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Tomgram: Nick Turse, America, the Election, and the Dismal Tide

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

It wasn't to be, but had it been, Hillary Clinton would have become not only the first woman president, but the first president to enter the Oval Office as a lame duck. For Republicans in (and out) of a Congress they totally controlled, it would have been scorched-earth tactics all the way. Not a law, not a Supreme Court justice, not an achievement would they have allowed her. The investigations, which never really ended, would have revved up instantly. Impeachment was already on the table before Election Day. And yet, in one area she would have been on the job and had a free hand from day one: foreign policy, especially in America's wars and conflicts in the Greater Middle East and Africa.

For that, a president no longer really needs a Congress for which "war powers" are a thing of the past, a Congress that, in twenty-first-century America, couldn't defund a war if the planet's future depended on it. Wars, assassination campaigns, military "pivots," and Special Ops raids across significant parts of the planet are now really just the commander-in-chief's business. From Washington to Detroit, Kansas City to Portland, Hillary Clinton would have been dead in the water, but from Syria to Afghanistan, Yemen to Libya, Iraq to Somalia, the Clinton White House would have been on the job.

Of course, in Donald Trump's America, in those first 100 days, there will be no lame ducks. Anything will, after a fashion, be possible. Any corporate or 1% dream will be imaginable. Taxes? Don't fret for a sec if you're already raking it in. Environmental protections? What in the world were they for anyway? Climate change? A footnote at best in a Washington to be ruled by Big Energy and its lobbyists. The first woman president has already been obliterated. Domestically speaking, once Trump & Co. have done their damnedest, the first black president will, in essence, never have existed.

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And when it comes to foreign policy, The Donald and his crew will have the same freedom Clinton would have had to do anything they want and use the U.S. military any way they please. The difference, as TomDispatch regular Nick Turse points out today, is that, while we had a pretty clear sense of what Clinton would do abroad (and the damage it would have caused), we really have no idea what The Donald's still nonexistent national security team will do (only, of course, that if you had to put your money down, it's bound to be grim and chaotic). So take a little trip with Turse into a very dark place and think about where this country, its wars and policies, may be heading. Tom

It Did Happen Here
Rebirth of a Nation?
By Nick Turse

"So is he going to win?"

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The question washed over me as I slumped in my hard plastic chair. I had passed the day walking through a town where most homes lay in ruins and human remains were strewn across a field, a day spent looking over my shoulder for soldiers and melting in the 110-degree heat. My mind was as spent as my body.

Under an inky sky ablaze with stars, the type of night you see only in the rural world, I looked toward the man who asked the question and half-shrugged. Everyone including me, I said, thought Donald Trump was going to flame out long ago. And he hadn't. So what did I know?

At that point, I couldn't bear to talk about it anymore, so the two of us sat speechless for a time. Finally, my companion looked back at me and broke his silence. "It can't happen, can it?" he asked.

I had no answer then -- March of this year -- sitting in that ruined town in South Sudan.

I do now.

I thought about that March night as the election results rolled in, as the New York Times forecast showed Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidency plummet from about 80% to less than 5%, while Trump's fortunes skyrocketed by the minute.

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As Clinton's future in the Oval Office evaporated, leaving only a whiff of her stale dreams, I saw all the foreign-policy certainties, all the hawkish policies and military interventions, all the would-be bin Laden raids and drone strikes she'd preside over as commander-in-chief similarly vanish into the ether.

With her failed candidacy went the no-fly escalation in Syria that she was sure to pursue as president with the vigor she had applied to the disastrous Libyan intervention of 2011 while secretary of state. So, too, went her continued pursuit of the now-nameless war on terror, the attendant "gray-zone" conflicts -- marked by small contingents of U.S. troops, drone strikes, and bombing campaigns -- and all those munitions she would ship to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen.

As the life drained from Clinton's candidacy, I saw her rabid pursuit of a new Cold War start to wither and Russo-phobic comparisons of Putin's rickety Russian petro-state to Stalin's Soviet Union begin to die. I saw the end, too, of her Iron Curtain-clouded vision of NATO, of her blind faith in an alliance more in line with 1957 than 2017.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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