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William Astore, “Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds”

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I was born on July 20, 1944, barely a year before the world (potentially) ended. On August 6 and 9, 1945, the U.S., which had already been torching Japanese cities from the air, dropped the first atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The explosions were unlike anything humanity had previously experienced. A single weapon from a single plane could devastate a city, wiping out tens of thousands of human beings (and leaving behind a nuclear residue or “fallout” that could cause horrific cancers in the years to follow). It was a grim, dark miracle of human invention and, within a decade, the weapons used on those two cities would seem all too modest compared to the new thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs the U.S. possessed that, within years, were capable of wiping out whole civilizations. (The estimate of Russian, Chinese, and other deaths from the carrying out of the Single Integrated Operational Plan for General Nuclear War developed by the U.S. military in 1960 was at least 600 million.)

Today, of course, nine countries (still led by the U.S.) have close to 13,000 nuclear weapons and, in the coming decades, my own country is planning to spend almost two trillion dollars (no, that is not a misprint!) on “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal while, at this very moment, two countries presently at war in a major fashion, Israel and Russia, are also nuclear powers and the leader of one of them has even threatened to use such weapons on the battlefield.

Consider it a miracle of sorts, given us humans and the kind of devastation we now know a nuclear war would bring to this world, that, for the last 78 years, while such ultimate weaponry spread and, one might even say, flourished on this planet, not one of them has ever been used again in war (though in those same years, there have certainly been countless wars). But will my great-grandson or great-granddaughter be able to say the same thing 78 years from now? Will they or anyone else even be here to say anything at all, or might we humans truly fulfill the prophecy of those two nuclear moments in 1945 and end our world, at least as we know it? With that in mind, let retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore take you onto a planet that couldn’t be more fragile or more worth saving. Tom

There Is Only One Spaceship Earth

Freeing the World from the Deadly Shadow of Genocide and Ecocide

When I was in the U.S. military, I learned a saying (often wrongly attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato) that only the dead have seen the end of war. Its persistence through history to this very moment should indeed be sobering. What would it take for us humans to stop killing each other with such vigor and in such numbers?

Song lyrics tell me to be proud to be an American, yet war and profligate preparations for more of the same are omnipresent here. My government spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined (and most of them are allies). In this century, our leaders have twice warned of an “axis of evil” intent on harming us, whether the fantasy troika of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea cited by President George W. Bush early in 2002 or a new one -- China, Russia, and North Korea -- in the Indo-Pacific today. Predictably given that sort of threat inflation, this country is now closing in on a trillion dollars a year in "defense spending," or close to two-thirds of federal discretionary spending, in the name of having a military machine capable of defeating “evil” troikas (as well as combatting global terrorism). A significant part of that huge sum is reserved for producing a new generation of nuclear weapons that will be quite capable of destroying this planet with missiles and warheads to spare.

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Rebecca Gordon, Class Warfare Will Be on the Ballot This November

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Yes, indeed, it is getting warmer (and warmer and warmer) on this planet of ours. It’s not just that records are being set for an ever hotter world, year after year after year, but that when the warmth hits, as the New York Times recently reported, the heat waves “linger longer,” sometimes for extra days or even — yes! — weeks at a time! Meanwhile, new records are regularly being set for heat not just on land but in the planet’s waters, too, shattering previous temperature records for the oceans. And in case it hadn’t occurred to you, that’s bad news when it comes to the strength of the next hurricane season, which can be supercharged by soaring ocean heat. And then, of course, there’s that other record — the loss of Antarctic sea ice, which will only feed rising sea levels (and sinking coastal communities).

And here’s another “yes” on the subject: if, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon points out today, the world, which also means your particular world, is getting ever hotter, that’s an issue not just for, say, farmers facing megadroughts or devastating megafires, but also for workers in any job that exposes them to the growing heat of this planet of ours. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, the head of the Trumpublican Party is now running on a “day one” platform of establishing a “dictatorship” to — yes, “drill, drill, drill!” And that means, however hot it already is, that party and its presidential candidate are now all-too-publicly committed to making it hotter yet, maybe even as hot as it can get.

And as Gordon reports today, when it comes to this country’s workers that’s hardly all the Trumpublicans are now committed to do! Tom

Republicans Have Plans for Working People

And You’re Not Going to Like Them

Recently, you may have noticed that the hot weather is getting ever hotter. Every year the United States swelters under warmer temperatures and longer periods of sustained heat. In fact, each of the last nine months -- May 2023 through February 2024 -- set a world record for heat. As I'm writing this, March still has a couple of days to go, but likely as not, it, too, will set a record.

Such heat poses increasing health hazards for many groups: the old, the very young, those of us who don’t have access to air conditioning. One group, however, is at particular risk: people whose jobs require lengthy exposure to heat. Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that about 40 workers died of heat exposure between 2011 and 2021, although, as CNN reports, that's probably a significant undercount. In February 2024, responding to this growing threat, a coalition of 10 state attorneys general petitioned the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement “a nationwide extreme heat emergency standard” to protect workers from the kinds of dangers that last year killed, among others, construction workers, farm workers, factory workers, and at least one employee who was laboring in an unairconditioned area of a warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Karen Greenberg, Guantánamo Forever (Yet Forgotten)?

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Guantánamo? Remind me, what’s that?

Oh, wait, how could I have forgotten? It’s that all-American offshore prison of injustice, opened in January 2002, that became the holding area for this country’s prisoners in its “war on terror,” many of whom had been tortured at CIA “black sites” elsewhere on the planet. They had, in a sense, already been “convicted” of crimes (whether they had committed them or not) without trial but not without trials (and tribulations) galore. Now, they were being held at that specially created prison camp at an American military base in… yes!… Cuba, a country that, at least since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the U.S. has embargoed and had nothing to do with economically. So, what a perfect place to create an all-too-literal hell on earth.

And yes, Guantánamo, which I’ll bet you haven’t heard a word about in months, if not years, is still there, still operating, still holding 30 of this country’s “forever prisoners.” And hey, Joe Biden is at work ensuring that he’ll be the fourth American president incapable of closing it down, despite recent complaints from 17 Democratic senators. As they wrote him: “Continuing to imprison men who have never been charged with a crime and who have been approved for release is inconsistent with American values. No country can hold people for decades without charge or trial and claim to be dedicated to the rule of law.” (Obviously, they were rushed and so didn’t have their document proofread or else that last sentence would have read “No country other than the United States can hold…”)

As it happens, for the last 16 years, starting with a press trip to Gitmo, Karen Greenberg has been covering that “crown jewel of the administration’s offshore network of secret prisons” (as she put it in 2007) for TomDispatch. And even while writing her earliest pieces for this site, she undoubtedly might have guessed that, in April 2024, she would still be writing about Gitmo (as it’s known). In fact, she all too tellingly entitled her second TomDispatch piece on the subject in September 2007 “Guantánamo Forever,” and forever it all too sadly has proven to be. With that in mind, so many years later, let her look back at the grim world many Americans would simply prefer to forget, but that, in some deeply uncomfortable sense, couldn’t be more memorable. Tom

“Quaint and Obsolete?”

The Peril of Forgetting Guantánamo

Last weekend my father, Larry Greenberg, passed away at the age of 93. Several days later, I received an email from the French film director Phillippe Diaz who sent me a link to his soon-to-be-released I Am Gitmo, a feature movie about the now-infamous Guantánamo Bay detention facility. As I was soon to discover, those two disparate events in my life spoke to one another with cosmic overtones.

Mind you, I've been covering Guantánamo since President George W. Bush and his team, having responded to the 9/11 attacks by launching their disastrous "Global War on Terror," set up that offshore prison to house people American forces had captured. Previewing Diaz's movie, I was surprised at how it unnerved me. After so many years of exposure to the grim realities of that prison, somehow his film touched me anew. There were moments that made me sob, moments when I turned down the sound so as not to hear more anguished cries of pain from detainees being tortured, and moments that made me curious about the identities of the people in the film. Although the names of certain officials are mentioned, the central characters are the detainees and individual interrogators, as well as defense attorneys and guards, all of whom interacted at Guantánamo’s prison camp over the course of its two-plus decades of existence.

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