Category "America: Republic or Empire?"

Evil Empire

June 24th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Chalmers Johnson delivers this essay, yet another of his devastatingly accurate and succinct diagnosis on the true, systemic nature of the problems afflicting America today.

Just a few money shot lines from this essay….

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.

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If 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.”

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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.

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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.

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The Colossus of Baghdad: Wonders of the Imperial World

June 15th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Tom Engelhardt considers the new American embassy being built in Baghdad and writes Here

As an outpost, this vast compound reeks of one thing: imperial impunity. It was never meant to be an embassy from a democracy that had liberated an oppressed land. From the first thought, the first sketch, it was to be the sort of imperial control-center suitable for the planet’s sole ‘hyperpower,’ dropped into the middle of the oil heartlands of the globe. It was to be Washington’s dream and Kansas City’s idea of a palace fit for an embattled American proconsul - or a khan.

This is a recommended piece for those interested in understanding the imperial designs of this whole venture in the Iraq. Its also great for quoting from the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a favorite of mine for its descriptive qualities of the futility of man’s hubris and arrogance (and it makes for a great b-side by The Stranglers’ bassist Jean-Jean Burnel).

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Anti-U.S. Uproar Sweeps Italy

May 11th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

People seem to have had enough of being colonized by the empire. The U.S. has over 700 military installations around the world. The people of Italy are not about to acquiesce to the addition of one more. Good for them. How happy would you be if a foreign power came into your town and said they were going to build a military installation in it, and give themselves host of special rights and privileges in accordance with it as well?

“The people of Vicenza and the Americans have always been friends,” Cinzia said. “But when you invite a friend to your house and give them a room, it changes when they demand to have the whole house.”

As in much of the world, Vicenza is already overrun by American soldiers who drink too much, commit too many crimes, return from Iraq in mental anguish, and - since 9-11 - remain ever more isolated from the Italians. It’s the Vicentines’ city, but they are second-class citizens. If an Italian is waiting in line in a hospital emergency room, and a U.S. soldier comes in, the soldier can go straight to the front. And the economic argument so cynically used all over the United States to keep our economy based on war does not work in Vicenza: Italian tax payers are paying a large portion of the cost of their own occupation.

American taxpayers, on the other hand, are completely oblivious to the fact that they are paying hundreds of millions of dollars for the construction of a base that has enraged the nation of Italy and serves no purpose that the people of the United States have ever debated or had any say in. While the State Department and the Pentagon make our decisions for us, the Congress does have to approve the money. They’ve already approved half of the money for this base, and the rest is expected to be voted on by October.

The people of Vicenza have also had no say in this. They handed in 10,000 signatures and requested a referendum, but were denied. The Italian government has said it will permit the base, but it has not actually issued the construction permits. Leaders of the opposition movement met with the Minister of Defense who said that Italy was capable of saying No to the United States. But the U.S. ambassador gave Italy a deadline of January 19th to accept the base, and the Prime Minister announced his acceptance of it on a trip abroad on January 16th. While no permits have been issued, fiberoptic cables have been laid on the site, which activists have dug up and ripped out.

Enough empires. Time to fulfill the purpose of the American Revolution, which was an anti-corporate, anti-empire act of resistance, and end them all. Especially the one usurping the American flag.

And of course, what is most telling about this is how this a huge story in Europe, but is almost totally unheard of in America. Our wonderful media system comes through again.

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Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

March 15th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

A good interview with Chalmers Johnson by Amy Goodman, producer and host of Democracy Now! Johnson, a former CIA analyst, distinguished scholar and best-selling author, argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation’s collapse as a constitutional republic. Unfortunately, he makes an extremely compelling case, which we ignore at our own peril.

Empire vs. Democracy: Why Nemesis Is At Our Door

February 4th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Chalmers Johnson delivers another essential history lesson for our woefully under-informed citizenry. His work should be required reading in every American high school history and social studies class.

I had set out to explain how exactly our government came to be so hated around the world. As a CIA term of tradecraft, “blowback” does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to, and in, foreign countries. It refers specifically to retaliation for illegal operations carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. These operations have included the clandestine overthrow of governments various administrations did not like, the training of foreign militaries in the techniques of state terrorism, the rigging of elections in foreign countries, interference with the economic viability of countries that seemed to threaten the interests of influential American corporations, as well as the torture or assassination of selected foreigners. The fact that these actions were, at least originally, secret meant that when retaliation does come - as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 - the American public is incapable of putting the events in context. Not surprisingly, then, Americans tend to support speedy acts of revenge intended to punish the actual, or alleged, perpetrators. These moments of lashing out, of course, only prepare the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.

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Whatever future developments may prove to be, my best guess is that the US will continue to maintain a facade of constitutional government and drift along until financial bankruptcy overtakes it. Of course, bankruptcy will not mean the literal end of the US any more than it did for Germany in 1923, China in 1948, or Argentina in 2001-2002. It might, in fact, open the way for an unexpected restoration of the American system - or for military rule, revolution, or simply some new development we cannot yet imagine.

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There’s more on this from Chalmers Johnson in his post on TPM Cafe

Meet The New PNAC

January 19th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Its “Project For The New American Century 2.0.” This time they are calling it the Foundation For Defence of Democracies. Here are some of the featured members of it’s star-studded batting line up (though I imagine Dr. Kirkpatrick isn’t making many board meetings these days)….

Board of Directors
Steve Forbes
Dr. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
Jack Kemp

Distinguished Advisors
Judge Louis J. Freeh
Fmr. Director of the FBI
Sen. Joseph Lieberman
Newt Gingrich
R. James Woolsey

Board of Advisors
Gary Bauer
Bill Kristol
Donna Brazile
Hon. Richard D. Lamm
Rep. Eric Cantor
Rep. Jim Marshall
Rep. Eliot Engel
Sen. Zell Miller
Frank Gaffney
Richard Perle
Amb. Marc Ginsberg
Steven Pomerantz
Charles Jacobs
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
Charles Krauthammer

Of course, it would help to legitimize their endeavor if there were actually some bonafide legitimate working democracies in existence, particularly one here in the United States. But hey, why quibble over details? Not to say that there are not certain elements of democratic processes functioning within various states around the world, but to call any of them actual democracies is a stretch. It would also help if any of these people listed actually had a record of fighting for establishing and defending democratic rights and practices at home before leading a crusade to institute them elsewhere.

America’s Future: Managing Imperial Decline

November 23rd, 2006 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Its truly sad that it is coming to this. It didn’t have to be this way, but alas, the hubris of power and the megalomania of the neo-conservatives take their toll. Not that we should have ever had these kinds of delusional ambitions, but that those with them actually wrested the levers of power and perverted the whole notion of an American republic as one founded in 1776 in order to overthrow empire, actually morphing into the very thing we were born into existence to oppose. But then, this trend certainly didn’t start with the neo-cons, as it has been going on since the early days of the nation itself.

Here we can see the cost of Bush’s adventurism for American imperial power. In failing to understand the inherent limits of US global power consequent upon deeper, though seemingly unrecognised, longer-term global trends, the Bush administration hugely overestimated American power and thereby committed a gross act of imperial over-reach, for which subsequent administrations will pay a heavy price. Far from the US simply conjoining its pre-1989 power with that of the deceased USSR, it is increasingly confronted with a world marked by the growing power of a range of new national actors, notably - but by no means only - China, India and Brazil.

Just six years into the 21st century, one can say this is not shaping up to be anything like an American century. Rather, the US seems much more likely to be faced with a very different kind of future: how to manage its own imperial decline. And, as a footnote, one might add that this is a task for which pragmatists are rather better suited than ideologues.

Our nation, our people and the future health and well-being (physically and financially) of our nation will be what suffers, unfortunately.

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The War That Finished Off America’s Century

October 25th, 2006 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

The War That Finished Off America’s Century
By Ian Bell
The Herald, UK
October 24th, 2006

Arrogance and stupidity. The former is “undue assumption of importance conceit, self-importance”, says Chambers. Stupid is “stupefied or stunned; senseless; insensible; deficient or dull in understanding; showing lack of reason or judgment; foolish; dull; boring” (Ditto).

Interesting language, you will allow. Brief, to the point and probably better than merely accurate, given the context. Yet we can be forgiven for thinking that the previously unknown, soon-to-be-invisible Mr Alberto Fernandez wishes this morning that he had spent more time with his dictionary and his thesaurus before chatting, presumably with someone’s approval, to Al Jazeera television.

To put it no higher, you do not further a career in the State Department, down in Washington’s Foggy Bottom, by composing the obituary for a presidency in public. Your superiors are liable to get the wrong idea. In the absurd language of the Beltway, Fernandez says now that his words were “seriously mis-spoken”. One guesses his bosses may have suggested a more succinct formulation.

Still, there we have it. How does one US government functionary define his country’s intervention in Iraq? Dumb and driven by hubris, that’s how. White House-watchers may tell you that this was merely State hitting back at Defence, or Condi’s mouthpiece biting a chunk from Rummy’s policy. It hardly matters. With President Bush confessing to a Vietnam parallel, with Britain’s government showing every sign of policy paralysis, we are where we are: defeat looms. What follows?

The gossip from Washington suggests that the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, will zip the last body bag when it reports this winter. Students of family tragedy detect the hand of George Bush senior in a former employee’s efforts to slap down Bush junior. This is interesting, but not relevant. Instead, if the leaks from the commission are to be believed, even Republican America has begun to think the unthinkable: Iraq is a catastrophe. The time to cut and run is approaching.

If that is the case, the destruction of Britain’s global influence, commenced at Suez a neat half-century ago, will be complete. No-one trusts us. No-one values our independence of mind or spirit, such as it remains. We are no-one’s idea of honest brokers, and too puny militarily to replace even a decent police force in Basra or Helmand. Boys are dying needlessly for the sake of Tony Blair’s self-esteem. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

If Fernandez is any sort of weather vane, or if Baker’s group demands a sharp change in US “tactics”, as most expect, something important has happened. Call it this: with Iraq, the last superpower has demonstrated its essential impotence. The American century has drawn to a close, finally. Yet very few people have begun even to imagine what might follow.

Forget Iraq and global terror, just for a second. Did you notice how Bush brought North Korea to heel? Were you impressed when he put Iran, nuclear ambitions and all, back in the box? Did you detect China’s respect for America’s status when the Korean peninsula became a troubling issue? Was that Vladimir Putin cocking a snook at the White House? Or was that Hizbollah laying down its rocket launchers in deference to American ideals?

Europe has no right, need or excuse to mock. America remains hugely powerful, with an enormous potential for good. The global economy depends still on the greenback and, more importantly, on the capacity of the US to swallow everyone’s debts. The point is no longer the comical verbal infelicities of the junior Bush, Donald Rumsfeld’s manifest incompetence, or the lies of a Prime Minister. We are entering the post-imperial phase. So what comes next?

Such sense as emerges from Washington these days betrays incomprehension. All those who were once gung-ho, wrapped in the flag with their metaphorical boots on foreign ground, cannot grasp how it came to this. America has all the firepower, all the technology and all the borrowed money anyone could desire: so what’s the problem? Yet America cannot, on the evidence, subdue one small country and a relatively minor insurgency. Whether it can then propose to quell low-intensity global terrorism thus becomes a key question for the Bush presidency, and for what remains of the American imperium.

I am no fan of empires. I lack the specific patriot gene. I know perfectly well, equally, that the econ-omy of the US did rather well from the humiliation of Vietnam, that it bounced back without breaking sweat, and that the decline of the west has been predicted rather too often. Some comparisons are interesting, nevertheless. Didn’t little Britain once keep order, if bloodily, all across Iraq?

America has the wrong kind of power, in abundance. If you cannot crush North Korea, the tin-pot of tin-pots, what can you crush, precisely? If you can dream of star wars and fail to cope with mere militia, what is the meaning of “arrogance”, exactly, never mind “stupidity”? Alberto Fernandez can regret his frankness while he contemplates a wrecked career. He can claim to have attempted honest debate. But we are invited to wonder at the failure of American confidence. Iraq, remember, was supposed to be easy.

In international affairs, a vacuum is abhorrent and ultimately intolerable. We can expect a Chinese 21st century, I suspect, and an Indian commercial hegemony at the margins. We can look forward to Europe’s brief resurgence, perhaps, in a kind of late cultural flowering. But if America’s incredible spending on defence cannot secure even the short-term interests of a single President, something historic has occurred. The guarantee that made the Cold War conceivable has been withdrawn. The consumerist maw that kept economies busy for 50 years becomes irrelevant.

All because of one President’s arrogance, and one dictator’s stupidity: simple, really. The point of Iraq, after all, was supposed to be democracy and the defeat of tyranny. These were America’s gifts to the world, vested in the legacy of the Second World War. That promise has not been kept. After Blair has departed, Britain will need to think again about necessities and loyalties.

Alberto Fernandez probably had no such thoughts in mind when he spoke too freely to Al Jazeera’s Arab audience. I suspect he intended to prove that humility survives within America’s body politic. If so, he underestimated both the inherent weakness of the republic and the determination of its enemies. I offer no comfort to the latter. I wonder, in fact, how those of us who have opposed the Washington neo-cons will feel if the US is enfeebled permanently. This was never supposed to be either/or.

History has little room for debating societies: they command no divisions. Imperial puissance fades, meanwhile, amid the usual arrogance and the standard stupidity. No-one can choose a world in their own image: that’s the fantasy. No force of arms can, meanwhile, ensure an empire’s survival. America’s decline begins to seem like a puerile kind of fable, one glutted with lies and bathos. Why is a Britain that knows better being dragged into the mess? Blair’s therapist might explain, one of these days.

The war has failed. The chickens are home, and roosting. We are witnessing a historic moment. As history tends to demand, however, innocents are perishing just to demonstrate the obvious.

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USTV Commentary: A Chinese 21st century is a decent guess, but by no means a lock. China needs imported oil as much as the U.S., and they need America buying their goods. Perhaps it will be an Iranian 21st century, if Iran gets the Iraqi oil, which is said to be most of what’s left. It that is the case, they’ll be raking in the cash. Maybe it’s a Russian 21st century, if Russia allies itself with Iran or conquers it (if the neo-con Bushevik regime doesn’t do it first). Maybe it’s nobody’s century, if fighting over the oil makes things so chaotic that nobody can really pump it out efficiently. We are all going to be out of it before long eventually anyway, so the sooner we think about moving towards a truly sustainable society the better.

“Clean Break”: Neo-Con Manifesto For War

September 11th, 2006 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

There is nothing ‘clean’ about this, the blueprint for the American-Israeli Neo-Con Axis for warmongering militarism in order to ‘remake the mideast’ in some new Strangelovian vision.

William Rivers Pitt does a good job here in detailing the history behind this and reveals the depth of the roots which underly the recent fighting in Lebanon.

Over the last several weeks, an old White Paper found new life in the shattered ruins of Lebanon’s infrastructure. Titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the paper was masterminded by three neo-con hawks who, in the fullness of time, became powerful members of the Bush administration: Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser. The three were working for a pro-Israel think tank called the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies when the paper was first drafted.

“A Clean Break” was originally written for the benefit of Benjamin Netanyahu after he rose to the position of Prime Minister of Israel in 1996. This, in and of itself, was unique; it is rare indeed to have a trio of American foreign policy specialists crafting national security policy for a foreign power. Those who have seen the hand of the Israeli Likud Party guiding American foreign policy over the last several years base their premise, to no small degree, upon the involvement of these three men in Israeli affairs before their ascendancy in American government. The arguments contained in this document eventually became the basis for the now-infamous White Paper by the Project for the New American Century titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which was authored in 2000.

Perle, Feith and Wurmser’s vision for a new Israel centered around the re-invigoration of the discredited policy of pre-emption, i.e., attacking a perceived foe based on whatever premise can be found in order to show strength in the region and intimidate local governments into compliance. “Israel’s new agenda,” read the paper, “can signal a clean break by abandoning a policy which assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic retreat by reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone, and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response.”

Read The Full Article Here

Empire vs. Earth Community

August 24th, 2006 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

David Korten writes a really good piece on the need to change the entire governing paradigm, and how this time period we are in just might be the point at which it can (and certainly should) be done….

Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.

Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to re-learn how to live by its principles.

One of the key lines from this essay…

The apparent political divisions notwithstanding, U.S. polling data reveal a startling degree of consensus on key issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong priorities. Supermajorities want to see greater priority given to children, family, community, and a healthy environment. Americans also want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination. These Earth Community values are in fact widely shared by both conservatives and liberals.

Bingo. If people want to see it happen and live in such a society, why isn’t it happening? The seemingly obvious answer is that we don’t live in a society governed of, by and for the People. If we did, what it did would reflect the purposes and ideals that clear majorities of people on all sides of the political spectrum share.

Read The Full Article Here

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