US clandestine activities abroad will blow back: historian
From Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: American historian Chalmers Johnson believes that “our numerous clandestine activities, some of which are almost totally disreputable, will come back to haunt us.”
In an interview with Mark Karlin put out by the news and opinion site Alter-Net, Chalmers quotes political philosopher Hannah Arendt who argued that at the root of all imperialism, there has to be a racist view. He maintains that the US does not have a withdrawal strategy from Iraq because it does not intend to leave. He points out that although Iraq was invaded, President Bush himself did not understand the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam, nor did he appreciate that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a minority Sunni dictatorship over the majority Shia population. He did not understand that once you brought about regime change there, the inevitable result would be unleashing the Shia population, that had previously been suppressed, to run their country, and that they would align themselves with the largest Shia power of all, namely Iran.
Chalmers argues that the US cannot be a democratic country and an empire at the same time. Imperialism, by definition, requires military force, huge standing armies, a large military-industrial complex, and the willingness to use force regularly. Imperialism is a pure form of tyranny. It never rules through consent, any more than we US does in Iraq today. “The power of the military establishment is what threatens the separation of powers on which our Constitution is based. The Constitution, the chief bulwark against tyranny and dictatorship, separates the executive and legislative and judicial branches. It does not concentrate power in the executive branch, or concentrate money there, or secrecy,” he adds.
In answer to a question, Chalmers agreed that the US intervention in Iraq, and the desire to nuke Iran is empire building in the guise of fighting terrorism. “In fact, we have to say that in any historical perspective, that the response of Bush-Cheney to 9/11 was a catastrophe of misjudgement and almost surely based on interests entirely separate from the terrorist attacks. We enhanced Osama bin Laden’s power by declaring war on terrorism, escalating his position. The world’s balance of power didn’t change one iota on September 11th, 2001. The only way we could lose the power and influence we had at that time was through our own actions, and that’s what we did. Instead of calling it a war on terrorism, we should have called it a national emergency. We should have gone after the terrorists as criminals, as organised crime, because of their attacks on innocent civilians … Had we done that, we would have retained the support of virtually the entire rest of the world, including the Islamic world, as the victims on 9/11.”
Chalmers points out that the US did the opposite. “We simply went crazy, and we also refused to acknowledge that the retaliation that came on 9/11 was blow-back. We were partly responsible for what happened, since the people who attacked us were our former allies in the largest single clandestine operation we ever carried out … Certainly, Osama bin Laden was not unfamiliar to our Central Intelligence Agency. They had been working with him for quite a long time. It’s in that sense that I think it was a catastrophic error. But the truth is, in retrospect, it doesn’t look like an error at all. They saw it as an opportunity - as a golden opportunity to carry out these sort of mad and speculative schemes that they had been working on throughout the 1990s.”
Chalmers believes that the “bloated, overgrown” US military soon would become unaffordable. It would move in and take over.” He says he does not really expect that to happen, but quotes General Tommy Franks who said publicly that in case of another attack like 9/11, he saw no alternative but for the military to assume command of the country. He also believes that the US is disguising its real intent in Iraq, quoting the US Air Force that has let it slip occasionally that it expects to be there for a couple more decades. He points out that the American establishment that includes the Congressional and judicial establishment has accepted the idea that the US is the lone superpower, that it can do anything it wants to.
Asked if Iraq is America’s Afghanistan, Chalmers answered, “It is perfectly possible that it will prove to be.” He argues that it is “absurd to listen to our people talk about how they had won the Afghan war. Basically what they did was to re-ignite the civil war by aiding the most corrupt figures in the country, namely the Northern Alliance of warlords, and provide them with airpower. It was anything but a victory, and I would hate to invest much in the Karzai regime for longevity.” He adds that “we’ve seen the pictures of Americans kicking down the door of a private home, rushing in … and pointing assault rifles at cowering women and children, carrying a few men off with their arms tied behind their back and hoods over their heads. Then we claim that this is bringing democracy to Iraq? We shouldn’t be surprised that many Iraqis say it’s okay to kill Americans. That’s what’s going on in Iraq. We know we’re going to lose it, just as we did in Vietnam. At least the public is sensing that, once again raising the hopes that democracy is not an insane form of government. The public may not be as well-informed as it ought to be, but it seems to be better informed than the elites in Washington, DC.