Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 6, 2013

Stumptalk: Blowback — for every action...

CROSSVILLE — Blowback (1) — the escape to the rear of a gun of gases formed by the discharge of a projectile (Funk & Wagnalls, 1963). In 1967 I knew a Marine sergeant at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, who had lost his arm in Vietnam when a 105 mm Howitzer “blew back” on him. 

Blowback (2) — the unintended consequences of well-intentioned actions. “Blowback” was coined by the CIA after the end of the Cold War to describe the unforeseen and harmful effects on US national interests of unwise foreign policy actions. In this piece I broaden the term to describe other profoundly negative reactions to government policy, domestic and foreign.   

First, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were blowback from US actions in the Middle East; which included the continuing, unconditional and uncritical American support of Israel, especially in the light of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians; the US invasion and ultimate slaughter of thousands of Iraqi Arabs (most of whom were Muslims) in the first Iraq war in 1991; the post 1991 stationing of US forces near Islam’s holiest places in Saudi Arabia; and US support for repressive, dictatorial regimes such as Saudi Arabia. As Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have said, “They came over here because we were over there.”

Next, other historical examples of blowback abound: Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the widespread mistreatment of black Americans in the South were blowback from Lincoln’s invasion of the South, his war on civilians where Sheridan’s cavalry slashed and burned in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia while Sherman’s troops burned, raped, and killed their way to the sea in Georgia. And as if the war carnage were not enough, the US government then followed with punitive post war Reconstruction, rubbing Southerners’ noses in defeat. Reconstruction’s strongest champions were vindictive Congressional Republicans like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, who wanted to punish the South for defending themselves against the foreign invader. 

Still another example of blowback from history: out of Mr. Wilson’s “war to end all wars,” also his war to “make the world safe for democracy,” came Adolph Hitler and World War II in Europe. With Germany’s defeat in World War I, European leaders insisted that excessive reparations be included in the Treaty of Versailles. Humiliating defeat and unpayable reparations created deep resentment among the German people, making them vulnerable to the demagogic appeals of Hitler.  

And incidentally, John Toland’s Infamy, which chronicles US actions in the Far East in the years before 1941, shows that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was blowback for ill advised actions by FDR and his State and War Departments.

At home, the vast expansion of organized crime throughout the nation was blowback from Prohibition, a well intentioned program advocated by early twentieth century feminists who saw families suffer as their working class husbands left their pay in bars on their way home from work. Clever criminals amassed great wealth by providing illegal booze to thirsty citizens.

Then we have the blowback from forced bussing for integration, which led to the destruction urban schools and the hollowing out of urban society. What was the rationale for forced bussing? Housing patterns and neighborhood schools notwithstanding, segregation (de facto segregation) was bad; integration good; therefore, black children and white children must be forcibly mixed together in the schools. Predictably (predictors were called racists), forced integration was followed by middle class white flight from urban areas, followed closely by black middle class flight. Forced bussing accelerated the creation of the permanent urban underclass, where poor blacks and other minorities now suffer from violent crime (check out the murder rate in President Obama’s Chicago), where seventy percent of children are born out of wedlock, and where single mothers live in poverty.

It is not unreasonable to assert that pre Civil Rights era urban black populations while worse off materially were better off socially and spiritually than they are now. For example, in the Washington, DC, where I was born and in whose suburbs I lived for many years in the 1940’s and 1950’s, there existed a strong and vibrant black professional middle class, successful black owned businesses, elite black schools like Dunbar, and full black churches every Sunday. Of course, the misery and deprivation many black citizens suffered during those years cannot be overstated, but they nonetheless had stable communities with low crime rates and a high number of intact families. The black out of wedlock birth rate in those years paralleled the white rate.

White House occupants of both parties often follow blowback producing US national security and foreign policies, thinking that unlike their predecessors they will achieve great results; they will fix things once and for a all. Domestic social engineers suffer from the same hubris. One can cite historical examples forever; nonetheless, pride filled leaders and their followers always believe, “This time things will be different” because unlike their historical predecessors, they will get it right.

Blowback is activist big government’s greatest scourge.

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice