For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.
To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.
Now why should this be?
My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.
Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.
Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.
We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.
It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.
Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.
So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.
The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.
And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.
Open letter to William Blum by SnakeArbusto:
Bill, I’m one of the people who were sure that you couldn’t be the one who wrote your post entitled “Warning! What follows is very politically incorrect.” I’ve read all your books and follow your Web posts and had the pleasure and privilege of hearing you speak and meeting you once. And this just didn’t sound like you. And I’ve just read your follow-up entitled “Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought.” In these posts you accuse us, your readers, of being blinded by something called “political correctness” to the point where we refuse to admit the evil of “radical Islamic terrorism.”
In my own defense and that of my fellow readers and admirers of your work, I have to take exception to your accusation of “political correctness.” What’s called “political correctness,” to define it in a way I think we can agree on, is an attempt to use language to disguise a reality whose existence we’re unwilling to recognize. Or to be more exact, to avoid using the actual word or term that designates that reality, since the use of that word or term would be offensive to certain groups, and instead use other words or terms that are less offensive. Needless to say, what is truly offensive is the reality in question and not the terms used to describe it, even if the use of a certain word can be hurtful in itself.
But what is the reality we, your readers who are guilty of political correctness, are avoiding? According to you, that there is an organized “armed forces of Islam” that is attacking our Western societies and needs to be destroyed using “Western military and economic power.” You say we’re unwilling to admit that those forces exist, or if we do admit it we justify terror attacks like the one in Nice, or atrocities like the beheading of an ailing 11-year-old, as retaliation for the horrors that Western military and economic power has inflicted on the people of the world for so many decades.
Nobody denies that there’s such a thing as radical Islamism. But what your last two posts boil down to is that They are different from us. We’re bad, but we don’t do what they do. Sure, we firebombed Tokyo and dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; since then we’ve continued devastating the world from a distance – dropping napalm and white phosphorus on people, scattering antipersonnel mines and depleted uranium and Agent Orange all over their countries, letting people slowly die from diseases we control the medications for because we’ve decided it’s politically expedient. And sure, recently we’ve allowed the fact that we actually torture people to peep through all the Shinola about how we’re Not Like That.
But I don’t need to catalogue the evils the Empire has visited and continues to visit on the world, because as you so rightly point out, you literally wrote the book about them. And for generations to come your work will be the foundation for anyone who wants to unlearn, the way you have, the deep-seated metaprogramming all Americans are fed from the cradle on: That we mean well; that we are the champion of freedom and democracy; that we are the big, strong, quiet guy who wants no trouble with anybody but who just can’t stand around and see somebody smaller and weaker than himself get picked on. Let alone get their head sawn off. Sure, you say, We do all that. But We don’t do what They do. Our Boys and Girls don’t saw people’s heads off.
But in fact – and I know you know this, because I learned it from you – it IS Our Boys who are doing it. The US shadow government and the military-financial complex that’s behind it didn’t create the jihadist phenomenon – though it did come into being as a result of Western influence in the Islamic world. But We used it as a Cold War weapon, as you recount in the chapter on Afghanistan in Killing Hope and as others have reported. In your second post you acknowledge the nurturing of radical Islamists, but say that the United States never intended “to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.” Of course We didn’t. We never seem to foresee the consequences of our support for killers and rapists. All we see is the expediency. Let me quote you:
[…] At the beginning there had been some thought given to the morality of the policy. “The question here,” a senior official in the Carter administration said, “was whether it was morally acceptable that, in order to keep the Soviets off balance, which was the reason for the operation, it was permissible to use other lives for our geopolitical interests.”
But such sentiments could not survive. Afghanistan was a cold-warrior’s dream: The CIA and the Pentagon, finally, had one of their proxy armies in direct confrontation with the forces of the Evil Empire. There was no price too high to pay for this Super Nintendo game, neither the hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives, nor the destruction of Afghan society, nor three billion (sic) dollars of American taxpayer money poured into a bottomless hole, much of it going only to make a few Afghans and Pakistanis rich. […]
But aside from the short-term goal of “giving the Soviets a dose of Vietnam,” Our support for jihadism had a more long-term payoff: creating the specter of Islamic Terrorism to serve as the Enemy we need to justify the existence of the most colossal and expensive military-industrial entity the world has ever seen.
Ever since the first army was formed, the people that army was supposed to be protecting have been propagandized to believe that there was an Enemy just across the border who would come and take their land and rape their women if they didn’t protect themselves against him. He was genetically programmed to dominate, to control. He put the idea of the Homeland above human life itself. He was not even really human. Both sides in every conflict were indoctrinated to believe the exact same things about the other side. In Europe a hundred years ago, the British and French were taught to hate the Hun. And in the USA, the modern advertising industry was born when Edward Bernays was called in to sell Americans the idea of participating in a war “Over There” against that inhuman Hun. Later, after the Second World War, we were told that that Enemy was bent on nothing short of global domination, and that his dedication to his beliefs was absolute, and that he was capable of any act, no matter how heinous, in order to achieve that domination. This time the Enemy was Communism. And we were programmed from the very cradle to believe in the threat. I’m a little younger than you, but I remember the drills in grammar school during the Cold War when we were taught to duck under our little desks in preparation for an attack by the Soviet Communists.
Why? The country was basically on a war economy, and that war economy had saved us from a depression. The military was the backbone of the reconstruction of our industries. What’s more, they were heroes who had saved Europe from Fascism. We elected one of those heroes President. Americans were willing to extend the military an unlimited line of credit. But we needed to “manufacture consent.” We needed an Enemy. And for 30 years or so Communism was that Enemy, and the advertising took on a life of its own. By the ’50s, with help from J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, who had realized the importance of the press and radio, and later television, the media, and the publishing and entertainment industries, and the schools and churches helped further the Great Lie. We were told over and over again that somehow these people were just not like us; they were capable of putting their ideology above all human feeling, above life itself. Once they had been won over by that inhuman ideology, they were unredeemable – they had become The Other. They were like creatures from outer space who had taken over the bodies of humans and were capable of continuing to act normally, but were devoid of all human feeling, ruthlessly bent on conquering Earth and the human race. In fact, many of the popular horror films of the ’50s used an invasion by extraterrestrials as a metaphor for the Communist threat. In one film, My Son John, the doyenne of American actresses, Helen Hayes, played a mother whose son is indoctrinated by Communists and who actually turns him, her own son, in – sends him to prison rather than see him lose his soul. All to help fight a Cold War that could have been avoided had the US been willing to share influence with the USSR. Both powers could have dismantled their military machines and turned their propaganda efforts toward solving the problems that affect the human race as a whole, rather than convincing their populations that the Enemy on the other side was out to destroy them.
But then came détente and the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, there was an uncomfortable void that needed to be filled. For a while, they tried to sell us the idea that our Enemy was “Instability.” But, according to a document called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” , what was needed was “…some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” And on September 11, 2001 we had that new Pearl Harbor. And we had our Enemy. That Enemy was just as ruthless, just as highly organized, just as dedicated to its ideology, just as international as the International Communist Conspiracy ever was. And that Enemy was just as determined to take over the world.
The Enemy is always depicted as ruthless and inhuman. The problem is that no human being or group of human beings, however you define that group and whatever name you put on it – even if it’s a “politically correct” name – is fundamentally evil. Just as no human being or group is fundamentally good. Because no human being or group of human beings is fundamentally different from any other. That is simply, as we used to say in the old days, a truth we hold to be self-evident. There is no force out there that plots to destroy Us because we’re good and they are evil. Does that mean there’s no such thing as evil? Of course not. And not even the most “politically correct” person will deny that the evil exists. But in insisting that there’s an evil out there that We can root out and destroy, and identifying it as ISIS or Radical Islamic Terrorism or the Armed Forces of Islam, you’re perpetuating the myth of that Enemy the Empire is so determined to get us to believe in.
So what is the real evil? There is a highly organized force, international in scope and totally committed to its beliefs to the point where it is capable of the most unimaginable evil, and that is bent on global domination. But that force is not the Hun, or Nazism, or Russian Communism or Radical Islamic Terrorism. Nobody knows better than you what it is: It’s the Empire itself. The shadow government of the United States of America and its allies and the military machine they have created. NATO. A colossal machine for occupying the planet and making it safe for business, while at the same time extracting wealth from citizens and toward a tiny financial elite. It eats up $895 billion of the $1.1 trillion the US government takes in from individual taxpayers every year, according to the Washington Post. It’s literally sucking the life blood out of the economy. Not to mention the harm it’s doing to the planet we live on. And not to mention the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, of innocent people who have died and who never wanted anything but to go about their lives in peace, and whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time – a place that was of geostrategic interest to the Empire. The same machine for world domination, with its all-pervasive propaganda tentacles, that you say is the antidote to ISIS.
But why are We bent on world domination? Is it because We’re just evil, as we’re told our Enemy is? Is it that greedy, unprincipled people are in control of our governments? No. World domination is simply the way we do business. Wealth as we define it is a blind, faceless force that moves toward concentration under its own power. No one individual makes the decision to do evil. We all do what we feel we need to do to survive, and once in a while we all have to make compromises. And as we move up the scale of success and power, those compromises begin to have more unfortunate consequences. But as long as we believe that our intentions are basically good, we don’t have to take full responsibility. We’re not fundamentally evil, as you suggest the jihadists are. We just don’t know any other way to perpetuate economic growth and concentration of wealth than to dominate – markets, but also land, resources, and populations. The so-called Free Market is only free for the power that dominates. And that domination is the source of the real evil. Your post refers to ISIS’s oil sales and financial transactions. If you look beyond their media portrayal as insane fanatics, you’ll realize that what the jihadists really want is to dominate sources of wealth. In other words, exactly what We do. Business. If they are the Enemy, then so are We.
I can’t argue with your recoiling in horror at people who are capable of acts like the mass slaughter in Nice, even in retaliation for the horrible acts that have been done to them. I won’t say that the firebombing of Tokyo or Hiroshima and Nagasaki or any of the evils the Empire has perpetrated since, or all of them collectively, are worse. But somehow a person committing a heinous act out of anger and hatred is not evil in the same way as a power that kills callously, without feeling, simply as a way of doing business, without any cruelty, with no hard feelings toward the people we’re killing from far away, as if they were characters in a video game. What inspires horror in me is a power that would just as soon kill you as dig a well in your village if it’s good for business.
Is there no alternative to the American Way? I would like to believe there is. So would the leaders of other countries – Russia, China, the BRICS countries – who believe in a multipolar world. But the military-financial complex, and the US economy and the large part of the world economy that depends on it, is bent on keeping a multipolar world from coming into being. And we in the “developed” countries are very attached to the comforts the American Way provides. We’re in this world domination thing too deep. So we’re preparing ourselves to believe that there can be a “kinder, gentler” form of world domination. We’re preparing to elect Hillary Clinton Leader of the Free World. But when Clinton says, in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, that in spite of what “other nations” may say, America intends to “Help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential,” you and I know that what she really means is that We plan to dominate even more populations and control even more territory and exploit even more resources and create and deploy even more weapons, and that the ultimate result of such an attitude will be more evil.
So, Bill, we “politically correct” readers are not shielding our eyes from the real nature of the evil that needs to be combated. We’re just asking you to look behind the media mask for the real face of that evil.