it’s on fire. Welcome to — if you’ll excuse my appropriation of a classic phrase from our past — the new world Tom Engelhardt

Paradise burning
Why we all need to learn the word “anthropogenic”
By Subhankar Banerjee

The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden. In this season of drought across the West, there have been far bigger blazes but none quite so symbolic or offering quite such grim news. It isn’t the size of the fire (though it is the largest in the park’s history), nor its intensity. It’s something else entirely — the fact that it shouldn’t have been burning at all. When fire can eat a rainforest in a relatively cool climate, you know the Earth is beginning to burn.

And here’s the thing: the Olympic Peninsula is my home. Its destruction is my personal nightmare and I couldn’t stay away.

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Eduardo Galeano: The previous sole superpower

Recently, Susan Bergholz, the devoted literary agent of the late Uruguayan writer and planetary great Eduardo Galeano, sent me this brief email: “A friend of Eduardo’s and mine called yesterday to tell me, ‘Now we know where Eduardo went: he became pope!’” Somehow, that thought raised my spirits immeasurably. I was about to turn 71 and feeling my age as the dog days of summer approached. After all, when I flip through my address book — and yes, I’m old enough to have a “dumb” one filled out with that ancient potion, ink — it often reads like a book of the dead. I miss friends and authors I worked with like Chalmers Johnson and Jonathan Schell whose ways of thinking helped me make sense of our world. Eduardo has now entered that realm. I was once his English-language book editor and couldn’t be more proud of it. He remains one of my heroes.

When I’m in such moods, TomDispatch offers me an advantage few have. I can resuscitate the dead — and so, with Pope Francis’s excoriating words about our deteriorating planet in mind, I thought I might bring back from the grave the “pope” of my life. History had a strange way of spilling its secrets to Eduardo Galeano, who died in April, and in his late-in-life masterpiece, Mirrors, a history of humanity in 366 episodes, he took us from our first myths to late last night. He could blend the distant past and yesterday (or even tomorrow) in a fashion that took your breath away. Here, for instance, is a passage he wrote early in Mirrors on the “origin of writing” that captures the essence of those first scratches on clay tablets and of the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

“When Iraq was not yet Iraq, it was the birthplace of the first written words.

The words look like bird tracks. Masterful hands drew them in clay with sharpened canes.

Fire annihilates and rescues, kills and gives life, as do the gods, as do we. Fire hardened the clay and preserved the words. Thanks to fire, the clay tablets still tell what they told thousands of years ago in that land of two rivers.

In our days, George W. Bush, perhaps believing that writing was invented in Texas, launched with joyful impunity a war to exterminate Iraq. There were thousands upon thousands of victims, and not all of them were flesh and blood. A great deal of memory was murdered too.

Living history in the form of numerous clay tablets were stolen or destroyed by bombs.

One of the tablets said:

We are dust and nothing
All that we do is no more than wind.”

If George W. Bush did a remarkable impersonation of the (whirl)wind across the Greater Middle East, with results that grow more horrific by the day, here is a set of passages from Mirrors on the planet’s previous superpower, a small island nation that caused its own kind of devastation. This little history of Great Britain from the Opium Wars to Darwin’s finches ends on a typically spectacular Galeano riff on the nature of humanity. My thanks go to his publisher, Nation Books, for allowing me to bring Eduardo alive again at TomDispatch. I hope his spirit continues to inhabit this planet for a long time to come. Tom Engelhardt

God’s masterpiece or the devil’s bad joke?
Barbarians and apes — from the Opium Wars to the Origin of the Species
By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s history of humanity, Mirrors (Nation Books).]

Origin of Freedom of Oppression

Opium was outlawed in China.

British merchants smuggled it in from India. Their diligent efforts led to a surge in the number of Chinese dependent on the mother of heroin and morphine, who charmed them with false happiness and ruined their lives.

The smugglers were fed up with the hindrances they faced at the hands of Chinese authorities. Developing the market required free trade, and free trade demanded war.

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Max Blumenthal: The next Gaza war

We’ve just passed the first “anniversary” — if such a word can even be used with such a catastrophe — of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s third invasion of the Gaza Strip in recent years. That small bit of land has now suffered more devastation than just about any place on the planet. In the wake of the third war since 2008, more than 100,000 displaced Gazans remain homeless or crowded in with relatives. Whole neighborhoods, destroyed in the conflict, have yet to be rebuilt. A year later, there is still next to no electricity, the area’s sole power plant having been taken out by Israeli air strikes, and the situation when it comes to sewage and potable water, is disastrous. Blockaded and devastated by repeated wars, Gaza’s manufacturing sector has almost disappeared, while its economy is “on the verge of collapse,” according to the World Bank. In short, by any standard, Gaza is not a livable place and yet 1.8 million people (more than half of them under 18 years old, 43% under 15) are crammed into it with nowhere to go and in most cases nothing to do. After all, Gaza now has what may be the highest unemployment rate on the planet at 44%, with youth unemployment reaching 60%.

The great Israeli reporter Amira Hass, author of the classic book Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege, recently put the matter this way: “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp… This is not a novelty… This did not start, unlike what many people think, with the rise of Hamas… This policy of sealing off Gaza, of making Gazans into… defacto prisoners, started [in 1991]… So if I want to sum up the reality of Gaza: it is a huge prison… It is an Israel-meditated, pre-meditated, pre-planned, and planned project to separate Gaza from the West Bank.”

Max Blumenthal’s new book, The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, catches the nightmare of the third war in this tiny piece of land in the last six-and-a-half years in a uniquely gripping way. In its pages, you follow him directly into the devastation of the Israeli invasion. (He entered Gaza during the first extended truce of the war.) I doubt there could be a more vivid account of what it felt like, as a Palestinian civilian, to endure those weeks of horror, massive destruction, and killing. Today at TomDispatch, he looks back on that experience and forward to what he doesn’t doubt will be the fourth war of its kind. If he’s right, then sadly, in the years to come, some reporter will be writing yet another book on a Gaza war. Tom Engelhardt

The fire next time
Before homes are even rebuilt in the ruins of the Gaza Strip, another war looms
By Max Blumenthal

“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” declared Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in February. His ominous comments came just days after an anti-tank missile fired by the Lebanon-based guerrilla group Hezbollah killed two soldiers in an Israeli army convoy. It, in turn, was a response to an Israeli air strike that resulted in the assassination of several high-ranking Hezbollah figures.

Lieberman offered his prediction only four months after his government concluded Operation Protective Edge, the third war between Israel and the armed factions of the Gaza Strip, which had managed to reduce about 20% of besieged Gaza to an apocalyptic moonscape. Even before the assault was launched, Gaza was a warehouse for surplus humanity — a 360-square-kilometer ghetto of Palestinian refugees expelled by and excluded from the self-proclaimed Jewish state. For this population, whose members are mostly under the age of 18, the violence has become a life ritual that repeats every year or two. As the first anniversary of Protective Edge passes, Lieberman’s unsettling prophecy appears increasingly likely to come true. Indeed, odds are that the months of relative “quiet” that followed his statement will prove nothing more than an interregnum between Israel’s ever more devastating military escalations.

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Pratap Chatterjee: No lone rangers in drone warfare

Since November 2002, when a CIA drone strike destroyed the SUV of “al-Qaeda’s chief operative in Yemen,” Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi (“U.S. kills al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen”), it’s been almost 13 years of unending repeat headlines. Here are a few recent ones: “U.S. drone strike kills a senior Islamic State militant in Syria,” “Drone kills ISIL operative linked to Benghazi,” “Drone kills four Qaeda suspects in Yemen,” “U.S. drone strike kills Yemen al-Qaida leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi,” “U.S. drone strikes target Islamic State fighters along Afghanistan-Pakistan border.” Those last strikes in Eastern Afghanistan reportedly killed 49 “militants.”  (Sometimes they are called “terror suspects.”) And there’s no question that, from Somalia to Pakistan, Libya to Syria, Yemen to Iraq, various al-Qaeda or Islamic State leaders and “lieutenants” have bitten the dust along with significant numbers of terror grunts and hundreds of the collaterally damaged, including women and children.

These repetitive headlines should signal the kind of victory that Washington would celebrate for years to come. A muscular American technology is knocking off the enemy in significant numbers without a single casualty to us. Think of it as a real-life version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heroic machine in certain of the Terminator movies. If the programs that have launched hundreds of drone strikes in the backlands of the planet over these years remain “covert,” they have nonetheless been a point of pride for a White House that regularly uses a “kill list” to send robot assassins into the field. From Washington’s point of view, its drone wars remain, as a former CIA director once bragged, “the only game in town” when it comes to al-Qaeda (and its affiliates, wannabes, and competitors).

As it happens, almost 13 years later, there are just one or two little problems with this scenario of American techno-wizardry pummeling terrorism into the dust of history. One is that, despite the many individuals bumped off, the dust cloud of terrorism keeps on growing. Across much of the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, the drone assassination program continues to act like a recruitment poster for a bevy of terror outfits. In every country (with the possible exception of Somalia) where U.S. drone strikes have been repeatedly employed, the situation is far worse today than in 2001.  In the two countries where it all began, Afghanistan and Yemen, it’s significantly — in the case of Yemen, infinitely — worse.

Even the idea of war without casualties (for us, that is) hasn’t quite panned out as planned, not if, as TomDispatch regular Pratap Chatterjee reports today, you count the spread of post-traumatic stress disorder among the drone operators.  In fact, given how humdrum headlines about the droning of terror leaders have become in our world, and the visible futility and failure that goes with them, you might think that someone in Washington would reconsider the efficacy of drones — of, that is, an assassination machine that has proven anything but a victory weapon. In any world but ours, it might even seem logical to ground our terminators for a while and reconsider their use. In Washington, there’s not a chance in hell of that, not unless, as Chatterjee suggests, both resistance and casualties in the drone program grow to such a degree that a grounding comes from the bottom, not the top. It turns out that — remember your Terminator films here — if a future John Connor is to stop Washington’s robotic killing operations, he or she is likely to be found within the drone program itself. Tom Engelhardt

Killing by committee in the global Wild West
The perpetrators become the victims of drone warfare
By Pratap Chatterjee

The myth of the lone drone warrior is now well established and threatens to become as enduring as that of the lone lawman with a white horse and a silver bullet who rode out into the Wild West to find the bad guys. In a similar fashion, the unsung hero of Washington’s modern War on Terror in the wild backlands of the planet is sometimes portrayed as a mysterious Central Intelligence Agency officer.  Via modern technology, he prowls Central Asian or Middle Eastern skies with his unmanned Predator drone, dispatching carefully placed Hellfire missiles to kill top al-Qaeda terrorists in their remote hideouts.

So much for the myth. In reality, there’s nothing “lone” about drone warfare. Think of the structure for carrying out Washington’s drone killing program as a multidimensional pyramid populated with hundreds of personnel and so complex that just about no one involved really grasps the full picture. Cian Westmoreland, a U.S. Air Force veteran who helped set up the drone data communications system over southeastern Afghanistan back in 2009, puts the matter bluntly: “There are so many people in the chain of actions that it has become increasingly difficult to understand the true impact of what we do. The diffusion of responsibility distances people from the moral weight of their decisions.”

In addition, it’s a program under pressure, killing continually, and losing its own personnel at a startling and possibly unsustainable rate due to “wounds” that no one ever imagined as part of this war. There are, in fact, two groups feeling the greatest impact from Washington’s ongoing air campaigns: lowly drone intelligence “analysts,” often fresh out of high school, and women and children living in poverty on the other side of the world.

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Ellen Cantarow: Paradise lost — or found?

In September 2014, there was a massive climate change march, estimated at 400,000 people, in New York City and I was there with my family.  It was so jam-packed that, as I wrote at the time, it took my crew an hour and a half just to begin walking and three and a half hours to reach the official starting line for the march.  Todd Gitlin, former president of the 1960s group Students for a Democratic Society, is a man who knows a thing or two about movements and how to recognize them.  After marching in that October rally to save the planet, he wrote a TomDispatch piece in which he anointed what he saw “a genuine global climate movement.” (“Call me a convert, but it’s here; it’s big; it’s real; it matters.”)

And nothing that’s happened since — from a spreading movement to promote divestment from fossil fuel stocks to Pope Francis’s encyclical on a declining planet or the big-tent way he enlisted well-known climate-change activist and author Naomi Klein in his cause — indicates that Gitlin was anything but right. You don’t, however, have to look to God’s vicar or famous activists or masses of demonstrators marching in one big city under every slogan imaginable to convince yourself that something’s happening. On a planet that has already had the hottest five months in recorded history this year, something is happening (even if you don’t quite know what it is, Mr. Jones). If you want proof that this is so and isn’t just a matter of high-profile, big-headline types, you could follow 350.org founder Bill McKibben into deepest Vermont to explore ways in which everyday Americans are retrofitting their homes for a new energy future. Or you could tag along with TomDispatch’s Ellen Cantarow into the American countryside to see how ordinary citizens are fighting courageously — and with ingenious tactics — against Big Energy companies trying to turn this country into “Saudi America” in a drill-baby-drill world.

In the Finger Lakes, an area of New York State you may never have heard of, Cantarow offers a glimpse of the small-scale, local ways in which Americans are standing up to Big Energy corporations. She describes how they are doing their inventive best to seize the day and ensure that our children and grandchildren remain on a planet capable of supporting them. Tom Engelhardt

Dirty energy vs. clean power
The past battles the future at Seneca Lake
By Ellen Cantarow

Let’s amend the famous line from Joni Mitchell’s “Yellow Taxi” to fit this moment in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. There, Big Energy seems determined to turn paradise, if not into a parking lot, then into a massive storage area for fracked natural gas. But there’s one way in which that song doesn’t quite match reality. Mitchell famously wrote, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” As part of a growing global struggle between Big Energy and a movement focused on creating a fossil-fuel-free future, however, the residents of the Finger Lakes seem to know just what they’ve got and they’re determined not to let it go. As a result, a local struggle against a corporation determined to bring in those fracked fuels catches a changing mood not just in the United States but across the world when it comes to protecting the planet, one place at a time, if necessary.

It’s difficult to imagine a more picturesque landscape, a more tranquil locale, a more bucolic garden spot than the Finger Lakes region. Each year, it draws tens of thousands of tourists to gaze at the waterfalls in Watkins Glen, to kayak and canoe in its deep waters, to dine in its farm-to-table restaurants and enjoy the homespun hospitality of its bed and breakfasts. Lush vineyards rustle on tree-studded hillsides. Wine Enthusiast magazine gave it top honors last year, calling it “one of the most vibrant and promising wine regions of the world.” There are fruit and vegetable farms and sugar maples, too. In 2013, the state’s maple syrup production ranked second only to Vermont’s.

The eleven Finger Lakes are among the wonders of the natural world. At 38 miles in length, Seneca Lake is the second longest of them, its 4.2 trillion gallons of water provide drinking water for 100,000 people. Its shallows are home to warm-water fish like smallmouth bass and yellow perch. Its deep waters play host to lake trout and Atlantic salmon and have created a unique microclimate in the surrounding region, neither too cold in winter nor too warm in summer, allowing agriculture to flourish.

Perhaps inspired by the ecological marvel that is their home, many of the Finger Lakes vineyards and vegetable farms rely on sustainable production methods. At the same time, wineries, hundreds of businesses, and individual families have begun converting from the use of fossil fuels to alternative energies. Tompkins County, adjacent to Seneca Lake, has even developed a solar energy program that has inspired similar efforts in counties across the state. A regional wind farm is scheduled to start operating in 2016. Clean and green seems to be the ethos of the region, but all that could change fast — and soon.

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Greg Grandin: How endless war helps Old Dixie stay new

“They finally shot the nigger!” the sparrow-slight soldier whooped. Nicknamed “Georgia” for the obvious reason, that’s what he apparently ran around shouting once word of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination wound its way out into the electric-green paddy fields of South Vietnam. I was told the story more than once by a member of his unit and often imagined what it must have been like, especially for his black brothers-in-arms, to be smacked with that news and that epithet all at once. Yet, on some level, it wasn’t the least bit shocking. Labeled a “total racist” by a fellow member of his unit, Georgia was one of many white soldiers hailing from the former Confederate States of America whose bigotry was on full display during the Vietnam War.

As “soul brothers” and “bloods” across South Vietnam embraced emerging ideas about black consciousness, black pride, and black power, racist white troops responded by donning Ku Klux Klan robes, burning crosses, and embracing other symbols of white supremacy. Reflecting on his decision to join the militant Black Panthers after returning from Vietnam, Reginald Edwards, who served as a rifleman with the Marines, recalled: “We had already fought for the white man in Vietnam. It was clearly his war. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have seen as many Confederate flags as you saw.” Dwyte Brown, who served in the Navy, told journalist Wallace Terry that, in the barracks at the U.S. base in Cam Ranh Bay, “there would be nothing but Confederate flags all over the place.”

In the midst of the recent Confederate flag fallout following the massacre in Charleston, TomDispatch regular Greg Grandin revisits this much-neglected history and so much else that came before and after. Tracing the sordid story of the Old South’s battle flag, that symbol of bitter-end racism, from its raising by Marines on Okinawa during the Second World War to more recent appearances in Iraq and Afghanistan, Grandin shines a light on a larger and more troubling military embrace of the Confederacy — something the Pentagon would, no doubt, rather keep hidden from view.

Georgia, the soldier who cheered King’s 1968 murder, seemingly conformed to all the stereotypes you might imagine. “He had a little tape player. And all he had was one tape of every Hank Williams song there ever was and he played them constantly whenever we were in base camp,” I was told. But what he did out in the field — where the stifling heat of the day gave way to dank nights in cool, clammy foxholes — shocked me. “Georgia was this little white racist and Mitchell was this great big black guy, and when it would rain and get cold, they’d get in and sleep together to stay warm,” a fellow unit member told me. Perhaps racists are like atheists and can’t be found in foxholes. Or perhaps Georgia’s and Mitchell’s bunker brotherhood is a reminder that there’s always reason for hope.

The Pentagon now stands where South Carolina did just weeks ago. With a groundswell of grassroots activism, the U.S. military’s long-cherished symbols of racism and Confederacy-veneration might also be brought to the brink of welcome exile, if not banishment to history’s dustbin. If that ever comes to pass, one person we’ll have to thank is Greg Grandin, author of the much-anticipated Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman. Nick Turse

The Confederate flag at war
(But not the Civil War)
By Greg Grandin

The Pentagon just can’t let go. In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, Amazon and Walmart have announced that they will no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise. Ebay says it will stop offering Confederate items for electronic auction. The Republican governor of Mississippi calls his state flag, which includes the Stars and Bars in the top left corner, “a point of offense that needs to be removed.” Even Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, agrees that a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in his state’s capitol building belongs in a museum.

Yet the Department of Defense says it isn’t even “reviewing” the possibility of a ban on the flag, deciding instead to leave any such move to the various service branches, while military bases named after Confederate officers will remain so. One factor in this decision: the South provides more than 40% of all military recruits, many of them white; only 15% are from the Northeast.

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Nomi Prins: Jeb! The money! Dynasty!

Money, they say, makes the world go round. So how’s $10 billion for you? That’s a top-end estimate for the record-breaking spending in this 1% presidential election campaign season. But is “season” even the right word, now that such campaigns are essentially four-year events that seem always to be underway? In a political world stuffed with money, it’s little wonder that the campaign season floats on a sea of donations. In the case of Jeb Bush, he and his advisers have so far had a laser-focus on the electorate they felt mattered most: big donors. They held off the announcement of his candidacy until last week (though he clearly long knew he was running) so that they could blast out of the gates, dollars-wise, leaving the competition in their financial dust, before the exceedingly modest limits to non-super PAC campaign fundraising kicked in.

And give Jeb credit — or rather consider him a credit to his father (the 41st president) and his brother (the 43rd), who had Iraq eternally on their minds. It wasn’t just that Jeb flubbed the Iraq Question when a reporter asked him recently (yes, he would do it all over again; no, he wouldn’t… well, hmmm…), but that Iraq is deeply embedded in the minds of his campaign team, too. His advisers dubbed the pre-announcement campaign they were going to launch to pull in the dollars a “shock-and-awe” operation in the spirit of the invasion of Iraq. Now, having sent in the ground troops, they clearly consider themselves at war. As the New York Times reported recently, the group’s top strategist told donors that his super PAC “hopes to ‘weaponize’ its fund-raising total for the first six months of the year.”

The money being talked about$80-$100 million raised in the first quarter of 2015 and $500 million by June. If reached, these figures would indeed represent shock-and-awe fundraising in the Republican presidential race. As of now, there’s no way of knowing whether they’re fantasy figures or not, but here’s a clue to Jeb’s money-raising powers: according to the Washington Post, his advisers have been asking donors not to give more than a million dollars now; they are, that is, trying to cap donations for the moment. (As the Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote,“The move reflects concerns among Bush advisers that accepting massive sums from a handful of uber-rich supporters could fuel a perception that the former governor is in their debt.”) And having spent just about every pre-announcement day for months doing fundraisers and scouring the country for money, while preserving the fiction that he might not be interested in the presidency, Jeb, according to the New York Times, bragged to a group of donors that “he believed his political action committee had raised more money in 100 days than any other modern Republican political operation.”

Let’s not forget, of course, that we’re not talking about anyone; we’re talking about a Bush. We’re talking about the possibility of becoming number three (or rather Bush 45) in the Oval Office. We’re talking about what is, by now, a fabled money-shaking, money-making, money-raising machine of a family. We’re talking dynasty and when it comes to money and the Bushes (as with money and that other potential dynasty of our moment), no one knows more on the subject than Nomi Prins, former Wall Street exec and author of All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. In her now ongoing TomDispatch series on the political dynasties of our moment, fundraising, and the Big Banks, think of her latest post as an essential backgrounder on the election you have less and less to do with, in which Wall Street, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the rest of the crew do most of the essential voting with their wallets. Tom Engelhardt

All in
The Bush family goes for number three (with the help of its bankers)
By Nomi Prins

[This piece has been adapted and updated by Nomi Prins from her book All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Powerrecently out in paperback (Nation Books).] 

It’s happening. As expected, dynastic politics is prevailing in campaign 2016. After a tease about as long as Hillary’s, Jeb Bush (aka Jeb!) officially announced his presidential bid last week. Ultimately, the two of them will fight it out for the White House, while the nation’s wealthiest influencers will back their ludicrously expensive gambit.

And here’s a hint: don’t bet on Jeb not to make it through the Republican gauntlet of 12 candidates (so far). After all, the really big money’s behind him. Last December, even though out of public office since 2007, he had captured the support of 73% of the Wall Street Journal’s “richest CEOs.” Though some have as yet sidestepped declarations of fealty, count on one thing: the big guns will fall into line. They know that, given his family connections, Jeb is their best path to the White House and they’re not going to blow that by propping up some Republican lightweight whose father and brother weren’t president, not when Hillary, with all her connections and dynastic power, will be the opponent. That said, in the Bush-Clinton battle to come, no matter who wins, the bankers and billionaires will emerge victorious.

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Naomi Oreskes: Why climate deniers are their own worst nightmares

When I go out with my not quite three-year-old grandson, his idea of a good time is hide-and-seek. This means suddenly darting behind a bush too small to fully obscure him or into a doorway where he remains in plain sight, while I wander around wondering aloud where in the world he could possibly be. In this, there’s a kind of magical thinking and denial of reality that has great charm. When similar acts of denial are committed by adults, when they refuse to see what’s right before their eyes — the melting sidewalks and roads of India, the emptying reservoirs of parched California, the extreme rain and flooding in parts of Texas and Oklahoma, the news that last year was a global heat record for the planet and this year is already threatening to be another, or that Alaska just experienced its hottest May ever, or that 13 of the 14 hottest years since temperatures began to be recorded took place in this century, or that a supposed post-1998 “pause” in the planetary warming process was a fantasy — the charm fades fast. When you discover that behind this denial of reality lies at least $125 million in dark money, it fades even faster. In just three years, unidentified conservative sources have poured that eye-popping figure into a web of think tanks and activist outfits dedicated to promoting climate denial (and not even included in that amount are the vast sums that Big Energy continues to contribute to the promotion of denialism, as it has done since the 1980s). In other words, some of the most powerful and profitable interests on the planet are determined to deny reality with a ferocity meant to confuse the public and put a damper on any moves or movement to save a planetary environment that has long nurtured humanity. It’s a charmless spectacle.

The well-funded climate deniers and the politicians who support them (and are, in turn, supported by the same set of funders) repeatedly yell “hoax.” In truth, they are the hoax and by now, were we looking, we would see that they are standing in a nearby doorway stark naked and in clear sight. And yet, backed by all that money, they essentially control the Republican Party and the Republican Congress. (Seventy-two percent of the Republican Senate caucus, for instance, now qualify as climate deniers.) This means that, for the party’s increasing horde of presidential candidates, the phrase “I’m not a scientist, but…” followed by doubts about or the rejection of climate science will be a commonplace of election year 2016. It couldn’t be a grimmer vista, even though in the decades to come achieving a relatively speedy changeover to non-greenhouse-gas-releasing fuels seems ever more possible.

This means, of course, that taking on the climate deniers directly couldn’t be more important. That’s why TomDispatch is lucky to have historian of science Naomi Oreskes return — having only recently given testimony before a Republican-controlled congressional committee dotted with climate deniers — to take on their false claims, fantasies, and lies. She co-authored with Erik Conway the now-classic book Merchants of Doubt on how the fossil fuel companies, like the tobacco companies before them, created a public sense of uncertainty about the dangers of their products when a scientific one didn’t exist. More recently, again with Conway, she wrote The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, a look back at the effects of global warming and climate denialism from the point of view of a historian of 2393. Tom Engelhardt

The hoax of climate denial
Why “politically motivated” science is good science
By Naomi Oreskes

Recently, the Washington Post reported new data showing something most of us already sense: that increased polarization on Capitol Hill is due to the way the Republican Party has lurched to the right. The authors of the study use Senator John McCain to illustrate the point. McCain’s political odyssey is, in some dismaying sense, close to my own heart, since it highlights the Republican turn against science.

As unlikely as it might seem today, in the first half of the twentieth century the Republicans were the party that most strongly supported scientific work, as they recognized the diverse ways in which it could undergird economic activity and national security. The Democrats were more dubious, tending to see science as elitist and worrying that new federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health would concentrate resources in elite East Coast universities.

In recent decades, of course, the Republicans have lurched rightward on many topics and now regularly attack scientific findings that threaten their political platforms. In the 1980s, they generally questioned evidence of acid rain; in the 1990s, they went after ozone science; and in this century, they have launched fierce attacks not just on climate science, but in the most personal fashion imaginable on climate scientists.

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David Vine: The forgotten costs of war in the Middle East

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the three bare-bones “staging outposts” or, in the lingo of the trade, “cooperative security locations” that the U.S. Marines have established in Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon. We’re talking about personnel from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, a unit at present garrisoned at Morón, Spain.  It would, however, like to have some bases — though that’s not a word in use at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which oversees all such expansion — ready to receive them in a future in which anything might happen in an Africa exploding with new or expanding terror outfits.

Really? You haven’t noticed anything on the subject? Admittedly, the story wasn’t on the nightly news, nor did it make the front page of your local paper, or undoubtedly its inside pages either, but honestly it was right there in plain sight in Military Times! Of course, three largely unoccupied cooperative security locations in countries that aren’t exactly on the tip of the American tongue would be easy enough to miss under the best of circumstances, but what about the other eight “staging facilities” that AFRICOM now admits to having established across Africa. The command had previously denied that it had any “bases” on the continent other than the ever-expanding one it established in the tiny nation of Djibouti in the horn of Africa and into which it has already sunk three-quarters of a billion dollars with at least $1.2 billion in upgrades still to go. However, AFRICOM’S commander, General David Rodriguez, now proudly insists that the 11 bare-bones outposts will leave U.S. forces “within four hours of all the high-risk, high-threat [diplomatic] posts” on the continent.

Really, you didn’t hear a peep about those bases either, even though Stars and Stripes had the story front and center?

Hmmm, that might be truly strange if anyone in this country (outside the Pentagon) paid the slightest attention to the issue of U.S. global garrisons. Of course they don’t.  They never have, which should qualify as one of the great mysteries of American life and yet somehow doesn’t. U.S. bases abroad are just about never in the news. Few are the journalists who write stories about them, though they often spend time on them. Pundits rarely discuss them. Candidates don’t debate them. Editorialists don’t write about them. These days, who even remembers the 505 (!) bases, ranging from tiny combat outposts to small American towns (with most of the amenities of home), that the U.S. built, maintained, and then abandoned in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 to the tune of tens of billions of dollars — before, that is, American trainers and other personnel were sent back to a few of them in 2014-2015 for Iraq War 3.0? Almost no one, including a Congress generally eager to cut funds on just about anything, discusses the costs of preserving the hundreds and hundreds of bases of every size and shape that the Pentagon maintains globally in a fashion that is historically unprecedented.  Back in 2012, TomDispatch regular David Vine estimated that those costs ran to about $170 billion a year, conservatively speaking, and since 9/11 had added up to a total of perhaps a couple of trillion dollars.

If you don’t get the way this country has garrisoned the planet, if you never notice its empire of bases, there is no way to grasp its imperial nature, which perhaps is the point. And of course, if you haven’t taken any of this in, as is likely if you’re a red-blooded American, then you probably have no idea that this country has sunk billions of dollars into a single base on a single island, Diego Garcia, lost in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean but crucial to America’s Middle Eastern conflicts. This also means you don’t know that the Pentagon, in an act of cruelty of the first order, demanded that a whole people be exiled from their country, their lives, everything that mattered to them, everything that rootedness means in this world, so that the base could be built, staffed, and used in America’s endless wars in the Greater Middle East without any onlookers whatsoever.

It’s a grim tale you probably won’t have heard (even if you read Military Times or Stars and Stripes). David Vine is that rarest of Americans who has found himself riveted by what Chalmers Johnson once called America’s Baseworld. He’s written about it vividly in Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, a book Andrew Bacevich has termed “a devastating critique” and that’s due out this August. No one knows more about Diego Garcia and the fate of its people than Vine does. (He wrote a previous book on the subject, Island of Shame.) So take a moment to cast your eyes to the distant edge of America’s empire of bases and briefly consider some of the other costs of this country’s mania for garrisoning the world. Tom Engelhardt

The truth about Diego Garcia
And 50 years of fiction about an American military base
By David Vine

First, they tried to shoot the dogs. Next, they tried to poison them with strychnine. When both failed as efficient killing methods, British government agents and U.S. Navy personnel used raw meat to lure the pets into a sealed shed. Locking them inside, they gassed the howling animals with exhaust piped in from U.S. military vehicles. Then, setting coconut husks ablaze, they burned the dogs’ carcasses as their owners were left to watch and ponder their own fate.

The truth about the U.S. military base on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is often hard to believe. It would be easy enough to confuse the real story with fictional accounts of the island found in the Transformers movies, on the television series 24, and in Internet conspiracy theories about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

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Jen Marlowe: ‘They demolish and we rebuild”

There’s an ugliness to war beyond the ugly things war does. There are scars beyond the rough, imperfectly mended flesh of the gunshot wound, beyond the flashback, the startle reflex, the nightmare. War finds peculiar and heinous ways to distort lives, and when children are involved, it can mean a lifetime spent trying to recapture what was, to rebuild what never can be.

I’ve met these former child victims again and again. I think of the man whose features seemed to be perpetually sliding off his face because a grotesque incendiary weapon landed near him when he was just a boy. I think of the woman who, as a pre-teen, watched as her grandmother and neighbor were gunned down right in front of her. I think of the little boy who, after fleeing from a town in the midst of a rebel assault, hadn’t seen his father in over a year. I think of the tiny girl who sang a song about orphans for me just months after her mother, father, and brother were killed by an old artillery shell. The boys who, on the cusp of their teens, had assault rifles thrust into their hands and were sent off to battle. 

Those whom I met in adulthood were still suffering the after-effects, decades later, of adult wars that intruded on their young lives. Those I met as children were already thoroughly marked and, I have no doubt, will join the ranks of this enormous legion of the damaged. And they in turn will find company among the countless child victims in present-day Iraq and Syria, Yemen and Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, not to mention Palestine.

After last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas government, hopes were high for the reconstruction of battered Gaza City. Instead, all these months later, rubble remains ubiquitous, the economy is in shambles, and living standards are deteriorating as the enclave struggles to stay afloat. “A lot of factors pile on top of each other: unemployment remains [at] 40 percent, youth unemployment is more than 60 percent,” says Robert Turner, the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. 

The Gaza War and its aftermath have scarred yet another generation of Palestinian children, but Gaza has no monopoly on hardship. Suffering can be found even in the smallest of villages on the West Bank, too. In her latest report from the front lines of trauma, TomDispatch regular Jen Marlowe focuses on one family of war victims: a father scarred in his youth by war and occupation whose young son seems about to follow in his footsteps — to follow, that is, a path to displacement and despair so common to so many Palestinians.

What does it mean for a family to be made refugees again and again, generation after generation?  What does it mean for the children of yesterday, today, and tomorrow to be made homeless in a way that transcends the loss of a house? What does it mean for them to have lost their place, quite literally, in the world? Just what does that pain do to children?  Where does it take them as adults? Let Jen Marlowe lead the way in answering these questions. Nick Turse

Expelled for life
A Palestinian family’s struggle to stay on their land
By Jen Marlowe

Nasser Nawaj’ah held Laith’s hand as, beside me, they walked down the dirt and pebble path of Old Susya. Nasser is 33 years old, his son six. Nasser’s jaw was set and every few moments he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was approaching. Until Laith piped up with his question, the only sounds were our footsteps and the wind, against which Nasser was wearing a wool hat and a pleated brown jacket.

“Why did they take our home?” the little boy asked.

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