In January 2006, an audiotape from Osama bin Laden was released in which he recommended William Blum’s Rogue State as a useful book to read for Americans looking to better understand the “lies and oppression” perpetrated by George W. Bush on the rest of the world at the time.
Fast-forward to 2013: Barack Obama is President, bin Laden’s dead, and William Blum has a new book out.
America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy—The Truth About U.S. Foreign Policy and Everything Else (Zed Books, February 2013) is the consummation of Blum’s far-reaching U.S. foreign policy coverage as reported through his website and monthly online newsletter The Anti-Empire Report over the last eight years, equipped with revisions, updates, and expansions upon the original texts.
A former employee of the State Department, Blum resigned in 1967 on account of his opposition to the Vietnam War, leaving behind his aspirations of someday becoming a Foreign Service Officer. He went on to become a founding member and editor of the radical underground newspaper the Washington Free Press, the first of its kind in the capital. His work as a freelance journalist spans the course of five decades, exposing CIA coups and interferences, along with multitudes of other under-reported U.S. foreign policy infractions, such as his highly censored 1998 article on how the United States provided Iraq with the material to develop chemical and biological warfare capabilities during the 1980s, for which he received a Project Censored award for “exemplary journalism.”
It is almost fitting for Blum to be so oddly associated with the former al-Qaeda commander and 9/11 mastermind––random as it is––seeing as how his study into U.S. foreign policy is largely structured around understanding what one could call “the madman complex.” The whole of history is littered with them: inarguable, evil, belligerent leaders hell-bent on tyranny, power and world-domination. Some fit the mold just as they are––Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden––while others require more of a hands-on approach before they can reach their impressionistic zenith. Without the extensive use of propaganda tactics, enforced media manipulation, and repetitious political-speak, just how mad would men like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really seem in all actuality?
“We have to keep this in mind,” Blum ensures us, “America, like Israel, cherishes its enemies. Without enemies, the United States appears to be a nation without moral purpose and direction.”
Take Ahmadinejad for example, the outgoing Iranian president. The very mention of his name instantly brings about indoctrinated thoughts of anti-Semitism; a man who wants to “wipe Israel off the map” and who is so shrouded in hate and derangement that he literally denies that the Holocaust ever took place. If Westerners know nothing else about the Islamic Republic of Iran, they can at least recite those two things.
And that’s exactly the point.
However, according to the translation of Juan Cole, American professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, what Ahmadinejad really said was that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” a remark that does not by itself imply military action. In another speech in December 2006, he was quoted as saying that “the Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom,” to which Blum writes: “Obviously, the man is not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place peacefully.” As for his Holocaust-denial pedigree, Ahmadinejad even addressed it himself, denying his status as a denier as far back as September 2007––but to no avail. Throw in the ever-prominent talk of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities and its strong sphere of influence throughout the Middle East, and I think we can all fit the imperialist puzzle pieces in place from there.
There is, after all, a method to the madness, as history can surely attest.
Blum’s ability to range back in time to decades long past is perhaps his greatest attribute. There are no sacred cows in terms of U.S. foreign policy as far as he is concerned, not even the Marshall Plan, the United States’ “unselfish” act of building Europe back up economically following World War II, including its wartime enemies, which has always been a widely used example of America’s propensity for good in the world. But as Blum sees it:
The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, being paid directly to American corporations to purchase American goods. The US Agency for International Development (AID) stated in 1999: ‘The principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States.’
He also asserts that it of course suited Washington interests by spreading the capitalist gospel “to counter strong postwar tendencies toward socialism,” which marks another important emphasis of America’s Deadliest Export: the blocking of economic or political change throughout the globe, be it through military action, sanctions, and/or covert regime changes––a clearly ironic stratagem for a “democracy” to partake in. Blum equates the Cold War to a struggle between the United States and the Third World, not the Soviet Union. And as for Cuba and South America: “Cuba’s sin, like Venezuela’s, which the United States cannot forgive, is to have created a society that can serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model.”
Thus, where the fight against communism left off, the War on Terror carries on––new enemies, same “capitalist, imperialist, world-domination reasons.”
Considering the massive trajectory that’s covered here, it’s doubly striking what a terrible indictment of the Obama administration this book almost indirectly represents.
Prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Blum prophetically writes: “I’m afraid that if Barack Obama becomes president he’s going to break a lot of young hearts. And some older ones as well.”
Welcome to America 2013: Land of the Lovelorn.
Compared to any other societal issue, the blending of party lines and the utter insignificance of whether the “Leader of the Free World” is a Republican or a Democrat is never more obvious than when conducting any serious inquiry into U.S. foreign policy. Like a spurned lover still clinging for redemption, the American left re-elected the man who ran for “change” the first time around––the Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list––instilling the hopeless logic that a leopard can somehow change his spots if given a second-term. But politics just don’t work that way.
Bin Laden’s “endorsement” of Rogue State, which was published by Zed Books as well, was followed by the reading of an excerpt from the book’s introduction that reads, in full:
If I were 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 the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions - including the awful bombings - have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but - oddly enough - a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money. One year’s military budget of $330 billion is equal to more than $18,000 an hour of 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.
Within hours of the tape’s release, Blum was swamped by the mainstream media in droves, making numerous guest appearances on leading television news shows and radio programs, even landing his photo on page one of the Washington Post. Refusing to be goaded into acting “repulsed” by his admittance into the bin Laden Book Club, Blum acknowledged the pivotal influence that mass media engenders, providing a platform palpable enough to even give status to the irate minority (when a perfect storm of implausible circumstances arises).
America’s Deadliest Export is the sort of book that prepares us for that moment. It reads like a dictionary of a century’s worth of sins that must be confronted, decoded and, most importantly, remembered––not to help spread further hate and resentment––but in order to have any hope of eliminating it someday. “Keep your eye on US foreign policy,” Blum implores us, “which remains the same decade after decade.”
How many more years are we going to let it go on?