Sunday, November 30, 2003

Sorrows of Empire: grim diagnosis from a noted political scientist

An excerpt from Chalmers Johnson's new book, The Sorrows of
Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
, offers
an extremely dreary, but all-too-plausible summary of America's
situation at home and abroad.

"The sorrows of empire are the inescapable consequences of the
national policies American elites chose after September 11, 2001.
Militarism and imperialism always bring with them sorrows. The
ubiquitous symbol of the Christian religion, the cross, is perhaps
the world's most famous reminder of the sorrows that accompanied
the Roman Empire--it represents the most atrocious death the
Roman proconsuls could devise in order to keep subordinate
peoples in line. From Cato to Cicero, the slogan of Roman leaders
was "Let them hate us so long as they fear us."

Four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United
States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease
to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787. First,
there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism
against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance
on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off
the imperial juggernaut. Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional
rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from
a co-equal "executive branch" of government into a military junta. Third
is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the
glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there is
bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into
ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education,
health, and safety of its citizens. All I have space for here is to touch
briefly on three of these: endless war, the loss of Constitutional liberties,
and financial ruin.

. . . . .
In my judgment, American imperialism and militarism are so far
advanced and obstacles to its further growth have been so completely
neutralized that the decline of the U.S. has already begun. The
country is following the path already taken by its erstwhile
adversary in the cold war, the former Soviet Union. The U.S.'s
refusal to dismantle its own empire of military bases when the
menace of the Soviet Union disappeared, combined with its
inappropriate response to the blowback of September 11, 2001,
makes this decline virtually inevitable.

There is only one development that could conceivably stop this
cancerous process, and that is for the people to retake control
of Congress, reform it and the election laws to make it a genuine
assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply
of money to the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
That was, after all, the way the Vietnam War was finally brought
to a halt.

John le Carré, the novelist most famous for his books on the role
of intelligence services in the cold war, writes, "America has entered
one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I
can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs
and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam
War."15 His view is somewhat more optimistic than mine. If it is just
a period of madness, like musth in elephants, we might get over it.
The U.S. still has a strong civil society that could, at least in theory,
overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the
military-industrial complex. I fear, however, that the U.S. has indeed
crossed the Rubicon and that there is no way to restore Constitutional
government short of a revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy.
Without root and branch reform, Nemesis awaits. She is the goddess of
revenge, the punisher of pride and arrogance, and the United States is
on course for a rendezvous with her."

The full text of the article, "Sorrows of Empire," can be found at the
web site of Foreign Policy in Focus.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Constitution? We don't need no stinking Constitution!

General Tommy Franks, leader of U.S. forces in the war on Iraq,
has an interview in Cigar Aficianado magazine in which he expresses
severe doubt that the Constitution would survive an attack on
country by weapons of mass destruction.

A summary from reports:

Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake
of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen”
is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear
weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world,
loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve
seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that
we call democracy.”

Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would
happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a
terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the
Western world – it may be in the United States of America –
that causes our population to question our own Constitution and
to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of
another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then
begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps,
very, very important.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It's always interesting to learn what our leaders are thinking.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

London protesters use mobile technology to ruin Bush PR images

Here’s a story from the BBC about clever attempts to ruin
the scenic spectacles Bush handlers hope to capture during
his visit with Queen Elizabeth and the Poodle.

“Protesters angry about the "security bubble" around President
George Bush on his UK visit are being asked to use gadgets to be
heard and seen.

The Chasing Bush campaign is asking people to "disrupt the PR"
of the visit by spoiling stage-managed photos.

They are being encouraged to send location reports and images
by mobile to be posted on the Chasing Bush site.

"We want to give people a chance to be a visible voice of
dissatisfaction," said campaign organiser Tim Ireland.

Technologies like text messaging and weblogs have been
Successfully used in the past to co-ordinate routes and
meet-up points for mass protests.

But the gadgets are now being used more proactively to make
protests more visible and disrupt any potential stage-managing
of the President's visit.”

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Smithsonian celebrates weapons of mass destruction

The shameful history of attempts to exhibit the Enola Gay, the airplane
that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, has opened a new
chapter. A museum site recenlty organized by the Smithsonian National
Air and Space Museum, new facility, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at
Washington Dulles International Airport, will feature the Enola Gay as its centerpiece.
According to the History News Nework, "Fully restored, the Enola Gay will be displayed
as a 'magnificent technological achievement.'

"A coalition of scholars, religious leaders, veterans, scientists, and citizen activists
plan to protest the exhibit in its current form. They claim that it lacks historical
context and fails to address the controversy surrounding the bombings or
information on casualties. Arguing that the "celebratory nature of the exhibit
gives legitimacy to the 1945 bombing," the coalition joins other groups that
have already objected to the exhibit. According to Peter Kuznick, professor of
history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University,
who drafted the committee's statement, "We are not opposed to exhibiting the
Enola Gay...we welcome any exhibition that will spur an honest and balanced
discussion of the atomic bombings in 1945 and of current U.S. nuclear policy."

In early episodes during the 1990s, planned exhibitions of the Enola Gay
that called attention to deaths and destruction caused by the bomb were
censored because they cast a bad light on the American military. Now that flaw
has been repaired and thought control restored. Visitors to the Smithsonian can
view with pride the curators' patriotic celebration of U.S. airpower and weapons
of mass destruction.

File under "History - politically correct."
The global spread of HIV

A map prepared by the BBC provides graphic depiction of the
spread of HIV AIDS around the world. There is much good
information and comment on the BBC web page as well, including
Robin Lustig's "The genocide of a generation."

Also important is a BBC poll that shows astonishing levels of ignorance
about the causes and prevention of AIDS, especially in China. The
survey also finds that world public opinion is clear about one crucial
matter: Their governments are not doing enough to fight the disease.