By Howard Zinn • 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.
He should not be saying that he will wage the Iraq War better, that he will replace U.S. troops with soldiers from other countries. If it is immoral for our soldiers to be occupying Iraq and killing Iraqis every day, then it is immoral for foreign soldiers to do the same.
He should be clear: We are not defending our country by our war in Iraq, and we should get out.
He should stop saying what President Bush is saying, that we have to ”stay the course.” We stayed the course in Vietnam and it cost more than 58,000 American lives and untold Vietnamese lives.
To those who say that we must not ”cut and run,” Kerry can say, with some authority: We did cut and run in Vietnam, and it was the right thing to do.
Kerry needs to stop talking about how he will be stronger than Bush and how he will do more for our national security. He should stop accepting the traditional definitions of strength and security.
He should say that strength should not be measured in military terms, but in moral terms. Did the possession of almost 10,000 nuclear weapons prevent Sept. 11? Will a $400 billion military budget make us stronger or weaker? Will our military actions diminish terrorism or increase it?
Does not our strength lie in being an example to the world of a peace-loving nation, which uses its wealth not for bombs but for food and medicine, for our people and for others in need around the world? Should we not stop defining security in military terms, but talk instead of ”health security,” ”job security,” “children’s security”?
This is not Utopian. It is what Americans have shown that they want, before they are made hysterical and fearful by government propaganda. It is not simply a moral program, but a winning program.
William Lloyd Garrison, the great Massachusetts abolitionist, was urged by a friend to speak more cautiously. Garrison replied: “Slavery, sir, will not be overthrown without excitement, a tremendous excitement.”
War and corporate thievery will not be overthrown without excitement, either. Kerry, if he will stop being cautious, can create an excitement that will carry him into the White House and, more important, change the course of the nation.
Published in the Miami Herald • September 16, 2004
Republished on Common Dreams and The Guardian, September 17, 2004.