Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nemesis, by Chalmers Johnson

This is the third book in Chalmers Johnson’s so called trilogy which started with his book Blowback, published before the September 11 attacks. It was no doubt the fact of those attacks which prompted Johnson to turn the one book into a trilogy on the subject of American Imperialism and over reach.

This latest book is just as good as the previous two. Johnson covers his usual material, but brings it up to date with the latest developments of the past few years.

Essentially, Johnson’s argument is that militarism is what brings empires down. America, he says, is now basically run by an extremely powerful military-industrial complex. What’s worse, there’s minimal congressional oversight, thus leading to astronomical military spending that is barely audited.

In one section of the book he talks about some 3000 pages of legislation that is passed, those 3000 pages containing squillions of dollars worth of military spending, and how no one who voted on the legislation was given enough time to even have a most cursory read of what they were voting for.

Secrecy and more secrecy. The chapter on the CIA demonstrates that over its history it has been up to its eyeballs in secret operations – murder, political disruption, dirty tricks. All of this is kept away from the eyes of politicians and voters.

There was one sentence in the book that really stuck in my mind. Johnson said something along the lines of, once the whole system of government breaks down in the United States, then the possibilities for how bad things could get are limitless: like a really bad, bad dictatorship.

Of course the only way to stop the advance of militarism and reinstate democratic principles is if the people take back the polity for themselves.

Chalmers Johnson gives two examples of empires that foundered. There was Rome, which could not give up its militarism and thus had to give up its democracy. Or Britain, who decided to give up its empire in order to retain its democracy. Johnson hopes that Americans choose the latter.

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