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The Bloody Road To Empire


David Ross: In “Killing Hope” you have fifty-four chapters on different interventions by the U.S. government into sovereign countries around the world.

William Blum: Well, many of the chapters deal with multiple interventions. There are probably well over a hundred separate and serious interventions by the U.S. government into maybe seventy or eighty countries, in which I deal with.

DR: How do you define an “intervention?”

Blum: Well, I’ve confined it to serious interventions. I don’t want to be accused of being picayune, of criticizing our government for every little foible or statement. I’m talking about the attempt to overthrow governments, whether successful or not, suppressing popular revolutions, or popular movements, against very suppressive governments. I’m talking about assassinations, about serious interference in foreign elections, great manipulation of the media, subverting labor unions, things like that. Those are the elements, some of which—or sometimes all of them—are included in the interventions which I deal with.

DR: Let’s talk about your chapter on “Greece 1947 to early 1950’s: From Cradle of Democracy to Client State.” Now, a lot of people don’t know that the U.S. Government intervened in Greece.

Blum: Well, the average American is unaware of the great bulk of the case studies in my book. Which is why I wrote it—I felt there was a big gap to be filled. Greece was one example of about half a dozen after the Second World War where the U.S. took the side of its supposed former enemies, aiding people who had been Nazis or had served the Nazis, or the Japanese. There are at least half a dozen of these countries. And in the case of Greece, there was a civil war going on. On one side you had the Greek right wing, which had actively corroborated with the Nazis who had occupied Greece during the war. On the other side you had the left, which had fought against the Nazis and had successfully forced them to leave the country. Now, which of those two sides do you think the U.S. government took? Of course the side which had been pro-Nazi. What the U.S. government feared most was a left wing, socialist, or communist government anywhere in the world—including Europe, of course—and they had to suppress that in its infancy.

DR: That’s the threat to the powers that be, in general—any type of a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

Blum: Right. Well, any place in the world where there has been the possibility of a successful example to the capitalist model, that’s where the U.S. has intervened. And that’s why they have been so unrelenting in their hostility towards Cuba. Cuba was seen immediately as a possible successful example to the capitalist model, and so the U.S. policy has been aimed at making sure that the Cuba revolution could not be successful, and they have caused it untold harm, in a thousand ways. And we’ll never know what the Cuban revolution might have turned into, because the U.S. made life so impossible for it. But even so, for decades—and even today—the Cuba revolution has inspired people all over the third world. So the U.S. has been quite right from this point of view in seeing that the Cuba revolution threatened to be a good example which would inspire other third world people, and that has been the motivation behind their intervention. And I can name two-dozen other places where the same motivation came into play to suppress any such possible success.

DR: That’s what Noam Chomsky wrote about the independence movement in Vietnam. It was the threat of a “good example.”

Blum: Right. And I would say, as would Chomsky, that contrary to common belief, the U.S. did not lose the war in Vietnam—it succeeded in achieving its purpose—to make sure that Vietnam would be a basket case, as they made sure Iraq would be a basket case, and in 1999, they made sure that Yugoslavia would be a basket case. We turn any possible good example into a basket case, and that’s the crux of our foreign policy. Which is very hard for the average American to believe. They can’t believe that their government can be so malicious-minded, and they call people like me a conspiracy nut, because I’ve applied a connection between these apparently far-removed events—and my book shows a great connection.

DR: How about your chapter on Chile. In 1964 to 1973 the U.S Government intervened, you sub-titled the chapter: “A Hammer and Sickle Stamped on Your Child’s Forehead?”

Blum: That was a poster put up in Chile by the right wing, implying that if Salvador Allende was victorious and became President, that the children of Chile would have a hammer and sickle stamped on their foreheads. That was a major intervention by the U.S., again, to prevent a good example. In fact, this particular example carried with it a very additional special threat, here, it would not even be a revolution, which is a result of a coup, but it would be the result of a legal, democratic, and fair election. And this would be totally contrary to all that we have been taught about in the cold war about communism, or so-called communism—that they can take power only through violence, and they can retain power only through great suppression and oppression of the population. And here you had a man, Salvador Allende, who had won a free election, and in the course of his three-years-plus in power, his party had significantly increased its share of the vote. And it was after the last election, in 1973, when the U.S. government and their Chilean allies saw that they would be unable to defeat Allende’s socialist party in elections, they knew the only recourse was a coup. And the CIA had been prepping the military for three years to make them hostile to the government—in countless ways—and to create chaos in the society, economic chaos, which would give the military the excuse to take power. It worked just as they intended.

DR: How about your chapter on “Guatemala 1962 to 1980’s: A Less Publicized ‘Final Solution?’”

Blum: Final Solution, which is, of course, a reference to the holocaust. What has been done to the people of Guatemala, and particularly the Native Indian population, is every bit as horrible as what was done to the Jews in Europe. We don’t hear about it much; we certainly don’t call it a holocaust, because our side did it with great support by the U.S. government—all the way—for forty years. In 1954 we overthrew a legally elected government, a very benevolent government; a social democratic government, we would call it today. We overthrew that, and for forty years, almost, the level of horror in Guatemala set all kinds of records, for this sad world.

DR: I’ve read that over two hundred thousand people were killed in Guatemala. Now, this was in support of United Brands Fruit, which became Chiquita Banana?

Blum: Initially. One of the main instigations of the coup was the fact that the government there wanted to use some of the unused land of the fruit company for more social purposes. The United Fruit Company happened to be very well connected to the Eisenhower administration. They were close to John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Eisenhower’s aides. It was an amazing connection that they had there. The result was that the government of Guatemala, led by Arbenz, was overthrown fairly easily—as is the case with banana republics, of course, and that was the beginning of the end of the people of Guatemala. And it’s still going on, I mean, even though, officially, the State Department would say that Guatemala is now a free country, the death squads still act with impunity, the U.S. government still arms and trains the military, which carries out its hostile acts against the population. The poor are as poor as ever, and so on; there hasn’t been any change at all.

DR: The British Empire ruled through direct Imperialism, installing their British mandates. After World War II, the U.S. government took over, and used a policy of Neo-Imperialism, or Neo-Colonialism where they supported puppet dictators throughout the world and didn’t directly rule.

Blum: Right, exactly, that’s much better for their PR, so they can say that they are not imperialists. They say, “Well, we don’t have a Governor General running the place, you know, it’s these independent people.” Yeah. The U.S. is the inventor and the perfecter of advertising and public relations¾ they know how to manipulate world opinion like no one has come even close to, especially the American public. It is remarkable, in light of all that has been documented—in my book and elsewhere—that the average American still cannot believe that his government or her government means ill. They think the motivation is always to help other people. They can criticize certain policies for being foolish or mistaken, or even causing more harm than good, but they don’t question the motivation. They’re convinced, down to their very toes that our government means well. And my new book is inspired by that belief—I mean, in particular, last year’s bombing of Yugoslavia, which we were told was an act in humanitarianism. My book, “Rogue State”, was written in response to that. It’s in effect a mini-encyclopedia of all the unhumanitarian acts of the U.S. government over the past sixty years or so. It’s aimed at those Americans who are so convinced that we mean well.

DR: “Rouge State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower” came out in May 2000. In it you have a chapter on war criminals. You state that our former President, Bill Clinton, has committed war crimes. Why, do you think, could Bill Clinton be successfully prosecuted as a war criminal?

Blum: Well, for what he did to the people of Yugoslavia alone. It’s very unknown in this nation that during the bombing of Yugoslavia and afterwards, legal scholars of several nations, including the U.S., U.K., Greece, and Norway filed briefs with the tribunal in the Hague which was set up to try the war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. They named in these briefs, all the leaders of NATO—from Clinton and Blair on down to Havel of Czechoslovakia—and gave great detail about the nature of these war crimes. They showed exactly how they had violated human rights, and had committed crimes against humanity, and other things which have been covered under Nuremberg, and which were being applied to Serbians and others in Yugoslavia—the former Yugoslavia—but not to NATO. And the tribunal in The Hague, it turns out, was formed under U.S. instigation, and it’s being financed completely by NATO powers. So the chance of this tribunal indicting any member of NATO is almost nil. It’s not really a legal body, it’s a political body and that’s the way it’s been acting. I go into some detail about the suits filed against NATO by these legal scholars, which has been ignored by the tribunal.

DR: In Iraq, additionally, there’s an ongoing genocide. 1.5 million civilians have died since 1991 as a result of the sanctions according to UNICEF reports and the Red Cross. The U.S. government, predominately, has directed and executed this deadly sanctions regime; these too, of course, are war crimes. You can’t just kill civilians in large numbers, as agreed upon in the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the Nuremberg Tribunal. These are international treaties, the supreme law of the land.

Blum: The U.S. has been guilty of dozens of war crimes. There have been multiple places where they’ve been guilty of that. The bombing of Panama, the average American has no idea what happened there. It was outrageous. It was a totally unprovoked, the bombing of a people who had not threatened or attacked the U.S. in any way. They bombed a large area of poor neighborhoods—always the poor—and they killed hundreds, or thousands, probably, they made many more thousands homeless. And all for reasons which they won’t admit, but I go into them in my chapter on Panama, in “Killing Hope.”

DR: Noriega was on the CIA payroll under George Bush. He was getting two hundred thousand a year, I believe, but he got out of line, and he started supporting the Sandinistas. The U.S. Government was also worried about the Panama Canal. Is that correct?

Blum: I don’t think he was the main reason at all for the invasion—that’s just the excuse they gave. They needed to use an excuse like that because the man was/is a known obnoxious individual who dealt in drugs and so on, and was very brutal with his own people. He was an easy target to choose as the excuse. But there were much more important excuses, including the fact that in two months after the invasion, there was an election scheduled in Nicaragua, and this was a warning to the people of that country that if they voted to in favor of the Sandinistas, that they might face the same kind of punishment, the same kind of invasion. That was one reason. Another main reason was that this invasion took place just two weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, and there was a danger to the Pentagon, and their allies, that they would not have any enemy to fatten their budget and to keep their jobs. They needed enemies, and they needed to show that there was still a need for a powerful military. And so they staged this invasion to show that the military was still a powerful force, and could do all kinds of marvelous things. Those are some of the real reasons for the invasion. Noriega was unimportant.

DR: What are the structures of the mass media in the United States that filter out the facts that you document in your books?

Blum: Well, it’s personnel; I mean, whom do they hire? The Washington Post—which I mention because I live in Washington, DC—they would not hire someone like me to be a writer. Someone like me would never want to write for them, because I know I would be censored. And so you have two safeguards there to guarantee that the Washington Post will wind up with people writing for them who share their world-view. And the people who hire the writers of course accept this world-view, or they would not be the editors or executives if they didn’t. And these papers are owned by multinational corporations who certainly share their view. So the game is fixed. Once you start with such ownership and such personnel, you’ve guaranteed that you’re not going to have a staff of writers who question the foreign policy status quo.

DR: They’re also dependent on advertising, which comes from the big corporations, in general. Blum: Right. Well, the Post can be often fairly liberal when it comes to domestic issues. But I maintain that it’s foreign policy, which separates the men from the boys when discussing people’s politics or their ideology. The Post can accept, and they do have stories fairly often about poverty in America, and the lack of health care, and often things like that, but when it comes to foreign policy, I doubt if you can find a single daily newspaper in the United States which unequivocally opposed the invasion or the bombing of Yugoslavia, or unequivocally opposed the bombing of Iraq, or the invasion of Panama, or Granada. These are sacrosanct—these foreign invasions. When “our boys are putting their lives on the line,” the media holds its tongue. And even though we’ve reached the stage where our boys are seldom putting their lives on the line at all¾we’re bombing from fifteen thousand feet above the victims, and there’s no danger to our boys, our great heroes. So even that’s passé. But the media is quite conditioned to keep their lips sealed when it comes to any kind of foreign warfare.

DR: We’re told in the U.S. that we have a democracy here. Who really controls U.S. foreign policy?

Blum: Well, the Pentagon, again, it’s a question of personnel—like with the newspapers. Who’s going to be hired by the State Department, or the Pentagon? I, myself, at one time worked for the State Department.

This was during the war in Vietnam¾and I was opposed to the war. I was trained to be a Foreign Service officer, and I became very much opposed to the war in Vietnam, and I began to be very active in the anti-war movement while I was still employed at the State Department. Of course, eventually the people there in security found out about my activities, and I was called in, and I was advised that I would be, well, it was suggested that I would be happier in the private sector. And, well, I had planned to leave anyhow, so I left. There’s no room for any kind of dissidence in these agencies. I had a friend who worked for the Washington Post for years, and he quit because he couldn’t take the politics. So occasionally some people are going slip through the filters, people who don’t belong in these institutions, that’s bound to happen. But they will either be fired, or they’ll quit in disgust. So you wind up with personnel who are True Believers, and that’s why these policies continue.

DR: Is it the super-rich, the top one percent or the top percentile of that that are determining policy?

Blum: Well, no, it’s not just them. I mean, many of the True Believers are not rich, but they are fanatic ideologues, and they have important positions in the foreign policy establishment. They don’t have to be rich to hold such views. Anyone who’s raised in this society is well indoctrinated to have certain beliefs, whether they’re rich or whether they’re poor. Now, the policies in the end are carried out to make life easy for the American multinational—to make the world safe for their investments, and to eliminate as much friction and opposition in the Third World to such investments as they can. So it’s to their benefit, but they are not the only ones who are holding these positions in these agencies.

DR: What alternative models of government can activist strive for that would replace this model that we have that’s intervening militarily in countless countries around the world?

Blum: Well, this has to be done in stages, there’s no choice. I mean, I’m a socialist, and I can answer your question by saying I would love to see an American form of socialism, but that’s not going to happen in my lifetime, or even in my son’s lifetime. I think all we can hope for in the reasonable future is the kind of society that someone like Ralph Nader is in favor of: He’s pushing for highly increased democracy. He’s not a socialist, as far as I know. But he’s certainly a believer in true democracy, and that would make a major change in all kinds of policies if we could institute that. So that’s all we can hope for in the foreseeable future.

DR: Noam Chomsky has written that the Soviet Union was not socialist at all; it quickly became a bureaucratic dictatorship after the revolution. And some of the socialist organizations say that there’s never been an example of socialism yet. Would you agree with that?

Blum: There hasn’t been a real good example because the U.S. government and some of its allies have made sure there hasn’t. That’s what I was saying before. In fact, in the entire twentieth century, every significant or even half-significant attempt at building a socialist society anywhere in the world has been invaded, destabilized, overthrown, bombed, or just had life simply made impossible for it, by the U.S. government, and, in some cases, some other allies. The U.S. invaded the Soviet Union, they invaded Cuba, and they have not made life feasible for socialism anywhere in the world. And so we have never had any attempt at socialism, which has been allowed to rise or fall on its own merits. We have not had that example. We’ll never know what the Soviet Union would have been if it had not been subjected to the most hostile of worlds. I mean, for the first twenty years of its existence, it was not even recognized by any other country¾in the West, at least. And besides, the invasion by fourteen nations—how many Americans are aware of that—fourteen nations including the U.S., France, the UK and so on staged a major invasion of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1920. The U.S. suffered five thousand casualties in that invasion. And the main instigator of this invasion was Winston Churchill of England, who was quite open about what he had in mind. He wanted to—as he wrote later—“strangle Bolshevism in its cradle.”

DR: How can people get a hold of you and your books?

Blum: Well, they can call my publisher. Common Courage Press of Maine publishes both books, and their number to order books is 1-800-497-3207. Or it would be easier to write to me at my e-mail address,  [email protected]. And I can tell them how to get the book from me at a cheaper price than they would get it from my publisher, in fact, and I would sign it. Some chapters of my books can be perused at  http://members.aol.com/bblum6/American_holocaust.htm,


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