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Customer Review

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.
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