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Chalmers Johnson Dead At 79

Chalmers Johnson has died.

A onetime CIA agent and early supporter of the Vietnam War, Johnson became known later in life as a strident critic of American foreign policy. The professor emeritus at UC-San Diego died on Saturday at his Cardiff home.

A hero to liberals, Johnson caused the word “blowback,” meaning an unforeseen effect, to enter the lexicon following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His 2000 book, “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire,” was widely seen as prescient when the terrorists struck.

A well-respected scholar on Japan, Johnson wrote "MITI and the Japanese Miracle," which has been hailed as the definitive work on Asian economic development.

As a professor at UC-Berkeley in the 1960s, Johnson backed the Vietnam War and considered war protesters uninformed. Later, he became a harsh critic of U.S. foreign policy following the end of the Cold War.

Besides "Blowback," Johnson wrote "The Sorrows of Empire"; "Nemesis: The Lasst Days of the American Republic"; and, most recently, "Dismantling the Empire: America's last Best Hope," a collection of essays published in August.

Johnson warned of the continued danger of American imperialism in a February 2007 interview on the KPBS’ program These Days:

“In my lifetime, I’ve seen the collapse of the Imperial Japanese, the Nazi, the French, the British , Dutch, Portuguese empires, the Soviet empire. The go these days not like the Roman Empire but more like FedEx,” he said.

"William Dean Howells, the prominent American author and critic, once argued that Americans have a peculiar liking for tragedies with happy endings. What I'm suggesting is that it might not be that happy. Empires go faster than you may think, despite the heritage of democracy in America."

Chalmers Johnson was 79.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 23, 2010 at 3:05 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

A Cold Warrior who eventually saw the Light. I am glad to have met this great mind a few years ago. RIP.

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Avatar for user 'profpeter'

profpeter | November 23, 2010 at 6:27 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

I just read an excellent piece on Johnson in *The Nation." (

I am sorry to see him go. We need more of his stature and intellect yelling out with each book, "The empire has no clothes!"

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