Blowback (intelligence)


Blowback (intelligence)

Blowback is the espionage term for the violent, unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as “random” acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are ignorant of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them.[1] Specifically, blowback denotes the resultant, violent consequences—reported as news fact, by domestic and international mass communications media, when the actor intelligence agency hides its responsibility via media manipulation. Generally, blowback loosely denotes every consequence of every aspect of a secret attack operation, thus, it is synonymous with consequence—the attacked victims’ revenge against the civil populace of the aggressor country, because the responsible politico-military leaders are invulnerable.

Originally, blowback was CIA internal coinage denoting the unintended, harmful consequences—to friendly populations and military forces—when a given weapon is carelessly used. Examples include anti-Western religious fanatics (see Osama bin Laden) who, in due course, attack foe and sponsor; right-wing counter-revolutionaries who sell drugs to their sponsor’s civil populace (see CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US); and banana republic juntas (see Salvadoran Civil War) who kill American reporters or nuns (see Dorothy Kazel).

In formal, print usage, the term blowback first appeared in the Clandestine Service History—Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran—November 1952–August 1953, the CIA internal history of the US’s 1953 Iranian coup d'état.[2][3] Examples of blowback include the CIA’s financing and support for Afghan insurgents to fight an anti-Communist proxy guerilla war against the USSR in Afghanistan; some of the beneficiaries of this CIA support joined al-Qaeda's terrorist campaign against the United States.[4]

In the 1980s blowback was a central theme in the legal and political debates about the efficacy of the Reagan Doctrine, which advocated public and secret support of anti-Communist counter-revolutionaries (usually the losers of civil wars). For example, by secretly funding the secret war of the militarily-defeated, right-wing Contras against the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which led to the Iran-Contra Affair, wherein the Reagan Administration sold American weapons to US enemy Iran to arm the Contras with Warsaw Pact weapons, and their consequent drug-dealing in American cities.[clarification needed] Moreover, in the case of Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice ruled against the United States’ secret military attacks against Sandinista Nicaragua, because the countries were not formally at war.

Critics of the Reagan Doctrine note that blowback is inevitable and that such unilateral intervention causes Third World civil wars to expand beyond their borders and risks the long-term safety of Americans who may be killed in the resulting violence.[5] Reagan Doctrine advocates, principally the Heritage Foundation, replied that support for anti-Communists would topple Communist régimes without retaliatory consequences to the United States and help win the global Cold War.

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