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Bin Laden's publicity sends up sales

Osama bin Laden's recommendation of Rogue State has sent it to the bestsellers list.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 18:32 IST

Osama bin Laden gave little-known author William Blum an unexpected gift: free international publicity and a new burst of interest in Blum's anti-establishment writings. Blum said his publisher is printing 10,000 more copies of Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, which saw a surge in demand after the Al-Qaida leader recommended it in a recent audiotape.

In the two weeks since, the 72-year-old Washington historian and far-left U.S. foreign policy critic has also made headlines in Italy, Israel, Australia and beyond.

"This has given me much more access to the mass media than I ever would have had," Blum said. "And for this reason I'm glad that this happened."

Immediately after the tape aired, the book neared the top of Amazon.com's index of best-sellers. On Saturday, according to Amazon.com, the 2005 paperback edition of the book was ranked at No. 228.

Blum assumes bin Laden read a British edition of his book translated into Arabic, since the terrorist mentioned a quote from the book:

"If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently," Blum's book says. "I would first apologize- very publicly and very sincerely- to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism." Blum calls the book "a mini-encyclopedia of the many kinds of un-humanitarian aspects of U.S. foreign policy ... overthrowing governments ... use of chemical and biological" agents, bombings and other interventions."

He said he opposes religious radicalism but is glad for bin Laden's praise of the book nonetheless.

"On the one hand, I have nothing but distaste for any kind of religious fundamentalism and the societies spawned by that kind of fundamentalism," Blum said. He gave as an example the former Taliban government of Afghanistan, which harbored bin Laden before 2001 U.S.-led invasion swept it away.

"On the other hand, I'm part of a movement which has a very, very ambitious goal of slowing down ... the American empire and keeping it from continuing to do the many terrible things it does all over the world," Blum said. "We have to reach the American public, and to do that we have to have access to the mass media." The mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States warned in an audiotape aired Jan. 19 that his fighters are preparing new attacks in the United States, and he offered the American people a "long-term truce." He didn't specify the conditions. In his first released tape in more than a year, bin Laden also told Americans that if President George W. Bush "decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book The Rogue State."

Blum was a computer programer at the U.S. State Department, with plans to be a Foreign Service Officer. He left in 1967, upset with U.S. policy in Vietnam, which he says "soured me on being part of the foreign policy establishment."

He later helped found and edit an alternative newspaper, the Washington Free Press. He was a freelance journalist in the United States, Europe and South America and has written several books.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 18:32 IST