So declares Chalmers Johnson in NEMESIS, the completing volume of a trilogy that includes BLOWBACK and THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE. Nemesis is also the name of a Greek goddess who is "the spirit of retribution, a corrective to the greed and stupidity that sometimes governs relations among people." She stands for the "' righteous anger'" to which Americans must awake if our Republic is to survive rather than be as "doomed as the Roman Republic was after the Ides of March that spring of 44 BC."
In seven relentless chapters --
1. "Militarism and the Breakdown of Constitutional Government
2. Comparative Imperial Pathologies: Rome, Britain, and American
3. Central Intelligence Agency: The President's Private Army
4. US Military Bases in Other People's Countries
5. How American Imperialism Actually Works: The SOFA in Japan
6. Space: The Ultimate Imperialist Project
7. The Crisis of the American Republic
-- Johnson presents fact after fact to support his unswerving thesis that the United States government is empire building in an aggressive, Ugly American way; and that we Americans cannot sustain both a viable republic at home and a world hegemony. The two are incompatible.
Chapter 2's discussion alone is worth the price of NEMESIS. Johnson recounts the Roman slide from republic to tyranny which America is currently following. Then he contends that Britain's divestiture of its empire preserved its domestic democratic institutions, and states that for the USA, "the choice is between the Roman and British precedents."
Then the focus turns to topics that drive home the USA's far-flung web of control and the immense power it wields globally. The incredible hubris of the US as it occupies Iraq, as it establishes secret prison bases internationally, as it reneges on agreements and interferes in other sovereign nations' elections, as it spends hundreds of billions of dollars on defense systems and occupations that don't demonstrably defend the homeland, as it blots out additional rights at home in the name of security, is copiously documented. Generally, the overwhelming criticism of US government actions is persuasive due to the unfailing use of sources: the Notes at the end of NEMESIS cover fifty pages. However, the discerning reader will at times perceive that Johnson has stacked the deck. The author's preoccupation with indicting American actions sometimes glosses the fact that the US isn't the only nation to play fast and loose in the game of international posturing and positioning. Still, any reader who possesses a grounded grasp of history and understands that other countries in the world also act -- sometimes precipitously and with their own thirst for empire-building -- will recognize Johnson's bias and compensate for it.
NEMESIS is an important, well-written, well-substantiated contribution to the growing library of books warning that America's political and military policies are sliding us closer to imperialistic totalitarianism, a very real threat. This third volume of the Blowback Trilogy is highly recommended reading for all Americans who feel "righteous anger" and truly want to prevent such a fate.
Johnson points out that we are the world's greatest producer and exporter of arms on the planet, spend more on our armed forces than all other nations combined - while going deeply into debt to do so, and station over 500,000 troops, spies, contractors, dependents, etc. on more than 737 bases around the world in 130 countries (even this is not a complete count). Further, statistics compiled by the Federation of American Scientists analyzed by Gore Vidal show 201 military operations initiated by the U.S. against others between the end of WWII and 9/11 - none of which are directly resulted in the creation of a democracy.
Many have accused Bush II of violating international treaties - Johnson, however, is the first that I know of to make the point that our Constitution (Article 6) makes all Treaties made under authorization of the U.S. to be the supreme Law of the Land." Thus, much of Bush's international actions are not only objectionable on moral and practical grounds - they are illegal as well.
As for why few of the world's billion+ Muslims like the U.S. - estimates range from 500,000 to 1 million Iraqi children killed as an outgrowth of U.S. sanctions. Johnson also goes on to document U.S. blocking contracts to improve Iraqi water and other utilities just prior to our invasion. Then there are the matters of torture and secret renditions. (How do these acts reduce terrorism?)
The situation in the U.S. has gone downhill as well - Bush II's administration ignoring/violating the Freedom of Information Act, questionable wire-tapping, letter-opening, Internet surveillance, etc.
What is the dollar cost of these misadventures? Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-prize winner in economics, estimates a total cost to-date of Iraq II alone at about $2 trillion - includes ongoing veterans benefits, equipment repair, etc. Meanwhile, the U.S. is trying to militarize space - further adding to our military expenditures and indebtedness.
Finally, Johnson sees our military costs eventually bankrupting the U.S. (if our escalating trade deficit doesn't first), aka Rome.
Unfortunately, it all makes sense to me.
on February 26, 2007
The third in a series that started with "Blowback" is the strongest statement of the lot. The experience, expertise, and brain power demand a careful reading rather than simplistic name calling by those who don't like the conclusions (for them labeling "Liberal" saves bothering to think or develop a logical counter argument). Furthermore, there are numerous Conservatives who would find much of the argument justified.
Every citizen should read the last chapter before investing, making long term plans, or evaluating this `MBA war President'.
Whether one totally `buys into' the argument (well made) that the Republic is about gone because of an irresponsible Congress bypassed by the Military Industrial Complex (a Republican's term you remember) and rotten pervasive dominance of those interests, it should be carefully evaluated not dismissed by name calling as some reviewers have done.
No President as asserted so many excess powers via extreme secrecy, curtailing civil rights, creative legal fatwas, signing statements, making himself "the decider" snubbing Congress. And has any other claimed to talk to God? American arrogance compounded by megalomania - my conclusion not Johnson's.
Johnson is not a Pacifist, but he makes a strong case that realistic American interests could be supported with perhaps 40 bases rather than 740 that pollute relations in countries where they are placed. (His detailed experience with Japan and Okinawa is more than I'd care to know but one example.)
Long ago one President suggested that the US could lead by example or by asserting power and that the later approach would undermine the former as our own Republic and democracy was destroyed.
on February 10, 2007
All I can say that every American should read this book. Chalmers Johnson analysis is right on target. His comparison of the Roman, British, and American Empires is most interesting. Niall Ferguson, British author,
" Colossus ", and apologist for Imperialism is nailed to the wall by Mr. Johnson. The misinformation and outright falsehood spouted by the Bush Admistration, and its allies in Congress, and the press, is thoroughly documented. The American Press has been a faithful ally in the effort to achieve American world hegemony.Dispite its tag as being " liberal " , the main Stream Media, has for the most part been pro - corporatist and nationalist, follies that would young men and woman are paying the price for today.The CIA is nothing but an arm of big - business and greed. To say such things is heresy, but it is the truth. It is about time Americans wake up and discover the truth about " America Spreading Freedom and Democracy. Mr Johnson points out how " free trade " cripped India. A must read !
on February 27, 2007
Like General Dwight Eisenhower, Stan Goff, Joshua Key and General Smedley Butler, Chalmers Johnson has joined the growing ranks of military veterans who are challenging the "overgrown military establishment" (to use George Washington's term) of today. Johnson is a veteran of the Korean war and has a long record as a conservative cold warrior during years of university teaching; but the slow creep of corporatism combined with our massive investment in state violence transformed him. His first book "Blowback," published a year before 9/11, was prophetic in its warning of violent retaliation to policies that much of the US population is unaware of. Much of what Johnson describes in his later two books is a nightmare that has already transpired - the growth of a militarized global society (we lead the world in the arms trade, and in training proxy forces in places like Fort Benning), skyrocketing budgets for war profiteers and spy agencies, a bourgeoning network of private mercenaries and secret prisons, rampant sexism and environmental destruction stemming from our bases and much else that "good Americans" turn away from, or have careers in. Johnson's comments about the media being a manipulative conglomeration of private interests is a truism, and he could've added that much of it is geared towards creating the next generation of corporate warriors, interrogators, hit-men and psy-ops specialists.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's book "Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill" goes into the details of how our youth are being indoctrinated to love authority and domination, as does Nick Turse's work on our military industrial info-tainment complex.
In many moments, Johnson feels hopeless; but he does see at least the potential for a largely inactive populace to become engaged citizens. He cited the programs he was recently interviewed on ("Democracy Now!" and "Air America") as examples of responsible media. He is also noting a much greater receptivity as he speaks at universities and bookstores. I share some of his pessimism, and one wonders if the Sopranos of the power elite will bring the hammer down on a mass popular movement, as they've brought it down on people throughout the world. But I keep in mind the wise words of another veteran, Howard Zinn, who said, "To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness . . . And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of present moments, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
on August 11, 2007
Chalmers Johnson is deeply pessimistic about the future of the US and its citizens. He sees at the horizon `a collapse of constitutional government, perpetual war, endemic official lying and disinformation and finally bankruptcy. We are at the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire.'
For him, the heart of the matter is `military Keynesianism' (the US economy is mightily based on weapon manufacturing) and the goal of the military-intelligence community (full spectrum dominance over the world and in space).
But this imperial adventure is far too costly. The US spends more on armed forces than all other nations on earth combined, for more than 737 military bases in more than 130 countries. Also, space weapons are pure waste. A space shield doesn't work, because weapons cannot make a distinction between warheads and free floating space debris. `The neoconservative lobbyists are only interested in the staggering sums required.'
The US enormous military budget (of which 40 % is secret) is not paid by US taxpayers, but by foreign investors in US debt.
In the meantime, democracy is undermined. Chalmers Johnson doesn't see `any president or Congress standing up to the powerful vested interests of the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies and the military-industrial complex.' The separation of powers is becoming a dead letter. The legislative and the judicial branches have lost their independence.
The author is extremely hard for the current government, calling members of the Administration `desk-murderers'. For him, `putting the ruler above the law is the very definition of dictatorship.' Its TIA (Total Information Awareness) program `is the perfect US computer version of Gestapo and KGB files.' He is extremely angry with the US media, calling them `Pravda-like mouthpieces of the powerful.'
For him, what Congress really should do is abolish the CIA and remove all purely military functions from the Pentagon.
This hard-hitting book is more than a very solid warning. It is a must read for all those interested in the future of mankind.
For a view from the South, I highly recommend `Dilemmas of Domination' by Walden Bello.
on March 30, 2007
"Nemesis" by Chalmers Johnson is the kind of book Americans who truly want to be informed citizens should go out and seek. In the era of bookshelves stacked with hollow, dry titles by Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, "Nemesis" comes as a straight warning about our system, how it has been abused, and how things can get worse. Johnson presents a masterful composition of facts, history and observation to paint a landscape in which the American system has been hijacked by imperial ambitions, corporate longings and the kind of disturbing colonial trends last seen in behemoths like Rome and England. It is the latest volume of the highly well-assembled "American Empire Project" book series which has featured some impressive titles like Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony Or Survival" and his recent "Failed States," Johnson here completes a trilogy that began with the prophetic "Blowback" and continued with the revelatory "The Sorrows Of Empire." Here he concludes his trilogy with a work that fully captures much of the kinds of activities that make it hard to deny that indeed, the United States has taken an imperial path that has only grown more aggressive in the post-9/11 world. Johnson documents with stunning accuracy the CIA's clandestine "rendition" missions authorized by the Bush White House where hundreds of citizens from various countries have been kidnapped, taken to secret prisons, tortured and either released with no charges or kept for prolonged periods of time for having "possible links to terrorism." He documents the use of the CIA as a secret army at the President's disposal used in the past for such operations as the distabalization of Chile to provoke the violent overthrow of the elected Salvador Allende by Augusto Pinochet's fascist forces. Some of the most urgent passages deal with obvious colonial projects such as the set-up of U.S. bases all over the world, sometimes in nations with no strategic value and more often than not, these "host" countries must pay the bill for much of what the army does. Johnson explores real grave issues such as the abuse of public taxes to fund extravagent perks for high-ranking officials and to keep McDonald's and Burger King flowing into these bases. The corporate fusion with the armed forces is also explored as corporations cut deals, gain power and even provide services for basic needs soldiers should take care of themselves (cooking, cleaning). There is a brilliant chapter where Johnson explores imperial history from Rome to the present, sometimes drawing striking comparions between our system and that of Rome and Britain, and he traces the pattern of how extreme militarism and cultural ignorance contributed to the basic downfall of these two empires and is threatening to distabalize our own system. Much of the horrors of the Iraq war are well documented here as well, including the massacering of civilians, the looting of Iraq's precious ancient sites and even the torching of important libraries, events Donald Rumsfeld dismissed with the phrase "stuff happens." Johnson documents all this and more with a clear, precise writing style, an eloquent prose and an impressive eye for facts and research. Much of the information is highly accessible and one of the wonders of "Nemesis" is how it shows us that this information is historical fact and is widely available for the general public to research. Yes, the Bush administration has been a disaster, but do not read "Nemesis" for the sake of bashing Bush, read it because it is so important to read, because it deals with issues that will continue affecting our country and world history long after Bush has left the White House. Johnson here is issuing a warning of a military industrial complex that is going more and more astray with a deeply corrupt intelligence service that is being abused and highly misused by those in power. "Nemesis" shows us an America that is threatening itself with a bitter downfall because of our ignorance and arrogance regarding foreign and domestic policy. It is interesting how Johnson has an insightful eye for not just the politics, but the men behind the stories, the human beings comitting both the atrocious acts and the resistance to these acts. Shakespeare and the Greeks are evoked, as they should be, because the truth is the current imperialist policies are setting us up for the final act of a grand tragedy. "Nemesis" is the kind of book all concerned citizens should read, it is not just about the past or the present, it is about how our current attitudes and policies are paving the way for the future.
on March 17, 2007
Chalmers Johnson is one of our best informed and most intelligent public commentators. His last two books were "must reads" when they came out, the first, Blowback, before 9/11 but very predictive of just such an event, and the second, The Sorrows of Empire, after; most of their theses are enclosed within Nemesis. These all exhibit his extensive knowledge in American foriegn policy and the militarism that has emboldened that policy for the last several decades. Johnson compares US imperialist militarism and the misconceptions that are driving it, to the events that led to the fall of the Roman Republic and the imperial dictatorships that followed. (I think we got our on combination of Caligula and Nero, in the form of George W Bush, a little early.) He compares the terrible misdeeds that embodied the imperial rule of Roman and Britian to the devestation that the American empire has visited on small and weak lands throughout the world. And he says, and I believe, that we are very far down this path to the distruction of our own republic, to be replaced by our own homegrown American dictators. Is our current democratic and republican political system strong and wise enough to avoid the trap that over 50 years of militarism and the more than 25 years of rightwing religiousfundamentalist fueled military/industrial complex has layed for us? I pray that this is not the case, but I fear it is very late, late in the day for our nation's people to wake up and "throw the rascals out." As someone once said, "I fear for my country" if indeed, there is a just god. And if there is not, I fear for the world and all its people. Chalmers and I both fear we are in for a very difficult future. wfh
on April 21, 2007
Chalmers Johnson is one of the few observers of our country's role in the world who truly sees the Big Picture. His insights are grounded in exhaustive research from a lifetime of work at the highest levels of scholarship and policymaking in U.S. foreign and military affairs. Very highly recommended!
on April 15, 2007
As a veteran and a patriot, I have been worried about the direction our nation has been taking. The fear mongering, megalomania and lying that the neoconservatives have been exhibiting has had me worried for some time, but until now, I have not known exactly why. Thank you Mr. Johnson for helping me to organize my suspicions and distrust of our current government. We have only ourselves to blame for letting them get away with it for this long.
This book should be required reading for every high school student.