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Rajan Menon, Vaccine Nationalism

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The other day, for the first time in a year and a quarter, I walked into a movie theater. It was admittedly for a special screening (to see a film my daughter had been involved in making).  The seating was limited and, like me, everyone allowed in had been vaccinated. Still, it felt like a different planet than the one I had been living on at least since March 2020 and that, I have to admit, was a thrill.

Unfortunately, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon reminds us today, if you were to truly take in the world as a whole, you would know that it simply wasn’t true — or rather that the planet I was on was indeed “special” in all sorts of grim ways.  If I had been living in, say, India or Brazil, both still with unmasked, Trumpian leaders, or so many other countries that simply don’t have the wealth and power of the United States, the odds that I would have been vaccinated were next to nil and I might well have been gasping out my last breath in a bed at home (hospitals being so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t have even had access to one) or, for that matter, on the street.

With almost four million people on Planet Earth officially already dead from Covid-19 (and that number undoubtedly a significant undercount) and the toll on the poorer parts of the planet rising fast, the saddest story of all is the tale of vaccine nationalism that Menon tells in a world in which neither the words “fair” nor “share” seem much in fashion, but “profits” and “patents” certainly are.  And sadly enough, it could have been different. Tom

The Pandemic Is Us (But Now Mostly Them)

Power, Wealth, and Justice in the Time of Covid-19

Fifteen months ago, the SARS-CoV-2 virus unleashed Covid-19. Since then, it's killed more than 3.8 million people worldwide (and possibly many more). Finally, a return to normalcy seems likely for a distinct minority of the world’s people, those living mainly in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and China. That’s not surprising.  The concentration of wealth and power globally has enabled rich countries to all but monopolize available vaccine doses. For the citizens of low-income and poor countries to have long-term pandemic security, especially the 46% of the world’s population who survive on less than $5.50 a day, this inequity must end, rapidly -- but don’t hold your breath.

The Global North: Normalcy Returns

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William Astore, Big Lies Have Consequences, Too

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Almost 20 years later, the U.S. military high command still didn’t want to leave the country where they had so impressively turned so many “corners” amid so much “progress” for so long. They made it all too clear to President Biden that they wanted to “maintain at least a modest troop presence” in Afghanistan. He nonetheless rejected their advice, ordering a full-scale withdrawal of U.S. forces.  How sad, with success so (eternally) close!  After all, as late as 2017, General John Nicholson, then the commander of American forces there, was still insisting that the U.S. and the Afghan military it supported had finally “turned the corner” and were “on a path to a win.” As Foreign Policy reported at the time, he was the eighth commander to make such a claim, including General Stanley McChrystal in 2010 and General David Petraeus in 2011.  Who knew that there were so many corners to turn in that country — or, for that matter, in similarly invaded Iraq?

It’s true that, almost two decades after President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, the latest and longest-serving U.S. commander there, General Austin “Scott” Miller, has not taken credit for even one more corner turned.  All he’s claimed (no less improbably) is that U.S. forces will “go out with our heads held high.” In less upbeat times that would simply have been called “defeat.”  Meanwhile, lest you thought there was no hope at all, the CIA continues to search for ways to keep the American war going, whether from neighboring states or by drone from the Persian Gulf. (Yes, the Persian Gulf, nine hours away!)

And consider that just a small summary of war, American-style, in the twenty-first century. In other words, we’re talking about endless failures — with more to come if the Washington-backed Afghan government collapses under the pressure of a rising Taliban — that no one involved would ever imagine taking the slightest responsibility for.

Retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore highlights that very reality today, while asking just who in this country will, in the end, be saddled with the blame for all those corners left unturned, not just in Afghanistan but in this century’s never-ending U.S. war on terror across significant parts of the Greater Middle East and Africa. A historian and co-author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism, he reminds us today of what can happen when the blame for defeat in war proves to be up for grabs. Tom

America Is Stabbing Itself in the Back

Tough Truths Are Desperately Needed About America’s Lost Wars

Americans may already be lying themselves out of what little remains of their democracy.

The big lie uniting and motivating today’s Republicans is, of course, that Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, won the 2020 presidential election.  Other big lies in our recent past include the notion that climate change is nothing but a Chinese hoax, that Russia was responsible for Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat in 2016, and that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was necessary because that country's leader, Saddam Hussein, had something to do with the 9/11 attacks (he didn't!) and possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the United States, a “slam dunk” truth, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet (it wasn't!).

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Rebecca Gordon, It’s Time to Touch the Third Rail

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As French journalist and novelist Anatole France so aptly wrote in his 1894 novel The Red Lily, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” More than a century and a quarter later, that could easily have been written by Mitch McConnell and pals, or just about any Republican president since Ronald Reagan.  Yes, the law couldn’t be more equal for the rich and the poor when it comes to sleeping under bridges, just not, in the America of 2021, when it comes to taxes and wealth.

If you want a slogan for our moment, how about “Inequality Is Us”? After all, in terms of wealth and income, things have been growing ever less equal in recent decades.  In 2017, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell did their best to give away the shop to America’s wealthiest crew, offering them, and the corporations they’re often associated with, tax cuts from heaven, a genuine “windfall” for the 1%. And America’s billionaires responded appropriately by making an almost inconceivable further fortune amid the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for the U.S. military, it’s now a money-making operation of the first order and I’m not just thinking about the way the Pentagon budget always rises (even when Congress hasn’t been able to fund the most basic American infrastructure), amid almost 20 years of failing wars in distant lands. I mean, just consider a figure like Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who at one point commanded this country’s disastrous military operations in Iraq and then, as the head of U.S. Central Command, oversaw most of our losing wars. In 2016, he “retired” from the military, only to join the board of directors of the weapons maker Raytheon. In the process, he would reportedly rake in somewhere between $800,000 and $1.7 million, thanks to stocks he received from that outfit and two spinoff companies before heading back through that classic military-industrial-congressional revolving door to Washington to work for President Biden.

It’s in this context that TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon considers what the true third rails of American politics are. Watch out, if you’re a politician, you don’t want to touch either of them! Tom

Social Security Versus National Security

Whose Entitlement Really Makes Us Safer?

These days my conversations with friends about the new administration go something like this:

“Biden’s doing better than I thought he would.”

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