Posted 7 months ago on March 12, 2014, 4:26 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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William Blum Discusses America's Deadliest Export: Democracy
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 09:31 By Daniel Falcone, Truthout | Author Interview
William Blum is a leading expert on American Foreign Policy. He left the State Department in 1967 because of his opposition to United States action in Vietnam. Blum has been a freelance journalist in the US, Europe and South America. He is the author of the well-known book, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II. Mark Zepezauer used Blum's work as the inspiration for his well-known CIA's Greatest Hits, published in 1994. Blum's new book America's Deadliest Export: Democracy, The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else has been called "a remarkable collection that concentrates on matters of great significance" by Professor Noam Chomsky. It has also been reviewed by Professor Edward Herman who commented that the book "is brimming with wit and quotations that are both laughable and frightening."
Daniel Falcone: Thank you for having this discussion with me, today. I appreciate it. Could we just talk about the book in terms of how this book is similar and different from your other books?
William Blum: Well, they all deal with US Foreign Policy; however, this book stems largely from my monthly Anti-Empire Report, which is dealing with events of the past five, ten years. My other books deal with events much longer ago, so Deadliest Export is more up to date.
You have more contemporary themes in here. There's a section on President Obama, there's a section on WikiLeaks, conspiracies - so how do these more recent issues compare with some issues you've already studied, or is this just the tradition following along as you see it in terms of foreign policy? For example, when you write about Barack Obama in here, are you saying this is business as usual in Washington in terms of...
I go into detail about why he's very much a big disappointment to many people. Not to me, because I didn't expect anything, but to many other people.
His civil liberties record and his foreign policy can be reactionary in some instances. Is there any saving grace in his domestic policy? Is there anything we can embrace about him as an individual in terms of his presidency, in terms of the domestic realm?
There's nothing I admire about him. My main problem with him is that he doesn't have any strong beliefs. He doesn't believe strongly in anything except being President of the United States. The man is an empty shell in my opinion. He'll go with whichever way the wind blows and if he seems more liberal than the Republicans, it's only because he's in power and they're not. If Republicans were in power, their policies would be very similar to his. There's not really a big difference between the two parties except one is on the out and one is on the in. And they switch that back and forth. So, the one on the out acts in a certain way, and the one on the in acts in a certain way; which makes them appear different, but, in terms of power, they're both the same.
Could we call him a moderate Republican?
I've written that in European terms, he would be called a center-rightist. In the US, we would call him a centrist. I wouldn't even call him a liberal because, although the liberals of the modern period are not very admirable, it's not even a compliment if I said he was a liberal. He's not like Lyndon Baines Johnson, the last liberal President maybe we had.
Weren't some of Richard Nixon's policies considered liberal?
Nixon was more liberal than Obama is, definitely. He created the EPA.
You start off Chapter 21 about President Obama in mentioning "the warning signs were all there, Obama and empire." And then you start with this interesting story about the New Yorker of 2008 showing Obama "wearing Muslim garb in the oval office and the portrait of Bin Laden on the wall" and you give the scenario. It was a controversial cover. What was the idea of presenting this cartoon at the beginning of the chapter?
It is not educational. It deals with the cover of the New Yorker and discusses the public outrage over the cover, but I'm wondering why there is no outrage when Obama is called a progressive; for that is not an educational portrayal either.
You do write, "How much more educational for the American public and the world it would be to make fun of the idea that he is some kind of progressive.." I see your point. And you go on to discuss our intensified role in Afghanistan under Obama as well as his comment in the Chicago Tribune of 2004, where he supported Bush's policy in Iraq at the later stages. Furthermore, you discuss his six major military strikes in the first 26 months of his first term. You also discuss extremism in the book and, if I may paraphrase, your definition of extremism for our country - in terms of foreign policy, is any nation that shows opposition to United States' power. Is that how you're categorizing extremism?
Occasionally what some supporters of foreign policy would have you believe is that yes, to take exception to our policies is to declare yourself an extremist.
How about when you discuss the public relations industry and its relationship to producing a war machine, or propaganda in the context of this book? How does one see through the propaganda? How can we identify it and what are the skills involved?
Republicans don't want to say the US should not intervene here or there. And so, they're finding some minor little aspect of it to harp on.
Knowledge is the skill. If you know enough, you can see through it. And if your mind is open enough - I mean, there are many people who are educated and knowledgeable, but they're so invested in the idea that Obama will be the savior, if, for no other reason perhaps then desperation, to find someone who can save the left. They're willing to overlook a lot of what he does so, knowledge is not a guarantee against being propagandized. If you know enough, you won't allow your own emotions to overrule your common sense.
The media and some of the Republicans, who are being called obstructionists, seem to be dwelling on the Benghazi question in terms of United States security. The conservatives don't seem to be opposed to having United States power abroad and its ruthless forces, but they are trying to say that Obama was not being truthful in the matter. It appears to be a very non-constructive issue; have you followed that at all?
I too followed it with a bit of confusion. I'm not sure what really bothers them. The main shortcoming and big crime of Obama's intervention in Libya is the intervention itself. We overthrew the government, one of the few remaining secular governments in the Middle East. We overthrew it and with the help of Al Qaeda types; we wound up fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda for the fourth or fifth time in modern history. That is the main crime. This thing with Benghazi, it's something invented by the Republicans and not because they're upset by our intervention in Libya, that doesn't bother them. Tracking the wording of the President is something which they can make some political fuel out of since they can't argue the intervention per se, because they're committed to American Imperialism themselves. Republicans don't want to say the US should not intervene here or there. And so, they're finding some minor little aspect of it to harp on. And I'm not sure what else they have in mind, when they keep raising this issue, except they want to challenge Obama and his presidency. It might all be in an effort to spoil or challenge Hillary Clinton. They can pin it on her because they expect her to be their next opponent for the White House.
Can you comment on the activities of the Pentagon, or the aspects of how we go around the world that require the Pentagon to be invested in a way of disseminating information to the public. I assume its task is to make policy look like it's constructive foreign policy and not disastrous.
They're basically conservative, but they hide behind this thing they call objectivity. And I've taken pleasure in thinking that many mainstream journalists have read my stuff and been envious that I have the freedom to write that way and they don't.
That's the same task faced by every agency of the government which has a connection to foreign policy. The same task faced by the mainstream media. They want to make it look good. They never use the word imperialism. They never say this is a big lie or it's totally immoral, so they're all on the same side. They all have to find ways of putting it in the best light. That's the joint task of all these institutions. It's as bad as World War I. These young people, they have little idea of the extreme acts of terrorism carried out by our Al Qaeda types. I'm sure the average American shares this view that suicide bombings are inhuman, but one can raise the same questions about the average American soldier. What's been done to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is as horrible as anything done by Al Qaeda. So, we don't have to look for Islamic brainwashing, we have American brainwashing.
Your writing style in this book is very interesting. You have a unique sense of humor in the book. You use metaphor; there's sarcasm; there are clever analogies; cite Arabic opinion polls, State Department documents, and poetic expressions and you have literary references on the history of Rome, as well as various textured and colorful stories and quotations. It seems markedly different from your other writings.
No, it's always been that way. I have to enjoy writing. I couldn't write for the Washington Post. I mean, even if they wanted me, I could never follow their style which they call objective. I call it dishonest. They're basically conservative, but they hide behind this thing they call objectivity. And I've taken pleasure in thinking that many mainstream journalists have read my stuff and been envious that I have the freedom to write that way and they don't. So, that's how I see it.