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Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire by William Blum (Common Courage, 2005, 314 pp.)
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire is the latest addition of William Blums growing canon of books exposing the brutal realities of U.S. government actions. This compilation of essays, written from 1995 to the present, covers a broad range of subjects in the arenas of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, effectively cutting through the fog of propaganda that inevitably obscures such topics.
The book starts with a collection of entries from Blums monthly online newsletter, The Anti-Empire Report, in which he comments on various issues, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the coup in Haiti, U.S. rejection of international legal institutions, actions toward Cuba and Libya, the aggressive role of NATO in Eastern Europe, and the domestic effects of U.S. capitalism to name a few.
Next, Blum presents a series of essays further discussing U.S. foreign policy, including an insightful analysis of the relationship between U.S. state violence and anti-U.S. terrorist attacks that refutes the official terrorists hate us for our freedom line. Continuing in this vein, he presents essays on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, the U.S. role in arming Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, and the actual (as opposed to fabricated) reasons the U.S. invaded Iraq.
The chapter entitled, Interventions: The Unending List is particularly useful and informative. Supplementing his extensive chronicling of U.S. interventions in the books Killing Hope and Rogue State, as well as the cases of Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan described elsewhere in Freeing the World to Death, Blum presents Washingtons most recent interferences into the affairs of defenseless and sovereign nations in Eastern Europe and Latin America. These include Slovakia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador, and Venezuela. In this last case, Blum traces the U.S. governments efforts to remove Hugo Chavez from power, from its role in the 2002 coup up to the partial financing of the recent referendum in Venezuela by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a known front for the CIA.
Blums section of chapters on the Cold War helps put Washingtons interventions in historical perspective and details the many instances in which the U.S. government destroyed the possibility of any alternative to the capitalist system. His essay entitled, Hiroshima: Needless Slaughter, Useful Terror makes a compelling case that the atomic attacks on Japanese civilians in World War II were more likely an attempt to intimidate the Soviet Union than end the war.
Subsequently, Blum also discusses contemporary domestic issues, including electoral politics, the economic status of those ignored by elites in this country, and the increasing police state mentality in the United States. In his essay on presidential candidate John Kerry, he lays to rest any illusions the reader may have about a humane foreign policy under a Kerry administration. Kerrys criticism of Bush for not providing more funding for the NED, as well as his stated intention to order direct military action against terrorist groups (i.e., wage preventative war) are among some of the damning examples that Blum provides.
The book ends on an apolitical and humorous note as Blum recounts his surreal interactions with members of the Los Angeles New Age movement, or California Metaphysical Fruitcakes as he calls them. This provides a much-needed comic relief to the atrocities he describes in the preceding pages.
Freeing the World to Death, Blum does not hesitate to challenge
the defenders of U.S. government actions, be they establishment
politicians or ordinary people in the U.S. who believe that their
government is a benevolent world force. In various sections of the
book, he reproduces some of his heated dialogues with these apologists,
including an attempt at discourse with former leftist and current
bombing enthusiast Christopher Hitchens.
Blum additionally takes aim at the often convoluted stances that mainstream liberals tend to take with regard to foreign and domestic policy, citing filmmaker Michael Moores endorsement of Serbia annihilator Wesley Clark for president as a prominent example. Additionally, he notes the curious position of comedian Al Franken, who opposed the war against Iraq, yet entertained U.S. troops in an effort to boost their morale, which helped them more efficiently wage war against Iraq.
Blum also issues a warning to those who believe that the removal of George W. Bush from office is all it takes to end the barrage of violence emanating from Washington: All this wickedness has been exhibited before, regularly; if not packed quite as densely in one administration as under Bush, then certainly abundant enough to reap the abhorrence of millions at home and abroad.
Blum presents his information with a sardonic wit that makes his book easy to read. His comparison of the esoteric ramblings of Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan to those of Chauncey Gardener in the movie Being There and his description of Ayn Rand as the selfishness guru, who turned the emulation of two-year olds into a philosophy of life are two of the many examples of Blums infectious sense of humor. Meticulously documented and thoroughly informative, Freeing the World to Death honors the multitudes who have been smashed under our governments fist and provides an invaluable resource for those who are dedicated to creating a just and decent world.
Rob Marshall is an activist and Z Media Institute alumnus. He holds a masters degree in clinical psychology.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.