I was saddened but not surprised by the news. I knew his kidneys were in trouble, and I knew what kidney trouble meant. I lost my father and one of my grandfathers to kidney failure. It's horrible. And I didn't want him to have to endure it. But, as so often happens, my opinion made no difference.
My belated condolences to his friends and family, to those who felt his loss, and those who feel it still.
As you may know, William Blum started out, like most of us, wallowing in propaganda (which was anti-Communist at the time) and swallowing it whole.
Wanting to help rid the world of "the communist menace", he went to work for the State Department as a computer programmer, but became fed up with the "anti-communist crusade" in 1967 when he learned enough about what was going on in Vietnam to realize that the story was bogus and the operation was evil.
Once he saw that, he couldn't take any further part in it. He figured exposing it would be a better course of action.
So he switched gears in the most wonderful way and became one of the greatest dissident American historians of his generation. Or maybe of ANY generation. Or maybe THE greatest. I certainly wouldn't argue with anybody who called him that.
I don't have much room in my "world view" for "heroes", but I can't think of anything else to call a man who spent most of his adult life exposing America's attack on the democracies of the world.
He had an exceptional way with words and an encyclopedic knowledge of his specialty, and when he put them together he gave us passages such as this one (from the Foreword of the British edition of "Rogue State"):
If I were the president, 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 the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America's global interventions -- including the awful bombings -- have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It's equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated.
I've tried to write passages such as this, summarizing so much so concisely, but I've never managed to write anything as good as that!
I was honored to be associated with him, even if only slightly. I'll tell you more about that in a moment. But first I have to stop calling him "William", because he wanted me to call him "Bill".
Shortly after I started my own blog, I wrote a post featuring the Table of Contents from Bill's book, "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II".
You don't even need to read the book: if you look at the list of countries and the way the dates overlap, you can see that the US has been waging a multi-front war on democratic institutions in more places and at more times than you ever imagined. Then you need to read the book.
As I often do when I write nice things about somebody's work, I sent Bill an email ("Dear William") with a link in it. He wrote back, saying, "That's a great plug for my book. Thank you!"
Shortly thereafter, he wrote for his newsletter, the "Anti-Empire Report", to which I was a subscriber, a piece called called "Some things you need to know before the world ends". I quoted it on my blog under the heading, "Read This Now And Die Smarter", sent him another link, and he replied again: "Thanks for making me laugh out loud. I needed that. Call me Bill."
A little while later, I became involved with a now-defunct website called "Start The Revolution" (STR), which was being run from a secret server in Europe and drawing unexpectedly large audiences. The webmaster had found some of my articles and asked whether he could repost them. I said, "Sure, but perhaps I can also help by bringing in articles from better writers." He liked that idea, so my next move was to contact Bill.
Bill liked the idea too, and I spent some amazing hours, digging through Bill's writing and finding bite-sized excerpts suitable for STR. I did the same thing for some of my other favorite authors, and the guy running STR loved all of them. It's too bad he couldn't keep the site running.
Because of what was going on with STR, I was in touch with Bill on a semi-regular basis, and it was always a treat to hear from him. He was funny, humble, gracious, and so smart! And even though he was perhaps the greatest role model a dissident blogger could have, and I was writing a blog with virtually no readers, he treated me as an equal. No bootlicking was ever required or permitted. He didn't even let me call him "William".
I can't tell you how much I miss Bill Blum personally. I don't think anyone can imagine how much we miss him as a "civilization". And I certainly can't tell you how confusing I found his understanding of 9/11.
Considering that he wrote:
No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine.
And considering that he researched and exposed so many black ops over so many years,
I figured he must have developed a keen eye for the "signature" characteristics,
the common threads that appear as if by magic
whenever the usual shady characters get up to their usual dirty tricks.
And I was intrigued by the fact that he didn't see any of these same characteristics in 9/11.
Like most of us, I was shocked by the events of the day and struggled to make sense of them. Given my background, there was only one way in which I could do that. The critical "insight" was to think of the "terrorist attacks" as a black op and the "news reporting" as the dissemination of the legend. Once I started doing that, the picture came into focus very quickly. I didn't appreciate the full horror of it until later, but the "logic" behind a black op of this sort made much more sense to me than the "official story".
I thought there must be plenty of people with enough background and enough insight to figure this out much faster than I had. And I figured Bill Blum must be one of those people. So I was very surprised to find out that he wasn't!
At the time, I was also reading people who were saying, "9/11 is the litmus test. It's the one sure way to find out who's on the side of truth and who is not." And I was thinking, "No! That can't be right!" How could Bill Blum be on the wrong side? It made no sense.
As you may recall, "Osama bin Laden" made a big splash in January of 2006 by "endorsing" Bill's book, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower". You can download that book, by the way, from the CIA's website. It comes as a PDF with a title page that says
A recommended book by sheikh:They don't miss many tricks.
Osama Bin Laden
may Allah bless him
The book is brilliant. As Norman Solomon wrote:
This is a truly subversive book because it demolishes the foundations of basic illusions about the United States of America as a world power.
Bill wrote about the "endorsement" and you can read his comments here.
That event changed things for Bill, and not in a good way. It marked the end of his public speaking career. It also made him more confident than ever that official story of the 9/11 attacks was correct.
I know this because I eventually found enough courage to ask him why he had never written anything critical of that story, which I've always seen as untenable.
Bill's response shook me: "If Osama bin Laden didn't do 9/11, why did he do a shout-out for my book?"
Shame on me: I was too shy, or maybe too sad, to tell him. But I can tell you.
First of all, Osama bin Laden died in 2001. His funeral was reported by Fox News. The actors who played his role in the videos that came out in subsequent years didn't even look very much like him.
So rather than asking "Why did Osama bin Laden do that?", we have to ask, "Who did that and why?"
I've written elsewhere about about "Who?". We don't usually get the names of the shady operators who make videos starring men who've been dead for years. But we have a general idea of who they work for.
As for "Why?", two reasons come to mind.
The first reason was to smear Bill -- to paint him as a terrorist-sympathizer, to make sure he would never again be invited to speak in public in his own country, and to taint "Rogue State" at the same time.
But the other, seemingly contradictory reason, was because "Rogue State" could be used to bolster the shaky "official story", the crazy conspiracy theory about 19 "madmen" with "boxcutters" which most of us still don't believe, even though we've heard it every day for more than 20 years now.
Among the many shaky elements was the question of motive.
The American people, most of whom are thoroughly ignorant of contemporary world history, were asking, "Why do they hate us?"
George W. Bush had famously said, "They hate us for our freedoms." And that didn't make much sense to very many people. Did they really volunteer for suicide missions because of our allegedly "free press"? Or was it because we're free to grab a coffee at a 7/11 any time of the day or night?
And then there was the so-called "USA Patriot Act". Did Bush think he could make us safer by taking away our freedoms, so the "terrorists" wouldn't hate us anymore? Or was there something else going on?
By putting "Rogue State" in the hands of the actor playing Osama bin Laden, the shady characters could provide some credible evidence explaining why America is so hated overseas, and this would make the insane story about the hijackers a bit more believable to those who knew nothing else about it.
So it was a win-win for the shady ones: demonizing a historian who could have made sense of all this, while tainting his work, and at the same time using that work to "substantiate" their lies.
In my mind it was clearly a very successful psy-op. I was sad that Bill didn't see it that way, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him.
Maybe that was a bad move on my part. I suspected it would have hurt him more than it would have helped. Oh well. Water under the bridge.
After his passing, the New York Times put the capstone on the psy-op by reducing his life's work to an endorsement from Public Enemy #1. It was a bogus biography, featuring a bogus endorsement from a bogus terrorist, but who's counting?
Jim Naurekas had some choice words for the NYT about that, by the way.
It was the most bitter irony: Bill Blum spent most of his life exposing one black op after another, but he never imagined they'd run one against him -- even after they did it.
I was sad that he couldn't see it, but I was much sadder about what they did to him. Of course it's nothing compared to what they did to the rest of the world. But now, belatedly learning of his passing has brought all this rushing back to me -- crashing against me, if truth be told.
There are at least two lessons here. The shorter one goes
There is no litmus test. Some of our best and smartest friends are going to disagree with us on key issues, and we need to be OK with that. Nothing that Bill Blum wrote is any less true now than it was when he wrote it -- or any less heartbreaking.But the longer lesson has to come from Bill Blum himself.
I will leave you with this link to his site, where we can explore and explore, and learn and learn and learn.
That's what I've been doing lately. I can't think of a better way to honor his memory. And I hope you will join me in the exploration -- even if it's only a "refresher" course, but especially if all this is new to you.
If, as they say, the hottest corners of Hell are reserved for the enemies of humanity, Bill Blum is chilling out, as far away from the fire as anyone can get.