Thursday, July 30, 2009

Will Pelosi Go Down In History As The Worst Speaker?

Will Pelosi Go Down In History As The Worst Speaker?

(Plus Some Serious Thoughts To Consider)

Pelosi Falls To The Back Of The Pack Of Speakers
July 30, 2009

In an era of symbolic breakthroughs, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is closing in on a dubious achievement — being the least effective leader of the House in the modern era.

Since the 1920s, when Speaker Nicholas Longworth rescued the position from a brief period of irrelevancy, the office of speaker has been held by political heavyweights.

The 17 speakers since Longworth have mostly maintained or enhanced the power and prestige of the post, but with a train wreck taking shape in the House, Pelosi may be remembered for diminishing the office.

And when historians inspect the record of the lady from California, they will find that hubris and empty talk sealed her fate.

In seven months, the House has taken up the largest spending package in history, new fees on carbon emissions, and the reordering of the American health care system. Any one of those would have been considered a signal accomplishment for a single legislative year.

But Pelosi embraced all three proposals from the White House. In addition to trying to manage a legislative load that would baffle the flight boss on an aircraft carrier, Pelosi pride fully picked a politically damaging fight with the CIA. Rather than concede she knew some of the rough stuff being tried on terrorists after 9/11, the speaker opened a range war with America’s spymasters.

If Sam Rayburn — the Texan who defined the position in the 20th century — had been faced with an impractical president who wanted too much too fast, Rayburn would have backed him down.

Rayburn was tight-lipped in public and careful never to make promises he couldn’t keep. When Rayburn was finishing the work of the New Deal for Franklin Roosevelt, few beyond the Red River Valley knew his name. He was wise enough to know that worked to his advantage.

But Pelosi, who learned her craft in the minority, believes that she is some sort of super spokesperson for the Democratic Party. When she could simply disparage George W. Bush and then hold another fundraiser, talk was enough.

But now President Barack Obama is doing enough talking for everybody, and Pelosi is still confusing status with power. She is constantly in the spotlight, snarling at her foes one day and backing down the next.

On Sunday, Pelosi made a pledge to pass health care legislation before the August recess that begins this week. On Monday she changed that deadline to “whenever.”

When told by Politico that she had sunk to a 25 percent approval rating, Pelosi said, “I don’t care.” But that seems rather unlikely for a person who seeks so much attention. Plus, she knows her unpopularity in the districts of moderate Democrats reduces her power as speaker.

A Blue Dog Democrat recruited to run in a deep-red district gets points for shunning Pelosi, not being browbeaten by her. So her unpopularity has compounded the problems caused by her indecision.

Minority Leader John Boehner likens serving in the Pelosi-led House to standing in front of a machine gun: There is always something coming at you and there’s no time to think.

But the casualties will likely be Pelosi’s fellow Democrats.

Having been arm-twisted into massive fees on greenhouse gasses, centrists balked at voting for a budget-shattering health plan. They saw that the Senate had cast aside their cap-and-trade bill, leaving their “yea” votes to molder until they reappear in a 2010 campaign commercial.

Pelosi said she would make her members walk the plank again on health care, but they refused. Unless the Senate passes a bill first, don’t expect any bold strokes from the House.

Had Pelosi told Obama that he could have health care but not global warming fees, she would have faced only one contentious vote, and would have done it on an issue with broader Democratic appeal than the new religion of global warmism.

Joining Pelosi in the bottom tier of speakers are Jim Wright, the Texas Democrat whose ethical lapses helped pave the way for the Republican takeover of 1994, and the passive Bostonian John William McCormack, who couldn’t respond to the changing political composition of the Democratic Party in the 1960s.

The months to come will decide if she remains in their company or takes sole position of the title of worst speaker.

LETTER: The C.I.A. And Congress - Published: July 29, 2009

To the Editor:

House Looks Into Secrets Withheld From Congress” (news article, July 18) tries to draw false parallels between statements I have made about the Central Intelligence Agency briefings to Congress and recent statements by Congressional Democrats, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has claimed the C.I.A. lies to Congress all the time.

While the article’s statement that I have “often complained about the C.I.A.’s failure to inform Congress of its activities” is correct, many such claims have been made by Congress about every government bureaucracy.

My position differs from my Democratic colleagues in that I believe that the C.I.A. strives to honor its obligation to keep Congress informed of its activities and is not in the business of regularly and systematically lying to Congress.

I also take issue with the article’s characterization of my views on the 2001 downing of a civilian plane over Peru; it claims that I accused the C.I.A. of a cover-up. The C.I.A. inspector general, in a summer 2008 report, concluded that in this case there had been a cover-up by C.I.A. officers and that Congress had been misled.

I responded to the inspector general’s report by demanding that the House Intelligence Committee start an investigation of this matter. Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership of the committee has refused to do so.

Peter Hoekstra
Holland, Mich., July 21, 2009

The writer, from Michigan, is the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Some Dems Feel Betrayed by Health Deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent half of Wednesday finalizing a deal with the Blue Dogs - and the other half quelling a brewing rebellion among progressives who think conservatives have hijacked health care reform.

Liberals, Hispanics and African-American members - Pelosi's most loyal base of support - are feeling betrayed after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reached an agreement with four of seven Blue Dogs on his committee who had been bottling up the bill over concerns about cost.

The compromise, which still must be reconciled with competing House and Senate versions, would significantly weaken the public option favored by liberals by delinking reimbursement rates to Medicare.

"Waxman made a deal that is unacceptable," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), one of about 10 progressives who met repeatedly with Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday.

"We signed a pledge to reject any plan that doesn't include a robust public option, and this plan doesn't have a robust public option," he added.

By sundown Wednesday, the outcry from the left had become so loud that Waxman was forced to scrap a scheduled markup of the compromise measure. He rescheduled the meeting for Thursday morning and convened a mass question-and-answer session for a deeply divided Democratic Caucus - a meeting that is expected to be extremely contentious.

Two months ago, most of the 80-plus members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus signed a pledge that they would oppose any health care bill that didn't contain a bona fide public option that would compete with private insurers.

On Wednesday, they seemed willing to stick to their promise.

CPC Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) emerged from her meeting with Pelosi to tell reporters that the Blue Dog deal needed to be "much stronger to get our support."

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) predicted that House liberals, who believe they have compromised away several core issues to further President Barack Obama's agenda, might finally buck leadership if they are force-fed a weakened public option.

"I don't think it would pass the House - I wouldn't vote for it," Frank, a CPC member, told POLITICO.

He answered "yes" emphatically when asked if progressives were willing to delay the entire process as the Blue Dogs have done.

Frank said liberals are becoming increasingly leery of the clout wielded by Blue Dogs and are learning from the success they have had in leveraging their numbers - a fraction of the liberals' - into real power.

"If you allow one wing of the House to exercise all this influence, you have to do something or you lose all of your influence," he said.

Pelosi, recognizing the threat, huddled with 10 liberal members an hour after the Blue Dog deal was announced. The meeting, which included Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) - her emissary to progressives - became heated at times, according to an individual who was present.

At one point, Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), a former Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman, expressed outrage that conservatives would insist on significant cuts and a weakening of the public option, arguing that many of the Blue Dogs were letting down their black constituents, who make up 25 percent to 40 percent of their voters, in some instances.

The group was scheduled to meet with the speaker again Thursday afternoon, followed by members-only meetings of the CPC, the CBC and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The CPC has been circulating a strongly worded protest letter for members' signatures, similar to one sent to Pelosi by the Black Caucus last week, according to Democratic aides.

"In recent days, some within the Democratic Caucus have raised spurious claims that te cost of reforming health care in America is something our nation cannot afford," CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee wrote in her letter to Pelosi and Obama - a swipe that sources said was directed at the Blue Dogs.

"I think there's a lot of resentment at the role [Blue Dogs] have played - that's where a lot of this anger is coming from," one CBC member said on condition of anonymity.

During her afternoon meeting with the liberals, Pelosi and her team downplayed the importance of the Blue Dog deal, a sharp contrast to how Democratic leaders were playing it in the media - as "a big breakthrough," according to Pelosi lieutenant Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

"Miller told them that the Energy and Commerce bill was only one of three health care bills passed by the House - and that it was the only one that has a public option plan we don't like," said a person who was at the meeting.

"He said they would have plenty of opportunities to change it back," said the source, who added that members left the meeting still agitated but "somewhat reassured."

CPC member Sam Farr (D-Calif.) emerged from the meeting a little confused and a tad annoyed but believing that his fellow liberals were not yet in open revolt.

"The progressives are in the room now," he said. "I think that's important."

Congressional Favorability Ratings: Most Voters Still Don’t Like Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains America’s best-known – and least-liked - congressional leader, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of U.S. voters have an unfavorable view of the Democratic congresswoman from San Francisco, and 35% view her favorably. But those who have a very unfavorable opinion of Pelosi overwhelm those who regard her very favorably - by a five-to-one margin - 45% to nine percent (9%).

These numbers are little changed from last month and have been roughly the same since the new session of Congress began earlier this year.

Democrats naturally like Pelosi more than Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party. But there's an intensity factor here, too. While 17% of Democrats have a very favorable opinion of the speaker, that compares with 80% of Republicans and 45% of unaffiliateds who have a very unfavorable view of her.

Not that Pelosi seems to mind. She told the Washington newspaper The Poltico last week in response to similar poll findings, “I certainly want to be trusted. I’m not particularly concerned if I’m liked.”

But say this for the speaker, she is well-known to voters nationwide. Just eight percent (8%) don’t know enough about her to voice an opinion.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter.

Twenty-six percent (26%) still are not sure what they think of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Nevada senator is viewed favorably by 26%, including just three percent (3%) with a very favorable opinion. Forty-eight percent (48%) have an unfavorable regard for Reid, with 30% very unfavorable. His numbers, too, have been largely the same for months.

Voters for months have been questioning Democratic congressional initiatives from the economic stimulus plan to the still-being-negotiated health care reform proposal.

For the last four weeks, Republicans have been out front in the Generic Congressional ballot, meaning voters in a district prefer the GOP candidate over his Democratic opponent. Last week also marked the highest level of support for Republicans in over two years.

However, voters are even less familiar with Republican congressional leaders. Forty-two percent (42%) do not have an opinion of either Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky or Ohio Congressman John Boehner, the House minority leader.

McConnell is seen favorably by 28%, including eight percent (8%) who are very favorable toward him, and unfavorably by 30%. Ten percent (10%) have a very unfavorable view of the GOP senator.

The story is virtually the same for Boehner: 27% favorables, with eight percent (8%) very favorable, and 31% unfavorables, including 12% very unfavorable.

Numbers for both men similarly have been hovering at these levels for months.

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters have a favorable opinion of Vice President Joe Biden, and 49% see him unfavorably. Voters who feel very unfavorably toward the former Delaware senator outnumber those who view him very favorably by more than two to one – 30% to 12%. This marks a modest shift toward a more negative opinion of Biden for the first time since he took office in January.

His months as vice president have been marked by a series of gaffes, and now just 31% believe Biden will be on the Democratic national ticket in the next presidential election. But the identical number (31%) say he will not be Obama’s running mate. A sizable number (38%) are not sure.


My assignment here today, as I understand it, is to enlighten you all on how to quickly end the war in Iraq. And how to prevent the United States from attacking Iran. Or Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia. In short, how to put an end to the American empire.


Also, how to impeach Bush and Cheney.

And, while I’m at it, maybe, how to end poverty once and for all, how to save the environment, and how to legalize marijuana.

Well, good luck to us all.

Actually, as fanciful as all that sounds, I think that if the radical left had abundant access to the mass media, for a year or so, we could do it. It wouldn’t even have to be sole access, just as much time on radio and TV networks as the conservatives and NPR-type centrists and liberals have.

As some of you may recall, two years ago Osama bin Laden, in one of his audio messages, recommended that Americans should read my book Rogue State. Within hours I was swamped by the media and soon appeared on many of the leading TV news shows, dozens of radio programs, and a long profile in the Washington Post. In the previous 10 years I had sent in dozens of letters to the Post mainly commenting on their less-than-ideal coverage of US foreign policy. Not one was printed. Now my photo was on page one.

A few people who called into the TV and radio programs I was on attacked me as if I and bin Laden were friends and I had asked him for the endorsement. I had to point out that he and I were not really friends; in fact, I hadn’t spoken to him in months.

Some of the media hosts wanted me to say that I was repulsed by bin Laden’s “endorsement”. But I did not say I was repulsed, because I wasn’t. What I said was: “There are two elements, involved here: On the one hand, I totally despise any kind of religious fundamentalism and the societies spawned by such, like the Taliban in Afghanistan. On the other hand, I’m a member of a movement which has the very ambitious goal of slowing down, if not stopping, the American Empire, to keep it from continuing to go round the world doing things like bombings, invasions, overthrowing governments, and torture. To have any success, we need to reach the American people with our message. And to reach the American people we need to have access to the mass media. What has just happened has given me the opportunity to reach millions of people I would otherwise never reach. Why should I not be glad about that? How could I let such an opportunity go to waste?”

But many, perhaps most, of those who called in were not hostile. During a 45-minute interview on C-Span and on some radio programs, several people called in to say how delighted they were to hear views expressed that they had never heard before on that station, or had never heard anywhere. I received more than 1000 emails from people I had never been in contact with before, most of which were supportive. I estimate that I sold about 20,000 copies of my book because of my increased exposure.

In summary, I think that there’s a very large audience of Americans out there just waiting for us to reach them. Many of them very much suspect that there are things seriously wrong with what the media, the White House, and the Pentagon tell them, but they don’t know enough to really be sure or to try to influence others. And they’re weighed down by the myths, the myths surrounding US foreign policy. I’ve gotten quite a few emails from people who tell me about friends and family who simply refuse to be swayed by the facts in my books or other sources. No matter how much these people are shown that what they believe is fallacious, they still refuse to reconsider their views. They say that the author must be quoting out of context or they simply don’t care what the argument is.

Now why is that? Are these people just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions; consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about US foreign policy, and if you don’t deal with those basic beliefs you’ll be talking to a stone wall. Here are what I think are eight of those basic beliefs, or they can as well be called “myths”:

(1) US foreign policy “means well”. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on the odd occasion cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are honorable, if not divinely inspired. Of that most Americans are certain. They genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can’t see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. The idea that the United States is seeking to dominate the world, and exploit it economically, and is prepared to use any means necessary, is not something that’s easy for most Americans to swallow. They see our leaders on TV and their photos in the press, they see them smiling or laughing, telling jokes; see them with their families, hear them speak of God and love, of peace and law, of democracy and freedom, of human rights and justice and even baseball … How can such people be called immoral or war criminals?

They have names like George and Dick and Donald, not a single Mohammed or Abdullah in the bunch. And they speak English. Well, George almost does. People named Mohammed or Abdullah cut off an arm or a leg as punishment for theft. We know that that’s horrible. We’re too civilized for that. But we don’t consider that people named George and Dick and Donald drop millions of cluster bombs on cities and villages, and the many unexploded ones become land mines, and before very long a child picks one up or steps on one of them and loses an arm or leg, sometimes worse.

I like to ask the question: What does US foreign policy have in common with Mae West, the Hollywood sexpot of the 1940s? The story is told of a visitor to her mansion, who looked around and said: “My goodness, what a beautiful home you have.” And Mae West replied: “Goodness has nothing to do with it.”

That’s one of the important points you have to make about US foreign policy — goodness has nothing to do with it.

If I were to write a book called The American Empire for Dummies, page one would say: Don’t ever look for the moral factor. US foreign policy has no moral factor built into its DNA. Clear your mind of that baggage which only gets in the way of seeing beyond the clichés and the platitudes they feed us all.

So when American officials state or imply benevolent motivations behind their foreign policy, we should not let them get away with claiming such intentions. Supporters of US policies have that rationale profoundly embedded in their thinking, and I find it very useful in discussions with such people to raise moral questions about the government’s motivations. These people are not used to hearing such an argument. The media almost never mentions it. It’s almost disorienting for Americans. Or I sometimes ask them what the United States would have to do abroad to lose their support? What for them would be too much? Try that.

(2) The United States is really concerned with this thing called “democracy”. Even though in the past 60 years, the US has attempted to overthrow literally dozens of democratically-elected governments, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and grossly interfered in as many democratic elections in every corner of the world. Moreover, it would be difficult to name a brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th century that was not supported by the United States. Not just supported, but put into power, and kept in power, against the wishes of the population.

The question is: What do the Busheviks mean by “democracy”?

Well, the first thing they have in mind is making sure the country in question is hospitable to corporate globalization and American military bases; and if this means forcing a regime change, so be it. The last thing they have in mind is any kind of economic democracy, the closing of the gap between the desperate poor and those for whom too much is not enough.

(3) Anti-American sentiment in the Middle East comes from hatred of our alleged freedom and democracy, or our wealth, or our secular government, or our culture. George W. has declared this many times. But polls taken in many Middle East countries in recent years, by respected international polling organizations, show again and again that the great majority of those people really admire American society. There’s no clash of civilizations. It’s much simpler. What bothers them about the United States are the decades of appalling things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. That’s what motivates anti-American terrorists. It’s not the sex in American films and TV; it’s the American bombs dropping on their homes and schools. It’s not the alcohol and the miniskirts. It’s the American invasions and occupations; American torture; support of Middle East dictators; unmitigated support of Israel.

It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long succession of Washington’s awful policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. No one likes being invaded or bombed or tortured or having their government overthrown by a foreign power. Why should there be any doubt about this? But Americans have to be reminded of it.

I don’t think, by the way, that poverty plays much of a role in creating terrorists. The 9-11 hijackers, or alleged hijackers, were not a bunch of poor peasants; they were largely middle and upper class, and educated. Bin Laden himself is, or was, a millionaire. So we shouldn’t confuse terrorism with revolution.

(4) The United States has been pursuing a War on Terror. But the fact is the US is not actually against terrorism per se, they’re against only those terrorists who are not allies of the American empire. For example, there is a lengthy and infamous history of Washington’s support for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. At this moment, Luis Posada Carriles remains protected by the US government in Florida, though he masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people. Venezuela, a key location in this murder plot, has asked Washington to return Posada to Caracas. But the US has refused. He’s but one of hundreds of anti-Castro terrorists who’ve been given haven in the United States over the years along with many other terrorists from Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries.

The United States has also provided support of terrorists in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, including those with known connections to al Qaeda. All to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism. What’s happened is that the War on Terror has served as a cover for the expansion of the empire.

Supporters of the War on Terror tell us that it’s been a success because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack in the US in the six -plus years since 9-11. Well, there wasn’t a terrorist attack in the US in the six-plus years before 9-11 either. So what does that prove? More importantly, since the first American bombs fell on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific — military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States, including two very major attacks in Indonesia with large loss of life.

But the worst failure of the War on Terror is that American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including all the torture, have probably created thousands of new anti-American terrorists. We’ll be hearing from them for a terribly long time.

(5) If Saddam Hussein had in fact possessed all the terrible weapons the US claimed he had, the invasion and occupation of Iraq would then have been justified. Of the numerous lies we’ve been told about the war in Iraq, this is the biggest one, this is the most insidious, the necessary foundation for all the other lies. Think about it — What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? Because that’s what would have followed an Iraqi attack on the US or Israel — if not a nuclear devastation of Iraq, then a non-nuclear devastation of Iraq. But if in fact Iraq was not a threat to attack the US or Israel, then all we’ve been told about the war, before it began, and afterwards, is totally meaningless; all the accusations and discussions about whether the intelligence was right or wrong about this or that, or whether the Democrats also believed the lies, all meaningless.

And keep in mind, the same question applies to Iran: What possible reason could Iran have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? Of course, what worries Tel Aviv and Washington is not so much the danger of such an attack, but the fact that some day Israel might not be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, a serious loss of their ability to dominate.

Sometimes, when I have a discussion with a person who supports the war in Iraq, and the person has no other argument left to defend US policy there he may say something like: “Well, just tell me one thing, are you glad that Saddam Hussein was overthrown?”

And I say “No”.

And he says “No?”

And I say: Tell me, if you went into surgery to correct a knee problem and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if someone asked you afterward: Well, aren’t you glad that you no longer have a knee problem? It’s the same with the Iraqi people. They no longer have a Saddam Hussein problem. In general, the great majority of Iraqis had a much better life under Saddam Hussein than they’ve had under US occupation. That’s been confirmed again and again.

(6) There are many who believe that invading and occupying Iraq has been a horrible mistake, but that doing the same in Afghanistan has been justified. Afghanistan has become “the good war”. It was to revenge the deaths of September 11, 2001, was it not? Of course — in a rational world — revenge should be taken against those responsible for what happened on that infamous date. But of the tens of thousands of people killed by the US and its allies in Afghanistan the past six-plus years, how many, can it be said, had anything to do with the events of September 11? My rough estimate is … none. So what kind of revenge is that?

Yes, Osama bin Laden had been living in Afghanistan and that’s where the attack had been partially planned. But consider … If Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the terrible bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, had not been quickly caught, would the government have bombed the state of Michigan or any of the other places McVeigh had called home and where he had planned his attack?

Whatever one thinks of the appalling society the Taliban created, they had not really been associated with terrorist acts, and the masses of Taliban supporters shouldn’t have been held responsible if their leader, Mohammed Omar, one person, allowed foreign terrorists into the country, any more than I would want to be held responsible for all the Cuban terrorists in Miami. And most of the foreigners had probably come to Afghanistan in the 1990s to help the Taliban in their civil war — a religious mission for them — nothing the US government should have been concerned about. And remember, Mohammed Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to the United States if Washington presented proof of bin Laden’s involvement in 9-11. The United States did not accept the offer.

(7) In the Cold War, the United States defeated what was known as the International Communist Conspiracy. The legacy of the Cold War is still with us; it keeps coming up, often used by conservatives in one way or another as an argument in support of the War on Terror.

Let me take you back a bit now. If you think what you have now is government lying and deceit, let me tell you that in my day, during the cold war, the big lie, the big huge lie they pounded into our heads from childhood on was that there was something out there called The International Communist Conspiracy, headquarters in Moscow, and active in every country of the world, looking to subvert everything that was decent and holy, looking to enslave us all. That’s what they taught us, in our schools, our churches, on radio, TV, newspapers, in our comic books — The Communist Menace, the red menace, more dangerous than al Qaeda is presented to us today.

The Communist Menace was international, you couldn’t escape it. And almost every American believed this message unquestioningly. I was a good, loyal anti-communist until I was past the age of 30. In fact, in the 1960s I was working at the State Department planning on becoming a foreign service officer so I could join the battle against communism, until a thing called Vietnam came along and changed my mind, and my life.

It was all a con game. There was never any such animal as The International Communist Conspiracy. What there was, was people all over the Third World fighting for economic and political changes which didn’t coincide with the needs of the American power elite, and so the US moved to crush those governments and those movements, even though the Soviet Union was playing hardly any role at all in those scenarios.

Washington officials of course couldn’t say that they were intervening somewhere to block social change, so they called it fighting communism, fighting a communist conspiracy, and of course fighting for freedom and democracy. Just like now the White House can’t say that it invaded Iraq to expand the empire, or for the oil, or for the corporations, or for Israel, so it says it’s fighting terrorism.

Remember: The cold war ended in 1991 … the International Communist Conspiracy was no more … no more red threat … and nothing changed in American foreign policy. Since that time the US has been intervening, bombing, and overthrowing governments just as often as during the cold war. What does that tell you? It tells me that the so-called “communist threat” was just a ploy, an excuse for American imperialism.

Keep this in mind:
Following its bombing of Iraq in 1991 — after the cold war was ended — the United States wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Following its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the United States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

Following its bombing of Afghanistan in 2001-2, the United States wound up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen and Djibouti.

Following its bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States wound up with Iraq.

This is not very subtle foreign policy. It’s certainly not covert. The men who run the American Empire are not easily embarrassed.

And that’s the way the empire grows — a base in every region, ready to be mobilized to put down any threat to imperial rule, real or imagined. 63 years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; 55 years after the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea.

(8) The last myth I’d like to mention has to do with the media, and it affects the political views of Americans as much as any of the previously mentioned myths. It’s the idea that conservatives and liberals are ideological polar opposites. In actuality, conservatives, especially of the neo- kind, are far to the right on the political spectrum, while liberals are ever so slightly to the left of center. Yet, we are led to believe that a radio or TV talk show on foreign policy with a conservative and a liberal is offering a “balanced” point of view. But a more appropriate balance to a neo-conservative would be a left-wing radical or progressive. American liberals are typically closer to conservatives on foreign policy than they are to these groups on the left, and the educational value of such supposedly balanced media can be more harmful than beneficial as far as seeing through the empire’s actions and motives. The listener thinks he’s getting more or less a full range of opinion on the topic and doesn’t realize that there’s a whole world outside the narrow box he’s being placed in.

The fundamental political difference between liberalism and Marxism is that liberalism sees a problem — such as America’s role as the world’s bully — simply as bad policy, while the Marxist sees it as something that flows out logically from US economic and military interests.

When a liberal sees a beggar, he says the system isn’t working. When a Marxist sees a beggar, he says the system is working.

Ideology is a very important concept and I think that most people are rather confused by it, which is due in no small measure to the fact that the media are confused by it, or they at least pretend to be confused. The official ideology of the American media is that they don’t have any ideology.

So all this I hope is ammunition you can use in trying to win over new recruits for the cause. And don’t be shy about raising such points even when “preaching to the choir” or “preaching to the converted”. That’s what speakers and writers are often scoffed at for doing — saying the same old thing to the same old people, just spinning their wheels. That’s what some would say I’m doing at this very moment. You are part of the choir, are you not?

But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I often get from my audiences, in person and via email, and from other people’s audiences as well, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda scheme. They’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present. Or they may know the facts but are unable to apply them at the appropriate moment. Or they’re vulnerable to being confused by the next person who comes along with a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe. In short, the choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened.

So that’s your assignment. Go out there and educate, and agitate, and subvert. There’s no magical tactic, only persistence. As the Quakers are fond of saying: If not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?

I thank you very much.

Bill Blum is the author of Rogue State, one of the best eye-opening compendiums on US foreign policy. No sanctimonious self-congratulatory myth remains standing after sitting with this book for a few hours. Bill’s personal site is at

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Dismantling The Empire

The Obama administration's plan to end production of the F-22 Raptor has received plenty of press coverage, but the Pentagon budget itself, even though it's again on the rise, hardly rates a bit of notice. In fact, amid the plethora of issues large and small -- from health care reform to Gates-gate, from energy policy to the culpability of Michael Jackson's doctor -- that make up the American debate in the media, in Washington, and possibly even in the country, what Chalmers Johnson has called "our empire of bases" goes essentially unmentioned. Not that we don't build them profligately. At one point, we had 106 of them -- mega to micro -- in Iraq alone; right now, we have at least 50 forward operating bases and command outposts in Afghanistan to go with a few giant bases (and the Pentagon is evidently now considering the possibility of creating a single, privatized, mercenary force to defend them, according to theWashington Post).

This is all staggering expensive. In an era when the need for funds at home is self-evident, on purely practical grounds -- and there are obviously others -- the maintenance of our global imperial stance, not to speak of the wars, conflicts, and dangers that go with it, should be at the forefront of national discussion. Instead, it has largely been left to oppositional websites to keep this crucial issue alive.

Our military empire, and the vast national security state and bureaucracy that go with it, have been perhaps the central focus of TomDispatch since it launched in late 2002. This site has concentrated on our military bases, the Pentagon's blue-sky thinking about future weaponry, air war as the American way of war, the defense budget, and the out-of-control nature of the Pentagon, among many other related issues. Nick Turse, associate editor at this site and an expert on the Pentagon, has even put its properties on "the auction block."

Since Chalmers Johnson first wrote of that empire of bases at this site back in 2004, no one has more cogently analyzed the dangers of militarism, military Keynesianism, and a Pentagon budgetspun out of control. His trilogy of books on the subject, Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis are already classics, and assumedly on the shelves of all TomDispatch readers.

Today, he turns to the issue which should be, but isn't, central to our moment: dismantling the empire. Think of this as the American health care reform program that no one is discussing.Tom

Three Good Reasons To Liquidate Our Empire

And Ten Steps to Take to Do So
By Chalmers Johnson

However ambitious President Barack Obama's domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

According to the 2008 official Pentagon inventory of our military bases around the world, our empire consists of 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there -- 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.

These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony -- that is, control or dominance -- over as many nations on the planet as possible.

We are like the British at the end of World War II: desperately trying to shore up an empire that we never needed and can no longer afford, using methods that often resemble those of failed empires of the past -- including the Axis powers of World War II and the former Soviet Union. There is an important lesson for us in the British decision, starting in 1945, to liquidate their empire relatively voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by defeat in war, as were Japan and Germany, or by debilitating colonial conflicts, as were the French and Dutch. We should follow the British example. (Alas, they are currently backsliding and following our example by assisting us in the war in Afghanistan.)

Here are three basic reasons why we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

Shortly after his election as president, Barack Obama, in a speech announcing several members of his new cabinet, stated as fact that "[w]e have to maintain the strongest military on the planet." A few weeks later, on March 12, 2009, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC, the president againinsisted, "Now make no mistake, this nation will maintain our military dominance. We will have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world." And in a commencement address to the cadets of the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22nd, Obama stressed that "[w]e will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen."

What he failed to note is that the United States no longer has the capability to remain a global hegemon, and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

According to a growing consensus of economists and political scientists around the world, it is impossible for the United States to continue in that role while emerging into full view as a crippled economic power. No such configuration has ever persisted in the history of imperialism. The University of Chicago's Robert Pape, author of the important study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House, 2005), typically writes:

"America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today's world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony."

There is something absurd, even Kafkaesque, about our military empire. Jay Barr, a bankruptcy attorney, makes this point using an insightful analogy:

"Whether liquidating or reorganizing, a debtor who desires bankruptcy protection must provide a list of expenses, which, if considered reasonable, are offset against income to show that only limited funds are available to repay the bankrupted creditors. Now imagine a person filing for bankruptcy claiming that he could not repay his debts because he had the astronomical expense of maintaining at least 737 facilities overseas that provide exactly zero return on the significant investment required to sustain them… He could not qualify for liquidation without turning over many of his assets for the benefit of creditors, including the valuable foreign real estate on which he placed his bases."

In other words, the United States is not seriously contemplating its own bankruptcy. It is instead ignoring the meaning of its precipitate economic decline and flirting with insolvency.

Nick Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates that we could clear $2.6 billion if we would sell our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and earn another $2.2 billion if we did the same with Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. These are only two of our over 800 overblown military enclaves.

Our unwillingness to retrench, no less liquidate, represents a striking historical failure of the imagination. In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner assured an audience of students at Beijing University, "Chinese assets [invested in the United States] are very safe." According to press reports, the students responded with loud laughter. Well they might.

In May 2009, the Office of Management and Budget predicted that in 2010 the United States will be burdened with a budget deficit of at least $1.75 trillion. This includes neither a projected $640 billion budget for the Pentagon, nor the costs of waging two remarkably expensive wars. The sum is so immense that it will take several generations for American citizens to repay the costs of George W. Bush's imperial adventures -- if they ever can or will. It represents about 13% of our current gross domestic product (that is, the value of everything we produce). It is worth noting that the target demanded of European nations wanting to join the Euro Zone is a deficit no greater than 3% of GDP.

Thus far, President Obama has announced measly cuts of only $8.8 billion in wasteful and worthless weapons spending, including his cancellation of the F-22 fighter aircraft. The actual Pentagon budget for next year will, in fact, be larger, not smaller, than the bloated final budget of the Bush era. Far bolder cuts in our military expenditures will obviously be required in the very near future if we intend to maintain any semblance of fiscal integrity.

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan's modern history -- to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories -- the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line. This frontier was created in 1893 by Britain's foreign secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand.

Neither Britain nor Pakistan has ever managed to establish effective control over the area. As the eminent historian Louis Dupree put it in his book Afghanistan(Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 425): "Pashtun tribes, almost genetically expert at guerrilla warfare after resisting centuries of all comers and fighting among themselves when no comers were available, plagued attempts to extend the Pax Britannica into their mountain homeland." An estimated 41 million Pashtuns live in an undemarcated area along the Durand Line and profess no loyalties to the central governments of either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The region known today as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is administered directly by Islamabad, which -- just as British imperial officials did -- has divided the territory into seven agencies, each with its own "political agent" who wields much the same powers as his colonial-era predecessor. Then as now, the part of FATA known as Waziristan and the home of Pashtun tribesmen offered the fiercest resistance.

According to Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan hands and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story (City Lights, 2009, p. 317):

"If Washington's bureaucrats don't remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world's sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States."

In 1932, in a series of Guernica-like atrocities, the British used poison gas in Waziristan. The disarmament convention of the same year sought a ban against the aerial bombardment of civilians, but Lloyd George, who had been British prime minister during World War I, gloated: "We insisted on reserving the right to bomb niggers" (Fitzgerald and Gould, p. 65). His view prevailed.

The U.S. continues to act similarly, but with the new excuse that our killing of noncombatants is a result of "collateral damage," or human error. Using pilotless drones guided with only minimal accuracy from computers at military bases in the Arizona and Nevada deserts among other places, we have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed bystanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have repeatedly warned that we are alienating precisely the people we claim to be saving for democracy.

When in May 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed as the commander in Afghanistan, he ordered new limits on air attacks, including those carried out by the CIA, except when needed to protect allied troops. Unfortunately, as if to illustrate the incompetence of our chain of command, only two days after this order, on June 23, 2009, the United States carried out a drone attack against a funeral procession that killed at least 80 people, the single deadliest U.S. attack on Pakistani soil so far. There was virtually no reporting of these developments by the mainstream American press or on the network television news. (At the time, the media were almost totally preoccupied by the sexual adventures of the governor of South Carolina and the death of pop star Michael Jackson.)

Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve. Fitzgerald and Gould, for example, charge that, contrary to our own intelligence service's focus on Afghanistan, "Pakistan has always been the problem." They add:

"Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch... from 1973 on, has played the key role in funding and directing first themujahideen [anti-Soviet fighters during the 1980s]… and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan's army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government." (p. 322-324)

The Pakistani army and its intelligence arm are staffed, in part, by devout Muslims who fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan to meet the needs of their own agenda, though not necessarily to advance an Islamic jihad. Their purposes have always included: keeping Afghanistan free of Russian or Indian influence, providing a training and recruiting ground for mujahideen guerrillas to be used in places like Kashmir (fought over by both Pakistan and India), containing Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and so keeping it out of Pakistan), and extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates, and the United States to pay and train "freedom fighters" throughout the Islamic world. Pakistan's consistent policy has been to support the clandestine policies of the Inter-Services Intelligence and thwart the influence of its major enemy and competitor, India.

Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army (retired), an adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, summarizes our hopeless project in South Asia this way: "Nothing we do will compel 125 million Muslims in Pakistan to make common cause with a United States in league with the two states that are unambiguously anti-Muslim: Israel and India."

Obama's mid-2009 "surge" of troops into southern Afghanistan and particularly into Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold, is fast becoming darkly reminiscent of General William Westmoreland's continuous requests in Vietnam for more troops and his promises that if we would ratchet up the violence just a little more and tolerate a few more casualties, we would certainly break the will of the Vietnamese insurgents. This was a total misreading of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, just as it is in Afghanistan today.

Twenty years after the forces of the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace, the last Russian general to command them, Gen. Boris Gromov, issuedhis own prediction: Disaster, he insisted, will come to the thousands of new forces Obama is sending there, just as it did to the Soviet Union's, which lost some 15,000 soldiers in its own Afghan war. We should recognize that we are wasting time, lives, and resources in an area where we have never understood the political dynamics and continue to make the wrong choices.

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted, "Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing." He continued:

"New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults -- 2,923 -- and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year]. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them."

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago.

That island was the scene of the largest anti-American demonstrations since the end of World War II after the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by two Marines and a sailor. The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.

The military itself has done next to nothing to protect its own female soldiers or to defend the rights of innocent bystanders forced to live next to our often racially biased and predatory troops. "The military's record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it's atrocious," writes Herbert. In territories occupied by American military forces, the high command and the State Department make strenuous efforts to enact so-called "Status of Forces Agreements" (SOFAs) that will prevent host governments from gaining jurisdiction over our troops who commit crimes overseas. The SOFAs also make it easier for our military to spirit culprits out of a country before they can be apprehended by local authorities.

This issue was well illustrated by the case of an Australian teacher, a long-time resident of Japan, who in April 2002 was raped by a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, then based at the big naval base at Yokosuka. She identified her assailant and reported him to both Japanese and U.S. authorities. Instead of his being arrested and effectively prosecuted, the victim herself was harassed and humiliated by the local Japanese police. Meanwhile, the U.S. discharged the suspect from the Navy but allowed him to escape Japanese law by returning him to the U.S., where he lives today.

In the course of trying to obtain justice, the Australian teacher discovered that almost fifty years earlier, in October 1953, the Japanese and American governments signed a secret "understanding" as part of their SOFA in which Japan agreed to waive its jurisdiction if the crime was not of "national importance to Japan." The U.S. argued strenuously for this codicil because it feared that otherwise it would face the likelihood of some 350 servicemen per year being sent to Japanese jails for sex crimes.

Since that time the U.S. has negotiated similar wording in SOFAs with Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Denmark. According to the Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (2001), the Japanese practice has become the norm for SOFAs throughout the world, with predictable results. In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. In Iraq, we have just signed a SOFA that bears a strong resemblance to the first postwar one we had with Japan: namely, military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes will remain in U.S. custody while Iraqis investigate. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to spirit the culprits out of the country before they can be charged.

Within the military itself, the journalist Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007), speaks of the "culture of unpunished sexual assaults" and the "shockingly low numbers of courts martial" for rapes and other forms of sexual attacks. Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq (Beacon Press, 2009), quotes this figure in a 2009 Pentagon report on military sexual assaults: 90% of the rapes in the military are never reported at all and, when they are, the consequences for the perpetrator are negligible.

It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN). Its agenda is to spread the word that "no woman should join the military."

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity costs" that go with them -- the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters -- along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth -- that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army's infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire(2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006), and editor of Okinawa: Cold War Island (1999).

[Note on further reading on the matter of sexual violence in and around our overseas bases and rapes in the military: On the response to the 1995 Okinawa rape, see Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, chapter 2. On related subjects, see David McNeil, "Justice for Some. Crime, Victims, and the US-Japan SOFA," Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 8-1-09, March 15, 2009; "Bilateral Secret Agreement Is Preventing U.S. Servicemen Committing Crimes in Japan from Being Prosecuted," Japan Press Weekly, May 23, 2009; Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces, Oxford University Press, 2001; Minoru Matsutani, "'53 Secret Japan-US Deal Waived GI Prosecutions," Japan Times, October 24, 2008; "Crime Without Punishment in Japan," the Economist, December 10, 2008; "Japan: Declassified Document Reveals Agreement to Relinquish Jurisdiction Over U.S. Forces,"Akahata, October 30, 2008; "Government's Decision First Case in Japan," Ryukyu Shimpo, May 20, 2008; Dahr Jamail, "Culture of Unpunished Sexual Assault in Military,", May 1, 2009; and Helen Benedict, "The Plight of Women Soldiers," the Nation, May 5, 2009.]

Copyright 2009 Chalmers Johnson

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