Bill Blum, Presente! Honoring an Author, Activist and Powerful Critic of US Foreign Policy
January 2, 2019 Chris Agee and Louis Wolf / CovertAction Magazine
William Blum was an author, historian, and critic of US foreign policy. In 1967, he abandoning his career as a State Department Foreign Service Officer, because of his opposition to the US war in Vietnam. He then became one of the founders and editors of the Washington Free Press, the first '"alternative'" newspaper in the capital. As a freelance journalist in Chile in 1972-3, he covered the Allende government's tragic overthrow in a CIA-backed coup, which cemented his role as a critic of US policies around the world.
(December 9, 2018) -- William Blum died in Virginia early this morning on December 9, 2018. He was surrounded by friends and family after falling in his Washington DC apartment and sustaining serious wounds 65 days ago. He was 85 years old.
Bill was born March 6, 1933 at Beth Moses Hospital in Brooklyn, BY and became an American author, historian, and critic of United States foreign policy. He worked in a computer-related position at the United States Department of State in the mid-1960s. Initially an anti-communist with dreams of becoming a Foreign Service officer, he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War.
Blum left the State Department in 1967 and became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first '"alternative'" newspaper in the capital. In 1969, he wrote and published an expose of the CIA in which were revealed the names and addresses of more than 200 CIA employees.
He worked as freelance journalist in the United States, Europe and South America. In 1972 -- 1973 Blum worked as a journalist in Chile where he reported on the Allende government's '"socialist experiment.'" Its overthrow in a CIA designed coup instilled in him a personal involvement and an even more heightened interest in what his government was doing in various corners of the world.
In London in the mid-1970s, Blum collaborated with ex-CIA officer Philip Agee and his associates '"on their project of exposing CIA personnel and their misdeeds.'" The late 1980s found Mr. Blum living in Los Angeles pursuing a career as a screenwriter. Unfortunately, his screenplays all had two (if not three) strikes against them because they dealt with those things which makes grown men run away screaming in Hollywood: ideas and issues.
For the rest of his long life, Bill lived in Washington, DC ineligible to renew his lapsed security clearance because of his political views. Instead, he accepted many speaking engagements on college campuses around the world.
Bill was a distinguished member of CovertAction Magazine and the Advisory Board, and worked on staff for many years with CovertAction Quarterly and CovertAction Information Bulletin. His articles can be found in our archives; See issues numbers 33, 46, 47, 51, 53, 66, and 77. Blum went on to write numerous books on US foreign policy and became the go-to source on US intervention.
His book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II -- first published in 1995 and updated in 2004 -- has received international acclaim. Noam Chomsky called it '"far and away the best book on the topic.'"
In 1999, he was a recipient of Project Censored's awards for '"exemplary journalism'" for writing one of the top ten censored stories of 1998 -- an article on how, in the 1980s, the United States gave Iraq the material to develop a chemical and biological warfare capability.
Blum is also the author of America's Deadliest Export: Democracy -- The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else (2013), Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower (updated edition 2005), West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir (2002), and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (2004). His books have been translated into more than 15 languages.
During 2002-2003, Blum was a regular columnist for the magazine The Ecologist, which is published in London and distributed globally. In January 2006, a tape from Osama bin Laden stated that '"it would be useful'" for Americans to read Rogue State, apparently to gain a better understanding of the enemy. Blum found his public speaking engagements abruptly ending.
Bill is also well-known for his highly popular and well-researched blog called '"The Anti-Empire Report'" published from April 1, 2003 to September 20, 2018.
Following his 65-day fight to live after his devastating fall in his apartment on October 4th, Bill died this morning at 2:20 a.m. When his condition worsened several days ago, he was transferred from the Virginia Hospital Center to the Caring Care Hospice about one mile from the hospital. His son, Alexander S. Blum, flew in from Germany to be alongside friends and family. His immediate cause of death was kidney failure -- combined with the various wounds on his body.
'"We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind -- not to mention the heart and soul -- of the American public must be changed.'"
And in his iconic, wry humor -- coupled with chuckles in the audience -- Bill stated:
'"Consciously or unconsciously, [the American people] have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy . . . The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well.'"
Bill spent his life documenting the atrocities of the US government and his contributions are deeply enlightening; without a doubt Bill has offered us ever lasting resources that will continue to inform generations to come.
(August 11, 2018) -- We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind -- not to mention the heart and soul -- of the American public must be changed. But what do you think is the main barrier to achieving such a change in the American mind?
Each of you I'm sure has met many people who support American foreign policy, with whom you've argued and argued. You point out one horror after another, from Vietnam to Iraq to Libya; from bombings and invasions to torture. And nothing helps. Nothing moves these people.
Now why is that? Do these people have no social conscience? Are they just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions. Consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy, and if you don't deal with these basic beliefs you may as well be talking to a stone wall.
The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on many occasions cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are always honorable, even noble. Of that the great majority of Americans are certain.
Frances Fitzgerald, in her famous study of American school textbooks, summarized the message of these books: "The United States has been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. The US always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took."
And Americans genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can't see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. Even many people who take part in the anti-war movement have a hard time shaking off some of this mindset; they march to spur America -- the America they love and worship and trust -- they march to spur this noble America back onto its path of goodness.
Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy's football. The American people are very much like the children of a Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don't want to know, but then they wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.
This basic belief in America's good intentions is often linked to "American exceptionalism". Let's look at just how exceptional America has been. Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:
* Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
* Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
* Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
* Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
* Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
* Led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance by American teachers, especially in Latin America.
This is indeed exceptional. No other country in all of history comes anywhere close to such a record. But it certainly makes it very difficult to believe that America means well.
So the next time you're up against a stone wall . . . ask the person what the United States would have to do in its foreign policy to lose his or her support. What for this person would finally be TOO MUCH. Chances are the US has already done it. Keep in mind that our precious homeland, above all, seeks to dominate the world.
For economic reasons, nationalistic reasons, ideological, Christian, and for other reasons, world hegemony has long been America's bottom line. And let's not forget the powerful Executive Branch officials whose salaries, promotions, agency budgets and future well-paying private sector jobs depend upon perpetual war. These leaders are not especially concerned about the consequences for the world of their wars. They're not necessarily bad people; but they're amoral, like a sociopath is.
Take the Middle East and South Asia. The people in those areas have suffered horribly because of Islamic fundamentalism. What they desperately need are secular governments, which have respect for different religions. And such governments were actually instituted in the recent past. But what has been the fate of those governments?
Well, in the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, Afghanistan had a secular government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women, which is hard to believe, isn't it? But even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women's rights in Afghanistan.
And what happened to that government? The United States overthrew it, allowing the Taliban to come to power. So keep that in mind the next time you hear an American official say that we have to remain in Afghanistan for the sake of the women.
After Afghanistan came Iraq, another secular society, under Saddam Hussein. And the United States overthrew that government as well, and now the country has its share of crazed and bloody jihadists and fundamentalists; and women who are not covered up properly are sometimes running a serious risk.
Next came Libya; again, a secular country, under Moammar Gaddafi, who, like Saddam Hussein, had a tyrant side to him but could in important ways be benevolent and do some marvelous things. Gaddafi, for example, founded the African Union and gave the Libyan people the highest standard of living in Africa.
So, of course, the United States overthrew that government as well. In 2011, with the help of NATO we bombed the people of Libya almost every day for more than six months.
Can anyone say that in all these interventions, or in any of them, the United States of America meant well?
When we attack Iran, will we mean well? Will we have the welfare of the Iranian people at heart? I suggest you keep such thoughts in mind the next time you're having a discussion or argument with a flag-waving American.
Sources: * For documentation on government overthrows, bombs dropped, attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, movement suppression -- see Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
* For documentation on covert interference in democratic elections -- see chapter 18 of William Blum, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower"
* For documentation on torture -- see chapter 5 of William Blum, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower"
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