Tomgram: Engelhardt, the Ten Commandments for a Better American World

Published on TomDispatch, by Tom Engelhardt, March 1, 2015: My War on Terror, Letter to an Unknown American Patriot … //

… In other words, each of the terror organizations we categorize as the unimaginably barbaric Other has a curiously intimate, if generally unexplored, relationship with us. In addition, in these years, it’s been clear (at least to those living in the Greater Middle East) that such groups had no monopoly on barbarity. Washington’s extreme acts were legion in the region, ranging from its CIA torture chambers (although we called them “black sites”) to Abu Ghraib, from global kidnappings to images of a U.S. helicopter gunning down civilians in the streets of Baghdad.  

There were also a range of well-publicized vengeful acts of war, including videos of U.S. troops laughing while urinating on enemy corpses, trophy photos of body parts taken by American soldiers as souvenirs, photos of a 12-member “kill team” that hunted Afghans “for sport,” and a striking “lone wolf” nighttime terror rampage by an American staff sergeant in Afghanistan who killed 16 villagers, mainly women and children. And that’s just for starters.

Then there’s one matter that TomDispatch has been alone here in focusing on. By my count, American airpower has blown away parts or all of at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen), killing at least several hundred revelers over the years, without the slightest shock or upset in the U.S.

That’s one reason I’m writing you: the lack of reaction here. Can you imagine what would happen if the planes and drones from another country had wiped out eight weddings here in perhaps a dozen years?

On a larger scale, Washington’s invasions, occupations, interventions, bombings, and raids since 9/11 have resulted in a rising tide of civilian deaths and exiles in a fragmenting region. All of this, including those drone assassination campaigns in the backlands of the planet, adds up to a panorama of barbarism and terror that we seldom acknowledge as such. Of course, the terror outfits we love to hate also love to hate us and have often leapt to embrace the extremity of our acts, including adopting both the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo and the CIA’s waterboarding for their own symbolic purposes … //

… So how to respond? I doubt you agree with me this far, so my response probably carries little weight with you. Nonetheless, let me offer it, with a caveat of sorts. Despite what you might imagine, I’m neither a pacifist, nor do I believe in a perfect world. And no, I wouldn’t disband the U.S. military. It’s clear enough that a strong, defensive-minded military is a necessity on this planet.

After 13 years, though, it should be obvious that this country’s military-first policies throughout the Greater Middle East and widening areas of Africa have been a disastrous bust. I have no doubt that a far less barbaric, less extreme, less militaristic foreign policy would, in purely pragmatic terms, also be a more effective one on every imaginable score — unless, of course, your value system happens to center on the continued building up of the national security state and the reinforcement of its “security” or of the military-industrial complex and its “security.” In that case, the necessity for our barbarity as well as theirs becomes clearer in a flash.

Otherwise, despite much that we’ve heard in this new century, my suspicion is that what’s right and moral is also what’s practical and realistic. In that light, let me offer, with commentary, my version of the Ten Commandments for a better American world (and a better world generally). Admittedly, in this day and age, it could easily be the Twenty or Thirty Commandments, but being classically minded, let me just stick with 10.

  • 1. Thou shalt not torture: Torture of every horrific sort in these years seems to have been remarkably ineffective in producing useful information for the state. Even if it were proved effective in breaking up al-Qaeda plots, however, it would still have been both a desperately illegal (if unpunished) act and a foreign policy disaster of the first order.
  • 2. Thou shalt not send drones to assassinate anyone, American or not: The ongoing U.S. drone assassination campaigns, while killing individual terrorists, have driven significant numbers of people in the backlands of the planet into the arms of terror outfits and so only increased their size and appeal. Without a doubt, such drone strikes represent a global war of, not on, terror. In the process, they have turned the president into our assassin-in-chief and us into an assassin nation.
  • 3. Thou shalt not invade another country: D’oh!
  • 4. Thou shalt not occupy another country: By the way, how did that work out the last two times the U.S. tried it?


  • 9. Thou shalt not act punitively toward those who want to let Americans in on what the national security state is doing in their name: The fierce and draconian campaign the Obama administration has launched against leakers and whistleblowers is unprecedented in our history. It is a growing challenge to freedom of the press and to the citizen’s right to know;
  • 10. Thou shalt not infringe on the rights of the citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Need I even explain?

If you want to boil these commandments down to a single injunction, it might simply be: Don’t do it! Or in a moment when nothing Washington does isn’t, it seems, done again: Stop and think before acting … //

… (full long text).


Video: The US oil strike: Contractor describes conditions inside refineries, 6.25 min, on World Socialist Web Sites WSWS, by Jerry White, March 5, 2015: the strike by oil workers in the US has entered its second month with the giant energy corporations refusing to budge on workers’ demands, which center on safety, health care costs and the use of temporary contract employees in place of unionized workers …;

Book: How to Survive a Robot Uprising, on Reason (blog), by Robin Hanson, from the April 2015 issue: /digital edition: so he wants to tax the rich more, to fund a basic income guarantee for the poor, but only the U.S. poor. Other poor don’t seem to concern him …;

Missing link? African bones predate earliest-known humans by 400,000yrs, on Russia Today RT, March 5, 2015;

Obama Justice Department: No charges against Ferguson killer cop, on, by Andre Damon, 5 March 2015;

Mort aux pauvres, dans Contrepoints-le nivellement par le haut, par Emmanuel Bourgerie, le 4 mars 2015;

La nouvelle prime d’activité ne résout en rien l’empilement des aides sociales françaises, alors que la création d’un impôt négatif permettrait de le faire, le 4 mars 2015;

Met police staff feel they are second-class citizens in an increasingly “two-tier” workforce, on Mayor, by Kim Hendry, March 3, 2015;

Commerçants et artisans toujours remontés face au RSI, dans Paris-Normandie, le 3 mars 2015;

Turkish State attempts to silence those protesting its Massacre of Roboski Villagers, imprisons Kurdish journalist, on Dissident Voice, by Ophelia Murphy and Dylan Murphy, March 3, 2015;

Can the Revolution in Kurdish Syria succeed? on University of Cambridge /Research, Feb 2, 2015;

… and this:

uploaded by TYT The Young Turks:

  • Faith-Healing Leads To Dead Kids, 6.38 min, March 1, 2015: … and many other videos in autoplay;
  • This Is The Income Inequality Video: CEOs Don’t Want Americans To See, 16.26 min, Oct 2, 2014 … and many other videos in autoplay;
    on en.wikipedia: Wolf PAC is an American political action committee formed in 2011 with the goal of “ending corporate personhood and publicly financing all elections in our country”, to include the restriction of large monetary donations to political candidates, parties, and groups.[4][5] It began with an announcement at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City by The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur …;

… und noch dies:

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