American Empire, War Politics

The Self-Destruction of Empires

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What is a prophet? Do you qualify if you explain what a nation is doing to itself and what the consequences will be if it continues in that course? If so, we have many worthy prophets in our land.

This is from one of those (many) books I longed to buy and read as the years passed (Sorrows of Empire, January 2004), but didn’t get to. You can only do so much …

Four sorrows … are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787.


It often seems like Orwell wrote the script for the Neo-Con Republicans of our day – so it’s not surprising that the four sorrows also sound like Orwell’s 1984. For example, perpetual war was a key ingredient of the regime of Big Brother – as it manifestly is of our Prince George’s way of thinking. But remember, what I’m quoting here was written in 2003 about our real and imminent future, not in the 1950’s about an imaginary 1984.

First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut.


This next one is clearly where Bush intends to go. With Congress obedient and unquestioning and the courts packed with radical right activist judges, Bush and company will be well protected from any accountability and from the idea of a Constitution that outranks the powers that be.

Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from a co-equal ‘executive branch’ of government into a military junta.


Then there’s “Newspeak.”

Third is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military legions.


Finally, there is a raging insanity of money-lust at the highest levels that is destroying our economy and altering the whole world’s economic structure – not in our favor at all. Johnson describes it a little more narrowly, but the effect is the same.

Lastly, there is bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education, health, and safety of its citizens.

[Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire]

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