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Chalmers Johnson: "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"

Time to start being serious about a free and independant Cascadia
Chalmers Johnson: "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-
selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic
overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a
constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback
trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of
Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and
military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here
in the United States. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations
at the University of California, San Diego. He is also President of
the Japan Policy Research Institute. Johnson has written for several
publications including Los Angeles Times, the London Review of
Books, Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. In 2005, he was featured
prominently in the award-winning documentary film, "Why We Fight."

Chalmers Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by
asking him about the title of his book, "Nemesis."

Chalmers Johnson, Author, scholar and leading critic of US foreign
policy. Retired professor of international relations at the
University of California, San Diego. He is also President of the
Japan Policy Research Institute. His new book is "Nemesis: The Last
Days of the American Republic."

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT
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AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour with the former CIA
consultant, distinguished scholar, best-selling author, Chalmers
Johnson. He's just published a new book. It's called Nemesis: The
Last Days of the American Republic. It's the last volume in his
trilogy, which began with Blowback, went onto The Sorrows of Empire.
In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military
activity has led to unintended but direct disaster here in the
United States. In his new book, Johnson argues that US military and
economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a
constitutional republic.

Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations
at the University of California, San Diego. He's also president of
the Japan Policy Research Institute. He's written for a number of
publications, including the Los Angeles Times, The London Review of
Books, Harper's magazine and The Nation. In 2005, he was featured
prominently in the award-winning documentary, Why We Fight. Chalmers
Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking him
about the title of his book, Nemesis.

CHALMERS JOHNSON: Nemesis was the ancient Greek goddess of revenge,
the punisher of hubris and arrogance in human beings. You may recall
she is the one that led Narcissus to the pond and showed him his
reflection, and he dove in and drowned. I chose the title, because
it seems to me that she's present in our country right now, just
waiting to make her -- to carry out her divine mission.

By the subtitle, I really do mean it. This is not just hype to sell
books -- "The Last Days of the American Republic." I'm here
concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political analysis,
namely that the political system of the United States today, history
tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations there is -- that
is, domestic democracy and foreign empire -- that the choices are
stark. A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an
imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it
will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system
was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it will lose its democracy
to a domestic dictatorship.

I've spent some time in the book talking about an alternative,
namely that of the British Empire after World War II, in which it
made the decision, not perfectly executed by any manner of means,
but nonetheless made the decision to give up its empire in order to
keep its democracy. It became apparent to the British quite late in
the game that they could keep the jewel in their crown, India, only
at the expense of administrative massacres, of which they had
carried them out often in India. In the wake of the war against
Nazism, which had just ended, it became, I think, obvious to the
British that in order to retain their empire, they would have to
become a tyranny, and they, therefore, I believe, properly chose,
admirably chose to give up their empire.

As I say, they didn't do it perfectly. There were tremendous
atavistic fallbacks in the 1950s in the Anglo, French, Israeli
attack on Egypt; in the repression of the Kikuyu -- savage
repression, really -- in Kenya; and then, of course, the most
obvious and weird atavism of them all, Tony Blair and his enthusiasm
for renewed British imperialism in Iraq. But nonetheless, it seems
to me that the history of Britain is clear that it gave up its
empire in order to remain a democracy. I believe this is something
we should be discussing very hard in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, you connect the breakdown of
constitutional government with militarism.

CHALMERS JOHNSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the signs of the breakdown of
constitutional government and how it links?

CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, yes. Militarism is the -- what the social
side has called the "intervening variable," the causative
connection. That is to say, to maintain an empire requires a very
large standing army, huge expenditures on arms that leads to a
military-industrial complex, and generally speaking, a vicious cycle
sets up of interests that lead to perpetual series of wars.

It goes back to probably the earliest warning ever delivered to us
by our first president, George Washington, in his famous farewell
address. It's read at the opening of every new session of Congress.
Washington said that the great enemy of the republic is standing
armies; it is a particular enemy of republican liberty. What he
meant by it is that it breaks down the separation of powers into an
executive, legislative, and judicial branches that are intended to
check each other -- this is our most fundamental bulwark against
dictatorship and tyranny -- it causes it to break down, because
standing armies, militarism, military establishment, military-
industrial complex all draw power away from the rest of the country
to Washington, including taxes, that within Washington they draw it
to the presidency, and they begin to create an imperial presidency,
who then implements the military's desire for secrecy, making
oversight of the government almost impossible for a member of
Congress, even, much less for a citizen.

It seems to me that this is also the same warning that Dwight
Eisenhower gave in his famous farewell address of 1961, in which he,
in quite vituperative language, quite undiplomatic language -- one
ought to go back and read Eisenhower. He was truly alarmed when he
spoke of the rise of a large arms industry that was beyond
supervision, that was not under effective control of the interests
of the military-industrial complex, a phrase that he coined. We know
from his writings that he intended to say a military-industrial -
congressional complex. He was warned off from going that far. But
it's in that sense that I believe the nexus -- or, that is, the
incompatibility between domestic democracy and foreign imperialism
comes into being.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was he warned by?

CHALMERS JOHNSON: Members of Congress. Republican memb--

AMY GOODMAN: And why were they opposed?

CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, they did not want to have their oversight
abilities impugned. They weren't carrying them out very well. You
must also say that Eisenhower was -- I think he's been overly
praised for this. It was a heroic statement, but at the same time,
he was the butcher of Guatemala, the person who authorized our first
clandestine operation and one of the most tragic that we ever did:
the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 for the sake of
the British Petroleum Company. And he also presided over the
fantastic growth of the military-industrial complex, of the lunatic
oversupply of nuclear weapons, of the empowering of the Air Force,
and things of this sort. It seems to be only at the end that he
realized what a monster he had created.

AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, author of Nemesis: The Last Days of
the American Republic. We'll come back to him in a minute.

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