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My War on Terror: Letter to an Unknown American Patriot


My War on Terror: Letter to an Unknown American Patriot

Tom Engelhardt

Dear American Patriot,

I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself. Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist. It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country. In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.


Thank you so much for this article and comment as well! Clearly, there are times when I have felt actual shame, despair about what the powers that be have orchestrated around the world. I feel dreadful especially about our whistleblowers who are incarcerated for telling the truth or have been banished from their own country! I cheered when Putin (hey he is no angel, but…) when he called Obama on his “exceptionalism” remarks. I am so sick and tired of msm too because too many Americans remain asleep and this hum drum they listen to are all lies and distortions. I am an Adjunct Faculty at a college in Florida and we just finished a National Adjunct Walkout Day on 2/25/15 and never have I felt more proud of all the people involved. Attacks on education are coming from all sides from the far right to the centrist/neoliberals as well. We have no friends in DC!!! The American people are asleep and fearful and nothing could be more dangerous than this! We have to get back out on the streets like the Viet Nam days, civil rights etc. even in the face of the NDAA and the militarized police who will be waiting for us. I stay active in many ways, but I am particularly thankful to have found the many alternative media sources such as commondreams and democracynow etc. I have saved this article and comments so I can read it again; how it feels to live in a country that does so much harm to so many people all over the world! Living with this can be difficult to say the least! THANK YOU SO MUCH


Yet another excellent essay by Tom Englehardt. There’s just one (complex) point I’d like to add.

When someone can’t tolerate owning qualities they have so strongly they end up believing those qualities are not present in them but are in others around them (people, nature, objects, concepts…but for now let’s stick with people) it’s called psychological “projection”. When they then take actions that make their imaginings about the other people come true, it’s called “projective identification”, or in the term used by process therapist Arnold Mindell, “dreaming up”. When the powerful in the US imagine people in the world hate “us”, attack those people and thus create the hate they imagined, that’s dreaming up enemies. Former CIA station chief John Stockwell wrote a book called In Search of Enemies in which he described this process after the fall of the USSR (although he didn’t consider the psychological or use those terms). The US “elite” have enormous amounts of intolerable stuff in them; the projections they’re therefore throwing are large, innumerable and powerful. Each person, group, religion, race, country, and other “object” carries different projections for these sad and sick “leaders” and the public. The idea of the victims of some of these delusional violence-prone would-be, should-be patients as “bugsplat” is telling. (I think of the horrifically projecting, scapegoating militaristic rampages of psychotic psychopathy, the Starship Troopers movies). As shown by those movies, (and our current life) projected fear, rage and hatred looks a lot like paranoia; there is no amount of security that will suffice for such people, and when we take an honest look at an attempt to try to provide it, what we see is 1944 Germany. Not a good model to emulate but that’s clearly where we’re headed—at Blitzkrieg speed. (AKA shock and awe-ful.)

Given the power both of the projections, and of the US “elite” to throw off physically the karmic retribution inextricably associated with their acts of outrage, it’s unlikely anything will change about this psychic and physical behavior anytime soon, unless we spend astoundingly unprecedented effort healing these folks from their psychic affliction, or remove them from power. And that would mean president, Congress, collaborating judges, huge swathes of the war department and military, the (in)security establishment, the policing power structure, most of the corporate business world and an equal scythic pass through the leadership of the major religions, media, (including the sports and infoentersuasionment industry) education establishment and most other leadership of all kinds in the US. And then got a new public, or sent nearly the entire one we have back to not only school but mother, to achieve some kind of decent attachment they can work out from, exhibiting less fear, rage, hatred and shame next time. Or we could just take over as progressives, buy ourselves time to do all that by building solar panels and wind turbines, organic permaculture farms, a boatload of trains and a trainload of sailing boats so we can survive long enough to implement all those other changes. A couple of centuries might do it if we listen to the right people right from the start. If you want to be a better instrument for the healing the right wing duopoly desperately needs in order to not destroy the biosphere, get into therapy yourself. See what it’s like. Invite a conservative friend or relative to join a group or enter therapy themselves; do everything you can to make their passage to health easier and faster. We need them healthier if we expect civilization to survive; we need us healthier and more expert at giving help if we expect them to change, or even accept being replaced without, again, destroying the biosphere. Let’s start tomorrow.


Tom, excellent article. Thank you. I would like to ask you to do an article illustrating clearly (for the sheeple) the parallels between the rise of the Third Reich, in some detail, and the rise of fascism in our own country AND illustrating how Amerikans have been inured to each tiny infringement on our civil liberties, civil rights, and sensibilities about violence and hatred until now when it’s all added up and democracy (such as it was) is slipping down the tubes. (I’m not alluding to Naomi Wolf’s steps toward fascism; I want more details that ordinary sheeple can understand and identify with.)


Tom. Great article and refreshingly honest and self critical. I also like the segue into the Ten Commandments - which are indeed a perfect framework for a peaceful society. Interestingly, by the time Jesus came along, the Ten had expanded into 613 Mitzvot (that’s lawyers for you!). When some clever dick lawyer was trying to trick Jesus into saying something incriminating, he asked which of these 613 is the most important. Jesus answered that honouring God was No.1, closely followed by No.2: Love thy neighbour as thyself.
No matter whichever religion or none, the wisdom in loving your neighbour as yourself says it all. This same principle was laid out perfectly clearly in the US Constitution i.e. that all men are equal. If we try to live up to that principle, the world would be a better place. Please note that another ‘indispensable’ nation i.e. Hitler’s Aryan Uber-mensch had constructed a hierarchy of Humanity. Once you go down that road, genocide, slavery and exploitation follow. Whether the Wall Street elites who control US governments and presidents believe any of this guff is immaterial since their simple goal is to make a fast buck at the expense of the rest of Humanity. The CIA is the tool of Wall Street and patently beyond Presidential control (ask JFK). The CIA’s job is to create Hell on earth, since Wall Street makes money provided the mugs are fighting and dying for whatever cause.
What your country needs is a severe dose of Glasnost & Perestroika i.e. openness and re-structuring. Open up the CIA files and find who killed JFK, MLK and RFK. Find out who allowed 9/11 to happen. Put the Bushes and the Cheneys on trial for the deaths of millions of innocent Iraqis, Afghanis, and US soldiers. “I dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?”. Is that a drone I hear above me? Come let me clutch thee…


Tom, I feel your pain, agree with your analysis, and agree with your prescription. I ask myself “was the USA ever the country I was taught it was”? I believe the answer is “yes” because I am an American Nationalist like you, but we must struggle against the powerful who will lead us astray as ordinary Americans always have to fulfill the promise of this country. We are a long way down the rabbit hole now and the powerful arrayed against the real interests of the USA are so strong, I fear we are lost. Nations that have followed the path the USA has been on in the 21st century, really since the end of WWII, have collapsed. I see no reason for the USA to be an exception to that, but I still have faith in the people. We need a leader to adopt your ten commandments and lead us from this wilderness to a new day in the sun.