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Nick Turse, The Skeletons in My Virtual Closets

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a reminder that signed, personalized copies of Songlands, the third and final novel in John Feffer’s Splinterlands trilogy on the fate of this planet, are still available. To receive one, you’ll have to contribute at least $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.A.) to this website. Feffer, a remarkable weekly columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus, is of course a TomDispatch regular.  Just check out his most recent piece if you want to get a feeling for him and the remarkable trilogy he wrote.  Personally, I think it’s a must-read in an era when white nationalism, Trumpism, a pandemic, and global warming have created a swirl of truly dystopian feelings.  Feffer was distinctly ahead of his time.  So, go to the TD donation page and do your damnedest. Note as well that I’ll be on the road this weekend, so the next TomDispatch piece will appear Tuesday. Tom]

In this century, Memorial Day, a civic holiday, has gained an almost religious tinge.  That last Monday in May is meant, of course, to honor the dead of this country’s wars and has a history that goes back to the period after the Civil War when, thanks to the bloodshed of that conflict, America’s first national cemeteries were created. A century and a half later, the president regularly goes to Arlington National Cemetery and places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Donald Trump did so, maskless in the midst of a pandemic nightmare, in 2020 and Joe Biden did so in 2021, the day after the anniversary of his son Beau’s death. (Beau served a year as a National Guardsman in war-torn Iraq.)

Addressing “our fallen heroes” and their families, who “live forever in our hearts — forever proud, forever honorable, forever American,” President Biden hailed the American war dead as “the sentinels of liberty, defenders of the downtrodden, liberators of nations.” He then added, “And still today, Americans stand watch around the world, often at their great personal peril… They did not only die at Gettysburg or in Flanders Field or on the beaches of Normandy, but in the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq in the last 20 years.” Later, he offered another quite explicit list of where those “fallen heroes” actually fell: “The Americans of Lexington and Concord, of New Orleans, Gettysburg, the Argonne, Iwo Jima and Normandy, Korea and Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

But when you think about it, the all-American conflicts that followed World War II’s D-Day (Normandy) haven’t exactly been the tales of liberty, heroism, and glory that Biden hailed.  Instead, they’ve been interventions from hell that, Vietnam aside, the American people largely neither supported nor protested, but paid remarkably little attention to.

Almost all of them were, in one fashion or another, failed wars that left startling numbers of innocent civilians dead, squandered trillions of taxpayer dollars needed at home, unsettled significant parts of the planet, and in this century helped spread terror outfits across the Greater Middle East and Africa. In short, they were wars that, in terms of democracy, liberty, and justice, were horrors of the first order and nothing faintly to be proud of.

Today, TomDispatch regular, historian, and war correspondent Nick Turse, author of a riveting account of one of those American wars from hell, Kill Anything That Moves, considers a subject we don’t often think about — the way such wars and other conflicts around the world are now producing what he all too accurately calls “war porn” in our overly electronic moment.  As I read his piece, I couldn’t help thinking that, given a Pentagon budget that never goes anything but up and wars that never go anything but down, Memorial Day (like those endless flyovers of sports events by the U.S. Air Force) has, in my lifetime, become a kind of war porn all its own. Tom

A Wide World of War Porn

How I Accidentally Amassed an Encyclopedia of Atrocities

Recently, I wanted to show my wife a picture, so I opened the photos app on my phone and promptly panicked when I saw what was there. 

It’s not what you think.

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John Feffer, Still Waiting to Exhale

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Today, a special offer, years in the making.  As many of you may remember, Dispatch Books has long been publishing John Feffer’s Splinterlands trilogy — dystopian novels that foresaw so much, including a raging version of nationalism that has since engulfed us.  His first volume, Splinterlands, was published in 2016, followed by Frostlands in 2018, and now the final must-read book, Songlands, is out. Of it, Adam Hochschild, writes: “An intriguing conclusion to a worthy trilogy. Feffer leaps far into the future in this book, but his view of it is enriched by a quirky, sensitive understanding of our world as it is — both its dangers and its possibilities.” So, make sure to order yourself a copy, but for any of you who might like to support TomDispatch and get your own signed, personalized Songlands from Feffer in return, just go to the TomDispatch donation page and contribute at least $100 (or if you live outside the U.S.A., $125) and it will be yours. I swear, you’ll never regret it and TomDispatch will be the stronger for it.  Tom]

Let’s face it: right now, we Americans know something about dystopias, up close and personal. And here, I’m not just thinking of the almost 600,000 (or is it more than 900,000?) Americans we’ve lost to Covid-19.  What’s on my mind are smaller ways in which so many of us have been working so hard to create what can only be thought of as a future dystopian version of this country.

Take Texas, for instance. The Republican-dominated legislature there has only recently passed a bill that would allow Texans to carry handguns without a license, a background check, or training of any sort. When Governor Greg Abbott signs it, that state will be the most populous of 20 where this is now possible. Think of it as a major triumph for the National Rifle Association in a nation that already leads all others by a country mile in civilian gun ownership, has a remarkable number of mass killings, and has experienced a record surge of gun sales since the pandemic began.

On the other hand, when it comes to teaching or voting, that same legislature has been moving in the opposite direction. Its Republican representatives have been focused on limiting what can be taught in the state’s public-school classrooms when it comes to Texas’s history of slavery and anti-Mexican discrimination.  As the New York Times reported recently, in “a state that influences school curriculums around the country through its huge textbook market,” the latest moves “amount to some of the most aggressive efforts to control the teaching of American history. And they come as nearly a dozen other Republican-led states seek to ban or limit how the role of slavery and pervasive effects of racism can be taught.” In other words, a version of white supremacy is being legislated into classrooms in various Republican-controlled states.

And don’t even get me started on how the Republican legislatures of Texas and other states have been moving to restrict voting both by mail and in person in all sorts of ways (even though that effort in Texas has, at least temporarily, been blocked by a last-minute walkout of Democratic lawmakers).  So, carrying guns, no problem, no restrictions; teaching American history and voting in a democracy, not so much.  And consider that just a small snapshot of a country, significant parts of which — thank you, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, among so many others! — are working hard to turn the U.S. into a kind of hell on earth (except for the billionaires they love and cherish). And if that isn’t a dystopian version of America, what is?

With that in mind, let me call on TomDispatch‘s dystopian specialist, John Feffer, whose book Songlands, the final volume in his compelling Splinterlands trilogy of novels on this endangered world of ours, has just been published.  (Order it now! You won’t regret it!) Let him take you on a little tour of dystopian America. Tom

Twilight of the Pandemic?

Bracing for a Surge of Trumpism or…

I went to a birthday party recently.

The celebrants greeted each other with hugs on the patio. After an outdoor barbeque dinner, we stood shoulder to shoulder around the island in the kitchen, eating cake from small paper plates. We sang “Happy Birthday.”

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Engelhardt, A Formula for National (In)Security

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A World at the Edge

What Planet Will Our Children and Grandchildren Inherit?

Let me start with my friend and the boat. Admittedly, they might not seem to have anything to do with each other. The boat, a guided-missile destroyer named the USS Curtis Wilbur, reportedly passed through the Straits of Taiwan and into the South China Sea, skirting the Paracel Islands that China has claimed as its own. It represented yet another Biden-era challenge to the planet's rising power from its falling one. My friend was thousands of miles away on the West Coast of the United States, well vaccinated and going nowhere in Covid-stricken but improving America.

As it happens, she's slightly younger than me, but still getting up there, and we were chatting on the phone about our world, about the all-too-early first wildfire near Los Angeles, the intensifying mega-drought across the West and Southwest, the increasing nightmare of hurricane season in the Atlantic and so on. We were talking about the way in which we humans -- and we Americans in particular (though you could toss in the Chinese without a blink) -- have been wreaking fossil-fuelized havoc on this planet and what was to come.

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