Sunday, October 12, 2008

Real Danger: A Thing Called Blowback

The big news on the campaign trail lately has been the increasing ugliness of McCain/Palin rallies. Their ridiculous claims attempting to link Obama to domestic terrorists have resulted in attendees at the rallies calling for Obama's head and screaming that he is a terrorist. In an excellent Op-Ed in the NY Times, Frank Rich explains how McCain/Palin have created this storm of ignorance and hatred. He highlights such details as the fact that they have now begun highlighting Obama's middle name (Hussein), how Palin uses the plural "terrorists," and how their rhetoric blurs the line between references to the Weather Underground's domestic and Islamic terrorism. Thus, when McCain makes a small gesture of attempting to quell the hatred at his rallies, it is the height of hypocrisy. Plenty of people are writing about how amoral and pathetic McCain's new line of attack is, so I'd like to focus on the hypocrisy of it all -- a hypocrisy endemic to the Republican platform.

Central to the Republican platform is this hypocrisy: the American wish to ignore a thing called blowback. Basically, the phrase originally had to do with the CIA's recognition that covert operations often had unintended consequences. The phrase has been subsequently widened to ecompass the idea that political and military actions often result in untintended, harmful consequences -- or, "blowback." You may remember this phrase because for a while it was being thrown around the popular media when Ron Paul used it in a debate to point out that the consequences of 9/11 were "blowback" from the U.S.'s policies in the Middle East. Now, the phrase isn't supposed to exempt anyone from cupability -- terrorists remain guilty of heinous acts. Rather, blowback is a pragmatic doctrine that attempts to understand the consequences of political action.

Ron Paul was resoundly booed and criticized for evoking the doctrine -- and the irony is that recognizing blowback would do more to protect America than would the conservatives who think patriotism equals America can do no wrong. It is only be recognizing blowback that you can fully appreciate the consequences of our political choices and seek to prevent blowback in the future -- and thus prevent another event from 9/11 from happening.

On a smaller scale, the Republican anger over William Ayers and the Reverend Wright refuses to recognize blowback. It's the righteous indigation that bothers me -- especially in regards to Reverend Wright. For example, you can disagree with what the man said, but we should also accept some responsibility for the fact that an African American man feels disenfranchised and angered by a country that has a long and proud history of racism and subjugation. It's another example of conservatives lacking empathy -- they can't see that their actions have created the desperation that makes people criticize America. Instead, conservatives are simply angered.

Again, I do not mean to justify the actions of the Weather Underground, but it is both dangerous and naive to deny that America's pursuit of a meaningless war in Vietnam contributed to the climate that allowed the group to flourish in the first place.

And here is the ultimate irony -- that the so-called party of personal responsibility wishes to accept no personal responsibility for America's actions. To do so, of course, would involve engaging in a real debate about the problems this nation faces. Instead, as with the economy, the Republicans will attempt to peddle the have your cake and eat it too mantra (the same way they try and say trickle down economics): we can do whatever we want politically and there are no bad consequences. The fact is, there is such a thing as blowback and it is only by understanding this that we can seek to prevent the very acts which McCain and Palin claim they so detest.

1 comment:

J said...

Oh no! McCain only down seven in gallup today which makes me sick as the only thing that's changed is the McCain campaign standing up and calling Obama a terrorist.