the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
is the latest addition of William Blum’s growing canon of books
exposing the brutal realities of U.S. government actions. This compilation
of essays, written from 1995 to the present, covers a broad range
of subjects in the arenas of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, effectively
cutting through the fog of propaganda that inevitably obscures such
book starts with a collection of entries from Blum’s monthly
online newsletter, “The Anti-Empire Report,” in which
he comments on various issues, including the invasion and occupation
of Iraq, the coup in Haiti, U.S. rejection of international legal
institutions, actions toward Cuba and Libya, the aggressive role
of NATO in Eastern Europe, and the domestic effects of U.S. capitalism
to name a few.
Blum presents a series of essays further discussing U.S. foreign
policy, including an insightful analysis of the relationship between
U.S. state violence and anti-U.S. terrorist attacks that refutes
the official “terrorists hate us for our freedom” line.
Continuing in this vein, he presents essays on the 9/11 terrorist
attacks and the subsequent U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, the U.S.
role in arming Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, and the
actual (as opposed to fabricated) reasons the U.S. invaded Iraq.
chapter entitled, “Interventions: The Unending List” is
particularly useful and informative. Supplementing his extensive
chronicling of U.S. interventions in the books Killing Hope
and Rogue State, as well as the cases of Haiti, Iraq, and
Afghanistan described elsewhere in Freeing the World to Death,
Blum presents Washington’s most recent interferences into the
affairs of defenseless and sovereign nations in Eastern Europe and
Latin America. These include Slovakia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador,
and Venezuela. In this last case, Blum traces the U.S. government’s
efforts to remove Hugo Chavez from power, from its role in the 2002
coup up to the partial financing of the recent referendum in Venezuela
by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a known front for
section of chapters on the Cold War helps put Washington’s
interventions in historical perspective and details the many instances
in which the U.S. government destroyed the possibility of any alternative
to the capitalist system. His essay entitled, “Hiroshima: Needless
Slaughter, Useful Terror” makes a compelling case that the
atomic attacks on Japanese civilians in World War II were more likely
an attempt to intimidate the Soviet Union than end the war.
Blum also discusses contemporary domestic issues, including electoral
politics, the economic status of those ignored by elites in this
country, and the increasing police state mentality in the United
States. In his essay on presidential candidate John Kerry, he lays
to rest any illusions the reader may have about a humane foreign
policy under a Kerry administration. Kerry’s criticism of Bush
for not providing more funding for the NED, as well as his stated
intention to “order direct military action” against terrorist
groups (i.e., wage preventative war) are among some of the damning
examples that Blum provides.
book ends on an apolitical and humorous note as Blum recounts his
surreal interactions with members of the Los Angeles New Age movement,
or “California Metaphysical Fruitcakes” as he calls them.
This provides a much-needed comic relief to the atrocities he describes
in the preceding pages.
Freeing the World to Death, Blum does not hesitate to challenge
the defenders of U.S. government actions, be they establishment
politicians or ordinary people in the U.S. who believe that their
government is a benevolent world force. In various sections of the
book, he reproduces some of his heated dialogues with these apologists,
including an attempt at discourse with former leftist and current
bombing enthusiast Christopher Hitchens.
additionally takes aim at the often convoluted stances that mainstream
liberals tend to take with regard to foreign and domestic policy,
citing filmmaker Michael Moore’s endorsement of Serbia annihilator
Wesley Clark for president as a prominent example. Additionally,
he notes the curious position of comedian Al Franken, who opposed
the war against Iraq, yet entertained U.S. troops in an effort to
boost their morale, which helped them more efficiently wage war
also issues a warning to those who believe that the removal of George
W. Bush from office is all it takes to end the barrage of violence
emanating from Washington: “All this wickedness has been exhibited
before, regularly; if not packed quite as densely in one administration
as under Bush, then certainly abundant enough to reap the abhorrence
of millions at home and abroad.”
presents his information with a sardonic wit that makes his book
easy to read. His comparison of the esoteric ramblings of Federal
Reserve chair Alan Greenspan to those of Chauncey Gardener in the
movie Being There and his description of Ayn Rand as “the
selfishness guru, who turned the emulation of two-year olds into
a philosophy of life” are two of the many examples of Blum’s
infectious sense of humor. Meticulously documented and thoroughly
informative, Freeing the World to Death honors the multitudes
who have been smashed under our government’s fist and provides
an invaluable resource for those who are dedicated to creating a
just and decent world.
is an activist and Z Media Institute alumnus. He holds a master’s
degree in clinical psychology.