Jenny Brown
November/December 2001

'Blowback' is "Spy jargon ... meaning unexpected-and negative-effects at home that result from covert operations overseas."

This definition comes to us from Christopher Simpson, who wrote a book by that name in 1988 documenting CIA recruitment of Nazis at the end of World War II to help the U.S. in the new "cold" war against the Soviet Union.

The term is amazingly apt for our experiences on September 11, if it turns out that Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, and/or the Taliban were involved in planning the attacks.

Just as Simpson points out that Nazis had their own agenda when they were recruited by the CIA to "fight communism," so the mujahadeen, bin Laden, and theocratic fascists of the Taliban had their own agenda when they were funded and armed by the CIA to attack the "pro-Soviet regime" in Afghanistan starting in 1979.

The fact that the mujahedeen agenda only partly coincided with the U.S. plans for the region was regarded as unimportant at the time. Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked in a 1998 interview with the French Le Nouvel Observateur " ... do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?"

Brzezinski responded: "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" (This interview is available here.)

Of course, the mujahedeen were not just future terrorists. These "freedom fighters" were known for massacres, rapes, and a thriving heroin trade created almost entirely after 1979, which the U.S. certainly didn't discourage and according to some reports created. Canadian economics professor Michel Chossudovsky quotes Alfred McCoy in his article "Who is Osama bin Laden?": "within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, 'the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world's top heroin producer, supplying 60 percent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979... to 1.2 million by 1985 - a much steeper rise than in any other nation."

But the ample evidence of prior U.S. support, even up to the 43 million given to the Taliban earlier this year for "drug interdiction," doesn't answer the question, what should the world community do now?

Many who are opposed to the bombing of Afghanistan have weighed in answering this, but somehow the answers have gotten lost in the mainstream media. Scott Camil, in "911 Response," gives a detailed list.

In an at-times clarifying, at-times irritating exchange, Nation columnist Christoper Hitchens and Noam Chomsky argue the answer to this question. (This back and forth can be found on the Nation website at Other reactions to Hitchens can be found at the Z Magazine website:

Hitchens suggests that since, in fact, the U.S. set up the mujahedeen, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden, then it falls to the U.S. especially to take military action against them. His analysis brings to mind an analogy: U.S. government and corporate actions supported and/or failed to oppose fascist success in Spain, Italy and Germany at the eve of World War II. It fell to the left to argue for U.S. assistance and finally intervention against Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, and to ordinary people to sacrifice their lives stopping fascism after it had been allowed to grow strong as a 'bulwark against communism.'

Chomsky and other progressive commentators argue that U.S. action in Afghanistan, if U.S. military and CIA track records are any guide, will not eliminate theocratic fascism but merely attempt to install theocratic fascists more pliable to U.S. corporate concerns. In other words, even if a war effort against the Taliban were justified, the U.S. would be the last nation you'd trust to carry it out.

And, they argue, it's a lot easier for the bin Ladens of the world to gain adherents to their worldview when the U.S. government and military are in fact taking actions which would qualify it as the great satan in most ethical systems known to humankind, such as the bombing and sanctions against Iraq which are responsible, according to the United Nations, for the deaths of over a million people.

Hitchens argues that suffering in Iraq, and Israeli actions against Palestinians are not why the September 11 attacks occurred, and to suggest this constitutes a false justification of them. In his view, the left is being hoodwinked by bin Laden into believing that among his goals are the liberation of the Palestinians, or Iraq, when in fact this is populist windowdressing for the agenda of a fascist throwback. Others respond that an honest appraisal of the the U.S.'s genocidal activities is not a justification of the September 11 attacks, but it is an explanation of how things have been ratcheted up to such a violent and desperate level.

In this issue of the Iguana we're reprinting what we hope are helpful articles which give background and ammunition to the anti-war, anti-terror cause.

Ranjit Devraj, in "Another Oil War" details the evidence that Afghanistan is important to the "energy companies" as we're learning to call them under the reign of energy company moguls Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

Ahmed Bouzid in "If the CIA had butted out ..." argues that it has been the U.S. elimination of secular, progressive opposition movements and leaders and the encouragement of fundamentalism which has led directly to the current situations in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.

Many suggest that instead of unilateral actions leading to further devastation in Afghanistan, we shoult treat the September 11 attacks as the crime they were, properly investigate them, present evidence, and try in the World Court those who the evidence suggests are responsible. In "This War is Illegal," Toronto law professor Michael Mandel details the provisions of international law.

Chossudovsky, of the Center for Research on Globalisation, details the evidence of U.S. support for the Taliban, the Pakistani military regime, and Osama bin Laden in "Who is Osama bin Laden?."

Chossudovsky argues that "blowback" is not the right word, if by it is meant that Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset who is no longer, or "went bad." (The "went bad" thesis has been used to explain Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic, and others with earlier CIA support who stopped obeying U.S. commands at some point.) Then there are the CIA-supported leaders who never "went bad" according to the CIA: Marcos, Suharto, Diem, Mobutu, Pinochet, the Somozas, Banzer, Rios Montt, Botha, the Shah, Savimbi, to name just a few bloody dictators.

In "Osamagate" (which can be found at Chossudovsky argues that the CIA is still very much allied with bin Laden's group, using evidence which has emerged around the debate over the Kosovo Liberation Army. So it is unclear even now whether bin Laden could be said to be "in" or "out" with the CIA at this point.

But Simpson's use of "Blowback" describes the price in U.S. lives and liberty that CIA and U.S. military officials-and their corporate masters-are willing to pay, again and again, to gain their objectives overseas. Of course, they are not the ones who pay that price, it's us, the workers in the World Trade Center and the post office, the military lower-downs and their families, the victims of crack and heroin, the schools, hospitals, and homes in the "homeland" where there is never enough money for us to have a little security and peace but always enough for war.

Left: Members of the Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism march silently through the downtown Arts Festival in Gainesville November 11, to pay tribute and draw attention to the victims of the U.S. bombing and the September 11 attacks.

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