The American Myth Industry

Good ol’ George W. was traveling around Eastern Europe this past week celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, spouting a lot of Cold War anti-Communist myths, principal among them being:

The Soviet Union signed a pact with the devil, Nazi Germany, in 1939 for no reason other than the commies and the Nazis were just two of a kind who wanted to carve up Poland together.

Without any justification, the Soviet Union occupied the three Baltic nations in 1940.

Without any justification the Soviet Union occupied the rest of Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

All done, apparently, because the Soviets were an expansionist, brutal empire which liked to subjugate foreign peoples for no particularly good reason; i.e., an “evil empire”. “The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history,” said Bush while in Latvia.{1}

These tales are all set in marble in American media, textbooks, and folklore, but please humor me as I engage in my usual futility of trying to correct some of the official record.

Much Western propaganda mileage has been squeezed out of the Soviet-German treaty of 1939. This is made possible only by entirely ignoring the fact that the Russians were forced into the pact by the repeated refusal of the Western powers, particularly the United States and Great Britain, to sign a mutual defense treaty with Moscow in a stand against Hitler.{2} The Russians had good reasons — their legendary international espionage being one of them — to believe that Hitler would eventually invade them and that that would be just fine with the Western powers who, at the notorious 1938 Munich conference, were hoping to nudge Adolf eastward. (Thus it was Western “collusion” with the Nazis, not the oh-so-famous “appeasement” of them; the latter of course has been invoked over the years on numerous occasions to justify American military action against the dangerous enemy of the month.) The Soviets, consequently, felt obliged to sign the treaty with Hitler to be able to stall for time while they built up their defenses. (Hitler, for his part, was motivated by his plans to invade Poland.) Similarly, the Western “democracies” refused to come to the aid of the socialist-leaning Spanish government under siege by the German, Italian and Spanish fascists. Hitler derived an important lesson from these happenings. He saw that for the West the real enemy was not fascism, it was communism and socialism. Stalin got the same message.

The Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were part of the Russian empire from 1721 up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, in the midst of World War I. When the war ended in November 1918, and the Germans had been defeated, the victorious Allies (US, Great Britain, France, et al.) permitted/encouraged the German forces to remain in the Baltics for a full year to crush the spread of Bolshevism there; this, with ample military assistance from the Allies. In each of the three republics, the Germans installed collaborators in power who declared their independence from the Bolshevik state which, by this time, was so devastated by the World War, the revolution, and the civil war (exacerbated and prolonged by Allied intervention) that it had no choice but to accept the fait accompli. The rest of the fledgling Soviet Union had to be saved. To at least win some propaganda points from this unfortunate state of affairs, the Russians announced that they were relinquishing the Baltic republics “voluntarily” in line with their principles of anti-imperialism and self-determination. But is should not be surprising that the Russians continued to regard the Baltics as a rightful part of their nation or that they waited until they were powerful enough to reclaim the territory.

Within the space of 25 years, Western powers invaded Russia three times — World War I, 1914-18; the “intervention” of 1918-20; and World War II, 1939-45 — inflicting some 40 million casualties in the two world wars alone. (The Soviet Union lost considerably more people on its own land than it did abroad. There are not too many great powers who can say that.) To carry out these invasions, the West used Eastern Europe as a highway. Should it be any cause for wonder that after World War II the Soviets wanted to close this highway down? In almost any other context, Americans would have no problem in seeing this as an act of self defense. But in the context of the Cold War such thinking could not find a home in mainstream discourse.


Faith-based economics: Our salvation cometh from the private sector

From the Washington Post:

April 9 – “Stocks fell yesterday even though oil prices were down for a fifth straight day.”

May 12 – “Stocks bounce back as oil prices decline”.

I present such information to try to induce some skepticism about the many economic ideas or “laws” that we’re all raised to believe. These ideas are a form of control over people’s thinking, to pre-empt the tendency some might have to question the wisdom and real beneficiary of events in the economic sphere. The ideas, we are assured, are in the natural order of things, the default setting for the universe, a matter of mathematics that can’t be altered to suit the needs or aspirations of the community.

Like the law of supply and demand. As consumers struggle painfully with high gasoline prices, ExxonMobil announces that its revenue for the first quarter totaled more than $82 billion, with its profit 44 percent higher than the corresponding quarter a year ago. But can one argue that ExxonMobil should therefore perform a marvelous public service and reduce the price of gasoline? Of course not, the “law” of supply and demand dictates that they are fully entitled to this money. You wouldn’t want them to break the law, would you?

Another economic idea that is rarely questioned is that of private efficiency vs. government inefficiency. How often have we all read of a call for certain government enterprises to be privatized because they were “inefficient”? To many it must seem so right. But then shouldn’t private enterprises which are inefficient be nationalized? The housing industry in the United States, for example, is clearly unable to make a decent profit and at the same time provide affordable housing for all of the American people. Not even close. Many millions are either homeless, living in terribly crowded conditions to save money, or spending anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of their disposable income for rent, thus forced to cut back on food and other necessities.

The airlines are another case in point. An utter, maddening mess. We desperately need a subsidized national airline. The best airlines in the world used to be the European national airlines like British Airways, KLM, Air France, SAS. Then Margaret Thatcher came along and instigated “revolutionary” changes. Air travel hasn’t recovered from them yet. Health care delivery is of course another example. Need I go into detail about the (literally) deadly inefficiency of that enterprise?

Look at how our national parks have been laid out by civil servants not pressured by the market: camping grounds, boating areas, unspoiled hiking trails, fishing areas, artificial lakes, tastefulness of selling sites, nature studies, etc. And look at the commercial areas in any city. Who would you rather have do your planning?

Washington’s bombing targets

For many years, going back to at least the Korean war, it’s been fairly common for accusations to be made against the United States that it chooses as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. Many anti-war activists, in the US and abroad, as well as Muslims have made such an accusation. But it must be remembered that in 1999 one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns ever was carried out against the people of the former Yugoslavia — white, European, Christians. The United States is in fact an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become an American target appear to be: (A)It poses a sufficient obstacle to the desires of the American Empire; (B)It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.


The hopeless Democrats, again

On April 23, speaking in Minneapolis before the ACLU, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean declared: “Now that we’re there [in Iraq], we’re there and we can’t get out. … I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now.”

That can mean one of two things: It could mean that Dean believes that the intentions of the Bush administration in Iraq are honorable, that they mean well by the Iraqi people, that the bombing, invasion, occupation, torture, and daily humiliation have all been acts of love; and that oil and the care and feeding of American corporations play no role. Or it can mean that he supports the objectives of US imperialism and is opposed to abandoning them.

During the 2004 presidential primaries it was stated repeatedly that Dean was “against the Iraq war”. I was never interested enough in him or the Democrats to track down just what this really meant, to pinpoint precisely what the basis of his opposition to the war was, but I assumed it was not anything approaching the unequivocal opposition that characterized the majority of the anti-war movement, including many of Dean’s supporters. I hope that their disillusionment has at least been enlightening.


Yet another glorious chapter in the Wonderful War on Terrorism

Vice President Cheney, speaking of Saddam Hussein and his alleged terrorist allies, told an audience on January 10, 2003: “The gravity of the threat we face was underscored in recent days when British police arrested … suspected terrorists in London and discovered a small quantity of ricin, one of the world’s deadliest poisons.”

A week later at the White House, press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters, “When you read about people in London being arrested for possession of ricin, there clearly remain people in the world who want to inflict as much harm as they can on the Western world and on others.”

Then, in his much-publicized February 5 speech to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell put up a slide that linked a “U.K. poison cell” to alleged master terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi.

After the war in Iraq began in March and US troops seized a northern Iraq camp linked to Zarqawi, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN: “We think that’s probably where the ricin that was found in London came [from]. … At least the operatives and maybe some of the formulas came from this site.”

On April 13, 2005, at the London trial of the arrested “terrorists”, it was disclosed that there had been a mistake. No ricin had actually been found in their apartment and all charges pertaining to this were dropped. It turned out, moreover, that the claim about ricin having been found in January 2003 had been shown to be false that very same day by chemical weapons experts.{3}

In the run-up to Washington’s war against the people of Iraq the principal need of those planning and selling the war was to whip up enough fear and loathing so that the American people would buy it. Thus it was that a great big stew was cooked up … September 11 … terrorists … chemical weapons … al Qaeda … Iraq … Abu Musab Zarqawi … biological weapons … Saddam Hussein … Osama bin Laden … ricin … imminent danger … nuclear danger … all part of one vast conspiracy, all part of a very filling dish to feed the public. It’s comforting now to realize how many people decided that the meal did not pass the smell test.

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at:


[1] White House press release, May 7, 2005

[2] See the British Cabinet papers for 1939, summarized in the Washington Post, January 2, 1970 (reprinted from the Manchester Guardian); also D. F. Fleming, The Cold War and its Origins, 1917-1960, Vol. 1, pp. 48-97.

[3] Washington Post, April 14, 2005, United Press International, April 18, 2005


















William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power . His latest book is: America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. He can be reached at: