A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004, pages 18, 21
Carl Boggs, Chalmers Johnson Discuss Neocon Ideology and American Empire
By Pat McDonnell Twair
THE SUDDEN rise of neoconservatives from outsiders-looking-in to global masterminds, and the militaristic rule of the “boy emperor from Crawford,” were discussed at an April 12 seminar at UCLA featuring maverick academics Carl Boggs and Chalmers Johnson.
Boggs has just completed a book entitled Neocon Ideology and Contradictions of Empire. In preparing for it, he said, he had no choice but to read most of their writings—an experience he described as “painful.”
Although they had some influence during the Reagan administration and a little input during the reign of George Bush I, stated the National University social scientist, the neocons’ rapid rise to power was legitimized by 9/ll.
Boggs characterized the neocons as a cohesive group that developed over a long time and today constitute the greatest threat to the planet. They are almost exclusively male, he said, and are “liars” and “warmongers” who came of age in the 1980s and 90s.
Who are they? Boggs identified Commentary editor Norman Poderetz, his son-in-law and National Security Council Middle East specialist Eliot Abrams, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former chair and member of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Steven Bryen of the Jewish Institute of National Security (JINSA), and the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Ledeen, “a shadowy figure close to Israel.”
Others Boggs associates with them, but who some might disagree are full-fledged neocons, are former Wall Street Journal editorial features editor Max Boot, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, Samuel Huntington of “Clash of Civilizations” fame, the Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack (husband of CNN’s Andrea Koppel and son-in-law of Ted), author Robert Kaplan and the converted Christopher Hitchens.
“George W. Bush definitely wasn’t a neocon,” according to Boggs, “nor were Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell.
Boggs described the neocon philosophy as driven by the notion of good versus evil, a hatred for compromise or détente, a respect for technological warfare, the doctrine of preemptive/preventive war, a fierce defense of Israel and the Israeli right wing, a contempt for the United Nations, and a desire to radically reform the CIA, which they believe is infested with liberals.
“Neocons adore Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli,” Boggs continued. “They thrive on visions of a Hobbseian world and its nightmarish world of chaos. They are ultra-nationalists who view patriotism as the key element in a system mired in corporate and political scandals.”
Neocons take comfort in the belief that they have overcome the Vietnam syndrome, Boggs added. Glorification of the weakened nation that regains its might on the battlefield, he stressed, is synonymous with historical fascism.
Their virulent ideology of “let’s create more instability so we have reason to intervene,” he added, explains the war path the neocons would like to pursue in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and, down the line, China.
The neocon ideology could be around for a long time, Boggs warned. However, he pointed out, the quagmire in Iraq could discredit them. “They have lost their sense of history,” he observed, “and are pushing the barbarism of occupation so far that the process won’t work.”
And therein lies a quandary, the professor pointed out: “Just what are the neocons willing to do if they see their power challenged?”
Der Spiegel magazine called Chalmers Johnson the “California Cassandra” for the prescience of his 2000 book, Blowback, which predicted that U.S. foreign policies were creating resentment abroad that could result in retaliatory attacks.
Blowback, Johnson explained, is a CIA term coined to describe the reaction to foreign operations the government keeps secret from Americans. For example, the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini was blowback to the CIA’s covert actions in 1953 overthrowing Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadegh.
“On the morning of 9/11,” Johnson said, “when my publisher called to tell me Blowback had just hit, I didn’t think about Muslims, but, instead, I thought of Sept. 11, 1972, when the government of Salvador Allende was overturned in Chile. Later, I saw photos of women in Manhattan holding photos of their loved ones, and I thought of the women in Santiago and Buenos Aires holding photos of their disappeared ones.”
In the aftermath of 9/11—as Americans asked “why do they hate us?”—George W. Bush had to look no further than to the people in his entourage who clandestinely trained and supplied arms to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Johnson stated. After the Soviets were defeated, he noted, the Americans walked away, leaving the nation in shambles.
“Osama bin Laden wasn’t a Muslim fanatic,” Johnson said. “He would be skiing on the slopes of Gstaad, or sailing in the Greek Islands today if we hadn’t betrayed him in Kabul.”
After Blowback became a bestseller and was reprinted 13 times in the post-9/11 era, Johnson wrote The Sorrows of Empire, which predicts the downfall of the U.S. military-industrial complex as it overextends itself globally.
“I’m 72 years old,” he told his UCLA audience, “but, given the pace of events, I think there’s a good chance I’ll live to see the end of the American empire.”
Noting that the U.S. maintains 725 military bases worldwide—not including espionage bases, Air Force bases or 14 permanent bases under construction in Iraq—Johnson said this could bankrupt the nation.
“Americans may still prefer to use euphemisms such as ”˜sole superpower,’” he remarked, “but since 9/11, our country has undergone a transformation from republic to empire that may well prove irreversible.”
Drawing upon his own experience, Johnson, a specialist in Japan-U.S. relations, said he was invited to Okinawa in 1996. The former Japanese colony is an island smaller than Kauai with a population of 1.3 million, he noted, but 38 U.S. military bases are maintained there. The best real estate is given over to recreation facilities for Americans which exclude locals. Troops rape an average of two Okinawan women per month—an outrage that fuels native objections to a U.S. presence.
Okinawa is just one example of U.S. intrusion upon foreign populations, Johnson pointed out. If, however, Turkey (for instance) had a military base in Southern California, American fathers would be encouraging their sons to attack the Turkish occupiers at any time.
Because Americans never have had to put up with foreign troops, he noted, they have no idea of the resentment our military bases create all over the world.
There are 101 U.S. bases in South Korea, he said, and others in Germany, Italy, England, and the island of Diego Garcia, from which all the strategic bombers left for Iraq.
“Life in the military today is not the same as most veterans knew it,” Johnson continued. “Kitchen duties, laundry, clean-up are farmed out today to Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company Vice President Richard Cheney was CEO of before becoming vice president).”
A state of perpetual war is a prerequisite of the military state, Johnson averred, and this is what Cheney foresees in his call for a regime change in 50 countries.
The retired professor recalled the words of Founding Father James Madison, who warned against entrusting the right to go to war with just one man. “Yet,” he exclaimed, the Congress gave this right to Bush in August 2002!”
According to Johnson, “The fact that Bush has imperiled Articles 4 and 6 of the Bill of Rights—habeas corpus and illegal searches of property and person—should be enough to start impeachment proceedings. If he declares you a Bad Guy, he can put you in prison indefinitely.
“In the neocon world view,” he asserted, “America was to be the new Rome, led by the boy emperor from Crawford.
“In September 1999,” Johnson continued, “Bush II accepted the neocon flag as demonstrators protested the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The elder Bush had Brent Scowcroft as an adviser and was wise enough to seek a second opinion before accepting neocon advice.”
In Johnson’s opinion, the same forces that brought down the U.S.S.R. are working on the U.S. today. “The decline of the military empire began May 1, 2003,” he said, “when the president pretended to fly a plane onto the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln replete with a banner reading ”˜Mission Accomplished.’ Well,” he noted, “the Iraqis are no longer stooges of the Saddam regime—and they want the Americans out.”
Rather than comparing Iraq to Vietnam, Johnson would compare it to Algeria. The American attack on Fallujah, he said, is akin to the reprisals the Nazis made on occupied civilian populations.
“The Iraqis who perpetrated those atrocities on the four American mercenaries were out of Fallujah within the hour,” he pointed out. “And so to bombard the entire city is like the Gestapo rounding up every third person and executing them.”
Johnson believes bankruptcy is what will bring an end to the Pax Americana. “The military is expensive,” he explained, “but we aren’t paying for it. Instead, we are borrowing to finance it. And if those creditors in Asia find the Euro, for instance, more lucrative than the dollar and tell us to pay up, it’s all over.”
Though he is not optimistic, Johnson’s advice to the peace movement is to encourage like-minded foreigners to demand that U.S. bases be closed in their respective countries.
Pat McDonnell Twair is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles.