Photo: “You will say God wants me to be President or I will show you how they did things in Viet Nam.”
Or “Admit it! God is Dead! Right? Right?”
Recent events in Palestine emphasize the need to re-examine the notion of “rights” as they apply to abstractions and inanimate objects. Much of the current discussion is doomed to failure and further human suffering and exploitation until we do. As usual, the real problem is not in the attitudes or will, but in the basic but hidden premise underlying the discussion.
The situation in Palestine thus becomes an obvious and ideal problem from which to start this analysis. The current boycott of the democratically elected authority in Palestine is being subjected to sanctions. Israel, under a prior arrangement, collects taxes for Palestine and then turns them over. Since the election, it keeps them. It invaded a neighboring country while maintaining a state of siege against the Palestinians. The transgressions are too numerous to list here (Jimmie Carter’s book APARTEID IN PALESTINE) does a good job of that, but all of them are now justified with one assertion: the Palestinian authority or Hamas must acknowledge Israel’s “Right to Exist.”
On the surface, this sound quite reasonable and, in fact, minimal. It sounds positively generous. “Is that all? Well, they are not asking much,” is the obvious reaction. In fact, it is doubtful any observer would find this demand or request unreasonable.
It, however, is a fact that Yasar Arafat made this concession decades ago, and he wound up surrounded by the Israeli army in a building in Ramallah with all electricity and indoor plumbing shut off for months and was under siege until he died. Nothing positive was accomplished. This, however, is besides the point as nothing positive will be accomplished.
Yet there is another example that shows an inconsistency. Let us suppose for a moment that states do have rights. The U.S. declared Iraq a sovereign state in 2004 after the “free election” (during which Shia voters were given the option of voting or going to Mecca for the pilgrimage). Why, then, did Israel ask the U.S. for permission to fly over Iraq to bomb Iran? Should they not, to be consistent, at least ask Iraq for such permission?
Why was there no exit strategy for us in Iraq? Quite obviously because we never intended to exit, but rather intended to build more military bases there. (See interview, below.)
Or we could look at Iran. If the U.S., Israel, Pakistan, and India have a right to have nuclear weapons, why not Iran? Iraq was invaded because it did not have a nuke. North Korea was not because it did have one. If you ran Iran, what would you choose?
There are also more personal issues. A woman is raped and made pregnant. How does any institution appropriate the right to say “Thou shalt carry to term!”?
Or another: it seems quite obvious that one thing any individual has a right to is his own life. Certainly, if he thinks it is expendable, or is tired of it, how does an institution appropriate the right to force him to continue living? Since it has become clear, finally, that no institution can punish him once he is dead, our state takes it upon itself to punish anyone who assists him.
Readers will remember our Declaration of Independence. In it are mentioned rights that “include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But it is clear that these are HUMAN RIGHTS, not rights of some abstract entity. States may well have RESPONSIBILITIES to its constituents, but not rights.
During World War II, many felt that Japan and Germany had no right to exist. Growing up in the Cold War era, it was commonplace to hear that the Soviet Union had no right to exists (and, from their block, that the U.S. and its allies had no right to exist), but a distinction has always been made between states and the individuals who happened to live in them.
Can we take this further? Does FEMA have the “right to exist”? The Decider apparently thought not since he made it subject to homeland security. Then Katrina hit. Does the Elks club have a right to exist? People such as its members have the right to construct, form, and join it, but does it have the right to the “pursuit of happiness” on its own? What about the stock exchange? People may decide that we need one, and hence it exists, but what if the Elks club contended that the stock exchange did not have a right to exist?
I would go so far as to say that no organization or institution has the right to exist, or at least that they should always justify their existence. Now this is not as strange as it may seem. Indeed, our Decider (aka, President) has put this test to all K-12 educational institutions, using multiple choice questions administered to students as a life or death measurement – although it is limited to schools, not the students. While there is no point to an extended discussion of the value of multiple choice questions, the real point is that the test of justification of the school’s existence is there.
All we need to do now is to extend that doctrine of justification to all institutions.
Democracy Now! http://www.democracynow.org
Chalmers Johnson: ?Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling
author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach
may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic.
It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling
"Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued
American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but
direct disaster here in the United States. [includes rush transcript]
Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations at
the University of California, San Diego. He is also President of the
Japan Policy Research Institute. Johnson has written for several
publications including Los Angeles Times, the London Review of Books,
Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. In 2005, he was featured prominently
in the award-winning documentary film, ?Why We Fight.?
Chalmers Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking
him about the title of his book, ?Nemesis.?
* *Chalmers Johnson*, Author, scholar and leading critic of US
foreign policy. Retired professor of international relations at
the University of California, San Diego. He is also President of
the Japan Policy Research Institute. His new book is ?Nemesis: The
Last Days of the American Republic.?
*AMY GOODMAN: *Today, we spend the hour with the former CIA consultant,
distinguished scholar, best-selling author, Chalmers Johnson. He's just
published a new book. It's called /Nemesis: The Last Days of the
American Republic/. It's the last volume in his trilogy, which began
with /Blowback/, went onto /The Sorrows of Empire/. In those two,
Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to
unintended but direct disaster here in the United States. In his new
book, Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may
actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic.
Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations at
the University of California, San Diego. He's also president of the
Japan Policy Research Institute. He's written for a number of
publications, including the /Los Angeles Times/, /The London Review of
Books/, /Harper’s/ magazine and /The Nation/. In 2005, he was featured
prominently in the award-winning documentary, /Why We Fight/. Chalmers
Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking him about
the title of his book, /Nemesis/.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Nemesis was the ancient Greek goddess of
revenge, the punisher of hubris and arrogance in human beings. You
may recall she is the one that led Narcissus to the pond and
showed him his reflection, and he dove in and drowned. I chose the
title, because it seems to me that she's present in our country
right now, just waiting to make her -- to carry out her divine
By the subtitle, I really do mean it. This is not just hype to
sell books -- ?The Last Days of the American Republic.? I’m here
concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political
analysis, namely that the political system of the United States
today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations
there is -- that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire -- that
the choices are stark. A nation can be one or the other, a
democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to
imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so
much of our system was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it
will lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.
I’ve spent some time in the book talking about an alternative,
namely that of the British Empire after World War II, in which it
made the decision, not perfectly executed by any manner of means,
but nonetheless made the decision to give up its empire in order
to keep its democracy. It became apparent to the British quite
late in the game that they could keep the jewel in their crown,
India, only at the expense of administrative massacres, of which
they had carried them out often in India. In the wake of the war
against Nazism, which had just ended, it became, I think, obvious
to the British that in order to retain their empire, they would
have to become a tyranny, and they, therefore, I believe, properly
chose, admirably chose to give up their empire.
As I say, they didn't do it perfectly. There were tremendous
atavistic fallbacks in the 1950s in the Anglo, French, Israeli
attack on Egypt; in the repression of the Kikuyu -- savage
repression, really -- in Kenya; and then, of course, the most
obvious and weird atavism of them all, Tony Blair and his
enthusiasm for renewed British imperialism in Iraq. But
nonetheless, it seems to me that the history of Britain is clear
that it gave up its empire in order to remain a democracy. I
believe this is something we should be discussing very hard in the
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson, you connect the breakdown of
constitutional government with militarism.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Yes.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Can you talk about the signs of the breakdown of
constitutional government and how it links?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, yes. Militarism is the -- what the
social side has called the ?intervening variable,? the causative
connection. That is to say, to maintain an empire requires a very
large standing army, huge expenditures on arms that leads to a
military-industrial complex, and generally speaking, a vicious
cycle sets up of interests that lead to perpetual series of wars.
It goes back to probably the earliest warning ever delivered to us
by our first president, George Washington, in his famous farewell
address. It’s read at the opening of every new session of
Congress. Washington said that the great enemy of the republic is
standing armies; it is a particular enemy of republican liberty.
What he meant by it is that it breaks down the separation of
powers into an executive, legislative, and judicial branches that
are intended to check each other -- this is our most fundamental
bulwark against dictatorship and tyranny -- it causes it to break
down, because standing armies, militarism, military establishment,
military-industrial complex all draw power away from the rest of
the country to Washington, including taxes, that within Washington
they draw it to the presidency, and they begin to create an
imperial presidency, who then implements the military's desire for
secrecy, making oversight of the government almost impossible for
a member of Congress, even, much less for a citizen.
It seems to me that this is also the same warning that Dwight
Eisenhower gave in his famous farewell address of 1961, in which
he, in quite vituperative language, quite undiplomatic language --
one ought to go back and read Eisenhower. He was truly alarmed
when he spoke of the rise of a large arms industry that was beyond
supervision, that was not under effective control of the interests
of the military-industrial complex, a phrase that he coined. We
know from his writings that he intended to say a
military-industrial-congressional complex. He was warned off from
going that far. But it's in that sense that I believe the nexus --
or, that is, the incompatibility between domestic democracy and
foreign imperialism comes into being.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Who was he warned by?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Members of Congress. Republican memb--
*AMY GOODMAN: *And why were they opposed?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, they did not want to have their
oversight abilities impugned. They weren't carrying them out very
well. You must also say that Eisenhower was -- I think he's been
overly praised for this. It was a heroic statement, but at the
same time, he was the butcher of Guatemala, the person who
authorized our first clandestine operation and one of the most
tragic that we ever did: the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in
Iran in 1953 for the sake of the British Petroleum Company. And he
also presided over the fantastic growth of the military-industrial
complex, of the lunatic oversupply of nuclear weapons, of the
empowering of the Air Force, and things of this sort. It seems to
be only at the end that he realized what a monster he had created.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson, author of /Nemesis: The Last Days of
the American Republic/. We'll come back to him in a minute.
*AMY GOODMAN: *As we return to my interview with Chalmers Johnson -- his
new book, /Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic/ -- I asked
him to talk about the expansion of US military bases around the globe.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *According to the official count right now --
it's something called the Base Structure Report, which is an
unclassified Pentagon inventory of real property owned around the
world and the cost it would take to replace it -- there are right
now 737 American military bases on every continent, in well over
130 countries. Some apologists from the Pentagon like to say,
well, this is false, that we're counting Marine guards at
embassies. I guarantee you that it's simply stupid. We don't have
anything like 737 American embassies abroad, and all of these are
genuine military bases with all of the problems that that involves.
In the southernmost prefecture of Japan, Okinawa, site of the
Battle of Okinawa in 1945, there’s a small island, smaller than
Hawaii in the Hawaiian islands, with 1,300,000 Okinawans. There's
thirty-seven American military bases there. The revolt against
them has been endemic for fifty years. The governor is always
saying to the local military commander, ?You're living on the side
of a volcano that could explode at any time.? It has exploded in
the past. What this means is just an endless, nonstop series of
sexually violent crimes, drunken brawls, hit-and-run accidents,
environmental pollution, noise pollution, helicopters falling out
of the air from Futenma Marine Corps Air Base and falling onto the
campus of Okinawa International University. One thing after
another. Back in 1995, we had one of the most serious incidents,
when two Marines and a sailor abducted, beat and raped a
twelve-year-old girl. This led to the largest demonstrations
against the United States since we signed the security treaty with
Japan decades ago. It's this kind of thing.
I first went to Okinawa in 1996. I was invited by then-Governor
Ota in the wake of the rape incident. I’ve devoted my life to the
study of Japan, but like many Japanese, many Japanese specialists,
I had never been in Okinawa. I was shocked by what I saw. It was
the British Raj. It was like Soviet troops living in East Germany,
more comfortable than they would be back at, say, Oceanside,
California, next door to Camp Pendleton. And it was a scandal in
every sense. My first reaction -- I’ve not made a secret of it --
that I was, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, certainly a
Cold Warrior. My first explanation was that this is simply off the
beaten track, that people don't come down here and report it. As I
began to study the network of bases around the world and the
incidents that have gone with them and the military coups that
have brought about regime change and governments that we approve
of, I began to realize that Okinawa was not unusual; it was,
These bases, as I say, are spread everywhere. The most recent
manifestation of the American military empire is the decision by
the Pentagon now, with presidential approval, of course, to create
another regional command in Africa. This may either be at the base
that we have in Djibouti at the Horn of Africa. It may well be in
the Gulf of Guinea, where we are prospecting for oil, and the Navy
would very much like to put ourselves there. It is not at all
clear that we should have any form of American military presence
in Africa, but we're going to have an enlarged one.
Invariably, remember what this means. Imperialism is a form of
tyranny. It never rules through consent of the governed. It
doesn't ask for the consent of the governed. We talk about the
spread of democracy, but we're talking about the spread of
democracy at the point of an assault rifle. That's a contradiction
in terms. It doesn't work. Any self-respecting person being
democratized in this manner starts thinking of retaliation.
Nemesis becomes appropriate.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson, there have been major protests
against US military bases. Recently in Vicenza in Italy, about
100,000 people protested. Ecuador announced that it would close
the Manta Air Base, the military base there. What about the
response, the resistance to this web of bases around the world?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, there is a genuine resistance and has
been for a long time. As I say, in the case of Okinawa, there's
been at least three different historical revolts against the
American presence. There's collaboration between the Japanese
government and the Pentagon to use this island, which is a
Japanese version of Puerto Rico. It's a place that's always been
discriminated against. It's the Japanese way of having their cake
and eating it, too. They like the alliance with America, but they
do not want American soldiers based anywhere near the citizens of
mainland Japan. So they essentially dump them or quarantine them
off into this island, where the population pays the cost.
This is true, what's going on in Italy right now, where there is
tremendous resistance to the CIA rendition cases. That is,
kidnapping people that we've identified and flying them secretly
to countries where we know they will be tortured. There's right
now something like twenty-five CIA officers by name who are under
indictment by the Italian government for felonies committed by
agents of the United States in Italy. And, indeed, we just did
have these major demonstrations in Vicenza. The people there
believe that with the enlargement of the base that is already
there -- I mean, this is, after all, the old Palladian city, a
city of great and famous architecture, that they would become a
target of terrorism, of numerous other things.
We see the resistance in the form of Prime Minister Zapatero in
Spain, that he promised the people that after he came to power, he
would get out of Iraq, and he was one of the few who did deliver,
who does remember that if democracy means anything, it means that
public opinion matters, though in an awful lot of countries, it
doesn't actually seem to be the case. But he has reduced radically
the American military presence in Spain.
And it continues around the world. There is a growing irritation
at the American colossus athwart the world, using its military
muscle to do as it pleases. We see it right now, that people of
the Persian Gulf are not being asked whether or not they want
anywhere between two and four huge carrier task forces in the
fifth fleet in CENTCOM's navy in the Persian Gulf, and all of
which looks like preparation for an assault on Iran. We don't know
that for certain by any manner of means, but there's plenty enough
to make us suspicious.
Then you look back historically, probably there is no more
anti-American democracy on earth than Greece. They will never
forgive us for bringing to power the Greek colonels the in the
late ?60s and early ?70s, and, of course, also establishing then
numerous American military enclaves in Greece until the colonels
themselves finally self-destructed by simply going too far.
And the cases are ubiquitous in Latin America, in Africa today.
Probably still the most important area, of course, of military
imperialism is the opening up of southern Eurasia, after it became
available to foreign imperialistic pressure with the collapse of
the Soviet Union.
Many important observers who have resigned their commissions from
the Pentagon have made the case that the fundamental explanation
for the war in Iraq was precisely to make it the new -- to replace
the two old pillars of American foreign policy in the Middle East.
The first pillar, Iran, collapsed, of course, with the revolution
in 1979 against the Shah, who we had installed in power. The
second pillar, Saudi Arabia, had become less and less useful to
us, because of our own bungling. We put forces, military forces,
ground forces, an air force, in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in
1991. This was unnecessary, it was stupid, it was arrogant. It
caused antagonism among numerous patriotic Saudis, not least of
whom, one was our former asset and colleague, Osama bin Laden --
that Saudi Arabia is charged with the defense of the two most
sacred sites in Islam: Mecca and Medina. We ought to be able to do
this ourselves without using infidel troops that know absolutely
nothing about our religion, our country, our lifestyle, or
anything else. Over time, the Saudis began to restrict the use of
Prince Sultan Air Base outside Riyadh. We actually closed down our
major operations headquarters there just before the invasion of
Iraq and moved it to Qatar.
And then we chose Iraq as the second most oil-rich country on
earth, and as a place perfectly suited for our presence. I think
many people have commented on it, Seymour Hersh notably, but I
think, importantly, one of the reasons we had no exit plan from
Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave. And certainly the evidence
of it is the now series of at least five very, very large, heavily
reinforced, long double runways, five air bases in Iraq,
strategically located all over the country. You can never get our
ambassador, the Department of Defense, the President, or anybody
to say unequivocally we don't intend to have bases there. It's a
subject on which Congress never, ever opens its mouth.
Occasionally, military officers -- the commander of Air Force in
CENTCOM has repeatedly, in his sort of off-hand way, when asked,
‘How long do you think we'll be here’? and he usually says, ‘Oh,
at least a decade in these bases.’ And then, we continue to
Now, then, we’ve tried to build bases in Central Asia in the
Caspian Basin oil-rich countries that were made independent -- not
in any sense democracies -- made independent by the collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1991. We have now been thrown out of one of
them for too much heavy-handed interference. And the price of our
stay in Kyrgyzstan has quadrupled, much more than that actually.
It’s gone from a few million dollars to well over $100 million.
But we continue to play these games, and they are games, and the
game is property called imperialism.
*AMY GOODMAN: *We're talking to Chalmers Johnson. Now, Chalmers
Johnson, you were a consultant for the CIA for a period through
Richard Nixon, starting with Johnson in 1967, right through 1973.
And I’m wondering how you see its use has changed. You talk about,
and you write in your book about the Central Intelligence Agency,
the president's private army.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *I say, at one point, we will never know peace
until we abolish it, or, at any rate, restrict what is the monster
that it's grown into. The National Security Act of 1947 lists five
functions. It creates the Central Intelligence Agency. It lists
five functions for it. The purpose, above all, was to prevent
surprise attack, to prevent a recurrence of the attack, such as
the one at Pearl Harbor. Of these five functions, four are various
forms of information-gathering through open sources, espionage,
signals intelligence, things of this sort. The fifth is simply a
catchall, that the CIA will do anything that the National Security
Council, namely the foreign affairs bureaucracy in the White House
attached directly to the president orders it to do.
That's turned out to be the tail that wags the dog. Intelligence
is not taken all that seriously. It's not that good. My function
inside the agency in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s was in the Office
of National Estimates. My wife used to ask me at times, ‘Why are
they so highly classified’? And I said, ‘Well, probably and
mostly, simply because they’re the very best we can do, and they
read like a sort of lowbrow foreign affairs article.’ They're not
full of great technical detail and certainty nothing on sources of
But as the agency developed over time, and as it was made clear to
the president, every president since Truman, made clear to them
shortly after they were inaugurated, you have at your disposal a
private army. It is totally secret. There is no form of oversight.
There was no form of congressional oversight until the late 1970s,
and it proved to be incompetent in the face of Iran-Contra and
things like that. He can do anything you want to with it. You
could order assassinations. You could order governments
overthrown. You could order economies subverted that seemed to get
in our way. You could instruct Latin American military officers in
state terrorism. You can carry out extraordinary renditions and
order the torture of people, despite the fact that it is a clear
violation of American law and carries the death penalty if the
torture victim should die, and they commonly do in the case of
renditions to places like Egypt.
No president since Truman, once told that he has this power, has
ever failed to use it. That became the route of rapid advancement
within the CIA, dirty tricks, clandestine activities, the carrying
out of the president's orders to overthrow somebody, starting --
the first one was the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in
1953. It’s from that, the After Action Report, which has only
recently been declassified, that the word ‘blowback’ that I used
in the first of my three books on American foreign policy, that's
where the word ‘blowback’ comes from. It means retaliation for
clandestine activities carried out abroad.
But these clandestine activities also have one other caveat on
them: they are kept totally secret from the American public, so
that when the retaliation does come, they're unable ever to put it
in context, to see it in cause-and-effect terms. They usually lash
out against the alleged perpetrators, usually simply inaugurating
another cycle of blowback. The best example is easily 9/11 in
2001, which was clearly blowback for the largest clandestine
operation we ever carried out, namely the recruiting, arming and
sending into battle of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the
Soviet Union during the 1980s. But this is the way the CIA has
It's been responsible for the overthrow of Salvador Allende in
Chile and bringing to power probably the most odious dictator on
either side in the Cold War, namely General Augusto Pinochet; the
installation of the Greek colonels in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s
in Greece; the coups, one after another, in numerous Latin
American countries, all under the cover of avoiding Soviet
imperialism carried out by Fidel Castro, when the real purpose was
to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company, and
continued to exploit the extremely poor and essentially
defenseless people of Central America.
The list is endless. The overthrow of Sukarno in Indonesia, the
bringing to power of General Suharto, then the elimination of
General Suharto when he got on our nerves. It has a distinctly
Roman quality to it. And this is why I -- moreover, there is no
effective oversight. There are a few, often crooked congressmen,
like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who are charged with oversight. When
Charlie Wilson, the congressman, long-sitting congressman from the
Second District of Texas, was named chairman of the House
Intelligence Oversight Committee during the Afghan period, he
wrote at once to his pals in the CIA, ‘The fox is in the henhouse.
Gentlemen, do anything you want to.’
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson has just finished his trilogy. The first
was /Blowback/, then /Sorrows of Empire/, now /Nemesis: The Last Days of
the American Republic/. We'll be back with the conclusion of the
interview in a minute.
*AMY GOODMAN: *We return to the conclusion of my interview with Chalmers
Johnson. Professor Johnson is a noted expert on Asia politics. He has
authored a number of books on the Chinese revolution, on Japanese
economic development. In his thirty years in the University of
California system, Johnson served as chair of the Center for Chinese
Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. I asked him to talk
about China's role as a growing world power.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *I’m optimistic about China. I think that they
have shown a remarkable movement toward moderation. I believe that
the public supports them, because they've done something that the
public wanted done and was extremely fearful about, namely the
dismantling of a Leninist economy without reducing the conditions
that occurred in Yeltsin's Russia, that China has -- it’s
unleashed its fantastic growth potential and is moving ahead with
great power and insight.
There are many things that we do not like in the way this is
developing, particularly the fear of China by the American
neoconservatives. They have no alternative but to adjust to this.
It's the same kind of adjustment that should have been made in the
20th century to the rise of new sources of power in Germany, in
Russia, in Japan. The failure by the sated English-speaking powers
-- above all, England and the United States -- to adjust led to
savage and essentially worthless wars. But the Americans are again
continuing to harp on China's growth, where, in fact, I’ve been
impressed with the ease with which China has adjusted to the
interests of countries that do not necessarily like China at all
-- Indonesia, for example, Vietnam.
They are contiguously egging on the Japanese to be antagonistic
toward China, which was the scene of their greatest war crimes
during World War II, for which they have never adequately either
responded or paid compensation. I wonder what foolishness is this.
A war with China would have the same -- it would have the same
configuration as the Vietnam War. We would certainly lose it.
The glue, the political glue of China today, the source of its
legitimacy, is increasingly Chinese nationalism, which is
passionately held. As the Hong Kong joke has it, China just had a
couple of bad centuries, and it's back.
We have not been watching it with quite the hawk eyes we were
during the first months of the Bush administration, when, after a
spy incident in which the Chinese forced down one of our
reconnaissance planes that was penetrating their coastal areas in
an extremely aggressive manner -- if it had been a Chinese plane
off of our coast, we would have shot it down; they simply forced
it down, it was a loss of an airplane and one of their own pilots
-- that, you'll recall, George Bush said on television that he
would, if the Chinese ever menaced the island of Taiwan, he would
use the full weight and force of the American military against
China. This is insanity, genuine insanity. There's no way that --
I mean, if the Chinese defeated every single American, they'd
still have 800 million of them left, and you simply have to adjust
to that, not antagonize it, and I believe there's plenty of ample
evidence that you can adjust to the Chinese.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson, in January, the Chinese launched
their first anti-satellite test, and I wanted to segue into that
to the miniaturization of space.
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, precisely, I have a chapter in /Nemesis/
that I’m extremely proud of called ‘The Ultimate Imperialist
Project: Outer Space.’ It's about the congressional missile lobby,
the fantastic waste of funds on things that we know don't work.
But they're not intended to work. They're part of military
Keynesianism, of maintaining our economy through military
expenditures. They provide jobs in as many different
constituencies as the military-industrial complex can place them.
We have arrogantly talked about full-spectrum dominance of control
of the globe from outer space, the domination of the low and high
orbits that are so necessary. We've all become so dependent upon
them today for global positioning devices, telecommunications,
mapping, weather forecasting, one thing after another. In fact,
the Chinese, the Russians, the Europeans have been asking us
repeatedly for decent international measures, international
treaties, to prevent the weaponization of space, to prevent the
growing catastrophe of orbiting debris that are extremely lethal
to satellites, to -- as Sally Ride, one of the commanders of our
space shuttle, she was in an incident in which a piece of paint,
or in orbit -- that's at 17,000 miles an hour in low-earth orbit
-- hit the windshield of the challenger and put a bad dent in it.
Now, if a piece of paint can do that, I hate to tell you what a
lens cap or an old wrench or something like that -- so there's a
whole bunch of them out there. At the Johnson Space Center, they
keep a regular growing inventory of these old pieces of, some
case, weaponry, some case, launch vehicles for satellites, things
of this sort. They publish a very lovely little newsletter that
talks about how a piece of an American space capsule from twenty
years ago rear-ended a shot Chinese-launched vehicle and produced
a few more debris. It's a catastrophe.
But instead, we've got -- there's no other word for it -- an
arrogant, almost Roman, out-of-control Air Force that continues to
serve the interests of the military-industrial complex, the space
lobby, to build things that they know won't work.
*AMY GOODMAN: *What is a space Pearl Harbor?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *A space Pearl Harbor would mean, they believe,
what the Chinese did in January, when they tested an
anti-satellite weapon against one of their old and redundant
satellites. Satellites do burn out. There's no way to repair them,
so they simply shot it down with a rocket. This explosion produces
massive amounts of debris, whizzing around the earth in low-earth
orbit. If you put it higher into orbit, you would start killing
off the main satellites on which, well, probably this television
broadcast is going to depend on, too. And there's no way to ever
get rid of things that are orbiting in high-earth orbit. Low-earth
orbit, some of them will descend into the atmosphere and burn up.
But the Air Force has continuously used this so-called threat of
our being blinded by -- because we have become so reliant on
global positioning systems. Our so-called ‘smart bombs’ depend on
them, that we’ve -- they're not very smart, and it's not as good a
global positioning system as the peaceful one the Europeans are
building called Galileo. They use it to say we must arm space, we
must have anti-satellite weapons in space, we have rebuffed every
effort to control this, and finding out the Chinese have called
*AMY GOODMAN: *Where does Fort Greely, Alaska, fit into this, the
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, that is, there's three ways to shoot
down an alleged incoming missile. This is the whole farce of
whether there is a defense against a missile. I guarantee you
there is no defense at all against the Topol-M, the Russian
missile that goes into orbit extremely rapidly -- it goes into its
arch extremely rapidly. It has a maneuvering ability that means
that it's undetectable.
We're basically looking at very low-brow weapons that would be
coming from a country like North Korea, in which we have three
different ways of trying to intercept them. We used to only try to
do with one under the Clinton administration. Under the enthusiasm
of the current neoconservatives, we have three ways. One, on
blastoff, this is extremely difficult to do, but we're trying to
create a laser, carried in a Boeing 747, that would hit one.
You've got to be virtually on top of the launch site in order to
do so. It’s never worked. It probably doesn't work, and it's just
The much more common one would be to down the hostile missile,
while it is in outer space, from having given up its launch
vehicle and is now heading at very high speed toward the United
States. This is what the interceptors that have been put in the
ground at Fort Greely, Alaska, and a couple of them at Vandenberg
Air Force Base in California, are supposed to do. They have never
once yet had a successful intercept. The radar is not there to
actually track the allegedly hostile vehicle. As one senior
Pentagon scientist said the other day, these are really
essentially scarecrows, hoping that they would scare off the North
This is a catastrophic misuse of resources against a small and
failed communist state, North Korea. There is no easier thing on
earth to detect than a hostile missile launch, and the proper
approach to preventing that is deterrence. We have thought about
it, worked on it, practiced it, studied it now for decades. The
North Koreans have an excellent reputation for rationality. They
know if they did launch such a vehicle at Japan or at the United
States, they would disappear the next day in a retaliatory strike,
and they don't do it.
It's why, in the case of Iran, the only logical thing to do is to
learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran. It's inevitable for a
country now surrounded by nuclear powers -- the United States in
the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union, Israel, Pakistan and India.
The Iranians are rationalists and recognize the only way you're
ever going to dissuade people from using their nuclear power to
intimidate us is a threat of retaliation. So we are developing our
minimal deterrent, and we should learn to live with it.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Finally, Chalmers Johnson, you have just completed
your trilogy. Your first book, /Blowback/, then /Sorrows of
Empire/, and now finally /Nemesis: The Last Days of the American
Republic/. What is your prediction?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, I don't see any way out of it. I think
it's gone too far. I think we are domestically too dependent on
the military-industrial complex, that every time -- I mean, it's
perfectly logical for any Secretary of Defense to try and close
military bases that are redundant, that are useless, that are worn
out, that go back to the Civil War. Any time he tries to do it,
you produce an uproar in the surrounding community from
newspapers, television, priests, local politicians: save our base.
The two mother hens of the Defense Facilities Subcommittee of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, the people committed to taking
care of our bases are easily Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and
Dianne Feinstein of California, the two states with the largest
number of military bases, and those two senators would do anything
in their power to keep them open. This is the insidious way in
which the military-industrial complex has penetrated into our
democracy and gravely weakened it, produced vested interests in
what I call military Keynesianism, the use and manipulation of
what is now three-quarters of a trillion dollars of the Defense
budget, once you include all the other things that aren't included
in just the single appropriation for the Department of Defense.
This is a -- it's out of control. We depend upon it, we like it,
we live off of it. I cannot imagine any President of any party
putting together the coalition of forces that could begin to break
into these vested interests, any more than a Gorbachev was able to
do it in his attempted reforms of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.
*AMY GOODMAN: *Is there anything, Chalmers, that gives you hope?
*CHALMERS JOHNSON: *Well, that's exactly what we're doing this
morning. That is, the only way -- you've got to reconstitute the
constitutional system in America, or it is over. That is that
empires -- once you go in the direction of empire, you ultimately
lead to overstretch, bankruptcy, coalitions of nations hostile to
your imperialism. We're well on that route.
The way that it might be stopped is by a mobilization of
inattentive citizens. I don't know that that's going to happen.
I’m extremely dubious, given the nature of conglomerate control
of, say, the television networks in America for the sake of
advertising revenue. We see Rupert Murdoch talking about buying a
third of the /Los Angeles Times/. But, nonetheless, there is the
internet, there is Amy Goodman, there are -- there's a lot more
information than there was.
One of the things I have experienced in these three books is a
much more receptive audience of alarmed Americans to /Nemesis/
than to the previous two books, where there was considerable
skepticism, so that one -- if we do see a renaissance of
citizenship in America, then I believe we could recapture our
government. If we continue politics as in the past, then I think
there is no alternative but to say Nemesis is in the country,
she's on the premises, and she is waiting to carry out her divine
*AMY GOODMAN: *Chalmers Johnson, his new book is /Nemesis: The Last Days
of the American Republic/. It's the last volume in his /Blowback/
trilogy, following the best-selling /Blowback/ and /The Sorrows of Empire/.