Ever wondered why the world is so right wing?

June 23, 1999


Ever wondered why the world is so right wing?

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Intervention Since World War 2
By William Blum
Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME. 1995.

Review by Martin Schenke

When you realise just how far Washington and the CIA will go to defend capitalism, you find an answer to this question. In Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Intervention since World War 2, State Department ex-employee William Blum provides a hand-held dose of reality.

It reads much like an encyclopedia of global sabotage — 55 chapters ranging from China in 1945 to Haiti in '94. It illustrates well the ideology of the ruling class, and its long-time crusade against "international communism".

Of course, "communism" to this class means any person or group that dares to put human values before the almighty dollar, or simply anyone not as right wing as they are. Not only has the US threatened, attacked, rigged elections, bribed, killed elected leaders, imposed sanctions, trained in torture, spied and spread misinformation to subvert the left, but it has also done the same to the right, to regimes not cruel enough or despots too costly.

While the state keeps the world secure for further exploitation, the larger capitalist enterprises help to bombard us with messages of the evils of "communism", and how it can never work.

"The boys of Capital, they also chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope that no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the twentieth century — without exception — has either been crushed, overthrown, or invaded, or corrupted, perverted, subverted, or destabilised, or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States."

This may come as no surprise to some, but rarely do we see these facts proved with such depth of research. To prove his point, Blum describes case after case of subversion, drawing on a vast array of resources.

At times, you wish he didn't tell you about torture devices dreamt up by the CIA, or victims' accounts of what paramilitaries did to them. Some methods and accounts from victims, torturers and Blum's own investigation bring new depth to the word "brutality".

In addition, he looks at individuals, the main players in some horrendous police states in Third World countries. One of the most sickening characters he reveals is Dan Mitrione, a CIA employee who was head of the Office of Public Safety in Uruguay in the late '60s.

"Mitrione considered it [torture] to be an art. First there should be the softening up period, with the usual beatings and insults. The object is to humiliate the prisoner, to make him realise his helplessness, to cut him off from reality. No questions, only blows and insults. Then, only blows in silence. Only after this, said Mitrione, is the interrogation. Here no pain should be produced, other than that caused by the instrument being used. 'The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect,' was his motto."

Mitrione was eventually kidnapped and killed by Uruguayan rebels. Since his official role in the country was one of social work, he was celebrated back in the US as a "great humanitarian".

Alongside the odyssey of dirty tricks and sickening deeds that make up this book, there is time for Australia, during the time of Whitlam.

In his chapter called "Another free election bites the dust", Blum looks at the toppling of the Whitlam government. Apparently old Gough was too progressive for the likes of the CIA and its Australian affiliate, ASIO. Recalling Australian troops from Vietnam, opposing ASIO involvement with the CIA in East Timor and allowing the North Vietnamese government to set up office before the fall of Saigon were a few of the ways Whitlam put the US offside, according to Blum.

But the CIA had a man in Australian politics trustworthy enough to deal with this. Governor-General Sir John Kerr, who had a history of work with CIA fronts, dismissed the prime minister, dissolved parliament and appointed the Fraser administration as an interim government until elections could be held.

Killing Hope is not an easy book to get a hold of. I had to order it from the US, which took five weeks and cost A$45. But it was worth every penny. From dirty tricks to arbitrary invasion and everything in between, William Blum seems to leave no stone unturned, yet admits to looking only at the most obvious cases. Activists, read Killing Hope to remind yourself why you do it.

"Our fear that communism might some day take over the rest of the world blinds us to the fact that anti-communism already has."

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