Our First Victory Was Zapatero
Our First Victory Was Zapatero
[Speech to a Democratic Party club in southern
In his speech of May 26 at
Despite endless hypocrisy about how we have brought freedom to the people of
You're thinking that I am only citing anti-Bush politicians like Gore or a highly literate but still unquestionably anti-American woman from
In his press conference of April 14, President Bush said repeatedly, "We must stay the course in
The point is that the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib prison, Chalabigate, CIA Director Tenet's resignation, war profiteering by Cheney's Halliburton Corporation, and other recent events have so discredited the
According to the Pentagon's annual inventory of real estate -- its so-called Base Structure Report -- we have over 725 military bases in some 132 countries around the world. This vast network of American bases constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of military enclaves rather than of colonies as in older forms of imperialism.
Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we maintain some thirteen carrier task-forces, which constitute floating bases. We operate numerous espionage bases not included in the Base Structure Report to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or emailing to one another.
Our installations abroad bring profits to civilian industries, which design and manufacture weapons for the armed forces or, like the now well-publicized Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation of
For their occupants, these bases are not necessarily unpleasant places to live and work. Military service today, which is voluntary, bears almost no relation to the duties of a soldier during World War II or the Korean or Vietnamese wars. Most chores like laundry, KP ("kitchen police"), guard duty, and cleaning latrines have been subcontracted to private military companies. About $30 billion, fully one-third of the funds appropriated for the war in
The military prefers bases that resemble small fundamentalist towns in the Bible Belt rather than neighborhoods in the big population centers of the
Our armed missionaries live in a closed-off, self-contained world serviced by its own airline -- the Air Mobility Command -- that links our outposts from
The inseparable companion of imperialism is militarism. This refers not to the defense of the country but to vested interests in the military as a way of life, in the expansion of the military establishment at the expense of civilian sectors of our government, and in making a living by working for the armed forces, military think tanks, or the munitions industries. Service in our armed forces is no longer an obligation of citizenship, as it was back in 1953 when I served in the Navy. Since 1973, it has been a career choice, one often made by citizens trying to escape from one or another dead-end of our society. That is why African-Americans are twice as well represented in the Army as they are in our population and why 50% of the women in the armed forces are from minorities. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was wounded at Nasiriyah during the assault on
Today, we have a professional, permanent standing army that costs around three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year -- that is, about $750 billion. This amount includes the annual Defense Department appropriation for weapons and salaries of $427 billion, another $75 billion for
The two most famous warnings about militarism in our history came from two prominent generals who became presidents. The first was by George Washington in his Farewell Address of September 1796. He wrote, "Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." The key phrase here is republican liberty (with a lower case 'r').
No less important than
Unfortunately, we Americans did not heed this warning and today the Department of Defense and its supporting military-industrial complex dominate our government. Of the money we spend on foreign affairs, 93% is controlled by the Pentagon, only 7% by the State Department. The biggest of all our weapons companies is the Lockheed Martin Corporation. In the year prior to the outbreak of the
In The Sorrows of Empire I devote the final chapter to the likely consequences of our imperialism and militarism: perpetual war, the end of the Republic, official lying and disinformation, and bankruptcy. I document how advanced these are in our society. I hope you will read my analysis. My intent is to mobilize inattentive citizens to information that I know they don't have -- because our government does everything in its power to see that they don't -- but that they need if they are not to lose our Republic and the civil liberties it defends.
Since this is a gathering to support the candidacy of John Kerry, let me turn to the case for him and ask whether the decline and fall of the American empire can be averted. The case for Kerry has, to my mind, four main points. First, he is not a "chicken hawk." It is a scandal that with the exception of Colin Powell every single civilian leader of our government from the President on down has no experience of either war or barracks life and that the vice president obtained six deferments to avoid service in
Second, Kerry's stand as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is one of the most honorable aspects of his background. It is a tragedy that we have become so militaristic he must disown the courageous stand he took thirty-five years ago in order to be elected. This reflects one of the major differences between our military during the Vietnam War and our military today. Then it was a citizens' army. Members of the armed forces were a democratic check on militarism because they were not volunteers. They were naturally concerned about the purposes of the war, how it would end, and whether their government and officers were lying to them. Today we have a professional military. People who serve in it are volunteers with a vested interest in advancing their careers through armed conflict. It's possible we'll see a movement of Iraq Veterans Against the War, but the participants are likely to be more concerned about internal military grievances -- such as involuntary extensions of enlistments -- than deceit by the president, vice-president, and the high command about the war itself.
Third, a Kerry administration will be a check on the rampant spread of secrecy upon which our militarism thrives. Given his nineteen years of service in the Senate, he is likely to end at least a significant part of the secrecy that covers up the destruction of the environment, the deployment of weapons in outer space, our refusal to conserve fossil fuels, and many other scandals. Last year, the
Fourth, the main issue in the coming election is the Constitution and the need to restore its integrity as the supreme law of the land. It was concern over violations of the Constitution that energized the Howard Dean campaign. Kerry will end the tenure of John Ashcroft and the illegal incarceration of native-born citizens in Federal prisons and prosecute those responsible for torture in
Having said all this, let me nonetheless end by noting that the political system may not be capable of saving the Republic. It is hard to imagine that any president of either party could stand up to the powerful vested interests surrounding the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies. Given that 40% of the defense budget is secret and that all of the intelligence agencies' budgets are secret, it is impossible for Congress to do effective oversight of them even if it wanted to. This is not something that started with the Bush administration. The Defense Department's "black budgets" go back to the Manhattan Project of World War II to build atomic bombs. The amounts spent on the intelligence agencies have been secret ever since the CIA was created in 1947. The stipulation in article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution that "a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time" has not been true in our country for more than fifty years.
A good example of the sorry state of oversight was the recent hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the military's torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. The hearings were a travesty. The committee, with the possible exception of Sen. McCain, treated the secretary of defense and the military high command as if they were beyond accountability to the representatives of the people. The Army Times was more effective. Its editorial of May 17, A Failure of Leadership at the Highest Levels, demanded that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers resign or be fired.
I believe that if the Republic is to be saved it will be as a result of an upsurge of direct democracy. A little more than a year ago some ten million people in all the genuine democracies on earth demonstrated against the war in
The first victory of this movement came on March 14 with the election of Spanish prime minister JosÃ© Zapatero. If democracy means anything at all, it means that public opinion matters. Zapatero understood that 80% of the Spanish people opposed Bush's war in
I intend to vote for Kerry because I believe he is the only electable politician in
Chalmers Johnson is the author of The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic and of an earlier volume, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, among other works.
Copyright C2004 Chalmers Johnson
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]