Some things you need to know before the world ends
May 21, 2006
"Come Out of the White House with Your Hands Up!"
"I used to be called brother, John, Daddy, uncle, friend," John Allen Muhammad
said at his trial in Maryland earlier this month. "Now I'm called evil."
Muhammad, formerly known as "the DC Sniper", was on
trial for six slayings in Maryland in 2002. Already sentenced to die in Virginia
for several other murders, he insisted that he was innocent despite the evidence
against him -- including DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics analysis of a
rifle found in his car.
Bereft of any real political power, I'm reduced to
day-dreaming ... a courtroom in some liberated part of the world, in the
not-too-distant future, a tribunal ... a defendant testifying ...
"I used to be called brother, George, son, Daddy, uncle,
friend, Dubya, governor, president. Now I'm called war criminal," he says
sadly, insisting on his innocence despite the overwhelming evidence presented
Can the man ever take to heart or mind the realization
that America's immune system is trying to get rid of him? Probably not.
No more than his accomplice can.
Two years ago the vice president visited Yankee Stadium
for a baseball game. During the singing of "God Bless America" in the seventh
inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the scoreboard. It was greeted with
so much booing that the Yankees quickly removed the image. Yet last month
the vice president showed up at the home opener for the Washington Nationals
to throw out the first pitch. The Washington Post reported that he "drew
boisterous boos from the moment he stepped on the field until he jogged off.
The derisive greeting was surprisingly loud and long, given the bipartisan
nature of our national pastime, and drowned out a smattering of applause
reported from the upper decks."
It will be interesting to see if Cheney shows up again
before a large crowd in a venue which has not been carefully chosen to insure
that only right-thinking folks will be present.
Even that might not help. Twice in the last few months,
a public talk of Donald Rumsfeld has been interrupted by people in the audience
calling him a war criminal and accusing him of lying to get the United States
into war. This happened in a meeting room at the very respectable National
Press Club in Washington and again at a forum at the equally respectable
Southern Center for International Policy in Atlanta.
In Chile, last November, as former dictator Augusto Pinochet
moved closer to being tried for the deaths of thousands, he declared to a
judge: "I lament those losses and suffer for them. God does things, and he
will forgive me if I committed some excesses, which I don't believe I
Dubya couldn't have said it better. Let's hope that one
day we can compel him to stand before a judge, not one appointed by him.
But what about the Marshall Plan?
During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice inflicted
upon the world by unending United States interventions, I've often been met
with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling only the negative
side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask
the person to give me some examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous
face of America's dealings with the world in modern times, one of the things
almost always mentioned is The Marshall Plan. This is explained in words
along the lines of: "After World War II, we unselfishly built up Europe
economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete
with us." Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy,
who are quick to question the White House's motives in Afghanistan, Iraq
and elsewhere, have no problem in swallowing this picture of an altruistic
America of the period of 1948-1952.
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad
and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the
thing called "communism" stood in the way, politically, militarily, and
ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to
confront this "enemy", and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this
campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal
pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II,
pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign, when
Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This
return to anti-communism included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan
as a warning to the Soviets.
After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif
of foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the
Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford
Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, various corporations, and
other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver
in the remaking of Europe to suit Washington's desires -- spreading the
capitalist gospel (to counter strong postwar tendencies towards socialism);
opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations (a major reason
for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g., almost a billion dollars
of tobacco, at 1948 prices, spurred by US tobacco interests); pushing for
the creation of the Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West
European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat; suppressing the left
all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in
France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory.
Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this last endeavor,
and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used
as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted
from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the
The CIA also skimmed large amounts of Marshall Plan
funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions, journalists, and publishers,
at home and abroad, for the heated and omnipresent propaganda of the Cold
War; the selling of the Marshall Plan to the American public and elsewhere
was entwined with fighting "the red menace". Moreover, in its covert operations,
CIA personnel at times used the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan's
chief architects, Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly
at the Ford Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds; one big
The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of restrictions on
the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal criteria which
had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free enterprise. The US
had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan dollars were spent, but
also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent amount of the local currency,
giving Washington substantial power over the internal plans and programs
of the European states; welfare programs for the needy survivors of the war
were looked upon with disfavor by the United States; even rationing smelled
too much like socialism and had to go or be scaled down; nationalization
of industry was even more vehemently opposed by Washington. The great bulk
of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, to purchase
American goods, making American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.
It could be seen as more a joint business operation between
governments, with contracts written by Washington lawyers, than an American
"handout"; often it was a business arrangement between American and European
ruling classes, many of the latter fresh from their service to the Third
Reich, some of the former as well; or it was an arrangement between Congressmen
and their favorite corporations to export certain commodities, including
a lot of military goods. Thus did the Marshall Plan lay the foundation for
the military industrial complex as a permanent feature of American life.
It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear,
credible description of how the Marshall Plan was principally responsible
for the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view,
no less clear, is that the Europeans -- highly educated, skilled and experienced
-- could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master
plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant
strides in this direction before the Plan's funds began flowing. Marshall
Plan funds were not directed primarily toward feeding individuals or building
individual houses, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic
superstructure, particularly the iron-steel and power industries. The period
was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession.
The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class.
Is someone finally learning a lesson
The United States has been pushing the UN Security Council to invoke Chapter
VII of the UN Charter against Iran because of its nuclear research. Chapter
VII ("Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace,
and Acts of Aggression") can be used to impose sanctions and take military
action against a country deemed guilty of such violations (except of course
if the country holds a veto power in the Security Council). The United States
made use of Chapter VII to bomb Yugoslavia in 1999 and to invade Iraq in
2003. On both occasions, the applicability of the chapter and the use of
force were highly questionable, but to placate Council opponents of military
action the US agreed to some modifications in the language of the Council
resolution and refrained from stating explicitly that it intended to take
military action. Nonetheless, in each case, after the resolution was passed,
the US took military action. Severe military action.
In early May, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN,
asserted: "The fundamental point is for Russia and China to agree that this
[Iran's nuclear research] is a threat to international peace and security
under Chapter VII." However, Yury Fedotov, the Russian ambassador to the
United Kingdom, declared that his country opposed the Chapter VII reference
because it evoked "memories of past UN resolutions on Yugoslavia and Iraq
that led to US-led military action which had not been authorised by the Security
In the past, the United States had argued that the reference
to Chapter VII in a Council resolution was needed to obtain "robust language,"
said Fedotov, but "afterwards it was used to justify unilateral action. In
the case of Yugoslavia, for example, we were told at the beginning that
references to Chapter VII were necessary to send political signals, and it
finally ended up with the Nato bombardments."
It remains to be seen whether the Russians or any other
Security Council members have taken this lesson to heart and can stand up
to the schoolyard bully's pressure by refusing to give the United States
another pretext for expanding the empire's control over the Middle East.
You can love your mom, eat lotsa apple pie, and
wave the American flag, but if you don't believe in God you are a hell bound
A recent study by the University of Minnesota department of sociology has
identified atheists as "America's most distrusted minority". University
researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants,
homosexuals and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American
society." Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing
to allow their children to marry. The researchers conclude that atheists
offer "a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over
the last 30 years."
Many of the study's respondents associated atheism with
an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant
materialism and cultural elitism. The study's lead researcher believes a
fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings.
"Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow
citizens, they share an understanding of right and wrong. Our findings seem
to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not
concerned with the common good."
Hmmm. I've been a political activist for more than 40
years. I've marched and fought and published weekly newspapers alongside
countless atheists and agnostics who have risked jail and being clubbed on
the head, and who have forsaken a much higher standard of living, for no
purpose other than the common good. Rampant materialism? Hardly. "Secular
humanism", many atheists call it. And we don't read about mobs of atheists
stoning, massacring, or otherwise harming or humiliating human beings who
do not share their non-beliefs.
The public attitude depicted by this survey may derive
in part from the Cold-War upbringing of so many Americans -- the idea and
the image of the "godless atheistic communist". But I think more than that
is the deep-seated feeling of insecurity, even threat, that atheists can
bring out in the religioso, putting into question, consciously or unconsciously,
their core beliefs.
You must wonder at times, as I do, how this world became
so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid. Can it have reached this
remarkable level by chance, or was it planned? It's enough to make one believe
in God. Or the Devil.
Manure of the taurus
The US Interests Section in Havana has been flashing electronic messages
on its building for the benefit of Cubans passing by. One recent message
said that Forbes, the weekly financial magazine, had named Fidel Castro the
world's seventh-wealthiest head of state, with a fortune estimated at $900
million. This has shocked Cuban passersby, as well it should in a socialist
society that claims to have the fairest income distribution in the world.
Are you not also shocked, dear readers?
What's that? You want to know exactly what Forbes based
their rankings on? Well, as it turns out, two months before the Interests
Section flashed their message, Forbes had already stated that the estimates
were "more art than science". "In the past," wrote the magazine, "we have
relied on a percentage of Cuba's gross domestic product to estimate Fidel
Castro's fortune. This year, we have used more traditional valuation methods,
comparing state-owned assets Castro is assumed to control with comparable
publicly traded companies." The magazine gave as examples state-owned companies
such as retail and pharmaceutical businesses and a convention center.
So there you have it. It was based on nothing. Inasmuch as George W. "controls"
the US military shall we assign the value of all the Defense Department assets
to his personal wealth? And Tony Blair's wealth includes the BBC, does it
Another message flashed by the Interests Section is:
"In a free country you don't need permission to leave the country. Is Cuba
a free country?" This too is an attempt to blow smoke in people's eyes. It
implies that there's some sort of blanket government restriction or prohibition
of travel abroad for Cubans, a limitation on their "freedom". However, the
reality is a lot more complex and a lot less Orwellian. The main barrier
to overseas travel for most Cubans is financial; they simply can't afford
it. If they have the money and a visa they can normally fly anywhere, but
it's very difficult to obtain a visa from the United States unless you're
part of the annual immigration quota. Cuba being a poor country concerned
with equality tries to make sure that citizens complete their military service
or their social service. Before emigrating abroad, trained professionals
are supposed to give something back to the country for their free education,
which includes medical school and all other schools. And Cuba, being unceasingly
threatened by a well-known country to the north, must take precautions: Certain
people in the military and those who have worked in intelligence or have
other sensitive information may also need permission to travel; this is something
that is found to one extent or another all over the world.
Americans need permission to travel to Cuba. Is the United
States a free country? Washington makes it so difficult for its citizens
to obtain permission to travel to Cuba it's virtually a prohibition. I have
been rejected twice by the US Treasury Department.
Americans on the "No-fly list" can't go anywhere.
All Americans need permission to leave the country. The
permission slip -- of which one must have a sufficient quantity -- is green
and bears the picture of a US president.
Save this for that glorious day when more than two
centuries of American "democracy" reaches its zenith with a choice between
Condi and Hillary.
Condoleezza Rice, testifying April 5 before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee about the US-India nuclear deal:
"India's society is open and free. It is transparent
and stable. It is multiethnic. It is a multi-religious democracy that is
characterized by individual freedom and the rule of law. It is a country
with which we share common values. ... India is a rising global power that
we believe can be a pillar of stability in a rapidly changing Asia. In other
words, in short, India is a natural partner for the United States."
And here is a State Department human rights report --
released the very same day -- that had this to say about India:
"The Government generally respected the rights
of its citizens and continued efforts to curb human rights abuses, although
numerous serious problems remained. These included extrajudicial killings,
disappearances, custodial deaths, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests,
torture, poor prison conditions, and extended pretrial detention, especially
related to combating insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir. Societal violence
and discrimination against women, trafficking of women and children for forced
prostitution and labor, and female feticide and infanticide remained concerns.
Poor enforcement of laws, widespread corruption, a lack of accountability,
and the severely overburdened court system weakened the delivery of justice."
Is it not enough to murder your brain?
For the record
In March I agreed to speak on a panel at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee convention, to be held in June in Washington, DC. The panel
is called: "America, Empire, Democracy and the Middle East". Then someone
at the ADC apparently realized that I was the person whose book had been
recommended by Osama bin Laden in January, and they tried to cancel my appearance
with phoney excuses. I objected, calling them cowards; they relented, then
changed their mind again, telling me finally "all of the seats on the journalism
panel, for the ADC convention, are filled." Two months after our agreement,
they had discovered that all the panel seats were filled.
American Muslims are very conservative. 72% of them voted
for Bush in 2000, before they got a taste of a police state. Now, they're
still very conservative, plus afraid.
University officials are also conservative, or can easily
be bullied by campus conservative organizations which are part of a well-financed
national campaign (think David Horowitz) to attack the left on campus, be
they faculty, students or outside speakers. Since the bin Laden recommendation,
January 19, I have not been offered a single speaking engagement on any campus;
a few students have tried to arrange something for me but were not successful
at convincing school officials. This despite January-May normally being the
most active period for me and other campus speakers.
Speakout, a California agency which places progressive
speakers on campuses, informs me that the Horowitz-type groups have succeeded
in cutting sharply into their business.
 (Thanks to Kevin Barrett of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for
9/11 Truth for the title of this section)
Washington Post, May 5, 2006, p.B1
 New York Times, June 30, 2004
 Washington Post, April 12, 2006, p.C3
 Associated Press, November 16, 2005
 See my essay on the use of the atomic bomb:
 See, for example, Joyce & Gabriel Kolko, "The Limits of Power: The
World and US Foreign Policy 1945-1954" (1972), chapters 13, 16, 17; Sallie
Pisani, "The CIA and the Marshall Plan" (1991) passim; Frances Stoner Saunders,
"The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the world of arts and letters" (2000)
 The Independent (London), May 8, 2006
 Washington Post, May 13, 2006, p.10
 Reuters, March 17, 2006
William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions
Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.
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