Category "America: Republic or Empire?"

Cables Reveal U.S. Pro-Dictator Policy

December 15th, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

No surprise here, unfortunately. This kind of thing has been going on for decades, including since the days of overthrowing popularly-elected governments in Iran on behalf of oil corporations and installing a ruling monarch in its place (I’m sure folks such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine would have just loved knowing that their attempt at a Republic had come to this). The fact is the U.S. has been continually engaging in a foreign policy agenda which does not correspond to the one a good number of Americans think is the one we are implementing around the world. With foreign policy like this, perhaps we should reconsider the expenditure of all that blood and treasure in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’.

As the U.S. stood by and watched, corrupt autocrats looted the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Dissidents were jailed, massacred–even boiled.

Well, actually, the U.S. was anything but passive. They negotiated deals for oil and gas pipelines. They rented airbases after 9/11. They poured in tens of millions of American tax dollars–all of which wound up in secret bank accounts belonging to the dictators and their families. Meanwhile, average citizens lived in abject poverty.

During trips to Central Asia the locals constantly ask me: “Why doesn’t America stop supporting [insert name of corrupt dictator here] so we can kill him and free ourselves?”

Poor, naïve people. They believe our rhetoric. They think we like democracy. Actually, we’re all about the looting. Dictators are easier to deal with than parliaments. One handshake and a kickback, that’s all you need with a dictator.

Central Asia only had one democratically elected president, Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan. George W. Bush ordered the CIA to depose him in a coup.

Americans who care about human rights have long wondered: Is the State Department stupid and/or naïve? Or did the diplomats in Tashkent and other capitals of unspeakable misery understand the brutal and vile nature of Central Asia’s authoritarian leaders?

An examination of the WikiLeaks data dump answers that question: Yes.

Hell yes.


So it’s clear: American diplomats have no illusions about their brutal allies. Interestingly, Central Asia’s overlords have a dismally accurate view of corruption in the U.S. government.

“Listen, almost everyone at the top [of the Kazakh regime] is confused,” First Vice President Maksat Idenov told the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan early this year. “They’re confused by the corrupt excesses of capitalism. ‘If Goldman Sachs executives can make $50 million a year and then run America’s economy in Washington, what’s so different about what we do?’ they ask.”

No response was provided.

Read The Full Article

Manufacturing Insecurity and The Dangers of U.S. Militarism

December 12th, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Author William Pfaff provides this insightful and informative overview on the “manufacture of insecurity” and the rise of U.S. militarism since the Second World War.

It is time to ask a fundamental question that few in an official or political position in the United States seem willing to ask. Has it been a terrible error for the United States to have built an all but irreversible worldwide system of a thousand or more military bases, stations and outposts?

This system has been created to enhance American national security, but what if it has actually done the opposite, provoking conflict and creating the very national insecurity it is intended to prevent?


The United States today displays certain characteristics of a classical militarist state, as the great modern historian of militarism, Alfred Vagts, has described it — a society in which military and internal security demands are paramount, its political imagination obsessed by vast threats yet to be realized. Vagts wrote that militarism has meant “the imposition of heavy burdens on a people for military purposes, to the neglect of welfare and culture”. It exists, he notes, as “a civilian as well as a military phenomenon.”


The United States Navy, as William Lind, the military theorist notes, maintains eleven large aircraft carrier battle groups cruising the seas, “structured to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy,” even though submarines are today’s capital ships: those that determine the control of blue water. One can add that American army officers, once rather puritan in attire, have today acquired a taste for military adornment more appropriate to nineteenth century operetta — their uniforms covered with decorations, campaign ribbons, insignia of personal accomplishments, attachments signifying previous duties, and other trivial ornamentation. General of the Armies George C. Marshall, who commanded all American armies in world war II, declined to wear the decorations he had won in the first world war because he considered this inappropriate for the desk officer he had become, sending young men to their deaths.


The United States, now in possession of military forces larger than those of all its rivals and allies combined, began as a nation that abhorred standing armies. The issue of quartering British troops became a serious irritant in relations with Britain in the mid-eighteenth century, and taxation of trade to support a British army in the American colonies was one of the principal sources of pre-revolutionary discontent during the quarter-century leading up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.


The most important result of substituting today‚s professional army for a citizens‚ army is that it has created an instrument of national power that is no longer directly accountable to the public. During the Bush years, and to an extent under the Obama administration, it has been used in a manner, and employed methods that would have been unacceptable in the past. Thus a professional army — supplemented by a nearly equivalent number of civilian mercenaries that is directly accountable only to the Pentagon exists primarily to augment the national “military-industrial complex” leadership, with its corporate and political interests, against which Dwight Eisenhower warned many decades ago. The defense and securities industries are today he most important components of the U.S. manufacturing economy, and their corporate interests now are in a position to dominate Congress, as well as an inexperienced administration. Without excessive exaggeration, one might say of the United States today what once was said of Prussia — that it is a state owned by its army


Within its borders, the United States is invulnerable to conventional military defeat; that cannot be said of its forces deployed elsewhere. U.S. security is far more likely to be found in a noninterventionist foreign policy designed to produce a negotiated military withdrawal from both Afghanistan and Iraq, without leaving bases behind, and a general disengagement from military interference in the affairs of other societies, leaving them to search for their own solutions to their own problems. So drastic a reversal of U.S. policy will not be possible without heavy political costs, both domestic and foreign. Nevertheless, the time has come for U.S. policymakers to begin considering reversing course.

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What If Washington…? Five Absurd Things That Simply Can’t Happen in Wartime Washington

November 28th, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

Another spot on piece from Tom Engelhardt on the nature of American militarism and empire, and the political ramifications of these realities.

The other day I visited a website I check regularly for all things military, Noah Shachtman’s Danger Room blog at Wired magazine. One of its correspondents, Spencer Ackerman, was just then at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the sort of place that — with its multiple bus routes, more than 30,000 inhabitants, PXes, Internet cafés, fast-food restaurants, barracks, and all the sinews of war — we like to call military bases, but that are unique in the history of this planet.

Here’s how Ackerman began his report: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul. There’s construction everywhere. It’s exactly what you wouldn’t expect from a transient presence.” The old Russian base, long a hub for U.S. military (and imprisonment ) activities in that country is now, as he describes it, a giant construction site and its main drag, Disney Drive, a massive traffic pile-up. (“If the Navy could figure out a way to bring a littoral-combat ship to a landlocked country, it would idle on Disney.”) Its flight line is packed with planes — “C-17s, Predators, F-16s, F-15s, MC-12 passenger planes” — and Bagram, he concludes, “is starting to feel like a dynamic exurb before the housing bubble burst.”

I won’t lie. As I read that post, my heart sank and I found myself imagining Spencer Ackerman writing this passage: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to stay in Afghanistan after July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul where buildings are being dismantled, military equipment packed up, and everywhere you look you see evidence of a transient presence.” To pen that, unfortunately, he would have to be a novelist or a fabulist.


In fact, basic alternatives to our present way of going about things are regularly dismissed out of hand, while ways to use force and massive preparations for the future use of more force are endlessly refined.

As a boy, I loved reading books of what-if history and science fiction, rare moments when what might have happened or what might someday happen outweighed what everyone was convinced must happen. Only there did it seem possible to imagine the unimaginable and the alternatives that might go with it. When it comes to novels, counterfactuality is still a winner. What if the Nazis had won in Europe, as Robert Harris suggested in Fatherland , or a strip of the Alaskan panhandle had become a temporary homeland for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, as Michael Chabon suggested in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union , or our machines could indeed think like us, as Philip Dick wondered in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Such novels allow our brain to venture down strange new pathways normally forbidden to us.

Here, then, are five possibilities, five pathways, that — given our world — verge on the fictional. Consider them not “what-if history,” but “what if Washington…?”


Worlds end, of course, and they regularly end so much uglier when no one plans for the unexpected. Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country and, miraculously, we’ll actually get change we can finally believe in.

Read The Complete Essay

A Conversation with Chalmers Johnson on Empire and ‘Nemesis’

November 23rd, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?, Video

For those of you with any kind of attention span at all, this discussion with (the now late) Chalmers Johnson, Emeritus Professor of the University of California, is saturated with essential information and insight regarding the impact of the American empire on democracy at home. This former Cold War hawk argues that a combination of military Keynesianism, the Bush administration’s attempt to implement a unitary presidency, and the failed checks on executive ambition point to political and economic bankruptcy.

Here is another in this series of conversations with Chalmers Johnson. Eisenhower must certainly be rolling in his grave. We are going to truly miss Johnson’s voice of reason and insight. His leaving us is a real blow for honest clarity of thought in America. He seemed to be one of the few intellectually honest conservatives left in this country.

Our Imperial Vote

November 5th, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

One of my favorite writers, former Air Force officer and now professor William Astore, nails the current political situation dead on with this no BS piece.

Yesterday, we went to the polls and cast our votes. The act of voting reassures us that we still live in a democracy. This is true in name only. For we are not a democracy; not even a republic. We are an empire.

The imperial reality is there to see. Bloated government bureaucracies. A “defense” establishment that continues to grow like topsy. Multinational corporations that we celebrate and empower as our First Citizens. Poisoned political rhetoric that dissuades people from voting. An undereducated populace consumed by real cares and distracted by phony entertainment.

We’re offered a simulacrum of “choice” (Democrats vs. Republicans), where in reality both parties are in thrall to elite interests (partly because politicians themselves are either in the elite, or they want to be in the elite). “Choice” yesterday often devolved to whether we wanted to drink Budweiser (the Republican brew) or Bud Lite (the Obama brew). Tired of the watered down, “Lite” version, this time many voters opted for the Republican brew.


A nation that fails to provide affordable health care and adequate education to all, even as it throws away trillions of dollars on unwinnable wars, is a nation on a road to irrelevance. On some level, I think we know this. Maybe that’s why we need so much patriotic pageantry - so many huge flags spread across baseball fields, so many renditions of “God Bless America” echoing in our coliseums - as compensation for our sense of unease.

So, what’s in our future? A revolution by the people in the name of greater liberty, equality, and fraternity? Not bloody likely, given our collective passivity. A fascist takeover? Also not likely, because it’s not necessary: The elites are already in control.

What we need are radical critiques followed by radical change.

Read The Full Article (and check out Astore’s work at

The Unmaking of a Company Man: Beginning One’s Education Regarding The True Nature of American Power

August 30th, 2010 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

A near perfect analysis by Andrew Bacevich regarding one’s coming to terms with the real nature of American power. Lots of similarities with how my own journey of intellectual understanding has traversed through the decades. As an avid Cold Warrior myself, the fall of the Berlin Wall also marked the final collapse of whatever prior illusions I may have had about the true nature of those who are the predominate architects of the use of American power. Rarely has someone described the coming to awareness of our own nation’s own betrayal of it’s purported principles with as much clarity and honesty as with this. Highly recommended, particularly for former (or current) military personnel.

Worldly ambition inhibits true learning. Ask me. I know. A young man in a hurry is nearly uneducable: He knows what he wants and where he’s headed; when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts, he has neither the time nor the inclination. All that counts is that he is going somewhere. Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.

My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age. I can fix its start date with precision: for me, education began in Berlin, on a winter’s evening, at the Brandenburg Gate, not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen.

As an officer in the U.S. Army I had spent considerable time in Germany. Until that moment, however, my family and I had never had occasion to visit this most famous of German cities, still littered with artifacts of a deeply repellent history. At the end of a long day of exploration, we found ourselves in what had, until just months before, been the communist East.


By temperament and upbringing, I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy. In a life spent subject to authority, deference had become a deeply ingrained habit. I found assurance in conventional wisdom. Now, I started, however hesitantly, to suspect that orthodoxy might be a sham. I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high — whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops — is inherently suspect. The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them. Even then, the truths to which they testify come wrapped in a nearly invisible filament of dissembling, deception, and duplicity. The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation and is antithetical to candor.

I came to these obvious points embarrassingly late in life. “Nothing is so astonishing in education,” the historian Henry Adams once wrote, “as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.” Until that moment I had too often confused education with accumulating and cataloging facts. In Berlin, at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate, I began to realize that I had been a naïf. And so, at age 41, I set out, in a halting and haphazard fashion, to acquire a genuine education.


These visits to Jena and Berlin offered glimpses of a reality radically at odds with my most fundamental assumptions. Uninvited and unexpected, subversive forces had begun to infiltrate my consciousness. Bit by bit, my worldview started to crumble.

That worldview had derived from this conviction: that American power manifested a commitment to global leadership, and that both together expressed and affirmed the nation’s enduring devotion to its founding ideals. That American power, policies, and purpose were bound together in a neat, internally consistent package, each element drawing strength from and reinforcing the others, was something I took as a given. That, during my adult life, a penchant for interventionism had become a signature of U.S. policy did not — to me, at least — in any way contradict America’s aspirations for peace. Instead, a willingness to expend lives and treasure in distant places testified to the seriousness of those aspirations. That, during this same period, the United States had amassed an arsenal of over 31,000 nuclear weapons, some small number of them assigned to units in which I had served, was not at odds with our belief in the inalienable right to life and liberty; rather, threats to life and liberty had compelled the United States to acquire such an arsenal and maintain it in readiness for instant use.

I was not so naïve as to believe that the American record had been without flaws. Yet I assured myself that any errors or misjudgments had been committed in good faith. Furthermore, circumstances permitted little real choice. In Southeast Asia as in Western Europe, in the Persian Gulf as in the Western Hemisphere, the United States had simply done what needed doing. Viable alternatives did not exist. To consent to any dilution of American power would be to forfeit global leadership, thereby putting at risk safety, prosperity, and freedom, not only our own but also that of our friends and allies.


Doing so meant shedding habits of conformity acquired over decades. All of my adult life I had been a company man, only dimly aware of the extent to which institutional loyalties induce myopia. Asserting independence required first recognizing the extent to which I had been socialized to accept certain things as unimpeachable. Here then were the preliminary steps essential to making education accessible. Over a period of years, a considerable store of debris had piled up. Now, it all had to go. Belatedly, I learned that more often than not what passes for conventional wisdom is simply wrong. Adopting fashionable attitudes to demonstrate one’s trustworthiness — the world of politics is flush with such people hoping thereby to qualify for inclusion in some inner circle — is akin to engaging in prostitution in exchange for promissory notes. It’s not only demeaning but downright foolhardy.


With regard to means, that tradition has emphasized activism over example, hard power over soft, and coercion (often styled “negotiating from a position of strength”) over suasion. Above all, the exercise of global leadership as prescribed by the credo obliges the United States to maintain military capabilities staggeringly in excess of those required for self-defense. Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism, if not outright hostility. In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerged as central to the American identity.


Washington is less a geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people who, whether acting officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state. Washington, in this sense, includes the upper echelons of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government. It encompasses the principal components of the national security state — the departments of Defense, State, and, more recently, Homeland Security, along with various agencies comprising the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities. Its ranks extend to select think tanks and interest groups. Lawyers, lobbyists, fixers, former officials, and retired military officers who still enjoy access are members in good standing. Yet Washington also reaches beyond the Beltway to include big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, television networks and elite publications like the New York Times, even quasi-academic entities like the Council on Foreign Relations and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. With rare exceptions, acceptance of the Washington rules forms a prerequisite for entry into this world.


The persistence of these rules has also provided an excuse to avoid serious self-engagement. From this perspective, confidence that the credo and the trinity will oblige others to accommodate themselves to America’s needs or desires — whether for cheap oil, cheap credit, or cheap consumer goods — has allowed Washington to postpone or ignore problems demanding attention here at home. Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland and Detroit. Purporting to support the troops in their crusade to free the world obviates any obligation to assess the implications of how Americans themselves choose to exercise freedom.

When Americans demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with others, combined with the courage to engage seriously with themselves, then real education just might begin.

Read more from this excerpt from Andrew Bacevich’s book How Washington Rules on

Special Inaugural Edition

May 13th, 2009 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?, Video

UnCommon Sense TV - “Special Inaugural Edition” Utilizing documentary footage of a past regime of infamous notoriety, the program presents numerous facts and information in order to bring historical perspective on the acquisition and utilization of power in fascist regimes of the past, and provides comparative context to the current political environment in the United States today.

The New Bush Inaugural Agenda

January 31st, 2009 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?, Video

UnCommon Sense TV - “The New Bush Inaugural Agenda” The program offers a critical point by point analysis of statements made by President Bush in his second inaugural speech, and the underlining meaning and ramifications of those statements. Also included in the program are segments of an insightful and provocative interview with famed writer, playwright and historian Gore Vidal, taken from his interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Vidal illuminates the many contradictions and historical deficiencies inherent in the Bush inaugural declaration.

Chalmers Johnson on Hegemony, The Debt Crisis and How To Sink America

June 2nd, 2008 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?, Video

This is a clip from a new film, “Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony,” from Cinema Libre Studios’ Speaking Freely series in which Johnson discusses “military Keynesianism” and imperial bankruptcy. Johnson has been one of the most lucid and intelligent writers over the past decade and beyond on the subject of America’s role as empire in the past few decades, especially since the publication of his prescient book “Blowback.” Read Johnson’s latest piece on the subject, “Going Bankrupt: The Debt Crisis Is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic” at

Vietnam to Iraq and America’s Empire of Stupidity

September 5th, 2007 by Andy in America: Republic or Empire?

This is one of the best pieces I’ve yet read on the history of the Vietnam War, its futility, and its being resurrected as a comparative example to the current situation in Iraq, by George Bush and his acolytes no less. Tom Engelhardt, whose body of work is already impressive, lays out this tour de force of an analysis. It is insightful, with historical depth and perspective, tragic in its implications and desperately hopeful in its plea. This should be a must read in America’s high school history and social studies classes these days. (Do they still teach those?)

I can’t even begin to find a highlight from this work. I just recommend the entire piece, which is lengthy, but well worth the time. (They only flaw being his inadvertent reference to the end of the Vietnam War being 40 years ago, when it is actually only over 30, unless he is referring to the time of our big buildup period in Indochina).

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