As I was following the nightmare in Gaza and preparing today’s piece by TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century, I couldn’t help wishing that another author I edited and published for years, Chalmers Johnson, was still with us. His classic book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire appeared before the 9/11 attacks and put the word “blowback” into our everyday language. Of it, he wrote, “Officials of the Central Intelligence Agency first invented [blowback] for their own internal use… [It] refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people.” Of course, on September 11, 2001, he got a helping hand from Mr. Blowback himself, Osama bin Laden, someone he had warned about in that very book and whose attack on this country turned it into an instant bestseller.
Anyway, as I was reading Bacevich’s piece, I had the sudden urge to show it to Chal (as his friends knew him). In the nightmarish context Bacevich so strikingly sets up, I wanted to ask him what kind of blowback he thought this country’s present actions in the Middle East, including its almost blind support for Israel, might produce. After all, as Bacevich makes clear today, the way seems painfully open to extending Washington’s never-ending war on terror (itself launched in the wake of 9/11) into the Middle East in a new and potentially calamitous fashion, one that might even lend a hand to Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.
Of course, I’m no miracle worker and so have no way of bringing Chal back for his thoughts on Washington’s present nightmarish Middle Eastern policy-making, but I suspect that he would have found Bacevich’s on the subject of genuine interest. And yes, in this present blowback moment of ours, how apt that, at 100, Henry Kissinger, Mr. Blowback himself and a man responsible for so desperately many deaths, has finally left our world in anything but peace. Tom
Here We Go Again?
One way of understanding the ongoing bloodbath pitting Israel against Hamas is to see it as just the latest chapter in an existential struggle dating back to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. While the appalling scope, destructiveness, and duration of the fighting in Gaza may outstrip previous episodes, this latest go-around serves chiefly to reaffirm the remarkable intractability of the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict.
Although the shape of that war has changed over time, certain constants remain. Neither side, for instance, seems capable of achieving its ultimate political goals through violence. And each side adamantly refuses to concede to the core demands of its adversary. In truth, while the actual fighting may ebb and flow, pause and resume, the Holy Land has become the site of what is effectively permanent conflict.Read More