Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Sorrows of Empire

Militarism, Secrecy, and the

End of the Republic


Chalmers Johnson

Reviewed by Rick Ernst, June 17, 2004

Chalmers Johnson writes about American militarism, it’s physical presence, growth of Special Forces as private armies of the president and secrecy that allows them to thrive. Johnson fears we are loosing our country because of the arrogance of power and the euphemisms required to justify imperialism. The danger is that the US has embarked on a path not unlike the former Soviet Union during the 1980’s. The USSR collapsed for three basic reasons: internal economic contradictions driven by ideological rigidity, imperial overstretch and inability to reform. It may take longer for the US but the similarities are obvious. Nowhere is it written the US will dominate the world forever.

The US dominates the world with its military power. We deploy over 500,000 soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents and civilian contractors in other nations. Our secret bases monitor what people are saying, faxing, or emailing to one another. Civilian industries support this effort to keep soldiers housed in comfortable quarters, well fed, amused and supplied with enjoyable vacation facilities. Even after the Cold War there are still at least 725 military bases (that the Department of Defense has acknowledged) located in 38 countries. Many of these bases like Okinawa, have been in operation for over 50 years.

9/11 changed the thinking of some of our leaders who saw the US as a genuine empire no longer bound by international law, or the concerns of allies or any restraint in the use of military force. Is the US intent on world domination through military force?

We are still building bases overseas to house our military. Most recent additions include air bases in Qatar, Kosovo and Uzbekistan. The Department of Defense operates 234 golf courses, 71 Lear Jets, 13 Gulfstream III’s and 17 Cessna Citation luxury jets used to fly generals and their dogs to military spots across the globe.

The US nuclear arsenal is immense. It is composed of 5,400 multiple-megaton warheads atop intercontinental ballistic missiles based on land and seas; an additional 1,750 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles ready to be launched from B-2 and B-52 bombers and a further 1,670 nuclear weapons classified as “tactical”. Not fully deployed but available are an additional 10,000 or so nuclear warheads stored in bunkers in the US. One would think this might be more than enough preparedness to deter three puny nations that the president identified as the country’s major potential adversaries. This staggering over-kill potential is further proof of the power of the military mindset.

IMET, International Military Education and Training Program, offers military instruction to 96 countries in 1990 and has increased to 133 countries in 2002. This single program “instructs” militaries in 70% of the world’s nations. In a recent year, 100,000 foreign soldiers have been trained. The military claims that it trains foreign armies as a way of teaching them American values and models of civil-military relations but there is very little evidence of this in the training. The US is also the largest single seller of munitions on earth – from 1997 to 2002 it exported $44.82 billion in arms. “Train and sell” is a closely meshed system to enlist allies and make money from less developed countries.

There are many private companies doing military work. The biggest, Dyn-Corp employs 23,000. The 1990 estimate of revenues to these companies was $55.6 billion and is expected to rise to $202 billion by 2010. These civilian companies even employ their own industry trade group to lobby Congress. This private mercenaries’ lobbying group calls themselves the International Peace Operations Association---a name George Orwell would have cherished!

Kellogg, Brown and Root built Camp Bondsteel on 1,000 acres of confiscated land southeast of Kosovo for $36 million in 1999. They also operate the base for $180 million per year. The Army purchased so much furniture that they did not know where to put it. Offices were cleaned four times a day and latrines three times. The base is so massive it can be seen from space. The soldiers joke the only patch missing on their uniform says “Sponsored by Brown and Root”. So why was this military installation built? Supposedly for peace keeping in southern Serbia, but its now looking like it will secure Middle Eastern and Central Asian oil supplies and control where that oil is going. Camp Bondsteel is part of the military-petroleum-complex.

Wars are dangerous even though four out of five young people who enlist in the armed forces choose non-combat positions. To entice young people the Army gives out free video games, sponsors 6,000 horsepower dragsters called the “The Sarge”. The military does not tell our young people that they stand a good chance of injury or death because they have enlisted. For instance, our soldiers are being exposed to depleted uranium that was used in the bombing of Iraq and Kuwait. Just how dangerous is DU to our soldiers and civilians? That is highly contested today because many returning soldiers complain about illnesses caused by combat in 1991. In the first Gulf war the Pentagon estimates that there are at least 320 metric tons of DU on the battlefield. Who will clean up that environmental mess?

Special Access Programs (SAP) are classified as top secret. No one knows how much is spent on these program and what exactly they are doing. The Secretary of Defense may or may not tell eight members of Congress what is going on in these secret programs. There are at least 185 of these programs going on currently. The GAO estimates that $30-35 Billion is being spent each year on these secret programs. Congress can be kept in the dark because to the militaries fetish for secrecy and disinformation. With all this activity who knows what is going on and where these programs will lead.

According to Seymour Hersh in the 5/24/04 issue of the New Yorker magazine, Rumsfeld was frustrated with the war on terror and authorized the establishment of a highly secretive program that has given blanket approval to kill or capture and if possible interrogate “high value” targets in the war on terror. SAP Special Access Program is composed of Navy Seals, Army’s Delta Force and CIA paramilitary experts. No tracability, no budget and never briefed before Congress, this SAP is very secretive with fewer than 200 in the program including Rumsfeld and Myers. Rules: Grab who you must. Do what you want. That is what these SAP’s are doing. Where is the accountability? Who is running these programs?

If present trends continue, there will be four sorrows that will result from the US quest for empire. First, there will be a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism against Americans and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction among smaller nations. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as presidential power dominates. Third, truth will be replaced by propaganda, disinformation, glorification of war and power. Last, all of this will bankrupt our system as more and more military spending short changes the education, health and safety of our citizens. Not a pretty picture.


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