10 Questions for William Blum

Intro

“God forbid we should not have a Revolution every 20 years,” Jefferson wrote.  “The world belongs to the living,” he believed, and each generation holds the world in “usufruct.”

In the United States in 2017, in this whirling age of instantaneous communication, gratification and frustration, TJ would probably Twitter something like: “Make that every 10 years!”

I first met writer/journalist/historian/thinker/activist William [Bill] Blum 11 years ago, and I interviewed him shortly thereafter.

Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose my cuz Romain explains.  But, at this intersection of 2017 New World Order Ave. and What Now? Street, we’re likely to see more change than la meme chose.

Blum and I have broken bread together, attended anti-war rallies, sometimes seeing eye-to-eye and sometimes “I”-to-“I.”  In a recent piece by Theodore Sayeed, Blum is described as a kind of living encyclopedia of the “peace movement”.

That’s a tribute to his careful research in books like “Killing Hope,” “Rogue State,” “Freeing the World” and others.  At 83, Bill has “been around,” been a witness-insider and witness-outsider to great events.  In the following interview/dialogue, we’ll mesh and un-mesh world views now.

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Gary Corseri: Bill, let’s start with a general overview of What Now? Street — where we are at the second month of the Trump Administration. Frankly, I don’t remember this country feeling more divided — and with various elements, more divisive — than at any time since the Vietnam War era.  I’m wondering: How do we get rid of the stupidity in our elections and political life?

William (Bill) Blum: There’s no way known to 21st century man.  We just have to keep these facts of life in mind — these limitations — and build them into what we say and do.

GC: Can you tell me about a situation in your experience when things seemed as bleak as now, when so many seemed as dispirited…. What did you read then? What/who inspired you? Words of wisdom — your own and others. (I was moved by your recent Anti-Empire Report in which you quoted Phil Ochs. I don’t think I ever appreciated Ochs so much. There were many good, real artists then…, and I’m sure many fell by the wayside in my consciousness.) That’s what I’m talking about: What kept you going in the past, what keeps you going now? What words, music, personalities?

WB: In the 60s the Vietnam War depressed me on a daily basis.  I could hardly read or watch the news. What kept me going was the anti-war movement.  It was all completely new to me — my last job had been with the State Dept, hoping to become a Foreign Service Officer (sic!).  Suddenly, I had a new purpose in life — lots of new friends/comrades, more sex than ever, marijuana, rallies in DC and NY; reading about socialism, mainly written by Trotskyists…. I don’t have a similar environment now because I’m too critical of progressives; too many of them are uninformed, anti-communist, anti-Russia, too politically correct, and they can’t cut their umbilical cord to the Democratic Party.

GC: The Iranian site where I recently posted my response to Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech [linked to here at Veterans News Now] has great interest in seeing this interview with you. You wrote me that you basically agreed with my viewpoints about Hillary-Russia and Trump-Iran dangers. Can you go farther/deeper — cite examples? An editor in Iran writes me: “I’d like to know his views regarding the revolution in Iran and how the revolution could change contemporary history. Also, what’s his take on the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei and the way he has led Iran in the past 3 decades standing against the pressures from the US?”

WB: I am not enough of a student of Iranian matters to comment on such things. Also, I’m an atheist who does not enjoy immersing himself in religious matters too much. But I certainly support Iran in its struggle with the Yankee dinosaur. They can never let their guard down in dealing with Washington.

GC: Theodore Sayeed wrote a laudatory piece about you citing your decades-long achievements as writer/journalist/historian/activist. Many who know the range of your work will agree with Sayeed’s appraisal. However, there is one article you wrote last summer, “Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought”, which follows you around like a bad odor. In fact, it was quoted at length in the comments section of Sayeed’s article. You wrote therein: “It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS.” And: “my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ drives a machete into their skull.” T.S. Eliot wrote about “visions and revisions.” I wonder if you’d care to rephrase your expressiveness here?

WB: No!  In fact, my next Anti-Empire Report (early March) returns to this theme with no apologies. You better get a can of deodorizer spray!

GC: A follow-up point. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Johan Galtung (and his wife, Fumiko) last year. Johan is considered the founder/father of the modern academic discipline of “Peace Studies.” I know he respects you as a thinker and vice versa. What techniques of dialogue do you endorse to move us beyond another century of war/destruction and madness? How do we free ourselves of these imbroglios?

WB: If you mean techniques of dialogue with those in power… it ain’t gonna happen. And, if it did, it would mean that those in power had selected their audience.  Only a revolution can produce the changes you speak of.  And that ain’t gonna happen in my or your lifetime.  Wish I could be more positive.

GC: I’ve asked you about favorite “artists”, people who “inspired” you (like Phil Ochs, et al). Recently, you told me you like to read Robert Parry of Consortium News. Can you tell me why? Who else? (You can guide many younger people now—point them in the right direction.)

WB: Parry shares my politics very much and is even more knowledgable about many such matters than I am.  He’s also a lot younger, so he has more of the energy needed to go back in time and remind us of all the relevant things.  And he writes with great clarity.

GC: We’re about 5 weeks into the most contentious Presidential Administration in my memory! Now, let’s say, in some Wonderland, Trump creates a Cabinet post for you—“Minister of the Left” (and, equally miraculously, Congress accedes). How would you advise him to proceed? How should the Left proceed?

WB: Until very recently I assumed (wishful thinking?) that Trump had a Left side that, once he was in power, would show his true self.  But with each General and Goldman-Sachs appointment he makes that assumption becomes harder to maintain.  I no longer have much hope for him except — maybe — he won’t go to war with Russia and won’t close down RT [the “Russia Today” news channel and site] in the US.

GC: It seems to me there is a real schism between what I call the “Old Left” and the “New Left” — or, the “Hollywood Left.” What’s your take on that? Any way to heal the rift?

WB:The issues for me are still the same: capitalism has outlived its usefulness and has to be replaced by a socialism that could amaze people everywhere, if the capitalist powers dared to allow it the breathing room it would need. This has never happened before; every attempt at socialism has been invaded, overthrown, destabilized, or otherwise had life made impossible for it by the capitalist powers.  No exception.

GC: What keeps you awake at night? What worries you most now? (Not personally, but collectively?)

WB: The environment can explode in countless different ways.  Even if the environmentalists’ theories are wrong…we’ll only waste time and money by following them.  But, if we follow the conservatives and do nothing, and they’re wrong, we’ll lose everything; i.e., the world.

GC: I asked you before, what has kept you going. And I just asked you about your concerns now. Let’s take it one step further. A few years ago, I read a fascinating book by futurologist Ray Kurzweil, “The Singularity Is Near”, in which K. meditated on how developments in genetics, nano-technology, robotics and virtual reality would fundamentally change our world in 2030. Can you imagine the world in 2030? Is it possible to have a positive vision of the world then?

WB: No…, no….  I tend to avoid futuristic stuff; tough enough trying to understand the present and predicting an election.

Gary Corseri has published/posted poems, articles and stories at Dissident Voice, The Greanville Post, Uncommon Thought Journal, CounterPunch, Countercurrents, Transcend Media Service, Veterans News Now, The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine, Common Dreams, and hundreds of other worldwide venues. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he published novels, poetry collections, and a literary anthology (edited), Manifestations. He has taught in US and Japanese universities and in US prisons and public schools. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Gary can be reached at gary_corseri@comcast.net. Read other articles by Gary.