Blindness to Blowback

After a terrorist attack, if anyone dares suggest that the killings represent blowback from U.S. military violence abroad, that person can expect furious denunciations even though the point is almost surely true, a paradox that William Blum confronts in this article from Anti-Empire Report.

By William Blum

What is it that makes young men, reasonably well educated, in good health and nice looking, with long lives ahead of them, use powerful explosives to murder complete strangers because of political beliefs? I’m speaking about American military personnel of course, on the ground, in the air, or directing drones from an office in Nevada.

Do not the survivors of U.S. attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question? The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As seen through a night-vision device, a helicopter lifts off as Navy SEALs attack a simulated enemy threat during Operation Urban Corkscrew, part of Emerald Warrior 2013, on Camp Shelby, Mississippi, April 29, 2013. [U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Griffin]

That’s what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bomber has said in custody, and there’s no reason to doubt that he means it, nor the dozens of others in the past two decades who have carried out terrorist attacks against American targets and expressed anger toward U.S. foreign policy. [See William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapters 1 and 2, for cases up to about 2003; later similar cases are numerous; e.g., Glenn Greenwald, “They Hate US for our Occupations”, Salon, Oct. 12, 2010.]

Both Tsarnaev brothers had expressed such opinions before the attack as well. [Huffington Post, April 20, 2013; Washington Post, April 21.] The Marathon bombing took place just days after a deadly U.S. attack in Afghanistan killed 17 civilians, including 12 children, as but one example of countless similar horrors from recent years.

“Oh”, an American says, “but those are accidents. What terrorists do is on purpose. It’s cold-blooded murder.”

But if the American military sends out a bombing mission on Monday which kills multiple innocent civilians, and then the military announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” And then on Tuesday the American military sends out a bombing mission which kills multiple innocent civilians, and then the military announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” And then on Wednesday the American military sends out a bombing mission which kills multiple innocent civilians, and the military then announces: “Sorry, that was an accident.” Thursday Friday How long before the American military loses the right to say it was an accident?

Terrorism is essentially an act of propaganda, to draw attention to a cause. The 9/11 perpetrators attacked famous symbols of American military and economic power. Traditionally, perpetrators would phone in their message to a local media outlet beforehand, but today, in this highly-surveilled society, with cameras and electronic monitoring at a science-fiction level, that’s much more difficult to do without being detected; even finding a public payphone can be near impossible.

From what has been reported, the older brother, Tamerlan, regarded U.S. foreign policy also as being anti-Islam, as do many other Muslims. I think this misreads Washington’s intentions. The American Empire is not anti-Islam. It’s anti-only those who present serious barriers to the Empire’s plan for world domination.

The United States has had close relations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, amongst other Islamic states. And in recent years the U.S. has gone to great lengths to overthrow the leading secular states of the Mideast Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Moreover, it’s questionable that Washington is even against terrorism per se, but rather only those terrorists who are not allies of the empire. There has been, for example, a lengthy and infamous history of tolerance, and often outright support, for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States.

Hundreds of anti-Castro and other Latin American terrorists have been given haven in the U.S. over the years. The United States has also provided support to terrorists in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran, Libya and Syria, including those with known connections to al-Qaeda, to further foreign policy goals more important than fighting terrorism.

Under one or more of the harsh anti-terrorist laws enacted in the United States in recent years, President Barack Obama could be charged with serious crimes for allowing the United States to fight on the same side as al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Libya and Syria and for funding and supplying these groups. Others in the United States have been imprisoned for a lot less.

As a striking example of how Washington has put its imperialist agenda before anything else, we can consider the case of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan warlord whose followers first gained attention in the 1980s by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. This is how these horrible men spent their time when they were not screaming “Death to America.”

CIA and State Department officials called Hekmatyar “scary,” “vicious,” “a fascist,” “definite dictatorship material.” [See Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1990), p.149-50.]

This did not prevent the United States government from showering the man with large amounts of aid to fight against the Soviet-supported government of Afghanistan. [See William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.]  Hekmatyar is still a prominent warlord in Afghanistan.

A similar example is that of Luis Posada who masterminded the bombing of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. He has lived a free man in Florida for many years.

USA Today reported a few months ago about a rebel fighter in Syria who told the newspaper in an interview: “The afterlife is the only thing that matters to me, and I can only reach it by waging jihad.” [USA Today, Dec. 3, 2012]

Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have chosen to have a shootout with the Boston police as an act of suicide; to die waging jihad, although questions remain about exactly how he died. In any event, I think it’s safe to say that the authorities wanted to capture the brothers alive to be able to question them.

It would be most interesting to be present the moment after a jihadist dies and discovers, with great shock, that there’s no afterlife. Of course, by definition, there would have to be an afterlife for him to discover that there’s no afterlife. On the other hand, a non-believer would likely be thrilled to find out that he was wrong.

Let us hope that the distinguished statesmen, military officers, and corporate leaders who own and rule America find out in this life that to put an end to anti-American terrorism they’re going to have to learn to live without unending war against the world. There’s no other defense against a couple of fanatic young men with backpacks. Just calling them insane or evil doesn’t tell you enough; it may tell you nothing.

But this change in consciousness in the elite is going to be extremely difficult, as difficult as it appears to be for the parents of the two boys to accept their sons’ guilt.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, stated after the Boston attack: “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world. In some respects, the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks. We should be asking ourselves at this moment, ‘How many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?’” [See, April 21, 2013.]

Officials in Canada and Britain as well as US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice have called for Falk to be fired. [The Telegraph (London), April 25, 2013;, April 24]

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report, .]

10 comments for “Blindness to Blowback

  1. dahoit
    May 6, 2013 at 13:15

    And just what purpose did these two idoits(sic)bomb civilians for?To help and defend Muslims?If anything,they just bring more hatred to the religion,and more death.The whole thing is as fishy as yesterdays bluefish.
    And why were they let into America,to tweak the Russians?Another tale not told,of our neolibcon Zionist criminals actions and plots.CIA connections also.Amazing.

    • lokywoky
      May 7, 2013 at 19:01

      “The American Empire is not anti-Islam. It’s anti-only those who present serious barriers to the Empire’s plan for world domination.”

      Whether is actually is anti-Muslim or not, it is percieved to be by Muslims around the world. This perception is helped along by people like Lt. Gen Boykin, dressed in full military uniform spouting drivel that we are in fact on a “Crusade to drive all Muslims off the face of the planet” and hearing absolutely no pushback from the Administration. (An act which is illegal under the UCMJ by the way). And which was also repeated in thinly-veiled statements by GWBush and all of the high-level cronies in his administration.

      Perception IS reality – especially since we continue to this day our undeclared wars against many countries in the Muslim world, and our illegal interference in the governments and their policies of many others. We look the other way while Israel continues its murdurous policies against the Palestinians in Gaza, and its slowly but surely apartheid and annexation and disenfranchisement of the West Bank.

      We arm dictators when it is convenient for us and allow them to murder their citizens with impunity, and when their citizens rise up in revolt we act all surprised.

      And yes, most of these countries are Muslim. So yes, the Muslim world does see this as a war against Islam. Gee whiz, I wonder why?

    • lokywoky
      May 7, 2013 at 19:04

      @ dahoit

      You ask why they were let in? Well, they were children at the time – 10 years ago. Tamarlan was 16 and his brother was only 9. So….no, 10 years ago, what were the reasons for anything that anyone did? DO you have the answers to that?

  2. Bill H
    May 6, 2013 at 01:00

    “The American Empire is not anti-Islam. It’s anti-only those who present serious barriers to the Empire’s plan for world domination.”

    Or, more correctly, “The American Empire is anti-only those who it thinks might present serious any barriers to the Empire’s plan for world domination.”

  3. rblevy
    May 5, 2013 at 22:15

    “Do not the survivors of U.S. attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question? The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer – America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    An act of terror committed in the U.S. by someone from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, or Libya might have been almost understandable. But the Tsarnaevs were from none of the above. As Chechnyns they would have had more reason to attack Russia instead.

    And to use Israel as a whipping boy and excuse for terrorism is thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

    • F. G. Sanford
      May 5, 2013 at 23:25

      To quote Phil Giraldi, “The essential contradiction of American foreign policy neocon style is on open display and one has only to ask why Kristol does not consider the two young Chechens in Boston to be freedom fighters when they set off a bomb that blew up an eight year old boy. The carnage that Kristol and his friends have been cheerleading in a series of Muslim countries has borne bitter fruit and perhaps it’s time to end the hypocrisy.” Carl Bernstein on the Joe Scarborough program recently commented that Neocons bore responsibility for America’s feckless foreign policy. I won’t repeat his exact comment, but it certainly reveals the gargantuan hypocrisy of your thinly veiled, and might I add willfully dishonest, accusation.

    • dahoit
      May 6, 2013 at 12:13

      Oh the antisemitism BS.What’s up with you wackos anyway?Your failure to treat others as you would be treated is learned in the sandbox as children,but you wackos never took those lessons to heart(ho ho-what heart?)and suffer the consequences eternally.Amazing.

  4. law'n'order
    May 5, 2013 at 21:33

    Blowback can not only be expected, it is explicitly justified by American doctrine. The US asserts that it is at war with al-Qaeda and that any member or supporter of al-Qaeda is subject to attack without warning by e.g. drone carried missiles. By symmetry, al-Qaeda is at war with the US and any citizen or supporter of the US is subject to attack without warning by e.g. improvised explosive devices.

  5. Corey Mondello, Boston MA
    May 5, 2013 at 16:14

    Sadly after 9/11, I decided to question what the US gov does. After going through the stages of mourning the loss of the image I had of the USA, I realize, anytime the USA is “attacked” or Americans are anywhere else in the world, it is reaction to the US gov’s behavior. To me, 9/11 was justified, if looking through the eyes of those who were involved. However, when the US gov kills people all over the world, it is not justified in anyone’s eyes except those in power. I am saddened by the Boston Marathon incident, it happened only a few thousand feet from my home and I know people who worked with one of those who lost both her legs, from knee down. I blame the US gov. Not individuals in the gov, but the whole entity. I call the US gov the largest terrorist organization ever known to mankind. I have no fear in stating this because I am sure I am already on many FBI lists, I’ve given money to PETA and other animal rights groups, I have given money to anti-war Quaker groups and others like it, I have given money to environmentalist groups, I have given money to the Communist Party USA, the Socialist Party of USA, the Party of Socialism and Liberation, and other left-leaning political groups, and many Secular groups that fight for separation of church and state, and finally, I contacted the International Criminal Court when GW Bush was president, expressing my concern and asking for help. I’d say I pretty much fit the bill in the US gov eyes as a hater of America, which of course I am not, I’m just a hater of US gov. However, I’m not a T-Party member or white Christian militant who believes Obama is a socialist, commie, Muslim, nor do I watch FOX. I just want my gov to stop killing in my name, because when there is blow back, revenge, our politicians will be eating tea and crumpets while ordinary Americans are going about their day.

  6. angryspittle
    May 4, 2013 at 20:00

    If 9/11 was, indeed, a product of blowback rather than a Mossad operation it is quite predictable and understandable.

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