William Blum Interviewed

Resurrecting Hope

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, Freeing the World to Death. Visit his website: www.killinghope.org.

Absolutely convinced we possess the right to pursue our “happiness” and “security”, regardless of the cost to the Earth and the rest of its sentient inhabitants, we US Americans are in a race to hoard the most toys, to eat the most food, to have the most orgasms, to be the best looking, and to be the biggest winners as we engage in a repugnant orgy of narcissistic and gluttonous hedonism.

Contrary to the false consciousness bestowed upon us by a horde of incredibly adept propagandists who “dutifully” man the bulwarks of exploitative capitalism, we are not “benevolent liberators” or “peace makers.” We wage war perpetually, strip the world bare like a swarm of locusts, and give virtually nothing in return. Ensuring our “happiness” and “security” extracts a tremendous price from the rest of the Earth.

Since it rose to military and economic hegemony at the close of World War II, the United States, its proxies, an array of US-installed ruthless reactionary tyrants, and the World Bank have worked in concert to slaughter, torture, and impoverish untold millions of human beings in the “developing world” in an endless quest to satiate our plutocracy’s insatiable thirst for power and treasure.

Bush, his henchmen, and their multitude of war crimes are not anomalies. Amerikkka the Babylon (as our nation is referred to in some circles) has been a barbaric, opportunistic, exploitative, racist, and imperialistic entity since the first Western Europeans set foot on North American soil. Contrary to the delusion proffered by our “manufacturers of consent” (i.e. the “liberal” New York Times), changing the cast of characters in the White House in 2008 may give the world a bit of relief from egregious crimes against humanity and planetary devastation, but until our malignant system of merciless plunder for profit is eradicated, increasing numbers of wretched beings will languish in misery to permit a relative handful to revel in obscene opulence.

To sharpen our perspective on the American Empire and to renew our sense of hope that human decency has a chance of prevailing, let’s visit with William Blum, a noted researcher and author who has been documenting the crimes of the United States for many years:

Jason Miller: You are quite a remarkable individual. False modesty aside, if you were introducing yourself to an individual who didn’t know you and giving them a summary of who William Blum is, how would that introduction go?

William Blum: It would of course depend largely on who the person was and what the circumstances were, but I might say that I spent the first half of my life in the “bourgeois” world, including IBM and the Department of State, and then was radicalized by Vietnam and became a drug-using, semi-hippie, underground-press writer, world traveler, book author, campus speaker, commie terrorist threat to all that is decent and holy.

JM: In early 2006, Osama bin Laden told US Americans that they needed to read your book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. What were the immediate effects and consequences for you?

WB: Instant celebrity, on many of the major news programs, including CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, etc., with a chance to say things to the great unwashed that I would never otherwise have had; 1,000 emails, half hostile, a couple threatening.

JM: Obviously, the dust has had plenty of time to settle. How has bin Laden’s “endorsement” affected your book sales and impact as a political educator and social activist?

WB: About 15,000 extra copies of Rogue State sold. I use the experience in my talks on campus, explaining why I was not embarrassed by the endorsement, as I had mentioned on air, and which had bothered my interviewers, like Wolf Blitzer, who wanted me to disown the entire endorsement.

JM: In Rogue State, you write, “No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine.” To what extent can you attribute this conclusion to first-hand knowledge derived from your years with the State Department, or otherwise?

WB: I was a computer systems analyst and programmer at the State Dept; not much privy to important secrets except for the lists they kept of baddies, foreign and domestic. Reading the news carefully, with a knowledge of the past, is enough to make one suspicious.

JM: I note that you spent some time in Chile observing Allende’s attempt to implement socialism. Had Allende survived, how successful do you think he would have been in fending off the relentless tide of neoliberalism?

WB: I think he would have done pretty well at that. He was a sincere man of the left, not a Democratic Party-type liberal.

JM: How much affinity did Allende have for Castro?

WB: As far as I remember, a lot.

JM: Please briefly compare and contrast Allende and Hugo Chavez.

WB: Allende didn’t deliberately antagonize the US as Chavez does. I wish Chavez would cool it a bit. He’s antagonizing homicidal maniacs, literally. Yet, Allende’s moderation in language and policy didn’t save him from Washington’s wrath. Once you’re an ODE (Officially Designated Enemy) of Washington, your days are numbered, or at least your life and program will be made next to impossible.

JM: What chance do you believe the Bolivarian Revolution has of succeeding in becoming a viable alternative and genuine threat to the hegemony of the militaristic, rapacious imperialism which is inextricably linked to “American Capitalism?”

WB: Based on past experience, not much chance. But what’s new is the oil money. That changes the picture. But I can’t predict what’s going to happen.

JM: You left the State Department in 1967 because of your opposition to the Vietnam War. What do you think the opposition to the Iraqi Occupation, which obviously comprises many people, needs to do to increase its effectiveness?

WB: All I can ever suggest is education. Educate yourself and as many others as you can. I write my books and give public talks with that in mind, giving activists talking points to help them to convince others, giving newcomers new food for thought, planting seeds. Our numbers are indeed growing and I can only hope that at some point it will reach a critical mass and “explode”. I can’t offer more than that.

JM: During the Vietnam War, you founded and edited the Washington Free Press. Since there was no Internet, how did you distribute your underground publication?

WB: Mainly in street sales and at events, plus dozens of book stores and other venues; at our peak we sold maybe 20,000-25,000 each issue.

: What contact, if any, did you have with radical groups like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, whose members were investigated, pursued, incarcerated, or in some cases, murdered, by our government?

WB: I knew individual members, some wrote for the Free Press, but I personally was never a member of any group. In later years, I was a member of Trotskyist groups in the US and the UK.

: While there are distinct parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan/Iraq, there are also a number of differences. Would you kindly lend us your insight by briefly comparing and contrasting the two?

WB: The US had no intention of occupying Vietnam. But in Iraq and Afghanistan they have done so because of oil and oil pipelines.

JM: What did your work with Philip Agee, former CIA agent and author of Inside the Company: CIA Diary, entail?

WB: I didn’t work with him so much as with other people in London who had a relationship with him. We were engaged in exposing covert CIA officers in the US embassy.

JM: You publicly supported Ralph Nader’s bids for the presidency. I have been repeatedly lambasted for voting for Nader. How would you respond to critics who claim that voting outside the deeply corrupt duopoly is a “wasted vote”?

WB: It would be hard to imagine a more wasted vote than voting for someone you don’t like or support. I should add that I think that most people who voted for Nader would not have voted at all if he was not a candidate. So for all these people, Nader votes did not rob the Democrats of a vote.

JM: When can we expect another book from you?

WB: I don’t know. I’m sort of burnt out. I’m not an author who feels obliged to keep turning out book after book. I have to see a gap to fill.

JM: Your words here: “I’m committed to fighting U.S. foreign policy, the greatest threat to peace and happiness in the world, and being in the United States is the best place for carrying out the battle. This is the belly of the beast, and I try to be an ulcer inside of it.” As a veteran of this struggle, you are a true inspiration to the rest of us aspiring ulcers. What words of advice and encouragement do you have for us?

WB: See my reply above about education. And when you’re in ideological conflict with one of the bad guys, and he’s mouthing the usual patriotic/conservative clichés, don’t be shy of challenging any of those clichés. He’s so unused to having them challenged that he’s often thrown for a loss. Like always, question the motivation of the US in their interventions from a MORAL point of view. We have morality on our side — look at Iraq, et al. The conservatives have a very difficult time dealing with this.

Jason Miller is a wage slave of the American Empire who has freed himself intellectually and spiritually. He is Cyrano's Journal Online's associate editor. He welcomes constructive correspondence at JMiller@bestcyrano.org or via his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner. Read other articles by Jason, or visit Jason's website.