[Mb-civic] Fisk on Osama...and Osama's book review
ean at sbcglobal.net
ean at sbcglobal.net
Thu Jan 26 18:43:24 PST 2006
Note in the first article that Robert Fisk speaks of GW Bush, Tony Blair, and
Osama bin Laden with approximately equal disdain. That might anger some
folks, but it feels about right to me.....The second article is from the
Washington Post about William Blum, whose books painstakingly lay out the
history of U.S. attacks on the world and, often, on democracy
Thanks to Ed Pearl for these and many others.
Robert Fisk : Osama bin Laden: Is it him? Almost certainly
The Independent -- -- 01/20/06
So why only on audio? Why no video tape? Is he sick? Yes, say the usual
American "intelligence sources". It's the same old story: Osama bin Laden
talks to us from the mouth of a cave, from within a cave, from a basement
perhaps, from a tape almost certainly recorded down a telephone line from
far away. Yesterday's message, broadcast as ever by al-Jazeera television,
was a reminder that security - not sickness - decides his method of
We invaded Afghanistan to find Bin Laden and we fight and die in Iraq to
kill his supporters - yet still he eludes us, still he threatens us, still
he taunts us.
How much longer can this nonsense go on? President Jacques Chirac warns
that France - of all countries - might use nuclear weapons, if attacked.
On whom, I wonder? America blows Pakistani children to pieces and claims
it has killed five wanted men, including a bomb-maker. But there's
absolutely no evidence. Bin Laden says that America will be attacked again
unless it accepts a truce in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weren't we
supposed to be winning the "war on terror"? Oh no, the "experts" tell us,
Bin Laden and al-Qa'ida are losing, that's why they want a truce. Some
It's a game. Bin Laden has no intention of calling an end to his own war
and nor has George Bush and nor has Tony Blair. The Bin Laden offer,
almost certainly, is intended to be rejected. He wants Bush and Blair to
refuse it. Then, after the next attack, will come the next audio tape. See
what happens when you reject our ceasefire? We warned you. And we'll ask:
is it him? So why no video tape? Never before in history have so many
wanted men sent pictures and messages and video tapes out of the dark.
The irony, of course, is that Bin Laden is now partly irrelevant. He has
created al-Qa'ida. His achievement - that word should be seen in context -
is complete. Why bother hunting for him now? It's a bit like arresting the
world's nuclear scientists after the invention of the atom bomb. The
monster has been born. It's al-Qa'ida we have to deal with.
So we are told that America's security hasn't prevented an attack, that "
operations" take time to prepare. "It is better not to fight the Muslims
on their land," Bin Laden says. "We'd not mind offering you a truce that
is fair in the long term ... so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan," he
says. Forget for a moment the deep cynicism behind this message -
deconstructing the Shia of Iraq seems to be one of the Iraqi insurgents'
aims - it also reveals one of Bin Laden's old themes: the idea that these
wars will bankrupt the United States.
"There is no shame in this solution because it prevents the wasting of
billions of dollars ... to the merchants of war." These are almost the
same words Bin Laden used to me when we last met. "The Americans will be
bankrupted," he said, not realising that war primes the pumps of a
It is as if both "sides" in this conflict live on illusions. Mssrs Bush
and Blair keep telling us things in Iraq are getting better, when we all
know that they are getting worse. Anarchy has seized that entire country.
American bodies coming home to the United States? Just don't let the press
take photographs of the coffins. Bombs in London? Nothing to do with Iraq,
Blair haplessly told us last July.
Now there's a website in Spanish about Iraq on the White House screens.
Why? Because the Spaniards are interested in the war their army has left?
Or because so many of the American soldiers dying in Iraq are Hispanics?
And now we have Paul Bremer, America's equally hapless former pro-consul
in Baghdad, telling us that those same Spanish troops contributed to the
uprising in Najaf because they weren't performing their tasks in Iraq.
More nonsense. What started the uprising was Bremer's own anger at an
attack on him in a tiny Shia Muslim newspaper which he ordered to be
closed (in an announcement of execrable Arabic). It was this which
prompted Muqtada al-Sadr to fight the Americans.
And so we go on. Blame foreign fighters - even if 158,000 of them in Iraq
happen to be wearing American uniforms - blame Syria, blame Iran. And
blame Spain of course. Blame anyone who is not "with us".
In truth, it will need Iran and Syria to help get the US and Britain out
of this shameful adventure. Yet what do we do? Raise the stakes on Iran by
claiming that it intends to make nuclear weapons. And why Iran? Why not
that infinitely more unstable Islamic state called Pakistan which has
nuclear weapons? Because its dictator, President General Musharraf is on
"our side". Why not attack North Korea, whose leader is more unstable than
any Iranian cleric? Because he also has nuclear weapons.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are slowly returning. Outside Kabul every
woman wears a burqa. Weren't they supposed to have taken them off? Weren't
women now "free" in Afghanistan? US troops are being killed at an
increasing rate there. Weren't they supposed to have won? Now Canada has
split its troops and sent a battalion to Kandahar to fight the Taliban and
al-Qa'ida. What are the Canadians now doing in combat operations? What
risks does this now pose for the Canadian nation which kept out of Iraq?
It was only a few months ago that Bin Laden was bombarding us with
explanations for his movement's attacks. Why did no one ask, he said, why
Sweden was not assaulted? And so, I suppose, we can indeed fear more
attacks on the United States, more bombing raids, further chapters in the
"war on terror".
And all the time we in the West fail to look for a way to end this "war" .
How about some justice in the Middle East? How about lifting the blanket
of injustice that has lain across the region for so many decades? Muslims
there will probably like some of the democracy we say we're trying to
export to them. They would also like human rights off our Western
But they would also like another kind of freedom - freedom from us. And
this, it seems, we are not going to give them. So the war goes on. Stand
by for more audio tapes, and more threats, and more death.
The text of excerpts from the Bin Laden tape
My message to you is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end
them... Our situation, thank God, is only getting better and better, while
your situation is the opposite.
But I plan to speak about the repeated errors your President Bush has
committed in comments on the results of your polls that show that an
overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from
Iraq. But he [Bush] has opposed this wish and said that withdrawing troops
sends the wrong message to opponents, that it is better to fight them [Bin
Laden's followers] on their land than them fighting us [Americans] on our
land. I can reply to these errors by saying that war in Iraq is raging
with no let-up, and operations in Afghanistan are escalating in our
favour, thank God, and Pentagon figures show the number of your dead and
wounded is increasing not to mention the massive material losses...
The reality shows that war against America and its allies has not been
limited to Iraq as he [Bush] claims ... The proof of that is the
explosions you have seen in the capitals of the European nations who are
in this aggressive coalition. The delay in similar operations happening in
America has not been because of failure to break through your security
measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in
your homes the minute they are through [with preparations]...
We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we
adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So
both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can
build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There
is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of
dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in
America who have supported Bush's election campaign with billions of
RESEARCH AND INFORMATION NETWORK (RAIN)
Director : Abie Dawjee
P O Box 26119, Isipingo Beach, Durban, South Africa 4115.
tel: 0027 31 9029174. fax: 0027 31 9024523.
mobile: 082 352 352 6 e-mail : abie at iafrica.com
The Author Who Got A Big Boost From bin Laden
Historian 'Glad' of Mention As Sales of Book Skyrocket
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 21, 2006; C01
Twenty-four hours after Osama bin Laden told the world that the American
people should read the work of a little-known Washington historian,
William Blum was still adjusting.
Blum, who at 72 is accustomed to laboring in relative left-wing obscurity,
checked his emotions and pronounced himself shocked and, well, pleased.
"This is almost as good as being an Oprah book," he said yesterday between
telephone calls from the world media and bites of a bagel. "I'm glad."
Overnight, his 2000 work, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only
Superpower," had become an Osama book.
In gray slacks, plaid shirt and black slippers, Blum padded around his
one-bedroom apartment on Connecticut Avenue. A portrait of the Brooklyn
Dodgers in the '50s hung on his kitchen wall. Bookshelves bowed under the
weight of secret histories of the CIA. The cord on his prehistoric phone
let him roam across the living room. He'd already done CNN and MSNBC. A
guy from the New York Post knocked on the door to take pictures. The BBC
rang, then Reuters and Pacifica Radio stations on both coasts.
>From Blum's end of the conversations, you could tell the reporters were
expecting him to express some kind of discomfort, remorse, maybe even
shame. Blum refused to acknowledge feelings he did not have.
"I was not turned off by such an endorsement," he informed a New York
radio station. "I'm not repulsed, and I'm not going to pretend I am." He
patiently reiterated the thesis of his foreign-policy critique -- that
American interventions abroad create enemies.
You could almost hear the ticking of a stopwatch. These were Blum's 15
American minutes, brought to him by a murderous zealot on the other side
of the world who had named him to a kind of Terrorists Book-of-the-Month
Club. The CIA duly verified the audiotape from bin Laden, and there it
was: Blum had a bona fide book blurb from the evil one.
Now it was time for the soft-spoken, bespectacled radical son of Brooklyn
to look thoughtful for the cameras -- "I don't have a good smile" -- and
sound pithy for the microphones. Better known in radical circles and on
the college lecture circuit than he is among most readers of American
history, Blum is a former underground journalist who specializes in sharp
critiques of foreign policy. Published by a small outfit in Maine, he also
sells his books over the Internet and issues a free monthly e-mail
newsletter called the Anti-Empire Report.
What bin Laden said was this, as translated from Arabic by the Associated
"And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it
would be useful for you to read the book 'Rogue State,' which states in
its introduction: 'If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the
United States: First, I would give an apology to all the widows and
orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American
interference in the nations of the world has ended once and for all.' "
By last night, "Rogue State" shot up from 205,763 to 26 on Amazon.com's
index of the most-ordered books.
"I'm calling it the book review of the decade," said Sam Smith, editor of
the Progressive Review in Washington and a fan of Blum's work. Smith, too,
has blurbed the book ("an especially well-documented encyclopedia of
malfeasance") as has Gore Vidal.
Chortled Smith yesterday, "Neither Vidal nor Smith came close to lifting
'Rogue State' into the double digits" on Amazon.
Since Amazon's delivery service, while comprehensive, would not seem to
extend to faraway caves, how might bin Laden have gotten his hands on
The author noted "Rogue State" had been published in Arabic in Egypt and
Lebanon. And perhaps bin Laden owns the entire Blum canon, because the
quote he cited actually is not in "Rogue State," but on the back cover of
a collection of Blum essays, "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the
American Empire." (That book is languishing on Amazon, while two other
books titled "Rogue State" have enjoyed a spike in ranking.)
Blum's exact words? "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 orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions
of other victims of American imperialism."
Yesterday, he made clear that he deplores the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But he argues, as many other essayists have, that they were an
understandable retaliation against U.S. foreign policy. "The thesis in my
books and my writing is that anti-American terrorism arises from the
behavior of U.S. foreign policy," he said. "It is what the U.S. government
does which angers people all over the world."
"I am totally against what they did. But we cannot view that as totally
the acts of a bunch of madmen. If we do . . . we will continue making the
same mistakes, and the so-called war on terror will be as doomed to fail
as the war on drugs."
In a chapter called "Why Do Terrorists Keep Picking on the United States?"
Blum lists as possible reasons everything from support of Middle East
dictators, including the Shah of Iran and Saudi rulers, to occupying
military bases in the region, to favoring the Israelis over the
"I think bin Laden shares that view, and that is why I'm not repulsed by
his embrace of my book, because that is one of my major themes," Blum
When it is pointed out that terrorists target innocent civilians, which is
not U.S. policy, he replies that U.S. tactics in Iraq have led to the
deaths of thousands of civilians. "We bomb homes and these people have
families, and the U.S. refuses to apologize for these civilian deaths,"
Blum said. "The absence of concern makes their actions almost equal to a
deliberate targeting of civilians."
Until now, the mainstream media have paid virtually no attention to Blum.
His books rarely are reviewed. But Noam Chomsky has praised his work, and
Blum is right there along with Steve Earle, Jane Fonda and Barbara
Ehrenreich as a signer of a full-page ad in the New York Times in the fall
of 2002 against the military buildup for war in Iraq.
His publisher, Common Courage Press, yesterday could not provide estimates
of his sales. Blum says "Rogue State" and "Killing Hope" together have
sold more than 100,000 copies, plus an additional 50,000 in a dozen
foreign languages. He said he supports himself with his writing and
speaking engagements on college campuses.
The son of Polish immigrants, Blum said he studied accounting in college,
then landed a low-level computer-related position at the State Department
in the mid-1960s. An anti-communist with dreams of becoming a foreign
service officer, he said he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War, so he
resigned from State and helped found the Washington Free Press, an
underground paper. Separated from his German wife, with whom he said he is
on good terms, and the father of a 24-year-old son, he lives alone and
writes at home.
"He's an alternative journalist, a researcher type," said Smith, who uses
Blum's work as a reference when he wants to find, say, a list of dictators
the United States has supported in Latin America and the Middle East.
"What Bill Blum has basically done is what a historian does, which is to
compile the available record and organize it in a way that is useful."
Blum said his life's mission has been this: "If not ending, at least
slowing down the American Empire. At least injuring the beast. It's
causing so much suffering around the world."
And if he is happy to accept bin Laden's plug, he certainly doesn't want
to meet his terrorist fan.
"If he would contact me," said Blum, "then I would be scared."
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