America’s Deadliest Export is, yes, ‘Democracy"



 by Selvam Canagaratna

"The blind lead the blind. It’s the democratic way."

- Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945)

He’s been called America’s most convincing muckraker.

Little wonder William Blum’s 2005 shocker, Rogue State, soon earned a firm recommendation from a quite unexpected source. In a January 2006 audiotape released from a hideout somewhere in Afghanistan’s forbidding mountainous terrain, Osama bin Laden called it "a useful book to read for Americans looking to better understand the lies and oppression perpetrated by George W. Bush on the rest of the world.

Fast-forward to 2013: Osama is no longer in the land of the living, thanks to Obama’s matching – and equally ruthless – killer-instinct.

But at least we have Blum’s latest blockbuster, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else. [One can only guess at how ecstatic you-know-who would have been had he been able to peruse a copy – and offer another unsolicited recommendation.]

Blum, a former employee of the State Department, resigned in 1967 because of his opposition to the Vietnam War and went on to become founding-member-Editor of the radical underground newspaper the Washington Free Press, the first of its kind in the capital.

Blum’s work as a freelance journalist spans five decades, exposing CIA coups and interferences, along with multitudes of other under-reported US foreign policy infractions, such as his highly censored 1998 article on how the US provided Iraq with the material to develop chemical and biological warfare capabilities during the 1980s, for which he received a Project Censored award for ‘exemplary journalism’.

Mark Mondalek, a young undergraduate at Columbia College, Chicago, in a review of America ‘s Deadliest Export wrote: "It is almost fitting for Blum to be so oddly associated with the former al-Qaeda commander and 9/11 mastermind –random as it is – seeing as how his study into US foreign policy is largely structured around understanding what one could call ‘the madman complex’. The whole of history is littered with them: unarguable, evil, belligerent leaders hellbent on tyranny, power and world-domination. Some fit the mould just as they are – Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden – while others require more of a hands-on approach before they can reach their impressionistic zenith. Without the extensive use of propaganda tactics, enforced media manipulation, and repetitious political-speak, just how mad would men like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really seem in all actuality?"

Blum’s ability to range back in time to decades long past is perhaps his greatest attribute, noted Mondalek.. "There are no sacred cows in terms of US foreign policy as far as he is concerned, not even the Marshall Plan, the United States’ allegedly ‘unselfish’ act of building Europe back up economically following World War II, including its wartime enemies, which has always been a widely used example of America’s propensity for good in the world. But Blum sees it differently:

"The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, being paid directly to American corporations to purchase American goods. The US Agency for International Development (AID) stated in 1999: ‘The principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States.’

Blum asserts that it suited Washington’s interests to spread the capitalist gospel "to counter strong postwar tendencies toward socialism," which, in Mondalek’s view, marked another important emphasis of America’s Deadliest Export: the blocking of economic or political change throughout the globe, be it through military action, sanctions, and/or covert regime changes – a clearly ironic stratagem for a ‘democracy’ to partake in.

Blum equates the Cold War to a struggle between the United States and the Third World, not the Soviet Union. And as for Cuba and South America: "Cuba’s sin, like Venezuela’s, which the United States cannot forgive, is to have created a society that can serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model. Thus, where the fight against communism left off, the War on Terror carries on – new enemies, but the same "capitalist, imperialist, world-domination reasons."

Mondalek’s conclusion: "America’s Deadliest Export... reads like a dictionary of a century’s worth of sins that must be confronted, decoded and, most importantly, remembered – not to help spread further hate and resentment – but in order to have any hope of eliminating it someday. ‘Keep your eye on US foreign policy,’ Blum implores us, ‘which remains the same decade after decade’. How many more years are we going to let it go on?"

Interviewed by Daniel Falcone on the Truthout website, author Blum was asked if ‘Orlando Bosch’ was a name that Americans were familiar with.

"Well, we’re lucky if any American knows his own name," parried Blum before explaining: "Orlando Bosch was two things – a baby doctor and a mass murderer. And that’s an unusual combination. He and his partner, Luis Posada, blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976 killing many people, including the entire young Cuban fencing team - all youngsters. And he justified this because he’s at war with Cuba, total warfare. And such a man, if he wasn’t anti-Cuban, would be reviled as a horrible person by Americans. But he being anti-Cuba, the city of Miami declared an ‘Orlando Bosch Day’ in the ‘70s, an amazing phenomenon. Bosch died about a year ago but his partner-in-crime is still alive and walking free – a man who is a genuine mass murderer and terrorist, and as long as he walks around free, anything our Presidents tell us about our War on Terror is just propaganda."

Asked if Obama deserved credit for keeping America out of a war with Iran, Blum countered: "Should we give him credit for not having invaded Colombia? Or Paraguay? Or Australia? I mean, you can name many countries he hasn’t invaded, so what’s the big deal? In some circles it is thought Obama has engaged in war with Iran since he’s already caused the people of Iran great suffering with the toughest sanctions – more so than any country has ever experienced in the entire history of the world. Iranians ale suffering in many ways from our sanctions, so, he’s not exactly a humanitarian."1

On WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Blum’s short answer: "I think they’re heroes." He recalled giving examples of the many released State Department documents which were always kept secret "so politicians and statesmen could go around spouting their usual lies and bullshit, and no one would know that they were not being honest." Manning had pulled the screen to reveal the Wizard of Oz; Edward Snowden had done that as well. "I think the work done by Assange and ‘Manning is even more interesting than what Snowden has done. Because it covers many more subjects. Snowden has covered one subject very extensively – the NSA and its surveillance of the whole world."

Blum’s point was that those who don’t support US Foreign Policy welcome what the quartet did. The media coverage, however, had been unusual, said Blum. "For example, a BBC reporter asked Assange, ‘How many women have you slept with?’, an absurd question for anyone, in almost any context; if Assange had been raised on the streets of Brooklyn, he would then have responded: Do you mean including your mother? American progressives should also lose their quaint belief that the BBC is somehow a liberal broadcaster."

Asked if religion helped guide Americans’ analysis of US Foreign Policy, Blum’s response: "Bad people do bad things and good people do good things, but it takes religion to make a good person do bad things."

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