June 28, 2007
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?