Saturday, January 28, 2006
William Blum in the Media Whirlwind
William Blum, author of Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, appeared on C-Span’s “Washington Journal” program this morning to discuss his views on U.S. foreign policy. Blum’s appearance on C-Span comes a little more than a week after Osama bin Laden, in an audiotape message, purportedly recommended that Americans read Rogue State.
During the 45-minute program, Blum answered questions from the host and took calls from viewers. Below is the transcript of Blum’s Jan. 28, 2006 appearance on C-Span.
C-Span host: Mr. Blum, what’s it been like for you over the last few weeks?
Blum: Very, very hectic. I haven’t slept a good night yet in the past 10 days. But I’m enjoying it.
Host: Tell us a little about the reaction you have received because of Osama bin Laden’s mention of you and your work.
Blum: Well, I’ve gotten about a thousand emails, many of which are hostile, a few even threatening. But I’ve also gotten plenty of support, even some old friends who I haven’t seen in many years have contacted me. I’ve been on a media whirlwind, which is very new to me. I was on TV for the first time in my life, I think it was. I’m looking forward to going back to my normal daily routine actually.
Host: Why hostile, why threatening emails and words?
Blum: Because they think I’m giving aid and comfort to the enemy. That’s one of the main arguments. They’re very upset by that. I’ll give you my answer, which I give to them. My answer is on the one hand, I have nothing but intense dislike for religious fundamentalism and the kinds of societies spawned by such fundamentalism, like the Taliban in Afghanistan. That should be clear. I have total distaste for them. On the other hand, I’m a member of a movement, which has the high ambition of slowing down, if not stopping, the American empire and hoping to cease its continuation of very hostile actions all over the world, like the bombings and the interventions and the overthrowing governments and the torture and so on that’s been going on for a long, long time. And we’re committed to slowing that down. And to do that, we have to reach the American public. And to reach the American public, we have to have access to the mass media, which we normally don’t. I mean I certainly don’t. And so because of what happened, I’ve had much more access to the mass media than I ever imagined I would. And for that reason, I’m glad it happened.
Host: Did you attempt to distance yourself once bin Laden’s statements came out about your book and your work?
Blum: From the first moment, I’ve kept a distance from him and his philosophy and his politics. But I have not said that I am sorry that it happened. For the reason I just gave, I’m not sorry.
Host: So, because it assists you in your cause?
Blum: Yes, exactly.
Host: For those who are not familiar with the work, could you give a synopsis of “Rogue State”?
Blum: The first version of that book came out in the year 2000 following the American bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which we were told by the government was an act of humanitarianism. And I was inspired thusly to sit down and write this book, which is in effect a mini-encyclopedia of the many kinds of unhumanitarian policies of U.S. foreign policy. It’s a catalog of all those things. There’s chapters on torture, on interventions, and overthrowing governments, and the use of chemical and biological weapons and interference in elections. All the less-than-nice things our government has done over the past 60 years in its foreign policy.
Host: The quote that Osama bin Laden used specifically when he referenced your work, that doesn’t come from this book?
Blum: I had forgotten at first about this. It comes from the edition published in the UK. The first version came out in 2000 in the States. But in 2002 an English version came out in the UK. That version is what became the Arabic edition of the book. And I assume it was the Arabic version of that edition, which was read by bin Laden. And so he was right. It’s in that version.
Host: Your publisher is reacting to this how?
Blum: With great sorrow that he doesn’t have enough copies on hand. We’re sold out completely. We had only a small amount anyhow. We’re sold out and it’ll be a few weeks before any copies are available. So I ask anyone who wants to buy a copy to please have patience. It will be the end of February before copies are available again.
Host: What do you want to do politically with the experiences that you’re getting now? What happens next?
Blum: Well, I’m just glad that it’s happening now. I’ll be dealing with the media and with the emails for some time yet, I guess.
[Viewer call-in segment]
Detroit, Michigan: Hi, first I want to make it clear. I am not condoning Osama bin Laden … he’s a murderer. He’s a killer. He should have been caught already. He’s the one that did 9/11. This administration used that to go to Iraq. And everything they do, everything, is related to terrorism. They keep scaring the American people. It’s about time Americans stood up. Do they know that in Iraq, with all those bombs, that there might be somebody in this house when they start bombing these houses? Between 150,000 and 200,000 Iraqis are dead. Not the insurgents, but the men, women, babies, children. Collateral damage they keep calling it. This government is scary. They want power. They want to go do whatever they want. Secrets. The energy thing. Everything is a secret to them. We pay them. It comes out of our tax money. They’re supposed to serve us.
Blum: Yes, I’m confused. At first I thought the caller was opposed to me. But with the way he finished up, it sounds like he’s on my side. One thought, though. He says we went to Iraq because of 9/11. That is fallacious, I think. We’re there for other reasons, like oil for one. Saddam Hussein had no connection whatsoever with 9/11 or with al-Qaeda.
Sherman Oaks, California: Yes, Mr. Blum, how proud you must be that you get such a great review from the man that the Democrats admire so much, Osama bin Laden. You’re making money off the man, the perpetrator of 9/11. Again, you must be so proud, you and the other Democrats on the hate America Left. You know that you’re putting the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party, and for that, I am grateful. And have you ever worked on your lisp?
Blum: First of all, I am not a Democrat at all, of the party. So I don’t know why you assume that. Secondly, that party has not endorsed bin Laden, even though you say that. And thirdly, I have never used the word proud. I’m not proud of the endorsement. I’m glad of it. It’s not the same thing at all.
Newport, Rhode Island: Good morning gentleman. Mr. Blum, I sincerely appreciate you being on. I want to apologize for all the ignoramuses and the neocons that want to reframe the question. … I come from an open mind. I can completely understand your philosophy, your factorial information on your book. You are trying to pose the question to people who are of an open mind to look at our terrible foreign policy, all of the things that President Bush said he was going to do and he’s done the complete opposite for this country. We have increased terrorism. We have increased our enemies. All you’re trying to do, I believe, is speak out in regards to this, to stand up for our nation for what we stand up for, not to stand against this country or this administration or anything. And people need to have an open mind and stop their ignorance and always immediately assume that you’re some kind of a liberal or a progressive or whatever. You are more patriotic than a lot of people. To come on TV and people to see you and all of the threats that you’ve had against you, I am so proud of you and I hope that God and that the American people will stand up for you along with the American citizens to stop this kind of terrible diplomacy—I can’t even really use the word—and God bless you and keep the good work and I really admire your strength and courage.
Blum: Thank you very much. One point you mention, which is very important, is that our foreign policy is in fact creating terrorists, anti-American terrorists. And this was confirmed last year by a CIA report, which said exactly that. And that by itself is reason enough for us to leave Iraq.
Rochester, New York: Hi Mr. Blum. I’m just waking up and catching this program. It’s nice to wake up to a good discussion. I don’t feel for or against you in any way but I was curious about your comments that you may have on one historical fact. I subscribe somewhat to some of the neocon philosophy and also Tom Barnett’s “Pentagon’s New Map.” And that is, in the absence of the cold war keeping a lid on pressure cookers, after 1990, things have been popping up left and right where we have to keep things in check. We have to be the world’s police in some way, shape or form. Otherwise, we’re dealing with mass chaos. If you went into a time machine and went back to 1900 and asked people, would there be more than a 100 democratic countries, nations in the world in the year 2000? People would have been shocked and said, “no way.” If you would have gone to 1945 and said, how would Germany and Japan end up? And now they’re two of the top five economic powers in the world. If you would have gone to 1947, when the Marshall Plan was investing in countries like Greece and gone to 2002 where the Olympics were held with Russia taking part. I would agree with you that short-term wise, we are creating more terrorism. But long-term strategic plans to reshape the world go back to Wilson and Truman. Those policies and long-term strategies.
Blum: Well, the world has never asked us to be the policeman for the whole world. And I think if we took a poll right now amongst the people of the world, you would find great opposition to what you were just saying. In fact, the polls do show that. Major polls of the past few years in the Middle East and elsewhere have shown that people in the Middle East, for example, are not opposed to our freedom and democracy, as we are told by the White House. They are not opposed to our culture, our music, our television. They are opposed to our foreign policy. That is what separates them from other people. We are going to continue to create terrorists as long as our foreign policy doesn’t change. And being the world’s policeman is not a way to change. That’s the way it’s been.
Astoria, Oregon: Good morning. … I agree with everything that the author says about our foreign policy and its impact on the world. But I do have a defense for him that he might be able to use. And that is on Sept. 12, Noam Chomsky has mentioned in many talks that he predicted that every repressive regime in this world would begin to call the rebellions of the people terrorism. No one ever says anything about that. Nobody ever says George Bush is promoting terrorism around world or promoting these repressive regimes or getting in bed with them and that kind of thing. So, I think that’s sort of the opposite situation, where you have Osama bin Laden happening to read his book and say something about it. And then on the other hand, you’ve got these repressive regimes saying, “we’ve got to fight this terrorism,” which is just usually a people’s rebellion.
Blum: The word terrorism today is used in the same way and just as loosely as the word communism was used during the Cold War. I deal with that question in my books. It’s my thesis that there was never in fact an international communist conspiracy, as we were all told. That’s a major lie. It compares with the major lie of this period that in fact Saddam Hussein had had those awful weapons then we would have been justified to invade Iraq. But that’s fallacious. What reason would he have had to attack the U.S.? Unless he has an irresistible urge for mass national suicide. That’s a big lie that’s seldom mentioned anymore.
Tallahassee, Florida: Hi Mr. Blum. Do you know how many Iraqi civilians have been killed by American actions? And by the Iraqi civilians, I mean innocent, noncombatants. Do you have a number for that? And if so, do you know where it’s published so that we can verify some of the numbers we hear?
Blum: Well, one source which comes to mind is from a year and a half ago or so. The Lancet medical journal in the U.K., they did a fairly scientific survey of the households in Iraq and determined that there were over a hundred thousand civilians killed. This was some time ago. Now it’s much more, of course. The figure that Bush gives out, 35,000 is, I’m sure, far understated.
Priest River, Idaho: Good morning, I’d like to say thank you for taking my call and thank you for C-Span. I wanted to ask the author, since Osama bin Laden did recommend his book, are there any books that you would recommend? For example, do you read any Des Griffin or anything like that?
Blum: Des Griffin? I’m not sure that I know that name.
Priest River, Idaho: He wrote the book, “Descent into Slavery”.
Blum: Speaking about U.S. foreign policy, which is my specialty, the authors I would most recommend would be Michael Parenti and Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman and Howard Zinn and Alexander Cockburn.
Minneapolis: Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I wanted to ask the gentleman, does he consider his politics of a Democrat or a Republican? And since he wrote the book in 2000 condemning the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, what is opinion about the fact that if Saddam was left alone and the sanctions were removed, he would have eventually possessed nuclear weapons, which would have been a danger to the world? So it was better to take him out now. And also, does he feel the NSA is tapping his home? Thank you.
Blum: It’s pure speculation about whether Saddam Hussein would have had nuclear weapons if we had left him alone. But even more important, there is no reason to be frightened about that any more than being frightened by Pakistan having such weapons, or India or England or France or Israel or the U.S. or China. Why do we single out Saddam Hussein and Iraq for being this nuclear threat? The world is full of such possible threats. But I wouldn’t single him out. And I think your first question had to do with my party affiliation. I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I’m independent of both parties. When it comes to foreign policy, I must emphasize this, in my mind, there is absolutely no distinction whatsoever between the two major parties when it comes to foreign policy.
Host: Our guest does have a website. It’s KillingHope.org. Why the website address of Killing Hope?
Blum: That’s the name of my main book. The full title is Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II.
Host: And what will people find on your website?
Blum: They’ll find a description and chapters from each of my books, with links to each of them.
Orchard Park, New York: Mr. Blum, you’re a breath of fresh air. Let me ask a little different type of question. We all know that the Bush administration was in a full-court press to invade Iraq. But let me ask you, sir, why the American media seemed to be a cheerleader. For example, as you know, over 60% of the American people in an accurate poll fully believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Now, they all didn’t wake up and feel that. It was the American media, including your own host here in this morning, that allowed call after call after call saying because of 9/11, we must invade Iraq. You see the slippery connection that’s been made. And I don’t recall anybody on C-Span or the media saying forcefully there is no connection. Your comments, sir.
Blum: I think that the figure you give of 60% may have been the case shortly after we invaded Iraq. But I think now it’s down to 20% or something. It’s so outlandish a belief to hold in the absence of any evidence that I’m surprised it’s even 20%.
Houston, Texas: Yes, good morning. I’d like to ask Mr. Blum where he was born and a brief background on his upbringing and education and how he became such an expert on this field.
Blum: I was born in New York City, in Brooklyn. And I went to City College of New York. And in the 1960s I was working at the State Department as a computer systems analyst and programmer. But my ambition at the time was to become a foreign service officer. I was a good, loyal anticommunist and I wanted to join the cause. But then a thing called Vietnam came along and that changed my mind completely and my life.
Host: How do you document the sources in your book?
Blum: The book is very well documented. All the sources are listed. And if you look through the back section, you’ll see that most of my sources are from the mass media. The Washington Post and the New York Times are all over the place, plus books by foreign president and former diplomats.
Host: The previous caller had asked about the media’s role in reporting this. What’s your take on that?
Blum: Well, the media has changed along with the American public, or maybe vice versa. The basis of the war is still not questioned as much as I would like it to be. But it’s improved a lot. The last couple of years I’ve noticed the press asking much tougher questions of the President. And when he gives them a slippery answer, they repeat the question and they are more insistent. And I think that’s a very good change.
East Albany, Georgia: Good morning gentleman. I guess the boy from Texas, his hunch didn’t play out. He was trying to insinuate that maybe you weren’t a native born citizen, Mr. Blum. I love New York and I’m glad you’re from New York. And New York took the brunt of this 9/11 excuse that they use. Speaking of excuses, if you were riding a public transportation bus and the driver had a bad wreck and hurt everybody on the bus, who would you blame? The driver who was driving it last week or the driver who caused the wreck? That’s what they’re doing. They’re blaming the Clinton administration for the attack on Sept. 11. And they always say that we haven’t been attacked since Sept. 11. And I ask what about this mailing of anthrax when all they used was simple postage stamps to shut down effectively Washington, D.C.? I’m going to quit yakking and listen.
Blum: It’s fallacious to say we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. Because of our invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, American targets have been hit scores of times all over the Middle East, South Asia and even in the Pacific area. Dozens and dozens of attacks. So we have not actually made any headway in being safer than we were before.
Bella Vista, Arkansas: Good morning. I’m kind of results-oriented person and I look at the footprints that the United States has left, where they’ve been and I’m just kind of curious. Do you want to live in North Korea or do you want to live in South Korea? Do you want to live Japan, Taiwan or do you want to live in Vietnam and Cambodia? Western Europe or Eastern Europe? Everywhere that the United States has been, they have left a footprint of freedom and let the people decide their own country. Now you have your freedom. Why wouldn’t you allow other people to have theirs? Also, a repressive nation that you or other people keep saying can’t be too repressive if you and Noam Chomsky and others like you can voice your opinion. I really don’t understand you.
Blum: My being able to voice my opinion is no excuse for the 60 years of American war crimes. You cannot argue that the U.S. has the right to bomb people into oblivion because I have the right to sit here in this studio and say a few words. It doesn’t follow at all. And as far as us leaving footprints, to name one example of many I could give, in Afghanistan the U.S. in the 1980s overthrew a secular government there that was giving full rights to women and other civil liberties. We overthrew that government which led directly to the Taliban taking power. That’s one example of the kind of footprint that we have left all over. And I give many examples of the same kind of fallacy in your thinking.
Las Vegas: With what that gentleman just said about you speaking and Noam Chomsky, the problem is you don’t get the platform that the others get. So you rarely get heard. The only reason you’re getting heard today is because of the incident that happened. I was just wondering about Iran because we are talking about the past but we have something impending in the future. Not many people know about the Senate passing these mini-nukes. A lot of people are saying that they are going to be using those because the Senate passing, that’s okay to use and they plan to use them in conjunction with Israel and Turkey in a plan to hit Iran’s so-called nuclear thing. I was wondering if you could comment on that if you know about it.
Blum: For us to invade Iran would be just as much of a violation of international law as our invasion and bombing of Iraq. I suspect what might happen is not so much a land invasion because we don’t have the armed forces for that anymore. But we will bomb them, I think, with or without the help of Israel. And that I’m very much opposed to. Iran has as much a right to nuclear weapons as other nations do. I would like to see all nations not have such weapons, but as long as some have it—and Iran is surrounded by nations which have those weapons—you can’t blame them for wanting to have them.
Cockeysville, Maryland: I just wanted to say first of all I think it’s unfortunate you’re giving this man a format today. I guess next we can give Osama bin Laden a format to defend his writings and maybe his tapes. I just wanted to ask you sir, do you realize that in this country, which you say it’s just the foreign policy that you dislike, but we all know that that essentially means are opposed to the country and the things that it stands for as far as its freedom and liberties. Do you realize that in this country where you’ve written this book and you’re making all the money that I assume you’re going to make off of it with all the sales across the Middle East that you’re going to get, if you did this in one of those countries, you would not be allowed to live? They would cut your head off or throw you in jail. I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of that and isn’t that a little hypocritical of you?
Blum: I just replied to that question a few minutes ago. If the caller is implying that because I can sit here and say what I’m saying, that therefore it’s okay, it’s humanitarian and legal, for the U.S. to go around the world dropping napalm and missiles and white phosphorous and all kinds of other horrible weapons, it’s okay then. Is that what he means to say?
Host: How do you stand to make financially on this book?
Blum: I have no idea. The figures that we hear about on Amazon are not sales figures. Those are ranking figures. And I have no idea how that is arrived at. For all I know, if 50 people call Amazon on the same day about the same book, the ranking of that book would shoot all the way up. So, I have no expectation of making much money out of this. And certainly it wasn’t any motivation for my doing it.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: I’m an independent so I basically don’t choose one side or another. But I do do a little reading. And it says—tell me if you agree with this or not—how close is the United States to becoming what would be considered an empire vs. a secular state. And is it not true that we have 800 bases in a 130 countries like that last guy was talking about that we gave freedom to Korea? But we leave bases back there to keep our country involved. Another question I had is if our country went into Iraq and Iraq decides to run their country as a Shiite country like they do in Iran, would we still consider it a democracy over there? Would it be considered something we have to change and control because a new leader might come in and now that leader would be the one we would have to take out? If you could answer some of those, I would appreciate that.
Blum: It would be very ironic indeed if Iraq became any kind of Islamic state. Because under Saddam Hussein—I’m not a fan of his—under him there was full religious freedom. Jews and Christians were safe there. Not now, though. So that would be very ironic.
Springfield, Missouri: My question for you Mr. Blum is that you stated you’re independent and all that. I have a couple questions. One, do you feel like you’re a true American?
Blum: I have no idea what you mean by a true American.
Springfield, Missouri: I mean, we have soldiers over in Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting with their lives on the line. And you want to sit here and give basis to the terrorists and the ones over there that are attacking us.
Blum: I support our armed forces by calling for them to be sent home immediately before they lose an arm or a leg or their eyesight. That’s how I support them.
Springfield, Missouri: Some of your comments may have some basis to it. But when you just made a statement that Iran has a right to have nuclear weapons like any other state after the [Iranian] President has made the comments that he’s made recently about wiping Israel off the face of the Earth. What do you feel about that?
Blum: Every leader in the Middle East is obliged at some point or another to make very tough statements concerning Israel. That’s part of being accepted as legitimate. I don’t place much faith in those statements. I think that’s an excuse used to condemn the leader of Iran, although I’m not any fan of his, I assure you.
Long Branch, New Jersey: Thank you for your intelligence and clarity. And I need to apologize for all of the stupid white men you’re going to hear from for the rest of the morning. But I understand that there were war plans on Bush’s desk long before Sept. 11 for Afghanistan and Iraq and can you speak about that with more clarity because I’d like to understand that a little more? Thank you so much sir.
Blum: There’s evidence that some of the neocons who surround Bush were pushing for an invasion of Iraq as early as 1998, I think. That’s well documented. There’s a letter signed by all the big names, Wolfowitz and Perle and all the others. This letter was sent to Clinton and to other leaders, calling for an invasion of Iraq in 1998, that early.
Evanston, Illinois: I am calling on the Republican line, but I have a quick question and an equally quick follow-up if I may. The question being, do you think President Bush and his actions in Iraq would qualify him to be classified as a war criminal?
Blum: Yes, I do. The invasion of Iraq, without any provocation at all, without any invasion of us by Iraq, that is what the Nuremberg tribunal called the ultimate crime. A war of aggression is what they called it. And that’s what this is, a war of aggression. If we have a world where any nation can invade any other nation because they don’t like their leader or for any other reason like, what kind of world would it be?
Evanston, Illinois: In regard to it then, I really am interested in picking up a copy of your book because it is an anthology of 60 years of this type of behavior. The question I have is because I’m having difficulty finding this information, what is the total death total that occurred in Iraq due to American bombing—military as well as civilian—that occurred during the eight years of the Clinton administration?
Blum: I don’t know all the figures. But there is one famous figure. The UN determined that the embargo upon Iraq had caused the deaths of 500,000 children. To that figure, you have to add the adult deaths caused by the embargo. And that’s independent of the bombing and what have you. It’s quite a huge number we’re talking about.
Mansfield, Texas: I’m just simply amazed at how short-sighted we as a country have become. I’ll use the analogy that the earlier caller used with regard to footprints and his insistence that wherever we’ve stepped, we’ve left freedom and democracy in its wake. But if we take a critical, objective look at wherever we’ve been, we’ve propped up these regimes—repressive regimes I would call them—and I think to borrow an old phrase, the chickens have just come home to roost. George Bush has said they hate us because of our freedom. People are making a choice. They’re making a choice that for centuries that they’ve been exploited. And there’s one other point I’d like to make. Earlier we talked about the failings of the Fourth Estate, the press. I think they defer to not wanting to give aid and comfort and support the President in his endeavor to fight the actual perpetrators of the 9/11.
Blum: One point I will comment about, the idea that our foreign policy leaves freedom in its wake. It would be very difficult to name any brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th century which was not supported by U.S. foreign policy. And more than just supported, these men were put into power and kept in power. That is the record. I touch upon that in my books. We have been the champion of dictatorships, much more the champion of any kind of freedom or democracy.
Host: We have this email. It says: The stated goal of radical Islamic fundamentalism is to assimilate or destroy all non-Islamic infidel peoples. How would your organization or movement prevent this from happening if we allow them to continue to spread across the world?
Blum: As I mentioned, we are encouraging the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and so-called terrorism by our foreign policy. We are not doing anything to stop that spread with our policies. It’s just the opposite.
New York City: I seem to get the impression that you are somewhat naïve in terms of foreign policy. We are in competition in the global need for resources and we’ve had the Russians in the same geopolitical state that we have been trying to attain control. And I just wonder how you perceive the competition for natural resources in terms of your thinking and whether or not we should conducting our foreign policy unilaterally without any regard for what other people are trying to do to get these resources. I believe you’re very altruistic and I can appreciate that. But I just don’t understand how the United States secures oil resources and other natural resources that we need.
Blum: Before we invaded Iraq, we had no problem in getting oil. Every country in the Middle East was selling us oil. There was no barrier to us buying oil. We didn’t have to invade them for that kind of resource. So I’m not sure what you’re speaking of. You’re speaking of a point of view of which I’m not dealing with anyhow at the moment. I’m approaching our foreign policy from a rather moral point of view. You can call that naïve if you want. But I’m just appalled at the harm and suffering that our foreign has caused for the past 60 years. And that’s where I’m coming from.
Knoxville, Tennessee: Mr. Blum, can you tell us why we bombed Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia, seeing that that was where most of the hijackers supposedly came from?
Blum: That shows that our bombing and invasion of Iraq had no connections at all to 9/11. It certainly had no connections to freedom or democracy because Saudi Arabia is not exactly a free society. That points out two of the flaws in the arguments put forth by the White House.Share