Posted 10 months ago on Jan. 4, 2014, 3:41 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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"Our Leaders Do Not Mean Well"
Saturday, 04 January 2014 09:20 By Daniel Falcone, Truthout | Opinion
William Blum is an American author, critic of American foreign policy and retired employee of the US State Department. He is the author of numerous books and articles discussing uncoverings of the Central Intelligence Agency and writes about our involvement in worldwide terror operations, often in the name of democracy. Blum is the author of the famous book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventionssince World War II (Common Courage Press). The book enjoyed remarkable success, becoming required reading for students and professions in numerous fields. Professor Noam Chomsky said of the book, “It is far and away the best book on the topic.” The book is astounding, as Blum breaks down the post-war CIA in more than 50 fascinating chapters. Actions everywhere from Albania to Zaire are discussed in the book. I met with William Blum in early December in Washington, DC.
Daniel Falcone: Could you tell me something about your educational background and your schooling and how that formulated your conceptions of foreign policy?
William Blum: My interest in and my knowledge of US foreign policy are entirely self-taught. It doesn't come from school. In college, I majored in accounting, of all things, and I worked as an accountant for years. And then I worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst, including at the State Department, where I wanted to become a foreign-service officer. I was working there with computers only to get my foot in the door. But then this was in the mid-'60s, and a thing called Vietnam came along and changed my entire thinking and my life. And I abandoned my aspiration of becoming a foreign-service officer, and I became a leading anti-war activist in DC in '65 and '66 and '67. The security department at State was not unaware of what of what I was doing, and then they called me in eventually and told me I would be happier working in the private sector. And I couldn't argue with that. So I left, and I began writing. I was one of the founders of the Washington Free Press, the first underground newspaper in DC.
What do you think the people need to know who are interested in military history or the history of the Vietnam War or how American foreign policy is essentially made in the United States?
The most important lesson one can acquire about US foreign policy is the understanding that our leaders do not mean well. They do not have any noble goals of democracy and freedom and all that jazz. They aim to dominate the world by any means necessary. And as long as an American believes that the intentions are noble and honorable, it's very difficult to penetrate that wall. That wall surrounds the thinking and blocks any attempt to make them realize the harm being done by US foreign policy. That's what's in my writing and in my speaking. My main aim is usually to penetrate that wall of belief that we mean well.
How do you think people that are a part of the electorate today and participants in the two major parties differentiate President Bush from President Obama, and what are the differences between the two in approach of the office in terms of diplomacy, meaning in terms of diplomacy or foreign affairs?
Well, in foreign policy there's no difference. I cannot name any significant difference in foreign policy between Bush and Obama. Obama is, perhaps, worse. He's invaded six nations already. I cannot think of any way to point out that Obama is less of an imperialist than Bush. The Obama supporters would love to think he's better and they would argue even - and they do argue that it's the Republicans who forced him to do what he did. It's like - it's on par with the dog ate my homework. I get this again and again. If Obama was free to do what he wants, he would be an angel or at least much better than he is now. I don't buy that. He's the most powerful person in the world, and he's just lacking courage - he's lacking belief, too. That's even more important. I've written this several times about Obama. There's nothing really important to that man except being president of the United States. That he likes. He likes what goes with that. But there's no issue that he would not compromise on. He's willing to take any side of any issue in order to get elected. So he's no better than Bush. Bush at least believes what he says, I think. Obama doesn't even do that.
Going back to what you were saying about education earlier, do you think that it's possible to get an understanding of how the world is organized without being self-taught? Or is this something that is a skill that you must acquire on your own?
One doesn't have to be self-taught. One can learn in all kinds of ways. One can have a teacher that inspires them. If I had had a teacher like that, I might not have had to become self-taught. But I didn't.
Were there any authors that you read that inspired you or were you driven through direct experiences and what you saw and observed?
Well, the first book I read which began to change some thinking was The Origin of a Cold War by D.F. Fleming. It's two volumes. That had an influence on me. Many years later, when I looked over it again, I was not as impressed as I was when I first read it. But when I first read it, it was an eye-opener in various ways, and that's one book. I think mainly, though, more than books, there was the publications of the '60s. The newspapers put out by various groups on the left opened up my eyes, including my own newspaper.
Can talk about interventions and plots and specific portions of your famous book on the CIA that were the most astounding to you? Or is it just the general day-to-day activities of the CIA that you want people to focus on? Was there any event that stood out that told you, I have to write about this?
With every chapter in my first book, which eventually became Killing Hope, every chapter was chosen because I found it as something I thought the average American would find contradicting of what he or she had been taught and believed. So that was the criteria I used and so - and it applied to me, as well. These were things which surprised me to discover, one after another. Now, when I began that book, I knew about the seven or eight most famous interventions – Guatemala and Iran and a few others. I had no idea there was so much wrong. But the more I did research, (it began actually as a magazine article) the sooner I realized this is a book - this is not a magazine article. There were so many things I came across. And even that book now - even though it has 55 chapters, I can add a lot more to it. My next book, Rogue State, lists about 20 major interventions which are not even in Killing Hope. Not in the same rich detail you have in Killing Hope, but it's a shorter concise version of each of these in Rogue State. I have about 20 more cases that were not in Killing Hope. The first version of Killing Hope was published in London by Zed Books. I was living in London when I wrote the book. That's why it was published there. Now both Killing and Rogue are Common Courage Press of Maine.
Professor Noam Chomsky at MIT calls the book the best book on the subject that's ever been written. Are you aware of this endorsement as well as several other noteworthy authors?
Yeah, that was very kind of him. At the time of writing this, of course, I had no idea how it would be received. The closer I got to finishing it, the more enthused I was. I had no expectations that it would be received as well as it has been. It's been in print now for 27 years in one version or another under one name or another. It's basically the book I finished in 1986, so it's been quite a surprise to me. And it continues to sell, and it's in print in several languages.
You said recently in an interview regarding your last book how maybe our goals as Americans are to take a look at our empire and slowing it down. If we can't stop it, perhaps we can slow it down. So what did you mean by that?
Well, because I'm always asked by people what can I do about this? After they hear me talk or write about this long list of terrible things done by the government, I suggest what you said, a slowing down. It's too difficult to stop obviously. You cannot wave a magic wand.
Is this something that you find in American audiences? Do all people overseas ask similar questions? Because the American society is a pretty free society; it has educational opportunities. Usually the answer is just doing what you do. You write. You're an activist. You're engaged in speaking activities. You organize. And that's really the only way to really do this, to slow it down, is it not? I mean, like you said, there's no way to wave a magic wand?
Well, unless you want to take up arms, which I don't recommend. I think we'd be outmanned and outgunned. Yeah, unless you want to look for a violent revolution, it's all you can do is educate yourself and as many other people as you can. That's my main advice and my writing is actually aimed at giving the means and the methods to educate other people. I want people - my readers - to learn what to say and what not to say if they're trying to influence other people about US foreign policy. I have that in mind all the time when I write. How will this help my readers to be activists, activists in changing other people's minds?