Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Log 670 Dec 2 2018: Chronicles from my Tenth Decade: 106; One of America’s priceless political radicals has died; William Blum was a trenchant critic, especially of his nation’s aim to govern the world, who leavened his criticism with humour

For the last few years I have been a recipient of William Blum’s amusing, pointed and usually devastating “Anti-Empire Report.”
It has always reminded me of that great tradition of the American radical, carrying on the fight against all odds, facing up to the crushing power of the American political-military-industrial complex, keeping the faith alive. That tradition is described in detail in Howard Zinn’s superb People’s History of the United States, which explains how, from the very beginning of the American state, everything was set up to ensure that neither the freed blacks (if there should be any),  nor the poor whites should have any say in he affairs of the nation, a  heritage the nation has been exteremely slow to overcome.
Unfortunately, I will receive no more of these revealing monthly reports, because William Blum died this week at the age of 85, thus ending the string of books and  articles with which he has excoriated the American capitalist machine.  There was always an air of mischief about the way he approached things, as the full title of his book indicates: America’s Deadliest Export, Democracy. The truth about US foreign Policy, and everything else.
The obituary published by the CovertAction Magazine  noted that in the mid-sixties he worked in a comuter-related position in the US State Department, when he was an anti-communist with dreams of becoming a foreign service officer, but “he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War, left the State Department in 1967 and became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first ‘alternative’ newspaper in the capital.” From 1969 he worked as freelance journalist in the United States, Europe and South America, reporting from, samong other places, chile, where the overthrow of Allende’s government by the CIA solidified his distrust of the spying agency. Thereafter he never
shrank from controversial actions: in the mid-1970s in London he exposed the CIA and in doing so published the names and addresses of more than 200 CIA employees, and later he collaborated with Philip Agee’s project --- as CovertAction Magazine described it --- “to expose CIA personnel and their misdeeds.”
His last speaking engagement was last summer and his subject was American Exceptionalism: the Naked Truth. He said: “We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind – not to mention the heart and soul – of the American public must be changed.” And his  humour is obvious in this passage:
 “Consciously or unconsciously, [the American people] have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy…The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well.” 
He became the leading radical author in the field of exposing US government actions in the overthron of other governments, and his 1995 book on the subject Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II– was revived in 2004.
He is the second sterling American radical we have lost in the last few months. Ed Schultz, who, like Blum, had started life as a straight-up American conservative, but whose views were changed by what he observed of American life in his work as a reporter, had greatly enlivened the news broadcasts of RT, the Russian government-owned TV station that anyone can subscribe to for $2.50.  He had this habit of introducing a subject in his newscast, and then calling up two  people with differing views of the subject and asking  them in hs loud, challenging tones,  “What about that?”, often adding, “I can’t go along with that,” and introducing a lively debate on the subject right in the middle of the newscast. He died unexpectedly when still in harness, and one result of his death is that I watch RT much less than I used to do. Not everybody can be replaced, after all.
Bill Blum will be irreplacable too. And I will especially miss his wry humour.

1 comment:

  1. A great loss! His 'Killing Hope' is one of my bibles in US foreign "policy". I do hope stays on the net as a great resource for researching the American Empire.

    And you take care, Boyce! Remember the accident at home that was the beginning of his end.