Friday, June 09, 2006

Booknote: Rogue State

Title: Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
Author: William Blum
Publication Information: Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000
308 pages, including notes and index.
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current affairs, American History, political science

A while back, Osama Bin Ladin, the bad guy that was responsible for September 11 and who is all but forgotten by now, issued another one of his tapes. In that announcement he inaugurated what has become known in some places as Osama's Book Club. In seriousness, I figured that if the great villain is reading something, I ought to take a look at it, so I did. William Blum's book is a complete listing of almost every atrocity, bad deed, election tampering, invasion, and other bad acts that the United States has done in the 20th century. If Osama and the rest of the world needed a reason or two to be pissed at the United States, Blum does an excellent job in providing the list. The book in essence is a list. It goes through the history of the United States via its invasions, interventions in other nations, election tampering to prevent leaders the U.S. did not like from coming into power, and so on. It even has a convenient list of U.N. votes where the U.S. was the sole voter against things like a resolution declaring "that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc. are human rights" (189). And if readers think that the U.S. has been doing terrible things abroad, Blum soon proves otherwise by documenting the bad deeds of the United States against its own citizens.

The interesting thing about this book is that it was published in the year 2000. The history it presents then is pre-9/11. The scary thing is that a lot of what has happened is repeating itself. For some readers, it may be scary to see how people like Osama rose in prominence with the help of the United States. Yes, Osama was one of United States' homeboys before he became America's most wanted. Now, as a reader, I knew much of this history. Growing up in Latin America, you are very familiar with United States' interventions from places like Haiti to Costa Rica to Chile, not to mention Puerto Rico. Does the name of a little place called Vieques ring a bell? The U.S. Navy used the island, which is inhabited, as a target practice place using depleted uranium shells. Recently, the Navy decided to abandon the target practice, but it was only after substantial public pressure to do so.

Overall, the book provides details, names, dates, and so on of these and other misdeeds. For readers who think the U.S. can do no wrong, this book will either be a wake-up call or something to avoid. For readers who want to get more than the sanitized history you get in the school textbooks, this is highly recommended. It may even encourage you to read up on some things. For instance, you read about Argentina's Dirty War when the military held power and tortured hundreds of people. By the way, they were supported by the United States. It may prompt you to read more on the topic of the Dirty War. Here is a book on that. If nothing else, you may want to read it just to know what is Osama reading, what is driving some of his thinking.

In terms of readability, the book's chapters are mostly lists of dates and events with annotations. On the one hand, this means you can read the book at a fast pace, or you can skim it. However, Blum pulls no punches, so if you are a reader who had no idea the United States was not a nice nation to its neighbors, it may get a little overwhelming at first, so take it in small doses.

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