This article was last modified on February 20, 2006.

Interview With Willam Blum

I had the honor and privilege of interviewing William Blum, the author of “Rogue State” [1], over the course of a few days in February 2006. Blum agreed to answer ten questions on the condition that he could keep his answers short. With that condition accepted, here is the interview.

The Interview

GS: You’ve documented American interventions over the past 60 years. These interventions occurred during both Republican and Democratic administrations indiscriminately. Have the American people been electing the wrong people consistently, or is there something inherently imperialistic about America or American culture?

WB: The latter. In my book, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, I discuss this at length. (See Note 2)

GS: As you’re aware, UNICEF reported that US sanctions on Iraq were directly responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Madeleine Albright responded to criticism saying “the price is worth it.” Do you feel that sanctions on any country is ever “worth it” – do they adequately achieve the goals they were designed for?

WB: I don’t know that I can make a blanket statement about sanctions. I have not studied the South African example, but people do say the sanctions there played an important role in the downfall of apartheid. Probably, every case has to be studied on its merits — the positive outcome vs. the harm done. No outcome in Iraq could make the harm worth it.

GS: In general, what do you make of the current “tit-for-tat” with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez? (e.g. Rumsfeld’s comparison of Chavez to Hitler, our expulsion of a Venezuelan diplomat, McCain referring to Chavez as a “wacko”, the accusation a US naval officer was spying on Venezuela, etc.)

WB: The name calling is sort of juvenile. The spying, I’d guess, is for real, and very unsurprising. What else is there to say?

GS: I have similar suspicions concerning the spying aspects. Do you believe that Israel and the Israeli military are extensions of the American Empire (i.e. they do what we ask), or do we simply happen to share the same objectives in the Middle East?

WB: It’s more the US doing what Israel wants.

GS: That seems odd, such a small entity controlling an “empire”. American Zionists I can understand, but not people within Israel itself. When you appeared on Washington Journal on January 28, 2006, you made the following comment concerning the Iranian president: “Every leader in the Middle East is obliged at some point or another to make very tough statements concerning Israel.” Would you care to elaborate on this obligation? Perhaps why it exists or what might happen if not carried out?

WB: They need to make such statements to help their own credibility, regardless of what they may or may not do in the future.

GS: America has been influencing elections throughout the world for decades under the guise of fighting communism and the Cold War. With the Cold War over, technology such as the Internet advancing and the media becoming more and more omnipresent (global), do you feel optimistic that this illegal and unethical behavior might be coming to an end?

WB: You saw my last Anti-Empire Report [February 2006], didn’t you? Not ending because US foreign policy has the same imperial needs as ever.

GS: In “Rogue State” you expose allegedly “liberal” news outlets as being pro-war. You accuse CNN of having “a serious missile fetish” and you say NPR “has never met an American war it didn’t like.” Are there alternate news sources available to Americans; and if so, where?

WB: Of course, all over the Internet, like Znet and Counterpunch, and also some in print, like the Nation and In These Times. Even the Guardian and Independent of London.

GS: It is my contention that President Clinton’s attack on the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was the direct cause (or at least a key cause) of the retaliation on September 11. Am I on the right track or completely off-base?

WB: On page 36 of Rogue State I do include the bombing of Sudan in the list of American actions that could have led to great anti-US hostility in the Muslim world. I think I should have been more specific and mentioned al-Shifa. [Blum is referencing a list of incidents in the Muslim world. The one he mentions here says simply “the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998.” Al-Shifa is mentioned specifically at a later time, but not in connection to either bin Laden or 9/11.]

GS: On multiple occasions the CIA has been investigated by Congressional committees. This implies that Congress is unaware of the CIA’s actions. Who is actually aware of their actions? The CIA director? The President? Others? Or is the Agency a loosely connected group of lone wolves, with no accountability whatsoever?

WB: Of course the CIA director and the president are aware, as are most congressmembers of overall operations, if not all the details, and if they really want to know. Investigations are sometimes held mainly to help the congressmember’s image and put their name in more public view.

GS: On page 278 of “Rogue State”, you reprint allegations that the NSA not only has hidden keys in Microsoft Windows, but may have been involved in the very funding of Microsoft itself. In the footnote, both Microsoft and the French government (who brought out these allegations) deny any such connection. If you were to speculate, what would you surmise is the most likely truth? Is Bill Gates really a government pawn?

WB: I don’t know about the funding, but I imagine that the NSA has had some success in infiltrating Windows. I don’t know much about Bill Gates.


1. “Rogue State” recently became well-known as the book “endorsed” by Osama bin Laden. Besides that, it happens to be an excellent encyclopedic reference to American foreign policy.

2. Bill offered the following quotation from his book, “Freeing the World to Death”. I still recommend buying this book, as this is but a small section of the overall message. All of Blum’s works are essential reading to achieve the overall picture.

“Since the early 19th century, when the first European settlers began arriving in what was to become the western states of the United States of America, this has been an imperial nation, a conquering nation; annihilation of natives, acquisition, expansion, a society made safe for the freest of enterprise; belief in American “exceptionalism”, a people providentially exempted from the dark side of human nature; all this in the American blood, the nation’s myths, its songs, its national character.

“The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 gave fair warning: “The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. … we should consider an attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”

“Add a word about “terrorists” and it could have been penned by Condoleezza Rice. The door was of course left open to hemispheric colonization or neo-colonization by the United States.

“In the war with Mexico, beginning in 1846, the US went yet further; not simply colonization, but the wholesale incorporation of half of Mexico into the new Yankee land; a war that excited Congress, which approved it overwhelmingly with minimal discussion, and the American people, who rallied and rushed to volunteer for the splendid expedition. In December 1845, the editor of a New York daily had written of “our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”

“By the end of the century, when grandiose North American growth opportunities were thinning and new markets were needed, Washington heeded the siren’s call to become a player in the global scene. Using the pretext that Spain was responsible for the blowing up of the USS Maine, it went to war and replaced the Spanish as the colonial power in the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico, and devised a special status for Cuba.

“In the summer of 1898, a vigorous struggle began in the United States between imperialists and anti-imperialists concerning the Philippines and its people who were fighting against the American plan to subjugate them. Talk of empire, of the United States assuming a leading role in world politics, was a heady intoxicant that few could resist. The future liberal Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., declared “I confess to pleasure in hearing some rattling jingo talk after the self-righteous and preaching discourse” of the anti-imperialists.

“The stage was now set for what Time magazine publisher Henry Luce was later to call The American Century. Looking at it from the perspective of the consequences of American foreign policy, it was a century of wide-ranging domination and cruelty. A study by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945″, shows 65 such instances from 1900 to 1945, to which books by this author add, for the period 1945 to 2000, about eighty other very serious US interventions — military, economic, and/or diplomatic — into the affairs of foreign countries.”

Also try another article under Political
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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