Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire
by Chalmers Johnson
Henry Holt and Company (2000)
Free Epub and Kindle editions at libcom library
Blowback is a catalog of US military aggression since World War II. It focuses primarily on covert operations by the CIA and Pentagon “special forces – though many of these operations progressed to full blown military invasions, as in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.*
The late Chalmers Johnson, a Southeast Asia specialist, also devotes several chapters to the US military occupation of Japan and South Korea following World War II. He traces how the CIA installed war criminals to run Japan’s government and secretly funded single party rule (by the Liberal Democratic Party from 1949-63. He also examines the continuing (extremely unpopular) US occupation of Okinawa.
Prior to reading Blowback, I had no idea that South Korean troops were under US military command until 1994, a year after the Korean people successfully overthrew the last US-installed puppet dictator. The Korean people fought for decades to expel the US military, despite their mass protests and demonstrations being violently suppressed by the US-run Korean military.**
Johnson also explores the immense unpopularity of the 700+ military bases the US maintains around the world – in part for their horrible record of environmental contamination (which they refuse to remediate) and in part for the notorious criminality of the GIs they host. In the case of Okinawa, GIs commit crimes at the average rate of one per day, ranging from muggings, reckless driving resulting in serious injury or death, rape and murder. In nearly all cases the Japanese government is denied jurisdiction to prosecute and US military court martials result in little more than a slap on the wrist.
Johnson maintains it’s largely owing to this history of GI criminality that the US refuses to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
*A partial listing of major covert CIA interventions:
Cuba 1959 – present
Afghanistan 1979 – present
El Salvador 1980 – present
Guatemala 1980 – present
Nicaragua 1980 – present
Iraq 1991 – present
**The US also supported the brutal regimes of the puppet dictators they installed in (partial list) Taiwan, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand.