The United States of Fear
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In his new book The United States of Fear, Tom Engelhardt makes clear that Americans should don their crash helmets and buckle their seat belts, because the United States is on the path to a major decline at a startling speed. Engelhardt offers a savage anatomy of how successive administrations in Washington took the “Soviet path”—pouring American treasure into the military, war, and national security—and so helped drive their country off the nearest cliff.
This is the startling tale of how fear was profitably shot into the national bloodstream, how the country—gripped by terror fantasies—was locked down, and how a brain-dead Washington elite fiddled (and profited) while America quietly burned.
Think of it as the story of how the Cold War really ended, with the triumphalist “sole superpower” of 1991 heading slowly for the same exit through which the Soviet Union left the stage twenty years earlier.
97 percent of Pakistanis, according to a 2011 Pew poll). Top Pakistani officials were threatening to shut down the agency’s drone operations at Shamsi air base in Baluchistan. Shamsi is the biggest of the three borrowed Pakistani bases from which the CIA secretly launches its drones. The Obama administration responded bluntly. White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan insisted that, whatever happened, the United States would continue to “deliver precise and overwhelming force against
network of Dubai, who was killed on Haifa Street in central Baghdad in September 2004 in a U.S. helicopter attack. He was on camera at the time and his blood spattered the lens. Seif Fouad, a Reuters cameraman, was wounded in the same incident, while a number of bystanders, including a girl, were killed. Or remember the seventeen Iraqi civilians infamously murdered when Blackwater employees in a convoy began firing in Nissour Square in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. Or the missiles regularly
lands where Americans tend to make war, civilians die regularly and repeatedly at our hands. Each death may contain its own uniquely nightmarish details, but the overall story remains remarkably repetitious. Such “incidents” are completely predictable. Even General McChrystal, determined to “protect the population” in Afghanistan as part of his counterinsurgency war, has proven remarkably incapable of changing the nature of our style of warfare. Curtail air strikes, rein in special operations
fated choice. This response was eerily familiar. It permeated Washington’s mentality in the Vietnam War years. In fact, one of the strangest aspects of that war was the way America’s leaders—including President Lyndon Johnson—felt increasingly helpless and hopeless even as they committed themselves to further steps up the ladder of escalation. We don’t know what the main actors in Obama’s war have been feeling. We don’t have their private documents or their secret taped conversations.
Seeing Arabs demanding something we were convinced was the birthright and property of the West, of the United States in particular, has to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. The nature of this potentially world-shaking phenomenon remains uncertain. Are freedom and democracy about to break out all over? And if so, what will that turn out to mean? If not, what exactly are we seeing? I doubt those who are protesting, and in some cases dying, know themselves. And that’s good news. That the future