Skip to main content is reporting that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing, has confessed from his hospital bed to U.S. interrogators that he and his brother planted the bombs to protest the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This might make a good time to discuss 'blow back' and what it is and is not.

Put bluntly, the Brothers Tsarnaev's bombing attack is not 'blow back'. The attack may indeed be retaliation. But "blow back" has come to mean a particular type of reaction to U.S. foreign policy. Specifically, according to writers like Chalmers Johnson, blow back occurs when the American people are largely kept in the dark about the consequences of America's foreign policy until the inevitable and eminently predictable blow is struck against her. The American people are thus mystified at this display of seeming 'motiveless malignity.'

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Since it can be safely assumed that the American people were largely aware of the consequences of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan -- whether they disagree or not with those consequences -- the Marathon Bombing hardly constitutes blowback.

Contrast Tsarnaev's alleged motive with Osama bin Laden's fatwa, issued prior to 9-11, that authorized the attack upon the U.S. In his fatwa, bin Laden mentions several grievances, two of which strike me as ones largely hidden from the American public: the preventable deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children during the decade of the 90s as a result of U.N. sanctions on so-called dual use items (sanctions maintained largely at the insistence of the U.S.) and the continued presence and basing of U.S. troops on Saudi Arabian soil after the end of the First Gulf War (aka "Operation Desert ShieldStorm"). In each of these cases, the American public was largely unaware of the effects its foreign policy was having upon the people of the Middle East. Thus, when 9-11 occurred, it could rightly be seen as an instance of 'blow back,' given that Al Qaeda's response seemed to lack any motivation, so much so as to allow Bush to claim ludicrously that AQ hated us 'for our freedoms.'

While I have been saying, since 2001, that attacks like the Marathon Bomber were inevitable and would come when the people of the Middle East and Central Asia were ready to strike and not according to our timetable, I have also never felt that attacks like the Marathon Bomber constitute 'blow back.' In the case of the Marathon Bomber, the motives were already known or should have been known.

No American can therefore say that he or she could not have seen this coming. Indeed, a more pointed question is why it did not come sooner. Nor can any American any longer hide from the probability that attacks like these will continue as long as we contiinue our murderous and criminal policies in the Middle East.

 photo usa-boston-marathon-bombing-victim_zpsf4498bad.jpg

I found the story and images of the 8-year-old victim, Martin Richard, particularly poingant. In one such photo, Richard is seen holding a sign that says "No more hurting people . . . Peace." Surely one so young possessed of such wisdom should be inoculated from the murderous consequences of the Bush Junta and its successor regimes. Indeed, I had flattered myself that my 8 years of bi- and thrice-weekly vigiling in the streets of Los Angeles had similarly inoculated my wife (maker of my signs) and me. Alas, I see now that such is fond delusion. And, if I'm being honest with myself, it is fond delusion. For where is the outrage for the deaths of the 12 Afghan children killed in a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan just 9 days before the Marathon bombing? There is no outrage, just a numbed and deafening silence. Those 12 Afghan children were just as innocent as Richard, lives as full of promise as his. And those 12 Afghan children are suddenly dead, just as Richard is. Perhaps Richard would have been the next Einstein, perhaps one of those Afghan chidlren would have been the next Salk. We shall never know.

But I do know that further attacks on us will come until the foreign policy of the United States undergoes a radical change and until the perpetrators of all the death, torture and destruction have been held fully to account. Until both conditions are satisifed, we will not be experiencing blow back. But we will be experiencing retaliation. There is a difference.

6:30 PM PT: The Washington Post is also reporting that Tsarnaev has mentioned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as motives for the bombing attack:

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm pretty sure the case against... (6+ / 0-)

    ...our foreign policy is made more effectively by pointing out what's wrong with it, rather than invoking the threat posed by lunatics whose vision for their countries is much worse than anything we would impose on them in our most vicious moments.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 02:59:53 PM PDT

  •  That older brother was a bitter, criminally minded (12+ / 0-)

    loser that seemed to feel the world owed him something and didn't follow through.

    He seemed to have anger issues.

    This isn't a middle east problem, it's a violent criminal problem.

    I find this diary to be offensive in the extreme.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 03:00:15 PM PDT

    •  So I take it you are dismissing reports of (0+ / 0-)

      what the surviving Tsarnaev brother is actually saying?

      •  It's an excuse (8+ / 0-)

        frequently invoked by people with anger issues such as the older Tsarnaev brother.

        People use their religion as an excuse for anger and hatred.  All the time.

        I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

        by coquiero on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 03:03:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I'm frequently frustrated by the naive understanding of human motivation (when it comes to extreme acts) that's expressed around here.  People often don't accurately or fully express, or even know, what motivates their claims have to be evaluated critically.  This extends to the Tsarnaevs, to people who listen to Rush and then blow up abortion clinics, and all sorts of others.  

          The only terrorist in recent memory whose version of why he did what he did (something awful) seemed totally credible to me is Paul Hill.

          You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

          by Rich in PA on Thu Apr 25, 2013 at 06:25:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Mr Tsarnaev (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gramofsam1, VClib, subtropolis, Avila

        has a reason to offer information that is useful to him and/or helpful to whatever he believes his "cause" is (and his cause could be anything from an affiliation with AQ to simple self-preservation. I'm not speculating on that.)  

        I'm not accusing anyone of lying or commit perjury. I'm saying that what folks offer in certain circumstances tends to be biased based on their experiences and what they believe.  What they don't offer is also colored by their worldview.  A good example of this is the boys' mother. I think her life as a Chechen and an attorney in a police state, then as a refugee, makes her really believe the things she says -- things that most Americans think are "crazy talk." But she has that bias based on her life.  

        We don't yet know what the younger Mr Tsarnaev's mindset is. So we can't really assume anything about his statements without independent evaluation.

        One should be very careful of believing anything that the alleged bomber is saying at this point. It is all subject to investigation and confirmation.

        What he's saying may be 100% accurate. It may be 100% untrue. It may be 100% what he believes is true, but 75% not verifiable because his view of the world is skewed.

        At this point, we don't have enough facts.

        © grover

        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 04:46:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I grant you there is a possibility that laying it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, Avila

          on Iraq and Afghanistan is self-serving, perhaps a position arrived at after the fact to justify a decision already committed to psychologically for which Iraq and Afghanistan played no role.

          But I also know that we don't get to go around the world blowing up other people's kids and families for the dodgiest of reasons and flimsiest of pretexts (in the case of Iraq, for outright lies) and then be all shocked that they're seriously pissed off about it.

          Still, your caution is well put and quite a propos to the circumstances.

          •  Yup (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Massconfusion, gramofsam1, VClib, Avila
            And therefore, in my opinion, a diary juxtaposing the Boston Marathon Bombing with military actions in the Middle East does not serve this community nor you well at this point.

            If a connection is established, then you'll be able to publish any diaries that you've drafted. But if not, then you'll be glad that you remained cautious.

            CNN should have proved to all of us that being in front of the story but being wrong not only doesn't do anyone good but does actually can do harm.

            If you want to write diatribes about military action, there is an gracious audience for that here. Even most who are supporters of the President don't like drones, for example.

            But conflating events without evidence just hurts your credibility.  

            I dunno. Just my two cents. That, plus $3.84 can get you a venti latte.  Don't forget to tip your friendly barrista.


            © grover

            So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

            by grover on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 05:16:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, for the record, first reported the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              ostensible connection between the bombing and Iraq - Afghanistan in the minds of the Brothers Tsarnaev. So unless Salon is deliberately mis-reporting what Tsarnaev is saying, his words are "evidence" of a sort. (Whether one chooses to give credence to that evidence is an entirely different matter.)

              Are we simply supposed to let report as it will without comment? That does not seem to serve the community very well either.

            •  but it's not far-fetched (0+ / 0-)

              Your caution is worthy. The kid has every reason to make it out to be a political thing. But the diarist is pointing out that it's a credible scenario, all the same.

              All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

              by subtropolis on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 09:13:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  This comment is reminiscent of Sen. Bill Frist's (0+ / 0-)

      diagnosis of Terri Schiavo — via videotape.

      Shirley Chisholm was right. Our Republic is in deep trouble.

      by Big River Bandido on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 03:11:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  my ass you said that. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, VClib
    While I have been saying, since 2001, that attacks like the Marathon Bomber were inevitable and would come when the people of the Middle East and Central Asia
    There is no fucking way you added "and central asia" to that.
    •  "Central Asia" includes "Afghanistan" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big River Bandido, subtropolis

      And lots of us have been predicting retaliations for Afghanistan since 2001.

      I find it remarkable that the people of the US have such an ability to drop bombs and troops with heavy-handed unilateral impunity all around the globe---then act all baffled and surprised and shocked whenever someone retaliates here over it. As if we had some literally god-given right to be invulnerable and untouchable or something. We're not. Biters should expect to be bitten.

    •  Well, I have been protesting regularly and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      subtropolis, Pluto

      frequently since October 2001 in downtown Los Angeles (at Pershing Square and the Federal Building), in Hollywood and West Los AngelesWestwood and in Mar VistaPalms. You are free to believe or disbelieve as you see fit.

      I actually thought we would get a heaping helping of shit from the people of Southeast Asia for the bullshit we pulled there, but I'm giving away my age by saying that.

    •  yes ... er, fucking way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Some of us have been paying close attention to central Asia for a lot longer than a dozen years or so. That's not a jibe, but an observation.

      All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

      by subtropolis on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 09:18:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who appointed *you* "definer in chief"? (8+ / 0-)

    It is only really "blow back" if it is a result you claim you could predict, and for acts you don't like?  Oh, and the actions that would cause it, or the likelihood of it happening, are kept from the American people by.....somebody or other who is in on the big secret.

    Meanwhile other definitions seem to be more widely used

    an unforeseen and unwanted effect, result, or set of repercussions
    the unforeseen negative consequences of an action or decision

    Or even this one, that assumes a consipiracy similar to the one you posit, but even it doesn't claim precognition.

    Blowback is unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 03:29:33 PM PDT

  •  Chalmers Johnson's actual description of... (5+ / 0-)

    ..."blowback" doesn't require it to be on some matter that Americans have been kept in the dark on, although they often are in the dark, both because of government efforts and the fate that most Americans, sad to say, are ignorant of U.S. foreign policy both present and past because they don't pay attention. Here's Johnson himself in his book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire:

    The term "blowback" first appeared in a classified document government document in the CIA's post-action report on the secret overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953. In 2000, James Risen of the New York Times explained: "When the Central Intelligence Agency helped overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh as Iran's prime minister in 1953, ensuring another 25 years of rule for Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the CIA was already figuring that its first effort to topple a foreign government would not be its last. The CIA, then just six years old and deeply committed to winning the cold war, viewed its covert action in Iran as a blueprint for coup plots elsewhere around the world, and so commissioned a secret history for future generations of CIA operatives how it had been done. ... Amid the sometimes curious argot of the spy world—'safebases' and 'assets' and the like—the CIA warns of the possibilities of 'blowback.' The word ... has sense come into use as shorthand for the unintended consequences of covert actions."

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 03:39:39 PM PDT

  •  You can't be serious: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mskitty, subtropolis, Avila
    Since it can be safely assumed that the American people were largely aware of the consequences of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan...
    The American people STILL have no idea about the decades of revenge attacks on America and Americans that will ensue -- as a result of the depraved attack on Afghanistan -- a drunken, stupid, dick-swinging, immoral act that makes no sense at all. It served only to insure that the US will be under terrorist attack for the rest of our lives -- and that the US will be on lockdown while more civil rights are suspended.

    In any event, this was a interesting read. Thanks. Can't rec it because it will make people crazy if everyone doesn't pretend to deny the truth of it.

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 04:07:42 PM PDT

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