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Andrea Mazzarino, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?

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I still remember my parents singing the World War I-era song:

“You’re in the Army now,
You’re not behind a plough,
You’ll never get rich,
You son of a bitch,
You’re in the Army now.”

My father volunteered for what was then the Army Air Corps right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As is still true, it wasn’t seen as a particularly lucrative or upwardly mobile way of getting ahead, even if it was a patriotic act at the time.  These days, however, there’s an exception to that rule about never getting rich in the Army: become a general and the next thing you know — powie! — you’ve retired onto the board of Raytheon or some other giant weapons maker and upped your cash value immeasurably. In other words, you’ve become part of the remarkably lucrative revolving door between the U.S. military and the industrial part of the military-industrial complex and you’re on easy street.

Still, in the twenty-first century, for most troops sent to fight in pointless, losing wars abroad and possibly struggling afterwards with PTSD at home, the military hasn’t exactly been a winner, as TomDispatch regular and co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project Andrea Mazzarino suggests today.

Behind the plough? Maybe not in 2022. But “in the Army now”?  Well, not that either, which couldn’t be more curious — a subject Mazzarino explores — in a military that Congress never stops over-funding in a mind-boggling fashion. Tom

A Military Rich in Dollars, Poor in People

And the Frayed Social Safety Net That Goes With It

The American military is now having trouble recruiting enough soldiers. According to the New York Times, its ranks are short thousands of entry-level troops and it's on track to face the worst recruitment crisis since the Vietnam War ended, not long after the draft was eliminated.

Mind you, it’s not that the military doesn't have the resources for recruitment drives. Nearly every political figure in Washington, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, invariably agrees on endlessly adding to the Pentagon’s already staggering budget. In fact, it’s nearly the only thing they seem capable of agreeing on. After all, Congress has already taken nearly a year to pass a social-spending package roughly half the size of this year’s defense budget, even though that bill would mitigate the costs of health care for so many Americans and invest in clean energy for years to come. (Forget about more money for early childhood education.)

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Is the Never-Ending Story Ending?

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[Note to TomDispatch Readers: On returning from a week off, let me express a bit of pride when it comes to the accolade a TomDispatch writer recently received.  My old friend Jane Braxton Little, who began writing for this site last year on climate change (up close and personal), received a prestigious award from the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), in part for her work at TD.  You can see the SEJ announcement here and the two TD articles that helped her here and here.

And while I’m at it, let me confess to the one thing I’ve felt guilty about at TomDispatch in these years.  So many of you have supported my work here — through individual contributions or by signing up at our donation page to give repeatedly (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) — and I never thank you individually.  I see each of your names whenever a donation arrives and I’m always amazed and moved, particularly when I note that they come from every corner of this country.  I have the urge to tell each of you just how appreciative I am, but I also know that it would be one thing too many for me in a TomDispatch life that’s filled to the brim.  At least, I do hope you’ll take this collective thank you as a substitute (however poor) for the emails I wish I had written to each of you.  Thank you so much for helping keep this site going.  And of course, any of you who haven’t yet contributed but have the urge — believe me, the funding is always needed! — just visit our donation page and do your damnedest!  And again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tom]

The Decline and Fall of Everything (Including Me)

What Goes Up Must… Well, You Know…

I find nothing strange in Joe Biden, at 79 (going on 80), being the oldest president in our history and possibly planning to run again in 2024. After all, who wouldn't want to end up in the record books? Were he to be nominated and then beat the also-aging Donald Trump, or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, or even Fox News's eternally popular Tucker Carlson, he would occupy the White House until he was 86.

Honestly, wouldn't that be perfect in its own way? I mean, what could better fit an America in decline than a president in decline, the more radically so the better?

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Stan Cox, Angry White Guys in Big-Ass Pickups

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[Note to TomDispatch Readers: It’s birthday week at my house (though I actually turned 78 earlier in the summer) and so I’m taking a little time off.  TomDispatch will be back with a new piece on Thursday, August 11th.  Tom]

As gun sales in this country soar — another 43 million weapons bought in 2020 and 2021 alone — while the possession of military-style weaponry is normalized, whether in mass killings or everyday life, American politics, too, is becoming weaponized. If you doubt that, then you weren’t in that Comfort Inn room where, on the night of January 5, 2021, a group of Oath Keeper militiamen stored their weapons so that a “quick reaction force” could potentially transport them to the Capitol the next day.

In the end, as far as we know, none of those weapons made it that January 6th, but others certainly did, as the House January 6th committee made all too clear in its recent hearings. Worse yet, the president of the United States knew perfectly well that some of those he was encouraging to march on the Capitol to protest (or even reverse) his election loss were armed. In political terms, red states have been easing gun laws even as some blue states are cracking down. In California, which has among the nation’s strictest laws (especially when it comes to assault rifles), deaths from guns are approximately 40% below the national average — not that such figures, it seems, matter to most Republicans.

The result: an unequally armed nation at a moment where the weaponizing of our political system seems on the rise.  As right-wing extremism grows and guns become ever more commonplace in American life, while the death toll from them soars, the idea that arms, not votes, might someday define the endpoint of an American election is also being normalized.

Oh, and my mistake, I forgot to include in the above description one of the ways in which this country is weaponizing big time. Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Stan Cox didn’t. So, sit back, watch out for the smoke and fumes, and let him explain. Tom

Three Tons of Fascism with a Bull Bar

Fuming at the Rest of Us, Democracy, and the Earth

In the United States during 16 months in 2020 and 2021, vehicles rammed into groups of protesters at least 139 times, according to a Boston Globe analysis. Three victims died and at least 100 were injured. Consider that a new level of all-American barbarity, thanks to the growing toxicity of right-wing politics, empowered by its embrace of ever-larger, more menacing vehicles being cranked out by the auto industry.

And keep this in mind: attacks on street protests are just the most recent development in fossil-fuelized aggression. Especially in the red states of America, MAGA motorists have been driving our quality of life into the ground for years. My spouse Priti Gulati Cox and I live half a block south of Crawford Street, the central east-west artery in Salina, Kansas. Starting in the early Trump years, and ever more regularly during the pandemic, we’ve been plagued by the brain-rattling roar of diesel-powered pickup trucks as they peel out of side streets onto Crawford, spewing black exhaust and aiming to go from zero to sixty before reaching the traffic light at Broadway. By 2020, many of these drivers were regularly festooning their pickups, ISIS-style, with giant flags bearing slogans like “Trump 2020” and “Don’t Tread on Me,” as well as Confederate battle flags. Some still display them, often with "F*** Biden” flags as well.

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