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The Big Answer


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The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic

a book by Chalmers Johnson

(our site's book review)

The American Empire Project Questions American Imperialism

Chalmers Johnson, until his death, was an Emeritus Professor at the University of California, San Diego, specializing in East Asian politics and economics. This book is part of The American Empire Project. The leaders in the USA have increasingly embraced imperial ambitions. How did this significant shift in purpose and policy come about? And what lies down the road? The American Empire Project is a response to the changes that have occurred in America’s strategic thinking as well as in its military and economic posture. Empire, long considered an offense against America’s democratic heritage, now threatens to define the relationship between our country and the rest of the world. The American Empire Project publishes books that question this development, examine the origins of U.S. imperial aspirations, analyze their ramifications at home and abroad, and discuss alternatives to this dangerous trend.

Johnson (died 2010) was professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and a trenchant critic of U.S. militarism
Johnson (died 2010) was professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and a trenchant critic of U.S. militarism


Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse


The unelected elites are the lords of secrecy—they are unaccountable, secret, and beyond our reach, yet they run things
The unelected elites are the lords of secrecy—they are unaccountable, secret, and beyond our reach, yet they run things

Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic explores the present extent of what Johnson regards as U.S. militarism and empire. It is a disquieting revelation of the effects of current affairs upon American freedom and democracy. There are 725 bases in 120 countries, and U.S. military personnel are everywhere. The author is pessimistic about the consequences of U.S. imperialism and the lies and disinformation that routinely prevent citizens’ awareness of their government’s actions. He bemoans the arrogance, stupidity, and willful disregard of dire consequences in American foreign policy by government officials and the shadow government elites who control these officials. The American Empire is a bloated disgrace whose recipe includes a web of military power, industrial and trade dominance, media influence, domestic pork-barrel politics, international arm-twisting, and other nefarious ingredients.

An American military base
An American military base

The Sorrows of Empire Are Endless war, Imperial Overstretch, Lying and Deceit, and Bankruptcy

Johnson tells us that "I think four sorrows inevitably accompany our current path:

  1. Endless war; as it stands right now, since 9/11, Articles 4 and 6 of the Bill of Rights are dead letters
  2. Imperial overstretch
  3. Tremendous rise in lying and deceit; it is hard to believe anything that the government says any longer because they are now systematically lying to us on almost every issue
  4. Bankruptcy; attempting to dominate the world militarily is a very expensive

Johnson is the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance, forewarning us of grave repercussions should we continue on the wrongheaded Might Makes Right path we're on
Johnson is the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance, forewarning us of grave repercussions should we continue on the wrongheaded Might Makes Right path we're on

Is the U.S. being able to boast that it is the biggest, toughest, baddest dude on the block really worth all this? It breaks one's heart to realize all the good that could be accomplished by using the money currently going into the American Empire obsession for good, compassionate, peaceful, humanitarian purposes!

national debt

Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo—but our leaders do not seem to care!
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo—but our leaders do not seem to care!

The War on Terror—But Whose Terror, Ours or Theirs?

President Bush unilaterally declared a long war against terrorism. Johnson notes that a White House spokesman at the time remarked that the president "considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason." That sounds like a paranoid schizophrenic to us. (In which Bush has delusions—false beliefs—that a person or persons are plotting against Bush or his administration or his policies and he is "treasonous" because he has negative ideas about Bush's policies. Since Bush feels this way, he is out of touch with reality and run by illogical thoughts of persecution simply because someone disagrees with or opposes Bush's policies. Anyone familiar with some of Bush's policies will discern a disconnect with reality in his thinking that leans toward paranoia and delusions of persecution, therefore they will tend to oppose his policies. Bush will see people whose opinions differ from his as "treasonous," therefore Bush is unfit to hold a high government office.) Bush has nearly bankrupted the country in the service of his warped psyche. And O'Bomb'em—who was supposed to pull the country back from the brink of disaster—exacerbated, rather than allieviated, the whole ugly mess!

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
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


Dubya considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason. That sounds like a paranoid schizophrenic to us
Dubya considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason. That sounds like a paranoid schizophrenic to us

Propaganda Is the Norm from the U.S. Mainstream Media

Our government has developed a growing system of propaganda, disinformation and glorification of war and military power—much of it monitored by the CIA. And Johnson fears economic bankruptcy as the president underwrites these adventures with a congressional blank check while neglecting growing problems of education, health care and a decaying physical infrastructure.

The U.S. is unable to effectively deal with any of its problems in education, crumbling infrastructure, health, etc.
The U.S. is unable to effectively deal with any of its problems in education, crumbling infrastructure, health, etc.

Be forewarned that some of Johnson’s statements and conclusions may sound radical since this degree of actual truth is routinely missing from the CIA-controlled or self-policing U.S. mainstream media. Our media, under CIA monitoring, uses the war as a distraction from Bush's domestic failures, such as the huge and growing federal budget deficit, the looting of workers’ pension funds by highly paid CEOs, vast tax cuts that favored the rich, and a severe loss of civil liberties and privacy.

The shadow government has presided over a severe loss of civil liberties
The shadow government has presided over a severe loss of civil liberties


Our government watches your every move—good-bye privacy, hello Big Brother
Our government watches your every move—good-bye privacy, hello Big Brother


Once they create the technology, can the thought police be far behind NSA's outrage of spying on us decent citizens?
Once they create the technology, can the thought police be far behind NSA's outrage of spying on us decent citizens?

Our Shadow Government Has Created the Exact Opposite of What the Founders Had Hoped For

U.S. is a police state and a predatory power abroad, imposing thousands of deaths on our troops and hundreds of thousands of deaths on others, and wasting trillions of dollars of American taxpayers' money
U.S. is a police state and a predatory power abroad, imposing thousands of deaths on our troops and hundreds of thousands of deaths on others, and wasting trillions of dollars of American taxpayers' money

It is incredible how far our leaders have come in creating the exact opposite of what the Founders had hoped for. Johnson offers little in the way of hope. America, it seems, has gone too far, and turning back now may not be possible. This book "throws light on the suicide of the United States as a democracy," says Johnson. Without a revolution, it will be next to impossible to curb the Pentagon's domination of our foreign policy, he says. But he is a wise man. He doesn't believe that grabbing our guns and driving to our nation's capitol will do anything but convert the USA into a police state utilizing marshall law. Some of the extreme rightwing militarists would like that anyway. So bitch all you want on blogs, phones, and websites, or in books. Or even launch protests. But keep them peaceful!

Grabbing our guns and driving to our nation's capitol like a colonial Minuteman of the Revolutionary War would be a very misguided, albeit patriotic, action—but, please, folks, NO VIOLENCE!
Grabbing our guns and driving to our nation's capitol like a colonial Minuteman of the Revolutionary War would be a very misguided, albeit patriotic, action—but, please, folks, NO VIOLENCE!

Rome Fell, the British Empire Fell—GUESS WHO IS NEXT?

British withdrawal from the southern and eastern parts of Africa was not a peaceful process—Kenyan and Rhodesian uprisings are examples
British withdrawal from the southern and eastern parts of Africa was not a peaceful process—Kenyan and Rhodesian uprisings are examples

The Roman Empire fell to barbarians because it couldn't afford to sustain its far-flung outposts. At its most extensive, the British Empire comprised 57 colonies, dominions, territories or protectorates, but all notable ones have been let go, with the loss of Hong Kong in 1997 being the last straw. The independence movement in the world was the major impetus for getting out from under colonialist rule. The British Empire fell to this instinct for freedom and self-determination. British withdrawal from the southern and eastern parts of Africa was not a peaceful process. Kenyan and Rhodesian uprisings are examples. One cannot help but compare U.K. and U.S. situations. It became too expensive for the British to ride herd over rebelling colonists so they stopped, but the U.S. doesn't care—it simply borrows more money. It required too much military conflict that wasn't worth it, for the U.K. But the U.S. has enough weapons and soldiers to circle the world 1000 times (okay, maybe not) and can't wait to use them. If neither the Romans nor the Brits could afford their empires, then logically the U.S. will cease playing God with the world as soon as everyone refuses to lend them any more money, and we hope this happens soon.

The Roman Empire fell to barbarians because it couldn't afford to sustain its far-flung outposts—neither can the U.S.!
The Roman Empire fell to barbarians because it couldn't afford to sustain its far-flung outposts—neither can the U.S.!

Could 9/11 Possibly Have Been Any More Suspicious?

9/11 terrorist attack
9/11 terrorist attack

In Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and others were just waiting for a "catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor" that would enable them to put their neocon, imperialistic, preventative attack ideas into practice. This is why 9/11 was seen by millions around the world as something arranged by Bush's thugs. See 9/11 Ten Years Later: When State Crimes against Democracy Succeed.

A catastrophic and catalyzing event (9/11), like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, came to pass at precisely the moment Bush wanted it!
A catastrophic and catalyzing event (9/11), like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, came to pass at precisely the moment Bush wanted it!

The author explores the roots of the military-industrial complex, when and where it came from, and how it's the dominant U.S. force now. He submits that empires can only be created when the populace is numbed, dumbed down and scared witless (by propaganda created for the purpose of fear mongering) enough to allow them. The British Empire felt plagued with an endless progression of places and commitments that must be protected, resulting inevitably in imperial overstretch, bankruptcy, and popular disaffection, precisely the maladies that plague the American Empire, such as it is. Do we really need 725 bases in 120 countries? Such planning comes from the mind or minds of paranoid schizophrenics. They're out to get us so let us be ready to get them first.

The British Empire suffered from imperial overreach, bankruptcy, and popular disaffection; here, soldiers are being resisted
The British Empire suffered from imperial overreach, bankruptcy, and popular disaffection; here, soldiers are being resisted

Dubya and O'Bomb'em Have Brainwashed Us into Believing That American Empire Building Is Our Patriotic Duty!

Chalmers Johnson is unquestionably a brilliant writer with a powerful eye for detail. He is also a masterful researcher and historian with a deep understanding of military history and foreign policy. He also seems to grasp the basic human drives behind the quest for dominance, and how these drives are so often rooted in beliefs that seem "patriotic" and "pro-American," thereby making empire building seem like the right thing to do. Just like Hitler, by controlling the propaganda message, he made persecution of Jews seem like the right thing to do. But empire building is a bloody, murderous business no matter how you sanitize it by calling it democratization in the CIA-filtered mainstream media. (CIA filtered? Fact, not opinion. See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.) In actual fact, democratization is obviously the cover story for imperialistic empire building and has been for decades.

Our Vietnam and Iraq wars were much more about imperialism than democratization, but most of us drank the Kool-Aid
Our Vietnam and Iraq wars were much more about imperialism than democratization, but most of us drank the Kool-Aid


The warmongering neocon elites' policies of unafordable empire building have led to actions that threaten to break the army and bankrupt the treasury
The warmongering neocon elites' policies of unafordable empire building have led to actions that threaten to break the army and bankrupt the treasury; we citizens object, but no one listens—welcome to the rise of the Corporate Security State

Since September 11 of 2001, the USA has "undergone a transformation from republic to empire that may well prove irreversible." This is a warning from scholar and author Chalmers Johnson, a true American patriot who cares deeply about his country. To sum up his book, he discusses the roots of American militarism, the rise and extent of the military-industrial complex, and the close ties between arms industry executives and high-level government officials, but his deeper warning is about our shadow government-controlled leaders creating endless war, presiding over the loss of rights and freedom, pushing us toward bankruptcy, engaging in endless lying and deceit even as it classifies its every move as secret so the public will stay not-so-blissfully ignorant of its actions, and pushing the nation into sliding down a slippery slope into imperialistic overreach and rogue nation status. Most U.S. citizens need to wake up and see the vital and disturbing picture Johnson is painting. Our current corrupt and rigged political system has abandoned America's founding principles and has subjected the country to needless wars and terrorism.

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!
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.

Chalmers Johnson's shocking but necessary book of neoconservatism gone mad in the U.S. empowers the reader with ideas, history, reasons, facts, research, truths and information. It will make you angrier than ever at your government for its unprovoked violence against other countries, as well as the abuses inflicted to the citizens of the USA. It's a scary but necessary read. Each person who reads it is another victory for truth, another episode in which truth wins out over propaganda, since the latter has been your main diet for decades.

Each person who reads The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic is another victory for truth, another episode in which truth wins out over propaganda, since the latter has been your main diet for decades
Each person who reads The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic is another victory for truth, another episode in which truth wins out over propaganda, since the latter has been your main diet for decades


Dwight Eisenhower warned about letting the military-industrial complex get too powerful—WHY DIDN'T WE LISTEN?
Dwight Eisenhower warned about letting the military-industrial complex get too powerful—WHY DIDN'T WE LISTEN?


George Washington's Farewell Address warned us about too much militarism as something vital to avoid—WHY DIDN'T WE LISTEN?
George Washington's Farewell Address warned us about too much militarism as something vital to avoid—WHY DIDN'T WE LISTEN?