The Anti-Empire Report
How I spent my 15 minutes of fame
By William Blum
02/15/06 "ICH" -- -- In case you don't know, on January 19 the
latest audiotape from Osama bin Laden was released and in it he
declared: "If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for
peace and security, we have answered you. And if Bush decides to
carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful
for you to read the book ‛Rogue State', which states in its
introduction ... " He then goes on to quote the opening of a
paragraph I wrote (which appears actually in the Foreword of the
British edition only, that was later translated to Arabic),
which in full reads:
"If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against
the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first
apologize -- very publicly and very sincerely -- to all the
widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and
all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism.
I would then announce that America’s global interventions --
including the awful bombings -- have come to an end. And I would
inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union
but -– oddly enough -– a foreign country. I would then reduce
the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay
reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many
American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough
money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is
equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for
every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
"That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House.
On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated."
Within hours I was swamped by the media and soon appeared on
many of the leading TV shows, dozens of radio programs, with
long profiles in the Washington Post, Salon.com and elsewhere.
In the previous ten years the Post had declined to print a
single one of my letters, most of which had pointed out errors
in their foreign news coverage. Now my photo was on page one.
Much of the media wanted me to say that I was repulsed by bin
Laden's "endorsement". I did not say I was repulsed because I
was not. After a couple of days of interviews I got my reply
together and it usually went something like this:
"There are two elements involved here: On the one hand, I
totally despise any kind of religious fundamentalism and the
societies spawned by such, like the Taliban in Afghanistan. On
the other hand, I'm a member of a movement which has the very
ambitious goal of slowing down, if not stopping, the American
Empire, to keep it from continuing to go round the world doing
things like bombings, invasions, overthrowing governments, and
torture. To have any success, we need to reach the American
people with our message. And to reach the American people we
need to have access to the mass media. What has just happened
has given me the opportunity to reach millions of people I would
otherwise never reach. Why should I not be glad about that? How
could I let such an opportunity go to waste?"
Celebrity -- modern civilization's highest cultural achievement
-- is a peculiar phenomenon. It really isn't worth anything
unless you do something with it.
The callers into the programs I was on, and sometimes the host,
in addition to numerous emails, repeated two main arguments
against me. (1) Where else but in the United States could I have
the freedom to say what I was saying on national media?
Besides their profound ignorance in not knowing of scores of
countries with at least equal freedom of speech (particularly
since September 11), what they are saying in effect is that I
should be so grateful for my freedom of speech that I should
show my gratitude by not exercising that freedom. If they're not
saying that, they're not saying anything.
(2) America has always done marvelous things for the world, from
the Marshall Plan and defeating communism and the Taliban to
rebuilding destroyed countries and freeing Iraq.
I have dealt with these myths and misconceptions previously;
like sub-atomic particles, they behave differently when
observed. For example, in last month's report I pointed out in
detail that "destroyed countries" were usually destroyed by
American bombs; and America did not rebuild them. As to the
Taliban, the United States overthrew a secular, women's-rights
government in Afghanistan, which led to the Taliban coming to
power; so the US can hardly be honored for ousting the Taliban a
decade later, replacing it with an American occupation, an
American puppet president, assorted warlords, and women chained.
But try to explain all these fine points in the minute or so one
has on radio or TV. However, I think I somehow managed to
squeeze in a lot of information and thoughts new to the American
Some hosts and many callers were clearly pained to hear me say
that anti-American terrorists are retaliating against the harm
done to their countries by US foreign policy, and are not just
evil, mindless, madmen from another planet. Many of them
assumed, with lots of certainty and no good reason at all, that
I was a supporter of the Democratic Party and they proceeded to
attack Bill Clinton. When I pointed out that I was no fan at all
of the Democrats or Clinton, they were usually confused into
silence for a few moments before seamlessly jumping to some
other piece of nonsense. They do not know that an entire
alternative world exists above and beyond the Republicans and
Just recently we have been hearing and reading comments in the
American media about how hopelessly backward and violent were
those Muslims protesting the Danish cartoons, carrying signs
calling for the beheading of those that insult Islam. But a
caller to a radio program I was on said I "should be taken care
of", and one of the hundreds of nasty emails I received began:
"Death to you and your family."
One of my personal favorite moments: On an AM radio program in
Pennsylvania, discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
The host (with anguish in her voice): "What has Israel ever done
to the Palestinians?"
Me: "Have you been in a coma the past 20 years?"
This is a question I could ask many of those who interrogated me
the past few weeks. Actually, 60 years would be more
Elections my teacher never told me about
Americans are all taught from childhood on of the significance
and sanctity of free elections: You can't have the thing called
"democracy" without the thing called "free elections". And when
you have the thing called free elections it's virtually
synonymous with having the thing called democracy. And who were
we taught was the greatest champion of free elections anywhere
in the world? Why, our very same teacher, God's country, the
good ol' US of A.
But what was God's country actually doing all those years we
were absorbing and swearing by this message? God's country was
actually interfering in free elections in every corner of the
known world; seriously so.
The latest example is the recent elections in Palestine, where
the US Agency for International Development (AID) poured in some
two million dollars (a huge amount in that impoverished area) to
try to tilt the election to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and
its political wing, Fatah, and prevent the radical Islamic group
Hamas from taking power. The money was spent on various social
programs and events to increase the popularity of the PA; the
projects bore no evidence of US involvement and did not fall
within the definitions of traditional development work. In
addition, the United States funded many newspaper advertisements
publicizing these projects in the name of the PA, with no
mention of AID.
"Public outreach is integrated into the design of each project
to highlight the role of the P.A. in meeting citizens needs,"
said a progress report on the projects. "The plan is to have
events running every day of the coming week, beginning 13
January, such that there is a constant stream of announcements
and public outreach about positive happenings all over
Palestinian areas in the critical week before the elections."
Under the rules of the Palestinian election system, campaigns
and candidates were prohibited from accepting money from foreign
sources. American law explicitly forbids the same in US
Since Hamas won the election, the United States has made it
clear that it does not recognize the election as any kind of
victory for democracy and that it has no intention of having
normal diplomatic relations with the Hamas government. (Israel
has adopted a similar attitude, but it should not be forgotten
that Israel funded and supported the emergence of Hamas in Gaza
during its early days, hoping that it would challenge the
Palestine Liberation Organization as well as Palestinian leftist
By my count, there have been more than 30 instances of gross
Washington interference in foreign elections since the end of
World War II -- from Italy in 1948 and the Philippines and
Lebanon in the 1950s, to Nicaragua, Bolivia and Slovakia in the
2000s -- most of them carried out in an even more flagrant
manner than the Palestinian example. Some of the techniques
employed have been used in the United States itself as our
electoral system, once the object of much national and
international pride, has slid inexorably from "one person, one
vote", to "one dollar, one vote".
Coming soon to a country (or city) near you
On January 13 the United States of America, in its shocking and
awesome wisdom, saw fit to fly an unmanned Predator aircraft
over a remote village in the sovereign nation of Pakistan and
fire a Hellfire missile into a residential compound in an
attempt to kill some "bad guys". Several houses were
incinerated, 18 people were killed, including an unknown number
of "bad guys"; reports since then give every indication that the
unknown number is as low as zero, al Qaeda second-in-command
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the principal target, not being amongst them.
Outrage is still being expressed in Pakistan. In the United
States the reaction in the Senate typified the American outrage:
"We apologize, but I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same
thing again" said Sen. John McCain of Arizona "It's a
regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do?"
said Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. "My information is that this
strike was clearly justified by the intelligence," said Sen.
Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Similar US attacks using such drones and missiles have angered
citizens and political leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.
In has not been uncommon for the destruction to be so complete
that it is impossible to establish who was killed, or even how
many people. Amnesty International has lodged complaints with
the Busheviks following each suspected Predator strike. A UN
report in the wake of the 2002 strike in Yemen called it "an
alarming precedent [and] a clear case of extrajudicial killing"
in violation of international laws and treaties.
Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile
into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected
that high-ranking al Qaeda members were present there? Even if
the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and not just
speculation as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, most
likely not, but can we put anything past Swaggering-
Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they've
already done it to their own, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On
May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter burned down
an entire block, some 60 homes destroyed, 11 dead, including
several small children. The police, the mayor’s office, and the
FBI were all involved in this effort to evict an organization
called MOVE from the house they lived in.
The victims were all black of course. So let's rephrase the
question. Can it be imagined that American officials would fire
a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the upper
east side of Manhattan? Stay tuned.
"The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory
against forgetting." Milan Kundera
I'm occasionally taken to task for being so negative about the
United States role in the world. Why do you keep looking for all
the negative stuff and tear down the positive? I'm asked.
Well, it's a nasty job, but someone has to do it. Besides, for
each negative piece I'm paid $500 by al Qaeda. And the publicity
given to my books by Osama ... priceless.
The new documentary film by Eugene Jarecki, ""Why
which won the Sundance Festival's Grand Jury prize, relates how
the pursuit of profit by arms merchants and other US
corporations has fueled America's post-World War II wars a lot
more than any love of freedom and democracy. The unlikely hero
of the film is Dwight Eisenhower, whose famous warning about the
dangers of the "military-industrial complex" is the film's
Here is Jarecki being interviewed by the Washington Post:
Post: Why did you make "Why We Fight?"
Jarecki: The simple answer: Eisenhower. He caught me off-guard.
He seemed to have so much to say about our contemporary society
and our general tilt towards militarism. ... The voices in
Washington and the media have become so shrill. ... It seemed
important to bring a little gray hair into the mix.
Post: How would you classify your politics? You've been accused
of being a lefty.
Jarecki: I'm a radical centrist. ... If Dwight Eisenhower is a
lefty, I am too. Then I'll walk with Ike. [ellipses in
Isn't it nice that a film portraying the seamier side of the
military-industrial complex is receiving such popular attention?
And that we are able to look fondly upon an American president?
How long has that been? Well, here I go again.
Eisenhower, regardless of what he said as he was leaving the
presidency, was hardly an obstacle to American militarism or
corporate imperialism. During his eight years in office, the
United States intervened in every corner of the world,
overthrowing the governments of Iran, Guatemala, Laos, the
Congo, and British Guiana, and attempting to do the same in
Costa Rica, Syria, Egypt, and Indonesia, as well as laying the
military and political groundwork for the coming Indochinese
Eisenhower's moralistically overbearing Secretary of State, John
Foster Dulles, summed up the administration's world outlook
thusly: "For us there are two sorts of people in the world:
there are those who are Christians and support free enterprise
and there are the others."
 See my essay on this subject at:
 Washington Post, January 22 and 24, 2006
 Rogue State, chapter 18, includes the text of the US law
prohibiting foreign contributions to US elections.
 Associated Press, January 15, 2006
 Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2006
 Washington Post, February 12, 2006, p.N3
 Roger Morgan, "The United States and West Germany,
1945-1973" (1974), p.54
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA
Interventions Since World War 2Rogue State: A Guide to the
World's Only Superpower West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir.
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.
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