"There is a Thirst for Real Answers"

by William Blum

International Socialist Review, November-December 2001



William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military Intervention and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, both published 6y Common Courage Press. He was interviewed by Djibrile Oumarou and David Zirin.


There is very little talk about the rook of the current crisis. What are the roots of the war?

Do you mean why the terrorists attacked the U.S., or why the U.S. is attacking Afghanistan so fiercely? Because those are two different questions.

The attack on the World Trade Center was not done because they hate our freedom. If that were the case, they would have chosen the Statue of Liberty. And if their desire was to attack democracy, many countries are at least as democratic as the U.S. Why wasn't Denmark attacked, or Finland, or Costa Rica?

So why were the World Trade Center and the Pentagon target?

This is because of what the U.S. has done to the world over the last 50 years, especially in the Middle East.

In the last 20 years alone, the U.S. has bombed Libya on several occasions, bombed Iraq, of course, shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing about 290 people, and sunk an Iranian ship. We have continued to supply Israel and condoned their routine torture of Palestinians, and condemned Palestine for resisting this. In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. gave millions of dollars in weapons and intelligence aid to both sides in hope of maximum damage. Now that's evil, since we're all speaking of evil.

Why is the US. now engaged in such a vicious campaign?

On the surface, it's to feel good, to give the American people a warm, fuzzy feeling about U.S. power. That said, there are more important reasons behind it. If you want to be logical about it, they are not going to get the people responsible for these crimes. It is not even known with certainty that Osama bin Laden is guilty. What the U.S. wants is a government that will come into power that is an obedient client state, which will allow the U.S. to build bases in Afghanistan and other communication-intercept facilities.

There has been much talk in past few years as well about vast deposits of oil and gas in the Caspian Sea area. Oil companies have testified through Congress how important this is to exploit the need to build pipelines and the need to be able to pass them through Afghanistan. They need a friendly government in Afghanistan to allow them to pass these pipelines through.

So that plus building these military bases are two reasons why they want a government friendly to the U.S. Keep in mind, after the Gulf War, the U.S. ended up with bases all over the Gulf. After the Serbia bombing, the U.S. ended up with bases all over Serbia. They plan this very carefully, and the public is far removed from any of this, of course, and many Americans think it is bad guys attacking us, and we attacking bad guys. What could be simpler?

You wrote in Killing Hope about how the CM subverts free elections and institutes bloody dictatorships. What do you think of the new legislation that gives the CM a role in domestic matters?

These war powers acts have already put dose to 1,000 people in custody. This is ruining all kinds of lives. People are being pulled from their families and their jobs and being held in custody without being charged with a crime. The government may be doing this for months and years. The most innocent associations with groups the government deems terrorist means you can be brought in. If you give to a charity connected to the Middle East and it has any kind of connection with the military wing of groups, it will get you in hot water. You can't say a word within a mile of an airport. I was at the post office, and there is now a big sign that says you must hand the clerk the package instead of leaving it on the counter, and I said out loud, "This is a police state." This man next to me on line jumped down my throat and said, "This police state is protecting your life!"

They will find 1,000 ways to curtail freedom-not just involving inconveniences, but speech. This can put a damper on activism if people are reluctant to come to antiwar rallies because it is "inappropriate," as if it's "unpatriotic" if they go along with this.

Kofi Annan has backed the US. bombing, saying it is an act of self-defense. What do you think of that?

He said that? Well, now I know why he got the Nobel Peace Prize. He's joined other noble Nobel winners like Henry Kissinger and Menachem Begin, so he is in good company.

Bush gave a speech calling for children in the US. to each send a dollar for Afghan children, and then announced there were food drops from US. planes What did you make of that speech?

The U.S. is the inventor of advertising and public relations. But one doesn't have to have a master's degree to know that if you bomb a mass of starving people, it's pretty meaningless to then drop insignificant amounts of food. The intended recipients are at risk to pick up the food because packages are being dropped in places heavily mined. The bombing itself causes real charities to leave.

It's ridiculous. What if these terrorists, before slamming their planes [into the World Trade Center], had dropped a bunch of hot pastrami sandwiches on Manhattan? Would that have made the American people feel better? It's that absurd. It's all right to bomb if you give food, and at the same time the children send letters stuffed with dollar bills. Instead of sending in a dollar, why not send a postcard that asks Bush to stop killing these children's parents and making it impossible for real charitable organizations to help?

Does September 11 represent a "failure" of US. intelligence?

Certainly it was a failure of intelligence, but I doubt if it was a complete surprise to the U.S. government. They knew something was about to happen because you had dozens plotting and detailing this operation. They had to use some means of communication-e-mails and phones. It's hard to believe they had no hint of this.

It is known that the FBI had some foreknowledge of both the first World Trade Center attack and the Oklahoma City bombing. Some day I believe we will find out the same for this tragedy. Too many benefits have flown in the direction of the intelligence community.

Will the US. intervention bring democracy?

There is certainly no historical precedent. They are talking about installing a king [in Afghanistan]. That's not exactly what I would call a democracy, so I wonder what Jefferson would make of this.

What do you make of the US. claim that it is bombing to "end terrorism?

No one feels more secure because of bombing. The U.S. keeps making promises to get support, but doesn't keep promises. They speak of rebuilding Afghanistan, but this is pure propaganda.

We said we would rebuild Serbia, but all the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank did was give them a massive loan with one hand and make them pay back old debts with the same money, so they ended up getting nothing.

No, the bombing will create more terrorists. Every person you kill creates a dozen new terrorists.

If I was president of the United States, this is what I would do:

On the first day, I would extend an apology to all orphans and widows and victims of U.S. foreign policy.

On the second day, I would announce that we won't intervene anywhere else.

On the third day, I'd tell Israel, "your country is not the 51st state but a foreign country," and then reduce the military budget 90 percent and pay reparations to all families in the world destroyed by U.S. foreign policy.

On the fourth day, I would be assassinated.

Why is it important h read books like Rogue State and Killing Hope?

The great majority of Americans are very confused because all they hear is what the government tells them. Enough have doubts about government policy that they want to find out more. There are certain books that can tell them all that they have been lied to about concerning U.S. foreign policy over the years.

The only positive I can see in this whole thing is that I have heard and read numerous stories in publications like USA Today or on NPR [National Public Radio] wrestling with the question of why we are so hated in the world-and examining our foreign policy. Clearly Bush saying, "They hate our freedom," is not enough for people. There is a thirst and an opening for real answers and real truth.

September 11th, 2001

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