When Texas Congressman Ron Paul suggested in a Republican presidential debate that 9/11 was caused in part by "blowback," a CIA term used to describe the negative consequences of mostly secretive foreign actions taken by the United States, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani replied with the following: "That's really an extraordinary statement. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th."
And Giuliani isn't alone. There are millions of Americans, probably even a majority, who believe that 9/11 literally came out of the blue. That on September 10, 2001, we were minding our own business, then on the next day the United States was attacked for no reason. But the truth is, in the eyes of the rest of the world, we haven't been minding our own business for a very long time.
As described in a 1987 PBS documentary, when the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, decided to nationalize his country's oil supply in 1953, the CIA secretly orchestrated his overthrow and installed the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Under the shah, U.S. oil companies took over half of Iran's production. The shah was also a ruthless dictator, who through his secret police, tortured and murdered thousands of his own people. These atrocities took place with the full support of the United States.
Chanting "death to the American Satan" in 1979, the Iranian people overthrew the shah, empowering a new dictator, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Most Americans of a certain age can remember well the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, in which Iranians held dozens of U.S. citizens hostage for 444 days. What most probably didn't realize was that the hostage crisis was provoked by decades of U.S. intervention. It was caused by "blowback."
During the ensuing Iran-Iraq war, the United States backed the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, as a bulwark against Iran. From 1983 to 1990, the U.S. government approved around $200 million in arms sales to Iraq. It was during this time that Hussein committed horrible atrocities against his own people, with weapons we sold him. So between 1953 and 1983, America had sponsored two murderous dictators, living side by side.
Our relationship with Hussein changed in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In a matter of months, the U.S. declared our former ally a world menace on par with Adolf Hitler or worse. After kicking Saddam out of Kuwait, the U.S. continued to bomb and impose economic sanctions on Iraq throughout the decade.
When Congressman Ron Paul suggested that American intervention overseas, or "blowback," contributed to 9/11, Rudy Giuliani immediately insinuated that Paul was crazy. But is the CIA crazy? The 9/11 Commission? Both cite blowback as a primary cause of 9/11.
One need not be a foreign policy expert to understand this basic concept. Imagine if Gov. Mark Sanford had to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin every time South Carolina passed a new law. Imagine if Russia had thousands of troops stationed in Charleston. Imagine your own family starving, dying, and suffering because Putin had a beef with Sanford. This has been the perceived relationship between millions of Muslims and the United States for a very long time.
With the passing of the sixth anniversary of 9/11 last week, Americans should finally be able to listen to a more sober assessment of what caused that awful day. To say that terrorists attacked us because they hate our "freedom" is an answer that could satisfy only a child or a Republican presidential contender. George W. Bush is the Johnnie Cochran of American presidents — he was able to convince a jury of patriotic Americans of his arguments, simply because they really wanted to believe him — overwhelming evidence to the contrary be damned.
Avoiding another 9/11 is not a matter of tinkering with our current foreign policy, but a radical departure from it. It's time to bring our troops home. The chaos that exists in Iraq now will continue to exist once we leave. It might even get worse. But "fighting the terrorists over there, so that we don't have to fight them here" is not sound foreign policy when such men come here, precisely because we are over there. It's time to stop the vicious cycle, as over a half century of America being "over there" should have taught us by now.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.