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Chalmers Johnson concluded in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (the final book in his trilogy that began with Blowback ...) that the die had been cast and he had nothing further to add.  Three years later, in a much shorter work, The Guns of August: Lowering the Flag on the American Century, he comes once again to the same conclusion:

My own role these past 20 years has been that of Cassandra, whom the gods gave the gift of foreseeing the future, but also cursed because no one believed her. I wish I could be more optimistic about what's in store for the U.S.  Instead, there isn't a day that our own guns of August don't continue to haunt me.

"Cassandras," when not ignored, are maligned.  Often  charged with being desirous of bad things befalling their community, etc.   If that were true, why speak and risk being heard soon enough to alter the course of human events and be proven wrong?  Chalmers Johnson will be dead before, perhaps long before, citizens of the US suffer the consequences of US hegemony.  Same is true for the US scientists warning of global climate change.   Deep down they are optimistic that if others could "see," they would change course.

Alas, they are no match for those with a vested interest in the status quo.  Those rich enough to buy the biggest megaphones to preach faux optimism.  The false prophets that ordinary people believe care about them.

What's exceedingly difficult for those like Johnson is watching the progress of the very slow-motion train wreck.  Scanning the landscape in hopes of finding evidence of something that tells him that he was wrong.  Doesn't matter if the evidence was there all along and its importance initially overlooked or  a subsequent and unexpected course deviation improves the outcome.  It's an exhausting and mind-numbing task, particularly for those like Johnson not enamored of the repetition of his own voice.  

Just as I lost interest in China when that country's leadership headed so blindly down the wrong path during the Cultural Revolution, so I'm afraid I'm losing interest in continuing to analyze and dissect the prospects for the U.S. over the next few years. ...

He can see that moving some troops out of Iraq and more troops into Afghanistan is no more than opening and closing different window blinds on the train.  However, he recognizes that some remarkable people have boarded his train-car.

...I applaud the efforts of young journalists to tell it like it is, and of scholars to assemble the data that will one day enable historians to describe where and when we went astray.  I especially admire insights from the inside, such as those of ex-military men like Andrew Bacevich and Chuck Spinney. And I am filled with awe by men and women who are willing to risk their careers, incomes, freedom, and even lives to protest -- such as the priests and nuns of SOA Watch, who regularly picket the School of the Americas and call attention to the presence of American military bases and misbehavior in South America.

I'm impressed as well with Pfc. Bradley Manning, if he is indeed the person responsible for potentially making public 92,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan. Daniel Ellsberg has long been calling for someone to do what he himself did when he released the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. He must be surprised that his call has now been answered -- and in such an unlikely way.

The "if this, then that" type of prognostication that Johnson does in this piece is interesting because  it demonstrates the low cost and high reward potential of  the "if this."  But he knows those "ifs" aren't on the table.

Instead, I foresee the U.S. drifting along, much as the Obama administration seems to be drifting along in the war in Afghanistan. The common talk among economists today is that high unemployment may linger for another decade.  Add in low investment and depressed spending (except perhaps by the government) and I fear T.S. Eliot had it right when he wrote: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." 

Those on both the left and right expecting lots  future big bangs are going to be sorely disappointed.  It's the unspectacular and barely heard whimpers that tell us where we're going.  Scott Horton concluded a few days ago about one of those whimpers:

Kazakhs have long claimed that their government’s strategy of resolving the Giffen case by using the right levers with the American administration–a process that led them to hire former attorneys general and high-profile retired prosecutors, private investigators, and public-relations experts–would be successful. The outcome in the Giffen case appears to ratify that view. The notion of an independent, politically insulated criminal-justice administration in America has just taken another severe hit.

Did a Sarah tweet drown out that whimper?

Any Cassandras out there that want to go on record?  (Before all of us lose interest.)

Originally posted to Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:14 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

    by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:14:47 PM PDT

  •  Jeremiah was a Cassandra, too (9+ / 0-)

    The seer who cares more about their people than any other but is damned for daring to speak truly of the approaching disaster.  I'll bet there's similar figures in the myth structure of many other peoples as well, the fate of the person carrying the message of bad news is rather universal.  Such messengers get shot because they upset somebody else's gravy train, a rich or powerful sombody's gravy train.  Cassandra and Jeremiah, just hippies begging to be punched.

    American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers. ~Allen Sinai

    by ActivistGuy on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:25:54 PM PDT

  •  I suppose we'll just drift along for awhile, not (8+ / 0-)

    that I know, I'm just some dude in a room. If more and more becoming homeless, more needing food stamps, more becoming unemployed, more losses of wages and more inequality between classes is drifting along that is.  The thing that really worries me is if those that rule us decide to have another world war. That's being a Cassandra isn't it?              

    "To the mediocre, mediocrity appears great" Indian proverb

    by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:37:24 PM PDT

    •  As we drift, the air, seas, and lands (5+ / 0-)

      are becoming polluted or losing fertility.  Hey, not to worry -- an amazing number of people can be squeezed into small spaces and survive on very little -- Haiti and Bangladesh are role models of survivability.  At least until they disappear under rising oceans.  

      "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

      by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:44:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary resonates with me--strongly. (11+ / 0-)

    I've been feeling so frustrated for the past several months as it has become more and more clear that this country seems stuck in a rut (of its own making) and simply spinning its wheels.  I thought that when Wall Street imploded in Sept/Oct. 2008 that possibly a new and better era would be ushered in.  Instead we drag along in this fog of mediocrity with people suffering and no real solutions either offered or even attempted.  I believe it was Krugman just a few days ago who, in either a column or on his blog, expressed his fear that the current Administration was "ok" with higher than usual unemployment and he seemed genuinely concerned about their willingness to accept this and expect us to tolerate it. This article by him titled America Goes Dark made me feel deeply sad as well.  Our government seems to have abandoned its citizens--we had a massive plan to rescue Wall Street but only a couple of things like a too-small stimulus plan and the HAMP program (which has been deemed not terribly successful) and Cash for Clunkers for the rest of us. . .and what has changed as a result?  Not much that I can see. We seem to be slowly going backwards.

    My husband and I have actually had discussions about whether or not this country can be saved or if its decline is already cast in stone and we've wondered if this is what decline and fall is really like--with most people going about their daily work as if nothing has changed and we just continue on our way until . . . it's too late and THEN we realize that all this time, we were going down and didn't even realize it?!  This feels so odd and uncomfortable to me but I don't know what to do.  This is a very strange time for this country--that I do know.

    You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both. ~ Louis Brandeis

    by 3goldens on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:45:41 PM PDT

    •  Other than waging expensive (5+ / 0-)

      military actions (can't call them wars because they don't end and there are no victors), digging/drilling/burning as much hydrocarbon fuels as possible, and growing/eating as much meat/corn/soybeans as possible, and cheering on the increased wealth of billionaires, we don't seem capable of much.  And surely nothing with potential, positive long-term outcomes.

      Current US leadership, corporations, and average citizens wouldn't have had a chance in WWII against the Axis powers.

      "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

      by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:04:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's so darn painful to be in the midst of this! (5+ / 0-)

        I remember the years of JFK (I was undoubtedly pretty impressionable then--in high school) but there was a feeling of vibrancy and energy to DO things that were worthwhile and meaningful and beneficial.  And the words of RFK still ring in my mind and MLK too--heck, even during the worst of the Viet Nam War years, there was vibrancy and aliveness to this country.  Now, it's as if there is this deadness--dullness--nothingness as we drag along day after day with the "highlights" (lowlights, really!) being Sarah Palin's latest stupidity ("refudiate"!).  And problems remain unsolved and solutions to them not even offered while our congresscritters flee D.C. every chance they get, no matter who/what gets left in their dust to escape their jobs.  We have lost our sense of purpose in this country and no one seems to notice or care who can do something about it.  Where is the leadership???  Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh do NOT count!

        You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both. ~ Louis Brandeis

        by 3goldens on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:17:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It would be easy to dismiss our perceptions (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joanneleon, 3goldens

          as a function of age.  And there's probably some truth in that.  Yet, "deadness" is different and has been creeping into our bodies for some time.  Our lives have become too complicated, we have too much stuff, and everything is too big.  (Warehouse stores should be giving most of us panic attacks.)

          "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

          by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:37:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  we make the best bubblegum pop nt (0+ / 0-)

        Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell - Edward Abbey

        by ZAP210 on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:05:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sept/Oct 2008 (7+ / 0-)

      You're absolutely right, there was potential in the air.  The public had been rudely awakened from a generation-long slumber, and everywhere people were talking, finally, about how we have been getting screwed and plundered,and there was no mistake any more about who was doing the screwing and plundering.  It was a wave that if Obama had been serious about "change" he could have caught, and ridden, cmon, a Hawaiian should know how to catch a wave!  But as the whole of the power structure rallied to the bank bailout, and the bipartisan comity of paying billionaires their bonuses with the tax dollars of working men and women the air began to deflate.  And as Obama rolled out his econ team, Geithner, Summers, etc, it was clear our popular energies were being decisively spiked before they even got off the ground.  And then, once we had been abandoned scorned and rejected, and the bankers rescued on our backs, the public sunk back even deeper into apathy and resignation.  Then the moment had arrived for the ultimate of power structure cynicism, stirring up those bitter embers to fire up a movement of even more deregulation, even more giveaways to the rich and burdens for the poor and working classes, the Tea Party.

      The system has failed if we judge success or failure in terms of whether the system works to do the greatest good for the greatest number.  The rest is just denouement.  I'm not looking forward to being old and sick in this world, this America, over the next decade or two, but that's where things stand, and I have nowhere to run.

      American business is about maximizing shareholder value. You basically don't want workers. ~Allen Sinai

      by ActivistGuy on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:12:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You express things so well-- (5+ / 0-)

        this

        it was clear our popular energies were being decisively spiked before they even got off the ground

        and this  

        And then, once we had been abandoned scorned and rejected

        And this

        the public sunk back even deeper into apathy and resignation

        I feel as if we had the opportunity to pull ourselves up and out of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years and instead our hopes were taken and slammed to the ground right before our eyes.  No wonder we sense apathy and resignation.  

        You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both. ~ Louis Brandeis

        by 3goldens on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:23:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well said. It is a strange time, like we're (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, 3goldens, ActivistGuy, ZAP210

      waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      "To the mediocre, mediocrity appears great" Indian proverb

      by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:12:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  globally, (6+ / 0-)

    the US "went astray" under the first so-called "progressives"—Roosevelt, Wilson, that bunch. When, driven by greed, hubris, and racism, they transformed the US into a worldwide imperial power. Truman's erection of the National Security State sealed the deal. The rest is just one long coda.

    The US will continue to wither away as a world power, and that is a good thing. What will be left behind will be the ideals that it preached, though most often didn't practice.

    Just as Napoleon, as his armies first moved across, and then receded from, most of Europe, left behind the ideals of the French Revolution—ideals that he had, in most instances, in fact betrayed. The peoples of Europe made of those ideals what they would. It took a while, but those peoples are now in the process of peacefully achieving the commonality that Napoleon once sought to impose by force.

    So too will peoples elsewhere in the world come to adopt so-called American virtues, virtues that Americans themselves too often never much bothered with, and ultimately betrayed. : /  

    •  Isolationism was strong at the end of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joanneleon, 3goldens

      Wilson's term.  And remained strong for over two decades.  FDR wasn't keen on US imperialism; so much so that the Pentagon was to have been decommissioned at the end of the WWII.

      Agree on Truman and the National Security State.

      Doubt that Germans would agree that the Napoleonic Wars, WWI and WWII gave them the ideals and values of the French Revolution.  

      "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

      by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:25:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  please (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marie, sofia

        do not import into my comment things I did not say.

        Nowhere did I reference WWI and WWII "giv[ing] [the German people] the ideals and values of the French Revolution."

        The effect of the Napoleonic wars on the German states was to unify them, breaking the backs of innumerable tiny kingdoms and principalities. German unification, in the short run (over the next 150 years), of course proved disastrous, for millions and millions of people.

        As I said: "[i]t took a while."

        •  That's the occupational hazard of distilling (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          claude, joanneleon, 3goldens, blueness

          complex thoughts down into a short comment.

          You may be right the we and the world, with massive intermediate suffering, will get our act together in 150 years.  Yet, decades ago when I was a schoolchild, evolution wasn't controversial.  So, we must have a whole lot of slipping and sliding to go through in the next century or so.

          "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

          by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:55:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I've Just Finished 30 Years in a Failed-State (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claude, Marie, joanneleon, 3goldens, ZAP210

    type of community that had lost too much of its institutional working knowledge.

    I've been seeing and saying many of the same things from my perspective.

    I actually intend to go on record with what in general terms is ahead, but it's dark and would definitely kill the GOTV buzz (worse than what I already comment does).

    I do. But not yet.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:20:04 PM PDT

  •  Maybe no big bangs (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claude, Marie, jlynne, 3goldens

    except for more frequent climate events, but I imagine the number smaller detonations will escalate in wave after wave as people get their pink slip, their foreclosure notice, their eviction notice, their medical diagnosis, their divorce papers ...

    As the American Dream of upward mobility dies in each person's life, a kind of implosion takes place collectively, but quietly, in desperation and fear. Americans have drunk too much Soma to react otherwise.

    The ultra wealthy will be mobile and globalized where they can find shelter behind taller walls, bigger gates, buy bigger yachts and islands and not soil their "beautiful" minds.

    It will be interesting to see how the populace of other nations respond to similar crises. Europeans have so far had a few yelps louder than whimpers. Perhaps a bang will ring out somewhere in the world that we cannot now anticipate that will give guidance, that will be a Cassandra we are straining to hear.

    •  It's surprising how long it takes for (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cosmic debris, jlynne, ybruti, 3goldens

      reality to interfere with hope.  Upward mobility for most Americans ceased to be anything other than a dream for most Americans decades ago.    

      "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

      by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:07:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hope or brainwashing. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marie, jlynne, joanneleon, 3goldens

        The propagandists, brand marketers and advertisers did their jobs very well over the years.

        •  Probably brainwashing and stuff (4+ / 0-)

          that they mistook as a sign of upward mobility.  Stuff that they can't imagine doing without and wouldn't believe that overall life was better without it.  Probably not because less stuff is somehow better, but because inequality was lower -- an anecdotal confirmation of Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson's research.

          "Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster!" FDR - 1937

          by Marie on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 08:24:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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