Few books of our time are proving to be as prophetic as Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrows of Empire,” published in 2004 by Henry Holt & Co. Its description of the impact of the Pentagon’s war machine on our civil liberties and economy today appears largely to be right on the mark.
A best-selling author and President of the Japan Policy Research Institute, Johnson wrote eight years ago that four “sorrows” would be “certain” to be inflicted upon us and that their cumulative impact would “guarantee that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution.” Those predictions have come true.
The sorrows, Johnson predicted, are:
(1) “There will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans...and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut.”
(2) “There will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an executive branch of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency.
(3) “An already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions.
(4) There will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and short-change the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.
Johnson predicted “perpetual war” in 2004 and that surely is what we got! Where the U.S. defeated the great Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy in fewer than four years in World War II, it’s been fighting little Afghanistan now for more than a decade and neither our generals nor the president dare speak of “victory.” Some cynics might even believe the U.S. is not interested in victory so much as keeping those exorbitant Pentagon budgets flowing into military-industrial coffers year after year.
As for Johnson’s point 2, the U.S. Constitution, thanks to Congress and the White House, is simply no longer relevant. The Pentagon could drive a tank through it. President Obama’s power under the National Defense Authorization Act signed last New Year’s Eve grants him the power to arrest any American and lock the individual up indefinitely without attorney or trial. President Obama is now claiming the right to commit murder against any person who is “suspect” by the Pentagon or CIA. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the Middle East have now been killed by drones on Mr. Obama’s say-so. Result: The U.S. is now a totalitarian society. Johnson’s prediction was right again.
As for sorrow Number 3, the Obama regime has done more to stop whistle-blowers from telling the American people the truth than any previous administration. The imprisonment, torture, and trial of Army PFC Bradley Manning for exposing Pentagon killings of civilians and journalists in Baghdad is just one of a number of ongoing prosecutions aimed at lowering a new iron curtain of secrecy around U.S. aggression.
And the “bankruptcy” predicted in Sorrow 4 is surely here with a vengeance: with 50 million Americans living in poverty, with 46-million people on food stamps and/or lining up at soup kitchens, with 8.7 million having lost their homes or en route to homelessness since 2007, with 20-million unemployed or underemployed, with college graduates unable to find jobs, with families piling up massive credit card debt, with cities and states going broke, and with critically-needed, dedicated public servants ----teachers, firefighters, police, etc.----being laid off everywhere.
In all this vast bleak picture, the main islands of prosperity are the Pentagon---which spends more for war than all 50 states spend for all peaceful purposes---the corporations of the military-industrial complex, and the oil companies, which are gaining access to new markets because of the Pentagon’s wars.
“What is most fascinating and curious about the developing American form of empire,” Chalmers writes....”is that it is solely an empire of bases, not territories, and these bases now encircle the earth in a way that, despite centuries-old dreams of world domination, would previously have been inconceivable.” Chalmers says there are 969 bases on U.S. soil alone and other experts have put the number of overseas bases at about 1,000.
Native Americans, however, will recall how the establishment of forts across the continental U.S. gave the Army control of vast territories without necessarily occupying their reservations. A similar procedure today, by locating bases everywhere, is giving the U.S. control of entire countries without occupying them. However, Iraq and Afghanistan surely may be considered occupied.
The permanent deployment of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Chalmers writes, because of its inhabitants’ differing culture, lifestyles, wealth and physical appearance, guarantee conflicts in the region and “is irrational in terms of any cost-benefit analysis.”
Chalmers concludes, “It may be that the ultimate causes of 21st Century mayhem in the Middle East are American militarism and imperialism---that is our empire of bases itself.”
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