Resist Empire

Support TomDispatch

Todd Miller, Out-Trumping Trump at the Border

Posted on

These days, it seems as if it happened in another world. I’m thinking of that June afternoon in 2015 when The Donald rode a Trump Tower escalator down to waiting reporters (and a cheering crowd of — yes! — actors he had hired at $50 a pop) to announce that he was going to run for president. In that speech, he took the crowd and those reporters with him on a quick trip, however metaphoric, southwest, swearing he would build a “great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.” Why? Because, of course, Mexico was sending its worst people northwards. “They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

But count on one thing, the man who only recently was convicted of… well, not quite raping but “sexually abusing” E. Jean Carroll… sure didn’t think many of them were “good people” like him, nor does he now. Admittedly, he neither successfully built much of that “big, beautiful wall” of his, nor managed to make Mexico pay for any of the wildly expensive parts he did get constructed (47 new miles, the rest replacing fencing already there). And yet, almost eight years later, without an escalator in sight, in some fashion he’s still on that border. Only recently, for instance, the former president running for the Republican nomination in 2024 swore that when he returned to the White House, he would quickly issue an executive order ensuring that the children of undocumented immigrants “will not receive automatic U.S. citizenship”; in other words, he would end the “birthright citizenship” guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, something he had promised to do in 2015 and again as president.

And of course, with the race for that nomination heating up, in mid-May, Ron DeSantis tried to out-Trump Trump by dispatching 800 members of the Florida National Guard, 200 agents from the state Department of Law Enforcement, 101 state highway patrol troopers, 20 agents from the State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Emergency Management, 5 fixed-wing aircraft, 17 unmanned drones, and 10 boats to… yes, you guessed it, Texas’s border with Mexico — for, well… at least 30 days as the Trump/covid era Title 42 border expulsion policy finally ended.

What you wouldn’t know, however, unless you were reading the work of TomDispatch regular and border expert Todd Miller, was that, while the Republicans made (mostly fake) border policy their pride, joy, and nightmare first class, what he calls the border-industrial complex has been making a fortune off American taxpayers by fortifying that border in ways that fit not Trump’s wall-eyed vision of prevention, but one more in keeping with our increasingly AI-ed world. Let me not tell you more though, just suggest you get on the nearest escalator and head down this page to Miller’s latest border foray to see for yourself. Tom

The Real Border Surge

The End of Title 42 and the Triumph of the Border-Industrial Complex

On May 11th, I was with a group of people at the bottom of the Paso del Norte bridge in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have the small change needed to cross the bridge and return to El Paso, Texas, where I was attending the 16th annual Border Security Expo. Worse yet, this was just three hours before Title 42, the pandemic-era rapid-expulsion border policy instituted by the Trump administration, was set to expire. The media was already in overdrive on the subject, producing apocalyptic scenarios like one in the New York Post reporting that "hordes" of “illegals” were on their way toward the border.

While I searched for those coins, a woman approached me, dug 35 cents out of a small purse -- precisely what it cost! -- and handed the change to me. She then did so for the others in our group. When I pulled a 20-peso bill from my wallet to repay her, she kept her fist clenched and wouldn't accept the money.

Read More

William Astore, An Iron Curtain Has Descended on America

Posted on

Decline. It’s a word that hasn’t been much in the American vocabulary, though, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore suggests today, it certainly should have been. In fact, you could argue that we’re talking about 30-plus years of all-American decline, during much of which, after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, American politicians continued to hail this country as the planet’s “last” or “sole superpower.” That it, like the Soviet Union, was headed for the imperial exit ramp, even if ever so slowly, seemed inconceivable.

That pace, of course, would only speed up with the launching of the war on terror and the disastrous conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. And yet, even then, triumphalism remained the note of the day in Washington, as this country poured ever more tax dollars into the Pentagon budget (a phenomenon that even the debt-ceiling dispute has hardly affected).

But don’t think that nobody noticed. To my mind, the most striking thing about Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign was the slogan that’s become such an acronym (MAGA) that no one even thinks about what it stands for anymore. Trump, I suspect, won that year in large part because of that slogan, Make America Great Again! (yes, with that very exclamation point attached!), which caught the mood of all too many Americans, even if no other politician would then admit that America was no longer “great.”

As I wrote in April 2016 in a piece I headlined “Has the American Age of Decline Begun?”:

“With that ‘again,’ Donald Trump crossed a line in American politics that… represented a kind of psychological taboo for politicians of any stripe, of either party, including presidents and potential candidates for that position. He is the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the ‘sole’ superpower of Planet Earth, is an ‘exceptional’ nation, an ‘indispensable’ country… Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline.”

Now, after his own decline, he’s once again running for president, this time under the unspoken slogan MTGA! (Make Trump Great Again!). With that in mind, let Astore bring us up to date on just where on the downhill slope this increasingly chaotic country now finds itself. Tom

Clinging Bitterly to Guns and Religion

The End Stage of American Empire

All around us things are falling apart. Collectively, Americans are experiencing national and imperial decline. Can America save itself? Is this country, as presently constituted, even worth saving?

For me, that last question is radical indeed. From my early years, I believed deeply in the idea of America. I knew this country wasn't perfect, of course, not even close. Long before the 1619 Project, I was aware of the “original sin” of slavery and how central it was to our history. I also knew about the genocide of Native Americans. (As a teenager, my favorite movie -- and so it remains -- was Little Big Man, which pulled no punches when it came to the white man and his insatiably murderous greed.)

Read More

Jane Braxton Little, Climate Migrants in a Hell on Earth

Posted on

Uh-oh, my city’s sinking. I’m not kidding! According to a new study, New York City, my hometown, is all too literally going down, thanks to those vertiginous towers, including the Empire State Building, constructed on land some of which was sandy and is now giving way. All those Manhattan skyscrapers and the like weigh an estimated 1.68 trillion pounds, writes the Guardian‘s Oliver Milman, “roughly equivalent to the weight of 140 million elephants.” And mind you, this is happening at a moment when the seas and oceans globally are both overheating and rising in a disturbing fashion. Since 1950, the waters around my town have risen approximately nine inches (something that became all too apparent when Hurricane Sandy hit it in 2012).

Sooner or later, to put this in the context of Jane Braxton Little’s piece today, some New Yorkers will undoubtedly become climate migrants. And we’ll hardly be alone. This planet is on edge. At one point last year, one-third (yes, you read that right!) of Pakistan was underwater, thanks to floods the likes of which had never been seen before. (And Pakistan wasn’t alone. Just check out Nigeria or Australia if you don’t believe me.)

This year, Canada is experiencing wildfires of an historically unprecedented sort. And none of this, eerily enough, can be considered out of the ordinary anymore. In fact, a new study in Nature Sustainability suggests that, by late in this century, if we human beings don’t get a handle on climate change by truly bringing the fossil-fuelization of this planet under control, up to one-third of us could find ourselves living outside what its authors call the “human climate niche” — that is, in areas where human life could be unsustainable. Imagine that.

No wonder some experts are already suggesting that, in the decades to come, the climate emergency could turn more than a billion of us into migrants on a planet becoming too hot to bear. My old friend and TomDispatch regular Braxton Little has already experienced this reality in an up close and personal fashion. As she wrote in her first piece for this site, she found herself a climate refugee when most of her town in northern California burned to the ground in the devastating Dixie fire of 2021. With that in mind, let her introduce you to the world of climate migrants that could someday simply be the world for all too many of us. Tom

Looking for Home in an Overheating World

If Emissions Continue, Will We All Be Migrants Someday?

Greenville, CA -- Pines and firs parched by a three-year drought had been burning for days on a ridge 1,000 feet above my remote mountain town. On August 4, 2021, the flames suddenly flared into a heat so intense it formed a molten cloud the color of bruised flesh. As that sinister cumulus rose above an oval-shaped reservoir, it collapsed, sending red-hot embers down the steep slopes toward Greenville in a storm of torched trees and exploding shrubs. It took less than 30 minutes for the Dixie fire to transform my town’s tarnished Gold Rush charm into a heap of smoldering hand-hewn timbers and century-old brick walls.

Minutes earlier, the last of the nearly 1,000 residents had bolted, some in shirts singed by flames. We fled with what belongings we could take in the face of a fire few believed would ever destroy our town. I was among the evacuees, escaping with a hastily assembled truckload of journals and notebooks, shoes and shovels, laptops and passports. We scattered in the sort of desperate diaspora that has become ever more common in towns like ours across the West.

Read More