Chalmers Johnson: “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic”


Richard Moore

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Chalmers Johnson: ³Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author 
Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually 
lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume
in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows 
of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military 
activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States. 
[includes rush transcript]

Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations at the 
University of California, San Diego. He is also President of the Japan Policy 
Research Institute. Johnson has written for several publications including Los 
Angeles Times, the London Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. In
2005, he was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary film, ³Why We

Chalmers Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking him about
the title of his book, ³Nemesis.²

€ Chalmers Johnson, Author, scholar and leading critic of US foreign policy. 
Retired professor of international relations at the University of California, 
San Diego. He is also President of the Japan Policy Research Institute. His new 
book is ³Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.²


This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide 
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AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour with the former CIA consultant, 
distinguished scholar, best-selling author, Chalmers Johnson. He's just 
published a new book. It's called Nemesis: The Last Days of the American 
Republic. It's the last volume in his trilogy, which began with Blowback, went 
onto The Sorrows of Empire. In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine 
and military activity has led to unintended but direct disaster here in the 
United States. In his new book, Johnson argues that US military and economic 
overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional 

Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations at the 
University of California, San Diego. He's also president of the Japan Policy 
Research Institute. He's written for a number of publications, including the Los
Angeles Times, The London Review of Books, Harper¹s magazine and The Nation. In 
2005, he was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary, Why We 
Fight. Chalmers Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking 
him about the title of his book, Nemesis.

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Nemesis was the ancient Greek goddess of revenge, the 
punisher of hubris and arrogance in human beings. You may recall she is the one 
that led Narcissus to the pond and showed him his reflection, and he dove in and
drowned. I chose the title, because it seems to me that she's present in our 
country right now, just waiting to make her -- to carry out her divine mission.

€ By the subtitle, I really do mean it. This is not just hype to sell books -- 
³The Last Days of the American Republic.² I¹m here concerned with a very real, 
concrete problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the 
United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations 
there is -- that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire -- that the choices 
are stark. 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, like the old Roman 
Republic, it will lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.

€ I¹ve spent some time in the book talking about an alternative, namely that of 
the British Empire after World War II, in which it made the decision, not 
perfectly executed by any manner of means, but nonetheless made the decision to 
give up its empire in order to keep its democracy. It became apparent to the 
British quite late in the game that they could keep the jewel in their crown, 
India, only at the expense of administrative massacres, of which they had 
carried them out often in India. In the wake of the war against Nazism, which 
had just ended, it became, I think, obvious to the British that in order to 
retain their empire, they would have to become a tyranny, and they, therefore, I
believe, properly chose, admirably chose to give up their empire.

€ As I say, they didn't do it perfectly. There were tremendous atavistic 
fallbacks in the 1950s in the Anglo, French, Israeli attack on Egypt; in the 
repression of the Kikuyu -- savage repression, really -- in Kenya; and then, of 
course, the most obvious and weird atavism of them all, Tony Blair and his 
enthusiasm for renewed British imperialism in Iraq. But nonetheless, it seems to
me that the history of Britain is clear that it gave up its empire in order to 
remain a democracy. I believe this is something we should be discussing very 
hard in the United States.

€ AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, you connect the breakdown of constitutional 
government with militarism.


€ AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the signs of the breakdown of constitutional 
government and how it links?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, yes. Militarism is the -- what the social side has 
called the ³intervening variable,² the causative connection. That is to say, to 
maintain an empire requires a very large standing army, huge expenditures on 
arms that leads to a military-industrial complex, and generally speaking, a 
vicious cycle sets up of interests that lead to perpetual series of wars.

€ It goes back to probably the earliest warning ever delivered to us by our 
first president, George Washington, in his famous farewell address. It¹s read at
the opening of every new session of Congress. Washington said that the great 
enemy of the republic is standing armies; it is a particular enemy of republican
liberty. What he meant by it is that it breaks down the separation of powers 
into an executive, legislative, and judicial branches that are intended to check
each other -- this is our most fundamental bulwark against dictatorship and 
tyranny -- it causes it to break down, because standing armies, militarism, 
military establishment, military-industrial complex all draw power away from the
rest of the country to Washington, including taxes, that within Washington they 
draw it to the presidency, and they begin to create an imperial presidency, who 
then implements the military's desire for secrecy, making oversight of the 
government almost impossible for a member of Congress, even, much less for a 

€ It seems to me that this is also the same warning that Dwight Eisenhower gave 
in his famous farewell address of 1961, in which he, in quite vituperative 
language, quite undiplomatic language -- one ought to go back and read 
Eisenhower. He was truly alarmed when he spoke of the rise of a large arms 
industry that was beyond supervision, that was not under effective control of 
the interests of the military-industrial complex, a phrase that he coined. We 
know from his writings that he intended to say a 
military-industrial-congressional complex. He was warned off from going that 
far. But it's in that sense that I believe the nexus -- or, that is, the 
incompatibility between domestic democracy and foreign imperialism comes into 

  € AMY GOODMAN: Who was he warned by?
  € CHALMERS JOHNSON: Members of Congress. Republican memb--
  € AMY GOODMAN: And why were they opposed?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, they did not want to have their oversight abilities 
impugned. They weren't carrying them out very well. You must also say that 
Eisenhower was -- I think he's been overly praised for this. It was a heroic 
statement, but at the same time, he was the butcher of Guatemala, the person who
authorized our first clandestine operation and one of the most tragic that we 
ever did: the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 for the sake of 
the British Petroleum Company. And he also presided over the fantastic growth of
the military-industrial complex, of the lunatic oversupply of nuclear weapons, 
of the empowering of the Air Force, and things of this sort. It seems to be only
at the end that he realized what a monster he had created.

AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American 
Republic. We'll come back to him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: As we return to my interview with Chalmers Johnson -- his new book,
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic -- I asked him to talk about the
expansion of US military bases around the globe.

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: According to the official count right now -- it's something 
called the Base Structure Report, which is an unclassified Pentagon inventory of
real property owned around the world and the cost it would take to replace it --
there are right now 737 American military bases on every continent, in well over
130 countries. Some apologists from the Pentagon like to say, well, this is 
false, that we're counting Marine guards at embassies. I guarantee you that it's
simply stupid. We don't have anything like 737 American embassies abroad, and 
all of these are genuine military bases with all of the problems that that 

€ In the southernmost prefecture of Japan, Okinawa, site of the Battle of 
Okinawa in 1945, there¹s a small island, smaller than Kawaii in the Hawaiian 
islands, with 1,300,000 Okinawans. There's thirty-seven American military bases 
there. The revolt against them has been endemic for fifty years. The governor is
always saying to the local military commander, ³You're living on the side of a 
volcano that could explode at any time.² It has exploded in the past. What this 
means is just an endless, nonstop series of sexually violent crimes, drunken 
brawls, hit-and-run accidents, environmental pollution, noise pollution, 
helicopters falling out of the air from Futenma Marine Corps Air Base and 
falling onto the campus of Okinawa International University. One thing after 
another. Back in 1995, we had one of the most serious incidents, when two 
Marines and a sailor abducted, beat and raped a twelve-year-old girl. This led 
to the largest demonstrations against the United States since we signed the 
security treaty with Japan decades ago. It's this kind of thing.

€ I first went to Okinawa in 1996. I was invited by then-Governor Ota in the 
wake of the rape incident. I¹ve devoted my life to the study of Japan, but like 
many Japanese, many Japanese specialists, I had never been in Okinawa. I was 
shocked by what I saw. It was the British Raj. It was like Soviet troops living 
in East Germany, more comfortable than they would be back at, say, Oceanside, 
California, next door to Camp Pendleton. And it was a scandal in every sense. My
first reaction -- I¹ve not made a secret of it -- that I was, before the 
collapse of the Soviet Union, certainly a Cold Warrior. My first explanation was
that this is simply off the beaten track, that people don't come down here and 
report it. As I began to study the network of bases around the world and the 
incidents that have gone with them and the military coups that have brought 
about regime change and governments that we approve of, I began to realize that 
Okinawa was not unusual; it was, unfortunately, typical.

€ These bases, as I say, are spread everywhere. The most recent manifestation of
the American military empire is the decision by the Pentagon now, with 
presidential approval, of course, to create another regional command in Africa. 
This may either be at the base that we have in Djibouti at the Horn of Africa. 
It may well be in the Gulf of Guinea, where we are prospecting for oil, and the 
Navy would very much like to put ourselves there. It is not at all clear that we
should have any form of American military presence in Africa, but we're going to
have an enlarged one.

€ Invariably, remember what this means. Imperialism is a form of tyranny. It 
never rules through consent of the governed. It doesn't ask for the consent of 
the governed. We talk about the spread of democracy, but we're talking about the
spread of democracy at the point of an assault rifle. That's a contradiction in 
terms. It doesn't work. Any self-respecting person being democratized in this 
manner starts thinking of retaliation. Nemesis becomes appropriate.

€ AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, there have been major protests against US 
military bases. Recently in Vicenza in Italy, about 100,000 people protested. 
Ecuador announced that it would close the Manta Air Base, the military base 
there. What about the response, the resistance to this web of bases around the 

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, there is a genuine resistance and has been for a long 
time. As I say, in the case of Okinawa, there's been at least three different 
historical revolts against the American presence. There's collaboration between 
the Japanese government and the Pentagon to use this island, which is a Japanese
version of Puerto Rico. It's a place that's always been discriminated against. 
It's the Japanese way of having their cake and eating it, too. They like the 
alliance with America, but they do not want American soldiers based anywhere 
near the citizens of mainland Japan. So they essentially dump them or quarantine
them off into this island, where the population pays the cost.

€ This is true, what's going on in Italy right now, where there is tremendous 
resistance to the CIA rendition cases. That is, kidnapping people that we've 
identified and flying them secretly to countries where we know they will be 
tortured. There's right now something like twenty-five CIA officers by name who 
are under indictment by the Italian government for felonies committed by agents 
of the United States in Italy. And, indeed, we just did have these major 
demonstrations in Vicenza. The people there believe that with the enlargement of
the base that is already there -- I mean, this is, after all, the old Palladian 
city, a city of great and famous architecture, that they would become a target 
of terrorism, of numerous other things.

€ We see the resistance in the form of Prime Minister Zapatero in Spain, that he
promised the people that after he came to power, he would get out of Iraq, and 
he was one of the few who did deliver, who does remember that if democracy means
anything, it means that public opinion matters, though in an awful lot of 
countries, it doesn't actually seem to be the case. But he has reduced radically
the American military presence in Spain.

€ And it continues around the world. There is a growing irritation at the 
American colossus athwart the world, using its military muscle to do as it 
pleases. We see it right now, that people of the Persian Gulf are not being 
asked whether or not they want anywhere between two and four huge carrier task 
forces in the fifth fleet in CENTCOM¹s navy in the Persian Gulf, and all of 
which looks like preparation for an assault on Iran. We don't know that for 
certain by any manner of means, but there's plenty enough to make us suspicious.

€ Then you look back historically, probably there is no more anti-American 
democracy on earth than Greece. They will never forgive us for bringing to power
the Greek colonels the in the late ¹60s and early ¹70s, and, of course, also 
establishing then numerous American military enclaves in Greece until the 
colonels themselves finally self-destructed by simply going too far.

€ And the cases are ubiquitous in Latin America, in Africa today. Probably still
the most important area, of course, of military imperialism is the opening up of
southern Eurasia, after it became available to foreign imperialistic pressure 
with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

€ Many important observers who have resigned their commissions from the Pentagon
have made the case that the fundamental explanation for the war in Iraq was 
precisely to make it the new -- to replace the two old pillars of American 
foreign policy in the Middle East. The first pillar, Iran, collapsed, of course,
with the revolution in 1979 against the Shah, who we had installed in power. The
second pillar, Saudi Arabia, had become less and less useful to us, because of 
our own bungling. We put forces, military forces, ground forces, an air force, 
in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in 1991. This was unnecessary, it was stupid,
it was arrogant. It caused antagonism among numerous patriotic Saudis, not least
of whom, one was our former asset and colleague, Osama bin Laden -- that Saudi 
Arabia is charged with the defense of the two most sacred sites in Islam: Mecca 
and Medina. We ought to be able to do this ourselves without using infidel 
troops that know absolutely nothing about our religion, our country, our 
lifestyle, or anything else. Over time, the Saudis began to restrict the use of 
Prince Sultan Air Base outside Riyadh. We actually closed down our major 
operations headquarters there just before the invasion of Iraq and moved it to 

€ And then we chose Iraq as the second most oil-rich country on earth, and as a 
place perfectly suited for our presence. I think many people have commented on 
it, Seymour Hersh notably, but I think, importantly, one of the reasons we had 
no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave. And certainly the 
evidence of it is the now series of at least five very, very large, heavily 
reinforced, long double runways, five air bases in Iraq, strategically located 
all over the country. You can never get our ambassador, the Department of 
Defense, the President, or anybody to say unequivocally we don't intend to have 
bases there. It's a subject on which Congress never, ever opens its mouth. 
Occasionally, military officers -- the commander of Air Force in CENTCOM has 
repeatedly, in his sort of off-hand way, when asked, ³How long do you think 
we'll be here?² and he usually says, ³Oh, at least a decade in these bases.² And
then, we continue to reinforce them.

€ Now, then, we¹ve tried to build bases in Central Asia in the Caspian Basin 
oil-rich countries that were made independent -- not in any sense democracies --
made independent by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. We have now been 
thrown out of one of them for too much heavy-handed interference. And the price 
of our stay in Kyrgyzstan has quadrupled, much more than that actually. It¹s 
gone from a few million dollars to well over $100 million. But we continue to 
play these games, and they are games, and the game is property called 

€ AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Chalmers Johnson. Now, Chalmers Johnson, you 
were a consultant for the CIA for a period through Richard Nixon, starting with 
Johnson in 1967, right through 1973. And I¹m wondering how you see its use has 
changed. You talk about, and you write in your book about the Central 
Intelligence Agency, the president's private army.

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: I say, at one point, we will never know peace until we 
abolish it, or, at any rate, restrict what is the monster that it's grown into. 
The National Security Act of 1947 lists five functions. It creates the Central 
Intelligence Agency. It lists five functions for it. The purpose, above all, was
to prevent surprise attack, to prevent a recurrence of the attack, such as the 
one at Pearl Harbor. Of these five functions, four are various forms of 
information-gathering through open sources, espionage, signals intelligence, 
things of this sort. The fifth is simply a catchall, that the CIA will do 
anything that the National Security Council, namely the foreign affairs 
bureaucracy in the White House attached directly to the president orders it to 

€ That's turned out to be the tail that wags the dog. Intelligence is not taken 
all that seriously. It's not that good. My function inside the agency in the 
late ¹60s, early ¹70s was in the Office of National Estimates. My wife used to 
ask me at times, ³Why are they so highly classified?² And I said, ³Well, 
probably and mostly, simply because they¹re the very best we can do, and they 
read like a sort of lowbrow foreign affairs article.² They're not full of great 
technical detail and certainty nothing on sources of intelligence.

€ But as the agency developed over time, and as it was made clear to the 
president, every president since Truman, made clear to them shortly after they 
were inaugurated, you have at your disposal a private army. It is totally 
secret. There is no form of oversight. There was no form of congressional 
oversight until the late 1970s, and it proved to be incompetent in the face of 
Iran-Contra and things like that. He can do anything you want to with it. You 
could order assassinations. You could order governments overthrown. You could 
order economies subverted that seemed to get in our way. You could instruct 
Latin American military officers in state terrorism. You can carry out 
extraordinary renditions and order the torture of people, despite the fact that 
it is a clear violation of American law and carries the death penalty if the 
torture victim should die, and they commonly do in the case of renditions to 
places like Egypt.

€ No president since Truman, once told that he has this power, has ever failed 
to use it. That became the route of rapid advancement within the CIA, dirty 
tricks, clandestine activities, the carrying out of the president's orders to 
overthrow somebody, starting -- the first one was the overthrow of Mohammed 
Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. It¹s from that, the After Action Report, which has 
only recently been declassified, that the word ³blowback² that I used in the 
first of my three books on American foreign policy, that's where the word 
³blowback² comes from. It means retaliation for clandestine activities carried 
out abroad.

€ But these clandestine activities also have one other caveat on them: they are 
kept totally secret from the American public, so that when the retaliation does 
come, they're unable ever to put it in context, to see it in cause-and-effect 
terms. They usually lash out against the alleged perpetrators, usually simply 
inaugurating another cycle of blowback. The best example is easily 9/11 in 2001,
which was clearly blowback for the largest clandestine operation we ever carried
out, namely the recruiting, arming and sending into battle of the Mujahideen in 
Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. But this is the way the 
CIA has evolved.

€ It's been responsible for the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and 
bringing to power probably the most odious dictator on either side in the Cold 
War, namely General Augusto Pinochet; the installation of the Greek colonels in 
the late Œ60s and early ¹70s in Greece; the coups, one after another, in 
numerous Latin American countries, all under the cover of avoiding Soviet 
imperialism carried out by Fidel Castro, when the real purpose was to protect 
the interests of the United Fruit Company, and continued to exploit the 
extremely poor and essentially defenseless people of Central America.

€ The list is endless. The overthrow of Sukarno in Indonesia, the bringing to 
power of General Suharto, then the elimination of General Suharto when he got on
our nerves. It has a distinctly Roman quality to it. And this is why I -- 
moreover, there is no effective oversight. There are a few, often crooked 
congressmen, like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who are charged with oversight. When 
Charlie Wilson, the congressman, long-sitting congressman from the Second 
District of Texas, was named chairman of the House Intelligence Oversight 
Committee during the Afghan period, he wrote at once to his pals in the CIA, 
³The fox is in the henhouse. Gentlemen, do anything you want to.²

AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson has just finished his trilogy. The first was 
Blowback, then Sorrows of Empire, now Nemesis: The Last Days of the American 
Republic. We'll be back with the conclusion of the interview in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to the conclusion of my interview with Chalmers Johnson. 
Professor Johnson is a noted expert on Asia politics. He has authored a number 
of books on the Chinese revolution, on Japanese economic development. In his 
thirty years in the University of California system, Johnson served as chair of 
the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. I 
asked him to talk about China's role as a growing world power.

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: I¹m optimistic about China. I think that they have shown a 
remarkable movement toward moderation. I believe that the public supports them, 
because they've done something that the public wanted done and was extremely 
fearful about, namely the dismantling of a Leninist economy without reducing the
conditions that occurred in Yeltsin's Russia, that China has -- it¹s unleashed 
its fantastic growth potential and is moving ahead with great power and insight.

€ There are many things that we do not like in the way this is developing, 
particularly the fear of China by the American neoconservatives. They have no 
alternative but to adjust to this. It's the same kind of adjustment that should 
have been made in the 20th century to the rise of new sources of power in 
Germany, in Russia, in Japan. The failure by the sated English-speaking powers 
-- above all, England and the United States -- to adjust led to savage and 
essentially worthless wars. But the Americans are again continuing to harp on 
China's growth, where, in fact, I¹ve been impressed with the ease with which 
China has adjusted to the interests of countries that do not necessarily like 
China at all -- Indonesia, for example, Vietnam.

€ They are contiguously egging on the Japanese to be antagonistic toward China, 
which was the scene of their greatest war crimes during World War II, for which 
they have never adequately either responded or paid compensation. I wonder what 
foolishness is this. A war with China would have the same -- it would have the 
same configuration as the Vietnam War. We would certainly lose it.

€ The glue, the political glue of China today, the source of its legitimacy, is 
increasingly Chinese nationalism, which is passionately held. As the Hong Kong 
joke has it, China just had a couple of bad centuries, and it's back.

€ We have not been watching it with quite the hawk eyes we were during the first
months of the Bush administration, when, after a spy incident in which the 
Chinese forced down one of our reconnaissance planes that was penetrating their 
coastal areas in an extremely aggressive manner -- if it had been a Chinese 
plane off of our coast, we would have shot it down; they simply forced it down, 
it was a loss of an airplane and one of their own pilots -- that, you'll recall,
George Bush said on television that he would, if the Chinese ever menaced the 
island of Taiwan, he would use the full weight and force of the American 
military against China. This is insanity, genuine insanity. There's no way that 
-- I mean, if the Chinese defeated every single American, they'd still have 800 
million of them left, and you simply have to adjust to that, not antagonize it, 
and I believe there's plenty of ample evidence that you can adjust to the 

€ AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, in January, the Chinese launched their first 
anti-satellite test, and I wanted to segue into that to the militarization of 

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, precisely, I have a chapter in Nemesis that I¹m 
extremely proud of called ³The Ultimate Imperialist Project: Outer Space.² It's 
about the congressional missile lobby, the fantastic waste of funds on things 
that we know don't work. But they're not intended to work. They're part of 
military Keynesianism, of maintaining our economy through military expenditures.
They provide jobs in as many different constituencies as the military-industrial
complex can place them.

€ We have arrogantly talked about full-spectrum dominance of control of the 
globe from outer space, the domination of the low and high orbits that are so 
necessary. We've all become so dependent upon them today for global positioning 
devices, telecommunications, mapping, weather forecasting, one thing after 
another. In fact, the Chinese, the Russians, the Europeans have been asking us 
repeatedly for decent international measures, international treaties, to prevent
the weaponization of space, to prevent the growing catastrophe of orbiting 
debris that are extremely lethal to satellites, to -- as Sally Ride, one of the 
commanders of our space shuttle, she was in an incident in which a piece of 
paint, or in orbit -- that's at 17,000 miles an hour in low-earth orbit -- hit 
the windshield of the challenger and put a bad dent in it.

€ Now, if a piece of paint can do that, I hate to tell you what a lens cap or an
old wrench or something like that -- so there's a whole bunch of them out there.
At the Johnson Space Center, they keep a regular growing inventory of these old 
pieces of, some case, weaponry, some case, launch vehicles for satellites, 
things of this sort. They publish a very lovely little newsletter that talks 
about how a piece of an American space capsule from twenty years ago rear-ended 
a shot Chinese-launched vehicle and produced a few more debris. It's a 

€ But instead, we've got -- there's no other word for it -- an arrogant, almost 
Roman, out-of-control Air Force that continues to serve the interests of the 
military-industrial complex, the space lobby, to build things that they know 
won't work.

  € AMY GOODMAN: What is a space Pearl Harbor?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: A space Pearl Harbor would mean, they believe, what the 
Chinese did in January, when they tested an anti-satellite weapon against one of
their old and redundant satellites. Satellites do burn out. There's no way to 
repair them, so they simply shot it down with a rocket. This explosion produces 
massive amounts of debris, whizzing around the earth in low-earth orbit. If you 
put it higher into orbit, you would start killing off the main satellites on 
which, well, probably this television broadcast is going to depend on, too. And 
there's no way to ever get rid of things that are orbiting in high-earth orbit. 
Low-earth orbit, some of them will descend into the atmosphere and burn up.

€ But the Air Force has continuously used this so-called threat of our being 
blinded by -- because we have become so reliant on global positioning systems. 
Our so-called ³smart bombs² depend on them, that we¹ve -- they're not very 
smart, and it's not as good a global positioning system as the peaceful one the 
Europeans are building called Galileo. They use it to say we must arm space, we 
must have anti-satellite weapons in space, we have rebuffed every effort to 
control this, and finding out the Chinese have called our bluff.

  € AMY GOODMAN: Where does Fort Greely, Alaska, fit into this, the silos?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, that is, there's three ways to shoot down an alleged 
incoming missile. This is the whole farce of whether there is a defense against 
a missile. I guarantee you there is no defense at all against the Topol-M, the 
Russian missile that goes into orbit extremely rapidly -- it goes into its arch 
extremely rapidly. It has a maneuvering ability that means that it's 

€ We're basically looking at very low-brow weapons that would be coming from a 
country like North Korea, in which we have three different ways of trying to 
intercept them. We used to only try to do with one under the Clinton 
administration. Under the enthusiasm of the current neoconservatives, we have 
three ways. One, on blastoff, this is extremely difficult to do, but we're 
trying to create a laser, carried in a Boeing 747, that would hit one. You've 
got to be virtually on top of the launch site in order to do so. It¹s never 
worked. It probably doesn't work, and it's just expensive.

€ The much more common one would be to down the hostile missile, while it is in 
outer space, from having given up its launch vehicle and is now heading at very 
high speed toward the United States. This is what the interceptors that have 
been put in the ground at Fort Greely, Alaska, and a couple of them at 
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, are supposed to do. They have never 
once yet had a successful intercept. The radar is not there to actually track 
the allegedly hostile vehicle. As one senior Pentagon scientist said the other 
day, these are really essentially scarecrows, hoping that they would scare off 
the North Koreans.

€ This is a catastrophic misuse of resources against a small and failed 
communist state, North Korea. There is no easier thing on earth to detect than a
hostile missile launch, and the proper approach to preventing that is 
deterrence. We have thought about it, worked on it, practiced it, studied it now
for decades. The North Koreans have an excellent reputation for rationality. 
They know if they did launch such a vehicle at Japan or at the United States, 
they would disappear the next day in a retaliatory strike, and they don't do it.

€ It's why, in the case of Iran, the only logical thing to do is to learn to 
live with a nuclear-armed Iran. It's inevitable for a country now surrounded by 
nuclear powers -- the United States in the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union, 
Israel, Pakistan and India. The Iranians are rationalists and recognize the only
way you're ever going to dissuade people from using their nuclear power to 
intimidate us is a threat of retaliation. So we are developing our minimal 
deterrent, and we should learn to live with it.

€ AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Chalmers Johnson, you have just completed your trilogy. 
Your first book, Blowback, then Sorrows of Empire, and now finally Nemesis: The 
Last Days of the American Republic. What is your prediction?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, I don't see any way out of it. I think it's gone too 
far. I think we are domestically too dependent on the military-industrial 
complex, that every time -- I mean, it's perfectly logical for any Secretary of 
Defense to try and close military bases that are redundant, that are useless, 
that are worn out, that go back to the Civil War. Any time he tries to do it, 
you produce an uproar in the surrounding community from newspapers, television, 
priests, local politicians: save our base.

€ The two mother hens of the Defense Facilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, the people committed to taking care of our bases are easily 
Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Dianne Feinstein of California, the two states
with the largest number of military bases, and those two senators would do 
anything in their power to keep them open. This is the insidious way in which 
the military-industrial complex has penetrated into our democracy and gravely 
weakened it, produced vested interests in what I call military Keynesianism, the
use and manipulation of what is now three-quarters of a trillion dollars of the 
Defense budget, once you include all the other things that aren't included in 
just the single appropriation for the Department of Defense.

€ This is a -- it's out of control. We depend upon it, we like it, we live off 
of it. I cannot imagine any President of any party putting together the 
coalition of forces that could begin to break into these vested interests, any 
more than a Gorbachev was able to do it in his attempted reforms of the Soviet 
Union in the late 1980s.

  € AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything, Chalmers, that gives you hope?

€ CHALMERS JOHNSON: Well, that's exactly what we're doing this morning. That is,
the only way -- you've got to reconstitute the constitutional system in America,
or it is over. That is that empires -- once you go in the direction of empire, 
you ultimately lead to overstretch, bankruptcy, coalitions of nations hostile to
your imperialism. We're well on that route.

€ The way that it might be stopped is by a mobilization of inattentive citizens.
I don't know that that's going to happen. I¹m extremely dubious, given the 
nature of conglomerate control of, say, the television networks in America for 
the sake of advertising revenue. We see Rupert Murdoch talking about buying a 
third of the Los Angeles Times. But, nonetheless, there is the internet, there 
is Amy Goodman, there are -- there's a lot more information than there was.

€ One of the things I have experienced in these three books is a much more 
receptive audience of alarmed Americans to Nemesis than to the previous two 
books, where there was considerable skepticism, so that one -- if we do see a 
renaissance of citizenship in America, then I believe we could recapture our 
government. If we continue politics as in the past, then I think there is no 
alternative but to say Nemesis is in the country, she's on the premises, and she
is waiting to carry out her divine mission.

AMY GOODMAN: Chalmers Johnson, his new book is Nemesis: The Last Days of the 
American Republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the 
best-selling Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire.

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