Tomgram: The Natives of Planet Earth

[Note to Tomdispatch Readers: Last week, I appealed to you to consider writing your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and workmates to suggest that they go to the “sign up” window at the upper right of the Tomdispatch main screen, put in their e-addresses, and sign on for an email notifying them whenever a post goes up. (Word of mouth is, of course, the only kind of publicity this site can afford.) A number of you did so and TD got a flood of new subscribers. So, many thanks indeed! If some of you meant to do this and didn’t quite get around to it, now’s a perfect time. Plenty of exciting material, including new pieces by Ira Chernus, Rebecca Solnit, Patrick Cockburn, and Michael Klare in the coming weeks!

I also wanted to add a note of appreciation for all your letters. I now think of the Tomdispatch email in-box as the university of my later life. Your tips, your encouragement, your descriptions of worlds I would otherwise never encounter, and even your fierce critiques have been most welcome. I read everything that arrives with care and try, as best I can, to respond, at least briefly, if only to acknowledge that I have indeed seen them. Sometimes, however, being but one person, I get swept away and simply can’t respond. For that, my apologies. Tom]

American Grand Delusions

Why the Testimony of General Petraeus Will Be Delusional
By Tom Engelhardt

Yes, their defensive zone is the planet and they patrol it regularly. As ever, their planes and drones have been in the skies these last weeks. They struck a village in Somalia, tribal areas in Pakistan, rural areas in Afghanistan, and urban neighborhoods in Iraq. Their troops are training and advising the Iraqi army and police as well as the new Afghan army, while their Special Operations forces are planning to train Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps in that country’s wild, mountainous borderlands.

Their Vice President arrived in Baghdad not long before the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched its recent (failed) offensive against cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in the southern oil city of Basra. To “discuss” their needs in their President’s eternal War on Terror, two of their top diplomats, a deputy secretary of state and an assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, arrived in Pakistan — to the helpless outrage of the local press — on the very day newly elected Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was being given the oath of office. (“I don’t think it is a good idea for them to be here on this particular day… right here in Islamabad, meeting with senior politicians in the new government, trying to dictate terms…” was the way Zaffar Abbas, editor of the newspaper Dawn, put it.)

At home, their politicians have nationally televised debates in which they fervently discuss just how quickly they would launch air assaults against Pakistan’s tribal areas, without permission from the Pakistani government but based on “actionable intelligence” on terrorists. Their drones cruise the skies of the world looking for terrorist suspects to — in the phrase of the hour — “take out.” Agents from their intelligence services have, these last years, roamed the planet, kidnapping terrorist suspects directly off the streets of major cities and transporting them to their own secret prisons, or those of other countries willing to employ torture methods. Their spy satellites circle the globe listening in on conversations wherever they please, while their military has divided the whole planet into “commands,” the last of which, Africom, was just formed.

As far as they are concerned, nowhere do their interests not come into play; nowhere, in fact, are they not paramount. As their President put it recently, “If [our] strategic interests are not in Iraq — the convergence point for the twin threats of al Qaeda and Iran, the nation Osama bin Laden’s deputy has called ‘the place for the greatest battle,’ the country at the heart of the most volatile region on Earth — then where are they?” (And you could easily substitute the names of other countries for Iraq.)

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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