Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
By William Blum
Zed Books, 2002
308 pages, $24.95 (pb)
REVIEW BY PHIL SHANNON
Dossier season is upon us it seems. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's September 24 dossier on Iraq was spectacularly underwhelming in its attempt to geographically locate the headquarters of evil. However, there is another "dossier" just published which is much more up to that task. But it points towards the US, so it won't be self-righteously waved around in parliaments by war-lusting politicians.
William Blum, a State Department officer who left to join the underground press to oppose the Vietnam War in the 1960s, has prepared a potent catalogue on the crimes of the world's wildest rogue state. Fact and satire-filled, Blum's book reveals decades of Washington's invasions, its production and use of weapons of mass destruction, its scorn for UN resolutions and a record of hypocrisy-coated nastiness that takes some beating in the dossier stakes.
The outpouring of flag-waving, "God Bless America" patriotism after 9/11, writes Blum, has more deeply buried if that is possible the record of US state terrorism, an "apple pie" terrorism which provokes its mirror image in other vicious but minor league terrorist outfits.
But don't just take the word of a lefty troublemaker like Blum. The US Department of Defence concluded in a 1997 report that "historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States".
US presidents agree. "We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers", said former president Jimmy Carter.
Bombing, shelling and unmerciful killing has been the presidential order of the day in every continent and every ocean. Since 1945, "the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes", notes Blum, with millions of innocent dying and millions more reduced to agony and despair.
But, like the Afghan dead who had the misfortune to be ruled by a regime out-of-favour with the US, "there will be no 'minutes of silence'" for these victims of US state terrorism, "no memorial services attended by high American officials and entertainment celebrities, no millions of dollars raised for the victims' families". They are "un-useful victims", unlike the "useful victims" in New York, whose murder can be manipulated to justify the siting of military bases in the strategically important Afghanistan and Central Asia.
As Blum argues, "the attack of September 11 does not justify more than 50 years of lies" in the service of US imperialism abroad and political conformity at home. For 50 years, the threat from Stalinist Russia ("communism" in the approved lexicon) was exaggerated beyond all plausibility to keep the US people in fearful submission.
Terrorism has become the latest "dangerous and threatening enemy". Since September 11, it has been "Christmas every day for the national security state and its corporate cohorts" through massively increased "defence" spending, more intrusive racist and political surveillance, abrogation of international conventions on torture, global warming and arms control, and a re-affirmation of empire through "pre-emptive strike".
Blum has assembled a thorough reference manual on the ugly history of US foreign policy which lies concealed behind the smokescreen of "enemies without number, threats without end". From US participation in the invasion of socialist Russia in 1918-20, the list of countries and peoples invaded, blockaded, spied on, tortured, massacred and subverted has grown constantly. It has been fuelled by Washington's drive to make the world profitable for US-based corporations and the need to prevent the rise of regional powers that can challenge US supremacy, or to crush social movements which place people's needs ahead of US profits.
All in the spirit of a "noble altruism", of course, but Blum shows that when the US is in one of its "altruistic" moods, any regime or movement thinking of crossing it and the interests of its millionaires better take cover.
So to Blum's lists.
Countries invaded: Bolshevik Russia, the Philippines, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and most of south-east Asia.
Elections and trade unions subverted: France, Italy, Australia.
Civilians murdered by US state terrorism: Libyan and Iranian civilian planes shot down, Beirut and Tripoli bombed, Iraqis bombed and sanctioned to death, Nicaragua ravaged by proxy.
Assassination plots: around 40 (that we know of) in the last 50 years through all presidencies from Truman to Bush, taking out, or trying to, socialist leaders and rogue bad guys like Saddam Hussein.
Terrorists: the US hosts or trains the greatest number of terrorists in the world, the largest and most prolific group being the anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami, but with plenty of safe houses for Guatemalan defence ministers, armed forces heads from El Salvador, Haitian death squad commanders, CIA-trained "intelligence" units in Honduras, Indonesian generals responsible for massacres in East Timor and other "anti-communist psychopaths" marinated in CIA-supported bloodbaths.
Teacher and practitioner of torture: Graduates of the School of the Americas (the US Army school at Fort Benning, Georgia) move on to successful careers of blackmail, execution, torture, bomb and coup- making against trade unionists, socialists, nuns and priests to guarantee a positive investment climate for their US mentors.
War criminals: every US president, secretary of state, commander-in-chief, national security adviser, secretary of "defence". The US refuses to support an International Criminal Court because it won't be able to control such a body to ensure immunity for US war criminals.
Weapons of mass destruction: the US has conducted three nuclear wars against Japan, and against Iraq and Yugoslavia, where the radioactivity from depleted uranium shells are still killing people. Chemical and biological warfare has also been a staple from Korea and China to Vietnam (lest we forget Agent Orange) and Cuba (dengue fever). Some of the US military's "conventional" weapons, like the "daisy- cutter" and the cluster bomb are bona fide weapons of mass destruction.
United Nations resolutions scorned: the US has stood stoically alone (with Israel, assorted military dictatorships, Britain and Australia as regular or occasional pals) "in opposition to General Assembly resolutions aimed at furthering human rights, peace, nuclear disarmament, economic justice, the struggle against apartheid and Israeli lawlessness".
Being the world's only superpower means never having to say you're sorry. The global Godfather can make offers to its victims which they can't refuse. "The enforcers employed by Washington include the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the rest of the international financial mafia pay up or subject yourself to exquisite forms of economic torture, even worse than the considerable maiming you've already experienced". No apologies or dollars for Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan or Iraq.
Blum shows us a US empire with a "lust for political, economic and military hegemony over the rest of the world" as powerful and bloody as the ancient Roman empire. The emperor is fully clothed in battle fatigues, and armed and dangerous.
"If I were the president", writes Blum, "I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first of all apologise to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every corner of the world, that America's global interventions have come to an end, and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the USA... 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."
By the makers and defenders of profit. It is their grip on the world that must be shaken loose and Blum's book will lend an important hand to this task.
From Green Left Weekly, October 23, 2002.
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