Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Chalmers Johnson and the Dragon

I just got back from hearing Chalmers Johnson speaking at a Democratic Club meeting this evening, my advance copy of his newest book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic" in hand. The thrust of his book is that the consequences of 60 years of American military imperialism has finally caught up with reality.

His talk was a history lesson, an explanation, and a warning, for future generations and would-be empires, here lay the foundations of your fall from grace.

His previous books discussed this as well, the notion of blowback, the coming home to roost of the consequences of our meddling and power projections, our arrogance and ignorance, and the power of the military industrial complex.

He's not real optimistic on our future, painting a bleak picture of the bind we're in thanks to our actions, beginning, perhaps, with the overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953.

The original initiative to oust Mossadegh had come from the British, for the ... Iranian leader had spearheaded the parliamentary movement to nationalize the British owned Anglo-lranian Oil Company (AIOC), the sole oil company operating in Iran. In March 1951, the bill ... was passed, and at the end of April Mossadegh was elected prime minister.... On 1 May, nationalization went into effect. The Iranian people, Mossadegh declared, "were opening a hidden treasure upon which lies a dragon".

A dragon truly run rampant today.

Dr. Johnson posits that we do own this war since Bush did win the popular vote in 2004, and that we need to stop the policies of the M-I-C that only make matters worse. He said that we don't even see 40 percent of the military budget, it gets buried in the Veterans Department or Treasury war debts, or Homeland Security, or black operations, and this is feeding that dragon.

And that dragon, that's my word, he didn't use it, it just sounds so apropo from that article I referenced above, exists as Preventive War as Public Policy. It exists as our economy comes to depend on military spending, and he cites the Senators from Washington as an example, good liberals until someone mentions the word "Boeing" upon which they become ravenous blood thirsty hyenaes. It exists as deficit spending, "ruinous" spending that has brought us to the brink of losing our democracy to our imperialism. And he mentioned two examples of states that faced a similar choice, the Roman Republic-Madison's model for ours, and the British Empire.

The Romans chose, in a manner of speaking, to keep their imperialism, the Brits chose to give up their empire, albeit with many stops and starts and messy imperfections, but they saved their democracy in giving up their glorious empire, and they saved themselves in that choice. No Caligula or Nero for Britain, just the Good Queen Elizabeth II, her jewels and her castles and her pagaentry.

And he described Tony Blair as an atavistic response to old empire. My bold.

The American Heritage Science Dictionary -
atavistic (āt'ə-vĭs'tĭk)
Relating to an inherited trait that reappears in an individual after being absent from a strain of organism for several generations. Atavistic traits were formerly thought to be throwbacks to ancestral types but are now known to be due to the inheritance of a pair of recessive genes.

He was charming even as his message was somewhat depressing, but he did offer some solutions, abolishing the CIA, breaking the MIC, public financing of election campaigns, and busting up the media conglomerates. Here's his take on the quality of teevee news. "Watching the evening news is just a way of marking the end of the day." Sadly true, I would say.

But his other proscription was that our imminent bankruptcy would actually serve as some sort of salvation, as we would be forced to lower our standard of living, you know, live within our means, and throw the yoke of the MIC from around our necks in the process. Essentially he sees the US as enthralled by the dragon's yoke, our political system first broken, then tamed with little recourse in any of our failed institutions, the legislature, the judiciary, the press, the states. Of the states, he writes in his book,

[T]he drafters of the American Constitution produced a sophisticated scheme to balance power in a republic. The most basic structure they chose was federalism, setting up the states as alternatives to and limitations on the power of the national government.

Isn't it convenient that the National Guard is being destroyed by Bush in Iraq? And that's why I favor the Electoral College, it's another brake on power.

But that didn't sound very hopeful to me, so I asked him if he thought that the growth of the grassroots, the bloggers and MoveOn and DFA and Drinking Liberally and Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan and many others might not be helping to turn the Titanic from its doomed course? And speaking of icebergs, what impact did he think Global Warming was going to have on the dynamics of our current economic situation?

I didn't get a good answer on the first part, he liked the question but didn't have a ready answer, but he did think that educating the people was a good thing that might help, and he didn't address the GW part, which was okay. At least he's thinking about the question.

My thought on Global Warming is that it may indeed be our salvation, that it's so big and universal that it's going to change our paradigm entirely, that the issues that troubled us before won't matter so much in the future, that what cloud being you prefer won't matter much when all of the cloud beings are pissed off at all of us. That there will be such great opportunity in dealing with the problem and its manifestations that feeding the dragon of military spending won't enter into the decision making matrix of our policy makers.

Let me conclude this post with two more thoughts from Chalmers Johnson. One, he called Wal Mart an agency of China's industry, Wal Mart, that great All-American success story, and he said that Economics is the name of power, not aircraft carriers or cruise missiles.

And that's a war you could call a class war. Where the top 1 percent own 60 percent of the wealth of this nation, or whatever it is, see this DKos post for details. That's John Edwards Two America's, Jim Webb's divided America. And it's one we all need to participate in, from our purchasing decisions to our activism.

So all in all, a good show tonight, go ahead, buy the book, I don't agree with all of his assesments or views, but the facts are the facts, and this country needs to face up to them, if we want to have any hope of saving our Democracy from the Dragon.


iamcoyote said...

Great post, Duckman, thanks. It all seems so obvious, but no one wants to look. My son and I have discussed many times what we call the Star Trek future where there truly is no bigotry, and all nations have finally made peace with each other, and we really believe that nations need enemies to fight or they'll eventually start fighting themselves. Either an alien enemy would have to show up to gather all peoples to one banner - or Global Warming could be the alien. It's not as well defined, but it will do in a pinch to get nations to work together. Still the powers that be will definitely need to find a way to make money off the end of the world, or they won't even try. It'll be like the rich passengers of the Titanic, still clutching their jewelry cases, slowly sinking into the depths.

Duckman GR said...

Thank you for reading that, I really need to figure out how to get the extended post box thingy going on this blog!

In the shower this morning I was thinking how it's not going to be our generation that's going to fix things, but your sons, my nieces and nephews, sure we'll be there to help, but, well, we're old, and this Global Warming dragon isn't going away in the next 20 years, and this war in Iraq is maybe the last throes of the resistance to the notion that Global Warming needs to be dealt with, that al Queda or Iraqi Freedom or Sunni's and Shi'ites and Kurds and their reliosity are really irrevlevent to our problems.

We really waste so much in this country, we need desperately to live within our means, and recognize the real problems and challenges we face.

that's why Al Gore needs to be President, because he's seen the Dragon, and he's seen the pettiness of the Beltway World from his mountaintop in the wilderness.

iamcoyote said...

I'm going to send Al another letter, because I'm really waiting for him to announce. And I'm hoping, as I've said before, that he waits until the end of this extended primary. If anyone's going to save the world, it's gong to be him.