Thursday, 29 September 2016 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

The True History of Blowback in One Sentence

Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:03 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

2014 1023 blow stThe infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. (Photo: Paul Walsh)The support of readers like you got this story published - and helps Truthout stay free from corporate advertising. Can you sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation today?

Since you're probably wondering why the Canadian Parliament was shot up and your friendly neighborhood police officer is driving a tank and your savings account is a sad joke and your road is littered with potholes and you can't find a job and three of your friends who joined the Army to pay for college died in Iraq and Afghanistan and two others have brain trauma from IED explosions and won't ever be the same and your tap water is flammable and the ocean is coming for your home, well...

...let me introduce you to the concept of "blowback," which author Chalmers Johnson explained as "another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows," which basically means that when you punch someone in the face, odds are very good that you're going to get punched back, and maybe they land that counterpunch, or maybe they don't, but that fist is going to come whistling at your face, count on it, and if it misses, there is always another fist, curled and hard and ready to fly...

...so let's talk about blowback, the story of which began seventy-three years ago at Pearl Harbor, when we were attacked by the Japanese Empire, and the United States entered the war in Europe and Asia simultaneously, and President Roosevelt endeavored to manufacture the Reich and the Empire out of existence, and placed the American economy on a wartime footing to do so, and in the fullness of time, it worked, and the war was over...

...but actually, it never ended, because the manufacture of war materiel made the manufacturers rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and they began to exert influence over American politics, and then FDR died, and Harry Truman took the big chair, and then George Kennan, the American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, wrote what has come to be known as the "Long Telegram," in which he described the bedlam of Stalin and Soviet intentions, and Truman along with a bunch of other people read it, and it scared the cheese out of them, and so the National Security Act of 1947 was passed, making America's economic wartime footing a permanent thing that endures to this day, and thus the Cold War was born...

...which was bully news for the weapons manufacturers who got rich on WWII, because now they were indispensable as a matter of policy, "national security" assets, and before long, tank after tank and warship after warship and nuclear missile after nuclear missile and bullet after bullet and rifle after rifle and bomb after bomb rolled down the production lines, each and every one paid for with tax dollars collected from an American populace which was led to believe this was all vitally necessary because the readers of Kennan's telegram decided the thing to do was to make sure everyone felt threatened because a fearful populace is easily controlled...

...and so the Cold War unfolded, and in the words of Stephen King, O my Lord how the money rolled in, because conflict for conflict's sake became the operational ethos in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Africa and South America and Central America and especially in the Middle East for decades, and in the process of this multi-generational permanent state of conflict the weapons manufacturers became wealthier and wealthier, and more and more powerful, and exerted that power on the body politic of the United States to such a degree that they eventually began purchasing the news media brick by brick, so the people would hear day after day how the corporations who profit from war are actually keeping them safe and stuff...

...and this went on and on, growing and expanding, even to far-flung places like Afghanistan, where big brains like Zbignew Brzezinski decided in 1978 to give the USSR its own Vietnam, and began a process that Reagan eventually took over to underwrite the Mujeheddin, who took on the Soviet Union and learned, with the help of American money and American weapons and a CIA ally named Osama bin Laden, how to take down a superpower, which they eventually did before metastasizing into the Taliban and al Qaeda...

...because Brzezinski's original plan was to arm, train and fund anti-Soviet fighters in Pakistani religious schools to destabilize Afghanistan and dare the Soviets to invade, and that plan was executed, and it worked, and the word "Taliban" when translated means "Religious student," so congratulations, Zbignew, for kicking the pebble down the hill that turned into an avalanche which came in the fullness of time to deprive the New York City skyline of two very tall buildings and the thousands of people who were in them on a perfect blue Tuesday thirteen years ago...

...which led, of course, to another decade of war after all the other decades of war that came on the heels of Pearl Harbor and the National Security Act, which has in this brave new moment led to ISIS, as well as a dementedly paranoid United States that doesn't blink at cops dressed and armed like soldiers while driving tanks down Main Street because OMG TERRORISTS YOU GUYS...

...but when you stop and think about it, really think about it, when you attach thread to thread and event to event and actually put context to history, you realize that everything that has gone wrong and sideways in this country - the lack of money for roads and bridges and education and health care and old people and veterans and schools, the hyper-militarization of the police, the end of big dreams and the permanent establishment of big fears and eternal war...

...can be traced back to the process by which the United States stopped being a country and was transformed into a war-financed empire, an exporter and importer of violence, a creator of enemies it has to fight in order to feed the machine, which creates more enemies, which creates more reasons to fight, and all the while the weapons dealers sell their products as fast as they can, until we arrive at the present moment when American warplanes are dropping American armaments on American weapons in Iraq and Syria to the tune of billions of your taxpayer dollars and with wall-to-wall television coverage, again...

....so, when you sit in the darkness of your personal night and wonder what happened to your country, to your aspirations and dreams, to the potholed road you drive every day to the job that has no chance of letting you retire in comfort, to your barren savings account, when you turn on your television and see paid shills shriek about how and why you're about to die while your neighbor's kid comes home in a flag-draped box and you have to ask again where your black suit is so you can go properly dressed to yet another funeral...

...remember that history exists, and actions have consequences, and this event is tied to that event is tied to the other event in a tapestry of escalating cascading fallout, which is called "blowback," which always carries a dear price unless you're getting paid for it, which is why you think very hard before making a lethal national decision, because every lethal decision always comes knocking at your door someday...

... which is why we as a people must absolutely endeavor to do better from here on out, because we are already in a deep hole, and The First Law Of Holes says, "When you're in a hole, stop digging..."

...so, please, put down the shovel.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.


Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus
GET DAILY TRUTHOUT UPDATES
Optional Member Code

FOLLOW togtorsstottofb


Featured Videos

The True History of Blowback in One Sentence

Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:03 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

2014 1023 blow stThe infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. (Photo: Paul Walsh)The support of readers like you got this story published - and helps Truthout stay free from corporate advertising. Can you sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation today?

Since you're probably wondering why the Canadian Parliament was shot up and your friendly neighborhood police officer is driving a tank and your savings account is a sad joke and your road is littered with potholes and you can't find a job and three of your friends who joined the Army to pay for college died in Iraq and Afghanistan and two others have brain trauma from IED explosions and won't ever be the same and your tap water is flammable and the ocean is coming for your home, well...

...let me introduce you to the concept of "blowback," which author Chalmers Johnson explained as "another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows," which basically means that when you punch someone in the face, odds are very good that you're going to get punched back, and maybe they land that counterpunch, or maybe they don't, but that fist is going to come whistling at your face, count on it, and if it misses, there is always another fist, curled and hard and ready to fly...

...so let's talk about blowback, the story of which began seventy-three years ago at Pearl Harbor, when we were attacked by the Japanese Empire, and the United States entered the war in Europe and Asia simultaneously, and President Roosevelt endeavored to manufacture the Reich and the Empire out of existence, and placed the American economy on a wartime footing to do so, and in the fullness of time, it worked, and the war was over...

...but actually, it never ended, because the manufacture of war materiel made the manufacturers rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and they began to exert influence over American politics, and then FDR died, and Harry Truman took the big chair, and then George Kennan, the American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, wrote what has come to be known as the "Long Telegram," in which he described the bedlam of Stalin and Soviet intentions, and Truman along with a bunch of other people read it, and it scared the cheese out of them, and so the National Security Act of 1947 was passed, making America's economic wartime footing a permanent thing that endures to this day, and thus the Cold War was born...

...which was bully news for the weapons manufacturers who got rich on WWII, because now they were indispensable as a matter of policy, "national security" assets, and before long, tank after tank and warship after warship and nuclear missile after nuclear missile and bullet after bullet and rifle after rifle and bomb after bomb rolled down the production lines, each and every one paid for with tax dollars collected from an American populace which was led to believe this was all vitally necessary because the readers of Kennan's telegram decided the thing to do was to make sure everyone felt threatened because a fearful populace is easily controlled...

...and so the Cold War unfolded, and in the words of Stephen King, O my Lord how the money rolled in, because conflict for conflict's sake became the operational ethos in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Africa and South America and Central America and especially in the Middle East for decades, and in the process of this multi-generational permanent state of conflict the weapons manufacturers became wealthier and wealthier, and more and more powerful, and exerted that power on the body politic of the United States to such a degree that they eventually began purchasing the news media brick by brick, so the people would hear day after day how the corporations who profit from war are actually keeping them safe and stuff...

...and this went on and on, growing and expanding, even to far-flung places like Afghanistan, where big brains like Zbignew Brzezinski decided in 1978 to give the USSR its own Vietnam, and began a process that Reagan eventually took over to underwrite the Mujeheddin, who took on the Soviet Union and learned, with the help of American money and American weapons and a CIA ally named Osama bin Laden, how to take down a superpower, which they eventually did before metastasizing into the Taliban and al Qaeda...

...because Brzezinski's original plan was to arm, train and fund anti-Soviet fighters in Pakistani religious schools to destabilize Afghanistan and dare the Soviets to invade, and that plan was executed, and it worked, and the word "Taliban" when translated means "Religious student," so congratulations, Zbignew, for kicking the pebble down the hill that turned into an avalanche which came in the fullness of time to deprive the New York City skyline of two very tall buildings and the thousands of people who were in them on a perfect blue Tuesday thirteen years ago...

...which led, of course, to another decade of war after all the other decades of war that came on the heels of Pearl Harbor and the National Security Act, which has in this brave new moment led to ISIS, as well as a dementedly paranoid United States that doesn't blink at cops dressed and armed like soldiers while driving tanks down Main Street because OMG TERRORISTS YOU GUYS...

...but when you stop and think about it, really think about it, when you attach thread to thread and event to event and actually put context to history, you realize that everything that has gone wrong and sideways in this country - the lack of money for roads and bridges and education and health care and old people and veterans and schools, the hyper-militarization of the police, the end of big dreams and the permanent establishment of big fears and eternal war...

...can be traced back to the process by which the United States stopped being a country and was transformed into a war-financed empire, an exporter and importer of violence, a creator of enemies it has to fight in order to feed the machine, which creates more enemies, which creates more reasons to fight, and all the while the weapons dealers sell their products as fast as they can, until we arrive at the present moment when American warplanes are dropping American armaments on American weapons in Iraq and Syria to the tune of billions of your taxpayer dollars and with wall-to-wall television coverage, again...

....so, when you sit in the darkness of your personal night and wonder what happened to your country, to your aspirations and dreams, to the potholed road you drive every day to the job that has no chance of letting you retire in comfort, to your barren savings account, when you turn on your television and see paid shills shriek about how and why you're about to die while your neighbor's kid comes home in a flag-draped box and you have to ask again where your black suit is so you can go properly dressed to yet another funeral...

...remember that history exists, and actions have consequences, and this event is tied to that event is tied to the other event in a tapestry of escalating cascading fallout, which is called "blowback," which always carries a dear price unless you're getting paid for it, which is why you think very hard before making a lethal national decision, because every lethal decision always comes knocking at your door someday...

... which is why we as a people must absolutely endeavor to do better from here on out, because we are already in a deep hole, and The First Law Of Holes says, "When you're in a hole, stop digging..."

...so, please, put down the shovel.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.


Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus