Whatever happened to “blowback”?

March 22, 2017 at 8:02 pm (apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, Galloway, Jim D, John Rees, Lindsey German, London, murder, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, Stop The War, SWP, terror, tragedy)

First picture of London terror attack suspect

There was a time when no Islamist terror outrage was complete without an article published within a day or two, from Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, Terry Eagleton or the undisputed master of the genre, Seamus Milne, putting it all down to “blowback”. Such articles usually also claimed that no-one else dared put forward the “blowback” explanation, and the author was really being terribly brave in doing so. No such articles have appeared for a few years (the last one I can recall was after the Charlie Hebdo attack), so here’s my idea of what such a piece would read like today:

LONDON – In London today, a police officer was stabbed to death and pedestrians killed by a car driven by a so-called “terrorist”. Police speculated that the incident was deliberate, alleging the driver waited for some hours before hitting the pedestrians

The right-wing British government wasted no time in seizing on the incident to promote its fear-mongering agenda over terrorism, which includes pending legislation to vest its intelligence agency, CSIS, with more spying and secrecy powers in the name of fighting ISIS. A government spokesperson asserted “clear indications” that the driver “had become radicalized.”

In a “clearly prearranged exchange,” a Conservative MP described the incident as a “terrorist attack”; in reply, the prime minister gravely opined that the incident was “obviously extremely troubling.” Newspapers predictably followed suit, calling it a “suspected terrorist attack” and “homegrown terrorism.” A government spokesperson said “the event was the violent expression of an extremist ideology promoted by terrorist groups with global followings” and added: “That something like this would happen in London shows the long reach of these ideologies.”

In sum, the national mood and discourse in Britain is virtually identical to what prevails in every Western country whenever an incident like this happens: shock and bewilderment that someone would want to bring violence to such a good and innocent country, followed by claims that the incident shows how primitive and savage is the “terrorist ideology” of extremist Muslims, followed by rage and demand for still more actions of militarism and freedom-deprivation. There are two points worth making about this:

First, Britain has spent the last 16 years proclaiming itself a nation at war. It actively participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and was an enthusiastic partner in some of the most extremist War on Terror abuses perpetrated by the U.S. Earlier this month, the Prime Minister revealed, with the support of a large majority of Britains, that “Britain is poised to go to war against ISIS, as [she] announced plans in Parliament [] to send CF-18 fighter jets for up to six months to battle Islamic extremists.” Just yesterday, fighter jets left for Iraq and the Prime Minister stood tall as she issued the standard Churchillian war rhetoric about the noble fight against evil.

It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Britain’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of British bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

That’s the nature of war. A country doesn’t get to run around for years wallowing in war glory, invading, rendering and bombing others, without the risk of having violence brought back to it. Rather than being baffling or shocking, that reaction is completely natural and predictable. The only surprising thing about any of it is that it doesn’t happen more often.

The issue here is not justification (very few people would view attacks on civilians and police officers to be justified). The issue is causation. Every time one of these attacks occurs — from 9/11 on down — Western governments pretend that it was just some sort of unprovoked, utterly “senseless” act of violence caused by primitive, irrational, savage religious extremism inexplicably aimed at a country innocently minding its own business. They even invent fairy tales to feed to the population to explain why it happens: they hate us for our freedoms.

Those fairy tales are pure deceit. Except in the rarest of cases, the violence has clearly identifiable and easy-to-understand causes: namely, anger over the violence that the country’s government has spent years directing at others. The statements of those accused by the west of terrorism, and even the Pentagon’s own commissioned research, have made conclusively clear what motivates these acts: namely, anger over the violence, abuse and interference by Western countries in that part of the world, with the world’s Muslims overwhelmingly the targets and victims. The very policies of militarism and civil liberties erosions justified in the name of stopping terrorism are actually what fuels terrorism and ensures its endless continuation.

If you want to be a country that spends more than a decade proclaiming itself at war and bringing violence to others, then one should expect that violence will sometimes be directed at you as well. Far from being the by-product of primitive and inscrutable religions, that behavior is the natural reaction of human beings targeted with violence. Anyone who doubts that should review the 13-year orgy of violence the U.S. has unleashed on the world since the 9/11 attack, as well as the decades of violence and interference from the U.S. in that region prior to that.

Second, in what conceivable sense can this incident be called a “terrorist” attack? As I have written many times over the last several years, and as some of the best scholarship proves, “terrorism” is a word utterly devoid of objective or consistent meaning. It is little more than a totally malleable, propagandistic fear-mongering term used by Western governments (and non-Western ones) to justify whatever actions they undertake. As Professor Tomis Kapitan wrote in a brilliant essay in The New York Times on Monday: “Part of the success of this rhetoric traces to the fact that there is no consensus about the meaning of ‘terrorism.’”

But to the extent the term has any common understanding, it includes the deliberate (or wholly reckless) targeting of civilians with violence for political ends. But in this case in London, it wasn’t civilians who were really targeted. If one believes the government’s accounts of the incident, the driver attacked pedestrians at random, but his real targets were in uniform. In other words, he seems to have targeted a policeman– a member of a force that represents British imperialism.

Again, the point isn’t justifiability. There is a compelling argument to make that police officers engaged in security duties are not valid targets under the laws of war (although the U.S. and its closest allies use extremely broad and permissive standards for what constitutes legitimate military targets when it comes to their own violence). The point is that targeting soldiers who are part of a military fighting an active war is completely inconsistent with the common usage of the word “terrorism,” and yet it is reflexively applied by government officials and media outlets to this incident (and others like it in the UK and the US).

That’s because the most common functional definition of “terrorism” in Western discourse is quite clear. At this point, it means little more than: “violence directed at Westerners by Muslims” (when not used to mean “violence by Muslims,” it usually just means: violence the state dislikes). The term “terrorism” has become nothing more than a rhetorical weapon for legitimizing all violence by Western countries, and delegitimizing all violence against them, even when the violence called “terrorism” is clearly intended as retaliation for Western violence.

This is about far more than semantics. It is central to how the west propagandizes its citizenries; the manipulative use of the “terrorism” term lies at heart of that. As Professor Kapitan wrote in The New York Times:

Even when a definition is agreed upon, the rhetoric of “terror” is applied both selectively and inconsistently. In the mainstream American media, the “terrorist” label is usually reserved for those opposed to the policies of the U.S. and its allies. By contrast, some acts of violence that constitute terrorism under most definitions are not identified as such — for instance, the massacre of over 2000 Palestinian civilians in the Beirut refugee camps in 1982 or the killings of more than 3000 civilians in Nicaragua by “contra” rebels during the 1980s, or the genocide that took the lives of at least a half million Rwandans in 1994. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some actions that do not qualify as terrorism are labeled as such — that would include attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah or ISIS, for instance, against uniformed soldiers on duty.

Historically, the rhetoric of terror has been used by those in power not only to sway public opinion, but to direct attention away from their own acts of terror.

At this point, “terrorism” is the term that means nothing, but justifies everything. It is long past time that media outlets begin skeptically questioning its usage by political officials rather than mindlessly parroting it.

(c) Glenn Greenwald, Mehdi Hasan, Patrick Coburn, Seamus Milne, George Galloway, John Rees, Lindsey German, Peter Oborne, the SWP, Stop The War Coalition, etc, etc.


  1. kb72 said,

    & when will Will Self pop up calling the police who shot the terrorist “murderers”?

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      The poor fella was doing it for allah. Not his fault. He should have been taken prisoner and given a nice cell in prison with the home comforts in compliance with EU regulations.

      • Mick said,

        Indeed. Old Corbyn says police should refrain from shooting terrorists, even when said terrorists are out for police blood.

    • Mick said,

      The Left believe in two wrongs making a right when it suits them. Hence their ‘f**k tha police’ attitudes, for example, when cops dare to fight rioters.

  2. Mick said,

    I’ve a feeling this was supposed to be ironic but given the pile of embedded hyperlinks, such quackery is meant in earnest.

    Yup, it’s the old battered wife syndrome from left wing crackpots again. ‘Meh, you deserved it, bitch.’

    Islamic whackjobs (as the IRA ones before them) are not morally equivalent to Western democratic nations observing the rules of war, and embarrassed when individual abuses come to light. People in the Left prove themselves verminous again in their hypocrisy, as Western civilian conurbations are legitimate targets for war, with murderous terrorists mere ‘freedom fighters’. However, when Western armies bomb the crap out of some tyrant, or send Islamic extremists to summer camp, leftists call those war atrocities.

    Everything is warped and twisted to be blamed on the West, or Israel. Especially Israel. The Left and Islamists both have anti-West agendi. The Left are too crooked and devious to be trusted with blame games, especially with pre-emptive strikes. It really was believed that WMDs existed but the dossier was beefed up beyond most recognition, just to sell it to the Left. (Remember, ‘Always defend the oppressed, if if they are oppressors too’ – Stop The War coalition diktat.)

    • Jim Denham said,

      “I’ve a feeling this was supposed to be ironic but given the pile of embedded hyperlinks, such quackery is meant in earnest”: does everything have to be spelled out to you in words of one syllable, Mick?

      Mind you, I needn’t have bothered with this spoof (largely based on a piece by Glenn Greenwald, by the way), in the light of what the UK Socialist Worker has to say:

      • Mick said,

        You’re way too convincing to be stuck here on the Web!

  3. Robert said,


    Of course that triumphant breakthrough statement giving voice to the collective only goes to reinforce the argument being advanced by Conallia Yobko and her valiant conleague on RT that representative democracy of a sort which has never worked in the territory these days under the same management as itself, a curious high-maintenance way of doing, just lets such things happen. Look what happened to Weimar democracy!

    Do you know that Bertrand Russell and his pal Clive Bell argued for pacifism after 1914 with for an argument the assumption that no harm would be done were Kaiser Bill &co. to have control of French channel ports and far as Brest? Wilhelmine Germany would unopposed settle down and self-democratise as a natural process. It would take even more courage to repeat that claim nowadays.

    See the prompt action, executed with subtle discretion, silently taken against people whose groans should no more be heard than their words, and who would break up the careful order maintained in happy modern Putaningrad, with its centuries of tradition, and whose extension across the wider landscape would rule out all that messy sort of thing. Instead of global warming there would be a whiteness of snow, over all Ire.

    (tm) Girn Glenwind, Mahdi Hateson, Scatrick Poburn, Shamus Allmine, Gallus Goreaway, Roan Grease, the SWP, Toe The Stop Coalition, etc, etc.

    • Mick said,

      Leftists are simply barmy. They pretend to be political parties when they’re just tinpot trade unionists in a dummy election, or cheerleaders for Sharia Law yet having no intention of being oppressed by it.

      Alan Bennett professes a love for treason, so as not to be confined by stuffy tradition. But where treason is the short route to domination by foreign killers, leftists are criminally moronic in not seeing that far ahead.

      They hate us more than they see any danger in their pet psychos, the big freakazoids!

  4. secretunderstanding said,

    I’m almost tempted to post this deadpan on Facebook and see who takes it at face value, but then that would depress me too much.

  5. Rilke said,

    Too little judgment and even less analysis, coupled to too much opinionated gibberish here. Get back to posting pieces that stand proper commentary and proper analysis Jim and get rid of the ranting nutters. You are going down the nick!

    • Mick said,

      The Left’s grand corridor echoes with this exact noise in real life.

  6. Solidarity with all the Victims and their Loved Ones. | Tendance Coatesy said,

    […] Shiraz Writes, […]

  7. Andrew Coates said,

    Bang on cue the SWP writes,

    We do not know the motivation of this particular attack. But it is inescapable that the war, torture, plunder and invasions backed by the British parliament and the government’s allies have created the conditions in which such horrors are certain to take place.

    The shattering of Iraq and Afghanistan, the oppression of the Palestinians and many other imperial projects cast long shadows.

    Their mirror on the far-right are also trying to make political capital out of the tragedy.

    Poland’s prime minister drew a link on Thursday between an attack in London targeting the British parliament and the European Union’s migrant policy, saying the assault vindicated Warsaw’s refusal to take in refugees.

    • Mick said,

      Warsaw is RIGHT to block unchecked migrants – even the EU says virtually all aren’t refugees and we know a whole mess of terrorists are mingled in.

      But hey, that’s diversity, isn’t it Left. The French PM and Mayor of London says we just have to take it all on the chin! Even where we don’t know the motivation for yet another of these atrocities – supposedly – Coatsey says we can blame Britain anyway. So it’s business as usual for the treacherous Left.

      And incidentally, Islamofascists were the same old murderers before Isreal needed to defend itself, before despots needed to be overthrown in their terrorist harbours and before various other baddies needed a clout ’round the ear. They were the same old murderers as far back as Muhammad led them personally in the rape of Mecca.

      It’s this huge holohoax-style denial of psychotic realities that make lefties so dangerous on both communism and offensive Sharia both. Still, at least they celebrate both together in this centenary year of Lenin’s power grab.

    • Mick said,

      And we DO know who did it – a jihadist, as the PM herself verified. And now the same thing has been tried in Antwerp.

      The Left have to struggle to see what the ruddy BENELUX countries have done to deserve such, in Red eyes, justified and valid retribution. So they stick with the ‘holohoax’ theory, saying that jihad only means a voyage of enlightened discovery!

      Poor little Sharia-whackjobs, nobody understands them. That’s the real problem for the noisy left!

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      The motive is religious nutterdom and martyrdom. The left do not get it they think it is capitalism to blame although islam was invented 7th century ad.

      • Jim Denham said,

        Your pal Farage got it completely wrong, when cynically and dishonestly trying to claim (on Fox News in the US) that the attack had something to do with immigration (the killer was – like Farage himself – born in Kent). Farage is an anti-British, lying asshole and probably a paid agent of Trump and/or Putin: if he’s not being paid, then he’s simply an unpaid lying, racist, semi-fascist useful idiot.

  8. Rilke said,

    If, according to the SWP, these attacks and crimes are ‘inevitable’ and ‘certain’ and they truly believe in what they say; why do the they not commit suicide or deliberately maim their bodies and get it over with quickly?

    • Mick said,

      Some lefties actually did – they became human shields for Saddam Hussein!

  9. Davis said,

    First of all, my solidarity with the victims in this terrorist attack (Btw one of the victims seems to be of Spanish origins -Family living in Galicia, where I’m from-). Of course, the usual and unfortunately expected pavlovian reaction and tics coming from some left (The SWP always at their best in those cases, nothing new), it’s a real pity, sometimes they really become a living caricature which seems to come from the mind of a right-wing nutter (like the usual couple of comentators around here). If we continue this way we will have extreme right and people like Putin, Trump or Erdogan for decades….

    • Mick said,

      That’s right, I AM YOUR FUTURE! Now bow before your king before I give you more SWP!

      As we see here, the PC left only show but a glimmer of realising their booberies, though not to correct them. So in even Merkel’s eyes, Multiculti will continue to fail. They just think they weren’t efficient enough, so they really will see more bogeypersons like Trump coming up.

      And the pure ones will still see absolutely no logic in being rejected themselves.

    • Jim Denham said,

      “Solidarity with the victims in this terrorist attack “: agreed! I trust it’s clear that that was the spirit in which I posted this spoof article.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Not like you tae take the piss Jim. Always thought you were a typical leftie devoid of humour!

  10. Rilke said,

    Calm down Mick. You write with the ugly, exaggerated and incoherent style of a drunken town clerk.
    It is not the fault of any on the left that you happen to suffer from an over-excitable sensorium, mother-fixation sexual neurosis and lack a verbal sphincter. You must make your paragraphs more interlaced and coherent and reduce the oddly punctuated curiously paratactical sentences.
    D+\C- Must try harder.

    • Mick said,

      I’d rather be a drunk town clerk, enjoying the sup of ambrosia and paid for by the taxpayer, than a totown Marxist, ascribing ills to people they don’t agree with.

      In Russia, people like me were put in locked hospitals because of people like you. So I’m rather glad to enjoy the pleasures of a left torn by its own real manias, I’m afraid.

  11. Matthew Thompson said,

    Rather than being “blowback” from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003 as the SWP claim in their usual Procrustean fashion, the Westminster attacker fits the classic profile of such people: petty criminals of North or West African origin who have experienced police harassment and/or racism, not particularly religious or deprived and converted/radicalised in or just after their release from prison.

    • Mick said,

      That’s an interesting point but it’s still one which deflects the blame a bit for left wing dog whistle fans. ‘I KNEW the white man was the real terrorist again!’

      Even if, as lefties assume, the black guys are harassed by default, it still misses how the criminal was a slimeball in the first place and having it in him to commit this atrocity at all.

      Also, lefties who adopt the attitude of ‘whitey was bound to bring it on himself’ is racist against both blacks and whites. Racialising everything on principle kicks innocent whites – virtually all of us – and just assumes blacks are so weak that they’ll flip at the drop of a hat.

      Shame on the left! Shame on it, eh McPherson.

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