In July 1999, Chalmers Johnson began the prologue to Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire this way: “Instead of demobilizing after the Cold War, the United States imprudently committed itself to maintaining a global empire. This book is an account of the resentments our policies have built up and of the kinds of economic and political retribution that, particularly in Asia, may be their harvest in the twenty-first century.” The book (which I edited) was published in 2000 and only modestly attended to until… you know perfectly well until what… until, on September 11, 2001, a terror group by the name of al-Qaeda that had emerged from the American proxy war against the Soviet Union in the South Asian country of Afghanistan sent three hijacked American commercial jets crashing into iconic buildings in New York and Washington.
To use the term of CIA tradecraft for “the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people” that Johnson put in our everyday vocabulary, it was “blowback” of the most stunning kind. Not surprisingly, his book suddenly hit the bestseller list. Unfortunately, popular as it became — as U.S. Army Major and TomDispatch regular Danny Sjursen points out today — Americans have thought all too little about the role that blowback has played in all our lives since 9/11. Now, Sjursen takes Johnson’s concept and gives it a new, even more sweeping meaning in a world in which Washington’s war on terror has become a war of and for terror, as countries are destabilized across the Greater Middle East and Africa and terror groups only spread. Consider it the story from hell — and its repercussions, its blowback, what Sjursen calls its “insider attacks,” may only have begun.