On Bin Laden's Bedside Table
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Having spent the weekend digging through a stack of e-mail with opening lines like "Death to you and your family" and "Traitor. You are sleeping with the Muslims," Bill Blum, the 72-year-old author whose book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, got an approving mention by Osama bin Laden in his latest audio message, is trying to adjust to his new notoriety.
Blum's book is a sharp attack on U.S. foreign policy and predicts the war on terror will fail. "If Bush carries on with his lies and oppression, it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State," bin Laden said on his tape, released last week. And bin Laden approviongly referred to Blum's line that if he were president, he would stop the U.S. from interfering in other nations' affairs.
Being mentioned approvingly by bin Laden isn't apt to win you many friends in the U.S., but so far Blum says he has received a more or less even-handed reception, although he uneasily waits for what's going to happen next. "The Washington Post and Salon have been friendly," Blum says of press coverage so far. "My interviews in the media are a mixed bunch. They want to push me to say I am repulsed by bin Laden's endorsement. I don't say so. I am not really repulsed. My opinion of him is pretty low. I have no regard for him."
Blum says he may be invited to appear on Bill O'Reilly's show, a prospect that clearly makes him shiver with anticipation. He also talks about being on Wolf Blitzer, whose CNN show--The Situation Room--he has never seen because he doesn't have cable. (For that matter, Blum hasn't got a cell phone, either.)
He views with some trepidation a scheduled plane trip Wednesday from Washington to Ohio, where he is slated to address students at Miami University in Oxford. Blum already has been advised by his sponsors to expect hostile questioning at the podium. More to the point, he is a bit anxious that he might be placed on a no-fly list.
So far he has received no visits from the FBI or other intelligence agencies, although of course he wouldn't know if his phone conversations were being tapped by the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program. There have been no physical threats to Blum, who lives alone in an apartment in northwest Washington.
The only new ingredient was a letter that he described as linking all his writings together and trying to paint him "with the crazy conspiracy brush." He says emphatically, "I am not a conspiracy freak."
He thinks the latest broadcast from the al Qaeda leader is real. "I don't think [bin Laden's audio] is a phony," Blum says. Arguing that the tape "doesn't make Bush look good," he notes, "Bin Laden doesn't sound like a madman."
As for the sudden success of his book, Blum says 2,000 copies were reprinted in November by the publisher, Common Courage Press. If there is a rush to buy the book, he says, the publisher is too poor to take advantage of heightened demand.
Blum worked as a staffer in the State Department in the 1960s, but quit over the Vietnam War. Since then he has written voluminously against U.S. foreign policy. He puts out a monthly listserv called the Anti-Empire Report. You can find his links to work at www.killinghope.org.
His books include Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; and Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire.
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