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Chalmers Johnson

Extended Book Review

Many people the world over applaud the United States for its roles in:
  • Peace-keeping and policing terrorism
  • Advancements of science, technology and space exploration
  • Economic achievements and export of is economic model

These actions of good will have at least created an "empire" upon which the sun never sets. It is not called an empire in the media, in Washington, or academia even though the basic trappings of empire are there for all too see.

Johnson goes to great lengths to relate how the above behavior of America, by its many covert actions, created great resentment in the third world he calls Blowback. Although this term was invented recently (by the CIA) to define rebellions by groups of people and nations against exploitation that make the Boston Tea Party look tame, both in degree of exploitation and the rebellious response. Historically, the shoe is now on the other foot, but how many American citizens appreciate that fact? How many of us even remember the name of the king we rebelled against back in the 18th century--if indeed we ever knew it?

Both political parties share the blame, in different ways and in different degrees, perhaps, but the blame nevertheless. Johnson includes a modern example in his preface: "In most of the world, the spectacle of the world's richest and most heavily armed country using its air power against one of the world's poorest quickly eroded the moral high ground accorded to the United States as a victim of the Sept 11 attacks. Our "preventive wars" insured that Afghans, Iraqis, and their supporters will have ample motives long into the future to kill any and all Americans, particularly innocent ones, just as the American military slaughtered their civilians with "shock and awe" bombing campaigns against which there is no defense.

Johnson captures an essence:

"It is typical for an imperial people to have short memories for its less pleasant imperial acts, but for those on the receiving end, it can be long indeed." pg 11.

"Even an empire cannot control the long-term effects of its policies. That is the essence of blowback." pg 13.

"The term 'blowback,' was invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences of American actions abroad." back cover.

The list of interventions giving rise to blowback is long indeed. Too often these interventions replaced a leader not friendly to us with a dictator who was. Too often such interventions occurred on behalf of American corporations seeking control of resources in the target country. In these cases, the American economic system accompanied the intervention, which collectively enabled globalization with all its problematic vulnerabilities to additional blowback.

BLOWBACk is not just history. It accurately foretold events that not only gave rise to bin Laden, but events since.


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