American Empire For Dummies
A talk given in Boulder Colorado
by William Blum
Good evening, it's very nice to be here,
especially since the bombs have not yet begun to fall; I mean
in Iraq, not Boulder; Boulder comes after Iraq and Iran if you
folks don't shape up and stop inviting people like me to speak.
The first time I spoke in public after
September 11 of last year, I spoke at a teach-in at the University
of No. Carolina. As a result of that I and some of the other speakers
were put on a list put out by an organization founded by Lynne
Cheney, the wife of you know who. The organization's agenda can
be neatly surmised by a report it issued, entitled "Defending
Our Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and
What Can Be Done About It". In the report and on their website
they listed a large number of comments made by mainly faculty
and students from many schools which indicated that these people
were not warmly embracing America's newest bombing frenzy and
were guilty of suggesting that some foreigners might actually
have good reason for hating the United States, or what I call
hating US foreign policy.
Because of that listing, as well as things
I wrote subsequently, I've gotten a lot of hate mail in the past
year, hate e-mail to be exact. I'm waiting to receive my first
e-mail with anthrax in it. Well, there are viruses in e-mail,
why not bacteria? The hate mail almost never challenges any fact
or idea I express. They attack me mainly on the grounds of being
unpatriotic. They're speaking of some kind of blind patriotism,
but even if they had a more balanced view of it, they would still
be right about me. I'm not patriotic. I don't want to be patriotic.
I'd go so far as to say that I'm patriotically challenged.
Many people on the left, now as in the
1960s, do not want to concede the issue of patriotism to the conservatives.
The left insists that they are the real patriots because of demanding
that the United States lives up to its professed principles. That's
all well and good, but I'm not one of those leftists. I don't
think that patriotism is one of the more noble sides of mankind.
George Bernard Shaw wrote that patriotism is the conviction that
your country is superior to all others because you were born in
it. And remember that the German people who supported the Nazi
government can be seen as being patriotic, and the German government
called them just that.
The past year has not been easy for people
like me, surrounded as we've been by an orgy of patriotism. How
does one escape "United We Stand", and "God Bless
America"? And the flag - it's just all over - I buy a banana
and there it is, an American flag stuck on it. And making heroes
out of everyone - the mayor of NY, Rudy Giuliani, became a hero.
On Sept. 10 he was an arrogant, uncompassionate reactionary -
suddenly he was a hero, even a statesman, speaking before the
UN. George Bush also became a hero. People who called him a moron
on September 10 welcomed him as hero and dictator after the eleventh.
In the play, Galileo, by Bertolt Brecht, one character says to
another: Unhappy the land that has no heroes. And the other character
replies: No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes. Although I'm
not loyal to any country or government, like most of you I am
loyal to certain principles, like political and social justice,
economic democracy, human rights.
The moral of my message to you is this:
If your heart and mind tell you clearly that the bombing of impoverished,
hungry, innocent peasants is a terrible thing to do and will not
make the American people any more secure, you should protest it
in any way you can and don't be worried about being called unpatriotic.
There was, sadly, very little protest against the bombing of Afghanistan.
I think it was a measure of how the events intimidated people.
The events and the expanding police powers, led by Ayatollah John
Ashcroft. I think it was also due to the fact that people felt
that whatever horrors the bombing caused, it did get rid of some
really nasty anti-American terrorists. But of the thousands in
Afghanistan who died from American bombs, how many do you think
had any part in the events of 9-11? I'll make a rough guess and
say "none". And how many do you think ever took part
in any other terrorist act against the United States? We'll never
know for sure, but my guess would be a number in the very low
one digits, if that. Terrorist acts don't happen very often after
all, and usually are carried out by a handful of men.
So of all those killed by the American
actions, were any of them amongst any of those few handfuls of
terrorists, many of whom were already in prison? And keep in mind
that the great majority of those who were at a training camp of
al Qaeda in Afghanistan were there to help the Taliban in their
civil war, nothing to do with terrorism or the United States.
It was a religious mission for them, none of our business. But
we killed them or have held them under terrible conditions at
the Guantanamo base in Cuba for a very long time now, with no
end in sight; with many attempts at suicide there amongst the
It is remarkable indeed that what we call
our government is still going around dropping huge amounts of
exceedingly powerful explosives upon the heads of defenseless
people. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Beginning in the late
1980s, Michael Gorbachev put an end to the Soviet police state,
then the Berlin Wall came down and people all over Eastern Europe
were joyfully celebrating a NEW DAY, and South Africa freed Nelson
Mandela and apartheid began to crumble, and Haiti held its first
free election ever and chose a genuine progressive as president
... it seemed like anything was possible, optimism was as widespread
as pessimism is today.
And the United States joined this celebration
by invading and bombing Panama, only weeks after the Berlin Wall
fell. At the same time, the US was shamelessly intervening in
the election in Nicaragua to defeat the Sandinistas. Then, when
Albania and Bulgaria, "newly freed from the grip of communism",
as our media would put it, dared to elect governments not acceptable
to Washington, Washington just stepped in and overthrew those
governments. Soon came the bombing of the people of Iraq for 40
horrible days without mercy, for no good or honest reason, and
that was that for our hopes of a different and better world. But
our leaders were not through. They were soon off attacking Somalia,
more bombing and killing. Meanwhile they continued bombing Iraq
for years. They intervened to put down dissident movements in
Peru, Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, just as if it was the cold
war in the 1950s in Latin America, and the 1960s, the 1970s, the
1980s, and still doing it in the 1990s. Then they bombed the people
of Yugoslavia for 78 days and nights. And once again, last year,
grossly and openly intervened in an election in Nicaragua to prevent
the left from winning. Meanwhile, of course, they were bombing
Afghanistan and in all likelihood have now killed more innocent
civilians in that sad country than were killed here on Sept. 11,
with more to come as people will continue to die from bombing
wounds, cluster-bomb landmines, and depleted-uranium toxicity.
And all these years, still keeping their choke hold on Cuba. And
that's just a partial list.
There was none of the peace dividend we
had been promised, not for Americans nor for the rest of the world.
What the heck is going on here? We had been taught since childhood
that the cold war, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War,
the huge military budgets, all the foreign invasions and overthrows
of governments - the ones we knew about - we were taught that
this was all to fight the same menace: The International Communist
Conspiracy, headquarters in Moscow. So what happened? The Soviet
Union was dissolved. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved. The East European
satellites became independent. The former communists even became
capitalists. ... And nothing changed in American foreign policy.
Even NATO remained, NATO which had been created - so we were told
- to protect Western Europe against a Soviet invasion, even NATO
remains, bigger than ever, getting bigger and more powerful all
the time, a NATO with a global mission. The NATO charter was even
invoked to give a justification for its members to join the US
in the Afghanistan invasion. The whole thing had been a con game.
The Soviet Union and something called communism per se had not
been the object of our global attacks. There had never been an
International Communist Conspiracy. The enemy was, and remains,
any government or movement, or even individual, that stands in
the way of the expansion of the American Empire; by whatever name
we give to the enemy - communist, rogue state, drug trafficker,
You think the American Empire is against
terrorists? What do you call a man who blows up an airplane killing
73 people? Who attempts assassinations against several diplomats?
Who fires cannons at ships docked in American ports? Who places
bombs in numerous commercial and diplomatic buildings in the US
and abroad? Dozens of such acts. His name is Orlando Bosch, he's
Cuban and he lives in Miami, unmolested by the authorities. The
city of Miami once declared a day in his honor - Orlando Bosch
Day. He was freed from prison in Venezuela, where he had been
held for the airplane bombing, partly because of pressure from
the American ambassador, Otto Reich, who earlier this year was
appointed to the State Dept. by George W. After Bosch returned
to the US in 1988, the Justice Dept condemned him as a totally
violent terrorist and was all set to deport him, but that was
blocked by President Bush, the first, with the help of son Jeb
Bush in Florida. So is George W. and his family against terrorism?
Well, yes, they're against those terrorists who are not allies
of the empire. The plane that Bosch bombed, by the way, was a
Cuban plane. He's wanted in Cuba for that and a host of other
serious crimes, and the Cubans have asked Washington to turn him
over to them; to Cuba he's like Osama Bin Laden is to the United
States. But the US has refused. Can you imagine the reaction in
Washington if bin Laden showed up in Havana and the Cubans refused
to turn him over? Can you imagine the reaction in the United States
if Havana proclaimed Osama Bin Laden Day?
Washington's support of genuine terrorist
organizations has been very extensive. To give just a couple of
examples of the past few years - The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo
have carried out numerous terrorist attacks for years in various
parts of the Balkans, but they've been our allies because they've
attacked people out of favor with Washington. The paramilitaries
in Colombia, as vicious as they come, could not begin to carry
out their dirty work without the support of the Colombian military,
who are the recipients of virtually unlimited American support.
This, all by itself, disqualifies Washington from leading a war
against terrorism. Bush also speaks out often and angrily against
Does he really mean that? Well, what country
harbors more terrorists than the United States? Orlando Bosch
is only one of the numerous anti-Castro Cubans in Miami who have
carried out hundreds, if not thousands of terrorist acts, in the
US, in Cuba, and elsewhere; all kinds of arson attacks, assassinations
and bombings. They have been harbored here in safety for decades.
As have numerous other friendly terrorists, torturers and human
rights violators from Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia
and elsewhere, all allies of the Empire. The CIA is looking for
terrorists in caves in the mountains of Afghanistan at the same
time as the Agency sits in bars in Miami having beers with terrorists.
What are we to make of all this? How are we to understand our
government's foreign policy?
Well, if I were to write a book called
The American Empire for Dummies, page one would say: Don't ever
look for the moral factor. US foreign policy has no moral factor
built into its DNA. Clear your mind of that baggage which only
gets in the way of seeing beyond the clichés and the platitudes.
I know it's not easy for most Americans to take what I say at
face value. It's not easy to swallow my message. They see our
leaders on TV and their photos in the press, they see them smiling
or laughing, telling jokes; see them with their families, hear
them speak of God and love, of peace and law, of democracy and
freedom, of human rights and justice and even baseball ... How
can such people be moral monsters, how can they be called immoral?
They have names like George and Dick and Donald, not a single
Mohammed or Abdullah in the bunch. And they even speak English.
Well, George almost does. People named Mohammed or Abdullah cut
off arms or legs as punishment for theft. We know that that's
horrible. We're too civilized for that. But people named George
and Dick and Donald drop cluster bombs on cities and villages,
and the many unexploded ones become land mines, and before very
long a child picks one up or steps on one of them and loses an
arm or leg, or both arms or both legs, and sometimes their eyesight.
And the cluster bombs which actually explode do their own kind
of horror. But our leaders are perhaps not so much immoral as
they are amoral. It's not that they take pleasure in causing so
much death and suffering. It's that they just don't care ... if
that's a distinction worth making. As long as the death and suffering
advance the agenda of the Empire, as long as the right people
and the right corporations gain wealth and power and privilege
and prestige, as long as the death and suffering aren't happening
to them or people close to them ... then they just don't care
about it happening to other people, including the American soldiers
whom they throw into wars and who come home - the ones who make
it back - with Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome eating away at
their bodies. Our leaders would not be in the positions they hold
if they were bothered by such things. It must be great fun to
be one of the leaders of an empire, glorious in fact ... intoxicating
... the feeling that you can do whatever you want to whomever
you want for as long as you want for any reason you care to give
... because you have the power ... for theirs is the power and
When I was writing my book Rogue State
a few years ago I used the term "American Empire", which
I don't think I had seen in print before. I used the term cautiously
because I wasn't sure the American public was quite ready for
it. But I needn't have been so cautious. It's now being used proudly
by supporters of the empire. There's Dinesh D'Souza, the conservative
intellectual at the Hoover Institution, who became well-known
with his theories on the "natural" inferiority of Afro-Americans.
Earlier this year, he wrote an article entitled "In praise
of American empire", in which he argued that Americans must
finally recognize that the US "has become an empire, the
most magnanimous imperial power ever". Robert Kagan of the
Carnegie Endowment writes: "And the truth is that the benevolent
hegemony exercised by the US is good for a vast portion of the
world's population. It is certainly a better international arrangement
than all realistic alternatives." And syndicated columnist
Charles Krauthammer speaks of America's "uniquely benign
So that's how people who are wedded to
American foreign policy are able to live with it - they conclude,
and proclaim, and may even believe, that our foreign policy is
a benevolent force, an enlightened empire, bringing order, prosperity
and civilized behavior to all parts of the globe, and if we're
forced to go to war we conduct a humanitarian war. Well, inasmuch
as I've devoted much of my adult life to documenting in minute
detail the exact opposite, to showing the remarkable cruelty and
horrific effects of US interventions on people in every corner
of the world, you can understand, I think, that my reaction to
such claims is ... Huh?
These conservative intellectuals ... Is
that an oxymoron? They are as amoral as the folks in the White
House and the Pentagon. After all, the particles of depleted uranium
are not lodging inside their lungs to keep radiating for the rest
of their lives; the International Monetary Fund is not bankrupting
their economy and slashing their basic services; it's not their
families wandering in the desert as refugees. The leaders of the
empire, the imperial mafia - Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and
Powell and Rice and Wolfowitz and Perle - and their scribes as
well, are as fanatic and as fundamentalist as Osama Bin Laden.
And the regime change they accomplished in Afghanistan has really
gone to their heads. Today Kabul, tomorrow the world. So get used
to it, world. The American Empire. Soon to be a major motion picture,
coming to a theatre near you.
A while ago, I heard a union person on
the radio proposing what he called "a radical solution to
poverty - pay people enough to live on." Well, I'd like to
propose a radical solution to anti-American terrorism - stop giving
terrorists the motivation to attack America. Now our leaders and
often our media would have us believe that we're targeted because
of our freedom, our democracy, our wealth, our modernity, our
secular government, our simple goodness, and other stories suitable
for schoolbooks. George W. is still repeating these cliches a
year after 9-11. Well, he may believe it but other officials have
known better for some time. A Department of Defense study in 1997
concluded: "Historical data show a strong correlation between
US involvement in international situations and an increase in
terrorist attacks against the United States."
Jimmy Carter, some years after he left
the White House, was unambiguous in his agreement with such a
conclusion. He said: We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only
have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand
the intense hatred among many people for the United States because
we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent
villagers - women and children and farmers and housewives - in
those villages around Beirut. ... As a result of that ... we became
kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful.
That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that
is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks.
The terrorists responsible for the bombing
of the World Trade Center in 1993 sent a letter to the New York
Times which stated, in part: "We declare our responsibility
for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done
in response for the American political, economical, and military
support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the
dictator countries in the region." And finally, several members
of al Qaeda have repeatedly made it quite plain in the past year
that it's things like US support of Israeli massacres and the
bombing of Iraq that makes them hate the United States. I present
more evidence of the same sort in one of my books along with a
long list of US actions in the middle east that has created hatred
of American foreign policy.
I don't think, by the way, that poverty
plays much of a role in creating terrorists. We shouldn't confuse
terrorism with revolution. And the attacks are not going to end
until we stop bombing innocent people and devastating villages
and grand old cities and poisoning the air and the gene pool with
depleted uranium. The attacks are not going to end until we stop
supporting gross violators of human rights who oppress their people,
until we stop doing a whole host of terrible things. We'll keep
on adding to the security operations that's turning our society
into a police state, and it won't make us much safer. It's not
just people in the Middle East who have good reason for hating
what our government does; we've created huge numbers of potential
terrorists all over Latin America during a half century of American
actions far worse than what we've done in the Middle East.
I think that if Latin Americans shared
the belief of many Muslims that they will go directly to heaven
for giving up their life and acting as a martyr against the great
enemy, by now we would have had decades of repeated terrorist
horror coming from south of the border. As it is, there have been
many non-suicidal terrorist attacks against Americans and their
buildings in Latin America over the years. There's also the people
of Asia and Africa. The same story.
The State Department recently held a
conference on how to improve America's image abroad in order to
reduce the level of hatred; image is what they're working on,
not change of policies. But the policies scorecard reads as follows:
From 1945 to the end of the century, the United States attempted
to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more
than 30 populist movements fighting against insufferable regimes.
In the process, the US bombed about 25 countries, caused the end
of life for several million people, and condemned many millions
more to a life of agony and despair.
If I were the president, I could stop
terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently.
I would first apologize - very publicly and very sincerely - to
all the widows and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and
all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism.
Then I would announce that America's global interventions have
come to an end and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st
state of the union but - believe it or not - a foreign country.
I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use
the savings to pay reparations to our victims and repair the damage
from our bombings. There would be enough money. Do you know what
one year's military budget is equal to? One year. It's equal to
more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was
born. That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House.
On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated.
On page two of The American Empire for
Dummies, I'd put this in a box outlined in bright red: Following
its bombing of Iraq, the United States wound up with military
bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United
Arab Emirates. Following its bombing of Yugoslavia, the United
States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia,
Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia. Following its bombing of Afghanistan,
the United States is now winding up with military bases in Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia
and perhaps elsewhere in the region. That's not very subtle, is
it? Not really covert. The men who run the empire are not easily
And that's the way the empire grows,
a base on every corner, ready to be mobilized to put down any
threat to imperial rule, real or imagined. 57 years after World
War II ended, the US still has major bases in Germany and Japan;
and 49 years after the Korean War ended, the US military is still
in Korea. A Pentagon report of a few years ago said: Our first
objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either
on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere ... we
must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors
from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.
The bombing, invasion and occupation
of Afghanistan have served the purpose of setting up a new government
that will be sufficiently amenable to Washington's international
objectives, including the installation of military bases and communications
listening stations and, perhaps most important of all, the running
of secure oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan from the Caspian
Sea region, which I'm sure many of you have heard about. For years,
the American oil barons have had their eyes on the vast oil and
gas reserves of the Caspian Sea area, ideally with an Afghanistan-Pakistan
route to the Indian Ocean, thus keeping Russia and Iran out of
the picture. The oilmen have been quite open about this, giving
very frank testimony before Congress for example. Now they have
their eyes on the even greater oil reserves of Iraq.
If the US overthrows Sadaam Hussein and
installs a puppet government, as they did in Afghanistan, the
American oil companies will move into Iraq and have a feast and
the American empire will add another country and a few more bases.
Or as General William Looney, the head of the US-UK operation
that flies over Iraq and bombs them every few days, said several
years ago: If they turn on their radars we're going to blow up
their goddamn missiles. They know we own their country. We own
their airspace. ... We dictate the way they live and talk. And
that's what's great about America right now. It's a good thing,
especially when there's a lot of oil out there we need.
We've gone through a few months now of
a song and dance show that passes for debate, a debate about whether
to attack a sovereign nation that has not attacked us, that has
not threatened to attack us, that knows it would mean instant
mass suicide for them if they attacked us. This debate is absurd
not simply because Iraq is not a threat - by now, even the Martians
must know that - but because our imperial mafia know that Iraq
is not a threat, at all.
They've been telling us one story after
another about why Iraq is a threat, an imminent threat, a nuclear
threat, a threat increasing in danger with each passing day, that
Iraq is a terrorist state, that Iraq is tied to al Qaeda, only
to have each story amount to nothing; they told us for a long
time that Iraq must agree to having the weapons inspectors back
in, and when Iraq agreed to this they said "No, no, that
isn't good enough." How soon before they blame the horror
in Bali on Iraq? Does any of this make sense? This sudden urgency
of fighting a war in the absence of a fight? It does, I suggest,
only if you understand that this is not about Sadaam Hussein and
his evilness, or his weapons, or terrorism. What it's about is
that the empire is still hungry and wants to eat Iraq and its
oil and needs to present excuses to satisfy gullible people. And
then they want to eat Iran. And then? ... I understand when George
W. was asked: "Who next?", he said "Whatever".
The empire, in case you missed it, is
not content with merely the earth; the empire has been officially
extended to outer space. The Pentagon proudly admits this and
they have a nice name for it. They call it "full-spectrum
dominance", and for years now they've been planning to fight
wars in space, from space, and into space. And that's a quote.
And if you're wondering "Why now?" about Iraq. I think
- as many have said - that the coming election plays a role. It's
going to decide which party will control congress and there's
nothing like a lot of talk about war and defending America to
sway voters, and make them forget about the economy and health
care at the same time.
In addition to all the absurdities and
lies they've been throwing at us, what I've found most remarkable
and disturbing about this period has been the great absence in
the mass media of the simple reminder that a US attack upon Iraq
means bombs falling on people, putting an end to homes, schools,
hospitals, jobs, futures. The discussion has focused almost entirely
on whether or not to go after the evil Sadaam and his supposed
evil weapons. What it all means in terms of human suffering is
scarcely considered worthy of attention. Is that not odd? Also
absent from the discussion is that over the course of several
years in the 1990s, the UN inspectors found and destroyed huge
amounts of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq. I'm
sure that most Americans are convinced that Sadaam got away with
hiding virtually all his weapons and that he'll get away with
it again if there's a resumption of the inspections.
But that's not what happened. Scott Ritter,
chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, recently stated that "since
1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed; 90-95% of Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction have been verifiably eliminated. This includes
all of the factories used to produce chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons, and long-range ballistic missiles; the associated
equipment of these factories; and the vast majority of the products
coming out of these factories." And we have similar testimony
from others who were involved in the inspections.
Each of the big American bombing campaigns
carries its own myths with it, but none so big as the one before
last. I must remind you of that. We were told that the US/NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was to save the people of Kosovo
from ethnic cleansing by the Serbs. And since the ethnic cleansing
finally came to an end, the bombing seems to have worked. Right?
First there was the ethnic cleansing, then came the bombing, then
came the end of the ethnic cleansing. What could be simpler? I'm
sure that about 90% of those Americans who think about such things
firmly believe that, including many of you, I imagine.
But it was all a lie. The bombing didn't
end the ethnic cleansing. The bombing CAUSED the ethnic cleansing.
The systematic forced deportations of large numbers of Kosovars
- what we call ethnic cleansing - did not begin until about two
days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it
by the Serb forces, born of great anger and feelings of powerlessness
due to the heavy bombardment.
This is easily verified by looking at
a daily newspaper for the few days before the bombing began the
night of March 23/24, and the few days after. Or simply look at
the New York Times of March 26, page 1, which reads: ... with
the NATO bombing already begun, a deepening sense of fear took
hold in Pristina [the main city of Kosovo] that the Serbs would
NOW vent their rage against ethnic Albanian civilians in retaliation.
[emphasis added] The next day, March 27, we find the first reference
to a "forced march" or anything of that sort.
How is it possible that such a powerful
lie could be told to the American people and that the people would
swallow it without gagging? One reason is that the media don't
explicitly point out the lies; at best you have to read between
the lines. There's the story from the Cold War about a group of
Russian writers touring the United States. They were astonished
to find, after reading the newspapers and watching television,
that almost all the opinions on all the vital issues were the
same. "In our country," said one of them, "to get
that result we have a dictatorship. We imprison people. We torture
them. Here you have none of that. How do you do it? What's the
Can any of you name a single American
daily newspaper that unequivocally opposed the US-NATO bombing
of Yugoslavia three years ago? Can any of you name a single American
daily newspaper that unequivocally opposed the US bombing of Iraq
eleven years ago? Can any of you name a single American daily
newspaper that unequivocally opposed the US bombing of Afghanistan?
Isn't that remarkable? In a supposedly free society, with a supposedly
free press, with about 1500 daily newspapers, the odds should
be way against that being the case. But that's the way it is.
I suppose that now some of you would like
me to tell you how to put an end to all these terrible and absurd
things I've talked about. Well, good luck to all of us. I could
say that personally I proceed from the assumption that if enough
people understand what their government is doing and the harm
that it causes, at some point the number of such people will reach
critical mass and some changes can be effectuated. But that may
well be a long way off. I hope I live to see it. I'm sure that
if all Americans could see their government's bomb victims up
close, see the body fragments, smell the burning flesh, see the
devastated homes and lives and communities, there would be a demand
to end such horror so powerful that even the imperial mafia madmen
couldn't ignore it.
But how to get Americans to see the victims?
I and many of you don't need to see those terrible sights to be
opposed to the madmen's policies, but most Americans do. If we
could figure out why we have this deep empathy for the victims,
this imagination, it might be a very good organizing tool. Gandhi
once said that "Almost anything you do will be insignificant,
but you must do it." And the reason I must do it is captured
by yet another adage, cited by various religious leaders: "We
do these things not to change the world, but so that the world
will not change us."
Sam Smith, a journalist in Washington,
whom some of you are familiar with, in his new book makes the
point that "Those who think history has left us helpless
should recall the abolitionist of 1830, the feminist of 1870,
the labor organizer of 1890, and the gay or lesbian writer of
1910. They, like us, did not get to choose their time in history
but they, like us, did get to choose what they did with it."
He then asks: Knowing what we know now about how certain things
turned out, but also knowing how long it took, would we have been
abolitionists in 1830, or feminists in 1870, and so on? We don't
know what surprises history has in store for us when we give history
a little shove, just as history can give each of us a little shove
In the 1960s, I was working at the State
Dept., my heart set on becoming a Foreign Service Officer. Little
did I know that I would soon become a ranting and raving commie-pinko-subversive-enemy
of all that is decent and holy because a thing called Vietnam
came along. So there is that kind of hope as well.
Let me close with two of the laws of politics
which came out of the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, which I
like to cite: The First Watergate Law of American Politics states:
"No matter how paranoid you are, what the government is actually
doing is worse than you imagine." The Second Watergate Law
states: "Don't believe anything until it's been officially
denied." Both laws are still on the books.
Written by William Blum, author of Killing
Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
William Blum page