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The impartiality of Mr Blum and his sources

Reader comment on item: [William Blum and] Al-Qaeda's Leftist Brigade

Submitted by John, UK (United Kingdom), Mar 12, 2006 at 18:56

During his interview on C-Span(28/01/06 - Trans.[http://www.pressaction.com/news/weblog/full_article/blumcspan01282006/]), Mr Blum distances himself from bin Laden and Islamism, but also gratefully acknowledges the affect that bin Laden's endorsement has had on sales of 'Rogue State'. He explains that bin Laden's quote comes from the Arabic translation of the British edition of his book which contains the extract in its foreword. The original context can be found in his essay 'Concerning September 11...' [http://members.aol.com/bblum6/sep11.htm].

With respect to Mr Blum, his memory is beginning to fail him when he says, to one caller, that "Iran has as much a right to nuclear weapons as other nations do". As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has no right whatsoever to develop nuclear weapons, furthermore, its right to develop a civil nuclear energy program is conditional upon internationally regulated safeguards being maintained. Elsewhere he says that in Iraq "... under [Saddam] there was full religious freedom. Jews and Christians were safe there. Not now, though.", quite. As safe as any other Iraqi citizens subject to the totalitarian despot's flights of fancy. The irony of religious minorities being safe while the majority Shiite population was being brutally repressed by Saddam seems to have escaped him.

Since Mr Blum gave the listeners the impression that his work is meticulously sourced it is fair to cast a critical eye upon it. For example, the 33rd chapter from his book 'Killing Hope' entitled 'Uruguay 1964-1970 Torture - as American as Apple pie' [http://members.aol.com/bblum6/uruguay.htm#mid-text].

The chapter begins with these sinister words of, allegedly, Dan Mitrione the head of the Montevideo branch of the Office of Public Safety, "The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect.". These words and a description of the torture and murder of four innocent, Uruguayan down-and-outs, purely for demonstration purposes, are accredited to Manuel Hevia Cosculluela in his 1978 book 'Pasaporte 11333: Ocho Anos con la CIA'. Although Cosculluela was, supposedly, a Cuban CIA agent who worked with Mitrione, he claims to have been simply an observer, along with selected Uruguayan police officers who were being trained in torture techniques. In his book however "[he] does not say specifically what Mitrione's direct part... was", it was during an interview with the NY Times that he declared that Mitrione "personally tortured four beggars to death with electric shocks".

In other places Mr Blum cites the former NY Times journalist A.J. Langguth's book 'Hidden Terrors', a book which also, in turn, cites 'Pasaporte 11333...'. Of Mr Blum's 30 sources for his allegations against the activities of Mitrione and the OPS no less than a dozen are attributed to the Langguth and Cosculluela books. Astonishingly, Cosculluela was in fact a Cuban double-agent who disappeared from Montevideo, shortly after a lurid conversation with Mitrione on the "art of torture", and re-surfaced in Havana. Within six months of that, Mitrione had been kidnapped and murdered by "the revolutionaries who called themselves Tupamaros. Perhaps the cleverest, most resourceful and most sophisticated urban guerillas the world has ever seen.".

Other sources cited by Mr Blum, in this single chapter, include a former Uruguayan Chief of Police Intelligence interviewed in 1970, Alejandro Otero, perhaps personally culpable of torture, and Philip Agee, an ex-CIA agent who had links with both the KGB and DGI(the Cuban Intelligence service), and who now, coincidentally, resides in Cuba; neither of whom could be remotely described as impartial. With sources of this calibre and his inability to remain objective Mr Blum detracts from his main contention, and it is a small wonder that his work is rarely seen in Western mainstream media.
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