A Brief Timeline of Blowback

I recently gave a short presentation on blowback in a “Civilizations in Conflict” class I am taking at Berea College this semester. Below is a basic outline of the presentation I gave; I think it serves as a good introduction to the unintended consequences caused by an interventionist foreign policy. Please share your thoughts, criticisms, or questions!

Blowback – CIA term to explain unintended, harmful consequences of military action (particularly aggressive action).


1951- Mohammad Mossadeq is legitimately elected prime minister of Iran. Goal was to nationalize oil industry to keep out of the hands of the British (West), who controlled the majority of Iran’s oil fields.

1953 – First covert CIA operation to overthrow Mossadeq. CIA pays protesters and bribes police. The Shah Mohammed Pahlavi is installed.

SAVAK established under the Shah with the help of the CIA – SAVAK was known for censorship, torture, and execution of those who dissented against the Shah; essentially it was a brutal police state supported by the CIA.

U.S. companies take over approximately half of Iran’s oil production.

U.S. weapons merchants move into Iran with nearly $18 billion in sales over the next twenty years.

1979 – Taking of the American hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, chants of “Death to the American Satan,” Shah overthrown. This is described as the “Iranian Revolution.”

Soviet Union

September 1980 – Iraq, taking advantage of Iran’s political instability, invades Iran. (Washington D.C. quietly supports Iraq because the Soviet Union won’t sell weapons to Iraq so long as they fight with Iran.)

– Iran presses back into Iraq. For the next six years Iran is on the offensive. Due to Iraq’s now defensive position in the war, the U.S. government begins both covert and public operations to support Iraq – weapons sales and economic aid. U.S. provides technology, plans, and equipment for chemical weapons Hussein ends up using against Iranians and his own people (the Kurds). U.S. encourages and succeeds in getting other governments and corporations to supply Iraq.

Afghanistan – U.S. provides billions of dollars in arms and training to the mujaheddin (“freedom fighters”) to help weaken the Soviet Union. Included in this group was Osama bin Laden, an important player in the rebellion.

1990’s – U.S. militarily and economically supports Saddam Hussein throughout the ‘80’s, until Iraq invades Kuwait in 1990. Suddenly Saddam Hussein is compared to Hitler by the U.S.

U.S. provides harsh sanctions on Iraq following the Kuwait war in an effort to take Hussein out of power. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis die due to scarcity of basic life essentials caused by the sanctions.

- Following 9/11, U.S. invades Iraq to find supposed chemical weapons despite no connection to the terrorist attacks.

- U.S. occupation on Muslim holy land is the chief reason for terrorist aggression toward the U.S.

– Bombing at World Trade Center. Terrorists send letter to New York Times:

“We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.

Osama bin Laden spoke similar words after the events of 9/11:

“We swore that America wouldn’t live in security until we live it truly in Palestine. This showed the reality of America, which puts Israel’s interest above its own people’s interest. America won’t get out of this crisis until it gets out of the Arabian Peninsula, and until it stops its support of Israel.” -Osama bin Laden, October 2001

Nearly 7000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001. Civilian deaths and casualties have been estimated to be above 1 million.

While some troops have been pulled out of Iraq, 50,000 will remain in the region indefinitely as well as approximately 95,000 contractors hired by the U.S. military. In Afghanistan there are more than 112,000 contractors on top of the number of troops. In short, these wars are not over and there is no end in sight for either the Iraq or Afghanistan occupation. General David Petraeus has stated that the Afghanistan War will likely exceed the length of the Iraq War, which is a strong statement considering neither war is close to being over.

Blowback is a serious concept that the CIA itself understands but the U.S. government has largely ignored since taking an active role in policing the world. The U.S.’s foreign policy of intervention leads to economic turmoil, massive debt domestically, and those who are our friends one day turn out to be our enemies the next day.

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A Brief Timeline of Blowback, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

16 Responses to “A Brief Timeline of Blowback”

  1. Brian says:

    Spot On!

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  2. Kreff311 says:

    Well written outline that agrees with my understanding of the history of the situation. As you know I am opposed to both “wars” we are currently involved in.

    I have a few comments: I am concerned that you are blaming America for Iraqi deaths due to sanctions against Iraq. This may be true, but I tend to blame the Iraq government (Hussien) for these deaths. One could argue that America withheld supplies, but food/medical supplies were distributed to Iraq, but Hussien did not distribute them to his citizens. Who really is to blame?

    Secondly, I think you should make it clear that Osama Bin Laden was not responsible for 9/11 and that he is merely making a comment about it. Many people mistakenly believe that Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11.

    Finally you state that US occupation of holy lands is the cause of aggression against the USA. While this may be true, it seems to me this is someone’s opinion rather than a fact. At the very least, it is a broad generalization and may or may not be applicable to every terrorist.

    There is no doubt in my mind that due to America’s interference has led to anger and hatred toward America. We need to bring our soldiers home.

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  3. Hi Kevin,

    With regards to Saddam Hussein, I believe a good deal of the responsibility falls on the U.S. for supporting him militarily and economically in the first place during the 1980s. We turned a blind eye to what he was doing with the weapons and infrastructure we subsidized to Iraq. Sure, he was brutal tyrant and I’m not forgiving of that. However, you look at U.S. policy over the past thirty years and it goes like this:

    1980s: Subsidize Hussein and Iraq economically and militarily
    1990s: Harsh sanctions on Iraqi people to convince them that they need to get rid of Hussein
    2000s: Neither of the above proved effective, so U.S. invades Iraq, overthrows the government, and the process of nation building continues to this day.

    I look at this and I see the U.S. government as the main entity to blame. We’ve subsidized, sanctioned, and finally invaded Iraq, all to the detriment of the Iraqi people.

    I’ll be sure to make the distinction about bin Laden in the future. Certainly he is a major player in the “terrorism” discussion so I thought his comments were worth mentioning.

    And you are correct that not every terrorist becomes extreme precisely because it is their holy land. I’m sure there are some who would become extremist regardless of whether the land was spiritually holy or not.

    The wars will either end voluntarily or forcefully through the collapse of the dollar and the U.S. economy. Unless people wake up and change Washington soon, it will not be a pretty event.

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  4. Kreff311 says:

    It’s always fun discussing issues with you David. I hope I don’t offend you with my comments. I apologize if I do.

    A lot of what you say is true about subsidizing Iraq/Hussein. One could possibly argue that Iraqis are freer (is that a word?) more free now than they were under Hussein. Personally I don’t think we should have gotten involved with Iran and Iraq back then, but that’s water under the bridge.

    Admitidly the US has made many poor decisions concerning our involvement in other nations. On the other hand, there has never been a nation as generous to others as America. Perhaps that is the difference between the people and the government. ;)

    It’s easy to see the bad, but we also need to acknowledge the good.

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  5. Hi Kevin,

    I apologize if I sound harsh or stubborn with my comments, I absolutely enjoy discussing these things and the last thing I want to discourage is other opinions or viewpoints. So please, keep ‘em coming! :-D

    I believe that you cannot solve one government intervention with another subsequent intervention. Having an “end justifies the means” mentality is what big government thrives upon, so it’s exceptionally dangerous to fall into the mindset that government intervention is the solution to a problem caused by government in the first place.

    The generosity of the American people is to be applauded and encouraged, but that generosity did not come from government. Charities such as Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Heifer International do far more promoting peace and freedom than a government intervention can ever accomplish, in my opinion. I don’t see government as an agency that brings out the good in people, if anything it has been the single greatest obstacle to freedom and peace in all of human history.

    Are you still in Tennessee, by the way? If you’re still interested in meeting up definitely let me know!

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  6. Kreff311 says:

    Great article on the history of the Gold Standard from the Mises Institute. It’s long, but very well done.


    I didn’t know how to start a new topic, so I posted it here.

    David, I still live in TN. I have deleted my FB account. Please send me an email if you have my email address and well get together this fall.

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  7. Hi Kevin,

    I replied to your email, let me know if you didn’t get it. It’d be great to meet up!

    I’ll look into getting the forums back up and running. I switched the setup of the site so it may take awhile, but definitely comment on the blog posts in the meantime – people will be able to view and discuss as they feel to.

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  8. Hi David,

    Regarding this quote by Bin laden:

    “…America won’t get out of this crisis until it gets out of the Arabian Peninsula, and until it stops its support of Israel.”

    It is eerily like Mohammad’s final deathbed wish that all Jews be eradicated from the Arabian Peninsula.

    However our policies have not helped matters.
    Ron Paul does explain it well here:

    But – there was also a very strong, nasty alliance between Hitler and the Mufti of Jerusalem which lead to the elimination of 6 million Jews… The mufti was much worse on this than Hitler – he egged Hitler on.

    My point is that those statements above about Israel are very, very loaded, and go beyond current US policy. It is good to be aware on all levels. But I do agree the CIA has done way too many dark deeds – and that never helps.

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    • You do realize that the U.S. gives three times more money to Israel’s Arab enemies than to Israel itself? I’m not claiming the statements are necessarily just or 100% correct, but the U.S. has not improved the situation with military intervention. Israel has oftentimes been frustrated with the U.S. when they are treated like a child and unable to perform their own governance.

      This is an interesting site: http://www.americansforisrael.com/

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      • Right; the whole thing is messed up, and this a helpful link you just posted. My only point is that there is another side to the coin, but our misdeeds do no good at all. So – point well taken.

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  9. i will keep this short &sweet..
    i am sick and tired of our country bullying other smaller countries..even a blind man can see,we only go in and mess with any country with anything of value..we rape and plunder anything & everything they have..we r stealing..and if they DARE to raise a hand..we raise an army.
    its the sneakiest..we friend them,then steal,then turn against them,point blame somewhere else and get everyone else involved as a child who starts gossip and fights amongst others.it just WRONG and CHEAP.
    do we help africa???no..not even when we hear of woman and children brutilized in the most UNIMAGINABLE ways.
    we only stick our fingers into their pockets,their pie!then we leave then HIGH and DRY like a cheap date!
    we also TRAIN alll these killers and terrorists..mercinaries..
    since i can remember..even all the way back to vietnam..does anyone else even realize..not sure now..but @one time..vietnam was only considered a “skirmish”lol..a conflict..look how many died..we have paid with blood for all we have done..and still we r everywhere..in everything.its what OUR country has done best.LIE,CHEAT & STEAL.and now..they have not only robbed these other countries of EVERY last drop of resources they have..but now,they rob us..its citizens too.
    i LOVE my country..but i HATE the ones in charge..i hate our “values”as if!..i hate our double standard of living.
    its disgusting to say the least..and i want to vomit.
    i am glad to see u put this out there david..all those who hate muslims and ALL other nationalities,religions and cultures should read ur report.it is right on the MONEY!

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    • Thank you for your comment, Sheila! I agree that this is a terrible system of deception, backstabbing, and the unfortunate thing is that it creates enemies (not peace). Keep up your great efforts!

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  10. Republicae says:

    We look at “blowback” as a recent phenomenon however, we can go back to Spanish American War, one of the first examples of a deliberate policy intervention by this government, excluding, of course, the Union invasion of the Free, Sovereign and Independent State Republics of the South.

    Other examples that had extremely wide “blowback” was our entry into WWI, at the time both sides were running out of resources, the political will to continue the war was waning and both sides would have probably sued for a peaceful resolution had the U.S. not entered the war. With our entry of course, came victory with that victory came the break-up of several powers, one being the Ottoman Empire. The Middle East was hacked up into artificial states creating an artificial ethnic mix in most of the newly created states. Autocratic governments were installed, controlled for the most part by the victors of the war with the interests of those who won at the forefront of each installed government. Today, we are still facing the “blowback” from those events.

    But even further, we can say that the Treaty of Versailles, with its extremely harsh terms created the platform for the Germany of Hitler, in fact, it is doubtful that Hitler would have ever gained power had he not played upon the resentment of the German people toward their treatment after WWI. Imagine, if you will, that WWI had ended with a peaceful settlement, that the Middle East instead of being artificially carved up would have followed a more natural pattern of state creation after the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Imagine, if you will, that there was no Treaty of Versailles, no soap-box upon which a lonely failed artist named Adolf Hitler to stand upon. Imagine no WWI, no genocide of the Jewish People in Europe, no artificially created state called Israel.

    The world today would be a very different place had this country steered clear of the interventionist polices that have taken place over the last 122 years or so, if we would have stayed out of the affairs of over 200 countries around the world for all these decades. One thing is certain, the policy has not worked, it has not made this country nor the world a safer place, just look around at the world this country has, in a very real sense, created.

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    • Very true. History has many incidents of blowback with the U.S. and other countries. For simplicity’s sake, I focused this discussion on post-WWII incidents, which is when the U.S. has clearly ignored the Constitution and wholeheartedly endorsed an interventionist foreign policy.

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  11. bobby says:


    Interesting post but, unless I’m missing something, it reads that 9/11 happend in 1993?


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