Fw: ***Evil Empire, Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America?

Very good analysis of the U.S. empire.
Jim Albertini
Malu `Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action
P.O. Box AB
`Ola`a (Kurtistown), Hawaii 96760
Phone 808-966-7622
email ja@interpac.net

posted May 15, 2007
Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Ending the Empire
Evil Empire

Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America?

By Chalmers Johnson

In politics, as in medicine, a cure based on a false diagnosis is
almost always worthless, often worsening the condition that is
supposed to be healed. The United States, today, suffers from a
plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism
and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our
Constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, none of
the remedies proposed so far by American politicians or analysts
addresses the root causes of the problem.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released on April
26, 2007, some 78% of Americans believe their country to be headed in
the wrong direction. Only 22% think the Bush administration's
policies make sense, the lowest number on this question since October
1992, when George H. W. Bush was running for a second term -- and
lost. What people don't agree on are the reasons for their doubts
and, above all, what the remedy -- or remedies -- ought to be.
The range of opinions on this is immense. Even though large numbers
of voters vaguely suspect that the failings of the political system
itself led the country into its current crisis, most evidently expect
the system to perform a course correction more or less automatically.
As Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported, by the end of March
2007, at least 280,000 American citizens had already contributed some
$113.6 million to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani,
or John McCain.
If these people actually believe a presidential election a year-and-a-
half from now will significantly alter how the country is run, they
have almost surely wasted their money. As Andrew Bacevich, author of
The New American Militarism, puts it: "None of the Democrats vying to
replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the
system of check and balances.... The aim of the party out of power is
not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce
the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them."
George W. Bush has, of course, flagrantly violated his oath of
office, which requires him "to protect and defend the constitution,"
and the opposition party has been remarkably reluctant to hold him to
account. Among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that, under other
political circumstances, would surely constitute the Constitutional
grounds for impeachment are these: the President and his top
officials pressured the Central Intelligence Agency to put together a
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's nuclear weapons that
both the administration and the Agency knew to be patently dishonest.
They then used this false NIE to justify an American war of
aggression. After launching an invasion of Iraq, the administration
unilaterally reinterpreted international and domestic law to permit
the torture of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at other secret locations around the world.
Nothing in the Constitution, least of all the commander-in-chief
clause, allows the president to commit felonies. Nonetheless, within
days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush had signed a secret
executive order authorizing a new policy of "extraordinary
rendition," in which the CIA is allowed to kidnap terrorist suspects
anywhere on Earth and transfer them to prisons in countries like
Egypt, Syria, or Uzbekistan, where torture is a normal practice, or
to secret CIA prisons outside the United States where Agency
operatives themselves do the torturing.
On the home front, despite the post-9/11 congressional authorization
of new surveillance powers to the administration, its officials chose
to ignore these and, on its own initiative, undertook extensive
spying on American citizens without obtaining the necessary judicial
warrants and without reporting to Congress on this program. These
actions are prima-facie violations of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act of 1978 (and subsequent revisions) and of Amendment
IV of the Constitution.
These alone constitute more than adequate grounds for impeachment,
while hardly scratching the surface. And yet, on the eve of the
national elections of November 2006, then House Minority Leader, now
Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), pledged on the CBS News program "60
Minutes" that "impeachment is off the table." She called it "a waste
of time." And six months after the Democratic Party took control of
both houses of Congress, the prison at Guantánamo Bay was still open
and conducting drumhead courts martial of the prisoners held there;
the CIA was still using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on
prisoners in foreign jails; illegal intrusions into the privacy of
American citizens continued unabated; and, more than fifty years
after the CIA was founded, it continues to operate under, at best,
the most perfunctory congressional oversight.
Promoting Lies, Demoting Democracy

Without question, the administration's catastrophic war in Iraq is
the single overarching issue that has convinced a large majority of
Americans that the country is "heading in the wrong direction." But
the war itself is the outcome of an imperial presidency and the
abject failure of Congress to perform its Constitutional duty of
oversight. Had the government been working as the authors of the
Constitution intended, the war could not have occurred. Even now, the
Democratic majority remains reluctant to use its power of the purse
to cut off funding for the war, thereby ending the American
occupation of Iraq and starting to curtail the ever-growing power of
the military-industrial complex.

One major problem of the American social and political system is the
failure of the press, especially television news, to inform the
public about the true breadth of the unconstitutional activities of
the executive branch. As Frederick A. O. Schwarz and Aziz Z. Huq, the
authors of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of
Terror, observe, "For the public to play its proper checking role at
the ballot box, citizens must know what is done by the government in
their names."

Instead of uncovering administration lies and manipulations, the
media actively promoted them. Yet the first amendment to the
Constitution protects the press precisely so it can penetrate the
secrecy that is the bureaucrat's most powerful, self-protective
weapon. As a result of this failure, democratic oversight of the
government by an actively engaged citizenry did not -- and could not
-- occur. The people of the United States became mere spectators as
an array of ideological extremists, vested interests, and foreign
operatives -- including domestic neoconservatives, Ahmed Chalabi and
his Iraqi exiles, the Israeli Lobby, the petroleum and automobile
industries, warmongers and profiteers allied with the military-
industrial complex, and the entrenched interests of the professional
military establishment -- essentially hijacked the government.

Some respected professional journalists do not see these failings as
the mere result of personal turpitude but rather as deep structural
and cultural problems within the American system as it exists today.
In an interview with Matt Taibbi, Seymour Hersh, for forty years one
of America's leading investigative reporters, put the matter this way:

"All of the institutions we thought would protect us -- particularly
the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress --
they have failed… So all the things that we expect would normally
carry us through didn't. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the
press, because that's the most glaring…. What can be done to fix the
situation? [long pause] You'd have to fire or execute ninety percent
of the editors and executives."

Veteran analyst of the press (and former presidential press
secretary), Bill Moyers, considering a classic moment of media
failure, concluded: "The disgraceful press reaction to Colin Powell's
presentation at the United Nations [on February 5, 2003] seems like
something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by
Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from
the Web -- with the student later threatening to charge U.S.
officials with 'plagiarism.'"

As a result of such multiple failures (still ongoing), the executive
branch easily misled the American public.

A Made-in-America Human Catastrophe

Of the failings mentioned by Hersh, that of the military is
particularly striking, resembling as it does the failures of the
Vietnam era, thirty-plus years earlier. One would have thought the
high command had learned some lessons from the defeat of 1975.
Instead, it once again went to war pumped up on our own propaganda --
especially the conjoined beliefs that the United States was the
"indispensable nation," the "lone superpower," and the "victor" in
the Cold War; and that it was a new Rome the likes of which the world
had never seen, possessing as it did -- from the heavens to the
remotest spot on the planet -- "full spectrum dominance." The idea
that the U.S. was an unquestioned military colossus athwart the
world, which no power or people could effectively oppose, was
hubristic nonsense certain to get the country into deep trouble -- as
it did -- and bring the U.S. Army to the point of collapse, as
happened in Vietnam and may well happen again in Iraq (and Afghanistan).

Instead of behaving in a professional manner, our military invaded
Iraq with far too small a force; failed to respond adequately when
parts of the Iraqi Army (and Baathist Party) went underground;
tolerated an orgy of looting and lawlessness throughout the country;
disobeyed orders and ignored international obligations (including the
obligation of an occupying power to protect the facilities and
treasures of the occupied country -- especially, in this case,
Baghdad's National Museum and other archaeological sites of untold
historic value); and incompetently fanned the flames of an insurgency
against our occupation, committing numerous atrocities against
unarmed Iraqi civilians.

According to Andrew Bacevich, "Next to nothing can be done to salvage
Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to
determine the outcome of events there." Our former ambassador to
Saudi Arabia, Chas W. Freeman, says of President Bush's recent
"surge" strategy in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province: "The reinforcement
of failure is a poor substitute for its correction."

Symbolically, a certain sign of the disaster to come in Iraq arrived
via an April 26th posting from the courageous but anonymous Sunni
woman who has, since August 2003, published the indispensable blog
Baghdad Burning. Her family, she reported, was finally giving up and
going into exile -- joining up to two million of her compatriots who
have left the country. In her final dispatch, she wrote:

"There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country
simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is
overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live
normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and
friends.... And to what?"

Retired General Barry McCaffrey, commander of the 24th Infantry
Division in the first Iraq war and a consistent cheerleader for Bush
strategies in the second, recently radically changed his tune. He now
says, "No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat,
reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of
Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor
Ramadi, without heavily armed protection." In a different context,
Gen. McCaffrey has concluded: "The U.S. Army is rapidly unraveling."

Even military failure in Iraq is still being spun into an endless web
of lies and distortions by the White House, the Pentagon, military
pundits, and the now-routine reporting of propagandists disguised as
journalists. For example, in the first months of 2007, rising car-
bomb attacks in Baghdad were making a mockery of Bush administration
and Pentagon claims that the U.S. troop escalation in the capital had
brought about "a dramatic drop in sectarian violence." The official
response to this problem: the Pentagon simply quit including deaths
from car bombings in its count of sectarian casualties. (It has never
attempted to report civilian casualties publicly or accurately.)
Since August 2003, there have been over 1,050 car bombings in Iraq.
One study estimates that through June 2006 the death toll from these
alone has been a staggering 78,000 Iraqis.

The war and occupation George W. Bush unleashed in Iraq has proved
unimaginably lethal for unarmed civilians, but reporting the true
levels of lethality in Iraq, or the nature of the direct American
role in it was, for a long time, virtually taboo in the U.S. media.
As late as October 2006, the journal of the British Medical
Association, The Lancet, published a study conducted by researchers
from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and al-Mustansiriya
University in Baghdad estimating that, since March 2003, there were
some 601,027 more Iraqi deaths from violence than would have been
expected without a war. The British and American governments at first
dismissed the findings, claiming the research was based on faulty
statistical methods -- and the American media ignored the study,
played down its importance, or dismissed its figures.

On March 27, 2007, however, it was revealed that the chief scientific
adviser to the British Ministry of Defense, Roy Anderson, had offered
a more honest response. The methods used in the study were, he wrote,
"close to best practice." Another British official described them as
"a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."
Over 600,000 violent deaths in a population estimated in 2006 at 26.8
million -- that is, one in every 45 individuals -- amounts to a made-
in-America human catastrophe.

One subject that the government, the military, and the news media try
to avoid like the plague is the racist and murderous culture of rank-
and-file American troops when operating abroad. Partly as a result of
the background racism that is embedded in many Americans' mental make-
up and the propaganda of American imperialism that is drummed into
recruits during military training, they do not see assaults on
unarmed "rag heads" or "hajis" as murder. The cult of silence on this
subject began to slip only slightly in May 2007 when a report
prepared by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team was leaked to the
San Diego Union-Tribune. Based on anonymous surveys and focus groups
involving 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines, the study revealed that
only 56% of soldiers would report a unit member for injuring or
killing an innocent noncombatant, while a mere 40% of Marines would
do so. Some militarists will reply that such inhumanity to the
defenseless is always inculcated into the properly trained soldier.
If so, then the answer to this problem is to ensure that, in the
future, there are many fewer imperialist wars of choice sponsored by
the United States.

The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Many other aspects of imperialism and militarism are undermining
America's Constitutional system. By now, for example, the
privatization of military and intelligence functions is totally out
of control, beyond the law, and beyond any form of Congressional
oversight. It is also incredibly lucrative for the owners and
operators of so-called private military companies -- and the money to
pay for their activities ultimately comes from taxpayers through
government contracts. Any accounting of these funds, largely
distributed to crony companies with insider connections, is chaotic
at best. Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the
World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, estimates that there are
126,000 private military contractors in Iraq, more than enough to
keep the war going, even if most official U.S. troops were withdrawn.
"From the beginning," Scahill writes, "these contractors have been a
major hidden story of the war, almost uncovered in the mainstream
media and absolutely central to maintaining the U.S. occupation of

America's massive "military" budgets, still on the rise, are
beginning to threaten the U.S. with bankruptcy, given that its trade
and fiscal deficits already easily make it the world's largest net
debtor nation. Spending on the military establishment -- sometimes
mislabeled "defense spending" -- has soared to the highest levels
since World War II, exceeding the budgets of the Korean and Vietnam
War eras as well as President Ronald Reagan's weapons-buying binge in
the 1980s. According to calculations by the National Priorities
Project, a non-profit research organization that examines the local
impact of federal spending policies, military spending today consumes
40% of every tax dollar.

Equally alarming, it is virtually impossible for a member of Congress
or an ordinary citizen to obtain even a modest handle on the actual
size of military spending or its impact on the structure and
functioning of our economic system. Some $30 billion of the official
Defense Department (DoD) appropriation in the current fiscal year is
"black," meaning that it is allegedly going for highly classified
projects. Even the open DoD budget receives only perfunctory scrutiny
because members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for
their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense
contractors and the Pentagon. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
identified this phenomenon, in the draft version of his 1961 farewell
address, as the "military-industrial-congressional complex." Forty-
six years later, in a way even Eisenhower probably couldn't have
imagined, the defense budget is beyond serious congressional
oversight or control.

The DoD always tries to minimize the size of its budget by
representing it as a declining percentage of the gross national
product. What it never reveals is that total military spending is
actually many times larger than the official appropriation for the
Defense Department. For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the
Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost
a trillion dollars -- $934.9 billion to be exact -- broken down as
follows (in billions of dollars):

Department of Defense: $499.4
Department of Energy (atomic weapons): $16.6
Department of State (foreign military aid): $25.3
Department of Veterans Affairs (treatment of wounded soldiers): $69.8
Department of Homeland Security (actual defense): $69.1
Department of Justice (1/3rd for the FBI): $1.9
Department of the Treasury (military retirements): $38.5
NASA (satellite launches): $7.6
Interest on war debts, 1916-present: $206.7

Totaled, the sum is larger than the combined sum spent by all other
nations on military security.

This spending helps sustain the national economy and represents,
essentially, a major jobs program. However, it is beginning to crowd
out the civilian economy, causing stagnation in income levels. It
also contributes to the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs to other
countries. On May 1, 2007, the Center for Economic and Policy
Research released a series of estimates on "the economic impact of
the Iraq war and higher military spending." Its figures show, among
other things, that, after an initial demand stimulus, the effect of a
significant rise in military spending (as we've experienced in recent
years) turns negative around the sixth year.

Sooner or later, higher military spending forces inflation and
interest rates up, reducing demand in interest-sensitive sectors of
the economy, notably in annual car and truck sales. Job losses
follow. The non-military construction and manufacturing sectors
experience the largest share of these losses. The report concludes,
"Most economic models show that military spending diverts resources
from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and
ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment."

Imperial Liquidation?

Imperialism and militarism have thus begun to imperil both the
financial and social well-being of our republic. What the country
desperately needs is a popular movement to rebuild the Constitutional
system and subject the government once again to the discipline of
checks and balances. Neither the replacement of one political party
by the other, nor protectionist economic policies aimed at rescuing
what's left of our manufacturing economy will correct what has gone
wrong. Both of these solutions fail to address the root cause of our
national decline.

I believe that there is only one solution to the crisis we face. The
American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire
that has been created in their name and the huge (still growing)
military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least
comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after
World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain
avoided the fate of the Roman Republic -- becoming a domestic tyranny
and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had
continued to try to dominate much of the world by force.

For the U.S., the decision to mount such a campaign of imperial
liquidation may already come too late, given the vast and deeply
entrenched interests of the military-industrial complex. To succeed,
such an endeavor might virtually require a revolutionary mobilization
of the American citizenry, one at least comparable to the civil
rights movement of the 1960s.

Even to contemplate a drawing back from empire -- something so
inconceivable to our pundits and newspaper editorial writers that it
is simply never considered -- we must specify as clearly as possible
precisely what the elected leaders and citizens of the United States
would have to do. Two cardinal decisions would have to be made.
First, in Iraq, we would have to initiate a firm timetable for
withdrawing all our military forces and turning over the permanent
military bases we have built to the Iraqis. Second, domestically, we
would have to reverse federal budget priorities.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, a venerable critic of American
imperialism: "Where spending is rising, as in military supplemental
bills to conduct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would sharply
decline. Where spending is steady or declining (health, education,
job training, the promotion of energy conservation and renewable
energy sources, veterans benefits, funding for the UN and UN
peacekeeping operations, and so on), it would sharply increase.
Bush's tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000 a year would be
immediately rescinded."

Such reforms would begin at once to reduce the malevolent influence
of the military-industrial complex, but many other areas would
require attention as well. As part of the process of de-garrisoning
the planet and liquidating our empire, we would have to launch an
orderly closing-up process for at least 700 of the 737 military bases
we maintain (by official Pentagon count) in over 130 foreign
countries on every continent except Antarctica. We should ultimately
aim at closing all our imperialist enclaves, but in order to avoid
isolationism and maintain a capacity to assist the United Nations in
global peacekeeping operations, we should, for the time being,
probably retain some 37 of them, mostly naval and air bases.

Equally important, we should rewrite all our Status of Forces
Agreements -- those American-dictated "agreements" that exempt our
troops based in foreign countries from local criminal laws, taxes,
immigration controls, anti-pollution legislation, and anything else
the American military can think of. It must be established as a
matter of principle and law that American forces stationed outside
the U.S. will deal with their host nations on a basis of equality,
not of extraterritorial privilege.

The American approach to diplomatic relations with the rest of the
world would also require a major overhaul. We would have to end our
belligerent unilateralism toward other countries as well as our
scofflaw behavior regarding international law. Our objective should
be to strengthen the United Nations, including our respect for its
majority, by working to end the Security Council veto system (and by
stopping using our present right to veto). The United States needs to
cease being the world's largest supplier of arms and munitions -- a
lethal trade whose management should be placed under UN supervision.
We should encourage the UN to begin outlawing weapons like land
mines, cluster bombs, and depleted-uranium ammunition that play
particularly long-term havoc with civilian populations. As part of an
attempt to right the diplomatic balance, we should take some obvious
steps like recognizing Cuba and ending our blockade of that island
and, in the Middle East, working to equalize aid to Israel and
Palestine, while attempting to broker a real solution to that
disastrous situation. Our goal should be a return to leading by
example -- and by sound arguments -- rather than by continual resort
to unilateral armed force and repeated foreign military interventions.

In terms of the organization of the executive branch, we need to
rewrite the National Security Act of 1947, taking away from the CIA
all functions that involve sabotage, torture, subversion, overseas
election rigging, rendition, and other forms of clandestine activity.
The president should be deprived of his power to order these types of
operations except with the explicit advice and consent of the Senate.
The CIA should basically devote itself to the collection and analysis
of foreign intelligence. We should eliminate as much secrecy as
possible so that neither the CIA, nor any other comparable
organization ever again becomes the president's private army.

In order to halt our economic decline and lessen our dependence on
our trading partners, the U.S. must cap its trade deficits through
the perfectly legal use of tariffs in accordance with World Trade
Organization rules, and it must begin to guide its domestic market in
accordance with a national industrial policy, just as the leading
economies of the world (particularly the Japanese and Chinese ones)
do as a matter of routine. Even though it may involve trampling on
the vested interests of American university economics departments,
there is simply no excuse for a continued reliance on an outdated
doctrine of "free trade."

Normally, a proposed list of reforms like this would simply be
rejected as utopian. I understand this reaction. I do want to stress,
however, that failure to undertake such reforms would mean condemning
the United States to the fate that befell the Roman Republic and all
other empires since then. That is why I gave my book Nemesis the
subtitle "The Last Days of the American Republic."

When Ronald Reagan coined the phrase "evil empire," he was referring
to the Soviet Union, and I basically agreed with him that the USSR
needed to be contained and checkmated. But today it is the U.S. that
is widely perceived as an evil empire and world forces are gathering
to stop us. The Bush administration insists that if we leave Iraq our
enemies will "win" or -- even more improbably -- "follow us home." I
believe that, if we leave Iraq and our other imperial enclaves, we
can regain the moral high ground and disavow the need for a foreign
policy based on preventive war. I also believe that unless we follow
this path, we will lose our democracy and then it will not matter
much what else we lose. In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met
the enemy and he is us."


Chalmers Johnson is the author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the
American Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007). It is the
final volume of his Blowback Trilogy.

In accordance with Title U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving the included information for research and
educational purposes.


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