The Anti-Empire Report #31
By William Blum – Published March 22nd, 2006
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.” (“With stupidity, even the gods struggle in vain.”) – Friedrich Schiller
I’m often told by readers of their encounters with Americans who support the outrages of US foreign policy no matter what facts are presented to them, no matter what arguments are made, no matter how much the government’s statements are shown to be false. Included amongst their number are those who still believe that Iraq had a direct involvement in the events of September 11, that Saddam Hussein had close ties to al Qaeda, and/or that weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
My advice is to forget such people. They would support the outrages even if the government came to their homes, seized their first born, and hauled them away screaming, as long as the government assured them it was essential to fighting terrorism (or communism). My (very) rough guess is that they constitute no more than 15 percent of the population. I suggest that we concentrate on the rest, who are reachable.
Inasmuch as I can not see violent revolution succeeding in the United States (something deep inside tells me that we couldn’t quite match the government’s firepower, not to mention their viciousness), I can offer no solution to stopping the imperial monster other than increasing the number of those in the opposition until it reaches a critical mass; at which point … I can’t predict the form the explosion will take.
So I’m speaking here of education, and in my writing and in my public talks I like to emphasize certain points which try to deal with the underlying intellectual misconceptions and emotional “hangups” I think Americans have which stand in the way of their seeing through the bullshit; this education can also take the form of demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience, whatever might produce a thaw in a frozen mind. Briefly, here are the main points:
US foreign policy does not “mean well”. It’s not that American leaders have miscalculated, or blundered, causing great suffering, as in Iraq, while having noble intentions. Rather, while pursuing their imperial goals they simply do not care about the welfare of the foreign peoples who are on the receiving end of the bombing and the torture, and we should not let them get away with claiming such intentions.
The United States is not concerned with this thing called “democracy”, no matter how many times George W. uses the word each time he opens his mouth. In the past 60 years, the US has attempted to overthrow literally dozens of democratically-elected governments, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and grossly interfered in as many democratic elections in every corner of the world. The question is: What do the Busheviks mean by “democracy”? The last thing they have in mind is any kind of economic democracy, the closing of the gap between the desperate poor and those for whom too much is not enough. The first thing they have in mind is making sure the target country has the political, financial and legal mechanisms in place to make it hospitable to corporate globalization.
Anti-American terrorists are not motivated by hatred or envy of freedom or democracy, or by American wealth, secular government, or culture. They are motivated by decades of awful things done to their homelands by US foreign policy. It works the same all over the world. In the period of the 1950s to the 1980s in Latin America, in response to a long string of Washington’s dreadful policies, there were countless acts of terrorism against US diplomatic and military targets as well as the offices of US corporations. The US bombing, invasion, occupation and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan have created thousands of new anti-American terrorists. We’ll be hearing from them for a terribly long time.
The United States is not actually against terrorism per se, only those terrorists who are not allies of the empire. There is a lengthy and infamous history of support for numerous anti-Castro terrorists, even when their terrorist acts were committed in the United States. At this moment, Luis Posada Carriles remains protected by the US government, though he masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 people and his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He’s but one of hundreds of anti-Castro terrorists who’ve been given haven in the United States over the years. The United States has also provided close support of terrorists in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran and elsewhere, including those with known connections to al Qaeda, to further imperial goals more important than fighting terrorism.
Iraq was not any kind of a threat to the United States. Of the never-ending lies concerning Iraq, this is the most insidious, the necessary foundation for all the other lies. This is the supposed justification for the preemptive invasion, for what the Nuremberg Tribunal called a war of aggression. Absent such a threat, it didn’t matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it didn’t matter if the intelligence was right or wrong about this or that, or whether the Democrats also believed the lies. All that mattered was the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was an imminent threat to wreak some kind of great havoc upon America. But think about that. What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide?
There was never any such animal as the International Communist Conspiracy. There were, as there still are, people living in misery, rising up in protest against their condition, against an oppressive government, a government usually supported by the United States.
Conservatives, particularly of the neo- kind (far to the right on the political spectrum), and liberals (ever so slightly to the left of center) are not ideological polar opposites. Thus, watching a TV talk show on foreign policy with a conservative and a liberal is not necessarily getting a “balanced” viewpoint; a more appropriate balance to a conservative would be a left-wing radical or progressive. American liberals are typically closer to conservatives on foreign policy than they are to these groupings on the left, and the educational value of such “balanced” media can be more harmful than beneficial as far as seeing through the empire’s motives and actions.
How to be (duh) happy
Renowned conservative writer George Will penned a column last month celebrating the fact that a survey showed that conservatives were happier than liberals or moderates. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves “very happy”, only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared with 47 percent of conservative Republicans. Will asserted that the explanation for these poll results lies in the fact that conservatives are more pessimistic and less angry than liberals. If that seems counter-intuitive concerning pessimism, I could suggest you read his column 1 , except that it wouldn’t be particularly enlightening; the piece is little more than a vehicle for attacking the welfare state and government interference in the god-given, wondrous workings of free enterprise. “Pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes – government – they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself,” writes Will.
I would propose that one important reason conservatives may be happier is that their social conscience extends no farther than themselves and their immediate circle of friends and family. George Will gives not the slightest hint that the sad state of the world affects, or should affect, conservatives’ happiness. In my own case, if my happiness were based solely on the objective conditions of my particular life – work, social relations, health, adventure, material comfort, etc. – I could, without hesitation, say that I’m very happy. But I’m blessed/cursed with a social conscience that assails my tranquility. Reading the hundred varieties of daily horrors in my morning newspaper – the cruelty of man, the cruelty of nature, the cruelty of chance – I’m frozen in despair and anger. Often, what makes it hardest to take is that my own government, at home and abroad, directly and indirectly, is responsible for more of the misery than any other human agent. I would have been incredulous, during the first half of my life, to think that one day my own government would scare me so. But if I were a conservative, I could take great comfort, even happiness, in convincing myself that it’s largely “the bad guys” who are being hurt and that the US-caused horrors are for the purpose of extending democracy, freedom, and other joys to the dark corners of the world. And at a profit.
The Cuban punching bag
The Committee to Protect Journalists, located in New York, calls itself “An Independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide”. In December it issued a report that said that “China, Cuba, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are the world’s leading jailers of journalists in 2005”.
On January 7 I sent them the following email: 2
I have a question concerning your report on imprisoned journalists. You write that you consider journalists imprisoned when governments deprive them of their liberty because of their work. This implies that they’ve been imprisoned because of WHAT THEY’VE WRITTEN PER SE. You show Cuba with 24. And I would question whether your criterion applies to the Cuban cases. The arrests of these persons in Cuba had nothing to do with them being journalists, or even being dissidents, per se, but had everything to do with their very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government officials.
The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. During the period of the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba damage greater than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. In 1999, Cuba filed a suit against the United States for $181.1 billion in compensation for victims of (at that time) forty years of aggression. The suit accused Washington policies of being responsible for the death of 3,478 Cubans and wounding or disabling 2,099 others.
Would the US ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization inside the United States? Would it matter if these American dissidents claimed to be journalists? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States.
Moreover, most of the arrested Cubans can hardly be called journalists. Their only published works have appeared on websites maintained by agencies of the United States.
On February 10, having received no reply, I sent another email referring them to my January 7 letter. As of March 21 I still have not received a reply. In the United States one does not have to defend attacking Cuba for any reason. You just do it, and if by some oddball chance, some oddball person asks you to defend what you’ve said … Who cares? The sports section of the Washington Post today brings another mindless knee-reflex attack. Alfonso Soriano, the Washington National’s new player, has refused to play left field, insisting on his regular second-base position. “Imagine,” writes Thomas Boswell, “Soriano refusing to change positions if he played for the Cuban team in the WBC title game. Fidel Castro might have disposed of the body before game time.” 3
Incidentally, it might also be noted that amongst America’s prison population of more than two million, there are probably at least a few hundred who have practiced journalism at one time or other, in one manner or other.
September 11, 2001
Many readers have asked me why I haven’t expressed any opinion about the events of that infamous day. The reason is that I preferred to not get entangled in all the complexity and controversy, the arguments and hard feelings, without any clear answers. But, very briefly, here goes.
Almost all of those who have asked me this believe that it was all planned and carried out by US government officials. I don’t think so. Not that I would put it past the imperial mafia morally. I just think the complications would have made it next to impossible to stage with such “success”, and without making it obvious to virtually everyone. I think what’s more likely is that the government knew that some terrorist act involving aircraft was being planned and they let it happen so as to make use of it politically, or they watched the progress of the planning to see where it would lead, and perhaps capture other plotters, and they waited too long, which is apparently what happened in the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. There is an impressive body of evidence indicating that various government officials had knowledge of the broad outline of the 2001 planned deed, if not every detail.
I also think that some of the questions raised by 9-11 researchers are not very impressive. Like no one has given me a good explanation as to why the government would want to destroy building 7. And the fact that Bush quietly spent time in a class with young students after hearing about the first plane – if it was being staged he would have reacted in a different way. Or that several of the hijackers turned up “alive” in the Middle East. Why couldn’t their identity have been stolen? And more things like that.
There are numerous questions about the official version – which leaves the government completely innocent, albeit incompetent – that make it very difficult to take the story at face value, but one doesn’t therefore have to jump to the other extreme of a government operation.
And now for something completely different
Question for discussion, class. Why does a lottery whose jackpot reaches $200 million or more attract so many more players than one where the jackpot is only about $20 million? It’s as if winning only $20 million wouldn’t change one’s life radically and dramatically. What dream do these people have that could be realized by $200 million but which would be unfulfilled with only $20 million?
- Washington Post, February 23, 2006, p.19
- To: email@example.com
- Washington Post, March 21, 2006, p.E1
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.