- A personal note.
- It's no way to begin a Sunday or any day. An email explained.
My first thought was: damn, we lost another good one when we urgently need
him and many others, given the state of today's America - out-of-control
militarism, imperial arrogance, and homeland repression at a time of economic
crisis for millions. Johnson knew the threat, challenging it brilliantly
in his important writings and outspokenness. Now he's gone.
- A former cold warrior, Chal, as friends called him, turned
activist critic of US foreign policy, an imperial agenda doomed to fail.
When the Cold War ended, he saw no further logic to US global bases, continued
heightened militarism, and occupation of Japan, South Korea, Germany and
- Peace breaking out was glorious. "Give Peace A Chance,"
wrote John Lennon, his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame song predated it by a
- In a March 2006 Tom Engelhardt interview, Johnson said:
- "I was a cold warrior. There's no doubt about that.
I believed the Soviet Union was a genuine menace. I still think so....As
I saw it, the only justification for our monster military apparatus, its
size, the amounts spent on it, the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex....was
the existence of the Soviet Union and its determination to match us."
- After it imploded, he thought: "What an incredible
vindication for the United States. Now it's over, and the time has come
for a real victory dividend, a genuine peace dividend. The question was:
Would the US behave as it had in the past when big wars came to an end?"
Instead, we "began to seek an alternative enemy. Our leaders simply
could not contemplate dismantling the apparatus of the Cold War. That was,
I thought, shocking....I was flabbergasted and felt the need to understand
what had happened."
- Maintaining heightened militarism "suggest(ed) that
the Cold War was, in fact, a cover for something else; that something else
being an American empire intentionally created during World War II as the
successor to the British Empire. The Cold War was not the clean-cut conflict
between totalitarian and democratic values that we had claimed it to be."
- Most ominous about US imperialism is that "militarism
is so central to ours....not (for) national defense....but as a way of
life, as a way of getting rich or getting comfortable. (Yet it's) bankrupting
the country...This is not free enterprise. (It's) state socialism,"
heading us for ruin. "And the precedents for this should really terrify
- Johnson ended the interview quoting Pogo's observation,
saying: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
- On November 21, Steve Clemens wrote about the man he
knew, worked with, and admired, his article titled, "The Impact Today
and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson." Calling him "incorruptible
and passionate about policy, theory and their practice," he can't
"fathom him being gone....I just can't imagine that this blustery,
irreverent, completely brilliant force won't be there to challenge Washington
and academia." He "defied society's and life's rules and commanded
an enormous following of acolytes and enemies."
- His wife and lifelong intellectual partner, Sheila Johnson,
a Ph.D in anthropology, a distinguished scholar in her own right, wrote
this on her husband's passing:
- "At about 1PM on Saturday, November 20, Chal breathed
his last. Chal was in hospice care here at home for ten weeks. We tried
to keep him as comfortable as possible, and many evenings our cat Seiji
slept on his bed to keep him company."
- Noting his last four books, she said "They paint
a gloomy picture of a way of life grown old, and they perhaps cannot change
the course of history, but they were written with the hope that readers
would gain greater understanding as to what is happening to our Republic
and the world." More on his books below.
- A Brief Profile
- Distinguished scholar, author, Korean War veteran, and
former CIA consultant turned anti-war activist, Johnson taught political
science and Chinese studies for 30 years at the University of California's
Berkeley and San Diego campuses from 1962 - 1992, holding endowed chairs
in Asian politics at both. At Berkeley, he also served as Chairman of the
Center for Chinese Studies and its Department of Political Science.
- From 1967 - 1973, he was a consultant for the CIA'S Office
of National Estimates (NIEs), contributing analysis on China and Maoism.
- In 1976, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences. In 1994, he co-founded and served as president of
the Japan Policy Research Institute (JPRI), "dedicated to policy-relevant
research and public education on Japan and the entire Pacific Rim, with
the aim of advancing inter-societal understanding, regional reconciliation,
and global justice."
- Johnson was also a prolific writer of numerous articles
and 18 books, his newest titled, "Dismantling the Empire - America's
Last Best Hope," calling the country's reliance on global imperialism
and permanent wars a "suicide option" unless reversed, the topic
his well-known trilogy addressed:
- -- "Blowback," CIA terminology following its
first foreign leader coup, ousting Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq,
ushering in 26 years of dictatorship under Shah Reza Pahlavi;
- -- "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy,
and the End of the Republic;" and
- -- "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic."
- Combined, the three volumes show how imperial hubris
and overreach undermined the republic, what Johnson called:
- "arrogant and misguided American policies (that)
headed us for a series of catastrophes comparable to our disgrace and defeat
in Vietnam or even to the sort of extinction that befell....the Soviet
Union (that he believes is) now unavoidable."
- Calling America's condition dire, he said it's "too
late for mere scattered reforms of our government or bloated military to
make much difference." History is clear, he stressed. We can choose
democracy and survive. Or continue as present and perish, saying America
is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires unwilling to change,
what he called:
- "isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and
global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy,"
combined with authoritarian rule and loss of personal freedom.
- Hence, his title, Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance and
punisher of hubris and arrogance in Greek mythology. She's already among
us, unseen and patiently stalking our way of life as a free nation, awaiting
her moment to appear, our day of reckoning.
- Johnson compared her to Wagner's Brunnhilde in Der Ring
des Nibelungen. Unlike Nemesis, she collects heros, not fools and hypocrites.
But she and Nemesis announce themselves the same way: "Only the doomed
see me," even though her presence harms everyone.
- Post-9/11, Johnson railed against destructive policies
driving the country to tyranny and ruin, citing:
- -- a nation with no enemies permanently at war;
- -- a secret, unaccountable global torture prison gulag;
- -- the most secretive, intrusive, repressive government
in our history under a lawless, duplicitous president;
- -- one claiming "unitary executive" authority,
calling it a "ball-faced assertion of presidential supremacy dressed
up in legal mumbo jumbo;"
- -- homeland social decay;
- -- an unprecedented wealth disparity combined with excessive
- -- a de facto one-party state with two wings, solely
- -- the absence of checks and balances and separation
of powers under a reckless "boy-emperor" on a "messianic
- -- a weak, servile Congress beholden to a dominant executive
under a system of authoritarian rule;
- -- a secret, unaccountable intelligence establishment
with near-limitless funding;
- -- a corporate-controlled media, manipulating the public
mind with managed news and infotainment;
- -- a destructive military-industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower
couldn't have imagined when he warned about it in his farewell address;
- -- endemic corruption, stemming from incestuous ties
between government and business, flaunting the notion of government of,
for or by the people.
- Summarizing the book, Johnson explained:
- "In Nemesis, I have tried to present historical,
political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior
is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire
abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut
our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or
its civilian equivalent."
- "The founders of our nation understood this well
and tried to create a form of government - a republic - that would prevent
this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost
continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have
destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency.
We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our
empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply
to all empires come into play - isolation, overstretch, the uniting of
forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis stalks our life
as a free nation."
- Johnson warned us, his powerful writings explaining the
clear and ominous danger, one showing no sign of abating. Just the opposite,
in fact, under a Democrat as neocon as Republicans, and a populace largely
clueless of the threat.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs
are archived for easy listening.