William Blum’s Cri de Coeur
Reviewed By Gary Corseri
10 February, 2013
A review of “America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy” by William Blum (Zed Books, London/New York, 2013.)
In activist-author-publisher William Blum’s new book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, he tells the story of how he got his 15 minutes of fame back in 2006. Osama bin Laden had released an audiotape, declaring: “If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security… 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.” Bin Laden then quoted from the Foreword of Blum’s 2000 book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, in which he had mused:
“If I were… president, I could stop terrorist attacks [on us] in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize… 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… have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but… a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. … That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”
Unfortunately, Blum never made it to the White House! But, fortunately, for those who have read his books or follow his “Anti-Empire Reports” on the Web, he was not assassinated! And now he has collected his reports and essays of the last dozen years or so into a 352-page volume that will not only stand the test of time, but will help to define this disillusioned, morose, violent and unraveling Age.
America’s Deadliest… is divided into 21 chapters and an introduction—and there’s something to underline or memorize on every page! Sometimes it’s just one of Blum’s irrepressible quips, and sometimes it’s a matter of searing American foreign or domestic policiy that clarifies that Bushwhackian question of yore: “Why do they hate us?”
Reading this scrupulously domumented book, I lost count of the times I uttered, “unbelievable!” concerning some nefarious act committed by the US Empire in the name of freedom, democracy and fighting communism or terrorism. Reading Blum’s book with an open mind, weighing the evidence, will bleach out any pride in the flag we have planted in so many corpses around the world. The book is a diuretic and emetic!
Blum’s style is common sense raised to its highest level. The wonder of America’s Deadliest … is that it covers so much of the sodden, bloody ground of America’s march across our post-Second-World-War world, yet tells the story with such deftness and grace-under-fire that the reader is enticed—not moralized, not disquisitionally badgered--, but enticed to consider our globe from a promontory of higher understanding.
Some of the themes Blum covers (and often eviscerates) include:
1) Why they hate us;
2) America means well;
3) We cannot permit a successful alternative to the capitalist model to develop anywhere in the world;
4) We will use whatever means necessary—including, lies, deception, sabotage, bribery, torture and war—to achieve the above idea.
Along the way, we get glimpses of Blum’s experientially rich life. A note “About the Author” tells us that, “He left the State Department in 1967, abandoning his aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer because of his opposition to what the US was doing in Vietnam. He then became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first “alternative” newspaper in the capital.”
In his chapter on “Patriotism,” Blum relates how, after a talk, he was asked: “Do you love America?” He responded with what we may take for his credo: “I don’t love any country. I’m a citizen of the world. I love certain principles, like human rights, civil liberties, meaningful democracy, an economy which puts people before profits.”
America’s Deadliest… is a book of wisdom and wit that ponders “how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid?” In a pointillistic approach, sowing aphoristic seeds for thought, Blum enumerates instances of that cruelty, often with wry, pained commentary. “War can be seen as America’s religion,” he tells us. Reflecting on Obama’s octupling Bush’s number of drones used to assassinate, collaterally kill and terrorize, he affirms: “Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left.” And, he avers, “Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good.” And then turns around and reminds us—lest we forget—how the mass media have invaded our lives, with memes about patriotism, democracy, God, the “good life”: “Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore America’s young people to fight a foreign war to defend ‘capitalism’?” he wonders. “The word itself has largely gone out of fashion. The approved references now are to the market economy, free market, free enterprise, or private enterprise.”
Cynthia McKinney writes that the book is “corruscating, eye-opening, and essential.” Oliver Stone calls it a “fireball of terse information.”
Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable “truths” one has taken for granted—often since childhood—are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez’s account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: “`We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly,’” Powell said. “`We must have a brute demonstration of power.’ Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! … Stay strong! … Kill them! … We are going to wipe them out!’”
Blum’s intellectual resources are as keen as anyone’s writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own—us!—flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.
Gary Corseri has published and posted prose, poetry and dramas at hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide, including Countercurrents, BraveNewWorld.in, Outlook India, DissidentVoice, CounterPunch, CommonDreams, OpEdNews, The New York Times. He has published novels, poetry collections and a literary anthology (edited). His dramas have been presented on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons, and at US and Japanese universities. Contact: email@example.com.
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