Blowback


If you read some of the more thoughtful analyses of the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks, you may have noticed repeated use of the word ‘blowback’. Some may not be aware that this word is used by the CIA to denote the consequences that its covert activities abroad might cause, and the disasters they might someday bring down on the US.

The idea that one’s actions have repercussions is perfectly sensible. It is absurd to think that US foreign policy, especially when it is used aggressively and militarily and covertly to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, will not give rise to opposition and antagonism that may manifest itself in unexpected and unconventional ways.

This rational view of how actors behave on the world stage is excoriated by those demagogues in the media (by which I mean the major political leaders and pundits) who prefer to couch foreign policy debates in simple dualistic good-and-evil terms, and to suggest that the ‘evil they’ hate the ‘good us’ simply because of our virtue.

The word ‘blowback’ and its associated meaning moved from the murky clandestine world and entered the popular culture when it was used as the title of an influential book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire published in 2000 by Chalmers Johnson. Johnson is a former CIA consultant and a professor of Asian studies at Berkeley, and was an avowed cold-war warrior during the Vietnam war era.

Johnson has now written a very interesting article titled Evil Empire: Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America? on the current state of affairs. The whole article is quite long but well worth reading but here are some excerpts:

The United States, today, suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our Constitutional system of checks and balances.
. . .
If these people actually believe a presidential election a year-and-a-half from now will significantly alter how the country is run, they have almost surely wasted their money. As Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism, puts it: “None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of check and balances…. The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.”

George W. Bush has, of course, flagrantly violated his oath of office, which requires him “to protect and defend the constitution,” and the opposition party has been remarkably reluctant to hold him to account. Among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that, under other political circumstances, would surely constitute the Constitutional grounds for impeachment are these: the President and his top officials pressured the Central Intelligence Agency to put together a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s nuclear weapons that both the administration and the Agency knew to be patently dishonest. They then used this false NIE to justify an American war of aggression. After launching an invasion of Iraq, the administration unilaterally reinterpreted international and domestic law to permit the torture of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at other secret locations around the world.

Nothing in the Constitution, least of all the commander-in-chief clause, allows the president to commit felonies. Nonetheless, within days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush had signed a secret executive order authorizing a new policy of “extraordinary rendition,” in which the CIA is allowed to kidnap terrorist suspects anywhere on Earth and transfer them to prisons in countries like Egypt, Syria, or Uzbekistan, where torture is a normal practice, or to secret CIA prisons outside the United States where Agency operatives themselves do the torturing.

On the home front, despite the post-9/11 congressional authorization of new surveillance powers to the administration, its officials chose to ignore these and, on its own initiative, undertook extensive spying on American citizens without obtaining the necessary judicial warrants and without reporting to Congress on this program. These actions are prima-facie violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (and subsequent revisions) and of Amendment IV of the Constitution.

These alone constitute more than adequate grounds for impeachment, while hardly scratching the surface.

It is a measure of how weakened the Congress has become that it has failed to seriously consider impeachment of the President despite having a very strong case for doing so. Only Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has made any moves to at least impeach Vice President Cheney.

POST SCRIPT: The flourishing of nonsense

Not heard about best selling self-help book The Secret? These two funny guys from Australia explain what it is all about and take the correct attitude towards it. (Thanks to Onegoodmove.)

One reason that religion is a negative influence in society is that it enables other evidence-free beliefs to flourish in its wake, because it creates a climate where vague mystical and supernatural forces are given credibility. How else can one explain the vast numbers of people who take stuff like The Secret seriously?

Materialists can dismiss this stuff as nonsense because it invokes some mysterious and unknown agency that intervenes in the world in response to human requests. But on what basis can someone who believes in a personal god do so, even if they wanted to? Isn’t The Secret based on prayer and faith, just like religion?

Comments

  1. says

    Mano,
    I think you make a great point regarding the credibility factor. Recently an agnostic friend told me she was thinking about buying the Secret.

    As I responded in shock she replied “What could it hurt, you never know.” While my friend is normally a pretty good skeptic, I think the popularity/acceptability of the idea got through her normal critical barriers. She won’t actually buy it of course, but the fact that she pondered it is a concern.

    I’ve been visualizing a house, with a two story book-laden library complete with rolling ladder, for years. And yet somehow I keep coming home to the same house, complete with randomly placed stacks of books over which I can easily trip. Go figure!

    What’s also scary is imagining what society would be like if the Secret did work. How would our species turn out if we each could just wish for anything we desired?

    It’s bad enough that so many of our politicians act on such a notion of entitlement!

  2. Thought Shaman says

    “Secret” is an old idea in a shiny new misleading package.

    The old idea had to do with the power of suggestion. Visualizing positive outcomes influences the subconscious mind thereby increasing the tendency of person to perform conscious acts that realize those outcomes.

  3. says

    As long as Bush stays around, the nonsense is never going to stop. When are the Democrats going to send our heroes in Iraq back US?

  4. says

    You know what? Religion is quite a dangerous thing because as human beings we believe that we know why things are the way they are so when our beliefs are challanged either by science we defend them without reason sometimes violently because we do not want imagine that we could be wrong. That thought alone scares us!

  5. says

    I think the US has got to strike a balance in relation to its foreign policy and be more even handed that way there wouldn’t be that much discontent and suspicion. Having said that nothing can justify terrorism.

  6. says

    The recently discovered al Qaeda handbook, which is primarily devoted to the organization’s strategy for forcing Spain from Iraq, contains a few telling quotes which shows al Qaeda’s clear understanding related to the importance of President Bush’s efforts in Iran:

    http://www.californiarepublic.org/CROBlog/CROblog200407.html

    Made-up of 54 pages in Arabic, the document has been authenticated by western experts of the Islamic radical terror network of Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden.

    The document, entitled “the Iraq of Jihad (holy war): hopes and dangers,” was prepared by the “information agency for the support of the Iraqi people — office of services for the Mujahedeen (holy warriors).”

    It said the US plan was:

    “The great troupe and cross bearing sect
    will arise in Mesopotamia from a nearby river
    the light will come which such a lore or
    religion will hold for an enemy.”

    “to build an Iraqi state as conceived by the United States…and enslave Saudi Arabia politically, fight against Islamic proselytism as a salafist and jihadic movement.”

    “Where all is good, all well abundant
    The Sun and The Moon
    Its ruin approaches,
    It comes from the sky,
    As you sift through your exhausted fortune,
    In the same state as the seventh rock.”

    In other words, while Bush critics have relentlessly labelled the removal of Saddam and the establishment of a Democratic government in Iran a “distraction,” the members of al Qaeda showed with crystal clarity their understanding of the President’s strategy. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda is doing everything they can to stop this strategy while the President pushes it relentlessly forward, hoping to drive a stake straight into the heart of the Jihadist movement.

    “Mabus will soon die, then will come
    A horrible slaughter of people and animals
    At once vengeance is revealed coming from
    a hundred hands”

    Do you see the fascinating irony of the al Qaeda statement? Al Qaeda is in perfect agreement with President Bush regarding the dire impact that a free and democratic Iran would have on radical Islam. At the same time, al Qaeda’s strategy is exactly that of Michael Moore, Al Gore, and other hard left liberals, get coalition forces out of Iraq at all costs!

    http://viewpointjournal.com/archives/2004/07/01/al-qaeda-bush-agree-on-iraq/

    Dominic Caraccilo

    “Die dulci fruimini!”

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