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Chomsky and Barsamian, What Hope Is There?

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As I was reading today’s interview between David Barsamian of Alternative Radio and the remarkable Noam Chomsky, now 93 years old and still so much in and of our world, I had a “memory” flash of sorts. I wondered what, in his twenties, Tom Engelhardt would have thought of this ever more extreme planet if, as in one of the sci-fi novels he then read so avidly, he had been transported more than half a century into the future to this very America. And you know exactly the country I mean.

Admittedly, that Tom didn’t consider 1960s America — above all, his country’s horrific war in Vietnam — anything to brag about. Still, how would he feel to find himself in a land where most of the members of one major party believe, based on nothing, that the last presidential election was quite literally “stolen”; a country increasingly filled with extremist militias; one that spent four years with a mad and maddening president with, it seems, every intention of facing off one more time against Joe Biden who, in 2024, will be 82 years old. We’re talking about a candidate who, were he to win — or even somehow claim a lost election as his — could turn the U.S. into a proto-fascist state? (Honestly, speaking of the past, why didn’t all those Big Macs and Wendy’s Burgers take him down?)

And that, of course, would just be an introduction to a planet on which — forget the war still going on in Ukraine amid increasing fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin might consider using nuclear weapons for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were taken out in 1945 — week by week, month by month, the news only gets worse. It matters little whether you’re speaking about record droughts, fires, floods, storms, melting ice, rising sea levels, you name it, since these days it seems as if no horror we might dream up couldn’t become reality.

In such a context, let me introduce the young Tom Engelhardt to the four horsemen of the apocalypse of the twenty-first century and leave it to Noam Chomsky, interviewed by the superb David Barsamian for their new book, Notes on Resistance, to tell us where, in such a world, hope might still lie. Tom

Optimism of the Will

And the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

[The following is excerpted in shortened form from Chapter 9 of Notes on Resistance by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian, published by Haymarket Books.]

David Barsamian: What we are facing is often described as unprecedented -- a pandemic, climate catastrophe and, always lurking off center stage, nuclear annihilation. Three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

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Andrea Mazzarino, Why Dobbs Is a Recipe for Disaster in the Military

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The other day, a judge lifted a nearly 50-year-old injunction against a 150-year-old Arizona anti-abortion law. It allows that procedure only if a woman’s life is in jeopardy. A doctor who ignores it could face two to five years in jail. And so it goes (and goes and goes) in a country that’s still, in part at least, extremely Trumpian and a Supreme Court that could hardly be more so.

Strange, isn’t it, that the president who went out of his way to put three anti-abortion judges on the Supreme Court claimed in 1999, when he was still a real-estate magnate in New York City, that “I’m very pro-choice”? When running for president as a Republican, he would, of course, emphatically claim that “I am pro-life” (though the only accurate thing he could have said would have been “I am pro-Trump”).

When he began changing his stated beliefs to fit the new Donald Trump he was promoting as a possible president, he had this exchange:

“’I know you’re opposed to abortion,’ CNN’s Jake Tapper said to him in a June 2015 interview.

‘Right,’ Trump replied. ‘I’m pro-choice.’

Mr. Tapper furrowed a brow. ‘You’re pro-choice or pro-life?’

‘I’m pro-life,’ Mr. Trump quickly corrected himself. ‘I’m sorry.’”

A little more than a year after that, when asked about his thoughts on overturning Roe v. Wade, he assured his interviewer, Chris Wallace of Fox News, that it “will happen, automatically in my opinion,” because he was sure he would have the chance to nominate several justices to the Supreme Court. How sadly right he proved to be.

The three justices he did nominate (two put in place after Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell aborted history to do so) would be crucial to the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that would make Roe a matter of history. After news of that decision came out, the former president would insist that “the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.” It mattered not at all that, in a CNN poll, 66% of Americans stood against the overturning of Roe (or that Republicans may pay for that decision in the November midterm elections).

Meanwhile, TomDispatch regular and co-founder of the Costs of War Project Andrea Mazzarino gives us a feeling for just what a disaster the Dobbs decision is likely to be for one community of Americans of which she’s a part: military spouses. And while you’re at it, prepare yourself. Given the Supreme Court Donald Trump willed us, there’s so much more to come. Tom

Choosing Life in a Pro-Violence Society

Post-Dobbs Abortion Access for Military Dependents Is in Question

In significant parts of this country, the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade returned Americans to a half-century-old situation in which hundreds of thousands of women, faced with unwanted pregnancies, were once forced to resort to costly, potentially deadly underground abortions. My spouse’s employer, the Pentagon, recently announced that its own abortion policy, which allows military insurance to cover the procedure when a pregnancy results from rape or incest, or poses a threat to the mother’s life, still holds.

Sadly enough, this seems an all-too-hollow reassurance, given the reality that pregnant women in the military are, in many places, likely to face an uphill battle finding providers trained and -- here's the key, of course -- willing to perform the procedure. The Supreme Court abortion ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health leaves it up to the states to determine whether to allow abortions. In doing so, it ensures that the access of military populations to that procedure will be so much more complicated, especially for spouses who need to seek off-base care, including ones like me who have chosen the military insurance option TRICARE Select that allows us to access almost exclusively civilian providers. America’s 2.6 million military dependents now live in a country where an ever-changing patchwork of state laws can make seeking an abortion costly, risky, and stressful in the extreme.

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William Astore, Something Is Rotten in the U.S. Military

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Here’s the curious thing: since at least the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and early 1970s, the United States has been almost continuously at war. Certain of those conflicts like the Vietnam War itself and those in Iraq and Afghanistan in this century are still remembered by many of us. Honestly, though, who remembers Grenada or Panama or the first Gulf War or even the struggle against ISIS, the endless (still ongoing) bombing of Somalia, and this country’s military adventures in Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Northern Africa? And doubtless, I’m forgetting some conflicts myself.  Oh, yes, what about the 1999 bombing of Serbia? So it goes, or at least has gone, for more than half a century.

As Stan Cox pointed out at TomDispatch recently, the U.S. military, as the largest institutional user of petroleum in the world today, now seems at war not just with other countries or terror movements of various sorts, but with the planet itself. And don’t forget those 750 bases our military occupies on every continent except Antarctica or the staggering Pentagon and national security budgets that have continued to fund all of the above (and so little else).

Russia has indeed invaded Ukraine, causing a harrowing nightmare all too near the heart of Europe. And China has indeed been dispatching warships, drones, and missiles menacingly close to Taiwan. Still, when it comes to militarizing the planet in these last decades, nothing compares to our own military.  And looking back — as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore, who also runs the Bracing Views blog, does today — tell me that it truly isn’t the story from hell.

Astore mentions a phrase that no one who lived through the Vietnam years is ever likely to forget: “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Even the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam used it about a conflict in which only darkness lay at the end of that very “tunnel.” As an image, it was, of course, supposed to offer hope in a war that seemed, like enough of our conflicts in the years that followed, to be going anything but our way.  And these days, with such conflicts seemingly heading home in some bizarre fashion, who could doubt that, metaphorically speaking, all of us now find ourselves in some version of that same tunnel — with the light at its end perhaps the flames of an overheating planet. And with that in mind, let Astore explore the nature of the military that so many of your tax dollars have gone to support in these years.  And then, be depressed, very depressed. Tom

Integrity Optional

Lies and Dishonor Plague America’s War Machine

As a military professor for six years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the 1990s, I often walked past the honor code prominently displayed for all cadets to see. Its message was simple and clear: they were not to tolerate lying, cheating, stealing, or similar dishonorable acts. Yet that’s exactly what the U.S. military and many of America’s senior civilian leaders have been doing from the Vietnam War era to this very day: lying and cooking the books, while cheating and stealing from the American people. And yet the most remarkable thing may be that no honor code turns out to apply to them, so they've suffered no consequences for their mendacity and malfeasance.

Where's the "honor" in that?

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