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Ed Jewett
08-07-2009, 01:54 AM
Keeping Track of the Empire’s crimes

The Anti-Empire Report
by William Blum / August 5th, 2009
http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/

If you catch the CIA with its hand in the cookie jar and the Agency admits the obvious — what your eyes can plainly see — that its hand is indeed in the cookie jar, it means one of two things: a) the CIA’s hand is in several other cookie jars at the same time which you don’t know about and they hope that by confessing to the one instance they can keep the others covered up; or b) its hand is not really in the cookie jar — it’s an illusion to throw you off the right scent — but they want you to believe it.
There have been numerous news stories in recent months about secret CIA programs, hidden from Congress, inspired by former vice-president Dick Cheney, in operation since the September 11 terrorist attacks, involving assassination of al Qaeda operatives or other non-believers-in-the-Empire abroad without the knowledge of their governments. The Agency admits to some sort of program having existed, but insists that it was canceled; and if it was an assassination program it was canceled before anyone was actually assassinated. Another report has the US military, not the CIA, putting the plan — or was it a different plan? — into operation, carrying out several assassinations including one in Kenya that proved to be a severe embarrassment and helped lead to the quashing of the program.1 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_0_9617)
All of this can be confusing to those following the news. And rather irrelevant. We already know that the United States has been assassinating non-believers, or suspected non-believers, with regularity, and impunity, in recent years, using unmanned planes (drones) firing missiles, in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, if not elsewhere. (Even more victims have been produced from amongst those who happened to be in the same house, car, wedding party, or funeral as the non-believer.) These murders apparently don’t qualify as “assassinations”, for somehow killing “terrorists” from 2000 feet is morally and legally superior to doing so from two feet away.

But whatever the real story is behind the current rash of speculation, we should not fall into the media’s practice of at times intimating that multiple or routine CIA assassination attempts would be something shocking or at least very unusual.

I’ve compiled a list of CIA assassination attempts, successful and unsuccessful, against prominent foreign political figures, from 1949 through 2003, which, depending on how you count it, can run into the hundreds (targeting Fidel Castro alone totals 634 according to Cuban intelligence);2 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_1_9617)) the list can be updated by adding the allegedly al Qaeda leaders among the drone attack victims of recent years. Assassination and torture are the two things governments are most loath to admit to and try their best to cover up. It’s thus rare to find a government document or recorded statement mentioning a particular plan to assassinate someone. There is, however, an abundance of compelling circumstantial evidence to work with. The list can be found here (http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm).

For those of you who collect lists about splendid US foreign policy post-World War II, here are a few more that, lacking anything better to do, I’ve put together: Attempts to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments (http://killinghope.org/bblum6/overthrow.htm), most of which had been democratically-elected.
After his June 4 Cairo speech, President Obama was much praised for mentioning the 1953 CIA overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. But in his talk in Ghana on July 11 he failed to mention the CIA coup that ousted Ghanian president Kwame Nkrumah in 1966,3 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_2_9617) referring to him only as a “giant” among African leaders. The Mossadegh coup is one of the most well-known CIA covert actions. Obama could not easily get away without mentioning it in a talk in the Middle East looking to mend fences. But the Nkrumah ouster is one of the least known; indeed, not a single print or broadcast news report in the American mainstream media saw fit to mention it at the time of the president’s talk. Like it never happened.
And the next time you hear that Africa can’t produce good leaders, people who are committed to the welfare of the masses of their people, think of Nkrumah and his fate. And think of Patrice Lumumba, overthrown in the Congo 1960-61 with the help of the United States; Agostinho Neto of Angola, against whom Washington waged war in the 1970s, making it impossible for him to institute progressive changes; Samora Machel of Mozambique against whom the CIA supported a counter-revolution in the 1970s-80s period; and Nelson Mandela of South Africa (now married to Machel’s widow), who spent 28 years in prison thanks to the CIA.4 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_3_9617)


Gross interference in democratic elections in at least 30 countries5 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_4_9617)
Waging war/military action, either directly or in conjunction with a proxy army, in some 30 countries (http://killinghope.org/bblum6/us-action.html)
Dropping bombs on the people of more than 30 countries (http://killinghope.org/superogue/bomb.htm)
Attempts to suppress dozens of populist/nationalist movements in every corner of the world6 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_5_9617)

The Myths of Afghanistan, past and present
On the Fourth of July, Senator Patrick Leahy declared he was optimistic that, unlike the Soviet forces that were driven from Afghanistan 20 years ago, US forces could succeed there. The Democrat from Vermont stated:
The Russians were sent running as they should have been. We helped send them running. But they were there to conquer the country. We’ve made it very clear, and everybody I talk to within Afghanistan feels the same way: they know we’re there to help and we’re going to leave. We’ve made it very clear we are going to leave. And it’s going to be turned back to them. The ones that made the mistakes in the past are those that tried to conquer them.7 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_6_9617)
Leahy is a long-time liberal on foreign-policy issues, a champion of withholding US counter-narcotics assistance to foreign military units guilty of serious human-rights violations, and an outspoken critic of robbing terrorist suspects of their human and legal rights. Yet he is willing to send countless young Americans to a living hell, or horrible death, or maimed survival.

And for what? Every point he made in his statement is simply wrong.

The Russians were not in Afghanistan to conquer it. The Soviet Union had existed next door to the country for more than 60 years without any kind of invasion. It was only when the United States intervened in Afghanistan to replace a government friendly to Moscow with one militantly anti-communist that the Russians invaded to do battle with the US-supported Islamic jihadists; precisely what the United States would have done to prevent a communist government in Canada or Mexico.

It’s also rather difficult for the United States to claim that it’s in Afghanistan to help the people there when it’s killed tens of thousands of simply for resisting the American invasion and occupation or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; not a single one of the victims has been identified as having had any kind of connection to the terrorist attack in the US of September 11, 2001, the event usually cited by Washington as justification for the military intervention. Moreover, Afghanistan is now permeated with depleted uranium, cluster bombs-cum-landmines, white phosphorous, a witch’s brew of other charming chemicals, and a population, after 30 years of almost non-stop warfare, of physically and mentally mutilated human beings, exceedingly susceptible to the promise of paradise, or at least relief, sold by the Taliban.

As to the US leaving … utterly meaningless propaganda until it happens. Ask the people of South Korea — 56 years of American occupation and still counting; ask the people of Japan — 64 years. And Iraq? Would you want to wager your life’s savings on which decade it will be that the last American soldier and military contractor leaves?

It’s not even precise to say that the Russians were sent running. That was essentially Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision, and it was more of a political decision than a military one. Gorbachev’s fondest ambition was to turn the Soviet Union into a West-European style social democracy, and he fervently wished for the approval of those European leaders, virtually all of whom were cold-war anti-communists and opposed the Soviet intervention into Afghanistan.

There has been as much of the same “causes” for wars that did not happen as for wars that did.

Henry Allingham died in Britain on July 18 at age 113, believed to have been the world’s oldest man. A veteran of World War I, he spent his final years reminding the British people about their service members killed during the war, which came to about a million: “I want everyone to know,” he said during an interview in November. “They died for us.”8 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_7_9617)

The whole million? Each one died for Britain? In the most useless imperialist war of the 20th century? No, let me correct that — the most useless imperialist war of any century. The British Empire, the French Empire, the Russian Empire, and the wannabe American Empire joined in battle against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire as youthful bodies and spirits sank endlessly into the wretched mud of Belgium and Germany, the pools of blood of Russia and France. The wondrous nobility of it all is enough to make you swallow hard, fight back the tears, light a few candles, and throw up. Imagine, by the middle of this century Vietnam veterans in their 90s and 100s will be speaking of how each of their 58,000 war buddies died for America. By 2075 we’ll be hearing the same stirring message from ancient vets of Iraq and Afghanistan. How many will remember that there was a large protest movement against their glorious, holy crusades, particularly Vietnam and Iraq?

Supreme nonsense
Senate hearings to question a nominee for the Supreme Court are a supreme bore. The sine qua non for President Obama choosing Sonia Sotomayor appears to be that she’s a woman with a Hispanic background. A LATINA! How often that word was used by her supporters. She would be the first LATINA on the Supreme Court! Dios mio!

Who gives a damn? All anyone should care about are her social and political opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas is a black man. A BLACK MAN! And he’s as conservative as they come.

Supreme Court nominees, of all political stripes, typically feel obliged to pretend that their social and political leanings don’t enter into their judicial opinions. But everyone knows this is rubbish. During her Senate hearing, Sotomayor declared: “It’s not the heart that compels conclusions in cases. It’s the law.”

The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Charles Evan Hughes, would not agree with her. “At the constitutional level where we work,” he said, “ninety percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections.”9 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_8_9617)

(http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_8_9617) By Sotomayor’s own account, which echos news reports, she was not asked about her position on abortion by either President Obama or his staff. But what if she is actually anti-abortion? What if she turns out to be the swing vote that overturns Roe vs. Wade?

What if she’s a proud admirer of the American Empire and its perpetual wars? American dissidents, civilian and military, may depend on her vote for their freedom from imprisonment.

What does she think about the “war on terror”? The civil liberties and freedom from torture of various Americans and foreigners may depend on her attitude. In his 2007 trial, Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was found guilty of aiding terrorists. “The jury did seem to be an oddly cohesive group,” the Washington Post reported. “On the last day of trial before the Fourth of July holiday, jurors arranged to dress in outfits so that each row in the jury box was its own patriotic color — red, white or blue.”10 (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#footnote_9_9617) No one dared to question this blatant display of patriotism in the courtroom; neither the defense attorney, nor the prosecutor, nor the judge. How can we continue to pretend that people’s legal positions exist independently of their political sentiments?

In the 2000 Supreme Court decision stopping the presidential electoral count in Florida, giving the election to George W. Bush, did the politics of the five most conservative justices play a role in the 5 to 4 decision? Of course. Judges are essentially politicians in black robes. But should we care? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Sonia Sotomayor is a LATINA!

Given the large Democratic majority in the Senate, Sotomayor was in very little danger of being rejected. She could have openly and proudly expressed her social and political positions — whatever they may be — and the Democratic senators could have done the same. How refreshing, maybe even educational if a discussion ensued. Instead it was just another political appointment by a president determined to not offend anyone if he can help it, and another tiresome ritual hearing. The Republican senators were much less shy about revealing how they actually felt about important issues.

It didn’t have to be that way. As Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun.org pointed out during the hearings: “Democratic Senators could use their time to ask questions and make statements that explain why a liberal or progressive worldview is precisely what is needed on the Supreme Court.”

NATO and Eastern Europe resource
No one chronicles the rise of the supra-government called NATO like Rick Rozoff in his “Stop NATO” mailings. NATO has become an ever-expanding behemoth, making war and interfering in political controversies all over Europe and beyond. The United States is not the world’s only superpower; NATO is another, as it surrounds Russia and the Caspian Sea oil reserves; although the distinction between the two superpowers is little more than a facade. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the NATO/US 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. On April 23, 1999 missiles slammed into Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in downtown Belgrade, killing 16 employees. The station, NATO claimed, was a legitimate military target because it broadcast propaganda. (Certainly a novel form of censorship; not to mention the fact that NATO could simply have taken out the station’s transmitter.) What apparently bothered the Western powers was that RTS was reporting the horrendous effects of NATO’s bombing as well as passing footage of the destruction to Western media.

To mark the anniversary, Amnesty International recently issued a demand that NATO be held accountable for the 16 deaths. Amnesty asserts that the bombing was a deliberate attack on a civilian object (one of many during the 78 days) and as such constitutes a war crime, and called upon NATO to launch a war crimes probe into the attack to ensure full accountability and redress for victims and their families.

Readers might consider signing up for the “Stop NATO” mailing list. Just write to: rwrozoff [at] yahoo.com. Rozoff scours the East European press each day and comes up with numerous gems ignored by the mainstream media. But a warning: The amount of material you’ll receive is often considerable. You’ll have to learn to pick and choose. You can get an idea of this by reading previous reports here (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/messages).


The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/13/cheney-cia-al-qaida-assassinations) (London) July 13, 2009 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_0_9617)]
Fabian Escalante, Executive Action: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro, (Ocean Press, 2006 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_1_9617)]
William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 32. [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_2_9617)]
William Blum, Rogue State, chapter 23. [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_3_9617)]
Ibid., chapter 18 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_4_9617)]
Rogue State, chapter 17, intermixed with other types of US interventions [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_5_9617)]
Vermont TV station WCAX, July 4, 2009, WCAX.com [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_6_9617)]
Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/18/AR2009071801973.html), July 19, 2009 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_7_9617)]
William O. Douglas, The Court Years, 1939-1975 (1980), p.8 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_8_9617)]
Washington Post, August 17, 2007 [? (http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/08/keeping-track-of-the-empires-crimes/#identifier_9_9617)]


William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire.

Magda Hassan
08-07-2009, 02:23 AM
I am pleased to see Rick Rozoff and his work getting the recognition he deserves. His covering of the malignant growth of the NATO empire is not at all what he ever intended to do with his life. In a free and sane world he would most likely be an academic quietly pursuing his love of words and literature and culture and sharing that with others. Instead for far too many years now he finds himself compelled to warn us all and chronicle the creeping shadow of fascism and death and destruction taking over the globe that is NATO. No holidays, no rest. Some one who has truly taken the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller to heart. We need thousand more like him.

Ed Jewett
08-07-2009, 02:58 AM
posted July 30, 2009 10:28 am
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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/business/22defense.html), but the Pentagon budget itself, even though it's again (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175045) 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 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/21/AR2005052100611_pf.html) -- 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 (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/07/us-weighs-private-army-to-protect-afghan-bases/) the possibility of creating a single, privatized, mercenary force to defend them, according to (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/25/AR2009072501738.html) the Washington Post).

This is all staggering expensive (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/6231). 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 (http://www.antiwar.com/) to oppositional websites (http://www.fpif.org/fpifzines/wb/6258) to keep this crucial issue alive.

Our military empire, and the vast national security state and bureaucracy (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/87452/proliferation_wars_in_the_intelligence_community) 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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174807/), the Pentagon's blue-sky thinking (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/1290/turse_on_weaponizing_the_wild_kingdom) about future weaponry (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175021/nick_turse_are_the_army_s_days_of_the_future_past_ ), air war as the American way of war (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/2047/icarus_armed_with_vipers_over_iraq), the defense budget, and the out-of-control (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175007) 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." (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174994)

(http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174994) Since Chalmers Johnson first wrote of that empire of bases (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/1181/chalmers_johnson_on_garrisoning_the_planet) at this site back in 2004, no one has more cogently analyzed the dangers of militarism, military Keynesianism (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175029), and a Pentagon budget spun out of control (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174884). His trilogy of books on the subject, Blowback (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805075593/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20), The Sorrows of Empire (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805077979/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20), and Nemesis (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805087281/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) 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 (http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/20090514_chalmers_johnson_on_the_cost_of_empire) 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 (http://fpif.org/fpiftxt/6231) 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 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/3540167/Barack-Obama-says-US-will-maintain-strongest-military-on-planet-as-Clinton-confirmed-top-diplomat.html) 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 again insisted (http://www.emailthepresident.com/news/2009/03-12-obama-says-us-military-will-change-but-remain-worlds-strongest.html), "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 (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22869.html) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0812973380/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (Random House, 2005), typically writes (http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=20484):

"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 (http://original.antiwar.com/barr/2009/04/01/calling-the-US-bankrupt-is-insulting) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805089195/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174994) 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 are very safe." According to press reports (http://wonderlandwire.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/audience-laughs-after-geithner-tells-china-its-dollar-assets-are-safe/), 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 (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aKOzWiTDseUE&pid=20601039) 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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175045), 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195776348/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (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 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6524296.ece) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0872864944/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175056) 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 (http://news.antiwar.com/2009/06/25/pakistan-expresses-concern-after-us-drone-attack-on-funeral/), 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 the [I]mujahideen [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 (http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4106190&c=FEA&s=COM) 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, issued (http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=6871280) his 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/opinion/21herbert.html), "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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/1112/chalmers_johnson_on_imperial_rights) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1931859612/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0807061476/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0394738020/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) [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 (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/82009/the_military-leisure_golf_complex/), 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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174982) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805077979/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) [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 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175022/andy_kroll_will_public_education_be_militarized) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/156858394X/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) [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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805075593/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805077979/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805087281/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20) (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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0805075593/ref=nosim/?tag=tomdispatch-20), chapter 2. On related subjects, see David McNeil, "Justice for Some. Crime, Victims, and the US-Japan SOFA," (http://www.japanfocus.org/-David-McNeill/3083) 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," (http://www.japan-press.co.jp/2009/2623/usf_3.html) Japan Press Weekly, May 23, 2009; Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198268949.do), Oxford University Press, 2001; Minoru Matsutani, "'53 Secret Japan-US Deal Waived GI Prosecutions," (http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081024a3.html) Japan Times, October 24, 2008; "Crime Without Punishment in Japan," (http://www.electroniceconomist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=7933602&story_id=12756824) the Economist, December 10, 2008; "Japan: Declassified Document Reveals Agreement to Relinquish Jurisdiction Over U.S. Forces," (http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/7652/1/352/) 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," (http://original.antiwar.com/jamail/2009/04/30/culture-of-unpunished-sexual-assault-in-military/) Antiwar.com, May 1, 2009; and Helen Benedict, "The Plight of Women Soldiers," (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090518/benedict) the Nation, May 5, 2009.]
Copyright 2009 Chalmers Johnson