Articles by Howard Zinn

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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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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Opposing the War Party

Published in The Progressive • May 2, 2004
The Progressive has been a thorn in the side of the establishment for almost a hundred years. Its life span covers two world wars and six smaller wars. It saw the fake prosperity of the Twenties and the tumult of the Thirties. Its voice remained alive through the Cold War and the hysteria over communism.

Through all that, down to the present day, and the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, this intrepid magazine has been part of the long struggle for peace, for a boundary-less world. It may be useful to recall some of the heroes–some famous, some obscure–of that historic resistance to war.

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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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The Ultimate Betrayal to Our Soldiers Would Be to Forget

I cannot get out of my mind the photo that appeared on the front page of The New York Times on December 30, alongside a story by Jeffrey Gettleman. It showed a young man sitting on a chair… Read More

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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The Logic of Withdrawal

Published in The Progressive • January 1, 2004
In the spring of 1967, my book Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal was published by Beacon Press. It was the first book on the war to call for immediate withdrawal, no conditions. Many liberals were saying: “Yes, we should leave Vietnam, but President Johnson can’t just do it; it would be very hard to explain to the American people.”My response, in the last chapter of my book, was to write a speech for Lyndon Johnson, explaining to the American people why he was ordering the immediate evacuation of American armed forces from Vietnam. No, Johnson did not make that speech, and the war went on. But I am undaunted, and willing to make my second attempt at speech writing.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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