The exact date that I first read something by Chalmers Johnson is difficult for me to pinpoint, but it was before September 11th, 2001. In fact I think it was the Spring on 2001.
I was living with my ex-girlfriend in Dartmouth Court right next to the campus of University California Irvine and I remember one day, she came back and dumped all her books and notebooks and supplies from school on the table. I was, characteristically bored with whatever I was doing and I immediately started going through her things.
this is when I first found the book Blowback:The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
I had recently left the Marines and these sorts of titles stood out to me. I was young and, being young I thought I knew so much more than I really did about things that very few people really know anything about. I was soon to learn that Chalmers Johnson, the author of Blowback, is one of those few people that knows.
Johnson actually published Blowback in 2000 but it received very little attention until AFTER the incidents on September 11th. In all the confusion and mis-management, many people started to ask “Why” and Johnson’s answer was “Why? Are you kidding?”.
Blowback became an instant must read and Chalmers Johnson an instant go-to-guy in regards to Americas policies abroad.
Blowback is a term coined by the CIA around 1953. It is meant to refer to the unexpected and unforeseen consequences of Americans military and economic actions abroad. The term is something of a hybrid between simple revenge and the famed butterfly effect. For example, it’s 1980: America needs to stop (oops, I meant trick Russia INTO) the USSR’s aggressive actions in a little country nobody had heard of called Afghanistan so we fund and arm millions of “mujaheddin” freedom fighters and we train and equip this guy, you might have heard of him, his names Osama bin Laden, then years later after America has gotten what it wanted we turn our backs on the country, let it fall into chaos and ruin, absolute civil war funded and manipulated by other interested parties ie. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and then Americans are shocked when Osama Bin Laden comes to blow our house down, still pretty upset about every thing from last time out together and non-too-happy regarding some of Americas other choices and actions in the middle East Theater.
That is a good example of Blowback.
A terrifying Example.
The book itself really resonated with me at the time in 2001 because not a year and a half before that I had been in Okinawa with the Marines. In the book, Johnson talks extensively about the American military presence in Okinawa and the harm it is causing and in fact, goes into great detail explaining the gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan school girl by two marines and one sailor in 1995. This is harsh reading people, but it is tremendously eye-opening, especially for ANY American living or considering living abroad. You can see the tell-tale signs and the wreckage all over. Having been to many of the places described in the Okinawan chapter of Blowback and having been that infantry marine in a foreign country with absolutely no idea why, it was extremely troubling to read. While reading about the brutality of the rape committed on “Kin Blue” Beach, I could not help but recall my fond memories there, training, swimming and being 20 years old. Memories that after reading about that event in 1995 are permanently tainted and discolored. Discolored because it all seemed so plausible, so easy for it to happen again.
BlowBack was extremely eye-opening and heavily thought-provoking.
Chalmers Johnson all but predicted the date and location of a terrorist action that would cause a paradigm shift in Americas International foreign policy in Blowback.
Since the Korean war, America has maintained its Military prowess. For years, the excepted reason for this was the existence of the USSR and the threat of Nuclear war. The “Russian bear” gave us all the excuses and motivation necessary to develop, maintain and nurture the most dramatic and deadly military the world has ever known.
The collapse of the Soviet Union should have led logically, to a downsizing of a massively bloated military infrastructure that had for years sapped the American pocket-book. This did not occur. In fact, since the events of 9/11 2001, America has been steadily moving away from its origins as a Democratic republic toward what seems to be more and more its future role as a militaristic totalitarian empire.
Why, how, who and since when are all the things that Johnson addresses with ease and expertise in The Sorrows of Empire.
What this book is, is the facts.
Johnson is not presenting much in the way of solutions, he is simply trying to illuminate so much that is often left covered in shadow to the layman who essentially has no way to get this information.
The United states has 725 official military bases outside of the USA.
There are 969 bases inside the 50 states.
There are NUMEROUS secret and clandestine bases literally all over the globe that are maintained by black budgets and money that congress has no accountability over. 40% of the militaries budget is classified as SECRET. The CIA, NSA, NSO, DIA, NRO and the other 11 intelligence organizations have budgets that are nearly completely free of governmental oversight. They work for the president of the united states and they bend and conform to what HE wants to do.
Get that straight now: The president makes a decision and then those intelligence agencies work to SUPPORT his decision.
After reading this book a phrase reverberated in my head over and over again with disturbing frequency.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
….who watches the watchmen…..
Republic…honestly, how long has it been since you heard that term used by anyone discussing the United states?
In Blowback, Johnson was desperate, he was angry and he was trying to reach someone, anyone. A warning he had, and it went unheard.
In the Sorrows of Empire, stressed out and desperate, he tried to give us the history. American Imperialism, why? Where did this come from? How is it working? The book gave little in the way of solutions but provided lots of fuel for someones angry fire.
Nemesis is Chalmers Johnson standing back, solemnly shaking his head and waiting for everyone else to wake up. He doesn’t want to say “I told you so.” but….
Nemesis in many ways is the climax. It is structurally much more smooth than the two preceding books and Johnson is much more careful regarding sourcing etc. In this way, it is better.
It is however, a clearly more depressing read. In Blowback one can feel Johnson’s angst and disappointed, in Nemesis, I felt nothing but disgust and sadness. This does not mean it should not be read, it is in fact a MUST READ.
Johnson compares and contrasts The Roman empire, the British Empire and finally the current American Empire. The similarities are astounding and frightening. He is a very functional historian who organizes facts in a timely fashions and has the ability to keep the book and the topics very academic without being completely boring. The information itself is fascinating as well.
A large part of this book is also dedicated to the CIA and its history and all the damage it has caused the world over. It has caused an immense amount of damage.
Conspiracy theorists move over, Nemesis brings the facts hard and fast. It reminds me of Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: “Do the Facts matter? Just tell me, do the Facts matter?”
The facts Matter. Johnson provides them in spades.
READ THESE BOOKS
These are all important books. If you are an American, if you consider yourself a patriot, you have a responsibility to read these and to be INFORMED. Anyone who is not from the USA, these books provide a very detailed inside look at the country that is more than likely controlling some form of your life, you just dont realize it. If you have a friend in the US military, these are books they should read. Be informed. Knowledge is power.