Essays and Speeches

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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A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism

Published in Newsday • April 13, 2003
At some point soon the United States will declare 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 which there will be many, many more. I will mourn the Iraqi children who may not die, but who will be blinded, crippled, disfigured, or traumatized, like the bombed children of Afghanistan who, as reported by American visitors, lost their power of speech.

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‘Don’t Depend On the Authorities, the People in Power to Solve Problems’

We go now to a speech Howard Zinn gave at the New School University earlier this month. He talks about bombs, terrorism, the anti-war movement and the Bush administration’s impending war on Iraq. Democracy Now! • February 25,… Read More

The History of Government and Media Lies in Time of War

We go now to historian Howard Zinn. He talks about the history of government propaganda as well as mainstream media propaganda in times of war. Democracy Now! • February 13, 2003  

A Holy Outlaw

Published in The Progressive • February 3, 2003
The long funeral procession for Phil Berrigan moved slowly through the streets of the poor black parish in Baltimore where he had begun his priesthood. Some parents held young children by the hand, as they walked behind the flatbed truck that carried Phil’s coffin, which had been made by his son, Jerry, and was decorated with flowers and peace symbols.

It was a bitterly cold December day in the kind of neighborhood where the city doesn’t bother to clear the snow. People looked on silently from the windows of decaying buildings, and you could see the conditions that first provoked Phil’s anger against the injustice of poverty in a nation of enormous wealth.

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Our Job is a Simple One: Stop Them

Published in The Progressive • December 1, 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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Saying “No” to War

From Boston to Washington, D.C. to Madison, Wisconsin, We Hear From Howard Zinn, Medea Benjamin and Others ZINN: To go to war means that you do not consider the lives of other people as important as the live… Read More

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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A Break-in for Peace

Published in The Progressive • July 2, 2002
In the film Ocean’s 11, eleven skillful crooks embark on an ingenious plan, meticulously worked out, to break into an impossibly secure vault and make off with more than $100 million in Las Vegas casino loot. Hardly a crime of passion, despite the faint electrical charge surrounding Julia Roberts and George Clooney. No, money was the motive, with as little moral fervor attending the crime as went into the making of the movie, which had the same motive.

I was reminded of this recently when I sat in a courtroom in Camden, New Jersey, and participated in the recollection of another break-in, carried out by the Camden 28, where the motive was to protest the war in Vietnam.

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Reflections On 9/11 and Beyond

Howard Zinn’s speech at the University of Vermont at Burlington given on March 10 (begins at 12:20). Democracy Now! • 03/11/02

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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‘Where Are We Heading: Terrorism, Global Security, and the Peace Movement’

The United States ambassador for war crimes said yesterday that the Geneva Conventions are outdated and need to be rewritten to deal with the threat of international terrorism. During a time of seemingly endless war, there are few… Read More

Violence Doesn’t Work

Published in The Progressive • September 14, 2001
The images on television have been heartbreaking. People on fire leaping to their deaths from a hundred stories up. People in panic and fear racing from the scene in clouds of dust and smoke.

We knew that there must be thousands of human beings buried alive, but soon dead under a mountain of debris. We can only imagine the terror among the passengers of the hijacked planes as they contemplated the crash, the fire, the end. Those scenes horrified and sickened me.

Then our political leaders came on television, and I was horrified and sickened again. They spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment.

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The Greatest Generation?

Published in The Progressive • August 1, 2001
They tell me I am a member of the greatest generation. That’s because I saw combat duty as a bombardier in World War II, and we (I almost said “I”) won the war against fascism. I am told this by Tom Brokaw, who wrote a book called The Greatest Generation, which is all about us. He is an anchorman for a big television network, meaning that he is anchored to orthodoxy, and there is no greater orthodoxy than to ascribe greatness to military valor.

That idea is perpetuated by an artillery barrage of books and films about World War II: Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, and the HBO multi-episode story of the 101st Airborne, Band of Brothers, based on Stephen Ambrose’s book of the same name. And Ambrose has just published an exciting history of the valiant “men and boys” who flew B-24s.

The crews who flew those planes died in great numbers. We who flew the more graceful-looking B-17s sardonically called those other planes Bdash2crash4. I wrote from my air base in England to my friend Joe Perry, who was flying B-24s out of Italy, kidding him about his big clunk of a plane, but the humor was extinguished when my last letter to him came back with the notation “Deceased.”

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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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A Campaign Without Class

Published by ZCommunications • September 29, 2000
There came a rare amusing moment in this election campaign when George Bush (who has $220 million dollars for his campaign) accused Al Gore (who has only $170 million dollars) of appealing to ‘class warfare’.… I noticed that neither of the accused responded with a defiant “Yes, we have classes in this country.”

Only Ralph Nader has dared to suggest that this country is divided among the rich, the poor, and the nervous in between. This kind of talk is unpardonably rude, and would be enough to bar him from the televised debates.

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Downfall

Published by ZCommunications • August 18, 2000
I am surprised that my friend Hans Koning, a stalwart protester against the war in Vietnam, seems to have been taken in by the argument of Richard Frank, in his review of Frank’s Downfall. Yes, we must all be willing to reconsider our most hardened judgements in the light of new evidence. But there is nothing in Frank’s argument — however assiduous his research — to make those of us who see the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an unspeakable atrocity change our minds.

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A Fourth of July Commentary

Published by ZCommunications • July 4, 2000
In this year 2000, I cannot comment more meaningfully on the Fourth of July than Frederick Douglass did when he was invited in 1852 to give an Independence Day address. He could not help thinking about the irony of the promise of the Declaration of Independence, of equality, life, liberty made by slaveowners, and how slavery was made legitimate in the writing of the Constitution after a victory for “freedom” over England. And his invitation to speak came just two years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, committing the national government to return fugitives to slavery with all the force of the law.

So it is fitting, at a time when police are exonerated in the killing of unarmed black men, when the electric chair and the gas chamber are used most often against people of color, that we refrain from celebration and instead listen to Douglass’ sobering words…

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