WILLIAM BLUM: ANTI-IMPERIALIST RESOURCES
"Killing Hope US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII", Common Courage Press, 1995, 457 pages
"Rogue State A Guide to the World's Only Superpower", Common Courage Press, 2000, 308 pages
(These books may be ordered from the author's website http//members.aol.com/bblum6/American_holocaust.htm)
After the collapse of the Soviet Union it became much easier for imperialism to defeat or frustrate its enemies everywhere in the world. Countries like Iraq no longer could rely on diplomatic, military and economic support from the Soviet bloc and were also forced to fight without the moral and political support from a disoriented Western left, whose solidarity--when offered--was often of a half-hearted nature.
Once imperialism no longer had a use for cold warriors like Reagan or Thatcher, a space was created for new left-leaning politicians in Great Britain, Germany and the United States. Shorn of Cold War rhetoric and offering lip-service to human rights and economic justice, the Democrats in the USA, the Labor Party in Great Britain and the German Greens and Social Democrats appeared to elements of the left as "one of us." Leftish publications such as the Nation Magazine that had been on the front lines opposing the contra war in Nicaragua and National Endowment for Democracy interference with that country's election in 1990 now stood by passively or even cheered for the same kind of imperialist bullying of Yugoslavia.
The pressures on the left to toe the new "humanitarian intervention" line has been enormous. Even in instances where there has been opposition to NATO's war, stalwarts such as Noam Chomsky have felt the need to demonize Milosevic. What is not understood, however, is that such acceptance of State Department falsehoods made it easier to prosecute the wars in the Balkans. Why go to much trouble to defend a government that rules dictatorially--provided that this was indeed the case. The actuality of free elections and press in Yugoslavia mattered little to Chomsky, although he spent countless hours explaining that reality when it was occurring in Nicaragua. What a difference ten years makes.
With the defection of elements of the anti-imperialist left to the "humanitarian intervention" side, it is all the more important that we have William Blum still fighting the good fight. Blum left the State Department in 1967, abandoning a career as a Foreign Service Officer, because of opposition to the Vietnam war. He went on to help found the "Washington Free Press," the first "underground" newspaper in the capital. In 1969, he wrote and published an exposé of the CIA in which the names of 200 employees of the agency was revealed. Ever since he has worked as a free-lance journalist, developing investigative stories of the kind that appear in the two books under review.
Blum's "Killing Hope" first appeared in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was still in office. The 1995 edition has been significantly revised with newly disclosed information, such as declassified intelligence files. Written as a country-by-country analysis of US intervention, it now includes chapters on Libya, Panama, Bulgaria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti. As Blum puts it, "Unfortunately, the American government keeps people like me very busy." "Rogue State" came out this year and is organized by type of crime, such as the use of chemical and biological warfare or rigging elections overseas. The two books belong on every activist's bookshelf.
Turning to "Killing Hope," it would be useful to take a close look at one of the fifty-five chapters and see Blum at his best. Chapter 29 is titled "Dominican Republic 1960-1966 Saving Democracy by getting rid of democracy." This chapter should be of particular interest to readers of Revolution Magazine, which has written about the phenomenon of obsolete anticommunist dictators being cast aside by their patrons with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In looking at the example of the Dominican Republic, we discover a precedence the anticommunist dictator Trujillo became a scapegoat, but the rotten structures of Dominican society never changed.
On the night of May 30 1961, Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo was assassinated with the participation of the United States. In the aftermath of the Cuban revolution, Washington felt it necessary to present a more democratic image to Caribbean and Latin American nations. Two years before the assassination, Eisenhower wrote, "It's certain that American public opinion won't condemn Castro until we have moved against Trujillo."
In a scenario reminiscent of "Goodfellas," a decision was made to have Trujillo whacked because he had compromised the Family with his out-of-control behavior. In June of 1960 his henchmen blew up a car carrying Venezuelan President, an outspoken critic of the Dominican dictator. Betancourt, who survived the blast, told the US that "If you don't eliminate him, we will invade." So the Godfather in Washington sent out word that it would be okay to put a hit on Trujillo Washington promised to not prevent an assassination.
The Dominican assassins were from the ranks of the privileged and conservative members of society. While they were determined to get rid of the dictator, they were less sure about what to do after he was gone. President Kennedy was much more clear-headed. He said, "There are three possibilities in descending order of preference a decent democratic regime, a continuation of the Trujillo regime or a Castro regime. We ought to aim at the first but we can't renounce the second until we are sure we can avoid the third."
When Rafael Trujillo Jr. announced that he would take over his father's job, violent protests erupted. American diplomats met with the Trujillo clan and top military leaders to tell them that a provisional government headed by long-time Trujillo underling Joachín Balaguer should be convened. As Kennedy put it, "Balaguer is our only tool. The anticommunist liberals aren't strong enough. We must use our influence to take Balaguer along the path to democracy."
To make sure that nothing got in the way of democracy, a US naval task force of eight ships with 1,800 Marines appeared off the coast in November 1962. When the impudent Dominican people decided to challenge the interim government through street protests, US Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent cops and riot control gear down to help restore order. When elections were finally held, a liberal anticommunist named Juan Bosch won and he took office in February 1963.
While no radical, Bosch was true to his beliefs. He called for land reform, nationalization of some businesses and an ambitious public works project. As a principled liberal, he was also serious about civil liberties. Communists in the Dominican Republic would not be prosecuted unless they broke the law.
This stance made Washington worried. Using a CIA operative on staff at the Miami News, the word went out "Communist penetration of the Dominican Republic is progressing with incredible speed and efficiency." Privately John Kennedy expressed his fears to the Dominican Ambassador "I'm wondering if the day might not come when he'd [Bosch] like to get rid of some of the left. Tell him we respect his judgment, we're all for him, but the time may come when he'll want to deport 30 to 50 people, when it'd be better to deport them than to let them go. I suppose he'd have to catch them in something."
In September of 1963 Bosch became the victim of a military coup backed by the US. Only nineteen months later, on April 24, 1965, a popular revolt swept the Dominican Republic, its goal to reinstate Bosch. The USA came to the rescue. 23, 000 American troops invaded in order to "stop Communism" and restore order. Lyndon Johnson, the President at the time who was escalating the war in Indochina, found time to weigh in against the threat to American freedom directly to the South. Releasing lists of "communists and Castroites" (variously numbered at 53 or 58 or 77), LBJ was derided in the press. Unfortunately derision in the media does not translate into effective political power and hopes for progressive change remained crushed.
Turning to "Rogue State," we find another historical example that sheds light on the workings of imperialism today. As we all know, the movement against Milosevic was portrayed as some kind of "people's revolution." This myth was accepted by wide sections of the left, including Noam Chomsky. Unfortunately, there is evidence that this kind of revolt depended heavily on Western financing and political control. If one takes a look at the sad fate of Bulgaria in 1990-1991, one can see that struggles against "Stalinism" often leave much to be desired.
In the Chapter seventeen of "Rogue State," titled "A Concise History of US Global Interventions," Blum turns his attention to a revolt that had all the earmarkings of the one that just toppled Milosevic. In 1990, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) poured more than $1.5 million into Bulgaria in order to defeat the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the former Communist Party) in the June national election. An equivalent amount for the US elections would be $38 million. It is astonishing that such practices arouse so little comment when small contributions from Asian businessmen to the Clinton-Gore campaign can capture media attention for months on end.
Despite all the cash, the BSP won the elections just as Milosevic's party did year after year in Yugoslavia. Just as in the Dominican Republic 25 years earlier, Washington decided that this would not do. The NED stepped in again and funded pro-West opposition groups that carried out a very militant and disruptive campaign for nearly five months. Parliament was surrounded and labor strikes were mounted in favor of "democracy." Finally, the BSP Prime Minister resigned and a pro-Western government took power. The net result has been immiseration in Bulgaria, which very well now might become the fate of Yugoslavia.
To challenge the powers that make independent countries sacrificial lambs to the IMF and Western banks and corporations, radicals need resources like William Blum's books. While the battle of Yugoslavia might be over, the war continues.