In his October 15 article "Blowback," Chalmers Johnson reiterates the widely circulated but incorrect notion that the CIA had a relationship with Osama bin Laden. For the record, your readers should know that the CIA never employed, paid or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.
It is true that the US government supported the Afghan mujahedeen in its fight against Soviet forces and that bin Laden was in Afghanistan during that time frame raising money and recruiting Arab fighters to fight the Soviets in the Afghan cause. That activity does not equate with the CIA maintaining a relationship with bin Laden, and it is time for that well-worn canard to be put to rest.
WILLIAM R. HARLOW
Director of Public Affairs
Central Intelligence Agency
Chalmers Johnson's blowback theory of terrorism against the United States rests on shaky logical grounds, as it confuses causes with rationalizations. Virtually every social movement legitimizes itself as a reaction against some real or perceived injustice. But whether the historical events representing the claimed injustice are the actual cause of the movement is a totally different issue.
It would be absurd to portray the rise of Nazism in 1920s Germany as a "blowback" to international Jewry, Bolshevism, Weimar's decadence or even the Treaty of Versailles. Fascism also emerged in Italy, where the purported "causes" were for the most part absent. However, both countries had similar class structures–reactionary landowners and industrialists, whose interests were threatened by labor mobilization, and who bankrolled bands of Fascist thugs to fight labor organizing.
Following the same logic, the US policy in the Middle East and Central Asia is quite benign, especially when compared with our misdeeds in Latin America or the Far East. If the blowback argument were true, we should expect terrorist attacks coming from Chile, Nicaragua or Vietnam rather than from the Middle East.
The blowback theory ignores internal factors responsible for the growth of Islamicist terrorism. These factors, strikingly similar to those responsible for the growth of European Fascism, include oil-rich aristocracies and military dictatorships bankrolling Islamicist fanatics to turn back social changes taking place there. The United States might have aided these efforts under the rubric of anticommunism but certainly did not create them, just as Henry Ford's birthday gifts for Hitler did not unleash Nazism.
New York City
Bravo for Chalmers Johnson's insightful and clearly stated article. One point I would like to have seen addressed: the possible "blowback" resulting from the toppling of the Taliban, which the US government and its motley coalition of allies is hellbent on doing, and replacing that government with another group of extremists–the Northern Alliance. Afghan women's rights groups like RAWA are sounding the alarm about the alliance, and we must listen. Not only is the Northern Alliance bound to continue the oppression of the Afghan people, but installing them in power is bound merely to repeat the blowback pattern.