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PORTSIDE  November 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE November 2010, Week 4

Subject:

Tributes to Chalmers Johnson

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Wed, 24 Nov 2010 14:59:32 -0500

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Tributes to Chalmers Johnson

1. Tom Engelhardt (The Nation)
2. James Fallows (The Atlantic)
3. Chalmers Johnson: 10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

===

Remembering Chalmers Johnson, 1931-2010 

Tom Engelhardt 
The Nation
November 23, 2010
http://www.thenation.com/article/156639/remembering-chalmers-johnson-1931%E2%80%942010

A Depression boy; a lieutenant junior grade assigned to
a Navy "rust bucket" without a name at the end of the
Korean War; a student of the radicalization of Chinese
peasants under the Japanese "loot-all, kill-all, burn-
all" campaigns of the late 1930s; a staunch
anticommunist nonetheless capable, in one of his many
books, of slipping, in a deeply empathic way, into the
mindset of a World War II Japanese communist spy; a
supporter of the US war in Vietnam and the rescuer of
the State Department China hand John Service after
anticommunist witch hunts had destroyed his livelihood;
a valued consultant to the CIA and an eminent scholar
of Japanese state capitalism. When the cold war ended
with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United
States refused to demobilize and come in from the cold,
he did.

He could have lived comfortably with his eminence, but
in the face of a new reality, he refused. His was a
remarkable tale. In 1995 he visited the Japanese island
of Okinawa for the first time and was shocked by the
thirty-odd US bases there ("the American Raj," he
called it), and from that moment he turned his back on
our "unacknowledged empire." He recanted former
positions-"In retrospect, I wish I had stood with the
[Vietnam] antiwar protest movement. For all its naïveté
and unruliness, it was right and American policy
wrong"-and labeled himself sardonically a "spear-
carrier for empire." He turned his razor-sharp mind and
accumulated experience against US militarism while
mapping out our global "empire of bases," a situation
strangely unnoticed by Americans but painfully obvious
to others.

He had the creds to do so. The title of his first book
of this era, Blowback, published in 2000, picked up a
CIA term, "tradecraft" ("the unintended consequences of
policies that were kept secret from the American
people"), and put it into our vocabulary. In that book,
he all but predicted a 9/11-like fate for us ("acts
committed in service to an empire but never
acknowledged as such have a tendency to haunt the
future") and, like a classic Cassandra, found his book
largely ignored until events drove it to prominence and
bestsellerdom. From then on, he never stopped warning
the rest of us that if we didn't choose to dismantle
our empire ourselves, far worse would be in store for
us.

His was an all-American odyssey, and in his final
decades he was a man on a mission. A sparrow of a
figure, ever more crippled in his losing battle with
rheumatoid arthritis, he was in every other way a
giant. To those who knew him, it seemed a reasonable
bet that he would beat death at its own game.

No such luck. He died on November 20. This country,
lost at sea and incapable of downsizing its global
mission, still needs him. If only we could bring him
back for one more round.

Source URL:
http://www.thenation.com/article/156639/remembering-chalmers-johnson-1931%E2%80%942010

===

Chalmers Johnson 1931-2010

by James Fallows
Nov 21 2010
The Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/11/chalmers-johnson/66853/

I have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few
hours ago, at age 79, at his home near San Diego. He
had had a variety of health problems for a long time.

Johnson -- "Chal" -- was a penetrating, original, and
influential scholar, plus a very gifted literary and
conversational stylist. When I first went to Japan
nearly 25 years ago, his MITI and the Japanese Miracle
was already part of the canon for understanding Asian
economic development. Before that, he had made his name
as a China scholar; after that, he became more widely
known with his books like Blowback, about the perverse
effects and strategic unsustainability of America's
global military commitments. Throughout those years he
was a mentor to generations of students at the UC
campuses at Berkeley and San Diego.

Johnson and his wife and lifelong intellectual partner
Sheila were generous and patient with me, as I was
first trying to understand the world they had studied
and analyzed. I vividly remember spending an afternoon
in the early 1990s on the sunny patio at their house in
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, north of the UCSD campus. I'd moved
back from Japan, was working on a book about it, and
spent hours writing notes as fast as I could as Johnson
described Douglas MacArthur's mistakes and (occasional)
successes during the U.S. Occupation of Japan, and why
Japan's economy was unlikely to open itself on the
Western model, even if U.S. or British economists kept
giving lectures about the importance of deregulation. I
have never concentrated harder as I tried to be sure to
capture his bons mots.

Johnson would have been about 60 at the time. Even then
he suffered from a rheumatoid or gout-like condition
that caused him swelling and pain. "It all goes so
fast," I remember him saying. He made good use of his
time. Sympathies to Sheila Johnson and their many
friends.

===

Chalmers Johnson: 10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire 

Huffington Post
April 30, 2002
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chalmers-johnson/three-good-reasons-to-liq_b_247758.html

Dismantling the American empire would, of course,
involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental
damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to
stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any
responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of
carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity
costs" that go with them -- the things we might
otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't
or won't.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism
breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we
helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and
Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured
our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors
[Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture
methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire
would potentially mean a real end to the modern
American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp
followers, dependents, civilian employees of the
Department of Defense, and hucksters -- along with
their expensive medical facilities, housing
requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and
so forth -- that follow our military enclaves around
the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the
military-industrial complex that our military
establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs,
scientific research, and defense. These alleged
advantages have long been discredited by serious
economic research. Ending empire would make this
happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to
stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and
munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in
the techniques of torture, military coups, and service
as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for
immediate closure is the so-called School of the
Americas, the U.S. Army's infamous military academy at
Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military
officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire
[Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget,
we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps
and other long-standing programs that promote
militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in
our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance
on civilian contractors, private military companies,
and agents working for the military outside the chain
of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
(See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's
Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]).
Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our
standing army and deal much more effectively with the
wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they
undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must
give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as
the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy
objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave
up their dominions in order to remain independent,
self-governing polities. The two most important recent
examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do
not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is
foreordained.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback (2000), The
Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of
the American Republic (2006), and editor of Okinawa:
Cold War Island (1999).

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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