In 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, at the urging of the British M16, overthrew democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. In a declassified report completed in 1954 on the 1953 operation, the term "blowback" for the first time entered the CIA’s lexicon.
At the time, analysts were concerned that the U.S. government's actions in Iran would yield unintended consequences. It took a long time, but those concerns were finally realized in 1979 when, after 25 years of brutality and corruption from the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution engulfed Iran. Iranian students stormed our embassy and took our people hostage for 444 days.
Then, in 2004, a Pentagon Report commissioned by the Bush administration labeled the president's approach to the so-called "War on Terror" counter-productive. It indicated that contrary to the president's rhetoric, Muslim terrorists don't attack us because they hate our freedom; they attack us because they loathe our foreign policy. The report went on to suggest that continuing the policy of occupying Muslim countries will have the effect of radicalizing Muslims and instead of preventing future terrorist attacks will engender them.
Through the patriotic and nationalistic bluster of our politicians and the media the Pentagon report was mostly forgotten. It took the presidential campaign of Ron Paul in 2008 to bring the issue of blowback back to the forefront. In a Republican presidential candidates' debate, Congressman Paul was asked about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He talked about how U.S. foreign policy was a "major contributing factor." In particular, he cited our bombing of Iraq for ten years through the 1990s. Then he stated:
"They come and they attack us because we're over there. I mean, what would we think if we were — if other foreign countries were doing that to us?"
And that is the deep question that all Americans must ask themselves: what would we think and do if other countries were doing the same things to us that we do to them? What would we do if another country occupied our territory, supported through financial and military aid a tyrannical government in the United States, or used drones to kill their enemies on U.S. soil consequently killing innocent American citizens in the process? We wouldn't tolerate it in the least bit, so why do we think it is justified to do it to others and label those that take umbrage with our actions terrorists?
And so once again, Americans have experienced a "terrorist" attack on our soil. This time it was perpetrated in Boston by two ethnically Chechen Muslims. Once again, we are supposed to believe it was done because they hate our freedoms and prosperity. We are supposed to believe this even though one of the suspects was a naturalized American citizen who enjoyed the freedoms and prosperity he allegedly was accused of hating. We are supposed to believe this even though the seriously injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, lying in his hospital bed before he was Mirandized, admitted that he and his brother were motivated to carry out the Marathon bombings by American aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and the thousands of Muslims who had been killed by American forces.
We can continue to delude ourselves that we can do whatever we want to whomever we want and there won't be consequences. Or we can learn that the CIA was on to something in 1954 — that blowback is real.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared under a different headline, which has since been changed.