Bill Blum, Presenté

Gar Smith
Saturday March 16, 2019 - 05:21:00 PM

Our friend and former Berkeley colleague Bill Blum died last December 9 at the age of 85, after surviving a bad fall 65 days earlier. Many Berkeleyans will recall Bill as a station manager at KPFA but he was so much more. During his stay in Berkeley, I always looked forward to running into Bill at the Berkeley Main Library. He was always good for a chat and for the sharing of top-flight political gossip. He was so mild-mannered and genial that I was surprised to discover he was the author of a series of scathing books excoriating the evils of American foreign policy. His books included "Rogue State: The Rise of the World's Only Superpower," "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," (Noam Chomsky called it "far and away the best book on the topic") and "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy—The Truth about US Foreign Policy." These books have been reprinted in more than 15 languages. 

Bill knew whereof he spoke. He began his career at the State Department, hoping to become a foreign service officer but quit in opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1969, he collaborated with CIA whistleblower James Agee before becoming a journalist, reporting stories from Europe and South America. In Chile, Bill exposed the US coup targeting Salvador Allende, the country's democratically elected socialist president. In July 1979, after a brief stint in Hollywood attempting to find backing for a number of politically sensitive screenplays, Bill resettled in the Bay Area (for the third time) and linked up with Pacifica, becoming KPFA's business manager. In his memoir, "West Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir," Bill was unstinting in his assessment of some of the station's well-known on-air and off-mike personalities. For a taste: click on this site

In 1999, Bill won a Top-Ten Project Censored Award for an article that exposed how (in the 1980s) the US had provided the Iraq government with the materials to develop chemical and biological warfare capabilities that Saddam Hussein could use in his war on Iran. 

In January 2006, Bill's book sales received a unexpected boost thanks to a tape from Osama bin Laden praising Rogue State and suggesting "it would be useful" for Americans to read the book to understand the cry from the around the world: "America: Ask Why You Are Hated." (While book sales increased, Bill's paid speaking invitations quickly dried up.) 

Bill spent most of the rest of his life back in Washington where he became a board member and contributor to the CovertAction Information Bulletin. From April 1 2003 to September 20, 2018, Bill churned out a prodigious amount of reporting that appeared in his highly respected blog, "The Anti-Empire Report"

His last public speaking event was on a Left Forum panel hosted by CovertAction Magazine. The topic was CovertAction: Persistent U.S. Attacks Against ‘Democracy and Freedom,’ Past and Present. 

During this event, Bill observed: 

"Consciously or unconsciously, [the American people] have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy . . . The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well."  

And he stressed the need to establish a new common ground when he said: 

"We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind—not to mention the heart and soul—of the American public must be changed." 

You can watch the full video of the panel here. Bill's talk starts at 44 min and 48 seconds into the video. 

Memorial Program for Bill Blum (1933-2018)
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2019

Time: 4:00-7:00 pm
Place: Washington Ethical Society
7750 16th Street NW, (corner Kalmia Street)
Washington, DC 20012

Special guests—to be announced—will be speaking including Bill’s wife Adelheid and his son Alexander—both whom are coming from Germany.

There will also be videos of Bill, a question and answer period, and a reception with food and drinks