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Blowback to a Book Reviewer

To the Editor,

Qayyum Johnson's uncritical and laudatory review of Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire ("The Costs of Being Boss," August 1) is flawed in at least three ways. First, several of the examples he cites without question as being attributable to flawed American foreign policy are highly debatable, if not outright wrong. These include the "collapse [of] the Brazilian and Mexican economies in the 1990s" and, most notably, the claim that there was a "bombing of the Chinese embassy during the Bosnian intervention." It is unclear to what this latter example refers. I never heard of a Chinese embassy in Bosnia being bombed during the Bosnian War, so perhaps Johnson is thinking of the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which was certainly a mistake, regretted even by American government officials in the CIA and the Pentagon.

The second mistake Johnson (both of them?) makes is that he labels the events of 9/11 "so-called terrorist acts." By all standards of international law and moral philosophy, the hijackings were clearly terrorist acts because they intentionally targeted innocent civilians, not legitimate military targets. Indeed, the very quote from Chalmers Johnson's book that begins the article acknowledged this by noting, "Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent." While one could arguably make the case that the Pentagon workers were in fact legitimate military targets (although many of them were civilian personnel working for the Pentagon), it is beyond doubt that the accountants, stockbrokers, janitors, firefighters and people in the hijacked passenger jets were innocent civilians targeted without warning for no legitimate military purposes. To call them "so-called terrorist acts" is an insult to the innocent people who died.

Finally, the problem that both Johnsons make is that they conflate American atrocities in one place and time with those of American actions in all places and times. While America's record in Chile and throughout much of Latin America is a sordid and hypocritical one, warranting the arrest of people such as Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan on war crimes charges, that does not mean that our treatment of the Muslim world has been similarly dismal. Indeed, in spite of our flawed policies toward Iraq and Palestine (where even the Palestinians call for more American intervention to resolve their problems, not less), if critics of U.S. foreign policy were to look at the results of our interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait--and, yes, even in Palestine--they might be surprised to learn that, in many ways, it is the Muslim world that has benefited the most from American foreign policy over the past decade or so.

Qayyum Johnson rightly deplores Americans' lack of historical knowledge. However, he (and Chalmers Johnson) would do well to read a little more history themselves and ask: Could there be factors other than American foreign policy--such as historical, cultural, religious, or even psychological factors--to explain the fanaticism that fueled the hijackings of 9/11? After reading their history and examining their morals, they just might find that American foreign policy, while definitely not without its flaws, hypocrisy, and potential for "blowback," is not the cause of all the world's ills, nor can those flaws be used to justify terrorism.

--Darian Qureshi


The Skinny is Worth Every Penny

To the Editor:

As a frustrated and disillusioned '60s Utopian, I always grit my teeth and take a deep breath as I open this rag to The Skinny to see who gets the week's hatchet jobs. With credentials that are indisputable if only for their unwillingness to officially sign off on their snide stupidity, the writer(s) seem to revel in petty attacks on those politicians who would actually serve the best interests of the people.

Instead of wise-ass negativity against Raúl Grijalva and Richard Elias, why not question the heavily funded campaigns of their opponents, some of whom have significant financial support of traditionally Republican bedfellows?

Why not question the voting record of Jim Kolbe instead of trashing Mary Judge Ryan for her "delusional" attempt to unseat him?

And where are the attacks (outside of cartoons) on the real threats to our freedom and safety that are goose-stepping their way from the White House to Iraq?

While the Left consistently fights off attacks by the journalistic "Left," the Right is free to do what they do best--raise money.

While we constantly fight each other over our divided interests: environment, gay rights, women's issues, racial equality and so forth, the ever-increasing Right is unified in their universal goal--greed and plunder, with a little Jesus thrown in to make it shine.

The Tucson Weekly political "writers" are a perfect example of one of the Right's biggest lies--the liberal leaning of the media.

Even for free, you're overpriced.

--M.J. Cann

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