Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yesterday In Washington A New Load Of Fresh Manure Was Delivered To Fertilize All We Little Mushrooms Out Here In The Dark.

Yesterday In Washington A New Load Of Fresh Manure Was Delivered To Fertilize All We Little Mushrooms Out Here In The Dark.

( Yesterday) Today In Washington

THE HOUSE: Convenes at noon, with House Clerk Lorraine Miller presiding over an initial quorum call of members-elect followed by their election of the Speaker. That person-by-person roll call (Mr. Ackerman: “Pelosi!”) will last until about 2, when the loser will hand the winner the gavel she’s wielded for the past four years.

After Boehner delivers a speech pledging that the new Republican majority will make  “tough choices,” he’ll swear in the other 434 members before debate begins on the GOP’s package of changes to the chamber’s rules. At that point, most of the children allowed on the floor (so they can be with mom or grandpa on the big day) will be ushered out.

The opening day makeup will be 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats — a net gain of 63 seats for the GOP since the end of the 111th Congress. The freshman class is 87 Republicans and nine Democrats.

THE SENATE: Convenes at noon, with Biden on hand in his role as president of the Senate. He’ll swear in the 13 freshman senators (a dozen Republicans and a single Democrat; seven are former House members) and 21 others who won re-election last fall — plus the GOP’s Mark Kirk, who straddles those groups because he won both a special election and a full term in Illinois in November. By custom many former senators are on hand to escort the newcomers to the well for their oath-taking and registry signing.

Daniel Inouye of Hawaii will be re-elected president pro tem and remain third in line to the presidency (because he’s the longest-serving member of the majority), but otherwise the Senate — unlike the House — doesn’t have to reorganize itself at the start of each new Congress.

While some proposals will be unveiled this afternoon, the debate on making it tougher for the minority to delay legislation and nominations by filibuster has been put off for three weeks to allow time for bridging deepening differences among Democrats and perhaps find some compromise with the GOP. In the end, only modest changes are likely.

The Democrats will control 53 seats (including the two independents). The roster of 47 Republicans is a net increase of six since the election, a sufficient gain to allow McConnell to plan an array of new strategic approaches.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama will stay out of the way of the House Republicans on their takeover day, with no on-camera events planned. Instead, he’s mulling a revamp of his West Wing coterie — with Pete Rouse and Bill Daley the two apparent finalists for chief of staff and a decision likely by Friday. The president also has meetings with Secretary of State Clinton and other top advisers.

Gibbs revealed this morning that he would step down as White House press secretary in the next two months to become an outside political adviser focused initially on the Obama re-election effort.

A SOMBER START: “We gather here today at a time of great challenges: Nearly one in 10 of our neighbors are looking for work, health care costs are still rising for families and small businesses, our spending has caught up with us and our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy,” Boehner plans to say at the outset of his speech. “Tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.”

Excerpts the new Speaker’s office rolled out this morning also have Boehner promising the GOP’s aim “will be to give government back to the people,” by ending “some of the rituals that have come to characterize this institution under majorities Republican and Democratic alike” — remarks clearly designed to appeal to the tea-party insurgents who dominate his freshman class while also setting an early theme for the GOP in 2012. “We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process ‘less efficient’ than our forefathers intended.”

Boehner is also putting a pragmatic cast on his obligatory lines about working to restore bipartisan comity to the House. “A great deal of scar tissue has built up on both sides of the aisle. We cannot ignore that, nor should we,” his prepared remarks say. Healing will come only if the House starts to “operate in a manner that permits a free exchange of ideas, and resolves our honest differences through a fair debate and a fair vote.”

THE OPPOSING VIEW: Before she hands over the gavel, Pelosi will promise Boehner that “you will find in us a willing partner” on advancing legislation that “creates jobs, strengthens our middle class and reduces the deficit.”

But that modest reach across the aisle — in a way that may yet help Pelosi unify her fractured minority — comes as her party’s campaign operation is wasting no time in excoriating House Republicans, the newcomers in particular. Yesterday the DCCC issued these calculations about the ideological predilections of the freshman class — based, the group said, on their public statements in the campaign: 68 want to repeal the health overhaul, 34 support at least a partial privatization of Social Security, 31 have expressed doubt about the existence of global warming, 27 support a flat 23 percent national sales tax, 18 would ban all embryonic stem cell research, 15 want to close the Department of Education and 3 believe in the “birther” theory that Obama was not born in the United States and so is unqualified to be president under the Constitution.

WHY TWO NUMBERS? There's already plenty of confusion about whether Boehner is going to be the 53rd Speaker of the House — or the 61st. Well, both can be considered correct. He's the 53rd different person to hold the job, but several people (Sam Rayburn, for example) have held it on more than one occasion, so today marks the 61st time the job has changed hands.

THE CELEBRATORY PART: Almost all the House and Senate freshmen and plenty of incumbents bring family and friends to Washington to celebrate their oath-taking, but it’s hard to top the retinue surrounding Boehner, which includes seven brothers, three sisters and dozens of nieces and nephews. They arrived in town after a 10-hour bus caravan from Ohio and then essentially took over the Capitol Hill Club last night. (“Big Dog” is a favorite nickname for their brother.) Today, they’ll be in the Speaker’s box in the House gallery for the opening ceremonies and then head to the Cannon Caucus Room to headline a reception featuring Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili, Montgomery Inn ribs and Graeter’s ice cream.

The brothers on hand are Bob, Steve, Rick, Drew, Pete, Jerry and Michael. The sisters are Nancy Roell, Sue Kneuven and Lynda Meinke. The only missing sibling his the No. 7 boy, Greg, who owns two Georgia restaurants and is the only one of the dozen Boehner kids who lives outside Ohio.

ON TO THE NEXT RITUAL: Once Boehner is officially Speaker, he can join Reid in the annual backstage ritual in which the House and Senate leaders ceremonially ask the president to describe his view of the state of the union to a joint session of Congress. A mutually convenient date has already been arranged, but it would be bad manners for anyone to say what it is before Obama formally accepts the invitation.

The default timing is the final Tuesday evening in January — the 25th, this year —  and that’s what all of Washington is planning on. (The Senate will be away for the previous two weeks.) But the occasion has occasionally slipped to Wednesday. In modern times the speech has been staged to precede the release of the president’s budget, which by law is supposed to come out by the first Monday in February. But OMB has already announced it will bust that Feb. 7 deadline by a week, so in theory the State of the Union could be delivered anytime in the first two weeks of next month.

BOEHNER ON BAKER STREET: If the new Speaker had been stuck for inspiration in writing his inaugural address as he takes the Speaker’s chair and becomes second in line to the presidency, he could have done worse than turn on the radio last night — where he was bound to hear the 1972 Stealers Wheel record that propelled the career of Scottish songwriter Gerry Rafferty, who died yesterday at 63:

Well you started out with nothing
And you’re proud that you’re a self-made man
And your friends, they all come crawlin’
Slap you on the back and say, ‘Please, please’
Well I don’t know why I came here tonight
I got the feeling that something ain’t right
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

A NEW DAILY NOTATION: Now you’ll know which lawmaker deserves birthday greetings each day. Today’s birthdays are House Democrats Carolyn McCarthy of New York (67) and Mark Critz of Pennsylavnia (49). Belated New Year’s Day good wishes go to Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey (57), GOP Rep. John Sullivan of Oklahoma (46) and Democratic Rep.-elect Terri Sewell of Alabama (57).

CORRECTION: Yesterday’s description of the 1997 re-election of Newt Gingrich as Speaker was incorrect. While six House members voted “present,” five were Republicans and the other was Dick Gephardt, that year’s Democratic nominee for the top job. 
— David Hawkings, editor

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GregMitch: Vanity Fair about to post "twisted inside story" on Assange and WikiLeaks.
Blogging WikiLeaks News & Views, for Day 38 | The Nation -


Karl Rove’s help for Sweden as it and the Obama Administration investigate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be the latest example of the adage, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

As sex and spy probes move forward, word is getting out about how Rove, the former Bush White House strategist, has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt for the past two years.

“This all has Karl’s signature,” a reliable political source told me last month in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove’s Swedish connections as an important factor in the WikiLeaks probes. “He [Rove] must be very happy. He’s right back in the middle of it. He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like ─ and screwing his opponents big-time.”

Karl Rove

The possibility that the Republican Rove might have any hidden influence in Swedish and the United States law enforcement is inherently hard to prove because of the secrecy of proceedings. So, I refrained until now from writing about it for Connecticut Watchdog, especially because Rove himself has so far failed to respond to my invitation to comment. Instead, I recently published the relevant information as a political opinion column on the Huffington Post.

But the consumer stakes of potential WikiLeaks prosecutions are too important to ignore any longer. That’s true because underlying relationships between key figures in politics, law enforcement and the news media hold significant dangers for the public in restricting Net and web-based communications, even if no improper action by Rove is ever established.

That’s particularly so if authorities use national security rationales to curtail Net access, as in the unprecedented and successful pressure by the U.S. government for, PayPal and others to cut off their services to WikiLeaks. Similarly, the Air Force forbade any of its employees from reading any part of the New York Times because it published redacted versions of some of the secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

So, we recap today scuttlebutt about the WikiLeaks probes and potential implications for U.S. consumers. We’ll touch also on why even such a partisan figure as Rove retains clout among security-conscious Democrats along with Republicans, as well as overseas.

Rove himself says on his Karl Rove & Company website that he has been advising Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, although providing only scant detail about specific services. But it’s well-known in Sweden how Rove has helped Reinfeldt lead the nation’s Moderate Party to election success over liberal competitors who previously dominated the nation’s leadership.

Swedish political blogger Martin Moberg reported Nov. 5, for example, that Rove was visiting Sweden again for unknown purposes. But Moberg warned his readers, according to a translation by Google’s automatic tool bar, that their country has “been spared the vulgar way” political campaigns are conducted in the U.S. “but the question is for how long?”

Going farther, the Swedish web-tabloid daily News 24 published on Dec. 26 an article, “Karl Rove helps Reinfeldt to manage Julian Assange.” News 24, which says it’s the ninth-highest online site in Sweden, cited as evidence my Huffington Post column and a similar blog by Alabama-based legal commentator Roger Shuler. News 24’s Swedish readers helped flesh out the story in their comments. Shuler today wrote on his Legal Schnauzer blog, Daily Kos and elsewhere, “The Rove/Assange Story Hits the International Press in Sweden.” Shuler provided a translation of the Swedish story and links to other materials.

More generally, let’s summarize the high stakes involved: Any U.S. prosecutions of WikiLeaks, if successful, might criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden along with the Bush and Obama administrations. The disclosures are prompting authorities in both countries to demonize Assange for alleged sex and spy crimes even though neither country has filed a criminal indictment. Nonetheless, Sweden initiated a rare Interpol manhunt that prompted Assange’s arrest in the United Kingdom for potential extradition to Sweden.

Fallout could include new legal restraints on journalists and readers alike. Even if authorities create spy law exceptions for traditional broadcasters and newspapers, the public stands to lose big if the government can use the WikiLeaks reports as an excuse to restrict other communicators, thereby enhancing the power of embattled press lords who fear the new media.

But government and media decision-makers alike would be hurt if the public suspects political prosecutions and restraints on fair news coverage. That’s already happening, as indicated by reader comments from both sides of the Atlantic on the columns that have reported on the WikiLeaks probes.

Rove’s potential role is particularly divisive, as indicated by reader comments on sites discussing his Swedish work in recent days.

Many Americans look on him as a respected strategist who is unfairly maligned by liberals. Thus, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and other mainstream outlets regularly featured Rove because of his expertise, and he rarely faces any sustained criticism in friendly establishment circles, as indicated by his famous “Rapping Rove” dance routine at the annual Radio and TV White House Correspondent’s gala in March 2007, at the height of the U.S. attorney firing scandal. It’s here, enshrined on video as an illustration of how much the nation’s leading reporters hold fond regard for their news sources.

But others recall that Rove was implicated in that unprecedented White House 2006 purge of nine U.S. attorneys to foster a cadre of what a Justice Department leader called “loyal Bushies.” They pursued what critics call political prosecutions around the nation, primarily of Democratic candidates and donors, with many of the victims still imprisoned or otherwise financially ruined. My group has extensively reported, including on Connecticut Watchdog, how the Obama administration closed ranks with its predecessors to produce a whitewash investigation of the matter led by Connecticut federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, who was recently appointed deputy Connecticut attorney general. Dannehy and the Obama Justice Department focused largely on one firing, failed to interview victims of other prosecutors around the country retained as “loyal Bushies” and ultimately found no criminal wrongdoing by anyone.
* * *
In Sweden, WikiLeaks created a problem for that nation’s authorities by revealing a 2008 cable disclosing that its executive branch asked American officials to keep intelligence-gathering “informal” to avoid required Parliamentary scrutiny. That secret was among the 251,000 U.S. cables obtained by WikiLeaks and relayed to the New York Times and four other media partners. They have so far reported about 1,300 of the secret cables after trying for months to vet them through U.S. authorities.

Assange, a nomadic 39-year-old Australian, fell into the arms of two Swedish women who offered to put him up at their apartments on his speaking trip to Sweden last August. He has not been formally charged with a crime, only sought for further questioning about what happened during his two encounters.

After he responded to initial questions and left Sweden a virtually unprecedented manhunt by Interpol prompted him to turn himself in to British authorities. Now free on bond, he could be extradited from the United Kingdom to Sweden to answer further questions. Critics suggest that the prosecution effort for relatively minor liability under Swedish law is so rare that top-level Swedish authorities must be planning to extradite him to the United States on spy charges. Sweden’s foreign minister has denied any such discussions with his U.S. counterparts, but the curse (or blessing) of WikiLeaks disclosures of past such diplomatic discussions is proof-positive that diplomats routinely lie about such matters. That’s their job, like it or not.

The New York Times reports that the Obama Justice Department is devising espionage conspiracy charges under an innovative use of spy law relying forcing Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, now being held in solitary confinement, to break down and testify against Assange. Attacks on WikiLeaks are from all sides, including by congressional Homeland Security leaders: Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Independent, and New York Republican Rep. Peter King.

Shuler, a pioneer in covering the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, wrotee about Rove’s Swedish work in his Dec.14 column, “Is Karl Rove Driving the Effort to Prosecute Julian Assange?”

Those of us investigating such complex matters build on one another’s work. In an Atlantic article entitled, “Karl Rove in a Corner,” magazine writer Joshua Green wrote in 2004, “Anyone who takes an honest look at his history will come away awed by Rove’s power, when challenged, to draw on an animal ferocity that far exceeds the chest-thumping bravado common to professional political operatives.”

Shuler is an expert on how Rove-era prosecutors imprisoned Siegelman, his state’s leading Democrat, on trumped up corruption charges. The most notorious U.S. political prosecution of the decade altered that state’s politics and improved business opportunities for companies well-connected to Bush, Rove and their state GOP supporters.

But the specifics of Rove’s Swedish work remain in doubt.

Was Rove providing routine political advice for Reinfeldt’s successful re-election in September? Was it fund-raising help to the former president the European Council based on Rove’s experience using last year’s Supreme Court Citizens United ruling to create the American Crossroads political money machine that helped destroy Democrats in mid-term elections? Perhaps Rove provided media advice, based on his work with Murdoch-owned Fox News and the Wall Street Journal and many other traditional broadcasting and print outlets.

Or has Rove drawn on any of his opposition research and dirty tricks skills that have earned him such nicknames as “Turd-Blossom?” from Bush and “Bush’s Brain” from others? Siegelman’s convictions came only years of pre-trial prosecutorial smears, witness sexual blackmail, a bizarre trial before a judge enriched on the side by Bush contracts for his closely-held company, with all of the wrongdoing covered up by years of whitewashes by the Obama administration and congress. Siegelman, 64, maintains that his prosecution was orchestrated by Karl Rove and his friend Bill Canary, whose wife Leura led Alabama’s U.S. attorney office that prosecuted Siegelman. Remarkably, she still runs the office it more than two years after Obama’s election, much to the horror of Siegelman’s supporters nationwide.

One way to learn about the specifics involving Assange is to ask Rove himself, which I did via his chief of staff Dec. 14, attaching the Shuler column for convenience. Rove denies improper involvement in Siegelman’s prosecution, and has not yet responded either to my inquiry about Sweden. His memoir Courage and Consequence published this year contains no mention of Sweden or his client Reinfeldt. Rove’s book also denies that he was forced from the White House over the firing scandal, and denies any improper role in the Siegelman case.

Whether or not Rove advised Sweden on how to go after Assange, the WikiLeaks revelations have brought into plain view dramatic developments crossing conventional political lines on both sides of the Atlantic.

Feminist scholar, rape victim and longtime volunteer rape counselor Naomi Wolf, for example, describes the sex assault investigation as “theater” designed to bring Assange into U.S. custody on more serious charges, not enforce the law in routine fashion. “How do I know that Interpol, Britain and Sweden’s treatment of Julian Assange is a form of theater? She wrote, “Because I know what happens in rape accusations against men that don’t involve the embarrassing of powerful governments.”

A New York Times report Dec. 18 implies a more straightforward investigation via leak of a 68-page confidential Swedish police report. Earlier, more context was reported in a Daily Mail article and a Crikey blog.

Regarding what most would regard as the more serious espionage allegations,
• U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas Republican and tea party hero, spoke on the House floor defending the right of WikiLeaks to cooperate with conventional news organization to publish secret cables.

• Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: ‘A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”

• Former CIA agent Ray McGovern rebuked CNN anchor Don Lemon for disparaging WikiLeaks as “pariah,” urged Lemon and his network to emulate Assange by reporting more such news.

In varying ways, Arianna Huffington, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Parry and Scott Horton argue compellingly that spy conspiracy charges endanger all investigative reporting on national security issues, not simply 

What’s really going on? For our next report, we’ll look at cozy connections between prominent diplomatic, law enforcement and media opinion-leaders who traditionally provide whatever the public knows about how government works.

A fascinating example is Sweden’s former Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom, a best-selling spy novelist and former soccer star and political party leader who recently moved to the United States. He moved after beginning legal representation last August with his law partner of Assange’s accusers. Bodstrom is currently writing another spy novel. But his own recent real-life activities doubtless rival anything he could concoct.

Another interesting figure is Roland Poirier Martinsson, a Swedish think tank leader and longtime Rove ally who has taken the lead in both Sweden and the United States in assailing WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks “is supported by all sorts of hare-brained characters,” Martinsson wrote last month in the prominent daily SvD. “It is a humiliating charade.”

Like Sweden’s prime minister, Martinsson has worked with Rove for years to help reorient Sweden’s politics to greater compatibility with

In fairness, vigorous defenders of the status quo in government and the media abound. They say that Sweden’s sex misconduct investigation of Assange and the United States spy probe of WikiLeaks have nothing to do with each other, or with the due process and press freedom rights that each nation boasts.

We’ll see. Is it a coincidence that these unusual investigations occur just when WikiLeaks and similar web-based reporting enables the public to read about candid and secret descriptions by government officials about major issues?

In the meantime, many powerful figures are seemingly in bed together — and warning that we must keep secrets and prosecute offenders. “Rape! Rape!” they seem to shout. “Terror! Terror!”

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Yesterday the NYT Online published a timid editorial that bemoaned two facts about Justice Antonin Scalia of our compromised Supreme Court.  In my opinion, the NYT didn't go nearly far enough in condemning this narrow-minded rightist bigot who has no excuse for being on the Court.  

As you know, the Court has tilted to the right in the last few years, infamously begun by the decision in 2000 that handed the presidency to the nearly moronic George W Bush despite evidence of massive fraud by the Republican Party in Florida (and Mr Gore's incidental popular majority, which doesn't count because of the Electoral College's antiquated setup).  

The worst proponent of this rightism, Antonin Scalia, is the subject of yesterday's editorial, and the Times timidly bends over backwards in an effort to be mild in its criticism. It uses the words "outlandish", "antiquated", "jarring", and "direspects the Constitution".  It omits the more appropriate words "corrupt", "narrow-minded bigot", and "unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice."

Mr Justice Scalia's most recent outrageous gaffe is to say that the Fourteenth Amendment does not apply to women, despite multiple Court decisions since 1971 that have affirmed that the "Equal Protection of the Law" does indeed give equal rights to slightly more than one half of our citizens.  

Even principled "conservative" judges have affirmed this position.  Only Antonin, with his "originalist" (read: "my way or the highway") interpretation of our most sacred political document, stands against this almost universally accepted doctrine.We already know that Mr Justice Scalia is corrupt.  He refused to recuse himself from a case that involved the Vice President, Richard Cheney, despite the fact that Mr Cheney is a close friend and duck hunting partner.  

Mad As Hatters? The Tea Party Movement In The US

Issue: 129 : Posted: 4 January 11 : Megan Trudell

Two years after his election Barack Obama presides over an increasingly divided nation, in both economic and political terms. His failure to deliver on the promise of real change has seen him punished in the midterm elections for Congress and for many state governments, as many whose hopes were raised in 2008 sat out the contest. The result was a serious defeat for the Democrats, with the Republicans securing control of the House of Representatives and coming close to taking the Senate.

The midterm results are an expression of two interconnected developments. First, the Democrats’ betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the tremendous popular movement that delivered Obama’s victory—a movement
that signalled the potential for a renewal of political engagement on the part of millions of ordinary Americans. Second, the strengthening of conservatism in a Republican Party scarred and divided by the Bush presidency and two deeply unpopular wars, now reinvigorated by the rise of the Tea Party movement.

Underlying both features is the widening gap between the rich in the US, for whom the challenge of the current recession is to fight off any government attempts to increase taxes or damage profitability, and the poor. The impoverishment of greater numbers of people as a result of the recession—fully one quarter of the US population, around 70 million people, rely on government food programmes to some extent, a figure that has trebled since 2006—is piling pressure on the working and middle classes in US society.1 

The tensions generated by this class polarisation and instability, and the absence of effective government action to alleviate them, go a long way to explaining the contradictory nature of the Tea Party phenomenon.

Predictably, the electoral swing away from the Democrats and the emergence on a national scale of the Tea Party has resurrected the refrain that the US is moving to the right. It’s easy to see why this argument has particular resonance in 2010. Tea Party candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential hopeful in 2008, included the pro-life, anti-sex, Christine O’Donnell who, in the course of her—fortunately unsuccessful—bid for the Delaware Senate seat, had to defend herself from accusations of witchcraft and, more seriously, stupidity, when she questioned that the Constitution mentioned the separation of church and state.2 

Sharron Angle in Nevada, who also lost her Senate bid, has baselessly accused Canada of letting the 9/11 bombers into the US, and described the city of Dearborn, Michigan, as living under Sharia law and representing a “militant terrorist situation” (Dearborn has seven mosques and 60 churches).

Rand Paul, who successfully won the Kentucky Senate seat, is the son of right wing conservative Republican Ron Paul. Paul Junior is anti-abortion, opposed to gay marriage, and declared in 2002 that “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the colour of their skin”. This year it emerged that he had been part of a college secret society that tied up and blindfolded a female student and made her worship a god called “Aqua Buddha” in a nearby stream.

The argument that the US is moving right is not simply based on the existence of such politicians—not in itself a new phenomenon in US politics—but on the level of support they are receiving. Exit polls for the elections showed that “a sizeable number of voters (40 percent) said that they support the Tea Party political movement (including 21 percent who strongly support it). Fewer (31 percent) said they oppose the movement (23 percent strongly); another 25 percent said they neither support nor oppose it”.3 

Among Americans more generally, ie not just those who voted, Tea Party support is in the region of 11 percent of the population—around 34 million people, though this is only half the number who consider themselves to be conservative Christians.

What are the Tea Parties?

The right wing nature of the Tea Parties’ origins is not in question. It was Ron Paul, during his ill-fated bid for the Republican presidential nomination, who organised the first “tea party”, his supporters symbolically throwing banners that read “tyranny” and “no taxation without representation” into a box in Boston harbour. Other early protests were ostensibly spontaneous reactions sparked by the conservative bloggers Keli Carender in Seattle and Michelle Malkin in Denver, but were actually organised by an assortment of conservative groups: Young Republicans, Fox News Radio and other right wing radio stations, the conservative youth organisation Young America’s Foundation, and the right wing think-tank Americans for Prosperity.4 

The latter is part funded by arch-conservative (and fifth richest person in the US) David Koch, whose father Fred was co-founder of the ultra right wing John Birch Society.

In February 2009 a television business reporter, Rick Santelli, ranted against the Obama government’s measures to slow foreclosures and prop up the mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, calling the bailouts a reward for “bad behaviour” and railing against the funding of so-called “losers’ mortgages”: “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organising.”5

There is ample evidence that the Tea Parties are examples of “astroturfing”—an apparently grassroots movement that is funded and directed by the right of the Republican Party and conservative lobbying organisations. One of those lobbying groups is FreedomWorks, led by Dick Armey, a Republican congressman who co-authored Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America during the “Republican Revolution” in 1994 in which Bill Clinton’s Democrats lost control of both Congress and the Senate. In 2009, FreedomWorks outlined their “mission”:

For too long, the organised forces of the liberal Left have dominated the grassroots political landscape and delivered huge victories for candidates and policies that grow government and reduce our freedom. We are looking for leaders to help us build our network in all 50 states: a grassroots juggernaut capable of going toe-to-toe with the unions, extreme enviros, and the’s [sic] of the world.6

The Tea Parties have received clear encouragement from sections of the Republican Party machine: Sarah Palin was first provided with her ever-expanding media platform when she was chosen as John McCain’s running mate in the presidential race in 2008, and almost all the Tea Party candidates in the midterms stood as Republicans. Fox News has provided the Tea Party movement with blanket and sympathetic coverage, and Palin is rarely off the television screens.

It is difficult to get accurate membership figures of the Tea Party movement as a whole—there are a number of different umbrella organisations claiming to represent hundreds of local groups around the country whose membership numbers range from single figures into the hundreds. As a rough guide, the National Tea Party Federation—to which not all Tea Parties are affiliated—claims 1 million members in 85 organisations. It also cites its affiliates as including Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, among many others.7 

The Tea Party Express, whose leader Mark Williams was expelled from the Federation for racism after writing a letter claiming to be from “the Coloured People” to President Lincoln in praise of slavery, also claims to represent 85 groups.8

A New York Times/CBS poll showed that the average Tea Party member is more likely to be an older white male, a Republican voter, a regular church-goer, to own a gun, and to be wealthier than the average US citizen. Some 52 percent of Tea Party supporters believe too much has been made of the problems facing black people—compared with 28 percent of the overall population.9 

However, a deeper look at what “support” for the Tea Party entails is revealing: 78 percent had not donated money or attended any meeting or rally; 47 percent only receive their information about the Tea Party from the television, and most watch Fox News.

Although Tea Party candidates won in some previous Democrat strongholds, notably in Pennsylvania and Ohio, they were mainly successful in areas where conservative Republicanism is strongest—in the South, the Midwest and the Mountain states. Generally, the election results showed that the appeal of Tea Party supporters “stopped at the border of the most densely-populated states and metropolitan areas”.10

Is the US moving right?

While 40 percent of voters expressed support for the Tea Party, the figure for the population at large is around 28 percent—most Americans do not support the movement. There is good reason, also, to believe that much of the support they do have is more contradictory than a clear indication of a country “moving right”.

As much as they expressed the rising prominence of the Tea Party, the midterms told a story of the disillusionment of progressive hopes. The electorate in November 2010 was older, more conservative (41 percent described themselves as such) and wealthier—only 37 percent of voters earned less than $50,000—than was the case two years ago. As often in US elections, the majority was constituted by those who didn’t vote at all, and of non-voters in 2010, 54 percent were Democrats, 50 percent approved of the health care legislation, 34 percent were aged between 18-29 and 38 percent between 30-44. Fully 72 percent described their personal financial situation as “only fair” or “poor”.11

For these people, a dashing of their hopes for change has not equated with a move right, but to a disengagement with the political system.
Many young people, who are more likely to lean to the Democrats and less likely to support the Tea Party, stayed away. A survey of young people’s political attitudes described the feelings of those they canvassed:

Suddenly, the generation that in 2008 proudly made the difference as caucus-goers in snowy Iowa for Senator Barack Obama, tell us less than three years later that they are so discouraged with politics that they may sit this one out. A generation marked earlier this decade by their community spirit and optimism, seems on the brink of a despair similar to that of their parents, grandparents and millions of disaffected older voters.12

The inadequacy of the stimulus to protect or create jobs, the bank bailouts and the surrender of single-payer health insurance before there was even a fight all worked to demoralise the Democrats’ new and enthusiastic base. 

Obama himself confirmed the squandering of that spirit and optimism when he qualified his famous slogan to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show: “When I say that when we promised during the campaign, ‘change you can believe in’, it wasn’t ‘change you can believe in’ in 18 months… What I would say is, “Yes, we can”, but it is not going to happen overnight”.13

The Republicans, therefore, “enjoyed a wide enthusiasm gap” as many natural Democrats did not come out to vote, and it made big gains among political independents: “By 55 percent to 39 percent, more independents voted for the Republican candidate this year; four years ago, independents favoured the Democrats by nearly an identical margin (57 percent to 39 percent). And just two years ago, Barack Obama won the votes of independents (by 52 percent to 44 percent) on his way to the White House”.14

In reality, most voters weren’t very keen on either party. In exit polls both Democrats and Republicans were given unfavourable ratings by 53 percent of those polled.15 

As Pew Research Centre found, “Despite the Republicans’ sizeable gains among virtually all demographic groups—with the exceptions of African Americans and young people—voters express a negative view of the party. The outcome of this year’s election represented a repudiation of the political status quo, rather than a vote of confidence in the GOP or a statement of support for its policies”.16

This statement is borne out by the contradictory nature of voters’ attitudes to policy. Few voters (19 percent) rated cutting taxes—the Tea Party standard—as the highest priority, while 37 percent favoured job creation and 39 percent prioritised deficit reduction. Voters were also divided over whether to repeal health care reform (48 percent) or to maintain it (16 percent) or even expand it (31 percent). About as many people favoured extending tax-cuts only for families with incomes under $250,000 (37 percent) as favoured extending them for all Americans (39 percent), while 15 percent said they should not be extended for anyone.17

The contradictory nature of voters’ opinions illustrates the class anxieties felt by a section of the US population. The changes in ordinary Americans’ lives over the last three decades have swept away old certainties—a process accelerated dizzyingly by the recession—and much of the Tea Party support is based on a middle class howl of rage and fear at the precariousness and instability of lives that appeared to be privileged and safe.

Over one hundred and fifty years ago Marx described in the Communist Manifesto the impact on the various classes in society of capitalism’s continual transformations:

Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. 18

For many Tea Party supporters, and many Americans who don’t support them, all that is holy is being profaned. Prosperity for those who work hard, the foundation promise of the American Dream, is in tatters as job security and home ownership are increasingly threatened while the government rescues the rich. In the New York Times/CBS poll, 41 percent of Tea Party supporters felt they were in danger of “falling out of their social class”.19

What many of the states where Tea Party candidates won (and others where high profile candidates stood but lost) have in common in addition to a tradition of political conservatism, are unemployment rates that are higher than the national average: 10 percent in Ohio, 10.1 percent in Kentucky, 11 percent in South Carolina and 14.4 percent in Nevada.20 

This doesn’t mean there is an automatic connection between unemployment and the rise of the Tea Party—the majority of Tea Party supporters are not the most vulnerable to the effects of recession, though 30 percent in the NYT/CBS poll are concerned about losing their jobs—but does contribute to feelings of profound instability and therefore unease in their communities.
As Gary Younge explained, “When Tea Party supporters talk about ‘taking our country back’, they are—in part—expressing nostalgia. They literally want to take it backwards to a past when people had job security, and a couple on a middle class wage could reasonably expect their children to have a better life than their own”.21

Not only are their lives as individuals changing beyond anything their grandparents would recognise but, as Ronald Dworkin argues, the Tea Party desire to “take the country back” could also be an attempt to articulate the fact that the slow decline in US economic power and weight, coupled with military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a body blow to people who have believed in the ideology of the American Dream and the superiority of their country; the material basis of their ideological convictions is fracturing. “All their lives they have assumed that their country is the most powerful, most prosperous, most democratic, economically and culturally the most influential—altogether the most envied and wonderful country in the world. They are coming slowly and painfully to realise that that is no longer true; they are angry and they want someone to blame”.22

Part of the attraction of the Tea Party is that it articulates a feeling that neither party offers an alternative to the havoc being wreaked; the language of a plague on both Democrat and Republican houses, an urge to hold Congress to account, and the demand for limited government all speak to this sense. Although most Tea Party supporters polled believed the US is heading for “socialism”, a big majority consider the definition of the term to mean “government control”.23

The economic situation remains dire and the Democrats are likely to move to the right as a result of the election. Increased pressure from conservative Republicanism and the acceptance of the argument that the US voting population is right wing points to a further watering down of healthcare legislation, cuts to social security, tougher immigration measures and moves to a Clinton-style “triangulation” policy. This suggests that polarisation of social conditions and politics is likely to increase as growing numbers of Americans are alienated from the political system altogether and their concerns remain unaddressed.

These concerns are overwhelmingly economic—most voters in the midterms, 88 percent, rated economic conditions as not good or poor, and 86 percent said they were very worried or somewhat worried about the economy. “Moral” issues such as gay marriage, abortion and immigration, or concern over the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, rate only a handful of percentage points. This is true even among self-described Tea Party supporters, of whom only 2 percent felt that moral values were the most important problem facing the country, 1 percent felt abortion was the key issue, and 1 percent immigration. The economy was cited as the biggest problem by 23 percent, and “jobs” by 22 percent.24

The view of Noam Chomsky, among other left wing observers, that the Tea Party represents incipient fascism, risks lumping together the right wing demagogues and bankrollers together with many who are responding to the economic crisis and the lack of political alternatives with an often unfocused anger, and risks demonising the Tea Party movement’s working class sympathisers—who are a minority, but who do exist.25 

Although middle class anger and fear at the uncertain climate and the dramatic social changes that US capitalism is presiding over is being pulled to the right, and while conservative Republicanism is in the ascendance in official politics, there is no discernible wider shift rightwards in public opinion and social attitudes.26

It is also significant that the likes of Glenn Beck, the religious radio and TV presenter and Tea Party darling, know this. Beck shows an understanding of Tea Party supporters’ anxieties and the relatively progressive nature of social attitudes in the US: rather than spout the usual right wing evangelical line, he mines the seams of people’s alienation by combining a traditional conservative emphasis on religion and family with opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the influence of Wall Street.

The economic libertarianism of many Tea Party “leaders” is aggressively pro-free market (Rand Paul’s father allegedly has a picture of Friedrich Hayek on his wall) and opposed to all government intervention—including taxation and healthcare provision. However damaging such policies would be to their supporters’ real lives, the language of these right wing politicians and radio hosts also translates into vocal opposition to the bank and car industry bailouts, expressing and amplifying—in however distorted a fashion—the pent-up anger and frustration of a far greater number of people than would support their moral positions. 

One telling statistic from the elections is that, while 41 percent of Republican voters blamed Obama for the economic situation and 55 percent of Democrat voters blamed Bush, 32 percent of Democrat voters and 37 percent of Republican voters blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic troubles.27

It is also noteworthy that many of the more overtly reactionary stances have been quietly dropped. The more astute Tea Party spokespeople recognise that such extremism doesn’t chime with many people’s experience or views. At Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington in August this year, he spoke to 87,000 people from the Lincoln Memorial in front of a poster of Frederick Douglass while images from the civil rights movement were projected behind him.

Key players in the Tea Party elite are libertarian, rather than conservative, not just on the economy but on moral questions such as gay marriage and some, like Beck and Rand Paul, articulate widespread opposition to war and neo-liberalism, albeit refracted through the prism of isolationism and small government. In other words, as much as it is in the right wing libertarian tradition of US history, the Tea Party movement also has shades of opinion through which it “expresses the disquiet of people unhappy about the more atomised and anarchic world they now find themselves in”.28 

And, crucially, it gives them something to do about it. As Jane Slaughter and Mark Brenner put it, With the economy a mess and neither Democrats nor Republicans producing a solution, the field is open for folks who says the whole system is broken. The Tea Party taps into many people’s very real sense of both insecurity and urgency. 

The movement dares to say that our problems are enormous, not fixable with Band-aids… Besides, ordinary people know—either intellectually or in their gut—that they don’t really count in the political system. It was a bilateral consensus, after all, that bailed out the bankers—and may soon cut Social Security benefits, too. The Tea Party feels like something they can get involved in and have a say.29

Workers and the Tea Party

Henry Olsen, of the Conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute, said before the midterm elections that it is “no coincidence that a disproportionate number of the Democrats’ most vulnerable House seats in the South, the north-east and the Midwest are in districts dominated by blue-collar whites”.30 

Democrats did in fact lose Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the presumptive speaker of the House of Representatives, conservative Republican John Boehner, was elected from Ohio.

Although the Tea Party is not supported by large sections of workers, it is the case that working class Americans have been chronically let down by the Democrats, and the Tea Party seems to offer something different. A recent Observer interview illustrates this. The paper spoke with two women who used to work for GM in Dayton, Ohio, at a plant that has been closed down:
The women, who worked on the assembly line, are bitter. They’ve worked hard all their lives and played by the rules…Now they’re on the scrapheap through no fault of their own. The older one, just turned 50, doubts she’ll ever work again. 

Both believe their children will have an even worse time than them…The federal bailout of GM failed to save their factory. They face a future struggling to make ends meet doing part-time jobs on the minimum wage. They don’t think the government cares about them and have no faith in it. Indeed, they don’t want its help any more; they’d rather it just went away…For them, the American dream is over. They’ve joined the Tea Party.31

It is hardly surprising that an active and angry movement that blames government and harks back to earlier certainties would attract working class people with their own fury at the destruction of their lives in the economic maelstrom. Workers in the US are face poverty and the loss of their homes through unemployment or, if they are in work, increasing pressure, harassment and uncertainty—the Obama administration is continuing the process of savaging the Democrats’ working class and union base.

The US unemployment rate remains at 9.6 percent, 14.8 million people, and the number of long-term unemployed—those out of work for a year or more—has risen from 645,000 in 2007 to 4.5 million by mid-2010.32 

There were 1,297 mass layoffs in the third quarter of 2010 that resulted in 187,091 workers losing their jobs for at least 31 days.33

At the same time, productivity increased at a rate of 2.3 percent during the third quarter of 2010. Output increased 3.7 percent and hours worked increased 1.4 percent. Over the last year, productivity was up 2.5 percent, output rose 4.3 percent and numbers of hours worked increased by 1.7 percent.34 

These statistics translate to a terrible and constant strain on workers and their families. As Kim Moody puts it, “This type of across-the-economy productivity increase at a time when workers are being laid off is certain to produce a long-term increase in work intensity that affects workers of all kinds”.35

A Labor Notes survey in July 2009 found that workplace bullying had risen sharply since the recession began: “It may be that a measurable chunk of the unemployed have been harassed out of their jobs, fired rather than laid off. Union members report increases in verbal abuse, discipline including discharge, crackdowns on attendance, surveillance, hassling to work faster, forced overtime, and a concerted effort to get rid of older workers.”36

Despite the pressure, many US workers feel they have no choice but to stay in work longer than they previously planned. A report from October 2010 found that, Today, 40 percent of employees plan to retire later than they did two years ago. Perhaps the most significant action employees are taking is delaying their retirement. Since February 2009, the number of employees who are planning to retire later has grown by six percentage points. This change is consistent across all age groups and plan types, and there is an even larger jump (nine percentage points) among those in poor health.37

Potential and limits

The economic situation has generated vast anger across US society, but there are limits to the Tea Party appeal, certainly in connection with the Republicans. There is certainly little enthusiasm for the Republicans generally, and even less among key sections of the electorate; the party took only about 10 percent of black votes and a third of Hispanics’, representing no increase, despite the Democrats presiding over the recession. And, neither is the retention of white working class support a given, according to Olsen:

West Virginia is the capital of the white working class. Fifty-eight percent of the state’s voters were whites without a college degree, 19 points higher than the national average. Ninety-five percent are white and 69 percent say they disapprove of Obama’s job performance. Despite this, the Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, swept to an easy 10-point victory over Republican John Raese, a wealthy businessman who owns mansions in Florida and expressed doubts about the minimum wage.”38

In addition, for the Republican Party the Tea Party-induced revival in their fortunes is a volatile and risky development. Moderate Republicans are concerned about the changing nature of the Republican base and the shift to conservative activism; many are angry that Palin’s endorsement of Angle and O’Donnell lost crucial Senate seats and stopped the party short of a second “Republican revolution”. What the Tea Party movement can do is push official politics to the right, and maintain the pressure on the Obama government in the run-up to 2012 and the presidential election, but it is dubious whether an ultra-conservative presidential campaign can succeed.

Fears that the right wing populism of the Tea Party movement presages fascism are in part a result of a profound pessimism about the possibility of the revival of working class struggle. At the moment, the understandable fury many Americans feel is being voiced by the right—and by at least some in the Tea Party movement through racism and vigilanteism. However, this does not represent working class opinion, but a middle class movement that can be pulled by a stronger movement from below, should that emerge.

Central to the frustrations of working class people is the vacuum where a fighting leadership should be. Not only have the Democrats repeatedly failed to fight for them, but also the union movement has utterly failed to resist the attacks or to put pressure on Obama. At a time when every fibre should be strained to defending members from the assault of job cuts, harassment and increased pressure, organised labour is in crisis. Declining membership and its complicity in capital’s restructuring over the last three decades has left the union leaderships in conflict with each other, as Kim Moody outlines: “When all the efforts and strategies designed to slow down, halt, or even reverse labour’s loss of power (the election of John Sweeney in 1995, the many mergers, ‘partnerships’ with capital, new organising tactics, the split at the top in 2005 [the establishment of the Change to Win Federation]) failed to bring any measurable gains for labour, frustration exploded”.39

The biggest “organising” union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched raids on other unions and a campaign of internal repression, and the Change to Win split. It’s no wonder that, as Bill Fletcher of the Center for Labor Renewal says, the unions have a “deer in the headlights” reaction to challenges like the Tea Party. “Moreover, not knowing how to respond to the Tea Party is the flip side of not knowing how to push Obama”.40

Paul Harris and Seamus Milne in the Guardian have both written that the Democrats need a Tea Party of their own in order to pursue progressive politics. The faith in “progressive politics” notwithstanding, they do touch on a central point.41 

The mobilisation of millions of people desperate for change and for representation by the Obama campaign did show that Americans are not all apathetic and right wing, but can be engaged and powerful when something different appears possible. Where Harris and Milne are likely to be disappointed is in their hopes that the Democratic Party itself will regenerate that enthusiasm—the Obama campaign captured a sense that the interests of working Americans would be prioritised; the Obama government has made clear its inability and unwillingness to challenge the priorities of business and the wealthy.

However, there are other movements that can challenge the status quo. Hundreds of thousands of people marched for immigrant rights again in May this year; 200,000 in Washington—far outstripping any Tea Party gathering—in protest at a recent racist Arizona law that allows the police to question the immigration status of anyone they suspect of entering
the US illegally.

Crucially, however, any movement capable of challenging US capitalism in ways that will not simply deliver more savage destruction of welfare and jobs under a different government, must be based on the emergence of rank and file activity within the unions, and grassroots organising among the millions of un-unionised US workers: “These are workers at the centre of the nation’s most stressful workplaces: four million call centre workers; the 3-4 million or more unorganised union eligible workers in hospitals; the 1.3 million working at Wal-Mart; the nearly 400,000 in meatpacking without a union; and, of course, the countless millions in the South who have no union representation whether in manufacturing, transportation or services”.42

The history of labour struggles in the US suggests that at some point that pressure will explode. The AFL’s inability and incapacity to represent the interests and battles of newly organising workers at the turn of the century, and its repressive tactics, ultimately resulted in the creation of the CIO as a new force to drive industrial unionism. The bureaucratic cowardice that has led to the warfare that dominates the union leaderships today makes them similarly unfit for directing any combativity in the working class when it arises.

That workers will be forced to fight on a large scale at some point is without doubt—as one writer suggested recently, “It seems possible that the Tea Party crowd who want to nullify health care will provoke an angry crowd of a different sort. After all, there are people who need the things that will be taken away”.43 

The proposal from Obama’s bipartisan Deficit Commission to take $3.9 trillion out of public spending by 2020 represents a profound threat to many poor Americans’ lives. The central question, as ever, is whether any organisations that struggles can give rise to will be able to coalesce wider class forces around themselves.

Significant battles over welfare attacks and the treatment of immigrants can provide an alternative pole of attraction that not only gives confidence to workers but suggests solutions to the crisis and a different future, rather than populist yearnings for the past.


1: As reported by Matt Frei, “Americana”, Radio 4, 28 November 2010.
2: The First Amendment to the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights established in 1789, states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Americans are taught about the Bill of Rights in primary school.
3: Pew Research Center, 2010.
4: Hamsher, 2009.
5: See
8: New York Daily News, 18 July 2010,
9: “National Survey of Tea Party supporters”, New York Times/CBS poll, 5-12 April 2010.
10: Moroney and Dopp, 2010.
11: Pew Research Center, 2010.
12: Harvard University Institute of Politics, 2010.
13: Guardian, 28 October 2010.
14: Pew Research Center, 3 November 2010.
15: CNN, 3 November 2010,
16: Pew Research Center, 2010.
17: Pew Research Center, 2010.
18: Marx and Engels, 1848.
19: “National Survey of Tea Party supporters”, New York Times/CBS poll, 5-12 April 2010.
20: Moroney and Dopp, 2010.
21: Guardian, 10 October 2010.
22: Dworkin and others, 2010, p56.
23: “National Survey of Tea Party supporters”, New York Times/CBS poll, 5-12 April 2010.
24: “National Survey of Tea Party supporters”, New York Times/CBS poll, 5-12 April 2010.
25: The Progressive, 12 April 2010,
26: “National Survey of Tea Party supporters”, New York Times/CBS poll, 5-12 April 2010.
27: Cited in Dworkin and others, 2010, p58.
28: Lilla, 2010, p18.
29: Slaughter and Brenner, 2010.
30: David, 2010.
31: Observer, 31 October 2010.
32: “Issues in Labor Statistics”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2010.
33: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 November 2010,
34: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 December 2010,
35: Moody, 2010.
36: Slaughter, 2009.
37: Watson, 2010.
38: David, 2010.
39: Moody, 2010.
40: Slaughter and Brenner, 2010.
41: Guardian, 3 and 10 November 2010.
42: Moody, 2010.
43: Dworkin and others, 2010, p58.


David, Peter, 2010, “Lexington: Trouble With the Humans”, Economist (21 October),

Dworkin, Ronald, Mark Lilla, David Bromwich and Jonathan Raban, 2010, “The Historic Election: Four Views”, New York Review of Books, volume LVII, number 19, (December 9-22),

Hamsher, Jane, 2009, “A Teabagger Timeline”, Huffington Post (19 April),

Harvard University Institute of Politics, 2010, Survey of Young Americans’ _Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service: 18th Edition (21 October), percent20Report_FINAL.pdf

Lilla, Mark, 2010, “The Beck of Revelation”, New York Review of Books, volume LVII, number 19, (December 9-22),

Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels, 1848, Manifesto of the Communist Party,

Moody, Kim, 2010, “The Crisis and the Potential”, Against the Current, 145 (March-April),

Moroney, Tom, and Terrence Dopp, 2010, Business Week (5 November),

Pew Research Center, 2010, “A Clear Rejection of the Status Quo, No Consensus About Future Policies” (3 November),

Slaughter, Jane, 2009, “Harassment: The Recession’s Hidden Byproduct”, Labor Notes (July 17),

Slaughter, Jane, and Mark Brenner, 2010, “Can Labor Out-Organize the Tea Party?”, Labor Notes (30 September),

Watson, Towers, 2010, “Retirement Attitudes”,


Happy New Year from VCS !

To all our supporters - We here at VCS thank you very much for your generous contributions in December 2010 !

There are several important breaking news stories in this week's update, so be sure to read it all !

VCS in the News - PTSD Crisis at VA Persists

VCS was quoted in Jamie Reno's blog at KPBS commenting about VA's on-going PTSD crisis. In a related matter, VBA's Tom Pamperin posted a condescending blog about how to file a disability claim against VA.  Pamprin fails to clearly list the top reason why veterans file claims against VA: veterans need medical care because they are ill.

WikiLeaks Reveals a Smoking Gun - U.S. Ambassador Gave "Green Light" to Iraq in July 1990, Starting Gulf War

At the time, the U.S. supported Iraq's recently ended war with Iran (1980 - 1988) that had ruined Iraq's economy.  On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.  On January 17, 1991, prompted by a massive propaganda campaign, the U.S. began bombing Iraq - and never stopped. More than 20 years later, the war continues with deadly and devastating consequences for Kuwait, Iraq, and the U.S.

Based on the State Department cable, the facts are clear: in 1990, then-President George H. W. Bush's administration, failed to denounce Iraq's intended military action against in Kuwait in July 1990.  The silence encouraged Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in August 1990.  The Gulf War was left unfinished for thirteen years, with an embargo, sanctions, and "no-fly" zones.

By 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq was contained.  In 2003, then-President George W. Bush lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launched a second invasion.  Now, 20 years later, the U.S. has seen our economy nearly crushed with trillions in war debt.  Nearly one million new, non-fatal casualties have sought medical care as VA patient, according to VA documents obtained by VCS using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Glaspie Cable must go down in history as the smoking gun of failed diplomacy leading to 20 years of massive death and destruction.  VCS encourages veterans to share the Glaspie Cable with fellow veterans, reporters, and legislators.  We must learn the lesson from this tragic war that greater transparency is needed in how our nation operates overseas in order to reduce the chance for war.

Another VA Scandal - VA Destroyed Key Data

VCS routinely requests reports from VA under FOIA about Gulf War, Afghanistan War, and Iraq War veterans' benefit claims against VA.  In a outrageous version of "The Dog Ate My Homework," VA wrote to VCS last month and denied several FOIA appeals.  VA admitted key data was "scrubbed" from a VA laptop computer.  This is yet another fiasco in a long history of VA laptop scandals.

VCS remains outraged and concerned.  While VA tells VCS key data was destroyed, VA still prepares some Iraq War and Afghanistan War reports.  However, VA completely stopped preparing any Gulf War reports three years ago.

VCS appeals to Secretary Eric Shinseki to follow the 1992 law that requires VA to collect data, prepare reports, and release information to Congress and the public about Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War veterans.  VCS wrote to Secretary Shinseki demanding VA preserve data, produce reports, and respond to FOIAs promptly so Americans know the horrible human cost of 20 years of combat in and around Iraq and Afghanistan.

Veteran News - VA Gets Sued (Again)

Veterans groups sued VA over a new PTSD regulation that allows only VA medical professionals to diagnosis PTSD, thus excluding private medical professionals, many with decades of experience diagnosing and treating deployment-related PTSD.  Although we strongly support VA's overall progressive and pragmatic PTSD claim reform, VCS agrees with the lawsuit against VA in this one narrow issue, as we told the New York Times last year.

Sadly, new statistics reveal a 17-year high in suicide rates among Air Force service members despite the recent implementation of suicide prevention programs.  VCS urges DoD and VA to hire more doctors, launch an anti-stigma campaign, and start firing government officials unable to reduce the shocking number of preventable deaths.

More WikiNews

Ray McGovern writes a superb Op-Ed urging President Obama to personally read WikiLeaks cables about Afghanistan in order to separate fact from fiction about the deteriorating war.  VCS asks President Obama to read the Glaspie Cable and call for greater transparency in how our government operates overseas, often missing significant opportunities to prevent wars.

In another WikiStory, official documents reveal U.S. efforts under President Barack Obama to urge Spain's government not to indict former President George W. Bush and others in his administratino for ordering torture.  Somewhere, somehow, the prior administration should be held legally accountable for starting the Iraq War and ordering widespread torture of enemy prisoners of war.  VCS believes law is king and that Presidents and their adies are not above the law.

Once Again, Happy New Year from VCS !

Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 10:00am, January 4, 2011.

If, as 2011 begins, you want to peer into the future, enter my time machine, strap yourself in, and head for the past, that laboratory for all developments of our moment and beyond.

Just as 2010 ended, the American military’s urge to surge resurfaced in a significant way.  It seems that “leaders” in the Obama administration and “senior American military commanders” in Afghanistan were acting as a veritable WikiLeaks machine.  They slipped information to New York Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins about secret planning to increase pressure in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, possibly on the tinderbox province of Baluchistan, and undoubtedly on the Pakistani government and military via cross-border raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in the new year.

In the front-page story those two reporters produced, you could practically slice with a dull knife American military frustration over a war going terribly wrong, over an enemy (shades of Vietnam!) with “sanctuaries” for rest, recuperation, and rearming just over an ill-marked, half-existent border.  You could practically taste the chagrin of the military that their war against... well you name it: terrorists, guerrillas, former Islamic fundamentalist allies, Afghan and Pakistani nationalists, and god knows who else... wasn’t proceeding exactly swimmingly.  You could practically reach out and be seared by their anger at the Pakistanis for continuing to take American bucks by the billions while playing their own game, rather than an American one, in the region.

If you were of a certain age, you could practically feel (shades of Vietnam again!) that eerily hopeful sense that the next step in spreading the war, the next escalation, could be the decisive one.  Admittedly, these days no one talks (as they did in the Vietnam and Iraq years) about turning “corners” or reaching “tipping points,” but you can practically hear those phrases anyway, or at least the mingled hope and desperation that always lurked behind them. 
Take this sentence, for instance: “Even with the risks, military commanders say that using American Special Operations troops could bring an intelligence windfall, if militants were captured, brought back across the border into Afghanistan and interrogated.” Can’t you catch the familiar conviction that, when things are going badly, the answer is never “less,” always “more,” that just another decisive step or two and you’ll be around that fateful corner? 

In this single New York Times piece (and other hints about cross-border operations), you can sense just how addictive war is for the war planners. Once you begin down the path of invasion and occupation, turning back is as difficult as an addict going cold turkey.  With all the sober talk about year-end reviews in Afghanistan, about planning and “progress” (a word used nine times in the relatively brief, vetted “overview” of that review recently released by the White House), about future dates for drawdowns and present tactics, it’s easy to forget that war is a drug.  When you’re high on it, your decisions undoubtedly look as rational, even practical, as the public language you tend to use to describe them.  But don’t believe it for a second.

Once you’ve shot up this drug, your thinking is impaired.  Through its dream-haze, unpleasant history becomes bunk; what others couldn’t do, you fantasize that you can.  Forget the fact that crossing similar borders to get similar information and wipe out similar sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos in the Vietnam War years led to catastrophe for American planners and the peoples of the region.  It only widened that war into what in Cambodia would become auto-genocide.  Forget the fact that, no matter whom American raiders might capture, they have no hope of capturing the feeling of nationalism (or the tribal equivalent) that, in the face of foreign invaders or a foreign occupation, keeps the under-armed resilient against the mightiest of forces.

Think of the American urge to surge as a manifestation of the war drug’s effect in the world. In what the Bush administration used to call “the Greater Middle East,” Washington is now in its third and grimmest surge iteration.  The first took place in the 1980s during the Reagan administration’s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and proved the highest of highs; the second got rolling as the last century was ending and culminated in the first years of the twenty-first century amid what can only be described as delusions of grandeur, or even imperial megalomania.  It focused on a global Pax Americana and the wars that extend it into the distant future.  The third started in 2006 in Iraq and is still playing itself out in Afghanistan as 2011 commences.

In Central and South Asia, we could now be heading for the end of the age of American surges, which in practical terms have manifested themselves as the urge to destabilize.  Geopolitically, little could be uglier or riskier on our planet at the moment than destabilizing Pakistan -- or the United States.  Three decades after the American urge to surge in Afghanistan helped destabilize one imperial superpower, the Soviet Union, the present plans, whatever they may turn out to be, could belatedly destabilize the other superpower of the Cold War era.  And what our preeminent group of surgers welcomed as an “unprecedented strategic opportunity” as this century dawned may, in its later stages, be seen as an unprecedented act of strategic desperation. 

That, of course, is what drugs, taken over decades, do to you: they give you delusions of grandeur and then leave you on the street, strung out, and without much to call your own.  Perhaps it’s fitting that Afghanistan, the country we helped turn into the planet’s leading narco-state, has given us a 30-year high from hell.

So, as the New Year begins, strap yourself into that time machine and travel with me back into the 1980s, so that we can peer into a future we know and see the pattern that lies both behind and ahead of us.

Getting High in Afghanistan

As 2011 begins, what could be eerier than reading secret Soviet documents from the USSR's Afghan debacle of the 1980s?  It gives you chills to run across Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at a Politburo meeting in October 1985, almost six years after Soviet troops first flooded into Afghanistan, reading letters aloud to his colleagues from embittered Soviet citizens (“The Politburo had made a mistake and must correct it as soon as possible -- every day precious lives are lost.”); or, in November 1986, insisting to those same colleagues that the Afghan war must be ended in a year, “at maximum, two.” Yet, with the gut-wrenching sureness history offers, you can’t help but know that, even two years later, even with a strong desire to leave (which has yet to surface among the Washington elite a decade into our own Afghan adventure), imperial pride and fear of loss of “credibility” would keep the Soviets fighting on to 1989.

Or what about Marshal Sergei Akhromeev offering that same Politburo meeting an assessment that any honest American military commander might offer a quarter century later about our own Afghan adventure: “There is no single piece of land in this country that has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier.  Nevertheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of the rebels.” Or General Boris Gromov, the last commander of the Soviet 40th Army in Afghanistan, boasting “on his last day in the country that ‘[n]o Soviet garrison or major outpost was ever overrun.’”

Or Andrei Gromyko, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, emphasizing in 1986 the strategic pleasure of their not-so-secret foe, that other great imperial power of the moment: “Concerning the Americans, they are not interested in the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan.  On the contrary, it is to their advantage for the war to drag out.” (The same might today be said of a far less impressive foe, al-Qaeda.)

Or in 1988, with the war still dragging on, to read a “closed” letter the Communist Party distributed to its members explaining how the Afghan fiasco happened (again, the sort of thing that any honest American leader could say of our Afghan war): “In addition, [we] completely disregarded the most important national and historical factors, above all the fact that the appearance of armed foreigners in Afghanistan was always met with arms in the hands [of the population]... One should not disregard the economic factor either.  If the enemy in Afghanistan received weapons and ammunition for hundreds of millions and later even billions of dollars, the Soviet-Afghan side also had to shoulder adequate expenditures.  The war in Afghanistan costs us 5 billion rubles a year.”

Or finally the pathetic letter the Soviet Military Command delivered to the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan on February 14, 1989, arguing (just as the American military high command would do of our war effort) that it was “not only unfair but even absurd to draw... parallels” between the Soviet Afghan disaster and the American war in Vietnam.  

That was, of course, the day the last of 100,000 Soviet soldiers -- just about the number of American soldiers there today -- left Afghan soil heading home to a sclerotic country bled dry by war, its infrastructure aging, its economy crumbling.  Riddled by drugs and thoroughly demoralized, the Red Army limped home to a society riddled by drugs and thoroughly demoralized led by a Communist Party significantly delegitimized by its disastrous Afghan adventure, its Islamic territories from Chechnya to Central Asia in increasing turmoil.  In November of that same year, the Berlin Wall would be torn down and not long after the Soviet Union would disappear from the face of the Earth.

Reading those documents, you can almost imagine CIA director William Webster and “his euphoric ‘Afghan Team’” toasting the success of the Agency's 10-year effort, its largest paramilitary operation since the Vietnam War.  The Reagan administration surge in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been profligate, involving billions of dollars and a massive propaganda campaign, as well as alliances with the Saudis and a Pakistani dictator and his intelligence service to fund and arm the most extreme of the anti-Soviet jihadists of that moment -- “freedom fighters” as they were then commonly called in Washington.

It’s easy to imagine the triumphalist mood of celebration in Washington among those who had intended to give the Soviet Union a full blast of the Vietnam effect.  They had used the “war” part of the Cold War to purposely bleed the less powerful, less wealthy of the two superpowers dry.  As President Reagan would later write in his memoirs: “The great dynamic of capitalism had given us a powerful weapon in our battle against Communism -- money.  The Russians could never win the arms race; we could outspend them forever.”

By 1990, the urge to surge seemed a success beyond imagining.  Forget that it had left more than a million Afghans dead (and more dying), that one-third of that impoverished country’s population had been turned into refugees, or that the most extreme of jihadists, including a group that called itself al-Qaeda, had been brought together, funded, and empowered through the Afghan War.  More important, the urge to surge in the region was now in the American bloodstream.  And who could ever imagine that, in a new century, “our” freedom fighters would become our sworn enemies, or that the Afghans, that backward people in a poor land, could ever be the sort of impediment to American power that they had been to the Soviets?

The Cold War was over.  The surge had it.  We were supreme.  And what better high could there be than that?

Fever Dreams of Military Might

Of course, with the Soviet Union gone, there was no military on the planet that could come close to challenging the American one, nor was there a nascent rival great power on the horizon.  Still, a question remained: After centuries of great power rivalry, what did it mean to have a “sole superpower” on planet Earth, and what path should that triumphant power head down? It took a few years, including passing talk about a possible “peace dividend” -- that is, the investment of monies that would have gone into the Cold War, the Pentagon, and the military in infrastructural and other domestic projects -- for this question to be settled, but settled it was, definitively, on September 12, 2001.

And for all the unknown paths that might have been taken in this unique situation, the one chosen was familiar.  It was, of course, the very one that had helped lead the Soviet Union to implosion, the investment of national treasure in military power above all else.  However, to those high on the urge to surge and now eager to surge globally, when it came to an American future, the fate of the Soviet Union seemed no more relevant than what the Afghans had done to the Red Army.  In those glory years, analogies between the greatest power the planet had ever seen and a defeated foe seemed absurd to those who believed themselves the smartest, clearest-headed guys in the room.

Previously, the “arms race,” like any race, had involved at least two, and sometimes more, great powers.  Now, it seemed, there would be something new under the sun, an arms race of one, as the U.S. prepared itself for utter dominance into a distant, highly militarized future.  The military-industrial complex would, in these years, be further embedded in the warp and woof of American life; the military expanded and privatized (which meant being firmly embraced by crony corporations and hire-a-gun outfits of every sort); and the American “global presence” -- from military bases to aircraft-carrier task forces -- enhanced until, however briefly, the United States became a military presence unique in the annals of history.

Thanks to the destructive acts of 19 jihadis, the urge to surge would with finality overwhelm all other urges in the fall of 2001 -- and there would be a group ready for just such a moment, for (as the newspaper headlines screamed) a “Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century.”

To take full stock of that group, however, we would first have to pilot our time machine back to June 3, 1997, the day a confident crew of Washington think-tank, academic, and political types calling themselves the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) posted a fin de siècle “statement of principles.” In it, they called for “a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities.”  

Crucially, they were demanding that the Clinton administration, or assumedly some future administration with a better sense of American priorities, “increase defense spending significantly.”

The 23 men and two women who signed the initial PNAC statement urging the United States to go for the military option in the twenty-first century would, however, prove something more than your typical crew of think-tank types.  After all, not so many years later, after a disputed presidential election settled by the Supreme Court, Dick Cheney would be vice president; I. Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby would be his right-hand man; Donald Rumsfeld would be Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Zalmay Khalilzad, head of the Bush-Cheney transition team at the Department of Defense and then the first post- invasion U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, as well as ambassador to Iraq and UN ambassador; Elliot Abrams, special assistant to the president with a post on the National Security Council; Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Aaron Friedberg, Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs and Director of Policy Planning in the office of the vice president; and Jeb Bush, governor of Florida.  (Others like John Bolton, who signed on to PNAC later, would be no less well employed.)

This may, in fact, be the first example in history of a think tank coming to power and actually putting its blue-sky suggestions into operation as government policy, or perhaps it’s the only example so far of a government-in-waiting masquerading as an online think tank.  In either case, more than 13 years later, the success of that group can still take your breath away, as can both the narrowness -- and scope -- of their thinking, and of their seminal document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” published in September 2000, two months before George W. Bush took the presidency.

This crew of surgers extraordinaires was considering a global situation that, as they saw it, offered Americans an “unprecedented strategic opportunity.”  Facing a new century, their ambitions were caught by James Peck in his startling upcoming book, Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights, in this way: “In the [Reagan] era, Washington organized half the planet; in the [Bush era] it sought to organize the whole."

“Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” if remembered at all today, is recalled mainly for a throwaway sentence that looked ominous indeed in retrospect: “Further, the process of transformation [of the military], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor.”  

It remains, however, a remarkable document for other reasons.  In many ways canny about the direction war would take in the near future, ranging from the role of drones in air war to the onrushing possibility that cyberwar (or “Net-War,” as they called it) would be the style of future conflict, it was a clarion call to ensure this country’s “unchallenged supremacy” into the distant future by military means alone.

In 1983, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals, President Ronald Reagan famously called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”  It wanted, as he saw it, what all dark empires (and every evildoer in any James Bond film) desires: unchallenged dominion over the planet -- and it pursued that dominion in the name of a glorious “world revolution.”  Now, in the name of American safety and the glories of global democracy, we were -- so the PNAC people both pleaded and demanded -- to do what only evil empires did and achieve global dominion beyond compare over planet Earth.

We could, they insisted in a phrase they liked, enforce an American peace, a Pax Americana, for decades to come, if only we poured our resources, untold billions -- they refused to estimate what the real price might be -- into war preparations and, if necessary, war itself, from the seven seas to the heavens, from manifold new “forward operating bases on land” to space and cyberspace.  Pushing “the American security perimeter” ever farther into the distant reaches of the planet  (and “patrolling” it via “constabulary missions”) was, they claimed, the only way that “U.S. military supremacy” could be translated into “American geopolitical preeminence.”  It was also the only that the “homeland” -- yes, unlike 99.9% of Americans before 9/11, they were already using that term -- could be effectively “defended.”

In making their pitch, they were perfectly willing to acknowledge that the United States was already a military giant among midgets, but they were also eager to suggest as well that our military situation was “deteriorating” fast, that we were “increasingly ill-prepared” or even (gasp!) in “retreat” on a planet without obvious enemies.  They couldn’t have thought more globally.  (They were, after all, visionaries, as druggies tend to be.)  Nor could they have thought longer term.  (They were twenty-first century mavens.)  And on military matters, they couldn’t have been more up to date.

Yet on the most crucial issues, they -- and so their documents -- couldn’t have been dumber or more misguided.  They were fundamentalists when it came to the use of force and idolaters on the subject of the U.S. military.  They believed it capable of doing just about anything.  As a result, they made a massive miscalculation, mistaking military destructiveness for global power.  Nor could they have been less interested in the sinews of global economic power (though they did imagine our future enemy to be China).  Nor were they capable of imagining that the greatest military power on the planet might be stopped in its tracks -- in the Greater Middle East, no less -- by a ragtag crew of Iraqis and Afghans.  To read “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” today is to see the rabbit hole down which, as if in a fever dream, we would soon disappear.

It was a genuine American tragedy that they came to power and proceeded to put their military-first policies in place; that, on September 12th of the year that “changed everything,” the PNAC people seized the reins of defense and foreign policy, mobilized for war, began channeling American treasure into the military solution they had long desired, and surged.  Oh, how they surged!
That urge to surge was infamously caught in notes on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments taken on September 11, 2001.  "[B]arely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon... Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq," even though he was already certain that al-Qaeda had launched the attack. ("'Go massive,' the notes quote him as saying. 'Sweep it all up. Things related and not.'")
And so they did.  They swept up everything and then watched as their dreams and geopolitical calculations were themselves swept into the dustbin of history.  And yet the urge to surge, twisted and ever more desperate, did not abate.

The Soviet Path

To one degree or another, we have been on the Soviet path for years and yet, ever more desperately, we continue to plan more surges.  Our military, like the Soviet one, has not lost a battle and has occupied whatever ground it chose to take.  Yet, in the process, it has won less than nothing at all.  Our country, still far more wealthy than the Soviet Union ever was, has nonetheless entered its Soviet phase.  At home, in the increasing emphasis on surveillance of every sort, there is even a hint of what made “soviet” and “totalitarian” synonymous. 

The U.S. economy looks increasingly sclerotic; moneys for an aging and rotting infrastructure are long gone; state and city governments are laying off teachers, police, even firefighters; Americans are unemployed in near record numbers; global oil prices (for a country that has in no way begun to wean itself from its dependence on foreign oil) are ominously on the rise; and yet taxpayer money continues to pour into the military and into our foreign wars.  It has recently been estimated, for instance, that after spending $11.6 billion in 2011 on the training, supply, and support of the Afghan army and police, the U.S. will continue to spend an average of $6.2 billion a year at least through 2015 (and undoubtedly into an unknown future) -- and that’s but one expense in the estimated $120 billion to $160 billion a year being spent at present on the Afghan War, what can only be described as part of America’s war stimulus package abroad.

And, of course, the talk for 2011 is how to expand the American ground war -- the air version of the same has already been on a sharp escalatory trajectory -- in Pakistan. History and common sense assure us that this can only lead to further disaster.  Clear-eyed leaders, military or civilian, would never consider such plans.  But Washington’s 30-year high in the region, that urge to surge still coursing through its veins, says otherwise, and it’s not likely to be denied.
Sooner than later, Washington, the Pentagon, and the U.S. military will have to enter rehab.  They desperately need a 12-step program for recovery.  Until then, the delusions and the madness that go with surge addiction are not likely to end.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's  His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books). You can catch him discussing war American-style and that book in a Timothy MacBain TomCast video by clicking here.

[Note on sources:  The National Security Archive, filled to bursting with documents from our imperial and Cold War past, is an online treasure.  I have relied on it for both the Soviet documents quoted on the Afghan war of the 1980s and an analysis of the American version of that war.  For those who are interested in reading PNAC’s “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” click here and then on the link to the pdf file of the document.]

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