on 15 January 2008
This is the last volume of American historian Chalmers Johnson's trilogy on the American empire, following Blowback (2000) and The Sorrows of Empire (2003). Nemesis was the Greek goddess of retribution, who punished human transgression and the arrogance that caused it.
Johnson claims that imperial overreach is undermining the USA's democracy. Comparing the US empire to the Roman and British empires, he shows how "imperialism and militarism are the deadly enemies of democracy."
He notes that between 1945 and 2001, the USA carried out 30 major and 170 minor overseas military operations in which the USA struck the first blow. He observes that since 1947, "in no instance has democratic government come about as a direct result."
He describes the CIA as the president's secret, unaccountable private army, which does what the president wants, including taking the rap for his crimes He shows how the current presidency is the most imperial ever, based on a huge standing army, 727 overseas bases, continuous wars and ruinous military spending. He shows how Congress and courts alike have failed to assert their constitutional rights against presidents' usurpation of powers.
Johnson details the recent crimes of the US state, `the systematic killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq', the systematic mass torture of prisoners, sanctioned by Bush and Rumsfeld, and the brutal looting of Iraq's heritage.
He notes the 1,000 CIA `rendition' - kidnapping for torture - flights using Europe's airports, with the complicity of the British, German, Italian, Swedish, Rumanian and Polish governments. The Labour government allowed 210 landings at British airports between September 2001 and September 2005.
The US state's overseas bases are governed by Status of Forces Agreements which Johnson examines through the example of Japan. He shows how the US state has wasted $100 billion on missile defence and space weapons. The World Policy Institute called it the `pork barrel in the sky'.
In all, this is an excellent survey of the threat that militarism and corporatism pose to democracy in the USA.
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 15 February 2013
I already knew what this book was about before I bought it,was recommended by my friends and family.He is a great writer, I have read other books written by him and I would recommend them all,he is so precise a true patriot.He just nails everything every time.This book is the reality of a failing empire, that seems not to care if it takes everyone down with it,and how paranoid they really are.Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,never was a truer word spoken.As a pacifist I find all this horrifying. This is part of the Blowback Trilogy I recommend you read them all.I will never forget his first part Blowback,it made me look at things in a different way.