“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.” James Madison, qtd. in NemesisWith these words ringing in my ears for the last few weeks, I decided to participate in the Blogswarm against the War. However, because I read Madison’s words in another book, Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, I’m combining my Blogswarm efforts with my book-reviewing duties for the Spring Reading Challenge. I hope you don’t mind my squishing two mosquitoes with one slap. (I’m a birder, so I don’t kill birds with stones or any other objects!)
If knowing more about the future can make that future easier to face, then Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis is helpful, but frightening at the same time. The book was published in 2006, and because George W. Bush’s assault on the Constitution and his ill-fated war of lies in Iraq/Afghanistan have only escalated since then, the book is as timely now as it was two years ago. Unless we turn away from this endless war, we can say goodbye to our freedoms and to our democracy.
The first two books in Johnson’s unintended trilogy, Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire, explained the development of the United States into an empire; Johnson summarizes the themes of those books to make Nemesis a freestanding and complete analysis of why the U.S. is in the state it’s in. The author then makes the case for how our empire will destroy our democracy unless we turn from our imperial ambitions and repair the tatters Bush has made of our Constitution.
Johnson highlights many of Bush’s actions and words to show the insanity and lust for power that have gripped our White House. The book is heavily researched with a huge section for the notes and citations to back up Johnson’s assertions. Here are two especially frightening passages that show Bush’s true colors:
And this man constantly asks, "Why do they hate us?" Gee, I wonder why! But can we really be surprised by any of Bush’s actions, after he called our Constitution—the statement of our rights as citizens—“just a goddamned piece of paper?" Clearly, his words revealed his true attitude, that he was king, dictator, and "decider." Yet he wasn't impeached; he was allowed to tear up that "goddamned piece of paper," and we are now living with the consequences.
“According to Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief for both Presidents Clinton and Bush, who was there, Bush entered the room and said, ‘I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.’ In the ensuing discussion, according to Clarke, ‘Secretary Rumsfeld noted that international law allowed the use of force only to prevent future attacks and not for retribution. Bush nearly bit his head off. 'No,' the president yelled in the narrow conference room, 'I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.’”
“'I had to show the American people the resolve of a commander in chief that [sic] as going to do whatever it took to win. No yielding. No equivocation. No, you know, lawyering this thing to death, that we’re after ’em. And that was not only for domestic, for the people at home to see. It was also vitally important for the rest of the world to watch.”
The scariest parts of the book deal with just why the legislative and judicial branches have failed to stop Bush from turning the executive branch into a royal throne with himself as king. In short—Congress is corrupt, and the judicial benches are full of loyal Bush appointees who will protect Bush and his agenda for years to come. We citizens can complain and blog and write our congresspeople forever, but Bush and his cronies have ensured that own their will is obeyed. They’re simply not listening to us anymore; they’re too busy making money and espousing the empty ideologies of the neo-con movement as their justification. Congress and the Judiciary will not stop him. Thus, as Johnson says, "If the United States has neither the means nor the will to overcome this crisis, then we have entered the last days of the republic."
It’s both repugnant and sad to think that people would sell out democracy, their fellow countrymen, and their own souls for money. But as Johnson proves time and again in Nemesis, that's exactly what's happened in our country. Until and unless we citizens put a stop to it, our endless war will be the death of our democracy, and Emperor George will fiddle while it burns.
Read more Blogswarm against the war posts.