The Anti-Empire Report #33
By William Blum – Published May 21st, 2006
“Come Out of the White House with Your Hands Up!”
“I used to be called brother, John, Daddy, uncle, friend,” John Allen Muhammad said at his trial in Maryland earlier this month. “Now I’m called evil.”
Muhammad, formerly known as “the DC Sniper”, was on trial for six slayings in Maryland in 2002. Already sentenced to die in Virginia for several other murders, he insisted that he was innocent despite the evidence against him – including DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics analysis of a rifle found in his car. 1
Bereft of any real political power, I’m reduced to day-dreaming … a courtroom in some liberated part of the world, in the not-too-distant future, a tribunal … a defendant testifying …
“I used to be called brother, George, son, Daddy, uncle, friend, Dubya, governor, president. Now I’m called war criminal,” he says sadly, insisting on his innocence despite the overwhelming evidence presented against him.
Can the man ever take to heart or mind the realization that America’s immune system is trying to get rid of him? Probably not. No more than his accomplice can.
Two years ago the vice president visited Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. During the singing of “God Bless America” in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. It was greeted with so much booing that the Yankees quickly removed the image. 2 Yet last month the vice president showed up at the home opener for the Washington Nationals to throw out the first pitch. The Washington Post reported that he “drew boisterous boos from the moment he stepped on the field until he jogged off. The derisive greeting was surprisingly loud and long, given the bipartisan nature of our national pastime, and drowned out a smattering of applause reported from the upper decks.” 3
It will be interesting to see if Cheney shows up again before a large crowd in a venue which has not been carefully chosen to insure that only right-thinking folks will be present.
Even that might not help. Twice in the last few months, a public talk of Donald Rumsfeld has been interrupted by people in the audience calling him a war criminal and accusing him of lying to get the United States into war. This happened in a meeting room at the very respectable National Press Club in Washington and again at a forum at the equally respectable Southern Center for International Policy in Atlanta.
In Chile, last November, as former dictator Augusto Pinochet moved closer to being tried for the deaths of thousands, he declared to a judge: “I lament those losses and suffer for them. God does things, and he will forgive me if I committed some excesses, which I don’t believe I did.” 4
Dubya couldn’t have said it better. Let’s hope that one day we can compel him to stand before a judge, not one appointed by him.
But what about the Marshall Plan?
During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice inflicted upon the world by unending United States interventions, I’ve often been met with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling only the negative side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America’s dealings with the world in modern times, one of the things almost always mentioned is The Marshall Plan. This is explained in words along the lines of: “After World War II, we unselfishly built up Europe economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete with us.” Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy, who are quick to question the White House’s motives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, have no problem in swallowing this picture of an altruistic America of the period of 1948-1952.
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the thing called “communism” stood in the way, politically, militarily, and ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to confront this “enemy”, and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the Soviets. 5
After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif of foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, various corporations, and other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver in the remaking of Europe to suit Washington’s desires – spreading the capitalist gospel (to counter strong postwar tendencies towards socialism); opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations (a major reason for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g., almost a billion dollars of tobacco, at 1948 prices, spurred by US tobacco interests); pushing for the creation of the Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat; suppressing the left all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this last endeavor, and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the communists.
The CIA also skimmed large amounts of Marshall Plan funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions, journalists, and publishers, at home and abroad, for the heated and omnipresent propaganda of the Cold War; the selling of the Marshall Plan to the American public and elsewhere was entwined with fighting “the red menace”. Moreover, in its covert operations, CIA personnel at times used the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan’s chief architects, Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly at the Ford Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds; one big happy family.
The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of restrictions on the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal criteria which had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free enterprise. The US had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan dollars were spent, but also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent amount of the local currency, giving Washington substantial power over the internal plans and programs of the European states; welfare programs for the needy survivors of the war were looked upon with disfavor by the United States; even rationing smelled too much like socialism and had to go or be scaled down; nationalization of industry was even more vehemently opposed by Washington. The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, to purchase American goods, making American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.
It could be seen as more a joint business operation between governments, with contracts written by Washington lawyers, than an American “handout”; often it was a business arrangement between American and European ruling classes, many of the latter fresh from their service to the Third Reich, some of the former as well; or it was an arrangement between Congressmen and their favorite corporations to export certain commodities, including a lot of military goods. Thus did the Marshall Plan lay the foundation for the military industrial complex as a permanent feature of American life.
It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear, credible description of how the Marshall Plan was principally responsible for the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view, no less clear, is that the Europeans – highly educated, skilled and experienced – could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant strides in this direction before the Plan’s funds began flowing. Marshall Plan funds were not directed primarily toward feeding individuals or building individual houses, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic superstructure, particularly the iron-steel and power industries. The period was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession. The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class. 6
Is someone finally learning a lesson?
The United States has been pushing the UN Security Council to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter against Iran because of its nuclear research. Chapter VII (“Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”) can be used to impose sanctions and take military action against a country deemed guilty of such violations (except of course if the country holds a veto power in the Security Council). The United States made use of Chapter VII to bomb Yugoslavia in 1999 and to invade Iraq in 2003. On both occasions, the applicability of the chapter and the use of force were highly questionable, but to placate Council opponents of military action the US agreed to some modifications in the language of the Council resolution and refrained from stating explicitly that it intended to take military action. Nonetheless, in each case, after the resolution was passed, the US took military action. Severe military action.
In early May, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, asserted: “The fundamental point is for Russia and China to agree that this [Iran’s nuclear research] is a threat to international peace and security under Chapter VII.” However, Yury Fedotov, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, declared that his country opposed the Chapter VII reference because it evoked “memories of past UN resolutions on Yugoslavia and Iraq that led to US-led military action which had not been authorised by the Security Council.”
In the past, the United States had argued that the reference to Chapter VII in a Council resolution was needed to obtain “robust language,” said Fedotov, but “afterwards it was used to justify unilateral action. In the case of Yugoslavia, for example, we were told at the beginning that references to Chapter VII were necessary to send political signals, and it finally ended up with the Nato bombardments.” 7
It remains to be seen whether the Russians or any other Security Council members have taken this lesson to heart and can stand up to the schoolyard bully’s pressure by refusing to give the United States another pretext for expanding the empire’s control over the Middle East.
You can love your mom, eat lotsa apple pie, and wave the American flag, but if you don’t believe in God you are a hell bound subversive.
A recent study by the University of Minnesota department of sociology has identified atheists as “America’s most distrusted minority”. University researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry. The researchers conclude that atheists offer “a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years.”
Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism. The study’s lead researcher believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens, they share an understanding of right and wrong. Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.” 8
Hmmm. I’ve been a political activist for more than 40 years. I’ve marched and fought and published weekly newspapers alongside countless atheists and agnostics who have risked jail and being clubbed on the head, and who have forsaken a much higher standard of living, for no purpose other than the common good. Rampant materialism? Hardly. “Secular humanism”, many atheists call it. And we don’t read about mobs of atheists stoning, massacring, or otherwise harming or humiliating human beings who do not share their non-beliefs.
The public attitude depicted by this survey may derive in part from the Cold-War upbringing of so many Americans – the idea and the image of the “godless atheistic communist”. But I think more than that is the deep-seated feeling of insecurity, even threat, that atheists can bring out in the religioso, putting into question, consciously or unconsciously, their core beliefs.
You must wonder at times, as I do, how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid. Can it have reached this remarkable level by chance, or was it planned? It’s enough to make one believe in God. Or the Devil.
Manure of the taurus
The US Interests Section in Havana has been flashing electronic messages on its building for the benefit of Cubans passing by. One recent message said that Forbes, the weekly financial magazine, had named Fidel Castro the world’s seventh-wealthiest head of state, with a fortune estimated at $900 million. This has shocked Cuban passersby 9 , as well it should in a socialist society that claims to have the fairest income distribution in the world. Are you not also shocked, dear readers?
What’s that? You want to know exactly what Forbes based their rankings on? Well, as it turns out, two months before the Interests Section flashed their message, Forbes had already stated that the estimates were “more art than science”. “In the past,” wrote the magazine, “we have relied on a percentage of Cuba’s gross domestic product to estimate Fidel Castro’s fortune. This year, we have used more traditional valuation methods, comparing state-owned assets Castro is assumed to control with comparable publicly traded companies.” The magazine gave as examples state-owned companies such as retail and pharmaceutical businesses and a convention center. 10 So there you have it. It was based on nothing. Inasmuch as George W. “controls” the US military shall we assign the value of all the Defense Department assets to his personal wealth? And Tony Blair’s wealth includes the BBC, does it not?
Another message flashed by the Interests Section is: “In a free country you don’t need permission to leave the country. Is Cuba a free country?” This too is an attempt to blow smoke in people’s eyes. It implies that there’s some sort of blanket government restriction or prohibition of travel abroad for Cubans, a limitation on their “freedom”. However, the reality is a lot more complex and a lot less Orwellian. The main barrier to overseas travel for most Cubans is financial; they simply can’t afford it. If they have the money and a visa they can normally fly anywhere, but it’s very difficult to obtain a visa from the United States unless you’re part of the annual immigration quota. Cuba being a poor country concerned with equality tries to make sure that citizens complete their military service or their social service. Before emigrating abroad, trained professionals are supposed to give something back to the country for their free education, which includes medical school and all other schools. And Cuba, being unceasingly threatened by a well-known country to the north, must take precautions: Certain people in the military and those who have worked in intelligence or have other sensitive information may also need permission to travel; this is something that is found to one extent or another all over the world.
Americans need permission to travel to Cuba. Is the United States a free country? Washington makes it so difficult for its citizens to obtain permission to travel to Cuba it’s virtually a prohibition. I have been rejected twice by the US Treasury Department.
Americans on the “No-fly list” can’t go anywhere.
All Americans need permission to leave the country. The permission slip – of which one must have a sufficient quantity – is green and bears the picture of a US president.
Save this for that glorious day when more than two centuries of American “democracy” reaches its zenith with a choice between Condi and Hillary.
Condoleezza Rice, testifying April 5 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the US-India nuclear deal:
“India’s society is open and free. It is transparent and stable. It is multiethnic. It is a multi-religious democracy that is characterized by individual freedom and the rule of law. It is a country with which we share common values. … India is a rising global power that we believe can be a pillar of stability in a rapidly changing Asia. In other words, in short, India is a natural partner for the United States.”
And here is a State Department human rights report – released the very same day – that had this to say about India:
“The Government generally respected the rights of its citizens and continued efforts to curb human rights abuses, although numerous serious problems remained. These included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, custodial deaths, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture, poor prison conditions, and extended pretrial detention, especially related to combating insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir. Societal violence and discrimination against women, trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution and labor, and female feticide and infanticide remained concerns. Poor enforcement of laws, widespread corruption, a lack of accountability, and the severely overburdened court system weakened the delivery of justice.”
Is it not enough to murder your brain?
For the record
In March I agreed to speak on a panel at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee convention, to be held in June in Washington, DC. The panel is called: “America, Empire, Democracy and the Middle East”. Then someone at the ADC apparently realized that I was the person whose book had been recommended by Osama bin Laden in January, and they tried to cancel my appearance with phoney excuses. I objected, calling them cowards; they relented, then changed their mind again, telling me finally “all of the seats on the journalism panel, for the ADC convention, are filled.” Two months after our agreement, they had discovered that all the panel seats were filled.
American Muslims are very conservative. 72% of them voted for Bush in 2000, before they got a taste of a police state. Now, they’re still very conservative, plus afraid.
University officials are also conservative, or can easily be bullied by campus conservative organizations which are part of a well-financed national campaign (think David Horowitz) to attack the left on campus, be they faculty, students or outside speakers. Since the bin Laden recommendation, January 19, I have not been offered a single speaking engagement on any campus; a few students have tried to arrange something for me but were not successful at convincing school officials. This despite January-May normally being the most active period for me and other campus speakers.
Speakout, a California agency which places progressive speakers on campuses, informs me that the Horowitz-type groups have succeeded in cutting sharply into their business.
- Washington Post, May 5, 2006, p.B1 (Thanks to Kevin Barrett of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth for the title of this section)
- New York Times, June 30, 2004
- Washington Post, April 12, 2006, p.C3
- Associated Press, November 16, 2005
- See my essay on the use of the atomic bomb.
- See, for example, Joyce & Gabriel Kolko, “The Limits of Power: The World and US Foreign Policy 1945-1954” (1972), chapters 13, 16, 17; Sallie Pisani, “The CIA and the Marshall Plan” (1991) passim; Frances Stoner Saunders, “The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the world of arts and letters” (2000) passim
- The Independent (London), May 8, 2006
- “Atheists as ‘Other’: Moral Boundaries and Cultural Membership in American Society.” American Sociological Review
- Washington Post, May 13, 2006, p.10
- Reuters, March 17, 2006
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.