Thursday, March 03, 2005


I'm reading Chalmer Johnson's book, Blowback, which was published shortly before the events of 9-11.

Johnson's argument is that America's (mostly covert or at least unreported) military presence and activities around the world are laying the groundwork for retaliation, particularly through acts of terrorism, which are tools used against powers otherwise believed to be invulnerable.

As I said, this book appeared BEFORE the 9-11 holy day, and as such, his arguments were widely dismissed by the Foreign Affairs crowd. His arguments have since received slightly more attention.

Johnson is a specialist in Asian affairs, so the book concentrates mostly on America's post-WWII interventions in Japan (Okinawa), Indonesia, and the Koreas. There are about 100,000 U.S. troops in East Asia, about half of which are in Japan (and more than half of those in Japan are on Okinawa, an island south of the mainland). Most appalling about the book's reports are America's treatment of the residents on Okinawa and our continued arms sales to Japan, Indonesia, and countries throughout Latin America that are justified by our military establishment as necessary to "modernize" the militaries of these countries and provide "stability" in these regions. Needless to say, Johnson questions the validity of these arguments and of the necessity for America's policy of military imperalism. Johnson also throws water on the actions of the various military dictatorships the U.S. has supported in South Korea, including the 1948 genocide of some 30,000 South Koreans from one of the neighboring islands, south of the peninsula. In addition to our military outposts and arm sales around the globe, the U.S. also countenances the widescale provision of "military advice" and training to various regimes, through both public and private entitities (some of the latter of which have received some attention in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and the conduct at Abu Graib prison).

I'll give more of a summation when I'm done reading the book, but it suffices to say that one of the great tragedies of the post 9-11 era has been the failure to scrutinize our foreign policies as possible causes of those events. Since 9-11 we've had two wars, one department of homeland security established, one reorganization of national intelligence, but no serious attention to or coverage of our military and foreign policies. And far from favoring Democrats, Johnson implicates them, too, for their contributions to our imperial policies and unwillingness to challenge the military establishment.

I'm tempted to blame the media for this failure to consider seriously our contributions to the 9-11 blowback, and I do think they deserve their share of the blame.

But I think our political leadership is more at fault for their failure to raise these issues with the public. Yes, the media's stupid and overly fixated on the Scott Petersons of the world. But the media is a money enterprise and naturally, they are going to do business based on that notion. Serious research and news reporting has costs, both financial and political, for corporate media chieftains.

The political leadership (yes, Democratic Party leaders, this means you) are the ones that have the most knowledge of our nation's military and foreign policies, and they've not chosen to bring them into the debate (because that has costs, too, I'm afraid). We made a big whoop to do over the 9-11 commission and whether Bush would or wouldn't testify, but that is really besides the point. If the commission and members of congress had no real intention of making a broad based investigation of the terrorist attacks and the policies that at least partly brought them into being, than most of the hooplah over Bush and Rice's testimonies were little more than partisan grandstanding. While our intelligence failures and border patrols have come in for questioning, half century long military tactics have not.

This our leaders have failed to do. So instead of introducing bills calling for more troops, Senator Reid, how about a serious call for examining our nation's foreign policies? While media attention may be hard to control, there's no doubt that questioning our nation's policies will draw a response. Just ask Ward Churchill.


mizerock said...

Are you saying that our policies should pass the "global test" of legitimacy? Terrorists do not respond to appeasement, anyway.

Our foreign policy is going to continue to reflect what Those People in power want - namely, we do what we please if it benefits us. I don't see any outside group changing things, the words of the debate (like "French") are too firmly entrenched.

Much like welfare policy had to reshaped by Clinton ... I can see McCain running on a new foreign policy platform, but not Hillary.

sideshow bob said...

It looks like most Americans no the answer to the problem of terrorism, but have no clue what the question is.