[Note for TomDispatch Readers: The other day, one of my favorite writers, Ariel Dorfman, dropped me a line to tell me that he had just finished Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian John Dower’s new Dispatch Book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two, and had promptly bought three more copies for family and friends. Here, in fact, is part of what he wrote me: “Last night I finished the book, which is so important, such essential reading… There is much in it that I knew, and quite a bit that I vaguely remembered, and some that I had never assimilated, but to have all that information in one short text, expertly woven and explained, is a devastating indictment of American violence and its imperial hubris. The footnotes alone are more than worth the price (which is very low, especially if we compare it to a Tomahawk missile). It is really like a mini-encyclopedia of American expansionism, but written with the verve of a political thriller, and with the murderer being chased and nailed down step by misstep. I told you many years ago how much I admired his book War Without Mercy when you recommended it to me, and this book simply adds to that admiration, with this additional comment: The Violent American Century has a chance to affect at a massive level our understanding of the world we live in, the one that America has shaped but has been unable to dominate. At a time when the military has taken over the national government — not to mention the industrialists — I am grateful to have Dower’s fierce intelligence on our side. Let’s hope it gets the readership it deserves.”
Now, honestly, if you can read that and not buy a copy… well, I’m puzzled by you. Remember that you can pick up the book by clicking here or by going to the website of Haymarket Books at this link, where it’s available at an exclusive TomDispatch discount of 50% off. In either case, you’ll get an instant classic, short enough to read in a single night, and you’ll lend TD a little extra support in the bargain. Note that, for those of you who want a signed copy of the book, there will be a TD offer (in return for a $100 contribution to the site) in a couple of weeks when I’ll be posting an original piece by Dower. Tom]
The Honeymoon of the Generals
Or Why Trump’s Wars Should Seem So Familiar
By Tom Engelhardt
MOAB sounds more like an incestuous, war-torn biblical kingdom than the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, aka “the mother of all bombs.” Still, give Donald Trump credit. Only the really, really big bombs, whether North Korean nukes or those 21,600 pounds of MOAB, truly get his attention. He wasn’t even involved in the decision to drop the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal for the first time in war, but his beloved generals — “we have the best military people on Earth” — already know the man they work for, and the bigger, flashier, more explosive, and winninger, the better.
It was undoubtedly the awesome look of that first MOAB going off in grainy black and white on Fox News, rather than in Afghanistan, that appealed to the president. Just as he was visibly thrilled by all those picturesque Tomahawk cruise missiles, the equivalent of nearly three MOABS, whooshing from the decks of U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and heading, like so many fabulous fireworks, toward a Syrian airfield — or was it actually an Iraqi one? “We’ve just fired 59 missiles,” he said, “all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing… It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.”
Call it thrilling. Call it a blast. Call it escalation. Or just call it the age of Trump. (“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the past eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference, tremendous difference,” he commented, adding about MOAB, “This was another very, very successful mission.”)
Anyway, here we are and, as so many of his critics have pointed out, the plaudits have been pouring in from all the usual media and political suspects for a president with big enough… well, hands, to make war impressively. In our world, this is what now passes for “presidential.” Consider that praise the media version of so many Tomahawk missiles pointing us toward what the escalation of America’s never-ending wars will mean to Trump’s presidency.