Guest Post: Ending Blowback Terrorism

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Jeffrey Sachs, originally posted at Project Syndicate,

Terrorist attacks on civilians, whether the downing over Sinai of a Russian aircraft killing 224 civilian passengers, the horrific Paris massacre claiming 129 innocent lives, or the tragic bombing in Ankara that killed 102 peace activists, are crimes against humanity. Their perpetrators – in this case, the Islamic State (ISIS) – must be stopped. Success will require a clear understanding of the roots of this ruthless network of jihadists.

Painful as it is to admit, the West, especially the United States, bears significant responsibility for creating the conditions in which ISIS has flourished. Only a change in US and European foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East can reduce the risk of further terrorism.

The recent attacks should be understood as “blowback terrorism”: a dreadful unintended result of repeated US and European covert and overt military actions throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Central Asia that aimed to overthrow governments and install regimes compliant with Western interests. These operations have not only destabilized the targeted regions, causing great suffering; they have also put populations in the US, the European Union, Russia, and the Middle East at significant risk of terror.

The public has never really been told the true history of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Starting in 1979, the CIA mobilized, recruited, trained, and armed Sunni young men to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA recruited widely from Muslim populations (including in Europe) to form the Mujahideen, a multinational Sunni fighting force mobilized to oust the Soviet infidel from Afghanistan.

Bin Laden, from a wealthy Saudi family, was brought in to help lead and co-finance the operation. This was typical of CIA operations: relying on improvised funding through a wealthy Saudi family and proceeds from local smuggling and the narcotics trade.

By promoting the core vision of a jihad to defend the lands of Islam (Dar al-Islam) from outsiders, the CIA produced a hardened fighting force of thousands of young men displaced from their homes and stoked for battle. It is this initial fighting force – and the ideology that motivated it – that today still forms the basis of the Sunni jihadist insurgencies, including ISIS. While the jihadists’ original target was the Soviet Union, today the “infidel” includes the US, Europe (notably France and the United Kingdom), and Russia.

At the end of the 1980s, with the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, some elements of the Mujahideen morphed into Al Qaeda, Arabic for “the base,” which referred to the military facilities and training grounds in Afghanistan built for the Mujahideen by bin Laden and the CIA. After the Soviet withdrawal, the term Al Qaeda shifted meaning from the specific military base to the organizational base of jihadist activities.

Blowback against the US began in 1990 with the first Gulf War, when the US created and expanded its military bases in the Dar al-Islam, most notably in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s founding and holiest sites. This expanded US military presence was anathema to the core jihadist ideology that the CIA had done so much to foster.

America’s unprovoked war on Iraq in 2003 unleashed the demons. Not only was the war itself launched on the basis of CIA lies; it also aimed to create a Shia-led regime subservient to the US and anathema to the Sunni jihadists and the many more Sunni Iraqis who were ready to take up arms. More recently, the US, France, and the UK toppled Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, and the US worked with the Egyptian generals who ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government. In Syria, following President Bashar al-Assad’s violent suppression of peaceful public protests in 2011, the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other regional allies helped to foment a military insurgency that has pushed the country into a downward spiral of chaos and violence.

Such operations have failed – repeatedly and frequently disastrously – to produce legitimate governments or even rudimentary stability. On the contrary, by upending established, albeit authoritarian, governments in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and destabilizing Sudan and other parts of Africa deemed hostile to the West, they have done much to fuel chaos, bloodshed, and civil war. It is this turmoil that has enabled ISIS to capture and defend territory in Syria, Iraq, and parts of North Africa.

Three steps are needed to defeat ISIS and other violent jihadists.

First, US President Barack Obama should pull the plug on CIA covert operations. The use of the CIA as a secret army of destabilization has a long, tragic history of failure, all hidden from public view under the agency’s cloak of secrecy. Ending CIA-caused mayhem would go far to staunch the instability, violence, and anti-Western hatred that fuels today’s terrorism.


Second, the US, Russia, and the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council should immediately stop their infighting and establish a framework for Syrian peace. They have a shared and urgent stake in confronting ISIS; all are victims of the terror. Moreover, military action against ISIS can succeed only with the legitimacy and backing of the UN Security Council.


The UN framework should include an immediate end to the insurgency against Assad that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have pursued; a Syrian cease-fire; a UN-mandated military force to confront ISIS; and a political transition in Syria dictated not by the US, but by a UN consensus to support a non-violent political reconstruction.


Finally, the long-term solution to regional instability lies in sustainable development. The entire Middle East is beset not only by wars but also by deepening development failures: intensifying fresh water stress, desertification, high youth unemployment, poor educational systems, and other serious blockages.

More wars – especially CIA-backed, Western-led wars – will solve nothing. By contrast, a surge of investment in education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and infrastructure, financed both from within the region and globally, is the real key to building a more stable future for the Middle East and the world.

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logicalman's picture

No shit, Sherlock!


ZerOhead's picture

"These operations have not only destabilized the targeted regions, causing great suffering; they have also put populations in the US, the European Union, Russia, and the Middle East at significant risk of terror."

You mean that wasn't part of the plan?...

Tonald J Drump's picture

>>>>  TRUMP vs. ISIS

>>>>  HITLERY vs. ISIS

Bob's picture

Oh, yeah!  Trump gonna make America Great again!

Just what everybody needs. 

(And I prefer "Killary" to her media name.)

Richard Chesler's picture

"surge of investment in education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and infrastructure, financed both from within the region and globally, is the real key to building a more stable future for the Middle East and the world."

Easier to just turn the place into glass...

Dinero D. Profit's picture

If you feel like livestock, go right out and vote.

Dick Buttkiss's picture

"First, US President Barack Obama should pull the plug on CIA covert operations."

That would be a suicidal act.

Normalcy Bias's picture

Not to mention that Obama is likely their creation...

Baby Bladeface's picture
Baby Bladeface (not verified) Dick Buttkiss Nov 21, 2015 7:49 PM

Funny but somehow this Project Syndicate article echoes similar to the Project Syndicate article posted here Monday.

Minions of Soros trying to write themselves out of the narrative of blame?

turtle's picture

Calling it "blowback terrorism" is an attempt to legitimise this otherwise "false flag".

Let's call it "false flag blowback terrorism".

turtle's picture

And how about some articles on Israel's, sorry I mean Syria's Golan Heights, ZH?

stacking12321's picture

"Painful as it is to admit, the West, especially the United States, bears significant responsibility for creating the conditions in which ISIS has flourished."

i would go a step farther - CIA deliberately trained, supported, and financed ISIS

this isn't "blowback", it's a carefully crafted policy, it's what was intended.

detached.amusement's picture

ding ding ding and fuckin ding


blowback my left nut


all part of "ths USA drying up and blowing away"

blindman's picture

then again it may be worse than blow back
and may be the design of quisling power
brokers thieving from treasuries and related
access for personal protection and greed?
that would be worsity^tm ....
who could even contemplate such a crime?
oh, that would be the banksters.

honestann's picture



First, most so-called terrorism is a false-flag planned, scripted, funded, supplied and/or performed by predators-DBA-government.

Second, the predators-that-be WANT BLOWBACK and WANT TERRORISM.  Why?  Because it gives them effective excuses for new and bigger budgets, new and more egregious ways to abuse everyone (especially their own citizens == slaves), spend more on military and spy budgets, and generally run roughshod on their prey (honest, ethical, benevolent producers).

So, while the concept of "blowback" is important, the premises of the article are false, and besides, most "blowback" is either planned or wanted by the predators-that-be.

cougar_w's picture

"most so-called terrorism is a false-flag planned, scripted, funded, supplied and/or performed by predators-DBA-government."

Denial is not going to help any of us now.

Lanka's picture

Jeffrey Sachs should read your comments and then rewrite his simplistic article.

Dinero D. Profit's picture

In '93, (FF) whe had blowback terrorism.  On 9/11, (FF)  7/7 (FF) and what have you, we had blow back terrorism.


Does the author of this article ever scritinize, and I mean actuallyt scrutinize the MSN? 

Bob's picture

H-O-L-Y Fuck!  What's with the sudden rush of radical truth-telling among the PTB?

The NYT, Killary, now Jeffrey Sachs.  Something is up . . . and I have a hard time believing it's a sudden appearance of American conscience.

cougar_w's picture

It doesn't have to be a deliberate setup to be properly exploited by those of a conniving nature. 

Bob's picture

The spirit of the times is shifting its roll, then.  Makes sense.  But all these parties are connected by less than six degrees of separation, that's for sure.  Three at most.  That's pretty tight, it seems to me.

cougar_w's picture

These "parties" political and otherwise trace their true bloodlines back to the Middle Ages. See my comment below on the importance and relevance of history.

Bob's picture

Talking about the NYT and Killary (from earlier today):

Saudi Arabia, An ISIS That Has Made It:

Strange happenings the past few days at the "newspaper of record."  Why is the NYT suddenly exposing truths?

Likewise, Killary Hinton just called out SA, Qatar and Turkey for "allowing their citizens to fund" ISIS:

Somethin's up.

A couple days ago the NYT came out against the CIA and NSA.  Even Greenwald was throwing kisses. 

I'm talking about well-placed individuals and small collections of individual "parties" lately.  C'mon, here we have Sachs talking like a revolutionary!  Sorry, I mean, terrorist.

Dinero D. Profit's picture

If your are accused, its always better to confess to a small crime so that you can hide the greater, no, the vast crime. 

cougar_w's picture

True. And sometimes you accuser wants it that way. Everyone wants in on the game.

Demdere's picture

I have been saying for some time that the power of the centralized state was at its peak.  Had to be, as they don't have any of the knowledge needed to support massive designed systems such as the FED and military-industrial-complex + empire.  These are systems failing from within.  They can no longer accurately identify enemies or take corrective actions, so everything they do makes the situation worse.

Demdere's picture

Two things are happening, I believe.  First of all, the CIA is disposing of a failed tool, getting on with its core business of smuggling drugs and helping oligarchs execute revolutions.  Goodby ISIS, you were useful for a while.

Second, both Ds and Rs in the US are seeing that tying their fate with the Israeli-Neocon foreign policys is not playing well with American votes, and their European equivalents ditto.  So they are trying hard to figure out how to make the switch while losing as little of the Neocon stream of campaign contributions as possible.  There will be a great deal of kabuki and handwaving and rhetoric on the House floor, but the wars are going to end soon because we can't continue to spend the $, nobody will loan it to us, and when we have to start printing it all, it means hyperinflation because the total National Debt of $20B rolls over every 4.5 years or so.

The big decision is military vs welfare, and the neocons want to keep the military.  Right, they can make that fly. That, at base, is the drive for they hyper-hyperbole in propaganda, they need big enemies to justify the spending.  ISIS has not provided enough of that, but it was the best they had.  ISIS is in fact laughable, and it is only with a great deal of $ from outside that it can do anything at all.



cougar_w's picture

Some of the problem goes back to the establishment of Israel. You don't have to be pro- or anti-Zionist to see that. Isreal was always seen as a kind of Western invasion, or a continuation of a century or more of Western imperialism. Lots of bad blood. Things have certainly blown up recently, there is no going back now, but the Isreali situation was the thorn in the Arab side that festered into this anarchic death-match.

Heck, this goes back even to the Crusades (ME Muslims still call those of us in the West "crusaders") and more recently the nasty business of the Ottoman Empire (the shoe being then on the other foot) inflames people still. When you imagine that there were no real problems with the "Musselman" (as they were called) until Pope Urban II inflamed young European lordlings to make the Holy Land safe for Christian pilgrims (who were themselves a rabble and a pox on humanity) then you can make a case that it was radical Christianity (backed by a venial merchant class willing to arm all sides) that made this insanity into a business.

No way out. It will not end now except with an insane amount of murder. 

Abaco's picture

You ought to educate yourself on the crusades. Whatever their faults, they were a reaction to the slaughter of Christians and the corcible seizure of the Holy Lands by militant Islam.

cougar_w's picture

Yes yes we all remember what the Pope said about it at the time. It was all very stirring, as was intended.

Dinero D. Profit's picture

Talk about stirring, you should hear what the Pope has to say, -behind his back, -about Satan.

Implied Violins's picture

While straddling the Black Pope? Or one of his child sacrifices?

BarnacleBill's picture

"Isreal was always seen as a kind of Western invasion"

Yes, indeed. The Arabs see Israel as a NATO beach-head, nothing less.

manofthenorth's picture

I thought Europeans were supposed to be so much better educated than Americans ??

Can I assume that they are as intentionally ignorant of their own history as their Anglo-American counterparts ?

"Many young people in Paris were innocent victims of the Nov. 13 attack, but that doesn’t mean that the French imperialist state is innocent. While the 1789 French Revolution raised the idealistic slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity, French imperialism, which developed from that bourgeois revolution, has a bloody history across the world. The actions of the French ruling class have created many enemies, but it is the ordinary people, not the elites, who pay the price.

When imperialist France had just emerged from German occupation after World War II, the Arab and Berber peoples began carrying out mass demonstrations and uprisings in Algeria against French colonial rule. To suppress that rebellion, for several days French troops and police, acting on orders from the French president issued on May 8, 1945, massacred as many as 45,000 Algerians who peacefully demonstrated in the cities of Setif, Guelma and Kherrata. ( The French occupiers killed as many as a million Algerians trying to hold onto that nation, until the people finally won their liberation in 1962.

In 1947, French colonial troops slaughtered 89,000 people to “pacify” a rebellion in Madagascar, an African island in the Indian Ocean. (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1997) During the long French war in Indochina, the French military killed many more Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians and some Chinese until French imperialism was finally driven out in 1954.

Even in Paris itself, on Oct. 17, 1961, French police opened fire on a demonstration of 30,000 Algerians, killing between 70 and 300 people. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s because the French police and media conspired to keep it secret until it finally was verified in the 1990s. (“The Battle of Paris,”Jean-Luc Einaudi, 1991)

This history of imperialist military intervention continues. French jets are bombing today in Syria and Iraq, along with the U.S.-led “coalition.” French jets opened the air war against Libya in 2011, leading NATO’s barbaric destruction of that country."

cougar_w's picture

It has always been the case that if one nation grows in power, then it is by breaking the back of another nation. Or many.

Reference Smedley Butler.

A lot of my felllow Americans labor under the false narrative that America grew great through hard work under the benevolent blessing of God, and that was enough. But it was not enough. Most recently we have been exporting financial fraud, but before that America was not shy about invading other countries for exclusive access to resources or to open up "markets".

Making the world safe for ExxonMobile and their ilk has been Job One for two centuries.

With any luck, radical religion (yeah, pick one) and the global Corporatocracy will shortly murder each other and leave the rest of us out of it.

opport.knocks's picture

This isn't blowback terrorism, it is the deliberate actions of either deep state or supra-state agencies with a definite agenda.

The only meaningful question is whether Obama or Cameron or Hollande have any say in the direction that this "blows"?

WTFUD's picture

Any of those 3 could be cast as Lawrence of Arabia opp.knocks but Barry wins the tiebreaker as he can swing a blade and is not just a lover like the other 2 pricks. s/c

tlnzz's picture

It's about time someone lays out the involvement of the CIA's disastrous failures or misfortunate accomplishments.

Blue Dog's picture

Just another ignorant, stupid article. The author needs to understand Islam. Islam is violent. There was a revival of real Islam starting in the 1970s and the world continues to suffer for it.

drooley's picture

What if, we stopped sending our military to the Middle East? What if we stopped enlisting in the military? What if we stopped supporting the military?

I don't want our youth dying or killing for nothing, or for false reasons.

cougar_w's picture

If you learned that our youth were killing and dying for oil, would that matter?

The point swings both ways very easily, notice.

WTFUD's picture

Let's parachute the whole of Congress, the British Government and the Stooges at the EU into downtown Aleppo and dare IS to demand a ransom.

Moccasin's picture

More drones! /sarc


As much as I despise Jeffrey Sachs, and everything he stands for, he is right to assert that we should end CIA-caused mayhem let loose on the world. JFK wanted to fragment the CIA 'into a thousand pieces' and it is high time that all nations banded together to break up the CIA just as Kennedy wanted. Eisenhower called for the same thing if my memory serves correctly. In brief, the CIA has singlehandedly destroyed the entirety of the USA by their collective incompetence and egregious largesse with regard to involvement in underworld crime. A country needs ethics to survive whereas the United States of America, under any administration that allows the CIA to operate the way it has been, has lost all notions of even the concept of 'ethics'. Bottom line is that the USA is run by criminals, for criminals. Everything else is mere window dressing.

Up yours, CIA, and the bus you rolled in on, motherfuckers.