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."