Articles & Interviews

America’s Blinders

Published in The Progressive • April 10, 2006
Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans—members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen—rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

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Lessons of Iraq War Start with U.S. History

Published in The Progressive • March 6, 2006
On the third anniversary of President Bush’s Iraq debacle, it’s important to consider why the administration so easily fooled so many people into supporting the war.

I believe there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture.

One is an absence of historical perspective. The other is an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism.

If we don’t know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. But if we know some history, if we know how many times presidents have lied to us, we will not be fooled again.

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After the War

Published in The Progressive • January 27, 2006
The war against Iraq, the assault on its people, the occupation of its cities, will come to an end, sooner or later. The process has already begun. The first signs of mutiny are appearing in Congress. The first editorials calling for withdrawal from Iraq are beginning to appear in the press. The anti-war movement has been growing, slowly but persistently, all over the country.

Public opinion polls now show the country decisively against the war and the Bush Administration. The harsh realities have become visible. The troops will have to come home.

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Chief Justice John Roberts signing document • Photo by Eric Draper • WikiCommons

Don’t Despair About the Supreme Court

Published in The Progressive • November 8, 2005
John Roberts sailed through his confirmation hearings as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with enthusiastic Republican support, and a few weak mutterings of opposition by the Democrats. Then, after the far right deemed Harriet Miers insufficiently doctrinaire, Bush nominated arch conservative Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. This has caused a certain consternation among people we affectionately term “the left.”

I can understand that sinking feeling. Even listening to pieces of Roberts’s confirmation hearings was enough to induce despair: the joking with the candidate, the obvious signs that, whether Democrats or Republicans, these are all members of the same exclusive club.

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The Scourge of Nationalism

Published in The Progressive • June 1, 2005
I cannot get out of my mind the recent news photos of ordinary Americans sitting on chairs, guns on laps, standing unofficial guard on the Arizona border, to make sure no Mexicans cross over into the United States. There was something horrifying in the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call “civilization,” we have carved up what we claim is one world into 200 artificially created entities we call “nations” and armed to apprehend or kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism–that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder–one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking–cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on–have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

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Against Discouragement

In 1963, Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College, where he was chair of the History Department, because of his civil rights activities. In 2005, he was invited back by President Beverly Daniel Tatum to give the commencement… Read More

“To Be Neutral, To Be Passive In A Situation Is To Collaborate With Whatever Is Going On”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you just came from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility? HOWARD ZINN: Well, actually, yesterday afternoon I spoke at the Bedford Hills, euphemistically called, Correctional Facility. They hardly correct anything, but… I spoke to prisoners there, women… Read More

‘An Amazing David and Goliath Story’

Interview by Catherine Murphy • Published at Cubanow.net • March 2005
CM: Why do you think the US Government, the Bush administration in particular, does not want US citizens to visit Cuba?

HZ: I wish I could probe the minds of the people who run the United States government.… One of them undoubtedly is that they know that Americans and people from other countries that haven’t come to Cuba are intrigued by the kind of things that Cuba has, which other countries don’t have; intrigued by Cuba’s progress in literacy, in medicine, in culture and so on.

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Changing Minds, One at a Time

Published in The Progressive • March 2, 2005
As I write this, the day after the inauguration, the banner headline in The New York Times reads: “BUSH, AT 2ND INAUGURAL, SAYS SPREAD OF LIBERTY IS THE ‘CALLING OF OUR TIME.’ ”

Two days earlier, on an inside page of the Times, was a photo of a little girl, crouching, covered with blood, weeping. The caption read: “An Iraqi girl screamed yesterday after her parents were killed when American soldiers fired on their car when it failed to stop, despite warning shots, in Tal Afar, Iraq. The military is investigating the incident.”

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Critical Thinking

Interview by David Barsamian conducted on July 21, 2004, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This interview was published in the February 2005 issue of International Socialist Review and included in the book, Original Zinn: Conversations on History… Read More

“Bush Represents Everything That Martin Luther King Opposed”

HOWARD ZINN: It’s interesting that the inauguration should come a few days after the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, because here we have Bush being inaugurated as President after the — all of the hypocritical statements made… Read More

HREA Director Interviews Historian Howard Zinn

Interview by Felisa Tibbitts • Human Rights Education Association • January 5, 2005
Historically, how do you think schools have served as a catalyst for social change and furthering the human rights movement?

Zinn: I think it works both ways. Students who learn in school about what is going on in the world are motivated to do something about it, to act on what they have learned. When I say it goes both ways, when you have students become active in human rights and feel that human rights has touched them personally, then they are likely to come back into the classroom and have the curriculum reflect their own consciousness.

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Harness That Anger

Published in The Progressive • January 1, 2005
In the days after the election, it seemed that all my friends were either depressed or angry, frustrated or indignant, or simply disgusted. Neighbors who had never said more than hi to me stopped me on the street and delivered passionate little speeches that made me think they had just listened to a re-broadcast of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, in which powerful creatures arrive on Earth to take it over.

But then I reconsidered: They had not been listening to H. G. Wells. There really were strange and powerful creatures that had just occupied the United States and now wanted to take over the rest of the world. Yes, Bush was reelected President, and whether there was fraud in the voting process or not, John Kerry quickly threw in the towel. The minnow called for reconciliation with the crocodile.

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Questions for Howard Zinn: The People’s Historian

Interview by Joshua Glenn • The Boston Globe • Nov. 14, 2004
IDEAS: Don’t presidential elections reflect the will of the people as much as protest movements do?

ZINN: More important, I think, than who sits in the White House is who sits outside it. Whenever social injustices have had to be rectified, they were rectified not at the initiative of the president or Congress or the Supreme Court but because of social movements.…Only after thousands of black Americans demonstrated and were beaten, jailed, and killed was segregation in the South done away with. Despite winning the Nobel Peace Prize for it, it was not only Kissinger alone who ended the Vietnam War, but the antiwar movement.

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Our War on Terrorism

Published in The Progressive • November 1, 2004
I’m calling it “our” war on terrorism because I want to distinguish it from Bush’s war on terrorism, and from Sharon’s, and from Putin’s. What their wars have in common is that they are based on an enormous deception: persuading the people of their countries that you can deal with terrorism by war. These rulers say you can end our fear of terrorism–of sudden, deadly, vicious attacks, a fear new to Americans–by drawing an enormous circle around an area of the world where terrorists come from (Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya) or can be claimed to be connected with (Iraq), and by sending in tanks and planes to bomb and terrorize whoever lives within that circle.

Since war is itself the most extreme form of terrorism, a war on terrorism is profoundly self-contradictory. Is it strange, or normal, that no major political figure has pointed this out?

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Candidates Not Addressing “Fundamental Issues of American Policy in the World”

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. If you could comment overall about this presidential contest right now. We are just weeks away from the election. HOWARD ZINN: Well, the contest, unfortunately, is not giving us… Read More

The Optimism of Uncertainty

Published by 
ZCommunications • September 30, 2004; The Nation • September 20, 2004
In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy?

I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played.

The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.

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Kerry Needs the Courage to Walk Away from Iraq

Published in the Miami Herald • September 16, 2004
If John Kerry wants to win, he must recognize that our military intervention in Iraq is a disaster — for Americans, for Iraqis, for the world. He must stop boasting about his courage in Vietnam and instead start talking about his moral courage in opposing that war. He needs to stop saying, as he did recently in the Midwest, that he defended this country when he was fighting in Vietnam. That is not an honest statement. If it were true, then he would not have turned against the war.

He was not defending this country when he fought in Vietnam. He was defending this country when he said that we were wrong to be in Vietnam and we should get out.

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Dissent at the War Memorial

Published in The Progressive • August 8, 2004
As I write this, the sounds of the World War II Memorial celebration in Washington, D.C., are still in my head. I was invited by the Smithsonian Institution to be on one of the panels, and the person who called to invite me said that the theme would be “War Stories.” I told him that I would come, but not to tell “war stories,” rather to talk about World War II and its meaning for us today. Fine, he said.

I made my way into a scene that looked like a movie set for a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza—huge tents pitched here and there, hawkers with souvenirs, thousands of visitors, many of them clearly World War II veterans, some in old uniforms, sporting military caps, wearing their medals. In the tent designated for my panel, I joined my fellow panelist, an African American woman who had served with the WACS (Women’s Army Corps) in World War II, and who would speak about her personal experiences in a racially segregated army.

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Rise Like Lions: The Role Of Artists In a Time Of War

Barsamian: You have called attention to the role of artists in a time of war. What attracts you to artists?

Zinn: Artists play a special role in social change. I first noticed this when I was a teenager and becoming politically aware for the first time. It was people in the arts who had the greatest emotional effect on me.

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