American Empire

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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What Do We Do Now?

Published in The Progressive • June 8, 2004
It seems very hard for some people–especially those in high places, but also those striving for high places–to grasp a simple truth: The United States does not belong in Iraq. It is not our country. Our presence is causing death, suffering, destruction, and so large sections of the population are rising against us. Our military is then reacting with indiscriminate force, bombing and shooting and rounding up people simply on “suspicion.”

…any discussion of “What do we do now?” must start with the understanding that the present U.S. military occupation is morally unacceptable.

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Dying for the Government

Published in The Progressive • June 1, 2004
Our government has declared a military victory in Iraq. As a patriot, I will not celebrate. I will mourn the dead–the American GIs, and also the Iraqi dead, of whom there have been many, many more.

I will mourn the Iraqi children, not just those who are dead, but those who have been blinded, crippled, disfigured, or traumatized. We have not been given in the American media (we would need to read the foreign press) a full picture of the human suffering caused by our bombing.…

As a patriot, contemplating the dead GIs, I could comfort myself (as, understandably, their families do) with the thought: “They died for their country.” But I would be lying to myself.

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Check the Facts Before Rushing to War

Published by News Day • April 13, 2004
After a year of fighting in Iraq and an occupation fraught with violence, surely it is not rash to suggest, given the debacle over missing “weapons of mass destruction,” that it is a good general rule to treat any official rationale for war with skepticism. This conduct would be a healthy departure from the tendency of both Congress and the major media to assume, as was clearly done on the eve of this war in Iraq, that the government is telling the truth. And such skepticism would certainly be a prudent approach to any supposed candor coming from presidential press conferences, such as last night’s, during an election campaign.

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Of Paradise and Power

Published by

 ZCommunications • February 9, 2004
I suppose it is part of the corruption of contemporary language that an analysis of American foreign policy by a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace should argue for the right of the United States to use military force, regardless of international law, and international opinion, whenever it unilaterally decides its “national interest” requires it. Robert Kagan’s book Of Paradise and Power is important, not because it’s logic is unassailable, or his values admirable, but because it serves as intellectual justification for the foreign policy of the United States, and therefore (as the New York Times reviewer put it) demands “serious attention”. That attention it has received, with the major media rushing to review it, mostly with admiration.

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American Amnesia Interviews Howard Zinn

Published at American Amnesia • February 8, 2004
aA:Do you see historical amnesia – that is, forgetting both recent and distant history – as an ailment of the younger generation, or as a continuation of the “way we’ve always been”?

hZ: It’s not an ailment of the younger generation but of that part of the older generation that controls the media and the educational system. I find that young people are hungry for information, but their sources are too often the major television channels, which are controlled by a tiny group of wealthy corporations, with ties and interests close to the government.

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An Occupied Country

Published in The Progressive • October 8, 2003
We became familiar with the term “occupied country” during World War II. We talked of German-occupied France, German-occupied Europe. And after the war we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, the Soviets, who occupied other countries.

Now we are the occupiers.

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Humpty Dumpty Will Fall

Published in The Progressive • August 8, 2003
The “victory” over an already devastated and disarmed Iraq led Bush, Rumsfeld, and their teammates into a locker-room frenzy of exultation and self-congratulation. I half expected to see Bush joyfully pouring beer on Rumsfeld’s head and Ashcroft snapping a towel at Ari Fleischer’s derriére.

But it turns out that the war did not bring order to Iraq, but chaos, not crowds of cheering Iraqis, but widespread hostility. “No to Saddam! No to Bush!” were the signs, as Iraqis contemplated their ruined historic treasures, their destroyed homes, and the graves of their dead–thousands and thousands of civilians and soldiers, with many more men, women, children wounded. And it goes on as I write this in mid-June–an ugly occupation. I see a headline: “U.S. Troops Kill 70 in Iraqi Crackdown.”

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War is the Health of the State

Interview by Paul Glavin and Chuck Morse • Published in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory • Spring 2003
Howard Zinn has been a pivotal figure in the American Left for decades. As an activist and writer, he has influenced generations of leftists and helped encourage a strong commitment to direct democracy, anti-racism, and grassroots action.

We asked Zinn about the current changes in the political environment, his theoretical commitments, and some of the challenges faced by radical intellectuals

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Zinn on Iraq and Other Pressing Matters

Interview by Bill Moyers • Published at PBS’ NOW With Bill Moyers • January 10, 2003
“Oh, sure. We were attacked, but then the question is, who attacked us? If we could locate the people who attacked us and get them, grab them, find them. Okay, that’s self-defense. But if we are attacked and we don’t know who attacked us, and we just select a country from which we think the attackers may have sprung, and then just bomb that country, that is not defense. That is indiscriminate violence.”

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Interview with Howard Zinn

Interview by Amir Butler • Published at A True Word • October 28, 2002
Amir Butler talks to Professor Zinn about imperialism and the “War on Terror.”

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What War Looks Like

Published in The Progressive • October 10, 2002
In all the solemn statements by self-important politicians and newspaper columnists about a coming war against Iraq, and even in the troubled comments by some who are opposed to the war, there is something missing. The talk is about strategy and tactics, geopolitics and personalities. It is about air war and ground war, weapons of mass destruction, arms inspections, alliances, oil, and “regime change.”

What is missing is what an American war on Iraq will do to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of ordinary human beings who are not concerned with geopolitics and military strategy, and who just want their children to live, to grow up. They are not concerned with “national security” but with personal security, with food and shelter and medical care and peace.

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The Case Against War on Iraq

Published in 

the Boston Globe • August 19, 2002
The Bush administration’s plan for preemptive war against Iraq so flagrantly violates both international law and common morality that we need a real national debate.

The discussion should begin with the recognition that an attack on Iraq would constitute an attack on the Charter of the United Nations, since the United States would then be in violation of several provisions…

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The Toll of War

Published in The Progressive • August 8, 2002
Democracy flies out the window as soon as war comes along. So when officials in Washington talk about democracy, either here or abroad, as they take this country to war, they don’t mean it. They don’t want democracy; they want to run things themselves. They want to decide whether we go to war. They want to decide the lives and deaths of people in this country, and they certainly want to decide the lives and deaths of people in Iraq and all over the Middle East.

Faced with this attitude, our job is just a simple one: to stop them.

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Dissent In Pursuit Of Equality, Life, Liberty And Happiness

Interview by Sharon Basco • Published at Tompaine.com • July 3, 2002
“When you say the country was founded by people who believed in dissent, well, they believed in their own right to dissent in the relationship with England. But it happens very often that people who believe in their own right to dissent, when they gain power they don’t really accept the idea that other people have the right to dissent. And so, for instance, when the Founding Fathers, who very powerfully defended their right to dissent against the British when they expelled the British, and then they were faced with dissenters, like the former rebels of Shay’s Rebellion in 1786, they sent an army to put them down.”

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Operation Enduring War

Published in The Progressive • March 10, 2002
We are “winning the war on terror.” I learn this from George Bush’s State of the Union Address. “Our progress,” he said, “is a tribute to the might of the United States military.” My hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe, is congratulatory: “On the war front, the Administration has much to take pride in.”

But the President also tells us that “tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large.” That hardly suggests we are “winning the war.” Furthermore, he says, there is a “grave and growing danger.”

Bush singled out Iran, Iraq, and North Korea because they may be building “weapons of mass destruction.” And that’s not all: “Terror training camps still exist in at least a dozen countries,” he says.

The prospect is for a war without end.

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The Others

Published in The Nation • February 2, 2002
Every day for several months, the New York Times did what should always be done when a tragedy is summed up in a statistic: It gave us miniature portraits of the human beings who died on September 11—their names, photos, glimmers of their personalities, their idiosyncrasies, how friends and loved ones remember them.

As the director of the New York Historical Society said: “The peculiar genius of it was to put a human face on numbers that are unimaginable to most of us…. It’s so obvious that every one of them was a person who deserved to live a full and successful and happy life. You see what was lost.”

I was deeply moved, reading those intimate sketches—”A Poet of Bensonhurst…A Friend, A Sister…Someone to Lean On…Laughter, Win or Lose…” I thought: Those who celebrated the grisly deaths of the people in the twin towers and the Pentagon as a blow to symbols of American dominance in the world—what if, instead of symbols, they could see, up close, the faces of those who lost their lives? I wonder if they would have second thoughts, second feelings.

Then it occurred to me: What if all those Americans who declare their support for Bush’s “war on terrorism” could see, instead of those elusive symbols—Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda—the real human beings who have died under our bombs? I do believe they would have second thoughts.

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McVeigh’s Path to the Death Chamber

Published in the Boston Globe • June 16, 2001
Now that Timothy McVeigh has been put to death, and some people’s need for revenge or punishment may be satisfied, we can begin to think calmly of how he learned his twisted sense of right and wrong from the government that executed him.

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‘Inspire Please…’

Published by ZCommunications • July 16, 1999
For those not in the know, let me explain that we who write for the progressive-radical movement have our specialties. Some specialize in writing depressing stuff. Others write humorous pieces. Some concentrate on trashing other Left writers. It seems that there was an opening this month for someone to inspire, and I was chosen. Not an easy job, when the United States government has just finished dropping thousands of cluster bombs on Yugoslavia…

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‘History as a Political Act’

Interview by Raymond Lotta • Published in Revolutionary Worker • December 20, 1998
“Beneath the surface of youthful ‘ambition’—’need to graduate,” ‘need to make a career’—beneath that surface, I believe there’s always among young people a hunger to do something worthwhile and important. And if you present young people something that is happening, that touches themhellip; I find that they respond.”

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