Blowback

TimeWatch Editorial
December 22, 2016

Chalmers Johnson authored a book entitled “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.” That book was published originally in the year 2000. The book was republished in 2004. According to the Free Encyclopedia “Chalmers Ashby Johnson, born August 6, 1931, was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He died November 20, 2010. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967 to 1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972. He was also president and co-founder with Steven Clemons of the Japan Policy Research Institute (now based at the University of San Francisco), an organization promoting public education about Japan and Asia. The following is his opening paragraph in his updated Introduction, written in 2004.

In a speech to Congress on September 20, 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, President George W. Bush posed this question. “Why do they hate us?” His answer: “They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote.” He commented later that he was amazed “that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us.” I just can’t believe it, because I know how good we are.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, The Introduction-After 9-11, 2004

However, Mr. Johnson’s defined reason for the hatred demonstrated by these nations has nothing to do with freedom but rather is the response to our years of treatment meted out to them. his very next article asked an important question.

“But how good are we really? If we are so good, why do we inspire such hatred abroad? What have we done to bring so much blowback upon ourselves? This book is a guide to some of the policies during and after the cold war which generated, and continue to generate, blowback, a term the CIA invented to describe the likelihood that our covert operations in other people’s countries would result in retaliations against Americans, civilian and military, at home and abroad. Blowback was first published in the spring of the year 2000, eighteen months before 9/11.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, The Introduction-After 9-11, 2004

Then Mr. Johnson explains the reason for his book. It is intended to be a source of information and warning regarding the policies of the United States, and the resulting response of those who are not able to mount the sort of military threat that would serve as a restraint against the Imperial pursuits of America.

“My intention in writing it was to warn my fellow Americans about the nature and conduct of U.S. Foreign Policy over the previous half century, focusing particularly on the period after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. I argued that many aspects of what the American Government had done around the world virtually invited retaliatory attacks from nations and peoples on the receiving end. I did not predict the events of 9/11, but I did clearly state that acts of retaliation were coming and should be anticipated.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, The Introduction-After 9-11, 2004

By the time we arrive at chapter 8 of his book, Chalmers Johnson has thoroughly delivered his argument. The traditional explanations for terrorist attacks lose their significance, once he begins to look at the motivations of those who engage in the activity. Listen to how he presents his case.

“The suicidal assassins of September 11, 2001, did not “attack America,” as our political leaders and the news media like to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy. Employing the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders who then became enemies only because they had already become victims. Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent in order to draw attention to the sins of the invulnerable. The United States deploys such overwhelming military force globally that for its militarized opponents only an “asymmetric strategy,” in the jargon of the Pentagon, has any chance of success. When it does succeed, as it did spectacularly on September 11, it renders our massive military machine worthless: The terrorists offer it no targets.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, page 322.

His logic presents the idea that terrorism is a response, not an initial attack. It is a patiently timed blow aimed at soft targets that cannot respond to the surprise violence. Moreover, when it appears that the national military will engage, these proponents will hide until another opportunity presents itself. He continues:

“On the day of the disaster, President George W. Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are “a beacon for freedom” and because the attackers were “evil.” In his address to Congress on September 20, 2002, he said, “This is civilization’s fight.” This attempt to define difficult-to grasp events as only a conflict over abstract values—as a “clash of civilizations,” in current post-cold war American jargon—is not only disingenuous but also a way of evading responsibility for the “blowback” that America’s imperial projects have generated.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, page 322.

As he already informed us in his introduction, the concept of blowback has always been anticipated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

“Blowback” is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mosaddegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided “covert operation” of the US government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.” Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, page 323.

Those who recognize the significance of Revelation 13 verse 12 which describes the United States as the second beast who “exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” Will surely see that this beast has already begun to “speak as a dragon” as stated in verse 11.

Cameron A. Bowen

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