[Marxism] William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 11 16:47:22 MST 2018
NY Times, Dec. 11, 2018
William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85
By Sam Roberts
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“I have not been put in prison because of what I’ve written or spoken.”
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