Among the most fascinating aspects of the horror in Orlando is how the mainstream media steadfastly and scrupulously avoids talking about the big elephant in the room: blowback. That is, the natural and foreseeable consequences of U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East, which includes acts of anti-American terrorism.
We hear about the self-radicalization of Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old American born Muslim. We hear about his use of an assault rifle. We hear about the Islamic State. We hear about his employment by a security firm that has done work for the U.S. government.
But we don’t hear anything about the U.S. government’s 15-year killing spree in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the Middle East.
It’s as if the killing spree is now considered a norm, something that has simply become a permanent part of American life and Middle East life. It’s just not something to be mentioned or discussed in the context of anti-American terrorism, especially a terrorist attack on American soil. The notion is that the U.S. government, as a “force for good in the world,” has the omnipotent “right” to go wherever it needs to go in the world to do good — to put down the bad guys — to kill the terrorists — to smash ISIS, al-Qaeda, and whoever the monster du jour happens to be.
But as I have pointed out ever since 9/11, the U.S. government’s ongoing and never-ending killing spree in the Middle East comes with costs.
One cost, of course, is the out-of-control federal spending that comes with the warfare state. It is not cheap to kill people. The bomb makers have to be paid for the bombs. The same for the manufacturers of bullets and guns. The troops have to be paid salaries. Suppliers of food and essentials have to be paid. Contractors have to be paid for their studies. Bribes to foreign regimes have to be paid. Permanent killing sprees entail a continuous flood of money, which is partly why (the other part is the welfare state) the mountain of federal debt continues rising, threatening to send the government into bankruptcy.
Another cost is the loss of freedom and privacy of the American people. When the terrorist blowback comes, inevitably there are people who cry, “Keep me safe! I don’t care what you have to do but just keep me safe from those scary people (who are retaliating for what my government has done to them).” And government officials are more than happy to oblige.
But there is another cost, an especially high one for people who are the victims of anti-American terrorism. People get angry when a foreign government is killing families, relatives, friends, countrymen, or people who happen to share their religious beliefs. And so they retaliate, oftentimes with acts of terrorism. It’s just a fact of life.
The noted foreign policy analyst Chalmers Johnson titled one of his books Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, a book I would highly recommend today, along with all his other books. The book was written before 9/11. Johnson said that if the U.S. government continued with its interventionist policies in the Middle East, there would be a major terrorist attack on American soil.
Does this mean that Johnson was a modern-day Nostradamus? No, it was just arguing logic. When a government goes thousands of miles away and starts killing people in a foreign land, there is inevitably going to be “blowback” in the form of terrorist retaliation.
Here is the point that needs to seep into the head of every single American: As long as the U.S. government is killing people in the Middle East, including Muslims, the threat of anti-American terrorism is never going to go away. There will always be people who are going to want to retaliate. And they’re going to retaliate not just against the U.S. national-security establishment (e.g., the military, the CIA, and NSA). They’re going to retaliate against civilians as well because they do what many Americans do — they conflate the American people and the U.S. government, especially when they see most Americans enthusiastically supporting the troops and thanking them for their “service” in the Middle East and Afghanistan, where they continue to wreak death and destruction on orders of President Obama and the Pentagon.
Is the terrorism horrific? Of course it is. But that’s the cost of empire and interventionism. As long as U.S. troops remain in the Middle East killing people, there will be anti-American terrorism.
“But Jacob, I want the U.S. government to remain in the Middle East and I don’t want anti-American terrorism to come with it,” the interventionists lament.
Oh, so you want lightning but no thunder? Well, Mr. or Ms. Interventionist, this is one of those things that you’re just not going to get. With lightning comes thunder. With U.S. interventionism in the Middle East comes anti-American terrorism. Just get used to it. And hope that you’re not among the ones who are targeted next. Because as I have said repeatedly since 9/11, as long as the U.S. government is killing Muslims and others in the Middle East, there will be more terrorist attacks against Americans.
There is one — and only one — solution to blowback. Pull all U.S. troops out of the Middle East. It’s time for the U.S. government to leave that part of the world alone (and ideally the rest of the world). It’s done enough damage already. It’s killed enough people. It’s destroyed enough buildings and infrastructure. It has unleashed enough death and destruction through civil wars. It has installed and supported enough brutal, corrupt, dictatorial regimes.
And let’s not forget the other big elephant in the room, which the mainstream media carefully avoids mentioning: U.S. interventionism in the Middle East gave rise to ISIS, the group that the U.S. government has made its monster du jour and which Omar Mateen cited before going on his killing spree.
“But Jacob, our government has to keep killing people in the Middle East. We don’t have a choice anymore. We have to kill ISIS. Otherwise, ISIS will take over in Iraq, and then Libya, and then Syria, and then France, Britain, Argentina, Mexico. Yes, the final domino will be the United States. We have to stop ISIS before it becomes the newest Hitler regime and conquers the world.”
It’s all a crock, a racket to keep the national-security establishment in high cotton. As far as America is concerned, it’s doesn’t matter one iota whether ISIS controls Iraq, Libya, and Syria or whether the crooked, corrupt regimes already in power continue controlling the political structures. While ISIS-controlled regimes would undoubtedly be nasty for people living there, just as Soviet communist control over Eastern Europe or communist control over Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba were nasty, the fact is that ISIS isn’t going to come and invade, conquer, and occupy America and take over the federal government and the IRS, any more.
We can’t bring back the lives of those people in Orlando. But we can save the lives of future victims of American terrorism. Continue the imperialism and interventionism in the Middle East and get more terrorist blowback against the American people, or bring the troops home and spare our nation any more terrorist attacks. Take your pick.