Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
a book by Chalmers Johnson
(our site's book review)
Chalmers Johnson says ". . . instead of acting to resolve the post 9/11 crisis, the United States exacerbated it with massive military assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq, two ill-advised and unnecessary wars that inflamed passions throughout the Islamic world and repelled huge majorities in every democratic country on earth. The two wars that the United States launched preemptively were the pet projects of special interest groups that used the attacks of 9/11 as a cover to hijack American foreign policy and implement their private agendas. These interest groups include the military-industrial complex and the professional armed forces, close American supporters of and advisers to the Likud Party in Israel, and neoconservative enthusiasts for the creation of an American empire. . . . the wars accelerated the recruitment of more suicidal terrorists and promoted nuclear proliferation in countries hoping to deter similar preemptive attacks by the United States. Two years after 9/11, America is unquestionably in greater danger of serious terrorist threats than it has ever been before."
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse
Johnson wonders that since the government only attempts to increase, not change or reverse, its anachronistic empire building arrangements, one must ask when, not whether, our American empire will start to unravel.
Shock and awe should be the public outcry when they find out the Iraq War was nothing but a fraud and an empire building con courtesy of the shadow government ass clowns
There is a lot to learn in Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. There are more historical details about U.S. relations with various nations than most of us will ever care to know. Johnson (died 2010) was professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and one of the world's most knowledgeble experts on China and Japan. Over the years, Johnson transformed from a right-wing conservative into an icon of the left and a trenchant critic of U.S. militarism. Among the reasons for his enlightenment: in 1981, the United States launched Vietnam-style operations in Central America and also launched major economic resources into supporting insurgency against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua sympathetic to Castro’s Cuba. Nicaragua's President Somoza, before his brutal assassination, exposed the Carter conspiracy to depose him in his book Nicaragua Betrayed.
Johnson (died 2010) was professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and a trenchant critic of U.S. militarism
"A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship," says Johnson in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.
Imperialism unchecked led to the fall of Rome; the U.S. has imperialism unchecked; any questions?
American shadow government elites supported a series of activities that ranged from the widespread use of paramilitary death squads in countries like El Salvador to military-directed genocidal campaigns in Guatemala, seriously compromising American rhetoric about human rights for the rest of the century. The contras that Reagan sent support to were brutal, murderous thugs, not "freedom fighters," like Reagan believed. Did Reagan know how badly he deceived the mainstream media, or was he an innocent figurehead and stooge who just read the lines he was furnished by the CIA? Who knows? But, as the author observes, in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States mostly scrapped its reliance on diplomacy, international law, and economic aid in carrying out its foreign policy activities, and they resorted much of the time to threats, military force, and political and financial manipulation. See A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption.
The use of military force in the name of democracy or human rights regularly makes a mockery of these very principles
Democratization by force is ineffective, illegal, and eminently hypocritical
Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy. So while Americans' rights were being erased, the U.S. military was violating human rights all over the planet.
The author states that the use of military force in the name of democracy or human rights regularly makes a mockery of these very principles. See The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up.
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged. Bailouts? The biggest companies got help while the little guy got the finger.
Currently, American imperial overstretch is not like the experiences of past empires. Instead, it more closely resembles the forces that brought down the Soviet Union. "In the long run, it may turn out that, like two scorpions in a bottle, they succeeded in stinging each other to death," Johnson theorizes, in comparing USSR and USA. Empire is a hard job, requiring major manpower allotments and eventually spreading oneself too thin. According to our eternal war on terror and the terrible national debt and the fear, hatred, and distrust coming from the other nations on the planet, the U.S. may have bit off more than it can chew. See The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline.
It may turn out the US and USSR, like two scorpions in a bottle, have succeeded in stinging each other to death
Its ambitions have outgrown its capabilities and resources. And we should never forget that these "ambitions" are NOT those of the American people, nor are they the desires of the bulk of our elected leaders and representatives. They are the sick obsessions of the shadow government neocons—the empire builders who want to have it all (for themselves) AT OUR EXPENSE! And elected leaders and representatives simply lack the courage to represent their constituents and restrain these imperialist wackos from their empire building actions.
Like a gluttonous snake with a rabbit in his tummy dreaming of a bear for dessert, the U.S.'s empire-builder-eyes may be bigger than its budget-stomach
The author sees our own ideological rigidity and our deep-seated belief in our own propaganda as our achilles heel. American policy crafting needs to be taken out of the hands of military planners and military-minded civilians, including those in the White House, who today dominate Washington policy. As johnson puts it, "The United States desperately needs options for dealing with crises other than relying on the carrier task force, cruise missiles, and the unfettered flow of capital." We cannot persist in exploiting and dominating smaller countries and daring the Russians, Indians, Pakistanis, French, and North Koreans to do anything about it. We cannot imagine any possible stance the USA could take that would predispose nonnuclear nations to desire becoming nuclear nations (e.g., Iran) faster than the current belligerent imperialist stance of the USA.
The NSA is also developing another tool that Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful—an artificial intelligence system designed to know what people are thinking
It is obvious that the imperialist impulses of the U.S. shadow government have centuries of precedent. There have been empires for millenium, the most recent one the British Empire from 1497 to 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese. But empire since the Cold War is a different enterprise than is was in pre-technology eras. Communication afforded by telegraphs and telephones, fast travel, more powerful and lethal conventional weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction came on the heels of the Industrial Revolution. And then came ubiquitous televisions, cable and satellite TV, the Computer Age and the Information Age, complete with the Internet, cell phones, communication satellites, social networks, NSA monitoring everyone everywhere like Big Brother.
The NSA is monitoring everyone everywhere like Big Brother—good-bye privacy!
Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!
But earlier empires had very different challenges, opportunities, and liabilities than 21st century empires. For one thing, there are too many WMDs in the world. For another, what you do can be found out about minutes after you do it, anywhere in the world. For another, the Internet renders propaganda less effective than it used to be. True, American consumers of mass media get most news from the bought-and-paid-for-and-CIA-filtered mainstream media, but many of us no longer find them credible and even less of us—6%—find them trustable. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
The shadow government pulls the real levers of power to keep things more profitable for the elites, and elected leaders are mere puppets
The internet is so effective at offering truth in alternative media websites that more people are deciding they are fed up with being spoon-fed propaganda so they go to alternative sources of news like alternet.org. Additionally, more and more Americans are discovering the wealth of books and ebooks and blogs and websites that tell the truth about U.S. propaganda, the shadow government, the true actions of the U.S. since the beginning of the 20th century as opposed to the mainstream media propaganda, American empire activities, the loss of rights and freedoms in the U.S., etc. This website has reviews on dozens of these essential books in the America section of our Articles page. So regardless of the baloney the mainstream sell-outs feed us, anyone can find out the truth about the ugly empire building crimes of the forces controlled indirectly by the shadow government, and directly by elected leader-puppets. And the truth about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and how the U.S. uses the farce of democratization as a cover for the merciless, murderous empire building activities.
The internet is so effective at offering truth in alternative media websites that more people are deciding they are fed up with being spoon-fed propaganda so they go to alternative sources of news like alternet.org
The point is simple: Our mainstream media propaganda is no longer sufficient to fool millions of Americans—and it hasn't fooled the rest of the world for many decades. "We know who you are and we saw what you did." is an old movie line that takes on new significance in 2016. Unfortunately, knowing that the fooling of the populace is working worse all the time—becoming less effective by the year, the corrupt Bush thugs started murdering our rights and freedoms "to make us safer" and "it's because of our essential war on terror." The Patriot Act took a big dump on the Constitution, and then the NSA and Obama came along and made everything worse, which many thought impossible!
The NSA have a very hostile attitude toward the U.S. Constitution
According to Bush, reading stories is more important than terrorists attacking our cities
Anyway, realizing that the "fool the citizens via propaganda" ploy was wearing very thin, the powers-that-be-that-shouldn't-be got ready for rebellion, laying all kinds of military hardware on U.S.police forces so it wouldn't matter how U.S. sheep felt about being sheared—trying to do something about it would be met by force, and worse yet, the Internet would get taken over by the president, and from that moment on, the Internet would have no more truth—only mainstream media propaganda. So, the nation is all set for martial law, a police state, rights and freedoms a distant memory, and a "temporary dictatorship" that wouldn't remain temporary. No one ever relinquishes power! The corrupt shadow government is simply awaiting its chance. The 9/11 disaster was the first of two shoes dropping. One day we'll wake up in a martial-law-run police state. We'll swear, upchuck, cry and scream, but to no avail—the other shoe has dropped.
9/11 terrorist attack
There are laws in place that give the president dictatorial powers to create a police state in an emergency, and how emergency is defined is up to the president!
How do you take wealth from a rich, powerful oligarch? The same way you take a banana from a 900-pound gorilla—very carefully! Any "temporary dictatorship" in martial law wouldn't remain temporary. No one ever relinquishes power!
Johnson cautions us that although most American citizens may be mostly ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all American citizens are likely to pay a steep price—individually and collectively—for the U.S.’s continued attempts to dominate the world with their imperialism. The U.S. continues to prop up repressive regimes or their militaries and police forces, now just as they have been doing since the 1953 Iran coup. The blowback from the oppressed is obvious: they've supported anti-Western terrorism and they are striving to attain nuclear bombs so they'll have effective leverage for threatening The Great Satan. The blowback for the Korean war and a divided Korea is North Korea's continuous obsessive development of nukes and their incessant threats toward the U.S. Much Latin American blowback centered on dumping U.S.-corporatocracy-supporting dictators and creating democracies that no longer have to take crap from the U.S.
We need people working on global warming issues, but we instead spend a fortune spying on U.S. citizens and warmongering, making the U.S. look like the Great Satan the Islamics see us as
The world voted to establish an international criminal court in 1998 to prosecute war crimes, but Algeria, China, Israel, Libya, Qatar, Yemen, and the United States voted against it. The USA considers itself above international law—unless defined and controlled by the USA, which infuriates most other nations, most of whom are all too familiar with U.S. war crimes. Republican representative Christopher Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, says, “Our joint exercises and training of military units [Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET)]—that have been charged over and over again with the gravest kind of crimes against humanity, including torture and murder—cry out for explanation.” But the Secretary of Defense just shrugs it off—since when does the military-industrial complex have to listen to lowly politicians? (Just because they're supposed to doesn't mean they do.) JCET's main role is training forces in foreign countries in FID (foreign internal defense), which amounts to little more than instruction in state terrorism.
American citizens are likely to pay a steep price—individually and collectively—for the U.S.’s continued attempts to dominate the world with their imperialism
According to Johnson, Militarily oriented products account for about a quarter of the total U.S. gross domestic product. The government employs some 6,500 people just to coordinate and administer its arms sales program in conjunction with senior officials at American embassies around the world, who spend most of their “diplomatic” careers working as arms salesmen. Oscar Arias, former Costa Rican president, said that "By selling advanced weaponry throughout the world, wealthy military contractors not only weaken national security and squeeze taxpayers at home but also strengthen dictators and worsen human misery abroad." Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory has observed that many Reagan administration and Pentagon officials knew practically every main figure in the Salvadoran death squads, most of whom were graduates of the infamous School of the Americas located in Fort Benning, Georgia.
The U.S. is the world's biggest arms exporter
And the use of cruise missiles and B-2 bombers to achieve humanitarian objectives is a sign of how unbalanced our foreign policy apparatus has become. Military might is not the same thing as leadership of the free world. And it cannot substitute for an informed public that understands—and approves—the policies being carried out in its name. But what U.S. citizens have, courtesy of the bought-and-paid-for mainstream media propaganda which has rarely reported truth in the area of foreign policy, is a wholy untrustable hybrid of facts, misinformation, and outright lies, all CIA filtered and with shadow government spin.
In 1987 Gorbachev introduced something really new—glasnost, or freedom of speech, which led to the people seeing truths that were opposite of the lies they'd been hearing for decades. This ended up clearing the way for the abandonment of Communism, which all could see was not working, and then the loss of political authority occurred in Russia. By 1997, Russia was bankrupt, without leadership, and crawling with corruption. It was truth and imperial overstretch that brought the Soviet Union down and the U.S. is now in that type of position as well (with truth coming from non-mainstream media sources). But the U.S. "hides" it well.
But this raises a few interesting issues. The U.S. has for the last century been a country more and more dependent on propaganda to pacify its ignorant citizens. From 1915 on, the news the public heard—and later saw—was more and more filtered by shadow government elites and the CIA so that only reports with the elites' blessings got to the masses. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
No wonder the public seems so confused and nothing ever changes. They're choking on misinformation that comes their way via political manipulation of citizens and via the Culture War!
Few of our citizens know the true history of their nation, what caused various wars, how the news they hear is a combination of facts, half-truths, misinformation, and propaganda, what is really going on with U.S. empire building, what and who really caused 9/11, and—most importantly—who is really in charge. They assume their history books are truth, never realizing the companies that own the publishers own the mainstream media as well, and propaganda is in both history books and mainstream media reporting.
People assume their history books are truth, never realizing the companies that own the publishers own the mainstream media as well, and propaganda is in both history books and mainstream media reporting
If the public really knew the truth, they'd be mad and disgusted and there would be violent rebellion after which
- There would never again be any money in politics
- All current politicians would be dumped
- The administration and Supreme Court would get replaced
- The CIA would all be fired
- The NSA would only spy in ways truly needed for national security
- The Patriot Act would be dumped
- We'd get back our Constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms
- The U.S. would apologize to countless countries
- The U.S. would leave the Mideast
- The U.S. would close most overseas bases
- The U.S. would honor its agreements
- The U.S. would support the U.N. and International Criminal Court
- The U.S. would support the Kyoto Protocol and environmental protection in general
- The U.S. would undo the Monsanto dictatorship over farming
- The U.S. would make everything with GMO or preservatives or hormones get clearly labelled
- The U.S. would stop drugging our kids with ADHD medicines
- The U.S. would make the rich pay their fair share of taxes finally via progressive tax codes
- The U.S. would dump all loopholes in tax law until we level the playing field
- The U.S. would eliminate tax shelters for corporations
- The U.S. would force all military actions to get approved by 75% of Congress
- The U.S. would dump control of media by anyone but the specific media outlet itself (e.g., CNN, the Wall Street Journal)
- The U.S. would restore investigative journalism
- The U.S. would restore freedom of the press
- The U.S. would cease empire building
- The U.S. would convert much of the military to the task of environmental cleanup, forest fire fighting, infrastructure maintainence and repair, and building and maintaining wind generators and solar energy generators (e.g., solar panels in the desert via trough systems or photovoltaic systems)
The current situation in 2016 would have the Founders turning over in their graves!
Neocons do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens—they care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end
So this brings up the issue of how the U.S. can have its own glasnost, or freedom of speech, which would then create the miracles listed above, but only if accompanied by a one-year period of exposing all current and past truths of the U.S.A. As mentioned above, if the public really knew the truth, there'd be hell to pay at first. Soldiers tricked into fighting empire building wars that they thought were legitimate democracy building wars would be mad, as would relatives of soldiers who'd died due to lies from administrations who thought of them as cannon fodder. The problem with all the truth telling on sites like this one and in ebooks, articles, alternate press sources, speeches, movies, and websites about the corruption of democracy, shadow government takeover, and empire building truths is that the public has been drinking the Kool-Aid so long it is sure the propaganda must be true. Most could barely conceive of the idea of how much they've been duped!
The public has been drinking the Kool-Aid so long it is sure the propaganda must be true. Most could barely conceive of the idea of how much they've been duped!
In 1998, Tom Plate, a columnist on Pacific Rim affairs for the Los Angeles Times, called the U.S. “A muscle-bound crackpot superpower with little more than cruise missiles for brains."
More terrorism means more drones get purchased from very profitable General Atomics
An excessive reliance on a militarized foreign policy has our security forces seeing boogeymen everywhere, not just behind every rock but in every building, so our drone forces are kept busy stamping them out, knowing full well that each so-called terrorist we blast to smithereens creates ten more terrorists out to get us (furious relatives and friends). But the defense industry isn't fazed by such obscene calculus, since this means more terrorists to blast which in turn means more drones to purchase from a very profitable General Atomics with the public's apparently infinite supply of disposable income. The presidential administration's claim that their war on terror is about reducing terrorism is wearing thin since the exact opposite result is occurring and yet they continue to pursue their flawed strategy—revealing that the goal they tell us and the goal they really have are two different things.
When Bush and Obama said their wars on terror may go on indefinitely, you can just imagine these fat cats rolling around in huge money bins laughing just like Scrooge McDuck
The war on terror has made all Americans much less secure. As long as shadow government controlled empire builders persist in doing what has been shown to make things worse, U.S. security will evade us. You cannot create security by killing everything that moves, by NSA spying on Americans, and by ignoring all facets of U.S. foreign policy except the military ones. Instead, says Johnson, rightly, the United States should bring most of its overseas land-based forces home and reorient its foreign policy to stress leadership through example and diplomacy. The terrorists are furious that we consider their lands to be our own private shooting gallery and their citizens are the little ducks gliding by rightward solely for our shooting pleasure. Folks, if THEY did that in the U.S., how would WE feel?!
The terrorists are furious that we consider their lands to be our own private shooting gallery and their citizens are the little ducks gliding by rightward solely for our shooting pleasure
The American empire expanded the NATO alliance eastward so it would be able to sell arms to the former Soviet bloc countries, whose armies were being merged with the NATO command structure, knowing full well that these actions will threaten Russia and elicit a hostile Russian reaction from their leaders. So of course this Russian reaction then becomes the main reason for this NATO expansion eastward. This is mixing up cause and effect, bigtime—getting the cart before the horse.
Expanding the NATO alliance causes Russian reaction which then is cited as the cause of the expansion—getting the cart before the horse
North Korea is a useful whipping boy for any number of interests in Washington. If the military needs a post–Cold War opponent to justify its existence, North Korea is tailor-made, with its belligerence and missles. And the arms lobby is eager, as always, to sell its products to each and every nation in East Asia, regardless of its political orientation.
North Korea's Kim Jong-un
U.S. policy toward China, whatever the disagreements about it within the government, is driven by a global agenda aimed at maintaining a U.S.-inspired, U.S.-financed, and U.S.-led world order of American Empire. But Johnson says that attempts to establish American hegemony over China will create a dangerous future and are doomed to failure.
Latin America went toward democratic, populist sytles of government and the U.S. can just go sit in the corner and pound sand up their arses
Ideological arrogance turned many countries off to Soviet Marxism and communism in the last half of the 20th century, but that same arrogance is turning off countries to American-styled capitalism and democracy. Americans can point to some success stories in Latin America that adopted democracy, but generally speaking, the U.S. fought their democratization, pushing them to adopt dictators friendly toward American corporatocracy. So, as the Native Americans learned in the 1600s through the 1900s, "white man speak with forked tongue." Latin America got fed up with the shameful U.S. hypocrisy they were witnessing and they dumped their dictators and went toward democratic, populist sytles of government and the U.S. can just go sit in the corner and pound sand up their arses. Although the actual words they used were probably more like "go away, Halliburton" or "go away, United Fruit Company" or "go away, Bechtel."
Democratization pretenses covering exploitation, like settler lies to Native Americans, illustrated clearly to numerous nations that 'white man speak with forked tongue'
The author discusses soft totalitarian states like China and soft authoritarian states like Singapore, providing details. Under both types of regimes, elections are usually to one degree or another only formalities, behind which permanent state officialdoms actually govern.
It is interesting to note the differences between these "less free" systems of government and the actual realities of the U.S. government. As their rights and freedoms slowly expand due to all the independence movements afoot in the world, ours slowly diminish. While their people know from childhood who actually governs in their system, our people learn what is supposed to be occuring in civics classes in high school. But unless they've kept their heads in the sand as adolescents and young adults, they begin to learn that their votes mean squat, their representatives represent only the corporatocracy and not them, and the people who are supposed to be running things turn out not to be—they are mere flunkies for the shadow government.
Unless they've kept their heads in the sand as adolescents and young adults, kids learn their votes mean squat, their representatives represent only the corporatocracy, and the people who are supposed to be running things aren't
American Empire building is mostly a way to pull cash from our wallets that they stick into their own pockets
Those who are wise enough to investigate (on websites like this one, which tries to find as much truth as possible) learn about the effects of the shadow government, which runs things to line the pockets of the already filthy rich oligarchs, and, unfortunately, they are willing to start wars and use the poor citizens as cannon fodder as well as exploit other countries mercilessly to accumulate massive wealth. Hence the dirty actions of the shadow government's American Empire building, which turns out to be mostly a way to pull cash from our wallets that they stick into their own pockets.
This book is a guide to some of the policies during and after the Cold War that precipitated blowback—a term the CIA invented. The term in defined as any action against Americans, civilian and military, at home and abroad, due to our covert operations in other people’s countries, and considered as retaliations. His next book is The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.