WCW Home News Recent News 12/11/2018 William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85
12/11/2018 William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85 PDF Print E-mail

By Sam Roberts

From The New York Times | Original Article

William Blum, a longtime critic of United States foreign policy, with his book “Rogue State.” Sales of the book surged in 2006 when a recording emerged on which Osama bin Laden said all Americans should read it. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

William Blum, who raged against United States foreign policy in relative obscurity for decades until one of his published anti-imperialist broadsides received a surge in sales thanks to a surprise public tribute from Osama bin Laden, died on Sunday in Arlington, Va. He was 85.

His son, Alexander, said the cause was kidney failure. Mr. Blum had been hospitalized after being injured in a fall in his apartment in October.

Mr. Blum (pronounced “bloom”) was a computer programmer for the State Department who aspired to become a career Foreign Service officer and “take part in the great anti-Communist crusade,” he once recalled. But he became disillusioned over the Vietnam War.

After helping to inaugurate a short-lived biweekly underground newspaper, The Washington Free Press, and joining in antiwar protests, he said he was pressured in 1967 to quit his government job.

In the decades after that, he wrote largely polemical articles and columns, in print for publications like Foreign Policy Journal and Counterpunch and later online. He also produced, and contributed to, exposés in books and other media about what he called misdeeds by the United States at home and abroad that were carried out in the name of national security.

Faking a flat tire near the gate to Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia, he surreptitiously recorded the license plates of employees who were entering and leaving. He revealed the names and home addresses of more than 200 of them in his book “The CIA, a Forgotten History: U.S. Global Interventions Since World War 2” (1986).

“They could have been spies,” said Louis Wolf, a founder with Mr. Blum in 1978 of what is now called CovertAction Magazine. “They could have been clerks.”

In an interview with The Washington Post in 2006, Mr. Blum encapsulated his life’s mission as “ending, at least slowing down, the American Empire,” or “at least injuring the beast.”

Still, no one was more surprised than he when a recording emerged in 2006 on which Osama bin Laden recommended that all Americans read Mr. Blum’s book “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” first published in 2000 and updated in 2005. It vaulted almost overnight from about 205,000 on Amazon’s sales ranking to the top 50. (It stood at about 58,000 a few days after Mr. Blum’s death.)

“This is almost as good as being an Oprah book,” Mr. Blum said at the time.

While Mr. Blum denounced the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and said he would not want to live under an Islamic fundamentalist regime, he did not disavow the recommendation or express regret that bin Laden, the orchestrator of those attacks, shared his disdain for the policies carried out by the department where he had once worked.

He also reiterated his unpopular, but not unique, position that American intervention abroad had been breeding enemies and inviting terrorism. He blamed Washington for replacing secular governments in Afghanistan and other countries with Islamic fundamentalist regimes; reflexively favoring Israel over the Palestinians; and supporting Saudi Arabian dictators.

While bin Laden recommended that Americans read “Rogue State,” he paraphrased a quotation that was actually from the back cover of another book by Mr. Blum, “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire” (2004).

“If I were the president,” that quotation reads, “I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize — very publicly and very sincerely — to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism.”

William Henry Blum was born on March 6, 1933, in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Isidore Blum, a machine operator, and Ruth (Katz) Blum.

After graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from what is now Baruch College of the City University of New York.

Found unfit for military service because of the kidney ailment that ultimately proved fatal, his son said, Mr. Blum was hired as a programmer by I.B.M. and subsequently by the State Department.

He later collaborated in London with the former C.I.A. case officer Philip Agee, whose critical book “Inside the Company: CIA Diary” (1975), was followed by books and articles that made other disclosures about the agency’s covert operations.

In 1979, Mr. Blum married Adelheid Zöfel. They later separated. She and their son survive him, along with two grandsons.

Mr. Blum repeatedly challenged the idealistic premise of American exceptionalism and argued instead that world hegemony was Washington’s covert goal, for economic, nationalistic, ideological and religious reasons.

He continued to write his monthly online newspaper, The Anti-Empire Report, until September. His last public appearance was at a panel discussion over the summer sponsored by Left Forum and CovertAction, at which he repeated his premise that most Americans have “a deeply held conviction that no matter what the United States does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what harm results, the United States government means well.”

In an interview in 2016 with Richard Grove of the website Tragedy and Hope, Mr. Blum was asked what he loved most about America. He replied, “Baseball, Jewish food, many films.” Politically, he added, things could be worse:

“I have not been put in prison because of what I’ve written or spoken.”

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