“I used to be called brother, John, Daddy, uncle, friend,” John Allen Muhammad said at his trial in Maryland earlier this month. “Now I'm called evil.”
Muhammad, formerly known as "the DC Sniper,"
was on trial for six slayings in Maryland in 2002. Already sentenced to
die in Virginia for several other murders, he insisted that he was
innocent despite the evidence against him -- including DNA, fingerprints,
and ballistics analysis of a rifle found in his car. 
Bereft of any real political power, I'm
reduced to day-dreaming . . . a courtroom in some liberated part of the
world, in the not-too-distant future, a tribunal . . . a defendant
testifying . . .
"I used to be called brother, George, son,
Daddy, uncle, friend, Dubya, governor, president. Now I'm called war
criminal," he says sadly, insisting on his innocence despite the
overwhelming evidence presented against him.
Can the man ever take to heart or mind the
realization that America's immune system is trying to get rid of him?
Probably not. No more than his accomplice can.
Two years ago the vice president visited
Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. During the singing of "God Bless
America" in the seventh inning, an image of Cheney was shown on the
scoreboard. It was greeted with so much booing that the Yankees quickly
removed the image.  Yet last month the vice president
showed up at the home opener for the Washington Nationals to throw out the
first pitch. The Washington Post reported that he "drew boisterous
boos from the moment he stepped on the field until he jogged off. The
derisive greeting was surprisingly loud and long, given the bipartisan
nature of our national pastime, and drowned out a smattering of applause
reported from the upper decks." 
It will be interesting to see if Cheney
shows up again before a large crowd in a venue which has not been
carefully chosen to insure that only right-thinking folks will be
Even that might not help. Twice in the last
few months, a public talk of Donald Rumsfeld has been interrupted by
people in the audience calling him a war criminal and accusing him of
lying to get the United States into war. This happened in a meeting room
at the very respectable National Press Club in Washington and again at a
forum at the equally respectable Southern Center for International Policy
In Chile, last November, as former dictator
Augusto Pinochet moved closer to being tried for the deaths of thousands,
he declared to a judge: "I lament those losses and suffer for them. God
does things, and he will forgive me if I committed some excesses, which I
don't believe I did." 
Dubya couldn't have said it better. Let's hope that one day we can compel him to stand before a judge, not one appointed by him.
During my years of writing and speaking
about the harm and injustice inflicted upon the world by unending United
States interventions, I've often been met with resentment from those who
accuse me of chronicling only the negative side of US foreign policy and
ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some
examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America's dealings
with the world in modern times, one of the things almost always mentioned
is The Marshall Plan. This is explained in words along the lines of:
"After World War II, we unselfishly built up Europe economically,
including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete with us." Even
those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy, who are quick to
question the White House's motives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere,
have no problem in swallowing this picture of an altruistic America of the
period of 1948-1952.
After World War II, the United States,
triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world
supremacy. Only the thing called "communism" stood in the way,
politically, militarily, and ideologically. The entire US foreign policy
establishment was mobilized to confront this "enemy", and the Marshall
Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise?
Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the
Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the
closing months of the Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging
communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism
included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the
After the war, anti-communism continued as
the leitmotif of foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the
alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the
Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations,
various corporations, and other private institutions, the Marshall Plan
was one more arrow in the quiver in the remaking of Europe to suit
Washington's desires -- spreading the capitalist gospel (to counter strong
postwar tendencies towards socialism); opening markets to provide new
customers for US corporations (a major reason for helping to rebuild the
European economies; e.g., almost a billion dollars of tobacco, at 1948
prices, spurred by US tobacco interests); pushing for the creation of the
Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark
against the alleged Soviet threat; suppressing the left all over Western
Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in France and Italy
in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan
funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this last endeavor, and the
promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a
bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted
from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude
The CIA also skimmed large amounts of
Marshall Plan funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions,
journalists, and publishers, at home and abroad, for the heated and
omnipresent propaganda of the Cold War; the selling of the Marshall Plan
to the American public and elsewhere was entwined with fighting "the red
menace." Moreover, in its covert operations, CIA personnel at times used
the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan's chief architects,
Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly at the Ford
Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds; one big happy
The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of
restrictions on the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal
criteria which had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free
enterprise. The US had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan
dollars were spent, but also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent
amount of the local currency, giving Washington substantial power over the
internal plans and programs of the European states; welfare programs for
the needy survivors of the war were looked upon with disfavor by the
United States; even rationing smelled too much like socialism and had to
go or be scaled down; nationalization of industry was even more vehemently
opposed by Washington. The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to
the United States, or never left, to purchase American goods, making
American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.
It could be seen as more a joint business
operation between governments, with contracts written by Washington
lawyers, than an American "handout"; often it was a business arrangement
between American and European ruling classes, many of the latter fresh
from their service to the Third Reich, some of the former as well; or it
was an arrangement between Congressmen and their favorite corporations to
export certain commodities, including a lot of military goods. Thus did
the Marshall Plan lay the foundation for the military industrial complex
as a permanent feature of American life.
It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear, credible description of how the Marshall Plan was principally responsible for the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view, no less clear, is that the Europeans -- highly educated, skilled and experienced -- could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant strides in this direction before the Plan's funds began flowing. Marshall Plan funds were not directed primarily toward feeding individuals or building individual houses, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic superstructure, particularly the iron-steel and power industries. The period was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession. The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class. 
The United States has been pushing the UN
Security Council to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter against Iran
because of its nuclear research. Chapter VII ("Action with Respect to
Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression") can
be used to impose sanctions and take military action against a country
deemed guilty of such violations (except of course if the country holds a
veto power in the Security Council). The United States made use of Chapter
VII to bomb Yugoslavia in 1999 and to invade Iraq in 2003. On both
occasions, the applicability of the chapter and the use of force were
highly questionable, but to placate Council opponents of military action
the US agreed to some modifications in the language of the Council
resolution and refrained from stating explicitly that it intended to take
military action. Nonetheless, in each case, after the resolution was
passed, the US took military action. Severe military action.
In early May, John Bolton, the US ambassador
to the UN, asserted: "The fundamental point is for Russia and China to
agree that this [Iran's nuclear research] is a threat to international
peace and security under Chapter VII." However, Yury Fedotov, the Russian
ambassador to the United Kingdom, declared that his country opposed the
Chapter VII reference because it evoked "memories of past UN resolutions
on Yugoslavia and Iraq that led to US-led military action which had not
been authorised by the Security Council."
In the past, the United States had argued
that the reference to Chapter VII in a Council resolution was needed to
obtain "robust language," said Fedotov, but "afterwards it was used to
justify unilateral action. In the case of Yugoslavia, for example, we were
told at the beginning that references to Chapter VII were necessary to
send political signals, and it finally ended up with the Nato
It remains to be seen whether the Russians or any other Security Council members have taken this lesson to heart and can stand up to the schoolyard bully's pressure by refusing to give the United States another pretext for expanding the empire's control over the Middle East.
A recent study by the University of
Minnesota department of sociology has identified atheists as "America's
most distrusted minority." University researchers found that Americans
rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other
minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists
are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow
their children to marry. The researchers conclude that atheists offer "a
glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last
Many of the study's respondents associated
atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal
behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism. The study's lead
researcher believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder
is behind the findings. "Americans believe they share more than rules and
procedures with their fellow citizens, they share an understanding of
right and wrong. Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as
self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."
Hmmm. I've been a political activist for
more than 40 years. I've marched and fought and published weekly
newspapers alongside countless atheists and agnostics who have risked jail
and being clubbed on the head, and who have forsaken a much higher
standard of living, for no purpose other than the common good. Rampant
materialism? Hardly. "Secular humanism," many atheists call it. And we
don't read about mobs of atheists stoning, massacring, or otherwise
harming or humiliating human beings who do not share their non-beliefs.
The public attitude depicted by this survey
may derive in part from the Cold-War upbringing of so many Americans --
the idea and the image of the "godless atheistic communist." But I think
more than that is the deep-seated feeling of insecurity, even threat, that
atheists can bring out in the religioso, putting into question,
consciously or unconsciously, their core beliefs.
You must wonder at times, as I do, how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid. Can it have reached this remarkable level by chance, or was it planned? It's enough to make one believe in God. Or the Devil.
The US Interests Section in Havana has been
flashing electronic messages on its building for the benefit of Cubans
passing by. One recent message said that Forbes, the weekly
financial magazine, had named Fidel Castro the world's seventh-wealthiest
head of state, with a fortune estimated at $900 million. This has shocked
Cuban passersby , as well it should in a socialist
society that claims to have the fairest income distribution in the world.
Are you not also shocked, dear readers?
What's that? You want to know exactly what
Forbes based their rankings on? Well, as it turns out, two months
before the Interests Section flashed their message, Forbes had already
stated that the estimates were "more art than science." "In the past,"
wrote the magazine, "we have relied on a percentage of Cuba's gross
domestic product to estimate Fidel Castro's fortune. This year, we have
used more traditional valuation methods, comparing state-owned assets
Castro is assumed to control with comparable publicly traded companies."
The magazine gave as examples state-owned companies such as retail and
pharmaceutical businesses and a convention center. 
So there you have it. It was based on nothing. Inasmuch as George W.
"controls" the US military, shall we assign the value of all the Defense
Department assets to his personal wealth? And Tony Blair's wealth includes
the BBC, does it not?
Another message flashed by the Interests
Section is: "In a free country you don't need permission to leave the
country. Is Cuba a free country?" This too is an attempt to blow smoke in
people's eyes. It implies that there's some sort of blanket government
restriction or prohibition of travel abroad for Cubans, a limitation on
their "freedom." However, the reality is a lot more complex and a lot less
Orwellian. The main barrier to overseas travel for most Cubans is
financial; they simply can't afford it. If they have the money and a visa
they can normally fly anywhere, but it's very difficult to obtain a visa
from the United States unless you're part of the annual immigration quota.
Cuba being a poor country concerned with equality tries to make sure that
citizens complete their military service or their social service. Before
emigrating abroad, trained professionals are supposed to give something
back to the country for their free education, which includes medical
school and all other schools. And Cuba, being unceasingly threatened by a
well-known country to the north, must take precautions: Certain people in
the military and those who have worked in intelligence or have other
sensitive information may also need permission to travel; this is
something that is found to one extent or another all over the world.
Americans need permission to travel to Cuba.
Is the United States a free country? Washington makes it so difficult for
its citizens to obtain permission to travel to Cuba it's virtually a
prohibition. I have been rejected twice by the US Treasury Department.
Americans on the "No-fly list" can't go
All Americans need permission to leave the country. The permission slip -- of which one must have a sufficient quantity -- is green and bears the picture of a US president.
Condoleezza Rice, testifying April 5 before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the US-India nuclear deal:
"India's society is open and free. It is
transparent and stable. It is multiethnic. It is a multi-religious
democracy that is characterized by individual freedom and the rule of law.
It is a country with which we share common values. ... India is a rising
global power that we believe can be a pillar of stability in a rapidly
changing Asia. In other words, in short, India is a natural partner for
the United States."
And here is a State Department human rights
report -- released the very same day -- that had this to say about India:
"The Government generally respected the
rights of its citizens and continued efforts to curb human rights abuses,
although numerous serious problems remained. These included extrajudicial
killings, disappearances, custodial deaths, excessive use of force,
arbitrary arrests, torture, poor prison conditions, and extended pretrial
detention, especially related to combating insurgencies in Jammu and
Kashmir. Societal violence and discrimination against women, trafficking
of women and children for forced prostitution and labor, and female
feticide and infanticide remained concerns. Poor enforcement of laws,
widespread corruption, a lack of accountability, and the severely
overburdened court system weakened the delivery of justice."
Is it not enough to murder your brain?
In March, I agreed to speak on a panel at
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee convention, to be held in
June in Washington, DC. The panel is called: "America, Empire, Democracy
and the Middle East." Then someone at the ADC apparently realized that I
was the person whose book had been recommended by Osama bin Laden in
January, and they tried to cancel my appearance with phony excuses. I
objected, calling them cowards; they relented, then changed their mind
again, telling me finally "all of the seats on the journalism panel, for
the ADC convention, are filled." Two months after our agreement, they had
discovered that all the panel seats were filled.
American Muslims are very conservative. 72%
of them voted for Bush in 2000, before they got a taste of a police state.
Now, they're still very conservative, plus afraid.
University officials are also conservative,
or can easily be bullied by campus conservative organizations which are
part of a well-financed national campaign (think David Horowitz) to attack
the left on campus, be they faculty, students or outside speakers. Since
the bin Laden recommendation, January 19, I have not been offered a single
speaking engagement on any campus; a few students have tried to arrange
something for me but were not successful at convincing school officials.
This despite January-May normally being the most active period for me and
other campus speakers.
Speakout, a California agency which places progressive speakers on campuses, informs me that the Horowitz-type groups have succeeded in cutting sharply into their business.
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, and West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir. Visit his website: www.killinghope.org. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by William Blum
Appealing to the
United States is Not Very Appealing
 (Thanks to Kevin Barrett of the
Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth for the title of this
section) Washington Post, May 5, 2006, p.B1.