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Peter Van Buren
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Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, a sarcastic, funny, sad, angry book about his work for the Department of State as the leader of two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in rural Iraq, 2009-2010. His blog at www.wemeantwell.com continues the story, with daily humor and commentary about Iraq, the Middle East and national security.

Peter's next book, coming April 2014, is called Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent. The book looks deeply into America's soul, focusing on the decline of the middle class, the rise of the working poor, the death of industrialization and the loss of community. One person described it as "a good story, with a conscience."

Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, spent a year in Iraq leading two State Department Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Following his book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books), published in 2011, the Department of State began termination proceedings against him, reassigning him to a make-work position and stripping him of his security clearance and diplomatic credentials. Through the efforts of the Government Accountability Project and the ACLU, Van Buren will instead retire from the State Department with his full benefits of service in September.

Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, The New York Times, Salon, NPR, al Jazzeera, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, The Guardian (UK), Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

Entries by Peter Van Buren

Poverty Is Profitable: 1 out of 3 US Consumers in Debt Collection

(1) Comments | Posted July 29, 2014 | 3:03 PM

A new report by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group's Consumer Credit Research Institute shows 77 million Americans -- 35 percent of those with files at a major credit bureau -- have a debt in collection.

Nevada has the worst record, with 47 percent of consumers with a...

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Dead Is Dead: Drone-Killing the Fifth Amendment

(2) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 9:52 AM

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

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...

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John Kerry Accidentally Sanctions Self

(0) Comments | Posted July 23, 2014 | 12:14 AM

"I'm still not sure exactly what happened," said gaffe-prone, beleaguered Secretary of State John Kerry, "but I'm told I agreed to sanctions on myself."

In an exclusive, Kerry explained his mistake.

"So there we were in the Middle East. I travel almost constantly, and at my age, even...

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Parallel Construction: Unconstitutional NSA Searches Deny Due Process

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 2:05 PM

The NSA sits at the nexus of violations of both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments with a legal dodge called Parallel Construction.

Parallel Construction is a technique used by law enforcement to hide the fact that evidence in a criminal case originated with the NSA. In its simplest form,...

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Iraq: What They Died For

(0) Comments | Posted July 3, 2014 | 6:40 PM

Over this July 4th weekend, and as I see the images of Iraq's unfolding civil war, sometimes I think I even recognize a place I had been, having spent a year in the midst of America's Occupation there, 2009-2010.

I was a State Department civilian, embedded with an Army...

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Shredding the Fourth Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

(18) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 9:32 AM

Four Ways It No Longer Applies 

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Here’s a bit of history from another America: The Bill of Rights was designed to protect the people from their government. If the First Amendment’s right to speak out publicly was the people's wall of security, then the...

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10 Reasons Airstrikes in Iraq Are a Terrible Idea

(9) Comments | Posted June 22, 2014 | 9:30 PM

The smell of blood is once again in the air in Washington -- this week for airstrikes and other forms of violent intervention in Iraq. (Reference: Many of the same people -- McCain and Graham in particular -- were only recently calling for airstrikes or other military action in the...

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Stung: Government Disappears Stingray Spying Records

(0) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 9:02 AM

We've heard variations on the phrase "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" from the government for quite some time. It appears this may be true, at least if you are the government.

In the case of Stingray, a cell phone spying device used against Americans,...

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Why America Can Never Win in Iraq

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 4:29 PM

I think of it now, all the time.

Sometimes I think I even recognize a place on TV I had been, having spent a year in the midst of America's occupation in Iraq, 2009 to 2010. I was a State Department civilian, embedded in turn with two Army brigades...

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Government Demands Whistleblower Organization's Encrypted Files

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 12:15 PM

For those people who still do not believe we have crossed a terrible line into a Post-Constitutional state, here's another chance to repent before we all go to hell.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) in-house watchdog has demanded that the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) turn over all...

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What We've Lost Since 9/11

(1) Comments | Posted June 15, 2014 | 9:32 PM

Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech,...

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Told Us How to Close Gitmo (But Obama Won't Do It)

(0) Comments | Posted June 4, 2014 | 11:14 AM

Every media person knows to ensure maximum coverage for a story you put it out at the beginning of the week, a Monday. That gives pundits five days on the job to comment and amplify it. Conversely, if you are compelled to release information that you'd like to not get...

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Why Don’t the Unemployed Get Off Their Couches?

(9) Comments | Posted June 3, 2014 | 9:37 AM

And Eight Other Critical Questions for Americans 

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Last year eight Americans -- the four Waltons of Walmart fame, the two Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett -- made more money than 3.6 million American minimum-wage workers combined. The median pay for CEOs at...

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This Land Isn’t Your Land, This Land Is Their Land

(52) Comments | Posted May 1, 2014 | 9:39 AM

An Empire in Decline (City by City, Town by Town)

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

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,...

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On the Death of Anne Smedinghoff, Three U.S. Soldiers and an Interpreter

(0) Comments | Posted April 28, 2014 | 2:04 PM

The Chicago Tribune gained access to the 2013 U.S. Army report on the death of State Department Foreign Service Officer Anne Smedinghoff in Afghanistan.

She was only 25 years old. She was one of three American civilians, three soldiers and a local interpreter killed...

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An Apartheid of Dollars

(30) Comments | Posted April 24, 2014 | 9:35 AM

Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

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...

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Torture and the Destruction of a Human Being by the United States

(9) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 2:15 PM

Somedays we have fun in this space, commenting on world events with a joke, some satire, a little snark. Today will not be one of those days.

The Bush and Obama administrations have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide America's archipelago of secret prisons and systems of torture. They at...

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Walmart Supports Raising Public Food Benefits -- For Its Own Profit

(32) Comments | Posted April 9, 2014 | 10:43 AM

They say politics makes strange bedfellows. They also say poverty is just another profit opportunity, at least over at Walmart.

Walmart supports an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e., food stamps) benefits, to erase the cuts Congress voted into place last fall. Does Walmart really care more...

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How Many Watch Lists Fit on the Head of a Pin?

(10) Comments | Posted April 7, 2014 | 8:57 AM

Post-Constitutional America, Where Innocence is a Poor Defense

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a U.S. student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed...

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Mississippi Cares More About the Politics of Unborn Children, Than Unborn Children

(0) Comments | Posted April 4, 2014 | 3:25 PM

As conservatives attempt to criminalize a broader range of actions in attempts to grant legal personhood to unborn children, and thus create a stronger argument against safe, legal abortion, a case in Mississippi is at center stage.

Prosecutors there charged a 16-year-old unwed mother with the crime...

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