William Blum

The Anti-Empire Report #7

By William Blum – Published February 17th, 2004

Mushy-thinking liberals

The following is not simply a diatribe against humorist Al Franken. It’s a diatribe against all mushy-thinking liberals. Franken tells us he is against the war in Iraq. But he was part of a tour that went to Iraq to entertain the troops, truly a feat of intellectual and moral gymnastics that enables him to oppose terrible military violence and crimes against humanity while honoring those who carry out the terrible military violence and crimes against humanity. Would he have condemned the oppression and torture inflicted by General Pinochet while expressing his support of the Chilean troops carrying out the oppression and torture?

The American troops in Iraq do not even have the defense of having been drafted.

Country singer Darryl Worley, who leans “a lot to the right,” as he puts it, said he was far from pleased that Franken was coming along on the tour. “You know, I just don’t understand – why would somebody be on this tour if they’re not supportive of the war?”

Franken says that the Bush administration “blew the diplomacy so we didn’t have a real coalition.” Presumably, if the United States had been more successful in bribing and threatening other countries to lend their name in support of the war Franken would have then seen the splendid beauty of the war effort himself.

He also criticizes the administration because they “failed to send enough troops to do the job right”, the Washington Post reported. 1 What “job” does the man think they were sent to do that has not been done up to his standards because of lack of manpower? Did he want them to be more efficient at killing Iraqis who resisted the occupation?

Why does the military send performers to entertain the troops? To improve morale, to make the soldiers feel more appreciated. A happier soldier works at his “job” better.

And then we have the case of Michael Moore supporting unindicted war criminal General Wesley Clark for president. God help the American left.

Why not just tell the truth?

On CNN’s “Crossfire” program of January 5, 2004, co-host Paul Begala had this exchange with Ralph Nader:

BEGALA: Will you run for president in 2004?

NADER: I’m going to decide later this month. I’m in an exploratory stage, which, under the rules, means that you solicit any indication of advice, fund-raising, volunteers, support. Our Web site is NaderExplore04.org, for anybody who wants to let us test the waters.

BEGALA: But you’re not an indecisive man. And you’re generally not thought of as sort of a typical politician, giving weasely answers. Why not just tell the truth? Why not just say, yes, I’m going to run or, no, I’m not? You – I just – frankly, I don’t believe that you don’t know. I think you have decided and you ought to just tell us.

So there we have it, the cat is out of the bag; mainstream media reporters really DO know that the members of congress and other mainstream politicians they typically interview typically do not give honest, complete, or enlightening answers. And the reporters typically go along with the charade even though they may be as fed up with the ritual as any of the listeners are. It’s a tribute to Ralph Nader’s integrity and candidness that Begala felt he could press him as he did.

Son of the Cold War

During the Cold War the policy was called “containment” – surrounding the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites with US military bases and concluding military/economic pacts with the surrounding countries. It made the Soviets highly nervous and paranoid about Washington’s intentions, but what could they do about it? Start World War III?

Now, the Soviet Union and the Cold War are extinct, and what do we find? In the past few years, the United States has been setting up one military base after another in the former Soviet republics and satellite countries surrounding Russia, conducting war games with their new-found allies, with Russia as the only logical target, setting up electronic communications intereception stations, concluding all kinds of agreements with these governments, and prodding many of them to become members of NATO. The Russians have been complaining about this; at times vociferously. (As have the Chinese as the US military presence draws closer.)

One of the latest cases is Georgia, where an uprising recently overthrew the government, an uprising the United States in all likelihood had a hand in.

“We are not trying to surround anyone,” US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Moscow radio station during a trip to Russia and Georgia in late January. “The Cold War is over. The Iron Curtain is down. Russia and the United States are now friends, not competitors or potential enemies, and we should not see things in old Cold War terms.”

“Are we pointing a dagger in the soft underbelly of Russia?” Powell asked. “Of course not.”

A State Department spokesman called the new bases “forward projection points.” 2

Grandson of the Cold War

Imagine something like this happening in the Soviet Union or East Germany during the Cold War. Would we not have been preached to about the soullessness and mechanical nature of the communist system?

“For Myra Bronstein, the news that she had been laid off from the best job she ever had came on a Friday last May.

“The following week, she was back at work, having been told that if she wanted to receive her full severance package, she would have to train her replacements. They had flown in from India just for the occasion.

“In a tense meeting called by management at telecommunications firm WatchMark Corporation., the Indian workers sat across the table from the approximately 20 Seattle-area employees they would replace. The quality assurance manager stood up and in a very perky way said, ‘This is my old staff, and this is my new staff,’ said Bronstein, who spent three years at WatchMark testing software. ‘The old staff was just trying not to cry’.” 3

Whatsoever a man soweth …

There are many ways to look at what the so-called War on Terror has reaped. Consider this: Dozens of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq have attempted suicide because of the horrible things they’ve seen and been forced to do.

Many Afghan and other prisoners being held by the United States in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Base, Cuba under conditions intolerable for humans have tried to kill themselves. The same is likely true for prisoners held in Iraq, although not yet reported.

Suicide bombers had not been an Iraqi custom before the American invasion and occupation.

Hmmm, What is the Man trying to tell us?

George W. Bush, 2002: “I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.” 4

George W. Bush, 2004: “God serves his own purposes and does not owe us an explanation.” 5

Getting to the nitty-gritty

Every election campaign, in addition to all the clichés, platitudes, and other repetitions ad nauseam, the question of “job experience” comes up. Here’s my take on it: If my car needs repair it’s important to have a mechanic who’s experienced with the particular work involved. If I need an operation, I want an experienced surgeon. But when it comes to a politician, all I care about is the person’s politics, his stand on certain issues. Why should anyone be impressed because a candidate has held political office for decades if his views are diametrically opposed to theirs?

Military service is another irrelevancy they give me a headache with. What does being in the military, or seeing combat, or not being in the military, or even avoiding the draft, tell us about a candidate that his voting record and speeches don’t tell us with much more clarity? I don’t care if Bush was AWOL or a deserter, any more than I care if Kerry was a “hero”, particularly in an unjust war.


  1. Washington Post, February 16, 2004
  2. Chicago Tribune, January 28, 2004
  3. Washington Post, February 7, 2004
  4. Ibid., November 19, 2002
  5. Ibid., February 7, 2004

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.

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Books by William Blum

America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy

America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy

The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else

Rogue State

Rogue State

A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower

Killing Hope

Killing Hope

U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II

Freeing the World to Death

Freeing the World to Death

Essays on the American Empire

West-Bloc Dissident

West-Bloc Dissident

A Cold War Memoir