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The American
Empire Project

Americans have long believed that the very notion of empire is an offense against our democratic heritage, yet in recent months, these two words -- American empire -- have been on everyone's lips. At this moment of unprecedented economic and military strength, the leaders of the United States have embraced imperial ambitions openly. How did we get to this point? And what lies down the road? Read more about The American Empire Project>>
 
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The Books

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by
Anand GopalNo Good Men Among the Living
America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
by Anand Gopal

Now Available!


Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their CountryBreach of Trust
How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
by Andrew Bacevich

Now Available!


Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire By Noam Chomsky and David BarsamianPower Systems
Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire
by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

Now Available!


Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick TurseKill Anything That Moves
The Real American War in Vietnam
by Nick Turse

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichWe Meant Well
How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
by Peter Van Buren

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichIdeal Illusions
How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights
by James Peck

Now Available!


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew BacevichWashington Rules
America's Path to Permanent War
by Andrew Bacevich

Now Available!


Dismantling The Empire: America's Last Best Hope by Chalmers JohnsonDismantling The Empire
America's Last Best Hope
by Chalmers Johnson

Now Available!


The Limits Of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew BacevichThe Limits Of Power
The End of American Exceptionalism
by Andrew Bacevich

Now available!


Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World by Noam ChomskyImperial Ambitions

Conversations on the Post-9/11 World
by Noam Chomsky

Now available!


Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism by Greg GrandinEmpire's Workshop
Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism
by Greg Grandin

Now available!


A Question Of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred McCoyA Question of Torture
CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror
by Alfred McCoy

Now available!

Alfred McCoy on How Not to Ban Torture in Congress


Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency by Michael KlareBlood and Oil
The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency
by Michael T. Klare

Now available in paperback, including a new afterword!

 

visit tomdispatch.com

News from The American Empire Project
No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by
Anand Gopal

New From The American Empire Project

No Good Men Among the Living
America, the Taliban, and the War
through Afghan Eyes

by
Anand Gopal

Told through the lives of three Afghans, the stunning tale of how the United States had triumph in sight in Afghanistan—and then brought the Taliban back from the dead

Read more about No Good Men Among the Living

The American Empire Project Blog

Party On!
The War Party Ascendant

By Tom Engelhardt

It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn't have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama's third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the phrase of the moment, he had "resigned under pressure." Sayonara, Chuck!

12/7/2014

Read more>>>


Fossil-Fueled Republicanism
The Grand Oil Party Takes Washington by Storm

By Michael T. Klare

Pop the champagne corks in Washington!  It's party time for Big Energy.  In the wake of the midterm elections, Republican energy hawks are ascendant, having taken the Senate and House by storm.  They are preparing to put pressure on a president already presiding over a largely drill-baby-drill administration to take the last constraints off the development of North American fossil fuel reserves.

The new Republican majority is certain to push their agenda on a variety of key issues, including tax reform and immigration.  None of their initiatives, however, will have as catastrophic an impact as their coming drive to ensure that fossil fuels will dominate the nation's energy landscape into the distant future, long after climate change has wrecked the planet and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.

11/18/2014

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The Bases of War in the Middle East
From Carter to the Islamic State, 35 Years of Building Bases and Sowing Disaster

By David Vine

With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens.

11/13/2014

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What Could Possibly Go Right?
Four Months into Iraq War 3.0, the Cracks Are Showing -- on the Battlefield and at the Pentagon

By Peter Van Buren

Karl von Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military thinker, is best known for his aphorism “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But what happens to a war in the absence of coherent state policy?

Actually, we now know. Washington’s Iraq War 3.0, Operation Inherent Resolve, is what happens. In its early stages, I asked sarcastically, “What could possibly go wrong?” As the mission enters its fourth month, the answer to that question is already grimly clear: just about everything. It may be time to ask, in all seriousness: What could possibly go right?

11/10/2014

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The Pressure to Escalate
The Phantasmagoric World of Washington

By Tom Engelhardt

Sometimes it seemed that only two issues mattered in the midterm election campaigns just ended.  No, I’m not talking about Obamacare, or the inequality gap, or the country’s sagging infrastructure, or education, or energy policy.  I mean two issues that truly threaten the wellbeing of citizens from Kansas, Colorado, and Iowa to New Hampshire and North Carolina.  In those states and others, both were debated heatedly by candidates for the Senate and House, sometimes almost to the exclusion of anything else. 

11/4/2014

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The Missing Women of Afghanistan
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law

By Ann Jones

On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat.  Washington, congratulating itself on this “peaceful transition,” quickly collected the new president’s autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted.  (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained.)

10/30/2014

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State

By Peter Van Buren

You know the joke? You describe something obviously heading for disaster -- a friend crossing Death Valley with next to no gas in his car -- and then add, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Such is the Middle East today. The U.S. is again at war there, bombing freely across Iraq and Syria, advising here, droning there, coalition-building in the region to loop in a little more firepower from a collection of recalcitrant allies, and searching desperately for some non-American boots to put on the ground.

Here, then, are seven worst-case scenarios in a part of the world where the worst case has regularly been the best that’s on offer. After all, with all that military power being brought to bear on the planet’s most volatile region, what could possibly go wrong?

10/16/2014

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Obama's New Oil Wars
Washington Takes on ISIS, Iran, and Russia

By Michael T. Klare

It was heinous. It was underhanded.  It was beyond the bounds of international morality. It was an attack on the American way of life.  It was what you might expect from unscrupulous Arabs.  It was "the oil weapon" -- and back in 1973, it was directed at the United States. Skip ahead four decades and it's smart, it's effective, and it's the American way.  The Obama administration has appropriated it as a major tool of foreign policy, a new way to go to war with nations it considers hostile without relying on planes, missiles, and troops.  It is, of course, that very same oil weapon.

10/9/2014

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ISIS in Washington
America's Soundtrack of Hysteria

By Tom Engelhardt

It happened so fast that, at first, I didn't even take it in. 

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were heading into the Phillips Museum in Washington, D.C., to catch a show of neo-Impressionist art when we ran into someone he knew, heading out.  I was introduced and the usual chitchat ensued.  At some point, she asked me, "Do you live here?"

"No," I replied, "I'm from New York."

All of this passed so quickly that I didn't begin rolling her comment around in my head until we were looking at the sublime pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat and his associates. Only then did I think: ISIS, a danger in New York?  ISIS, a danger in Washington?  And I had the urge to bolt down the stairs, catch up to her, and say: whatever you do, don't step off the curb.  That's where danger lies in American life.  ISIS, not so much.

10/7/2014

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Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century

By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for... well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of "spycraft" gains its own name: LOVEINT.

9/30/2014

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Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea
In the Face of Rising Maritime Insecurity, AFRICOM Claims Success and Obama Embraces a Strongman

By Nick Turse

[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.]

“The Gulf of Guinea is the most insecure waterway, globally,” says Loic Moudouma.  And he should know.  Trained at the U.S. Naval War College, the lead maritime security expert of the Economic Community of Central African States, and a Gabonese Navy commander, his focus has been piracy and maritime crime in the region for the better part of a decade.  

9/25/2014

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Apocalypse Now, Iraq Edition
Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over

By Peter Van Buren

I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and he presciently declined, saying sardonically, “So you're gonna be the one to write the last book on failure in Iraq?”

9/23/2014

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Ceasefires in Which Violations Never Cease
What’s Next for Israel, Hamas, and Gaza?

By Noam Chomsky

On August 26th, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) both accepted a ceasefire agreement after a 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,100 Palestinians dead and vast landscapes of destruction behind. The agreement calls for an end to military action by both Israel and Hamas, as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.

This is, however, just the most recent of a series of ceasefire agreements reached after each of Israel's periodic escalations of its unremitting assault on Gaza. Throughout this period, the terms of these agreements remain essentially the same.  The regular pattern is for Israel, then, to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it -- as Israel has officially recognized -- until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality. These escalations, which amount to shooting fish in a pond, are called "mowing the lawn" in Israeli parlance. The most recent was more accurately described as "removing the topsoil" by a senior U.S. military officer, appalled by the practices of the self-described "most moral army in the world."

9/9/2014

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Oil Is Back!
A Global Warming President Presides Over a Drill-Baby-Drill America

By Michael T. Klare

Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you’d think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path.  By now, we should certainly be witnessing real progress toward a post-petroleum economy.  As it happens, the opposite is occurring.  U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone -- and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next.

9/4/2014

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How America Made ISIS
Their Videos and Ours, Their “Caliphate” and Ours

By Tom Engelhardt

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now.  After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list.  Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S.  Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.”  We have the look of a superpower down on our luck.

9/2/2014

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How Many Minutes to Midnight?
Hiroshima Day 2014

By Noam Chomsky

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era).  The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but -- so the evidence suggests -- not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

8/5/2014

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China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?
Is the Conflict in South Sudan the Opening Salvo in the Battle for a Continent?

By Nick Turse

Juba, South Sudan -- Is this country the first hot battlefield in a new cold war?  Is the conflict tearing this new nation apart actually a proxy fight between the world’s two top economic and military powers?  That’s the way South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth tells it.  After "midwifing" South Sudan into existence with billions of dollars in assistance, aid, infrastructure projects, and military support, the U.S. has watched China emerge as the major beneficiary of South Sudan’s oil reserves.  As a result, Makuei claims, the U.S. and other Western powers have backed former vice president Riek Machar and his rebel forces in an effort to overthrow the country’s president, Salva Kiir.  China, for its part, has played a conspicuous double game.  Beijing has lined up behind Kiir, even as it publicly pushes both sides to find a diplomatic solution to a simmering civil war.  It is sending peacekeepers as part of the U.N. mission even as it also arms Kiir’s forces with tens of millions of dollars worth of new weapons.

7/31/2014

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Dead Is Dead
Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment

By Peter Van Buren

You can't get more serious about protecting the people from their government than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, specifically in its most critical clause: "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." In 2011, the White House ordered the drone-killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without trial. It claimed this was a legal act it is prepared to repeat as necessary. Given the Fifth Amendment, how exactly was this justified? Thanks to a much contested, recently released but significantly redacted -- about one-third of the text is missing -- Justice Department white paper providing the basis for that extrajudicial killing, we finally know: the president in Post-Constitutional America is now officially judge, jury, and executioner.

7/24/2014

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Twenty-First-Century Energy Wars
Global Conflicts Are Increasingly Fueled by the Desire for Oil and Natural Gas -- and the Funds They Generate

By Michael T. Klare

Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Seas: wherever you look, the world is aflame with new or intensifying conflicts.  At first glance, these upheavals appear to be independent events, driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic circumstances.  But look more closely and they share several key characteristics -- notably, a witch’s brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that have beenstirred to the boiling point by a fixation on energy.

7/8/2014

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Whose Security?
How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector

By Noam Chomsky

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. -- and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

7/1/2014

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Who Won Iraq?
Lost Dreams, Lost Armies, Jihadi States, and the Arc of Instability

By Tom Engelhardt

As Iraq was unraveling last week and the possible outlines of the first jihadist state in modern history were coming into view, I remembered this nugget from the summer of 2002.  At the time, journalist Ron Suskind had a meeting with “a senior advisor” to President George W. Bush (later identified as Karl Rove).  Here’s how he described part of their conversation:

6/19/2014

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Don’t Walk Away from War
It’s Not the American Way

By Tom Engelhardt

The United States has been at war -- major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, air strikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts, and covert actions -- nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began.  That’s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions.

Given the historical record, those conclusions should be staring us in the face.  They are, however, the words that can’t be said in a country committed to a military-first approach to the world, a continual build-up of its forces, an emphasis on pioneering work in the development and deployment of the latest destructive technology, and a repetitious cycling through styles of war from full-scale invasions and occupations to counterinsurgency, proxy wars, and back again.

6/10/2014

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The 95% Doctrine
Climate Change as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

By Tom Engelhardt

Who could forget?  At the time, in the fall of 2002, there was such a drumbeat of “information” from top figures in the Bush administration about the secret Iraqi program to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and so endanger the United States.  And who -- other than a few suckers -- could have doubted that Saddam Hussein was eventually going to get a nuclear weapon?  The only question, as our vice president suggested on “Meet the Press,” was: Would it take one year or five?  And he wasn’t alone in his fears, since there was plenty of proof of what was going on.  For starters, there were those “specially designed aluminum tubes” that the Iraqi autocrat had ordered as components for centrifuges to enrich uranium in his thriving nuclear weapons program.  Reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon hit the front page of the New York Times with that story on September 8, 2002.

5/23/2014

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The U.S. Military’s New Normal in Africa
A Secret African Mission and an African Mission that’s No Secret

By Nick Turse

What is Operation New Normal? 

It’s a question without an answer, a riddle the U.S. military refuses to solve. It’s a secret operation in Africa that no one knows anything about. Except that someone does. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee Magee. He lives and breathes Operation New Normal. But he doesn’t want to breath paint fumes or talk to me, so you can’t know anything about it. 

Confused? Stay with me.

5/15/2014

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The Snowden Saga Begins
“I Have Been to the Darkest Corners of Government, and What They Fear Is Light”

By Glenn Greenwald

[This essay is a shortened and adapted version of Chapter 1 of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State.]

On December 1, 2012, I received my first communication from Edward Snowden, although I had no idea at the time that it was from him.

The contact came in the form of an email from someone calling himself Cincinnatus, a reference to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer who, in the fifth century BC, was appointed dictator of Rome to defend the city against attack. He is most remembered for what he did after vanquishing Rome’s enemies: he immediately and voluntarily gave up political power and returned to farming life. Hailed as a “model of civic virtue,” Cincinnatus has become a symbol of the use of political power in the public interest and the worth of limiting or even relinquishing individual power for the greater good.

5/13/2014

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Washington's Pivot to Ignorance
Will the State Department Torpedo Its Last Great Program?

By Ann Jones

Often it’s the little things coming out of Washington, obscured by the big, scary headlines, that matter most in the long run. Items that scarcely make the news, or fail to attract your attention, or once noticed seem trivial, may carry consequences that endure long after the latest front-page crisis has passed. They may, in fact, signal fundamental changes in Washington’s priorities and policies that could even face opposition, if only we paid attention.

5/1/2014

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This Land Isn’t Your Land, This Land Is Their Land
An Empire in Decline (City by City, Town by Town)

By Peter Van Buren

As America's new economy starts to look more like the old economy of the Great Depression, the divide between rich and poor, those who have made it and those who never will, seems to grow ever starker. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Once upon a time, I worked as a State Department officer, helping to carry out the occupation of Iraq, where Washington’s goal was regime change. It was there that, in a way, I had my first taste of the life of the 1%. Unlike most Iraqis, I had more food and amenities than I could squander, nearly unlimited funds to spend as I wished (as long as the spending supported us one-percenters), and plenty of U.S. Army muscle around to keep the other 99% at bay. However, my subsequent whistleblowing about State Department waste and mismanagement in Iraq ended my 24-year career abroad and, after a two-decade absence, deposited me back in “the homeland.”

5/1/2014

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How the U.S. Created the Afghan War -- and Then Lost It
The Unreported Story of How the Haqqani Network Became America's Greatest Enemy

By Anand Gopal

It was a typical Kabul morning. Malik Ashgar Square was already bumper-to-bumper with Corolla taxis, green police jeeps, honking minivans, and angry motorcyclists. There were boys selling phone cards and men waving wads of cash for exchange, all weaving their way around the vehicles amid exhaust fumes. At the gate of the Lycée Esteqial, one of the country’s most prestigious schools, students were kicking around a soccer ball. At the Ministry of Education, a weathered old Soviet-style building opposite the school, a line of employees spilled out onto the street. I was crossing the square, heading for the ministry, when I saw the suicide attacker.

4/29/2014

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An Apartheid of Dollars
Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy

By Peter van Buren

There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don't know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here's a part of my own story I've not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I'd earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I'd worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.

4/24/2014

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