Does the `blowback’ paradigm explain 9/11?
By rahnuma ahmed
Before launching into my discussion of the `blowback’ paradigm, let’s take a quick look at the findings from a new poll of New Yorkers: 36% want a new investigation of the collapse of Building 7.
Apparently, 1 in 3 New Yorkers are unaware of Building 7’s collapse; but, of those who are, 24% believe it was a `controlled demolition.’
Not `fire’, as the National Institute of Science and Technology’s 2008 report claims: ‘[Building 7 is] The first known instance of fire [in history] causing the total collapse of a tall building.’ NIST termed it `a new phenomenon.’
Conducted by the independent Siena Research Institute, the poll was commissioned by Remember Building 7, an advocacy campaign calling for a new investigation of the 47-storey skyscraper, which collapsed on 9/11.
36 percent of all respondents are inclined to believe critics — among them are Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), which has gathered over 1,500 signatures from architects and engineers — who say the government’s account of Building 7’s collapse is `physically impossible.’ Its fall, maintain these architects and engineers who have professional experience in designing and building skyscrapers, was caused by `controlled demolition.’
36 percent of those polled say, we are `not satisfied that we know the whole truth about that day, and it is time to get to the bottom of what happened.’
The `whole truth’ and `getting to the bottom of what happened’ is inextricably linked to paradigms. What was it that Thomas Kuhn had said of paradigms….? it constitutes the underlying assumptions and intellectual structure upon which research and development in a field of inquiry is based (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962). Others have spoken of it being an interpretative framework, one which is guided by a set of beliefs and feelings about the world and how it should be understood and studied (Egon G. Guba ed, The Paradigm Dialog, 1990).
`Blowback’ — explains professor Chalmers Johnson, author of the trilogy Blowback (volume 1 published in 2001), an academic for 30 years who also worked as a consultant for the CIA (1967-1973) but later became best known for his powerful critique of American imperialism — is a CIA term. It means retaliation or payback. `By blowback we do not mean just the unintended consequences of events. We mean unintended consequences of events that were kept secret from the American public, so that when the retaliation comes, they have no way to put it into context. Just as after 9/11, you have the president saying, “Why do they hate us?” The people on the receiving end know full well that they hate us because of what was done to them. It’s the American public that are in the dark on that subject’ (interviewed by Harry Kreisler, January 29, 2004).
And, blowback came `spectacularly’ so on 11 September 2001, caused by America’s policies in the Middle East. It made the American public `support [government] acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.’
In other words, blowback means that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, i.e., the `Muslim fanatics’, are not to be singled out for blame. The chickens have come home to roost. Osama bin Laden and other young men were used by us, as `canon fodder…in a bipolar competition between the Soviet Union and the United States’ in Afghanistan. Once American purposes were achieved, we just walked away from the `people we had recruited, trained, and equipped’, something made far worse, when `infidel troops’ were placed in Saudi Arabia after 1991, near `one of the most sacred sites in Islam.’
Johnson likens bin Laden and his role in Afghanistan to the `massive revolt’ in 1857. `The Indians do not call it the Sepoy Mutiny; they call it the first revolutionary activity leading ultimately to Indian independence. I think that something like that may be happening to us today, too.’
Blowback is the paradigm the renowned American and left dissident Noam Chomsky subscribes to when he analyses and writes about the events of 9/11. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, he writes, `That Washington was bent on fulfilling bin Laden’s fervent wishes was evident at once. As discussed in my book 9-11, written shortly after those attacks occurred, anyone with knowledge of the region could recognize “that a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and his associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a ‘diabolical trap,’ as the French foreign minister put it.”
`The senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, Michael Scheuer, wrote shortly after that “bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. [He] is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world,” and largely succeeded..’ (9/11 and the Imperial Mentality Looking Back on 9/11 a Decade Later, September 6, 2011).
So also, American journalist, author and war correspondent Chris Hedges, who writes on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, `Those of us who knew that the attacks were rooted in the long night of humiliation and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians, the imposition of our military bases in the Middle East and in the brutal Arab dictatorships that we funded and supported became apostates.
And, Hedges continues with a powerful eloquence that has become his signature, `Because few cared to examine our activities in the Muslim world, the attacks became certified as incomprehensible by the state and its lap dogs, the press. Those who carried out the attacks were branded as rising out of a culture and religion that was at best primitive and probably evil…The ceremonies of remembrance were skillfully hijacked by the purveyors of war and hatred. They became vehicles to justify doing to others what had been done to us. And as innocents died here, soon other innocents began to die in the Muslim world. A life for a life.
Subscribing to the `blowback’ paradigm, however, has also led Chomsky, Hedges and other renowned left, liberal theorists and writers to subscribe to the official account of 9/11 as being true, of denouncing those belonging to the 9/11 Truth Movement as being a bunch of nutjobs, cracks, loonies, conspiracy theorists. Not that there aren’t such people in its ranks, but there are also reputed thinkers, professionals, scientists, academics, researchers who have steadily worked away over the last decade to build up a significant body of critical work which exposes massive holes in the official account of what occurred on 9/11. Of who did what and why.
But that does not deter Alexander Cockburn, editor, CounterPunch, to sweepingly characterise those opposed to the official version of events as `9/11 conspiracists,’ who are bent on `seiz[ing] on coincidences and forc[ing] them into sequences they deem to be logical and significant.’ The conspiracists `disdained the real world because they wanted to promote Bush, Cheney and the NeoCons to an elevated status as the Arch Demons of American History, instead of being just one more team running the American empire, a team of more than usual stupidity and incompetence…’ (The 9/11 Conspiracists: Vindicated After All These Tears?, September 3-4, 2011).
Conspiracy theory is to be abhorred, writes Cockburn, because it `demobilize[s] people from useful political activity. If the alleged perpetrators are so efficiently devilish in their plots, all resistance is futile.’
Whereas Chomsky says in an interview, `There’s by now a small industry on the thesis that the administration had something to do with 9-11. I’ve looked at some of it, and have often been asked. There’s a weak thesis that is possible though extremely unlikely in my opinion, and a strong thesis that is close to inconceivable. The weak thesis is that they knew about it and didn’t try to stop it. The strong thesis is that they were actually involved. The evidence for either thesis is, in my opinion, based on a failure to understand properly what evidence is. Even in controlled scientific experiments one finds all sorts of unexplained phenomena, strange coincidences, loose ends, apparent contradictions, etc. Read the letters in technical science journals and you’ll find plenty of samples. In real world situations, chaos is overwhelming, and these will mount to the sky. That aside, they’d have had to be quite mad to try anything like that’ (On the War in Iraq, interviewed by David McNeill, ZNet, January 31, 2005).
But, Canadian journalist and political activist Barrie Zwicker asks, `What has Chomsky looked at?’ I have not found a single instance in which `Chomsky has actually come to grips with how the Twin Towers came down, why WTC7 collapsed, the missing fighter jets, Bush’s strange demeanour. Nothing.’
Chomsky’s argument if it can at all be called such, that `in controlled scientific experiments one finds all sorts of unexplained phenomena, strange coincidences, loose ends, apparent contradictions, etc.’ is `completely unsupported,’ writes Zwicker . Two reasoned responses to this would be: `Would you provide a few examples, enough to support your generalization?’ and `The majority of controlled scientific experiments result in findings within reasonable parameters of what is expected. Unexplained phenomena are rare. Strange coincidences do not in fact abound.’ Zwicker continues, Chomsky then turns to the standard `arguments’ against the idea that the administration could have let 9/11 happen or made it happen. `They’d have to be quite mad to try it.’ Well, writes Zwiker, in that case, most of the rulers in history must have been quite mad in this respect.
The denial that 9/11 was an inside job is deepest in the traditional Left (besides Chomsky and Cockburn, denial-ists include David Corn, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!), and in the established left media, The Nation, Z Magazine, The Progressive, Mother Jones, Alternative Radio, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Exceptions do exist: radio shows Guns and Butter, Taking Aim (9-11 Review. The Left Gatekeepers Phenomenon).
The reasons, write author/s at 9-11 Review website, are `undoubtedly complex.’ It may have to do with the `political marginalization’ of leading writers on the Left, making them more defensive about their credibility. Or, the dependence of many Left publications on `foundation funding,’ likely to `compromise objectivity on conscious and unconscious levels.’
Or, there may be deeper reasons for the psychology of denial, reflects August West. `If the government had foreknowledge and let the attacks happen, or worse, actually took part in facilitating them, then the American state is far more vicious that they could have imagined.’ It means that the `stakes of political action’ have to be raised far higher and `well beyond the relatively superficial level that many leftists operate at.’
In an article preceding the 9/11 attacks, written about US president John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Michael Parenti (award-winning, internationally known American political scientist, historian and culture critic) discusses the left’s phobia of conspiracy. While kooky fantasies exist, `it does not logically follow that all conspiracies are imaginary.’ Critical of Chomsky and Cockburn’s wholesale acceptance of the Warren Commission report on JFK’s killing, which `while supposedly dedicated to bringing the truth to light…operated in secrecy,’ Parenti writes, what is remarkable about Chomsky, Cockburn and `others on the Left who attack the Kennedy conspiracy findings is they remain invincibly ignorant of the critical investigations that have been carried out.’ Although they have not read any of the many studies carried out by independent researchers which `implicate[s] the CIA in a conspiracy to kill the president,’ and in the `even more protracted and extensive conspiracy to cover up the murder,’ it does not prevent them from dismissing `the conspiracy charge in the most general and unsubstantiated terms.’
Conspiracies, he writes, are a component of the national security political system in the US, not deviations from it. Inquiring about it will expose the `gangster nature of the [American] state.’ Essential undoubtedly to developing `a system of accountable rule worthy of the name of democracy.Show