how Western Financiers Caused the Asia Crisis

Linked with our presentation of Chalmers Johnson – USA.

Follow four articles from Chalmers Johnson, presented on Cyber One by Peter Myers, updated February 4, 2005.

Linked also with America’s Empire of Bases.

(1) Globalisation: creed of greed, If the APEC ieaders fail to deal with the real cause of the Asian financial crlsis – the preservation of American global hegemony – then this week’s summit will fail to accomplish anything substantial, argues Chalmers Johnson:

from Australian Financial Review, November 18, 1998 – After all the endless mouthing off in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, The Economist of London and The Australian Financial Review about East Asia’s “crony capitalism”, the lack of “transparency” in Asian stock exchanges, the “no pain, no gain” logic of the International Monetary Fund, and how the Asian economic challenge to Anglo-American capitalism had fizzled, we now know that none of these things had anything at all to do with the Asian – now global – economic crisis.

Addressing what did cause the crisis is the main business of this week’s APEC meeting in Kuala Lumpur. If it ignores this question and pretends that the road is still open to “globalisation” in the Pacific, it will be dead on arrival.

Here’s the new explanation as it is developing in seminar rooms from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur: with the end of the Cold War, the United States decided it had to launch a rollback operation in East Asia if it were to maintain its global hegemony.

The high-growth economies of East Asia had become the main challengers to American power in the region, and it was time they be brought to heel. The campaign worked in two phases.

First, a major ideological barrage from the Jagdish Bhagwatis and Ross Garnauts of this world was launched to soften up the Asians. These famous tenured professors of economics, who never once faced a “market force” in their own lives, were hired to preach the beauties of “globalisation’, in this case meaning American economic institutions.

{Ross Garnaut is a Professor of Economics in the Research Schools of the Australian National University, Canberra, and a member of the Trilateral Commission: http://www.ontopofacloud.com/TrilateralRoster.htm}

Concretely, these include total laissez-faire, destruction of unions and social safety nets, staffing of regulatory agencies with retired financiers, indifference to pay differentials between CEOs and the ordiniary labor force, moving manufacturing to low-wage areas regardless of the social costs, and totally unregulated flows of capital in and out of any and all economies.

Then came phase two. Once the Asian economies had begun to open themselves up and were standing in the world marketplace more or less naked, the “hedge funds” were let loose on them. These funds are actually huge concentrations of capital owned by very wealthy Western white men, who manipulate bewilderingly complex financial instruments called “derivatives”. They usually locate their offices in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and do everything in their power to avoid regulators or tax collectors in the so-called “free market democracies”.

The funds easily raped Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea and then turned the shivering survivors over to the IMF, not to help the victims but in order to ensure that any Western bank was not stuck with “non-performing” loans in the devastated countries.

The Americans suspected that all this might cause some trouble. On March 4, 1998, Admiral Joseph Prueher, commander-in-chief of American military forces located in East Asia testified before Congress that the US military was on alert for “early signs of instability” in East Asia, including “labor disputes”. The Indonesian armed forces, whom Admiral Prueher’s Special Forces had been training for years, got rid of Soeharto when it seemed necessary, even though they killed about 1,200 shopkeepers and raped at least 165 Chinese women doing so.

But then it all got a bit out of hand. One of the biggest hedge funds proved to be so greedy that the US Government had to organise a bailout for it, which brought the scheme out into the open.

The weakened economies of East Asia could not continue to buy the weapons the Pentagon wanted to sell them and some began to have second thoughts about paying to keep US Marines (aka the Hedge Fund Protective Corps) in their countries.

“Globalisation” was discredited as a crooked financier’s scam and even the Nobel Prize committee in Stockholm decided that it had better begin to take some notice of economists who study people instead of formulas. The Chinese never looked so clever as they did in keeing out of the WTO.

In her visits throughout East Asia this week, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has and will continue to give speeches calling for “free trade, market economics, democratisation and respect for human rights.” She will be lucky if her audiences do not stone her. {end} .

(2) Let’s Revisit Asia’s ‘Crony Capitalism’ Economy, America’s free-trade proselytizing is the true root of what is now a global crisis, by Chalmers Johnson:

from Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1999 – After all the endless mouthing off in the pages of the English-language business press about East Asia’s “crony capitalism,” the lack of “transparency” in Asian stock exchanges, the “no pain, no gain” logic of the International Monetary Fund and how the Asian economic challenge to Anglo American capitalism had fizzled, we now know that none of these things had anything to do with the Asian–now global–economic crisis. Addressing what did cause the crisis is the main business of the leaders of the countries of East Asia as they reflect on what has happened to them over the past two years. If they ignore this question and pretend that the road is still open to “globalization” in the Pacific, they risk being repudiated by their own people.

Here’s the new explanation as it is developing in seminar rooms from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

With the end of the Cold War, the United States decided it had to launch a rollback operation in East Asia if it was to maintain its global hegemony. The high-growth economies of East Asia had become the main challengers to American power in the region, and it was time they were brought to heel. The campaign worked in two phases. First, a major ideological barrage was launched to soften up the Asians. The Americans mobilized famous professors of economics from their universities, who never once faced a “market force” in their own lives, to preach the beauties of globalization; in this case meaning American economic institutions. These include total laissez faire, destruction of unions and social safety nets, staffing of regulatory agencies with retired financiers, indifference to the pay differentials between CEOs and the ordinary labor force, moving manufacturing to low-wage areas regardless of the social costs and totally unregulated flows of capital in and out of any and all economies. Ever since the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 1993, the Americans hammered home to the Asians that they needed to “open up” their economies in these ways.

Then came phase two. Once the Asian economies had begun to “deregulate” and were standing in the world marketplace more or less naked, the “hedge funds” were let loose on them. These funds are actually huge concentrations of capital owned by very wealthy Western white men, who manipulate bewilderingly complex financial instruments called “derivatives.” They usually locate their offices in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and do everything in their power to avoid regulators or tax collectors in the so-called free market democracies. The funds easily raped Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea and then turned the shivering survivors over to the IMF, not to help the victims but to ensure that no Western bank was stuck with “nonperforming” loans in the devastated countries. The IMF is also the U.S. government’s chosen instrument for “reforming” these countries to make them look more like New York.

The Americans suspected that all this might cause some trouble. On March 4, 1998, Adm. Joseph Prueher, then commander in chief of American military forces located in East Asia and today the U.S. ambassador-designate to China, testified before Congress that the U.S. military was on alert for “early signs of instability” in East Asia, including “labor disputes.” The Indonesian armed forces, whom Prueher’s special forces had been training for years, got rid of Suharto when it seemed necessary. The Indonesian troops killed about 1,200 shopkeepers and raped more than 150 Chinese women doing so.

But then it all got a bit out of hand. One of the biggest hedge funds proved to be so greedy that the U.S. government had to organize a bailout for it, which brought the scheme out into the open. David Mullins, a former deputy to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, had gone straight to work for the Long-Term Capital Management fund after he left the Fed in 1994. Had this not been the case, it’s unlikely that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York would have arranged a $3.5-billion rescue package for the hedge fund. The incestuous relationship between Washington and Wall Street–what Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati calls the Wall Street-Treasury complex–made East Asia’s crony capitalism look tame.

The weakened economies of East Asia also could not continue to buy the weapons the Pentagon wanted to sell them, and some began to have second thoughts about paying to keep U.S. Marines (a.k.a. the Hedge Fund Protective Corps) in their countries. Globalization was discredited as a crooked financier’s scam. The Chinese never looked so clever as they did in keeping out of the World Trade Organization as did the Japanese when they more or less ignored the pleas for “reform” from Washington.

These issues came to a head in Kuala Lumpur in November 1998. The U.S. trade representative, Charlene Barshefsky, accused the Japanese of offering $30 billion in aid to the stricken countries of East Asia as a way of buying their votes against further market-opening measures. The Japanese foreign ministry responded that the U.S. government was possessed by “an evil spirit,” a phrase painfully close to the evil empire epithet that former President Reagan used against the Soviet Union. Vice President Al Gore then gave a speech in the Malaysian capital, denouncing its head of state for trying to protect his country from international speculators and calling on the people of Malaysia to overthrow him. After that, APEC no longer had a future worth speaking of.

The Americans do not seem to understand that their message of free trade and market economics is in serious disrepute. Wall Street itself now looks like the ancestral home of crony capitalism.

Chalmers Johnson Is President of the Japan Policy Research Institute in San Diego. His Forthcoming Book Is “Blowback: the Costs of the American Empire” (Henry Holt). {end}.

(3) The Scourge of Militarism: Rome and America, by Chalmers Johnson
, first published on http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=938 – The collapse of the Roman republic in 27 BC has significance today for the United States, which took many of its key political principles from its ancient predecessor. Separation of powers, checks and balances, government in accordance with constitutional law, a toleration of slavery, fixed terms in office, all these ideas were influenced by Roman precedents. John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams often read the great Roman political philosopher Cicero and spoke of him as an inspiration to them. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, authors of the Federalist Papers, writing in favor of ratification of the Constitution signed their articles with the name Publius Valerius Publicola, the first consul of the Roman republic.

The Roman republic, however, failed to adjust to the unintended consequences of its imperialism, leading to a drastic alteration in its form of government. The militarism that inescapably accompanied Rome’s imperial projects slowly undermined its constitution as well as the very considerable political and human rights its citizens enjoyed. The American republic, of course, has not yet collapsed; it is just under considerable strain as the imperial presidency — and its supporting military legions — undermine Congress and the courts. However, the Roman outcome — turning over power to an autocracy backed by military force and welcomed by ordinary citizens because it seemed to bring stability — suggests what might happen in the years after Bush and his neoconservatives are thrown out of office.

Obviously, there is nothing deterministic about this progression, and many prominent Romans, notably Brutus and Cicero, paid with their lives trying to head it off. But there is something utterly logical about it. Republican checks and balances are simply incompatible with the maintenance of a large empire and a huge standing army. Democratic nations sometimes acquire empires, which they are reluctant to give up because they are a source of wealth and national pride, but as a result their domestic liberties are thereby put at risk.

These not-particularly-original comparisons are inspired by the current situation of the United States, with its empire of well over 725 military bases located in other people’s countries; its huge and expensive military establishment demanding ever more pay and ever larger appropriations from a supine and manipulated legislature; unsolved anthrax attacks on senators and newsmen (much like Rome’s perennial assassinations); Congress’s gutting of the Bill of Rights through the panicky passage of the Patriot Act — by votes of 76-1 in the Senate and 337 to 79 in the House; and numerous signs that the public is indifferent to what it is about to lose. Many current aspects of our American government suggest a Roman-like fatigue with republican proprieties. After Congress voted in October 2002 to give the president unrestricted power to use any means, including military force and nuclear weapons, in a preventive strike against Iraq whenever he — and he alone — deemed it “appropriate,” it would be hard to argue that the constitution of 1787 was still the supreme law of the land.

Checks and Balances

My thinking about the last days of republics was partly stimulated this past summer by a new book and an old play. The book is Anthony Everitt’s magnificent account of the man who had his head and both hands chopped off for opposing military dictatorship — Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician (Random House, 2001). The play was a modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, seen at San Diego’s Old Globe theater. The curtain opened on a huge backdrop of Julius Caesar looking remarkably like any seedy politician with the word “tyrant” scrawled graffiti-style beneath his face in red paint. At play’s end, after Octavian’s hypocritical comments on the death of Brutus, who was one of the republic’s most stalwart supporters (”According to his virtue let us use him. . . .”), the picture of Caesar dropped away, replaced by one of Octavian — soon to become the self-proclaimed god Augustus Caesar — in full military uniform and bearing a marked resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, Octavian’s military rule did not actually follow at once after the suicides of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC and Shakespeare does not say it did. But that is what the play — and the history — are all about: killing Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, 44 BC only prepared the ground for a more ruthless and determined successor.

The Roman republic is conventionally dated from 509 to 27 BC even though Romulus’s founding of the city is traditionally said to have occurred in 753 BC. All we know about its dim past, including the first two centuries of the republic, comes from the histories written by Livy and others and from the findings of modern archaeology. For the century preceding the republic, Rome had been ruled by Etruscan kings from their nearby state of Etruria (modern Tuscany), until in 510, according to legend, Sextus, the son of king Tarquinius Superbus (”King Tarquin”), raped Lucretia, the daughter of a leading Roman family. A group of aristocrats backed by the Roman citizenry revolted against this outrage and expelled the Etruscans from Rome. The rebels were determined that never again would any single man be allowed to obtain supreme power in Rome, and for four centuries the system they established more or less succeeded in preventing that from happening. “This was the main principle,” writes Everitt, “that underpinned constitutional arrangements which, by Cicero’s time [106 to 43 BC], were of a baffling complexity.”

At the heart of the unwritten Roman constitution was the Senate, by the early years of the first century BC composed of about 300 members from whose ranks two chief executives, called consuls, were elected. The consuls took turns being in charge for a month each, and neither could hold office for more than a year. Over time an amazing set of “checks and balances” evolved to ensure that the consuls and other executives whose offices conferred on them imperium — the right to command an army, to interpret and carry out the law, and to pass sentences of death — did not entertain visions of grandeur and overstay their time. At the heart of these restraints were the principles of collegiality and term limits. The first meant that for every office there were at least two incumbents, neither of whom had seniority or superiority over the other. Office holders were normally limited to one-year terms and could be reelected to the same office only after waiting ten years. Senators had to serve two to three years in lower offices — as quaestors, tribunes, aediles, or praetors — before they were eligible for election to a higher office, including the consulship. All office holders could veto the acts of their equals, and higher officials could veto decisions of lower ones. The chief exception to these rules was the office of “dictator,” appointed by the consuls in times of military emergency. There was always only one dictator and his decisions were immune to veto; according to the constitution, he could hold office only for six months or the duration of a crisis.

Once an official had ended his term as consul or praetor, the next post below consul, he was posted in Italy or abroad as governor of a province or colony and given the title of proconsul. It is absurd for journalistic admirers of the U.S. military today to pretend that its regional commanders-in-chief for the Middle East (Centcom), Europe (Eucom), the Pacific (Pacom), Latin America (Southcom), and the United States itself (Northcom) are the equivalents of Roman proconsuls.1 The Roman officials were seasoned members of the Senate who had held the highest executive post in the country, whereas American regional commanders are generals or admirals who have served their entire careers away from civilian concerns and risen to this post by managing to avoid making egregious mistakes.

After serving as consul in 63 BC (the year of Octavian’s birth), for example, Cicero was sent to govern the colony of Cilicia in present-day southern Turkey, where his duties were both civilian and military. Over time this complex system was made even more complex by the class struggle embedded in Roman society. During the first two centuries of the republic, what appeared to be a participatory democracy was in fact an oligarchy of aristocratic families that dominated the Senate. Not everyone was happy with this. After 287 BC, when the constitution was more or less formalized, a new institution came into being to defend the rights of the plebs or populares, that is, the ordinary, non-aristocratic citizens of Rome. These were the tribunes of the people, charged with protection of the lives and property of plebeians. Tribunes could veto any election, law, or decree of the Senate, of which they were ex officio members, as well as the acts of all other officials (except a dictator). They could also veto each others’ vetoes. “No doubt because their purpose in life was to annoy people,” Everitt notes, “their persons were sacrosanct.” Controlling appointments to the office of tribune later became very important to generals like Julius Caesar, who based their power on their armies plus the support of the populares against the aristocrats.

The system worked well enough and afforded extraordinary freedoms to the citizens of Rome so long as all members of the Senate recognized that compromise and consensus were the only ways to get anything done. Everitt poses the issue in terms of the different perspectives of Caesar and Cicero; Caesar was Rome’s, and perhaps history’s greatest general; whereas Cicero was the most intellectual defender of the Roman constitution. Both were former consuls: “Julius Caesar, with the pitiless insight of genius, understood that the constitution with its endless checks and balances prevented effective government, but like so many of his contemporaries Cicero regarded politics in personal rather than structural terms. For Caesar the solution lay in a completely new system of government; for Cicero it lay in finding better men to run the government — and better laws to keep them in order.”

“Remember that you are human”

Imperialism provoked the crisis that destroyed the Roman republic. After slowly consolidating its power over all of Italy and conquering the Greek colonies on the island of Sicily, the republic extended its conquests to Greece itself, to Carthage in North Africa, and to what is today southern France, Spain, and Asia Minor. By the first century BC, Rome dominated all of Gaul, most of Iberia, the coast of North Africa, Macedonia (including Greece), the Balkans, and large parts of modern Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. “The republic became enormously rich on the spoils of empire,” Everitt writes, “so much so that from 167 BC Roman citizens in Italy no longer paid any personal taxes.” The republic also became increasingly self-important and arrogant, believing that its task was to bring civilization to lesser peoples and naming the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum (our sea), somewhat the way some Americans came in the twentieth century to refer to the Pacific Ocean as an “American lake.”

The problem was that the Roman constitution made administration of so large and diverse an area increasingly difficult and subtly altered the norms and interests that underlay the need for compromise and consensus. There were several aspects to this crisis, but the most important was the transformation of the Roman army into a professional military force and the growth of militarism. During the early and middle years of the republic, the Roman legions were a true citizen army composed of small, conscripted landowners. Differing from the American republic, all citizens between the age of 17 and 46 were liable to be called for military service. One of the more admirable aspects of the Roman system was that only those citizens who possessed a specified amount of property (namely, a horse and some land) could serve, thereby making those who had profited most from the state also responsible for its defense. (By contrast, of the 535 members of Congress, only seven have children in the U.S.’s all-volunteer armed forces.) The Roman plebs did their service as skirmishers with the army or in the navy, which had far less honor attached to it. At the beginning of each term, the consuls appointed tribunes to raise two legions from the census role of all eligible citizens.

When a campaign was over, the troops were promptly sent back to their farms, sometimes richer and flushed with military glory. Occasionally, the returning farmers got to march behind their general in a “triumph,” the most splendid ceremony in the Roman calendar, a victory procession allowed only to the greatest of conquerors. The general himself, who paid for this parade, rode in a chariot with his face covered in red lead to represent Jupiter, king of the gods. A boy slave stood behind him holding a laurel wreath above his head while whispering in his ear “Remember that you are human.” In Pompey’s great triumph of 61 BC, he actually wore a cloak that had belonged to Alexander the Great. After the general came his prisoners in chains and finally the legionnaires, who by ancient tradition sang obscene songs satirizing their general.

By the end of the second century BC, in Everitt’s words, “The responsibilities of empire meant that soldiers could no longer be demobilized at the end of each fighting season. Standing forces were required, with soldiers on long-term contracts.” The great general Caius Marius undertook to reform the armed forces, replacing the old conscript armies with a professional body of long-service volunteers. When their contracts expired, they expected their commanders, to whom they were personally loyal, to grant them farms. Unfortunately, land in Italy was by then in short supply, much of it tied up in huge sheep and cattle ranches owned by rich, often aristocratic, families and run by slave labor. The landowners were the dominant conservative influence in the Senate, and they resisted all efforts at land reform. Members of the upper classes became wealthy as a result of Rome’s wars of conquest and bought more land as the only safe investment, driving small holders off their property. In 133 BC, the gentry arranged for the killing of the tribune Tiberius Gracchus (of plebian origin) for advocating a new land-use law. Rome’s population continued to swell with landless veterans. “Where would the land be found,” asks Everitt, “for the superannuated soldiers of Rome’s next war?”

During the last century before its fall, the republic was assailed by many revolts of generals and their troops, leading to gross violations of the constitution and on several occasions to civil wars. These included the uprisings of Marius and Sulla and of the failed revolutionary Catilina. There was also the Spartacus slave rebellion of 73 BC, put down by the immensely wealthy Marcus Licinius Crassus, who in the process crucified some 6,000 survivors. Crassus was a member of the First Triumvirate, along with Pompey and Caesar, which attempted to bring the situation under control by direct cooperation among the generals. Everitt writes, “During his childhood and youth Cicero had watched with horror as Rome set about dismantling itself. If he had a mission as an adult, it was to recall the republic to order. . . . [He] noticed that the uninhibited freedom of speech which marked political life in the republic was giving way to caution at social gatherings and across dinner tables. . . . The Senate had no answer to Rome’s problems and indeed sought none. Its aim was simply to maintain the constitution and resist the continual attacks on its authority. . . . The populares had lost decisively with the defeat of Catilina, but the snake was only stunned. Caesar, who had been plotting against Senatorial interests behind the scenes, was rising up the political ladder and, barring accidents, would be consul in a few years’ time.”

Caesar became consul for the first time in 59 BC enjoying great popularity with the ordinary people. After his year in office, he was rewarded by being named governor of Gaul, a post he held between 58 and 49 during which he earned great military glory and became immensely wealthy. In 49 he famously allowed his armies to cross the Rubicon, a small river in northern Italy that served as a boundary against armies approaching the capital, and plunged the country into civil war, taking on his former ally and now rival, Pompey. He won, after which, as Everitt observes, “No one was left in the field for Caesar to fight. . . . His leading opponents were dead. The republic was dead too: he had become the state.” Julius Caesar exercised dictatorship from 48 to 44 and a month before the Ides of March had arranged to have himself named “dictator for life.” Instead, he was stabbed to death in the Senate by a conspiracy of eight members, led by Brutus and Cassius, both praetors, known to history as “principled tyrannicides.”

Shakespeare’s recreation of the scenes that followed, based upon Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch, has become as immortal as the deed itself. In a speech to the plebeians in the Forum, Brutus defended his actions. “If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I lov’d Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living, and all die slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all freemen?” However, Mark Antony, Caesar’s chief lieutenant, speaking to the same audience, had the last word. He turned the populace against Brutus and Cassius, and as they raced forth to avenge Caesar’s murder, said cynically, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

Who will watch the watchers?

The Second Triumvirate, formed to avenge Caesar, ended like the first, with only one man standing, but that man, Caius Octavianus (Octavian), Caesar’s eighteen-year-old grand nephew, would decisively change Roman government by replacing the republic with an imperial dictatorship. Everitt characterizes Octavian as “a freebooting young privateer,” who on August 19, 43 BC, became the youngest consul in Rome’s history and set out, in violation of the constitution, to raise his own private army. “The boy would be a focus for the simmering resentments among the Roman masses, the disbanded veterans, and the standing legions.” Cicero, who had devoted his life to trying to curb the kind of power represented by Octavian, now gave up on the rule of law in favor of realpolitik. He recognized that “for all his struggles the constitution was dead and power lay in the hands of soldiers and their leaders.” In Cicero’s analysis, the only hope was to try to co-opt Octavian, leading him toward a more constitutional position, while doing everything not to “irritate rank-and-file opinion, which was fundamentally Caesarian.” Cicero would pay with his life for this last, desperate gamble. Octavian, allied with Mark Antony, ordered at least 130 senators (perhaps as many as 300) executed and their property confiscated after charging them with supporting the conspiracy against Caesar. Mark Antony personally added Cicero’s name to the list. When he met his death, the great scholar and orator had with him a copy of Euripides’ Medea, which he had been reading. His head and both hands were displayed in the Forum.

A year after Cicero’s death, following the battle of Philippi where Brutus and Cassius ended their lives, Octavian and Antony divided the known world between them. Octavian took the West and remained in Rome; Antony accepted the East and allied himself with Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt and Julius Caesar’s former mistress. In 31 BC, Octavian set out to end this unstable arrangement, and at the sea battle of Actium in the Gulf of Ambracia on the western coast of Greece, he defeated Antony’s and Cleopatra’s fleet. The following year in Alexandria Mark Antony fell on his sword and Cleopatra took an asp to her breast. By then, both had been thoroughly discredited for claiming that Antony was a descendant of Caesar’s and for seeking Roman citizenship rights for Cleopatra’s children by Caesar. Octavian would rule the Roman world for the next 45 years, until his death in 14 AD.

On January 13, 27 BC, Octavian appeared in the Senate, which had legitimized its own demise by ceding most of its powers to him and which now bestowed on him the new title of Augustus, first Roman emperor. The majority of the Senators were his solid supporters, having been handpicked by him. In 23 BC, Augustus was granted further authority by being designated a tribune for life, which gave him ultimate veto power over anything the Senate might do. His power rested ultimately on his total control of the armed forces.

Although his rise to power was always tainted by constitutional illegitimacy — not unlike that of our own Boy Emperor from Crawford, Texas — Augustus proceeded to emasculate the Roman system and its representative institutions. He never abolished the old republican offices but merely united them under one person — himself. Imperial appointment became a badge of prestige and social standing rather than of authority. The Senate was turned into a club of old aristocratic families, and its approval of the acts of the emperor was purely ceremonial. The Roman legions continued to march under the banner SPQR — senatus populus que Romanus, “the Senate and the Roman People” — but the authority of Augustus was absolute.

The most serious problem was that the army had grown too large and was close to unmanageable. It constituted a state within a state, not unlike the Pentagon in the United States today. Augustus reduced the army’s size and provided generous cash payments to those soldiers who had served more than twelve years, making clear that this bounty came from him, not their military commanders. He also transferred all legions away from Rome to the remote provinces and borders of the Empire, to ensure their leaders were not tempted to meddle in political affairs. Equally astutely, he created the Praetorian Guard, an elite force of 9,000 men with the task of defending him personally, and stationed them in Rome. They were drawn only from Italy, not from distant provinces, and were paid more than soldiers in the regular legions. They began as Augustus’s personal bodyguards, but in the decades after his death they became decisive players in the selection of new emperors. It was one of the first illustrations of an old problem of authoritarian politics: create one bureaucracy, the Praetorian Guard, to control another bureaucracy, the regular army, but before long the question will arise: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will watch the watchers?)

Augustus is credited with forging the Roman Peace (Pax Romana), which historians like to say lasted more than 200 years. It was, however, a military dictatorship and depended entirely on the incumbent emperor. And therein lay the problem. Tiberius, who reigned from 14-37 AD, retired to Capri with a covey of young boys who catered to his sexual tastes. His successor, Caligula, who held office from 37-41, was the darling of the army, but on January 24, 41 AD, the Praetorian Guard assassinated him and proceeded to loot the imperial palace. Modern archaeological evidence strongly suggests that Caligula was an eccentric maniac, just as history has always portrayed him.2

The fourth Roman emperor, Claudius, who reigned from 41 to 54, was selected and put into power by the Praetorian Guard in a de facto military coup. Despite the basically favorable portrayal of him by Robert Graves (I, Claudius, 1934) and years later on TV by Derek Jacobi, Claudius, who was Caligula’s uncle, was addicted to gladiatorial games and fond of watching his defeated opponents being put to death. As a child, Claudius limped, drooled, stuttered, and was constantly ill. He had his first wife killed and married Agrippina, daughter of the sister of Caligula, after having the law changed to allow uncles to marry their nieces. On October 13, 54 AD, Claudius was killed with a poisoned mushroom, probably fed to him by his wife, and at noon that same day, the sixteen-year-old Nero, Agrippina’s son by a former husband, was acclaimed emperor in a carefully orchestrated piece of political theater. Nero, who reigned from 54 to 68, was a probably insane tyrant who has been credited with setting fire to Rome in 64 and persecuting some famous early Christians (Paul and Peter), although his reputation has been somewhat rehabilitated in recent years as a patron of the arts.

The short, happy life of the American republic

After Augustus, not much recommends the Roman Empire as an example of enlightened government despite the enthusiasm for it of such neoconservative promoters of the George W. Bush administration as the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer, the Wall Street Journal’s Max Boot, and the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol. My reasons for going over this ancient history are not to suggest that our own Boy Emperor is a second Octavian but rather what might happen after he is gone. The history of the Roman republic from the time of Julius Caesar on suggests that it was imperialism and militarism — poorly understood by all conservative political leaders at the time — that brought it down. Militarism and the professionalization of a large standing army create invincible new sources of power within a polity. The government must mobilize the masses in order to exploit them as cannon fodder and this leads to the rise of populist generals who understand the grievances of their troops and veterans.

Service in the armed forces of the United States has not been a universal male obligation of citizenship since 1973. Our military today is a professional corps of men and women who join up for their own reasons, commonly to advance themselves in the face of one or another cul de sac of American society. They normally do not expect to be shot at, but they do expect all the benefits of state employment — steady pay, good housing, free medical benefits, relief from racial discrimination, world travel, and gratitude from the rest of society for their military “service.” They are well aware that the alternatives civilian life in America offers today include difficult job searches, no job security, regular pilfering of retirement funds by company executives and their accountants, “privatized” medical care, bad public elementary education systems, and insanely expensive higher education. They are ripe, it seems to me, not for the political rhetoric of patrician politicians who have followed the Andover, Yale, Harvard Business School route to riches and power but for a Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, or Juan Perç?n — a revolutionary, military populist with no interest in republican niceties so long as he is made emperor.

Given the course of the postwar situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it may not be too hard to defeat George Bush in the election of 2004. But whoever replaces him will have to deal with the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, our empire of bases, and a fifty-year-old tradition of not telling the public what our military establishment costs and the devastation it can inflict. History teaches us that the capacity for things to get worse is limitless. Roman history suggests that the short, happy life of the American republic is in serious trouble — and that conversion to a military empire is, to say the least, not the best answer.

Chalmers Johnson’s new book, forthcoming at the end of 2003 from Metropolitan Books, is The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.

NOTES

1. See, for example, Dana Priest, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military (New York: Norton, 2003).

2. Shasta Darlington, “New Dig Says Caligula Was Indeed a Maniac,” Reuters, August 16, 2003.

Copyright C2003 Chalmers Johnson E-mail to a FriendSubject: Wells and NWO Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 22:12:01 +0500 From: Simon Jones

re GlobalCirclenet quote

“”The men of the New [World Order] Republic will not be squeamish either in facing or inflicting death. They will have ideals that will make killing worthwhile. They will hold that a certain portion of the population exists only on sufferance out of pity and patience, and on the understanding that they do not propagate; and I do not forsee any reason to suppose that they will hesitate to kill when that sufferance is abused.” — H. G. Wells, 1924, ‘The Works of H. G. Wells’, London: T. F. Union and Co., vol. 4, pp. 258-259. {end}.

(4) America’s Empire of Bases, by Chalmers Johnson, first published on http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5537.htm

01/15/04: (tomdispatch.com) As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage — Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.

Our installations abroad bring profits to civilian industries, which design and manufacture weapons for the armed forces or, like the now well-publicized Kellogg, Brown & Root company, a subsidiary of the Halliburton Corporation of Houston, undertake contract services to build and maintain our far-flung outposts. One task of such contractors is to keep uniformed members of the imperium housed in comfortable quarters, well fed, amused, and supplied with enjoyable, affordable vacation facilities. Whole sectors of the American economy have come to rely on the military for sales. On the eve of our second war on Iraq, for example, while the Defense Department was ordering up an extra ration of cruise missiles and depleted-uranium armor-piercing tank shells, it also acquired 273,000 bottles of Native Tan sunblock, almost triple its 1999 order and undoubtedly a boon to the supplier, Control Supply Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and its subcontractor, Sun Fun Products of Daytona Beach, Florida.

At Least Seven Hundred Foreign Bases

It’s not easy to assess the size or exact value of our empire of bases. Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department’s annual “Base Structure Report” for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and HAS another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. Pentagon bureaucrats calculate that it would require at least $113.2 billion to replace just the foreign bases — surely far too low a figure but still larger than the gross domestic product of most countries — and an estimated $591,519.8 million to replace all of them. The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.

These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo — even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11.

For Okinawa, the southernmost island of Japan, which has been an American military colony for the past 58 years, the report deceptively lists only one Marine base, Camp Butler, when in fact Okinawa “hosts” ten Marine Corps bases, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma occupying 1,186 acres in the center of that modest-sized island’s second largest city. (Manhattan’s Central Park, by contrast, is only 843 acres.) The Pentagon similarly fails to note all of the $5-billion-worth of military and espionage installations in Britain, which have long been conveniently disguised as Royal Air Force bases. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people’s countries, but no one — possibly not even the Pentagon — knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years.

For their occupants, these are not unpleasant places to live and work. Military service today, which is voluntary, bears almost no relation to the duties of a soldier during World War II or the Korean or Vietnamese wars. Most chores like laundry, KP (”kitchen police”), mail call, and cleaning latrines have been subcontracted to private military companies like Kellogg, Brown & Root, DynCorp, and the Vinnell Corporation. Fully one-third of the funds recently appropriated for the war in Iraq (about $30 billion), for instance, are going into private American hands for exactly such services. Where possible everything is done to make daily existence seem like a Hollywood version of life at home. According to the Washington Post, in Fallujah, just west of Baghdad, waiters in white shirts, black pants, and black bow ties serve dinner to the officers of the 82nd Airborne Division in their heavily guarded compound, and the first Burger King has already gone up inside the enormous military base we’ve established at Baghdad International Airport.

Some of these bases are so gigantic they require as many as nine internal bus routes for soldiers and civilian contractors to get around inside the earthen berms and concertina wire. That’s the case at Camp Anaconda, headquarters of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, whose job is to police some 1,500 square miles of Iraq north of Baghdad, from Samarra to Taji. Anaconda occupies 25 square kilometers and will ultimately house as many as 20,000 troops. Despite extensive security precautions, the base has frequently come under mortar attack, notably on the Fourth of July, 2003, just as Arnold Schwarzenegger was chatting up our wounded at the local field hospital.

The military prefers bases that resemble small fundamentalist towns in the Bible Belt rather than the big population centers of the United States. For example, even though more than 100,000 women live on our overseas bases — including women in the services, spouses, and relatives of military personnel — obtaining an abortion at a local military hospital is prohibited. Since there are some 14,000 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults each year in the military, women who become pregnant overseas and want an abortion have no choice but to try the local economy, which cannot be either easy or pleasant in Baghdad or other parts of our empire these days.

Our armed missionaries live in a closed-off, self-contained world serviced by its own airline — the Air Mobility Command, with its fleet of long-range C-17 Globemasters, C-5 Galaxies, C-141 Starlifters, KC-135 Stratotankers, KC-10 Extenders, and C-9 Nightingales that link our far-flung outposts from Greenland to Australia. For generals and admirals, the military provides seventy-one Learjets, thirteen Gulfstream IIIs, and seventeen Cessna Citation luxury jets to fly them to such spots as the armed forces’ ski and vacation center at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps or to any of the 234 military golf courses the Pentagon operates worldwide. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld flies around in his own personal Boeing 757, called a C-32A in the Air Force.

Our “Footprint” on the World

Of all the insensitive, if graphic, metaphors we’ve allowed into our vocabulary, none quite equals “footprint” to describe the military impact of our empire. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers and senior members of the Senate’s Military Construction Subcommittee such as Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are apparently incapable of completing a sentence without using it. Establishing a more impressive footprint has now become part of the new justification for a major enlargement of our empire — and an announced repositioning of our bases and forces abroad — in the wake of our conquest of Iraq. The man in charge of this project is Andy Hoehn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy. He and his colleagues are supposed to draw up plans to implement President Bush’s preventive war strategy against “rogue states,” “bad guys,” and “evil-doers.” They have identified something they call the “arc of instability,” which is said to run from the Andean region of South America (read: Colombia) through North Africa and then sweeps across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. This is, of course, more or less identical with what used to be called the Third World — and perhaps no less crucially it covers the world’s key oil reserves. Hoehn contends, “When you overlay our footprint onto that, we don’t look particularly well-positioned to deal with the problems we’re now going to confront.”

Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America’s version of the colony is the military base. By following the changing politics of global basing, one can learn much about our ever larger imperial stance and the militarism that grows with it. Militarism and imperialism are Siamese twins joined at the hip. Each thrives off the other. Already highly advanced in our country, they are both on the verge of a quantum leap that will almost surely stretch our military beyond its capabilities, bringing about fiscal insolvency and very possibly doing mortal damage to our republican institutions. The only way this is discussed in our press is via reportage on highly arcane plans for changes in basing policy and the positioning of troops abroad — and these plans, as reported in the media, cannot be taken at face value.

Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson, commanding our 1,800 troops occupying the old French Foreign Legion base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti at the entrance to the Red Sea, claims that in order to put “preventive war” into action, we require a “global presence,” by which he means gaining hegemony over any place that is not already under our thumb. According to the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, the idea is to create “a global cavalry” that can ride in from “frontier stockades” and shoot up the “bad guys” as soon as we get some intelligence on them.

“Lily Pads” in Australia, Romania, Mali, Algeria . . .

In order to put our forces close to every hot spot or danger area in this newly discovered arc of instability, the Pentagon has been proposing — this is usually called “repositioning” — many new bases, including at least four and perhaps as many as six permanent ones in Iraq. A number of these are already under construction — at Baghdad International Airport, Tallil air base near Nasariyah, in the western desert near the Syrian border, and at Bashur air field in the Kurdish region of the north. (This does not count the previously mentioned Anaconda, which is currently being called an “operating base,” though it may very well become permanent over time.) In addition, we plan to keep under our control the whole northern quarter of Kuwait — 1,600 square miles out of Kuwait’s 6,900 square miles — that we now use to resupply our Iraq legions and as a place for Green Zone bureaucrats to relax.

Other countries mentioned as sites for what Colin Powell calls our new “family of bases” include: In the impoverished areas of the “new” Europe — Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria; in Asia — Pakistan (where we already have four bases), India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and even, unbelievably, Vietnam; in North Africa — Morocco, Tunisia, and especially Algeria (scene of the slaughter of some 100,00 civilians since 1992, when, to quash an election, the military took over, backed by our country and France); and in West Africa — Senegal, Ghana, Mali, and Sierra Leone (even though it has been torn by civil war since 1991). The models for all these new installations, according to Pentagon sources, are the string of bases we have built around the Persian Gulf in the last two decades in such anti-democratic autocracies as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Most of these new bases will be what the military, in a switch of metaphors, calls “lily pads” to which our troops could jump like so many well-armed frogs from the homeland, our remaining NATO bases, or bases in the docile satellites of Japan and Britain. To offset the expense involved in such expansion, the Pentagon leaks plans to close many of the huge Cold War military reservations in Germany, South Korea, and perhaps Okinawa as part of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s “rationalization” of our armed forces. In the wake of the Iraq victory, the U.S. has already withdrawn virtually all of its forces from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, partially as a way of punishing them for not supporting the war strongly enough. It wants to do the same thing to South Korea, perhaps the most anti-American democracy on Earth today, which would free up the 2nd Infantry Division on the demilitarized zone with North Korea for probable deployment to Iraq, where our forces are significantly overstretched.

In Europe, these plans include giving up several bases in Germany, also in part because of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s domestically popular defiance of Bush over Iraq. But the degree to which we are capable of doing so may prove limited indeed. At the simplest level, the Pentagon’s planners do not really seem to grasp just how many buildings the 71,702 soldiers and airmen in Germany alone occupy and how expensive it would be to reposition most of them and build even slightly comparable bases, together with the necessary infrastructure, in former Communist countries like Romania, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Lt. Col. Amy Ehmann in Hanau, Germany, has said to the press “There’s no place to put these people” in Romania, Bulgaria, or Djibouti, and she predicts that 80% of them will in the end stay in Germany. It’s also certain that generals of the high command have no intention of living in backwaters like Constanta, Romania, and will keep the U.S. military headquarters in Stuttgart while holding on to Ramstein Air Force Base, Spangdahlem Air Force Base, and the Grafenwöhr Training Area.

One reason why the Pentagon is considering moving out of rich democracies like Germany and South Korea and looks covetously at military dictatorships and poverty-stricken dependencies is to take advantage of what the Pentagon calls their “more permissive environmental regulations.” The Pentagon always imposes on countries in which it deploys our forces so-called Status of Forces Agreements, which usually exempt the United States from cleaning up or paying for the environmental damage it causes. This is a standing grievance in Okinawa, where the American environmental record has been nothing short of abominable. Part of this attitude is simply the desire of the Pentagon to put itself beyond any of the restraints that govern civilian life, an attitude increasingly at play in the “homeland” as well. For example, the 2004 defense authorization bill of $401.3 billion that President Bush signed into law in November 2003 exempts the military from abiding by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

While there is every reason to believe that the impulse to create ever more lily pads in the Third World remains unchecked, there are several reasons to doubt that some of the more grandiose plans, for either expansion or downsizing, will ever be put into effect or, if they are, that they will do anything other than make the problem of terrorism worse than it is. For one thing, Russia is opposed to the expansion of U.S. military power on its borders and is already moving to checkmate American basing sorties into places like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The first post-Soviet-era Russian airbase in Kyrgyzstan has just been completed forty miles from the U.S. base at Bishkek, and in December 2003, the dictator of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, declared that he would not permit a permanent deployment of U.S. forces in his country even though we already have a base there.

When it comes to downsizing, on the other hand, domestic politics may come into play. By law the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closing Commission must submit its fifth and final list of domestic bases to be shut down to the White House by September 8, 2005. As an efficiency measure, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has said he’d like to be rid of at least one-third of domestic Army bases and one-quarter of domestic Air Force bases, which is sure to produce a political firestorm on Capitol Hill. In order to protect their respective states’ bases, the two mother hens of the Senate’s Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein, are demanding that the Pentagon close overseas bases first and bring the troops now stationed there home to domestic bases, which could then remain open. Hutchison and Feinstein included in the Military Appropriations Act of 2004 money for an independent commission to investigate and report on overseas bases that are no longer needed. The Bush administration opposed this provision of the Act but it passed anyway and the president signed it into law on November 22, 2003. The Pentagon is probably adept enough to hamstring the commission, but a domestic base-closing furor clearly looms on the horizon.

By far the greatest defect in the “global cavalry” strategy, however, is that it accentuates Washington’s impulse to apply irrelevant military remedies to terrorism. As the prominent British military historian, Correlli Barnett, has observed, the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq only increased the threat of al-Qaeda. From 1993 through the 9/11 assaults of 2001, there were five major al-Qaeda attacks worldwide; in the two years since then there have been seventeen such bombings, including the Istanbul suicide assaults on the British consulate and an HSBC Bank. Military operations against terrorists are not the solution. As Barnett puts it, “Rather than kicking down front doors and barging into ancient and complex societies with simple nostrums of ‘freedom and democracy,’ we need tactics of cunning and subtlety, based on a profound understanding of the people and cultures we are dealing with — an understanding up till now entirely lacking in the top-level policy-makers in Washington, especially in the Pentagon.”

In his notorious “long, hard slog” memo on Iraq of October 16, 2003, Defense secretary Rumsfeld wrote, “Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror.” Correlli-Barnett’s “metrics” indicate otherwise. But the “war on terrorism” is at best only a small part of the reason for all our military strategizing. The real reason for constructing this new ring of American bases along the equator is to expand our empire and reinforce our military domination of the world.

Chalmers Johnson’s latest book is ‘The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic’ (Metropolitan). His previous book, ‘Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire,’ has just been updated with a new introduction.
Copyright C2004 Chalmers Johnson.

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