Whatever happened to ‘blowback’?

September 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm (africa, apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, conspiracy theories, Guardian, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, SWP)

It comes as families of those killed begin to bury their dead, as investigators sift through rubble searching for more victims of the four day siege

Above: just one victim among many

Remember all those outspoken, courageous lone voices, who dared speak the unsayable truth unto power after the Drummer Rigby attack? You know, the people who wrote in the Guardian, the Independent and the New Statesman, explaining that there was, in effect, a conspiracy of silence, hiding the fact that terrorists have motives and agendas, usually in reaction to the many crimes of the West?

As we commented at the time:

Those fearless, insightful people who dare break with the establishment consensus and put forward the only real explanation for terrorism – ‘blowback’ – are rarely heard, such is the conspiracy of silence and denial they’re up against. Very occasionally, the wall of silence is breached and their profound thoughts on the subject get published . Here, here, here here and here for instance.

The Pilgers, Milnes, Greenwalds and Mehdi Hasans: such brave, outspoken people. Why are they so uncharacteristically silent?

Where are they, now that we need them in the aftermath of the Kenyan massacre? Surely they can’t be leaving fearless truth-telling to the likes of the SWP and Tory “libertarian” and isolationist Simon Jenkins?

To redress the balance, and help break the conspiracy of silence, we proudly reproduce Socialist Worker‘s commentary on the Kenyan massacre (rendering far-left political satire redundant):

Nairobi shopping mall horror is the high price of war
by Ken Olende

The shocking attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya’s capital Nairobi was not just mindless terrorism. More than 60 shoppers died and nearly 200 were injured in the well-planned attack, claimed by Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

Kenyan troops were central to the invasion of neighbouring Somalia in October 2011. Al Shabaab or its sympathisers have carried out more than 50 reprisal attacks in Kenya, killing at least 70 people.

Previous assaults on a much smaller scale were near the Somali border, in the coastal city of Mombasa, which has a large Muslim population. Others were in the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, where many Somali migrants live.

Its previous biggest attack had been in Uganda. A series of bombs killed 60 people there on the night of the World Cup final in 2010. But when the casualties were among the poor, the attacks had little international impact.

Westgate was chosen for this operation because, as Kenyan socialist Zahid Rajan put it, “It is the venue of choice for wealthy people across the racial divide”. To most better-off Kenyans the malls like Westgate were seen as a haven from the embittered, violent country. One eyewitness tweeted, “When the first gunshot was fired, we ran into the mall instead of away”.


Zahid told Socialist Worker, “There has been a fantastic humanitarian response to the scale of the tragedy. “People are volunteering to help. A special bloodbank has been set up in the city’s main park. “The attackers may have thought they would divide Muslims from other Kenyans, but this hasn’t worked.”

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has posed as a champion of national unity since the attack. But Kenya has pulled out of the international criminal court because he was due to appear before it, accused of organising communal violence at the time of the 2007 election.

Central authority collapsed in Somalia with the fall of US-backed dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991. Al Shabaab was part of the Islamic Courts movement that restored some kind of government in 2006. This was overthrown by a US-backed invasion and the group has since moved to more extreme forms of Islamism.

After the invasion by Kenyan and Ethiopian troops in 2011 it said that it supported the ideas of Al Qaida. Even Rob Wise of the US Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank comments that it was “a relatively moderate Islamist organisation”, which was driven towards Al Qaida by invasion.

He added that since 2008 al Shabaab has “increasingly embraced transnational terrorism and attempted to portray itself as part of the Al Qaida-led global war on the West.” The horror in Kenya is a direct product of Western intervention.


  1. Unrepentant Jacobin (@jacobinism) said,

    “The Pilgers, Milnes, Greenwalds and Mehdi Hasans: such brave, outspoken people. Why are they so uncharacteristically silent?”

    Don’t forget Rachel Shabi, whose useless response to the Woolwich atrocity, I addressed here:


    I wish you folks had a twitter presence. Please consider setting up an account there. Meanwhile, keep up the good work!

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Ah yes, Ms Shabi: I forgot about her. Part of the Milne gang that clearly runs the Graun’s foreign policy. As you say, it’s extraordinary the way these people with their regular access to so many high profile mainstream platforms, bleat on about how their views are somehow being suppressed…

    Your historical analogy between the Guadianistas and the Paul Fauristes is most interesting and something I intend to look into further. Thanks.

    PS: you’re not the first to urge us to start tweeting, but at the moment just keeping this blog going is about all we can handle. I personally feel that tweeting may not be for me, especially late at night after a drink or two…

    • Unrepentant Jacobin (@jacobinism) said,

      Just caught up with this. Thanks for the reply. The Paul Fauristes/liberal left analogy is Paul Berman’s, explored in more detail in his wonderful polemic Terror and Liberalism. If you haven’t read it, you must. It’s an essential text, beautifully written and elegantly argued.

      Btw, I was flattered to discover a while back you had added me to your blog roll, so reciprocated. Thank you very much.

      Hope to see you on twitter soon. One you settle into its stride, you won’t know how you survived without it! 😉

  3. Rosie B said,

    I can’t find anything in the Staggers about this. The Guardian has surpassed itself in crassness.


    Don’t these people have any recent historical knowledge, at least enough to reflect on how apologists for Stalin appeared in later years? With much less excuse, as Islamism promises nothing attractive at all compared to Communism.

    Re Twitter – I don’t really want to get involved with that, as the internet takes up too much of my life as it is.

  4. Andrew Coates said,

    There was also a letter in the ‘I’ which broke the fearsome silence, saying that it wuz all the fault of the West.

    Rosie I’ve been re-reading David Caute’s The Fellow Travellers and can’t help noting some echoes on the present left.


    • Rosie B said,

      I read your post. I was interested in this:-

      “the fellow travellers – even during the Moscow Trails – remained committed to Western ‘bourgeois’ democratic forms – in their own countries. They were indeed often specialists in the defence of civil liberties. D. N. Pritt, the most outrageous apologist for the Moscow Trials, was a British barrister and a member of the Labour Party (expelled during the Second World War). Amongst many cases, he successfully stopped the deportation of Ho Cho Minh from France in 1931.”

      I doubt if any of the Islamist fellow travellers have a distinguished record of doing good political works. Can you think of any?

      Also, I don’t think the “fellow travelling” for Islamism is as committed and as vehement as Communist fellow travelling was among people of stature – eg lawyers like Pritt, publishers like Gollcanz, editors like Kingsley Martin, .

      ” Martin’s friend John Maynard Keynes complained that in regard to Stalin’s Russia, Martin was “a little too full perhaps of goodwill. When a doubt arises it is swallowed down if possible.”

      It’s more of a passive than active excuse making. When I used to read the London Review of Books it struck me how many articles there were on Israel – and how few on Islamism.

      The ideology is very heavily ignored. No Western progressive could sympathise with the aims of Islamism, whereas the aims of Communism are ultimately sympathetic. Islamism is simply seen as a creation of “blow back”.

      Communists were excused for being a little over zealous in pursuit of a noble cause, while Islamists are excused for being a little over zealous in reasonable revenge against Western (or “Western-backed” at a pinch) activities or possibly the desperate acts of beleaguered minorities.

      Similarly western jihadists are a horrible parody of the International Brigade. I can’t imagine there are any potential George Orwells among them.

  5. Andrew Coates said,

    Rosie, there are an enormous numbers of differences of which that is one.

    Though some of the people who got rid of Gita Sahgal from Amnesty could be described in these terms, that is people who have done “good works”.

    But there again even those inclined to make apologies for Islamism don’t go as far as Pritt in excusing something as monstrous as the Moscow trials.

    The crucial point that bears comparison is the idea that democracy has to be defended to the hilt in the West, but that somehow it becomes less than important when talking about the ‘blowback’ against ‘imperialism’.

    The cultural attitude which asserts that ‘we’ cannot judge Islamists, mired as ‘we’ are in the history of the West is probably best thought of as a withered remnant of the fellow travellers attitude towards the Stalinism. Writings that excused it in terms of Russia’s backward past, the Stalin cult as natural to the Russian soul, come to mind.

    • Rosie B said,

      I’d forgotten about the Sahgal case. That is a good example of a kind of – well not so much “fellow travelling” as the Amnesty lot didn’t really want to end up at the same place as Islamists, more of the “indulgent guard on the train” who lets you on in spite of you having the wrong ticket.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: