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Jul 13, 2004 3:25 am

A Republic, A Democracy, An Empire ...

Marc Cooper has a chilling and thought provoking interview with Chalmers Johnson in the LA Weekly. Johnson says that 9/11 marked the end of the American republic; that the mask has come off and that we are, in fact, an empire. Not an empire on the old European model in which the unit was colonies, but a new form of empire in which the unit is military bases. There are now"725 military bases in 138 foreign countries circling the globe from Greenland to Asia, from Japan to Latin America. This is a sort of base world — a secret, enclosed, separate world where our half-million troops, contractors and spies live quite comfortably around the world." Fifty years after the Korean War, there are 101 bases in South Korea alone; and what they don't do, says Johnson, is defend American security.

The cost for all of this are astronomical."We are flirting with bankruptcy," says Johnson.

We are not paying for what is now a $750 billion tab. The defense appropriation itself is about $420 billion. That doesn't include another $125 billion, which is the cost of Afghanistan and Iraq. Then another $20 billion for nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy. Add in another $200 billion or so for military pensions and for health benefits for our veterans. Together, that's three-quarters of a trillion dollars.
We are putting it on the tab, running up some of the most extraordinary budget and trade deficits in history.
But the greater cost may be the loss of the republic, of liberty, and of separation of powers to constrain an imperial presidency."The political system alone can no longer save the republic," Johnson concludes.
Even if Congress wanted to exercise real oversight, how can it when 40 percent of the military budget is secret? All of the intelligence budget is secret. The only hopeful sign I saw was a year ago when 10 million people demonstrated in the streets for peace. We also saw the recent election in Spain as a response to what is happening. If we can see that now in the U.S., in the U.K., in Italy, then maybe we can have some hope. Otherwise we will soon be talking about the short happy life of the American republic.
Chalmers Johnson's fears for the republic seem only further justified by Newsweek's story that administration officials are making plans for postponing November's national elections should terrorism make that necessary. (Here is Reuter's account of the same story.) My colleague, Manan Ahmed, picks up these reports at Chapati Mystery. Ogged and Unfogged carry on a sensible discussion of this madness. Daniel Drezner has the best roundup of reactions on the internet. (See also: Matt Yglesias and EugeneVolokh) Frankly, I can't decide whether this is the most important story of our time, the utterest nonsense, or some strange combination of both. Be wary of bullshit. Try to discern the difference between truthful warnings and manipulative propaganda. Know that democratic values were tested in 2000."And keep your powder dry," as Margaret Mead told us fifty years ago.
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More Comments:

Ralph E. Luker - 7/13/2004

Jonathan, I share just enough of your suspicion of the administration to have it color this post hysterical.

Jonathan Rees - 7/13/2004

Democratic values were tested in 2000 and democracy lost. Fair-minded people government officials might be able to plan for postponing the election in a reasonable manner, but that is not what we are dealing with in respect to the current administration. They showed in Florida that they will destroy democratic values in order to gain power, and have done nothing but trample over them ever since.

Jonathan Rees

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