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Nick Turse, The Pentagon’s .00035% Problem

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: You know that I just can’t help it. Once again, I’m pleading with this site’s faithful readers to consider going to our donation page and giving us a boost so that we can keep covering subjects — like Nick Turse’s latest striking report on the killing of civilians in America’s never-ending war on terror — that the mainstream media tends to avoid so much of the time. Take a moment, if you can, to keep this website going in 2024. (And there’s no way I can thank you enough for doing so!) Note as well that TomDispatch will be off-duty on the Memorial Day weekend. The next piece will appear on Tuesday. Tom]

Yes, the number of deaths in Gaza in the last seven months is staggering. At least, 35,000 Gazans have reportedly perished, including significant numbers of children (and that’s without even counting the possibly 10,000 unidentified bodies still buried under the rubble that now litters that 25-mile-long stretch of land). But shocking as that might be (and it is shocking!), it begins to look almost modest when compared to the numbers of civilians slaughtered in America’s never-ending Global War on Terror that began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and, as Nick Turse has reported in his coverage of Africa, never really ended.

In fact, the invaluable Costs of War project put the direct civilian death toll in those wars at 186,694 to 210,038 in Iraq, 46,319 in Afghanistan, 24,099 in Pakistan, and 12,690 in Yemen, among other places. And don’t forget, as that project also reports, that there could have been an estimated 3.6 to 3.8 million (yes, million!) “indirect deaths” resulting from the devastation caused by those wars, which lasted endless years — 20 alone for the Afghan one — in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Today, Nick Turse reports on how the Pentagon has largely avoided significant responsibility for civilian deaths from its never-ending air wars, not to speak of failing to compensate the innocent victims of those strikes. The civilian death toll in this country’s twenty-first-century conflicts is, in fact, a subject he’s long focused on at TomDispatch in a devastating fashion. In 2007, he was already reporting on how the U.S. military was quite literally discussing “hunting” the “enemy.” (“From the commander-in-chief to low-ranking snipers, a language of dehumanization that includes the idea of hunting humans as if they were animals has crept into our world — unnoticed and unnoted in the mainstream media.”) And when it comes to the subject of killing civilians without any significant acknowledgment or ever having to say you’re sorry, he’s never stopped. Tom

Constant Killing

Despite Blood on Its Hands, The Pentagon Once Again Fails to Make Amends

There are constants in this world -- occurrences you can count on. Sunrises and sunsets. The tides. That, day by day, people will be born and others will die.

Some of them will die in peace, but others, of course, in violence and agony.

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Liz Theoharis and Shailly Gupta Barnes, Don’t Grind the Faces of the Poor

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Be shocked, very shocked. As TomDispatch regular Liz Theoharis and Shailly Gupta Barnes, both of whom play key roles in the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, make clear today, the way this country has dealt with the homeless, whose numbers have soared recently, has hardly been impressive (though it was certainly better during the pandemic years). Worse yet, as they report, there’s a case before the all-too-well-housed Supreme Court that, if five of the six conservative — and that’s a polite word for them these days — justices concur, will criminalize misery in a genuinely original fashion.  It will essentially make it possible for community after community to declare homelessness illegal.

And given recent rulings, don’t be faintly surprised if (when?) they do so. As PBS’s Supreme Court expert Marcia Coyle, who listened to the oral arguments in the case, Grants Pass v. Johnson, commented: “It does seem as though the conservative majority is leaning towards the city [of Grants Pass, Oregon]. And the implications are huge… because so many cities are dealing with this problem and what the Supreme Court has to say about what Grants Pass can do is going to affect how all the other cities try to address this problem.”

And while you’re at it, imagine that, if the 2024 election goes the way the latest polls are suggesting, four-plus years from now such a ruling could seem mild. If Donald Trump and crew have the chance to appoint yet more Supreme Court justices because liberals Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan decided not to retire during the Biden presidency, the present court could seem almost “liberal” by comparison and, in a sense, so many Americans might find themselves homeless indeed in a grim new all-American world. Tom

Housing, Not Handcuffs

The Moral Response to Homelessness

On April 22nd, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case that focuses on whether unhoused -- the term that has generally replaced "homeless" -- people with no indoor shelter options can even pull a blanket around themselves outdoors without being subject to criminal punishment.

Before making its way to the Supreme Court on appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court held that municipalities can't punish involuntarily homeless people for merely living in the place where they are. This is exactly what the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, did when it outlawed resting or sleeping anywhere on public property with so much as a blanket to survive in cold weather, even when no beds in shelters were available. The law makes it impossible for unhoused residents to stay in Grants Pass, effectively forcing them to either move to another city or face endless rounds of punishment. In Grants Pass, the punishment starts with a $295 fine that, if unpaid, goes up to $500, and can escalate from there to criminal trespass charges, penalties of up to 30 days in jail, and a $1,250 fine.

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Clarence Lusane, Is the Racial Storm Coming?

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When it comes to demonstrations and the former president of the United States, it matters greatly just who is doing them. Recently, Donald Trump attacked campus demonstrations against genocide in Gaza this way: “These are radical-left lunatics, and they’ve got to be stopped now.” He also called the police action on Columbia University’s campus in response to peaceful demonstrations there “a beautiful thing to watch.”

Back in 2017, however, he had somewhat different feelings about the nature of demonstrations. In fact, only recently he compared the ongoing campus protests of the present moment to the unforgettable 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. You remember that one, don’t you? White nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis, many celebrating Trump’s presidency, protested the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee by chanting, among other things, “Jews will not replace us.” And speaking of peaceful protests, one of those white nationalists (later convicted of murder) ran his car into a 32-year-old counter-protester, killing her. At the time, asked about the demonstration, President Trump all too infamously claimed that there “were very fine people on both sides,” and later, he would insist that, in saying so, he had “answered perfectly.”

Oh, and recently, just in case you missed it, he also insisted that the 2017 horror in Charlottesville was just “a peanut” compared to what’s now underway on college campuses nationwide. With all of that in mind, let TomDispatch regular Clarence Lusane, author of Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, explore Trump’s true feelings when it comes to his Black MAGA supporters whose numbers, if you believe recent polls, are rising. Tom

Black MAGA Is Still MAGA

Trump’s Racism and Authoritarianism Should Be Disqualifying

Consider Donald Trump to be in a racial bind when it comes to election 2024. After all, he needs Black voters to at least defect from Joe Biden in swing states, if not actually vote for him. Yet, more than ever, he also needs his white nationalist base to believe that a second Trump term will be even more racist than the first and he's been openly claiming that he'll address the ghost of anti-white racism. Not surprisingly, his evolving strategy for the Black vote has been high on empty symbolism and viral moments, but distinctly low on specific promised policy benefits for the Black community.

Milkshakes and far-right policies are all the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has recently offered Blacks. Take his orchestrated photo op at a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta a preview of things to come. The event was organized by Black MAGA supporter and Republican operative Michaelah Montgomery, who recruited some young African Americans, probably students from nearby historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), to cheer for Trump when he entered the place. He proceeded to buy milkshakes for everyone. Montgomery herself gave Trump a picture-perfect hug and, to the glee of MAGAworld, stated, “I don't care what the media tells you, Mr. Trump. We support you.”

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