Insider Attacks, Blowback, and a Generation of American Folly in the Middle East

Lambert here: Even if we withdrew all our troops from the Middle East tomorrow, would that prevent any blowback to come?

By Danny Sjursen, a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Originally published at TomDispatch.

He was shot in the back, the ultimate act of treachery. On September 3rd, a U.S Army sergeant major was killed by two Afghan police officers — the very people his unit, the new Security Force Assistance Brigade, was there to train. It was the second fatal “insider attack,” as such incidents are regularly called, this year and the 102nd since the start of the Afghan War 17 long years ago. Such attacks are sometimes termed “green-on-blue” incidents (in Army lingo, “green” forces are U.S. allies and “blue” forces Americans). For obvious reasons, they are highly destructive to the military mission of training and advising local military and security forces in Afghanistan. Such attacks, not surprisingly, sow distrust and fear, creating distance between Western troops and their supposed Afghan partners.

Reading about this latest tragic victim of Washington’s war in Afghanistan, the seventh American death this year and 2,416th since 2001, I got to thinking about those insider attacks and the bigger story that they embodied. Considered a certain way, U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East has, in fact, produced one insider attack after another.

Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution (or direction) has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that, soon enough, turned its guns on American soldiers and civilians. It’s a long, sordid tale that stretches back decades — and one that, unlike the individual instances of treachery that kill or maim American servicemen, receives next to no attention. It’s worth thinking about, though, because if U.S. policies had been radically different, such green-on-blue incidents might never have occurred. So let’s consider the last decades of American war-making in the context of insider attacks.

The Ground Zero of Insider Attacks: Afghanistan (1979-present)

In 1979, the Washington foreign policy elite saw everything through the prism of a possible existential Cold War clash between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Such a focus tended to erase local context, nuance, and complexity, leading the U.S. to back a range of nefarious actors as long as they were allies in the struggle against communism.

So in December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan, Washington knew just what to do. With the help of the Saudis and the Pakistanis, the CIA financed, trained, and armed — eventually with sophisticated anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, among other weapons — a range of anti-Soviet militias. And it worked! Eight years later, having suffered more than 10,000 combat deaths in its own version of Vietnam, the Red Army left Afghanistan in defeat (and, soon after, the Soviet Union itself imploded).

The problem was that many of those anti-Communist Afghans were also fiercely Islamist, often extreme in their views, and ultimately anti-Western as well as anti-Soviet — and among them, as you undoubtedly remember, was a youthful Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden.

It was, then, an easy-to-overlook reality. After all, the Islamist mujahideen (as they were generally called) were astute enough to fight one enemy at a time and knew where their proverbial bread was being buttered. As long as the money and arms kept flowing in and the more immediate Soviet threat loomed, even the most extreme of them were willing to play nice with Americans. It was a marriage of convenience. Few in Washington bothered to ask what they would do with all those guns once the Soviets left town.

Recent scholarship and newly opened Russian archives suggest that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was driven as much by defensiveness and insecurity as by any notion of triumphal regional conquest. Despite the fears of officials in the administrations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the Soviets never had the capacity or the intent to march through Afghanistan and seize the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. Like so much Cold War-era thinking, this was pure fantasy and the meddling that went with it anything but necessary.

After the Soviet exit, Afghanistan fell into a long period of chaos, as various mujahideen leaders became local warlords, fought with one another, and terrorized average Afghans. Frustrated by their venality, former mujahideen, aided by students radicalized in madrassas in Pakistani refugee camps (schools that had often been financed by America’s stalwart partner, Saudi Arabia), formed the Taliban movement. Many of its leaders and soldiers had once been funded and armed by the CIA. By 1996, it had swept to power in most of the country, implementing a reign of Islamist terror. Still, that movement was broadly popular in its early years for bringing order to chaos and misery.

And let’s not forget one other small but influential mujahideen group that the U.S. had backed: the “Afghan Arabs,” as they were called — fiercely Islamist foreigners who flocked to that country to fight the godless Soviets. The most notable among them was, of course, Osama bin Laden — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bin Laden and other Afghan War veterans would form al-Qaeda, bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, blow up the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and take down the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. These, though, were only the most well known acts of those anti-Soviet war vets. Thousands of Afghan Arabs left that war zone and returned to their own countries with plenty of zeal and fight still in them. Those veterans would then form local terror organizations that would challenge or help destabilize secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa.

After 9/11, the question on many American minds was simple enough: “Why do they hate us?” Too few had the knowledge or the sense of history that might have led to far more relevant questions: How did the U.S. contribute to what happened and to what extent was it blowback from previous American operations? Unfortunately, few such questions were raised as the Bush administration headed into what would become a 17-year, still-spreading regional war not on a nation or even a set of nations, but on a tactic, “terror.”

Still, it’s worth reflecting on America’s complicity in its own 9/11 devastation. In a strange fashion, given Washington’s history in Afghanistan, 9/11 could be seen as the most devastating insider attack of all.

The Many Iraq Wars (1980-present)

The 2003 invasion of Iraq — Operation Iraqi Freedom as it was optimistically named — may go down as one of the more foolish wars in American history — and many of the attacks on U.S. troops that followed from it over the years might be considered green-on-blue ones. After all, Washington would, in the end, train and back so many diffuse groups that a number of the members of various terror and insurgent outfits were once on the U.S. payroll.

It began, of course, with Saddam Hussein, the brutal Iraqi dictator whom the American people would be assured (in 1990 and again in 2003) was the “next Hitler.” In the 1980s, however, the U.S. government had backed him in his invasion of Iran (then as now considered a mortal enemy) and the eight-year stalemated war that followed. The U.S. even gave his forces crucial targeting intelligence for the use of his chemical weapons against Iranian troop formations, embittering the Iranians for years to come.

The Reagan administration also took Iraq off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror and even allowed the sale of components vital to Saddam’s production of those chemical weapons. Nearly a million people died in that grim war and then, just two years after it ended, the U.S. found that, for its efforts, Saddam would send his troops into neighboring Kuwait and threaten to roll over America’s key ally in the region (then as now), Saudi Arabia. That, of course, kicked off another major Iraqi conflagration, again involving Washington: the First Persian Gulf War.

At the end of that “victory,” President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s oppressed Shia and Kurdish populations to rise up and overthrow Saddam’s largely Sunni regime. And rebel they did until, bereft of the slightest meaningful support from Washington, they were defeated and massacred. More than a decade later, in 2003, when the U.S. again invaded Iraq — this time under the false pretense that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction — Americans were assured that most civilians (especially the embattled Shia majority) would cheer the arrival of Uncle Sam’s military machine.

In reality, it took less then a year for Shia militias to form and begin openly attacking U.S. troops (with a helping hand later from the Iranians, who had their own bitter American legacy to recall). You see, those Shia — unlike most Americans — still remembered how Washington had betrayed them in 1991 and so launched their own versions of insider attacks on U.S. soldiers.

However, from 2003 to 2007 (including the period when I served as part of the U.S. occupation force in Baghdad), the main threat came from Sunni insurgents. They were a diverse lot, including former Saddam loyalists and military officers (whom the U.S. had thrown out onto the street when it disbanded his army), Islamist jihadis, and Iraqi nationalists who simply opposed a foreign occupation of their country. As Iraq fell into chaos — I was there to see it happen — Washington turned to a savior general, David Petraeus, armed with a plan to “surge” U.S. troops into key Sunni regions and lower the violence there before Democrats in Congress lost patience and started calling for an end to the American role in that country.

In the years that followed, the statistics seemed to vindicate the Petraeus “miracle.” Using divide-and-conquer tactics, he paid off the tribal leaders, who became known as the “Sunni Awakening” movement, to turn their guns on more Islamist-focused Sunni groups. Many of his new allies had only recently been insurgents with American blood on their hands.

Still, the gamble seemed to work — until it didn’t. In 2011, after the Obama administration withdrew most American troops from the country, the Shia-dominated (and U.S.-backed) government in Baghdad failed to continue to pay the “awakened” Sunnis or integrate them into the official security forces. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Sunni grievances led to mass protests, which led to a Shia crackdown, which led to the explosion of a new insurgent terror group: the Islamic State, or ISIS, whose origins — talk about “insider” — can be traced back to the inspiration of al-Qaeda and to a group initially known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In fact, it was a dirty secret that many of the Awakening veterans either joined or tacitly supported ISIS in 2013 or thereafter, seeing that brutal group as the best bet for protecting Sunni power from Shia chauvinism and American deceit. Soon enough, the U.S. military was back in action (as it still is today) in response to ISIS conquests that included some of Iraq’s major cities. And if all of that doesn’t qualify as a tale of blowback, what does?

Yemen, Syria, and Beyond (2011-forever)

Syria is a humanitarian disaster area and no U.S. administration has demonstrated anything resembling a coherent or consistent strategy when it comes to that country. Torn between Iraq War fatigue and military overstretch, the Obama team waffled on what its policy there should even be and ultimately failed to achieve anything of substance — except to potentially sow the seeds for future insider attacks. Indeed, a paltry (yet startlingly expensive) CIA attempt to arm “moderate” rebels opposed to the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad turned out to be wholly counterproductive. Some of those arms were ultimately reported to have made their way into the hands of extremist groups like the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda franchise in Syria. In a situation where truth proved more farcical than fiction, the $500 million effort to train anti-ISIS rebels managed to train “four or five” of them, according to the top U.S. military commander overseeing the Syrian effort.

In Yemen, in a Saudi-led war in which the U.S. has been shamelessly complicit, a brutal bombing campaign waged largely against civilians and a blockade of rebel ports have undoubtedly sown the seeds for future insider attacks. Beyond the staggering humanitarian toll — a minimum of 10,000 civilian deaths, mass starvation, and the outbreak of the world’s worst cholera epidemic in modern memory — there is already strategic blowback that could harm future American security. As the U.S. military provides in-flight refueling of Saudi planes, smart bombs for them to drop, and vital intelligence, it is also undoubtedly helping its future enemies. The chaos, violence, and ungoverned spaces that war has created are, for instance, empowering the al-Qaeda franchise there, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active and dangerous jihadist crews around. When, however, AQAP inevitably succeeds in some future strike aimed at Americans or their property, precious few pundits and policymakers will call it by its proper name: an insider attack.

So, as we lament the death of yet another soldier in a green-on-blue strike in Afghanistan, it’s worth thinking about the broader contours of U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East and Africa in these years. Is anything the U.S. doing, anyone it is empowering or arming, likely to make the Middle East or America any safer? If not, wouldn’t a different, less interventionist approach be the essence of sober strategy?

It may, of course, be too late. Washington’s military policies since 9/11 have alienated tens of millions of Muslims across the Greater Middle East and elsewhere. Grievances are gestating, plots unfolding, and new terror outfits gaining recruits due to the very presence of the U.S. military, its air power, and the CIA’s drone force in a “war” that is about to enter its 18th year. Seen in this light, it’s hard not to believe that more anti-U.S. “insider” attacks aren’t on the way.

The question is only where and when, not if.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. gordon

    The only issue for US Middle Eastern “policy” is whether and how much money the Israeli Govt. is going to direct towards which major US political party. That means that US “policy” is “whatever Israel wants”. So far as I can see the Israeli policy is to impoverish, destabilise and generally wreck all its neighbours, so that Israel’s security can be guaranteed by being the only developed State remaining in a sea of illiterate, factionalised and disease-ridden camel-drivers. Successive US destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are steps on the road to achieving this objective. The success or otherwise of US “policy” in the Middle East must be judged on this basis, and on this basis it’s pretty successful.

    1. Carolinian

      I’m not sure you can chalk up all US kowtowing to the Saudis to your wag the dog scenario. In fact this goes back to the Aramco takeover from the British and FDR cultivating the Saudi leaders. There was a time when US policy was considerably more independent of Israeli desires than it is today (i.e. the Suez crisis). The Saudis have lots of what our elites like–money, oil–and very little of what they claim to like–democracy–which says it all about the true priorities of our foreign policy. Pompeo said he wouldn’t cut off arm sales that blow up Yemeni school buses because it would be bad for our MIC.

      If the elites don’t care about blowing up Yemeni school children then why would they care about blowback against US soldiers? They do thank them for their service.

    2. Epistrophy

      Have a look at Bitter Lake if you can – it’s not generally available. Charts the deep connections or agreements between the US and Saudi Arabia/Islam starting with a meeting between ibn Saud and Roosevelt, to oil company interests in Afghanistan to the present day. Very illuminating. Successive US administrations have ensured that the Saud family has remained in power.

      It is strange that Roosevelt would have bothered to meet with Ibn Saud immediately after WW2, Saudi Arabia was just a hot, barren, wasteland occupied by nomadic tribes. But agreements were made at that time and they have been largely followed through to this day – Curtis argues that this relationship is a major reason why Islam has so successfully spread, for good or bad, throughout the world.

      Today there is a symbiosis, almost a dance of death, between the two (the United States and Saudi Arabia/Islam) that revolves around money, power and ideology.

  2. John Beech

    The roots of this go back further. With respect to the Persians (Iran) we have to go back to WWII when control of oil, or more like it, concern of Nazi control of the oil led the British to toss out Reza Shah Pahlavi and install his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (and yes, we could go back further but 1941 is probably the seminal moment at which to begin). All was well and the Allies defeated the Nazis. It’s important to note in all this, the Persians had a Democracy – the real deal.

    So when in early 1951, Mohammad Mosaddeq passed a bill in the Majles to nationalize the oil infrastructure (basically stealing it from the British) there was turmoil in both Whitehall and Washington. When within a couple of years, the shah was tossed out of Iran (if you think the political maneuvering of the Kavanaugh nomination is a big deal, that’s nothing like when the long knives were out over there over control of the oil), then with US backing (the Brits were involved as well, of course) the shah was reinstalled in power. Interestingly, within a year, he agreed to split the oil money with us (as usual, follow the money) and just like that, Democracy in the middle east was over. Sadly, ‘we’ were instrumental in killing it!

    Sure, there’s more to the story but that’s the gist of it . . . small wonder they hate our guts, eh? Me? If I were king for a day I’d sue for peace and negotiate the best terms possible, then get the heck out of there (and while I was at it, sincerely apologize and beg for their forgiveness). After all, if you think Bubbas with Confederate flags are a ‘problem’ in America 150 years after the end of the Civil War, how long do you think their version of Bubbas will hold this against us? 18 years and counting – and forever is a long time and thus, in my opinion it’s better to short circuit this sooner rather than later.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you to Lambert for the post and to John Beech for further insight.

      Just a couple of comments:

      I would say that British interference and imperialism in Persia go back to the 19th century. Before WW II, British investors controlled much of Persia’s economic infrastructure and, to the alarm of London, overdid the exploitation. What became BP was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

      In the 19th century, one Persian warlord become Britain’s enforcer and was rewarded with the title of Aga Khan. He withdrew to Bombay with the British expeditionary force. His descendants went into business and took up the sport of kings. The current Aga Khan is descended from British aristocrats.

      When the Shah was exiled to Mauritius in WW II, he lived at a chateau called Val Ory, near the Leclezio chateau at Eureka. Val Ory was later acquired by the Iranian government. It’s still owned by them, although it has been neglected for decades. There are discussions with the Mauritian government to renovate and / or sell the building. Elderly relatives who lived nearby recalled playing with the imperial family, including cycling with Princess Shams.

      1. Tinky

        As it happens, the Aga Khan III made a tremendous impact on the world of Thoroughbred racehorses as an owner/breeder. He and his descendants have proven to be far more than wealthy people playing a form of a ‘rich man’s lottery’, as their passion for racehorses has fueled remarkable success over nearly a century of racing and breeding.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Oh, look! Aristocratic kleptocrats have some socially redeeming bits in their personal histories! Thoroughbred horse racing being so very socially useful, for the working class. At least the part of it that subscribes to racing sheets and bets the farm on horse races. Yaas, overbred beautiful animals, to some eyes — never a hint of corruption or cheating amongst the breed…

  3. Quentin

    Who would be happy about foreigners coming from halfway around the world and blowing up their country no matter how dire the circumstances before the invasion?

  4. Quentin

    ‘Blowback’. Isn’t that something very much a euphemism for revenge as understood way back in the ‘fifties when I was in school? Or not? The term seems right up there with ‘collateral damage’ or ‘enemy combatant’ in the hierarchies of obfuscation or just plain lying. Orwellian wordsmiths in the US government (CIA, De(Of)fense, FBI) never get much time to sleep.

    1. travis bickle

      It’s a bit more all-encompassing a word. Think “unintended consequences”, in an ironic sense.

      Think the word came from the world of firefighting. When a relatively hot but stable fire suddenly receives an infusion of oxygen, typically due to overly enthusiastic firemen mindlessly tearing into things, the fire blowsback on them, like a blast furnance.

      I’m sure I got the physics wrong, but that’s the idea, and it’s quite an apt metaphor.

    2. Peter T

      It’s more a euphemism for “gross stupidity”. It did not take a lot of effort to read a book or two on, say, British policy on the North-West Frontier (the actual mechanisms – the “political officers” that strictly limited military action, the requirement to understand local politics and motivations) or the tensions in Shi’ism, or the demographic male-up of Iraq, or the Islamic revival. Five good books, a chat with three or four academics and a week or two would have done it. Any consequences are only unanticipated in the “who coulda known?” sense.

  5. JohnA

    I read somewhere that the killing of the seargent major came very shortly after a US drone attack that killed many innocent Afghan civilians. A very direct and immediate case of blowback.

  6. Skip Intro

    And who can forget Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile so influential in the PR, planning, and execution of OIF? Turned out he was working for Iran…

    1. The Rev Kev

      More likely Ahmed Chalabi was always working for Ahmed Chalabi which explains why he was on both the Iranian and American payrolls.

  7. John Wright

    I mentioned to Iraq War supporters at the time that the Iraq war had the USA removing a leader in an arid region with oil in the ground, many armed citizens and with many religious believers.

    I then suggested that this foreign state’s description is similar to the US state of Texas.

    Then I stated that if a foreign country didn’t like the Governor of Texas (Rick Perry at the time) and invaded it, killing many citizens and destroying much property in the process of removing him, the people of Texas, even those who didn’t like Perry would be more than pissed.

    And that the wronged Texans would sue the foreign nation for damages and loss of life.

    The financial liability of the Texas invading nation could be large, for example, for Iraq it was estimated by Lancet that there were “601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths from March 2003 to June 2006”

    if the relatives of the 654965 excess deaths in Iraq were compensated at a level similar to the $7 billion fund used to compensate the families of the 2700 911 victims, the financial liability would be huge.

    The wronged Iraqis would have been paid 645965 x $7billion /2700 = $1.674 trillion.

    Then there is the secondary issue of property damage and destruction of Iraqi historical sites

    “Blowback” is a gift to the USA MIC as it justifies ever more expenditures as it motivates revenge against the USA.

    It is a feature, not a bug.

  8. Wukchumni

    What if we just get up to an equal number of GI Joes & Janes dead in the ‘stan box, as those that perished on 9/11, and call it a day. We’re only 500+ away.

  9. Martin Finnucane

    No doubt, when the next round of blow back blows through, we will yet again mourn the loss of innocence of the sleeping giant, the U.S. of A. We will celebrate our brave men and women in uniform (but really, men), whose vigilance was not properly appreciated by a spoiled and coddled populace. But nevermind, we will do our duty by making sure that those men in uniform will have the tools they need to get the job done, and not fall again into unreadiness in the face of an irrationally hostile world. The best of the best for the very best military that the world has ever seen, and never ever to ask how we pay for it.

    So: why do they hate us?

  10. Synoia

    I do wish prognosticators and commentators on Syria, Iraq and Iran would step back and look at a map of Eurasia, contemplate the Chinese Silk Road and Belt initiative, and the US’ response to the initiative.

    The counties where the US appears to have no plan for stability, and are in chaos, are at the Western Terminus of the Silk Road,

    Is the continual fermenting of Muslim unrest, and the chaos in Iraq and Syria, a deliberate policy of the United States in response to China’s Silk Road and Belt?

    1. fajensen

      Since the fermenting, I.M.O., started quite a while before China started on the Silk Road (and other plans deemed to be well above their designated station as provider of cheap goods), I think it is more the United States response to the emerging threat of the EU trading block!

      We had “Gladio” and similar efforts like the sponsorship of the IRA here before.

      Maybe some think-tank decides to ablate the capabilities of those annoying “socialist states” by overwhelming them with a never-ending stream of refugees, some of which are islamists, leading to other problems that will keep The Competition busy for a couple of decades (and maybe even install the kind of regimes that “we” like to deal with)?

      – and – If the US can sabotage the EU and Russia, there will be no customers at the end of that Silk Road too!

  11. Chauncey Gardiner

    Profoundly disturbing compendium of policy failure across the MENA for which no one and no institutions have been held accountable. Breaking nation-states; sowing chaos, destruction and despair; creating power vacuums and bitter enemies, is not a winning strategy for the American people as Sjursen noted concerning the tragic attacks of 9/11. So who has benefited from all this, and why do they have any credibility, let alone continuing policy influence?…

    1. Epistrophy

      From first-hand experience, I can tell you that the US almost inevitably chooses the wrong people to conduct their affairs in these regions – people who are generally ignorant of the history, culture and politics – and are too arrogant to consider them. This includes both Ambassadors and military leaders, by the way, as Mr Sjursen confirms.

      When dealing in these regions, it all comes down to the intelligence, sensitivity and humility of one’s representative. These attributes are very much in short supply in Washington DC, unfortunately.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Of course that assumes that “US interests” could be more effectively served, and the Imperium could “get its way more gently,” if “we” just had more intelligent, sensitive and humble “satraps” and “proconsuls” over there, in those “sh!thole countries” whose borders and “interests” the Empire so glibly ignores and violates.

        All Imperial Roads lead to Counter-insurgency.

        Imperial “national interests” (actually just the interests of the Ownership Class and corporations that are supposed to be subject to review and disenfranchisement — taking away their legal existence, their “charters,” for doing evil and violating such laws as remain unchanged by their pursuing THEIR “interests”) are never defined and debated — the phrase just passes in conversation and policy as something everybody understands implicitly. All the Elite has to do is intone and invoke “national security” and “national interests,” and poof! The complaining wogs are blown to pink mist and body parts. And then these cultures where pride and revenge are known parts of the structures (along, of course, with vastly exploitable corruption, like one bumper crop of opium poppies and set of looting-quality extraction “contracts” after another) produce “how dare they kill our troops who are just there trying to Establish Democracy For Them, and a simulacrum of Western consumer culture complete with filthy-rich Elites and impoverished and oppressed mopes… And the Orientalists among the Imperium’s advisorate just say “Remember, thus it has always been — and our National Interests Must Be Served…”

        Because after all, in the Game of RISK! ™ that our Betters have played for centuries, the goal of the game is to dominate the entire planet and its resources…

  12. EoinW

    People can’t seriously be afraid of blow back at this late stage in the game. How many terror attacks have taken place in the West since 9/11? Hardly any. Which proves what a con the War on Terror was. Most terrorism – excluding that by the US/NATO and Israel militaries(which we choose not to count as terrorism) – has been directed at Shia muslims. That’s because the Saudis have funded most of the attacks. Terrorism -the head chopping/suicide bomber kind – is something the US and its allies uses to destroy countries and sow chaos in the Middle East. Where there ever any moderate rebels in Syria? Or was it a foreign invasion of terrorist mercenaries? I doubt we have much to fear from blow back because the people controlling such terrorism are our own governments and security agencies. The Islamic fundamentalist threat never existed as a threat to law and order in the West.

    1. Schmoe

      “Or was it a foreign invasion of terrorist mercenaries?” The Syrian “civil war” started in 2011 but never received much attention until it heated up in 2013. Why? Probably because it had relatively scant support among Syrians and it was only after paid mercenaries were bused in from Turkey that it took a turn for brutality.
      Yes, they were paid mercenaries and were directly on the US government’s payroll:
      “The United States has supported the moderate mainstream FSA faction with millions of dollars worth of arms and paid monthly salaries to thousands of rebels in the course of the seven-year war under a military aid program run by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

  13. Epistrophy

    Thank you for your service, Mr Sjursen, and your illuminating article. Thank you for bringing this to our attention Lambert.

    Having worked throughout the Middle East, my personal view is that matters run even deeper than the author considers. He did not mention the effect that the bombing of Lybia under Reagan, the bombing of Iran nuclear plants by Israel, the atrocities of Sabra and Shatila, or the assassination of Rabin in Israel (and subsequent and festering Intifada) has had upon the region and US interests there.

    Of course, this is not a criticism, as this was not the point of Mr Sjursen’s article, but it serves to further buttress his arguments.

Comments are closed.