Central Intelligence Agency: The
President's Private Army,
U.S. Military Bases in Other People's
How American Imperialism Actually
Works: The SOFA in Japan,
Space: The Ultimate Imperialist
excerpted from the book
The Last Days of the American
by Chalmers Johnson
Holt, 2006, paperback
Porter J. Goss, the newly appointed director of central intelligence
(DCI), November 2004,
in an internal memorandum to CIA employees
[Our job is to] support the administration
and its policies in our work. As agency employees, we do not identify
with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or
Thomas Powers, an authority on the CIA
No one can understand, much less predict,
he behavior of the CIA who does not understand that the agency
works for the president. I know of no exceptions to this general
rule. In practice it means that in the end the CIA will always
bend to the wishes of the president .... The general rule applies
both to intelligence and to operations: what the CIA says, as
well as what it does, will shape itself over time to what the
Congressional oversight of the agency [CIA] and many other, ever-expanding
intelligence outfits in the U.S. government, including the Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA)
- is, at best, a theatrical performance designed to distract and
mislead the few Americans left who are concerned about constitutional
The president's untrammeled control of the CIA is probably the
single most extraordinary power the imperial presidency possesses
- totally beyond the balance of powers intended to protect the
United States from the rise of a tyrant.
James Schlesinger, Director of CIA, 1973
l am here to see that you guys don't screw
Whatever happens, the CIA will remain first and foremost the president's
private army, officially accountable to no other branch of the
The National Security Act of 1947 placed the CIA under the explicit
direction of the National Security Council (NSC), the president's
chief staff unit-composed of appointed members not subject to
congressional approval-focused on making decisions about war and
peace. The CIA was given five functions, four of them dealing
with the collection, coordination, and dissemination of intelligence.
It was the fifth-a vaguely worded passage that allowed the CIA
to "perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence
affecting the national security as the National Security Council
may from time to time direct"-that turned the CIA into the
personal, secret, unaccountable army of the president. At least
since 1953, when it secretly overthrew the democratically elected
government of Iran, the CIA has often been ordered into battle
without Congress having declared war, as the Constitution requires.
Clandestine or covert operations, although
nowhere actually mentioned in the CIA's enabling statutes, quickly
became the agency's main activity. As Loch K. Johnson, one of
the CIA's most impartial congressional analysts and former chief
assistant to Senator Frank Church, chairman of the post-Watergate
Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with
Respect to Intelligence Activities, observed, "The covert
action shop had become a place for rapid promotion within the
agency." The Directorate of Operations (DO) soon absorbed
two-thirds of the CIA's budget and personnel, while the Directorate
of Intelligence limped along, regularly producing bland documents
known as National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) -summaries of
intelligence gathered by all the various intelligence agencies,
including those in the Department of Defense. I personally read
a good many of these when I served, from 1967 to 1973, as an outside
consultant to what was then known as the CIA's Office of National
Estimates. This consulting function was abolished by Kissinger
and Schlesinger during Nixon's second term precisely because they
did not want outsiders interfering with their ability to tell
the president what to think.
Meanwhile, CIA covert operations were
mobilized in support of various criminal, dictatorial, or militarist
organizations around the world so long as they were (or pretended
to be) anticommunist. CIA operatives also planted false information
in foreign newspapers and covertly fed large amounts of money
to members of the Christian Democratic Party in Italy and the
Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, to King Hussein of Jordan,
and to clients in Greece, West Germany, Egypt, Sudan, Suriname,
Mauritius, the Philippines, Iran, Ecuador, and Chile. Clandestine
agents devoted themselves to such tasks as depressing the global
prices of agricultural products in order to damage uncooperative
Third World countries, attempting to assassinate foreign leaders,
and sponsoring guerrilla wars or insurgencies in places as diverse
as the Ukraine, Poland, Albania, Hungary, Indonesia, China, Tibet,
Oman, Malaysia, Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, North
Korea, Bolivia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Haiti, Guatemala,
Cuba, Greece, Turkey, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua,
to name only a few of those on the public record.'
No congressional oversight of the agency in any form existed until
1974, when, in the wake of Watergate, the Church Committee exposed
the CIA's illegal domestic surveillance, its assassinations of
overseas leaders, and its lying to Congress. The committee's report
led Congress to create intelligence committees in both houses,
but even that Congress meant to bring a little sunlight to the
agency... Vice President Dick Cheney has made it his personal
crusade to try to reverse the Church Committee's reforms.
The CIA belongs as much to the president as the Praetorian Guard
once belonged to the Roman emperors.
The CIA remains the main executive-branch department in charge
of overthrowing foreign governments, promoting regimes of state
terrorism, kidnapping people of interest to the administration
and sending them to friendly foreign countries to be tortured
and/or killed, assassination and the torture of prisoners in violation
of international and domestic law, and numerous other "wet"
exercises that both the president and the country in which they
are executed want be able to deny.
The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1979. In his 1996
memoir, former CIA director Robert Gates acknowledges that the
American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen
guerrillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before
it. On July 3, 1979, President Carter signed a finding authorizing
secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime then ruling
in Kabul. His purpose-and that of his national security adviser,
Zbigniew Brzezinski-was to provoke a fullscale Soviet military
intervention. Carter wanted to tie down the USSR and so prevent
its leaders from exploiting the 1979 anti-American revolution
in Iran. In addition, as Brzezinski put it, "We now have
the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War."
Before it was over, the CIA and the USSR
between them turned Afghanistan, which had been a functioning
state with a healthy middle class, into a warring collection of
tribes, Islamic sects, and heroin-producing warlords. In human
terms, the effort cost 1.8 million Afghan casualties and sent
2.6 million fleeing as refugees, while ten million unexploded
land mines were left strewn around the country.
Human Rights Watch has identified at least twenty-four secret
detention and interrogation centers worldwide operated by the
CIA. These include: al-Jafr prison in the southern desert of Jordan;
Kohat prison in Pakistan; holding sites in Afghanistan including
in Kabul and Kandahar, at Bagram Air Base and Camp Salerno, near
Khost; at least three locations in Iraq, including CIA-controlled
parts of Abu Ghraib prison; at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the
Camp Echo complex, and the new Camp 6; a secret location at Al-Udeid
Air Base, Qatar; prisons in Egypt, Thailand, and in brigs on U.S.
ships at sea; at least two CIA prisons in the old Soviet satellites
in Eastern Europe, probably in Poland and Romania; in Morocco
at secret police headquarters in Temara, near the capital, Rabat,
and at a new CIA torture center under construction at Ain Aouda,
south of Rabat's diplomatic district; and possibly at the U.S.
naval base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian
The people held in this U.S. version of
the gulag are known as "ghost detainees' completely off-the-books.
No charges are ever filed against them, and they are hidden away
even from the inspectors of the International Committee of the
Red Cross. In an unusual typology of rendition sites, Robert Baer,
a former CIA operative in the Middle East and the author of Sleeping
with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude,
has commented, "We pick up a suspect or we arrange for one
of our partner countries to do it. Then the suspect is placed
on a civilian transport to a third country where, let's make no
bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good interrogation,
you send someone to Jordan. If you want them to be killed, you
send them to Egypt or Syria. Either way, the U.S. cannot be blamed
as it is not doing the heavy work."
Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by
counting up colonies. America's version of the colony is the military
The worldwide total of U.S. military personnel in 2005, including
those based domestically, was 1,840,062 supported by an additional
473,306 Defense Department civil service employees and 203,328
local hires in overseas bases, according to the Pentagon, contained
32,327 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which
it owns, and 16,527 more that it leased. The size of these holdings
was recorded in the inventory as covering 687,347 acres overseas
and 29,819,492 acres worldwide, making the Pentagon easily one
of the world's largest landlords.
These numbers, although staggeringly big,
do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally.
The 2005 Base Structure Report fails, for instance, to mention
any garrisons in Kosovo (or Serbia, of which Kosovo is still officially
a province)-even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel
built in 1999 and maintained ever since by the KBR corporation
(formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root), a subsidiary of
the Halliburton Corporation of Houston. The report similarly omits
bases in Afghanistan, Iraq (106 garrisons as of May 2005), Israel,
Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, even though the U.S. military
has established colossal base structures in the Persian Gulf and
Central Asian areas since 9/11. By way of excuse, a note in the
preface says that "facilities provided by other nations at
foreign locations" are not included, although this is not
strictly true. The report does include twenty sites in Turkey,
all owned by the Turkish government and used jointly with the
Americans. The Pentagon continues to omit from its accounts most
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
overseas, but no one-possibly not even the Pentagon knows the
exact number for sure.
It is clear today that the Bush administration intended, upon
Saddam Hussein's certain defeat, to create military bases in Iraq
similar to those we built or took over in Germany and Japan after
World War II. The covert purpose of our 2003 invasion was empire
building - to move the main focus of our military installations
in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, gain control over
Iraq's oil resources, and make that country a permanent Pentagon
outpost for the control of much of the rest of the "arc of
In response to the question, "What
were the real reasons for our invasion of Iraq?" retired
air force lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, a former strategist
inside the Near East Division of the Office of the Secretary of
Defense, suggested: "One reason has to do with enhancing
our military basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied
with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions
on our basing .... So we were looking for alternate strategic
locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we
had been searching for since the days of Carter-to secure the
energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then,
were very important.' In the spring of 2005, Kwiatkowski further
noted, Pentagon leaders regarded Iraqi bases as vital for protecting
Israel and as potential launching pads for preventive wars in
Syria and Iran, part of the administration's strategic vision
of reorganizing the entire region as part of an American sphere
of influence. So it seems likely we intend to stay there whether
the Iraqis want us or not.
Secretary Rumsfeld to the Senate Armed Services Committee, February
I can assure you that we have no intention
at present time of putting permanent bases in Iraq.
Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution, February 2005
[W] e could declare... that we have no
permanent designs on Iraq and we will not seek permanent military
bases in Iraq. This one statement would do an enormous amount
to undermine the suspicion that we have permanent imperial intentions
in Iraq. We aren't going to do that. And the reason we're not
going to do that is because we are building permanent military
bases in Iraq.
The U.S. Southern Command's efforts there are aimed at keeping
control over Latin America, where the United States is probably
more unwelcome than at any time since the open imperialism of
the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Most citizens of Latin American countries
know about our armed interventions to overthrow popularly supported
governments in Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1961), Dominican Republic
(1965), Chile (1973), Grenada (1983), and Nicaragua (1984-90).
Many know about Fort Benning's School of the Americas, the U.S.
Army's infamous military academy that specializes in training
Latin American officers in state terrorism and repression. (It
was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
in 2000 to try to disguise its past.) Some are aware of the 1997
creation of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies within
the National Defense University in Washington to indoctrinate
Latin American civilian defense officials, as well as the Pentagon's
endless efforts to create close "military-to-military"
relations by sending U.S. Special Forces to train and arm Latin
American armies. Finally, there is the steadfast advocacy of radical
free-market capitalism that, when implemented by the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization,
have invariably left Latin American countries more indebted and
poverty stricken than they were before.
Okinawa is Japan's most southerly prefecture and its poorest.
As of 2005, it was host to thirty-seven of the eighty-eight American
military bases in Japan.
As of November 2004, according to Pentagon statistics, the United
States had stationed some 36,365 uniformed military personnel
in Japan, not counting 11,887 sailors attached to the Seventh
Fleet at its bases at Yokosuka (Kanagawa prefecture) and Sasebo
(Nagasaki prefecture), some of whom are intermittently at sea.
In addition there were 45,140 American dependents, 27,019 civilian
employees of the Department of Defense, and approximately 20,000
Japanese citizens working for the U.S. forces in jobs ranging
from maintaining golf courses and waiting on tables in the numerous
officers' clubs to translating Japanese newspapers for the Central
Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Okinawa is host to more than 50,000 of
these American troops, military-related civilians, and dependents.
According to Japanese researchers, the largest group of U.S. forces
in Okinawa consists of 16,015 uniformed marines, 733 Department
of Defense civilians, and 8,809 marine family members, adding
up to a marine cohort of 25,557. The air force contributes 7,100
pilots and maintenance crews at the island's huge Kadena Air Base,
the largest U.S. base in East Asia ...
During World War II, the Japanese killed approximately twenty-three
million Chinese throughout East Asia - higher casualties than
the staggering ones suffered by Russia at the hands of the Nazis.
Air Force Command, Strategic Master Plan, Federal Year 2004 and
Our vision calls for prompt global strike
space systems with the capability to directly apply force from
or through space against terrestrial targets.
Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, October 2002
Space offers attractive options not only
for missile defense but for a broad range of interrelated civil
and military missions. It truly is the ultimate high ground. We
are exploring concepts and technologies for space-based intercepts.
General Thomas White, air force chief of staff, November 29, 1957
Whoever has the capability to control
space will likewise possess the capability to exert control of
the surface of the Earth.
In the 1990s, neoconservative lobbyists joined with big arms manufacturers
and ambitious military officers, none of whom actually cared whether
a national missile-defense system could stop a nuclear attack.
Their interest was in the staggering sums such a project would
require. By manipulating a Republican Congress and creating a
missile defense lobby in both houses, they achieved all their
goals, although actual missile defense remained as distant as
ever. General Eugene Habiger, head of the U.S. Strategic Command
in the mid-1990s, said, "A system is being deployed that
doesn't have any credible capability." Philip Coyle, former
assistant secretary of defense for test and evaluation in the
Clinton administration, concluded that the United States had squandered
over $100 billion dollars of taxpayers' money on a "high-tech
The neoconservative mind-set that brought
this project to fruition had its origins in the Reagan years,
when many young strategists, usually with neither military service
nor war experience on their résumés, became impatient
with the influence of internationalists and realists-the people
who had dominated U.S. foreign policy making since World War II.
They were also convinced that the collapse of the Soviet Union
had been significantly due to U.S. technological prowess and that
pouring more money into advanced technology was a sure way to
achieve perpetual domination of the world. The only real debate
among them was over whether American hegemony "would be welcomed
as the cutting edge of human progress' or overwhelming American
power-"shock and awe"-would be enough to terrify others
into submission. They were committed to ending all arms control
treaties that constrained U.S. power, to a vast expansion of spending
on armaments as well as futuristic armaments research, and to
a belief that he planet could easily be mastered from the\ high
frontier of outer space. typical member of this group was Frank
GaffneyJr., founder of the center for Security Policy (CSP), creator
of the congressional missile defense lobby, and behind-the-scenes
player in the policy shifts of the 1990s that would lead to the
near-weaponization of space.
... The CSP is funded primarily by the
major weapons manufacturers in the missile defense field-Lockheed
Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Science Applications
International Corporation (SAIC), and others-and by conservative
donors such as the Coors family, Richard Mellon Scaife, and the
Colorado heiress Helen Krieble. CSP has received well over $3
million in corporate donations since its founding in 1988.
Everett Dolman, a neoconservative and professor in the School
of Advanced Air and Studies, the air force's graduate school for
airpower and space power strategies at Maxwell Air Force Base,
The time to weaponize and administer space
for the good of global commerce is now... Only the United States
can be trusted to regulate space for the benefit of all .
Space, particularly in low Earth orbits (LEO), is anything but
empty. The space age is hardly forty-five years old and we have
already filled its most critical zones with thousands of pieces
of lethal junk. The radars of the air force's Space Surveillance
Network can see objects as small as ten centimeters-the size of
a baseball-in low Earth orbit and to about one meter in higher
geosynchronous orbits, where most of the world's communications
and broadcast satellites reside. The air force is currently tracking
some 13,400 man-made objects in space, of which only a few hundred
are active satellites. It acknowledges that there are more than
100,000 pieces of smaller, untrackable debris, each about the
size of a marble (one centimeter) and millions of still smaller
fragments. NASA officials have estimated that there may be about
four million pounds of space junk in LEO alone. This debris includes
dead or dying satellites, pieces of spent rocket boosters, all
manner of metal shrouds and fairings, tools, nuts, bolts, and
clamps of every size and description, lens caps, and even frozen
sewage. In LEO they are traveling at the same speed as the space
shuttle- 7,500 miles per hour-or they would fall into the Earth's
) atmosphere and be burned up.
America's imperial project to dominate the space surrounding our
planet has provided a nearly perfect setting for official corruption.
The air force and the military-industrial complex interests meshing
with powerful congressional lobbies that want to bring space-oriented
industries to their districts and perpetuate their own safe seats
in Congress, as well as unimaginable sums of money protected from
public scrutiny by "black budgets' "special access programs'
and other forms of secrecy, all add up to a prescription for legal
thievery on an unprecedented scale. Norman Ornstein, a specialist
on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute, has observed
that when individual members of Congress have the ability to earmark-that
is, privately attach-federal funds for pet projects and slip them
unopposed into the Pentagon's budget, "You are creating the
most fertile environment for corruption imaginable".
During the first years of the new century,
an array of experienced Pentagon and congressional budget officers
began sounding the alarm that the purchase of weapons systems
is now totally beyond public control-or often even public visibility.
Of all the weapons systems, the most expensive and most prone
to misuse and abuse has been the whole project to create an intercontinental-ballistic-missile
defense system. At $8.8 billion, it was, after all, the largest
single weapons request in the fiscal year 2006 defense budget.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington
estimated that "black budget" requests for fiscal year
2007 amounted to $30.1 billion, the highest level since 1988 during
Cold War, 75 percent of them going to
the air force mostly for space programs and new satellites. William
D. Hartung, Frida Berrigan, Michelle Ciarrocca, and Jonathan Wingo
of the World Policy Institute have summed up our military ventures
in space and space defense as "Pork barrel in the sky."
The raw monetary figures have been literally
astronomic. From Reagan's 1983 "Star Wars" speech to
2006, depending on which expert you listen to, the United States
has spent between $92.5 billion and $130 billion on the basic
problem of shooting down an ICBM in flight-and that's without
even once having succeeded in doing so. One comprehensive analysis
of the ultimate cost of the entire ballistic missile defense system
by its distinctly theoretical date of completion in 2015-and excluding
its most expensive and problematic component, a space-based laser-is
President Bush in a speech to the cadets of The Citadel on December
11, 2001, exactly three months after 9/11
The attacks on our nation made it even
more clear that we need to build limited and effective defenses
against missile attack. Suppose the Taliban and the terrorists
had been able to strike America or important allies with a ballistic
missile. Our coalition would have become fragile, the stakes in
our war much, much higher. We must protect Americans and our friends
against all forms of terror, including the terror that could arrive
on a missile. But neither the Taliban nor the 9/11 terrorists
had missiles or the knowledge or industrial base to build one.
And there are other, far cheaper, more accessible, and more effective
ways to deliver a weapon of mass destruction than by missile.
For example, one could be secretly imported in a cargo container
on a transport ship, or fired from an offshore vessel using a
short-range cruise missile, or constructed domestically as did
the bombers of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building in 1995,
or sent as a priority package via FedEx.
But what if some terrorists really had
access to an intercontinental missile? Given that we have in continuous
orbit the world's most effective intelligence satellites devoted
to tracking missile launches, as soon as we had determined that
such a launch was not an error, we would retaliate instantly and
catastrophically against whatever nation had allowed a missile
to be fired against us. The government's own experts agree that
a long-range ballistic missile is the least likely way a hostile
state or terrorist group would choose to deliver a weapon of mass
destruction against a U.S. target.
Missile defense has almost nothing to do with defense and nothing
whatsoever to do with the war on terrorism. ABM weapons may actually
prove to be useless against incoming ICBMs, but they might be
highly effective offensive weapons against other nations' satellites...
These dual-use weapons are less likely to be employed for missile
defense than as a stealthy way to introduce weapons in outer space
with the intent of dominating the globe.
The Global Positioning System (known in the U.S. military as the
Navstar GPS) is probably the greatest advance in navigation since
the discovery of the compass and the invention of the sextant.
It is the general term for at least twenty-four satellites, each
circling the Earth twice a day, that are positioned in a "medium
Earth orbit" (12,600 to 14,760 miles above the planet). A
GPS receiver on a ship, automobile, aircraft, bomb, or a hiker's
handheld navigational device decodes a time signal from four of
these satellites, which carry extremely accurate atomic clocks,
and then calculates a position based on the different times and
distances to the various satellites. As of 2005, the GPS could
determine your position at any moment within about sixteen feet
(five meters), a steady improvement over the previous fifteen
years. Although created for military use, the GPS is today available
to any and all users worldwide, providing strikingly accurate
information on position and time in all weather conditions.
The European Union decided to build an alternative [satellite
navigation system] which it named "Galileo." This satellite
navigation system, when operational, will be more accurate and
not subject to shutdown for military purposes. When completed
it will be available to all world users, civilian and military,
and at its full capacity will require only a Galileo receiver.
... Galileo will be a system of thirty
spacecraft in orbit-twenty-seven active and three spares-14,514
miles above the Earth. Each satellite has a projected lifetime
of twelve years. The system aims at an accuracy of less than a
meter, with greater penetration into urban centers, inside buildings,
and under trees, a faster fix, and atomic clocks that are ten
times better than those on board the GPS satellites. The European
Space Agency plans to launch the required thirty satellites between
2006 and 2010, and the system is planned to be up and running
under civilian control by 2010.
On December 28, 2005, a Russian Soyuz
rocket fired from the old Soviet Cosmodrome at Baikonur, Kazakhstan,
carried the first Galileo satellite into orbit... In September
2003, China joined the project, promising to invest 230 mi lion
euros in it. In July 2004, Israel signed on; India joined in September
2005; Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea all affiliated with
Galileo during the winter of 2005-6, each of them paying for the
privilege. There was speculation that Argentina, Brazil, Chile,
Malaysia, Pakistan, and Russia also were considering becoming
The iron triangle of the air force, Congress, and the military-industrial
complex, sanctified by the high-tech jobs it offers to American
workers, is driving our country toward bankruptcy. For some, it
is tempting to continue the lucrative practice of buying arcane
space technologies that do not work - missile defenses, for example
- simply because it keeps people employed. Meanwhile, our democracy
is undercut by members of Congress who use the lavish "campaign
contributions" they receive - bribes by any other name -
to buy elections. The only public business these bought- and-paid-for
congressmen attend to is providing a legal veneer for munitions
makers' unquestioned access to the tax venues of the government.
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic