Killing Hope, October 10, 2011
Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American
heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an
excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has
done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view
have managed to find their way into this well-defended American
First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month
expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were
retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the
United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.
Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the
United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian
Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the
Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire.
FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as
usual, used words like "insane", "twisted mind", and "absurdities". Bennett
felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in
World War II had taught him that "war is the lowest form of human behavior."
He said there's no excuse for terrorism, and he added, "I'm sorry if my
statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my
country." (NBC September 21)
Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who
for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the
cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him. Ron Paul
and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.
What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually
been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?
- the shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981
- the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984
- the bombing of Libya in 1986
- the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987
- the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988
- the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989
- the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991
- the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the
next 12 years
- the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998
- the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and
torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people
- the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this
- the abduction of "suspected terrorists" from Muslim countries, such
as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to
places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured
- the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam's holiest land,
Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region
- the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East
governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal
- the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the
present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present
- the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate
individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of
It can't be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the "war on
terrorism", although weakening, is that the targets of America's attacks
have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on
religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of
evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science
Board, "a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent
advice to the Secretary of Defense." The report states:
"Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies.
The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as
one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and
the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims
collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks
about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more
than self-serving hypocrisy."
The report concludes: "No public relations campaign can save America from
flawed policies." (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)
The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a
story about it on November 24, 2004. The Times reported that
although the board's report does not constitute official government policy,
it captures "the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just
the Defense Department but the entire United States government."
"Homeland security is a rightwing concept fostered following 9/11 as
the answer to the effects of 50 years of bad foreign policies in the
middle east. The amount of homeland security we actually need is
inversely related to how good our foreign policy is." – Sam Smith,
editor of The Progressive Review
The lies that will not die
In his September 22 address at the United Nations, Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mentioned the Nazi Holocaust just twice:
"Some European countries still use the Holocaust, after six decades,
as the excuse to pay fines or ransom to the Zionists."
"They threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September
11 event with sanctions and military action."
That was it.
By the term "questions the Holocaust" the Iranian president has made
clear repeatedly over the years what he's referring to. He has commented
about the peculiarity and injustice of a tragedy which took place in Europe
resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe.
Why are the Palestinians paying a price for a German crime? he asks. And he
has questioned the figure of six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany, as
have many historians and others of all political stripes who think the total
was probably less. This has nothing to do with the Holocaust not taking
But, as usual, the Western media pretends that it doesn't understand.
The New York Post (September 22) referred to the Iranian
president as "the world's foremost Holocaust denier, the would-be genocidist
Agence France Presse (September 22) stated: "The Iranian leader
repeated comments casting doubt on the origins of the Holocaust."
The Washington Post wrote of "Ahmadinejad's speech suggesting
larger conspiracies were behind the Holocaust and the Sept. 11 attacks
caused delegates to walk out." (September 23)
And Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (September 23) included this
amongst the radio program's news headlines: "For the third straight year,
Ahmadinejad sent delegates to the exits after questioning the Nazi
Without further explanation of that incendiary term — and none was given
— what can "questioning the Nazi Holocaust" mean or imply to most listeners
other than that Ahmadinejad was questioning whether the Holocaust had
actually taken place?
Once again I must point out that I have yet to read of Ahmadinejad ever
saying simply, clearly, unambiguously, and unequivocally that he thinks that
what we know as the Holocaust never happened. For the record, in a speech at
Columbia University on September 24, 2007, in reply to a question about the
Holocaust, the Iranian president declared: "I'm not saying that it didn't
happen at all. This is not the judgment that I'm passing here."
Indeed, I do not know if any of the so-called
"Holocaust-deniers" actually, ever, umm, y'know ... deny the Holocaust.
They question certain aspects of the Holocaust history that's been handed
down to us, but they don't explicitly say that what we know as the Holocaust
never took place. (Yes, I'm sure you can find at least one nut-case
Another enduring lie about Ahmadinejad is that he has called for violence
against Israel: His 2005 remark re "wiping Israel off the map", besides
being a very questionable translation, has been seriously misinterpreted, as
evidenced by the fact that the following year he declared: "The Zionist
regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and
humanity will achieve freedom." (Associated Press, December 12,
2006) Obviously, the man was not calling for any kind of violent attack upon
Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place peacefully.
The president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), 1965-66, died
September 13, age 76. I remember him best for a speech of his I heard during
the March on Washington, November 27, 1965, a speech passionately received
by the tens of thousands crowding the National Mall:
The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a
mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate
liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming
liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war — those who study
the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead:
Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President [Johnson] himself.
They are not moral monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all
He insisted that America's founding fathers would have been on his side.
"Our dead revolutionaries would soon wonder why their country was fighting
against what appeared to be a revolution." He challenged those who called
him anti-American: "I say, don't blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed
my liberal values and broke my American heart."
We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed.
It will not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to
change it. Those allies of ours in the government — are they really our
allies? If they are, then they don't need advice, they need
constituencies; they don't need study groups, they need a movement. And
if they are not [our allies], then all the more reason for building that
movement with the most relentless conviction.
It saddens me to think that virtually nothing has changed for the better
in US foreign policy since Carl Oglesby spoke on the Mall that day.
America's wars are ongoing, perpetual, eternal. And the current war monger
in the White House is regarded by many as a liberal, for whatever that's
"We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to
maximum brutality," war correspondent Michael Herr recalled about the US
military in Vietnam. "Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could
do everything but stop."
Items of interest from a journal I've kept for 40 years, part V
- A Bush administration regulation on Sept. 30, 2004 said Americans
cannot buy or smoke Cuban cigars even in countries where the cigars are
legal, such as Canada, Mexico, Europe, indeed most of the world. The
same goes for Havana Club rum and other Cuban products.
- April 26th, 2007 posting from the courageous but anonymous Iraqi
woman who has, since August 2003, published the indispensable blog
Baghdad Burning. Her family, she reported, was finally giving up and
going into exile. In her final dispatch, she wrote: "There are moments
when the injustice of having to leave your country simply because an
imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is
unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our
home and what remains of family and friends. ... And to what?"
- "God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits
America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America's Middle
Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a)
anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist."
— John LeCarre (London Times, January 15, 2003)
- Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq admonished
his troops regarding the results of an Army survey that found that many
U.S. military personnel there are willing to tolerate some torture of
suspects and unwilling to report abuse by comrades. "This fight depends
on securing the population, which must understand that we — not our
enemies — occupy the moral high ground," he wrote in an open letter
dated May 10 and posted on a military Web site. (Washington Post,
May 11, 2007)
- "To most of its citizens, America is exceptional, and it's only
natural that it should take exception to certain international
standards." — Michael Ignatieff, former Canadian politician and
Washington Post columnist
- It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel's leading
military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq,
knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, "Had the Iranians not tried to
build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy." — Noam Chomsky
- "It is easier for an American member of Congress to criticize an
American president than to criticize an Israeli Prime Minister; it is
easier for them to criticize an unjust and unwarranted US war than one
launched by Israel." — Jeffrey Blankfort
- Ken Livingston, Mayor of London, re: his visit to Cuba in 2006:
"What really stood out for me was hearing first hand from people working
in the medical services just how appalling the US blockade is. When you
meet people who are treating eye disorders and blindness on a huge scale
and they describe how difficult it is to get the equipment they need
except through indirect routes because of the blockade you get a feel
for the scale of the injustice that is being imposed on Cuba."
Livingston might have added that the "indirect routes", even if
available, are much more expensive.
- In 1965 when UN Secretary-General U Thant tried to open back-channel
ties to the North Vietnamese, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called him
off by shouting: "Who do you think you are, a country?" (Washington
Post BookWorld, January 7, 2007)
- George W. Bush: "Years from now when America looks out on a
democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans
will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence
that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima" in World War II. (Associated
Press, November 11, 2006)
- The National Endowment for Democracy was US Government initiated,
and although ostensibly "independent," has been continually funded by
the US Congress, and its Board has included top level actors in the US
Government's foreign policy apparatus, including former Secretaries of
State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former National Security
Council Chair Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former World Bank President Paul
- CBS News, September 9, 2006: Senator Jay Rockefeller says
the world would be better off today if the United States had never
invaded Iraq. Does Rockefeller stand by his view, even if it means that
Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't
invade? "Yes. Yes." says Rockefeller. "He wasn't going to attack us."
- William Appleman Williams, in his 2007 book "Empire as a way of
life": Analyzing US history from its revolutionary origins to the dawn
of the Reagan era, Williams shows how America has always been addicted
to empire in its foreign and domestic ideology. Detailing the imperial
actions and beliefs of revered figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this book is
the most in-depth historical study of the American obsession with
empire, and is essential to understanding the origins of our current
foreign and domestic undertakings.
- Compare Washington's reaction in recent years to popular uprisings
alleging electoral fraud in the Ukraine and Georgia to its reaction to
the same in Mexico in 2006 when the rightwing Felipe Calderon was
declared the winner in a very questionable manner.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, in his talk at the United Nations,
September 20, 2006, sharply criticized US president George W. Bush's
foreign policies and Bush himself. Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret
Beckett suggested that the Chávez comments were beyond the pale of
diplomatic protocol at the UN. "Even the Democrats wouldn't say that".
However, the Guardian reported that "Delegates and leaders from
around the world streamed back into the chamber to hear Mr Chávez, and
when he stepped down the vigorous applause lasted so long that it had to
be curtailed by the chair."
- Only the imperialist powers have the ability to enforce sanctions
and are therefore always exempt from them.
William Blum is the author of:
- Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
- West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
- Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at