re: Bill Blum, C-Span & bin Laden

2006-01-28

Richard Moore

Friends,

Evidently, Bill is being featured on C-Span due to his
recent notoriety arising from a mention in an alleged "bin
Laden" video. (I feel 'connected to events', as Bill spent a
weekend once down here in Wexford, where he gave a talk to
some of my friends in town.)

One struggles to interpret this episode. Is the CIA, via
its Osama mouthpiece, trying to equate legitimate critique
with 'support of terrorism'? Is Bill being baited by
friendly interviews to say things he might be sorry for in a
revived McCarthyism? And why is everyone so eager to buy
books recommended by bin Laden?

In any case, Bill's material is red-pill stuff and the more
exposure the better.

rkm

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/20/AR2006012001971.html

The Author Who Got A Big Boost From bin Laden
Historian 'Glad' of Mention As Sales of Book Skyrocket
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 21, 2006; C01


Twenty-four hours after Osama bin Laden told the world that
the American people should read the work of a little-known
Washington historian, William Blum was still adjusting.

Blum, who at 72 is accustomed to laboring in relative
left-wing obscurity, checked his emotions and pronounced
himself shocked and, well, pleased.

"This is almost as good as being an Oprah book," he said
yesterday between telephone calls from the world media and
bites of a bagel. "I'm glad." Overnight, his 2000 work,
"Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower," had
become an Osama book.

In gray slacks, plaid shirt and black slippers, Blum padded
around his one-bedroom apartment on Connecticut Avenue. A
portrait of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the '50s hung on his
kitchen wall. Bookshelves bowed under the weight of secret
histories of the CIA. The cord on his prehistoric phone let
him roam across the living room. He'd already done CNN and
MSNBC. A guy from the New York Post knocked on the door to
take pictures. The BBC rang, then Reuters and Pacifica Radio
stations on both coasts.

From Blum's end of the conversations, you could tell the
reporters were expecting him to express some kind of
discomfort, remorse, maybe even shame. Blum refused to
acknowledge feelings he did not have.

"I was not turned off by such an endorsement," he informed a
New York radio station. "I'm not repulsed, and I'm not going
to pretend I am." He patiently reiterated the thesis of his
foreign-policy critique -- that American interventions
abroad create enemies.

You could almost hear the ticking of a stopwatch. These were
Blum's 15 American minutes, brought to him by a murderous
zealot on the other side of the world who had named him to a
kind of Terrorists Book-of-the-Month Club. The CIA duly
verified the audiotape from bin Laden, and there it was:
Blum had a bona fide book blurb from the evil one.

Now it was time for the soft-spoken, bespectacled radical
son of Brooklyn to look thoughtful for the cameras -- "I
don't have a good smile" -- and sound pithy for the
microphones. Better known in radical circles and on the
college lecture circuit than he is among most readers of
American history, Blum is a former underground journalist
who specializes in sharp critiques of foreign policy.
Published by a small outfit in Maine, he also sells his
books over the Internet and issues a free monthly e-mail
newsletter called the Anti-Empire Report.

What bin Laden said was this, as translated from Arabic by
the Associated Press:

"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: 'If I were
president, I would stop the attacks on the United States:
First, I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans
and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that
American interference in the nations of the world has ended
once and for all.' "

By last night, "Rogue State" shot up from 205,763 to 26 on
Amazon.com's index of the most-ordered books.

"I'm calling it the book review of the decade," said Sam
Smith, editor of the Progressive Review in Washington and a
fan of Blum's work. Smith, too, has blurbed the book ("an
especially well-documented encyclopedia of malfeasance") as
has Gore Vidal.

Chortled Smith yesterday, "Neither Vidal nor Smith came
close to lifting 'Rogue State' into the double digits" on
Amazon.

Since Amazon's delivery service, while comprehensive, would
not seem to extend to faraway caves, how might bin Laden
have gotten his hands on Blum's work?

The author noted "Rogue State" had been published in Arabic
in Egypt and Lebanon. And perhaps bin Laden owns the entire
Blum canon, because the quote he cited actually is not in
"Rogue State," but on the back cover of a collection of Blum
essays, "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American
Empire." (That book is languishing on Amazon, while two
other books titled "Rogue State" have enjoyed a spike in
ranking.)

Blum's exact words? "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 orphans, the
impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of
other victims of American imperialism."

Yesterday, he made clear that he deplores the attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001. But he argues, as many other essayists have,
that they were an understandable retaliation against U.S.
foreign policy. "The thesis in my books and my writing is
that anti-American terrorism arises from the behavior of
U.S. foreign policy," he said. "It is what the U.S.
government does which angers people all over the world."

"I am totally against what they did. But we cannot view that
as totally the acts of a bunch of madmen. If we do . . . we
will continue making the same mistakes, and the so-called
war on terror will be as doomed to fail as the war on
drugs."

In a chapter called "Why Do Terrorists Keep Picking on the
United States?" Blum lists as possible reasons everything
from support of Middle East dictators, including the Shah of
Iran and Saudi rulers, to occupying military bases in the
region, to favoring the Israelis over the Palestinians.

"I think bin Laden shares that view, and that is why I'm not
repulsed by his embrace of my book, because that is one of
my major themes," Blum said.

When it is pointed out that terrorists target innocent
civilians, which is not U.S. policy, he replies that U.S.
tactics in Iraq have led to the deaths of thousands of
civilians. "We bomb homes and these people have families,
and the U.S. refuses to apologize for these civilian
deaths," Blum said. "The absence of concern makes their
actions almost equal to a deliberate targeting of
civilians."

Until now, the mainstream media have paid virtually no
attention to Blum. His books rarely are reviewed. But Noam
Chomsky has praised his work, and Blum is right there along
with Steve Earle, Jane Fonda and Barbara Ehrenreich as a
signer of a full-page ad in the New York Times in the fall
of 2002 against the military buildup for war in Iraq.

His publisher, Common Courage Press, yesterday could not
provide estimates of his sales. Blum says "Rogue State" and
"Killing Hope" together have sold more than 100,000 copies,
plus an additional 50,000 in a dozen foreign languages. He
said he supports himself with his writing and speaking
engagements on college campuses.

The son of Polish immigrants, Blum said he studied
accounting in college, then landed a low-level
computer-related position at the State Department in the
mid-1960s. An anti-communist with dreams of becoming a
foreign service officer, he said he became disillusioned by
the Vietnam War, so he resigned from State and helped found
the Washington Free Press, an underground paper. Separated
from his German wife, with whom he said he is on good terms,
and the father of a 24-year-old son, he lives alone and
writes at home.

"He's an alternative journalist, a researcher type," said
Smith, who uses Blum's work as a reference when he wants to
find, say, a list of dictators the United States has
supported in Latin America and the Middle East. "What Bill
Blum has basically done is what a historian does, which is
to compile the available record and organize it in a way
that is useful."

Blum said his life's mission has been this: "If not ending,
at least slowing down the American Empire. At least injuring
the beast. It's causing so much suffering around the world."

And if he is happy to accept bin Laden's plug, he certainly
doesn't want to meet his terrorist fan.

"If he would contact me," said Blum, "then I would be
scared."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
-- 

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