We keep in mind the legendary historian, writer, professor, playwright and activist Howard Zinn, who was born 100 years in the past at the moment. Zinn was a daily visitor on Democracy Now! from the beginning of this system in 1996 up till his demise in 2010 at age 87. After witnessing the horrors of World Struggle II as a bombardier, Zinn grew to become a peace and justice activist who picketed along with his college students at Spelman Faculty through the civil rights motion and joined in actions akin to opposing the Vietnam Struggle. He later spoke out in opposition to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I consider neutrality is unimaginable, as a result of the world is already transferring in sure instructions. Wars are occurring. Kids are ravenous,” Zinn mentioned in a 2005 interview. “To be impartial … is to collaborate with no matter is occurring, to permit it to occur.” His traditional ebook, A Individuals’s Historical past of america, retells the nation’s historical past from the attitude of on a regular basis individuals who resisted oppression and exploitation by extra highly effective forces.
It is a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its ultimate type.
AMY GOODMAN: At this time we spend the hour remembering Howard Zinn, the late, nice historian, writer, professor, playwright and activist. Zinn was born 100 years in the past, on August twenty fourth, 1922, to working-class Jewish immigrant dad and mom in Brooklyn. He died in 2010 on the age of 87, however his books proceed to be learn throughout the globe.
At 18, Zinn started working as a shipyard employee, then joined the Air Drive, the place he served as a bombardier in World Struggle II. After witnessing the horrors of warfare, Howard Zinn went on to turn out to be a lifelong dissident and peace activist. He was energetic within the civil rights motion and different struggles for social justice, taught at Spelman Faculty in Atlanta, the traditionally Black faculty for girls. He was fired for insubordination for standing up for pupil protesters. Whereas at Spelman, he served on the manager committee of SNCC, the Scholar Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
After being compelled out of Spelman, Zinn grew to become a professor at Boston College. In 1967, he revealed Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. It was the primary ebook on the warfare to name for fast withdrawal, no circumstances. A yr later, he and Father Dan Berrigan traveled to North Vietnam to obtain the primary three American prisoners of warfare launched by the North Vietnamese. When Dan Ellsberg wanted a spot to cover the Pentagon Papers earlier than they have been leaked to the press, he went to Howard and his late spouse, Ros Zinn.
In 1980, Howard Zinn revealed his traditional work, A Individuals’s Historical past of america. The ebook would go on to promote over 1,000,000 copies, modified the best way we checked out historical past in america.
Howard Zinn was a daily visitor on Democracy Now! from the time we went on the air in 1996 up till his demise. We start at the moment’s present with an interview I did with Howard Zinn in 2005, when he got here to our firehouse studio.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s nice to have you ever with us.
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, it’s good of you to ask me. I used to be fearful.
AMY GOODMAN: Properly, you simply got here from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility?
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, truly, yesterday afternoon I spoke on the Bedford Hills, euphemistically referred to as, Correctional Facility — they hardly right something, however — spoke to prisoners there, girls prisoners, principally prisoners of coloration. I spoke to them yesterday afternoon earlier than I gave this speak final night time at Manhattanville Faculty.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you speak about with the ladies?
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, they’d been utilizing my ebook. They’ve lessons. They’re utilizing my ebook, A Individuals’s Historical past of america. And I talked to them about historical past, about doing historical past, about why I did historical past the best way I did, why I did unneutral historical past and the way I got here to do it. And I instructed them one thing about my life, and, after all, I at all times like to speak about that, you realize.
After which they requested lots of questions, a really vigorous, enthusiastic, excited group. I imply, if each instructor within the nation had a category like that, you realize, they’d be impressed. And it’s great — and I’ve at all times discovered this to be true — great and at all times superb once you speak to prisoners, who ought to be the final ones to be up and optimistic and in good spirits, nevertheless it’s at all times there. It’s truly encouraging, you realize, and, after all, troubling to know that these folks, these outstanding folks, are being stored in jail, you realize, fairly often, more often than not, for nonviolent crimes, and stored there for lengthy durations of time. It’s a type of unhappy commentary on American society that we now have folks in Washington who’re free, and these persons are in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about being a instructor, however, Howard Zinn, the locations you have been — the place you probably did educate — nicely, Spelman, you have been fired, and Boston College, you have been nearly fired.
HOWARD ZINN: Oh, are you attempting to make me out as a troublemaker?
AMY GOODMAN: What occurred to you at Spelman?
HOWARD ZINN: At Spelman, I obtained concerned with my college students within the actions that have been occurring within the South, the sit-ins, the demonstrations, the picket traces. I used to be supporting my college students. And this was the primary Black president of Spelman Faculty, a really conservative establishment. He wasn’t joyful about me becoming a member of the scholars in all of this stuff, wasn’t joyful about lots of issues that they did. However he couldn’t do something about it. However after I — the scholars got here again from, you may say, from jail after which rebelled in opposition to the campus rules and the restrictions on them, and I supported them, that was an excessive amount of.
AMY GOODMAN: In the course of the civil rights years?
HOWARD ZINN: This was — yeah, these have been through the civil rights years. And so, you realize, he was very sad with the truth that I used to be supporting the scholars who have been rebelling in opposition to the paternalism and the authoritarianism on that campus.
AMY GOODMAN: They have been girls college students?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, these have been Black girls college students. And, you realize, the motion introduced them out of this little type of convent-like environment of Spelman Faculty and out into the world.
AMY GOODMAN: The writer Alice Walker was a type of college students?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, Alice Walker was certainly one of my college students. Marian Wright Edelman, the pinnacle of the Kids’s Protection Fund now in Washington, she was certainly one of my college students. I’m very happy with these college students I had at Spelman. And yeah, Marian Wright Edelman was in jail, and Alice Walker was in jail. And yeah, it was a terrific second.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Boston College was a few years later. Why did you nearly get thrown out of there?
HOWARD ZINN: Why did I nearly get thrown out of Boston College? We had a strike. College went on strike. Secretaries went on strike. They settled with the college after what was a profitable strike, however not with the secretaries. And so, I and another college refused to cross the secretaries’ picket line. And 5 of us who refused to do this have been threatened with firing, despite the fact that all of us had tenure. And so it was an extended wrestle, however we received.
AMY GOODMAN: Going again earlier than each of your tenures as professor, you have been a bombardier in World Struggle II.
HOWARD ZINN: That’s true, sure.
AMY GOODMAN: And also you speak about your ultimate bombing run, not over Japan, not over Germany, however over France.
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah. Properly, we thought our bombing missions have been over. The warfare was about to return to an finish. This was in April of 1945. You might keep in mind the warfare resulted in early Could 1945. This was a couple of weeks earlier than the warfare was going to be over, and everyone knew it was going to be over, and our armies have been previous France into Germany, however there was just a little pocket of German troopers hanging round this little city of Royan on the Atlantic coast of France, and the Air Drive determined to bomb them — 1,200 heavy bombers, and I used to be in certainly one of them, flew over this little city of Royan and dropped napalm — first use of napalm within the European theater.
And we don’t know the way many individuals we killed, how many individuals have been terribly burned because of what we did. However I did it, like most troopers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, pondering we’re on the suitable facet, they’re on the fallacious facet, and subsequently we are able to do no matter we would like, and it’s OK. And solely afterward, solely actually after the warfare, did I — after I was studying about Hiroshima from John Hersey and studying the tales of the survivors of Hiroshima and what they went by, solely then did I start to consider the human results of bombing. Solely then did I start to consider what it meant to human beings on the bottom when bombs have been dropped on them, as a result of as a bombardier, I used to be flying at 30,000 toes, six miles excessive, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And that is trendy warfare.
In trendy warfare, troopers hearth, they drop bombs, they usually don’t have any notion, actually, of what’s taking place to the human beings that they’re firing on. All the things is finished at a distance. This allows horrible atrocities to happen. And I believe, reflecting again on that bombing raid, and pondering of that in Hiroshima and all the opposite raids on civilian cities and the killing of big numbers of civilians in German and Japanese cities, the killing of 100,000 folks in Tokyo in a single night time of firebombing, all of that made me notice warfare, even so-called good wars in opposition to fascism, like World Struggle II, wars don’t clear up any elementary issues, they usually at all times poison everyone on each side. They poison the minds and souls of everyone on each side. We’re seeing that now in Iraq, the place the minds of our troopers are being poisoned by being an occupying military in a land the place they aren’t wished. And the outcomes are horrible.
AMY GOODMAN: You discovered you dropped napalm on this French village?
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, we didn’t — truly didn’t know what it was. They mentioned, “Oh, you’re not going to have the often 500-pound demolition bombs. You’re going to hold one — you’re going to hold 30 100-pound canisters of jellied gasoline.” We had no thought what that was, nevertheless it was napalm.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to that village later?
HOWARD ZINN: Later, I went, yeah. Later, I visited that village, about 10 years after the warfare. And I went to the library, which had been destroyed and which was now rebuilt, and I dug out information of the survivors and what they’d written concerning the bombing. And I wrote a sort of essay concerning the bombing of Royan, which seems — the place does it seem? — it seems in my ebook The Zinn Reader and in addition in my ebook The Politics of Historical past. However it was — for me, it was an important expertise, a really nice sobering lesson about so-called good wars.
AMY GOODMAN: You discovered once you have been there on the bottom a few years later who had died?
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, I — you realize, I spoke to individuals who had survived that and whose relations had died. And so they have been very bitter concerning the bombing. And, you realize, they attributed it to all kinds of issues, the need to check out a brand new weapon. It’s superb what number of issues are completed in a warfare simply to check out new weapons. You recognize, possibly one of many causes for dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been to see what this does to human beings. Human beings turn out to be sacrifices within the want to develop new army expertise. And I believe that was a type of cases.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking to historian Howard Zinn, right here in our firehouse studio in Chinatown, simply blocks from the place the towers of the World Commerce Middle as soon as stood. You went to Vietnam, to North Vietnam, with Dan Berrigan?
HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
HOWARD ZINN: Why? Properly, this was early 1968. This was the time of the Tet Offensive, additionally the time of the Tet vacation, the Vietnamese vacation. And the North Vietnamese determined they wished to launch the primary three airmen prisoners who had been shot down over North Vietnam. And so they wished to launch them within the custody of not the American authorities, however the peace motion. So Daniel Berrigan, poet, priest, whom I had by no means met earlier than, he and I traveled collectively to Hanoi, to North Vietnam, to select up these three American airmen who have been being launched by the North Vietnamese.
After which we spent a while in Hanoi and within the surrounding space, visited bombed-out areas, visited little villages that had been jet bombed in the course of the night time, 1,000,000 miles from any doable army goal. And that — we have been being bombed — Vietnam was being bombed each night time. Daily we have been going into air raid shelters. Each night time Daniel Berrigan would write a poem about what had occurred that day. And, you realize —
AMY GOODMAN: What do you say to these, then and now, earlier than the invasion, who would go to Iraq, those that went to North Vietnam, after they could be referred to as traitors, giving consolation to the enemy?
HOWARD ZINN: You imply Individuals who went to North Vietnam? You imply like Jane Fonda and so many others who went to North Vietnam?
AMY GOODMAN: And Iraq earlier than. I imply even folks like Congressmember McDermott of Seattle, reporters saying that they need to resign.
HOWARD ZINN: Oh, folks have gone to Iraq. And, I imply, what about — you realize, there’s folks in Voices within the Wilderness, Individuals who went to Iraq and violating the U.S. sanctions, bringing meals and drugs, you realize. And the entire enterprise of being traitors, you realize, I believe there’s an entire — there’s in some way some wrongheaded notion of what treason is and what patriotism is, and there’s some notion that if you happen to disobey the orders of your authorities or the legal guidelines of your authorities, you’re being treasonous. However I consider the federal government is being treasonous and the federal government is being unpatriotic when the federal government violates the basic rights of human beings, when the federal government invades one other nation, a rustic that has not attacked it, a rustic that has not threatened it. When our authorities invades one other nation and drops bombs and kills big numbers of individuals, after which Individuals have the center to go to that nation and produce folks meals and drugs or go to see what’s going on, as many Individuals did after they went to Vietnam, I believe these are probably the most patriotic Individuals.
And, you realize, if you happen to outline patriotism as obedience to the federal government, then you might be, I believe, following a sort of totalitarian precept, as a result of that’s the precept of a totalitarian state, that you just do what the federal government tells you to do. And democracy signifies that the federal government is an instrument of the folks. That is the Declaration of Independence. Governments are synthetic entities arrange in an effort to protect the rights, equal proper to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness of individuals. When the federal government violates these rights, it’s the responsibility of individuals to defy that authorities. That’s patriotism.
AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn, you referred to as your autobiography You Can’t Be Impartial on a Shifting Practice. Why?
HOWARD ZINN: Properly, it got here from — I stole it from myself. That’s, I used to say that to my lessons in the beginning of each class. I wished to be sincere with them about the truth that they weren’t coming into a category the place the instructor could be impartial. It was not going to be a category the place the instructor spent a half a yr or yr with the scholars, and they’d do not know the place the instructor stood on the essential points. This isn’t going to be a impartial class, I mentioned. I don’t consider in neutrality. I consider neutrality is unimaginable, as a result of the world is already transferring in sure instructions. Wars are occurring. Kids are ravenous. And to be impartial, to faux to neutrality, to not take a stand in a scenario like that, is to collaborate with no matter is occurring, to permit it to occur. I didn’t need to be a collaborator with what was taking place. I wished to enter into historical past. I wished to play a job. I wished my college students to play a job. I wished us to intercede. I wished my historical past to intercede and to take a stand on behalf of peace, on behalf of a racial equality or sexual equality. And so I wished my college students to know that proper from the start, know you’ll be able to’t be impartial on a transferring prepare.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Howard Zinn, becoming a member of us in 2005 in Democracy Now!’s firehouse studio at Downtown Group Tv, DCTV. Once we come again, we proceed with our Zinntennial, with a speech Howard Zinn made two weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, launched what grew to become the longest warfare in U.S. historical past. Again in 30 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: “Ludlow Bloodbath” by Woody Guthrie, a few Colorado militia gunning down coal strikers in 1914. Howard Zinn as soon as mentioned listening to the music was a defining second for him and impressed him to analysis and inform tales disregarded of most historical past books.
That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we proceed with our Zinntennial. That’s proper, remembering the legendary historian Howard Zinn on what would have been his a centesimal birthday.
On October twenty first, 2001, Howard Zinn gave a significant address on the College of Vermont, Burlington. This was simply over a month after the 9/11 assaults and two weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, starting what grew to become the longest warfare in U.S. historical past. It was a yr in the past this month when the U.S. lastly withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban regained management. That is Howard Zinn in 2001.
HOWARD ZINN: I emphasize this as a result of we now have to know what we’re doing in Afghanistan to finish terrorism, as a result of we have to finish terrorism. We completely want to finish terrorism. Now we have to, sure. And we now have to start to consider what we have to do to finish terrorism. And we now have to consider whether or not bombing Afghanistan goes to finish terrorism. And since — how a lot pondering went into this? Actually, how a lot pondering went into this? You suppose there are all these minds. It doesn’t matter what number of minds you’ve gotten. It’s the standard of thoughts that counts. And it’s additionally, you realize, the morality of those minds, and the understanding of those minds that there could also be folks in different international locations who should dwell as a lot as these folks within the Twin Towers should dwell. You recognize, that’s — you realize.
So, nicely, folks say, “Yeah, however you need to do one thing.” I agree. You recognize, they are saying, “You may’t do nothing.” I agree. You should do one thing. I just like the logic: You should do one thing, subsequently bomb. I don’t get it. I imply, that’s the one doable factor you are able to do, if you happen to should do one thing?
The medical college students, you realize, are confronted with — you realize, anyone has a leg an infection. They don’t know what to do about it. Amputate it. The medical college students take the Oath of Hippocrates. You don’t know what to do. One thing is dangerous, actually dangerous. You should do one thing. However the first rule is: Do no hurt. Let’s — it’s a must to begin off with that: Do no hurt. We’re doing nice hurt. Nice hurt, you see?
And if you happen to suppose we’re not, attempt to think about — they are saying, “Oh, nicely, you realize, we’re not killing that many individuals. We’re not killing that many individuals.” We don’t know the way many individuals we’re killing, initially, as a result of you’ll be able to’t consider the federal government. I’m not saying you’ll be able to consider the Taliban. No, all governments lie. Proper? However it’s only a matter of frequent sense and figuring out the historical past of bombing that we all know, and since there are little reviews that come by, even by the filter of management and so forth.
You recognize, there have been reporters in villages in Afghanistan reporting. There they have been, proper on the spot, and there have been these homes destroyed, and there have been these freshly dug graves, and there was a person who misplaced his spouse and 4 children in a bombing. And there — and there’s some issues are admitted. Sure, a Pink Cross compound was hit — proper? — on the identical day that Bush is asking folks to contribute to the Pink Cross. Properly, if you happen to’re going to — we’re going to contribute to the Pink Cross, first guarantee us that you just’re not going to bomb the Pink Cross, you see.
And, no, folks — you realize, if you happen to suppose what we’re doing in Afghanistan will not be very a lot, you realize, contemplate that there are a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals in Afghanistan who’re fleeing the cities and cities wherein they dwell. Have you ever seen the photographs of Afghan refugees? It began as quickly as Bush promised to bomb, as a result of there are specific American guarantees they’ll depend on, you see, and that’s certainly one of them. And the refugees instantly started transferring. And so that you see the photographs of those households with all their possessions, or as lots of their possessions they stick with it the backs and their wagons, and their children, and a whole bunch of 1000’s of them. So this isn’t a small factor. This isn’t simply, “Oh, we’re killing a couple of folks, and that’s a value we’re keen to pay.” We’re terrorizing Afghanistan. I’m not exaggerating.
The people who find themselves — the people who find themselves in Kabul — the people who find themselves in Kabul — the people who find themselves in Kabul and folks in different places in Afghanistan must dwell with the concern of those bombs. Have you ever lived underneath bombs? Have you learnt what it’s — are you able to think about what it’s like? And also you’re in a really backward, technologically — proper? — undeveloped nation, and there are these monster machines coming over with this ferocious noise and the lights and the flashing and the explosions. And it’s — sure, we’re terrorizing folks in Afghanistan. And it’s not — it’s not proper to reply to the truth that we now have been terrorized, as we now have, not proper to reply to that by terrorizing different folks. Completely fallacious, you see. You recognize.
And moreover, it’s not going to assist. And you can say, “Properly, possibly it could be price doing, as a result of this may finish terrorism.” I imply, how a lot frequent sense does it take to know that you just can’t finish terrorism by indiscriminately simply throwing bombs on Afghanistan. After which, after all, you get reviews: “Now we have now destroyed three of their camps. We’ve destroyed 4” — who’re you kidding? What number of hours does it take to arrange a coaching camp? How straightforward it’s to maneuver from one place to a different?
I imply, the historical past of bombing is usually a historical past of futility. Sure, actually. You recognize, there’s a ebook that got here out not too long ago referred to as A Historical past of Bombing. A Historical past of Bombing. I used to be a bombardier. And, positive, the expertise has improved, though it was claimed — even then, it was claimed our bombs are sensible, as a result of we’re utilizing this particular bombsight, this Norden bombsight. Individuals actually believed that. Even we believed that, we who have been utilizing the bombsight, as a result of we’d bomb at 11,000 toes or 4,000 toes, and we obtained fairly near the goal. However then, after we flew on missions, we have been bombing at 30,000 toes, and the bombs went everywhere and killed an terrible lot of individuals, all kinds of individuals. You recognize, didn’t matter.
I say it didn’t matter, as a result of these folks have been ciphers. Who have been these folks? I didn’t even see them. You bomb, you bomb one other nation, you don’t see these folks. You’re bombing from excessive altitudes. You recognize, our planes are bombing at excessive altitudes as a result of they need to escape anti-aircraft hearth, proper? No, you don’t see something on the bottom. You see flashes, and also you see explosions and should take footage, however you don’t — you don’t hear screams. You don’t see blood. You don’t see severed limbs. You don’t see any of that.
We noticed that in New York. We noticed these scenes in New York. They horrified us. We noticed folks in panic, working, working from that — these explosions, that giant pile of particles, you realize, and we have been horrified. These have been actual folks to us. However then, if we bomb different international locations, these persons are not actual to us.
One of many issues I considered after I obtained over my preliminary horror at what occurred in New York, I believed, “Hey, that’s what it will need to have been like after I was bombing in Europe.” That’s what it will need to have been like, and I didn’t even understand it, as a result of these folks have been ciphers to me, you see. After which I believed, “Perhaps to those terrorists, that’s what it’s for them.” Oh, 6,000 human beings. You recognize, no, they’ve a mission. They’ve a aim. No. They’re not — they’re not human beings to terrorists. And folks in different components of the world haven’t been human beings to us.
If there’s something we would get out of this expertise, it’s that we would take that horror that we now have felt taking a look at these scenes in New York, and compassion that we now have felt for the individuals who endured this and their households, and prolong this to folks in different components of the world who’ve been enduring this — enduring this for a really very long time. And that does imply — that does imply inspecting america and our insurance policies.
You recognize, if you happen to — as a result of, you realize, once you do this, once you recommend that, say, “You recognize what? I believe possibly we ought to have a look at ourselves and our insurance policies,” folks say, “Oh, you’re justifying what occurred.” No, no, completely not. To elucidate is to not justify. However if you happen to don’t need to clarify something, you’ll by no means be taught something. So it’s a must to — it’s a must to perceive, it’s a must to clarify, with out justifying.
And it’s a must to look — sure, it’s a must to dig down and see if you happen to can determine what’s on the root of this terrorism, as a result of there’s something on the root in addition to, you realize, irrational, murderous feeling. And, sure, this was murderous, fanatical feeling. However these weren’t merely madmen, who simply — you realize, there are folks, like, who simply go berserk and kill everyone in sight, proper? We all know that, as a result of we’ve seen that in our nation, when anyone simply — you realize, one thing goes haywire in them, they usually simply go wild. And so they — no, it’s not that. Terrorism will not be that type of factor. There’s one thing beneath that, you realize, that fanaticism, which can have a core of reality to it. That’s, there’s one thing within the core of perception of those terrorists which can even be on the core of perception of tens of millions of different folks on the planet who usually are not terrorists, who’re indignant at American coverage however who usually are not fanatic sufficient to go and kill Individuals as a result of they’re indignant at our coverage, however who’re able to doing that if they’re much more aroused, and even when we start even doing extra issues to anger them. There’s an — you may say there’s a reservoir of doable terrorists amongst all these folks on the planet who’ve suffered because of U.S, overseas coverage.
Now, I don’t know if you happen to suppose I’m exaggerating after I say there are tens of millions of individuals on the planet who’ve suffered because of U.S. overseas coverage. However, sure, there are. And Bush, at a current press convention, mentioned one thing like, “I don’t perceive why these folks hate us.” No, I don’t — you realize, mentioned, “We’re good.” That’s what he mentioned. “We’re good.” You recognize, have a look at me. I’m good. You recognize. Properly, generally america is sweet. Sure, there are lots of good issues about america. And sure, there are occasions when america is sweet. After which there are occasions, sadly many occasions, too many occasions, when america has been dangerous, evil actually, and has carried out insurance policies which have resulted within the deaths of, sure, tens of millions of individuals.
AMY GOODMAN: Legendary historian Howard Zinn, talking on the College of Vermont in Burlington in 2001, simply two weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and launched what grew to become the longest warfare in U.S. historical past. Again with our Zinntennial in a second.
AMY GOODMAN: “Prayer for Amerikkka pt. 1 & 2” by the trumpeter jaimie department’s group Fly or Die. jaimie died August twenty second on the age of 39 in Brooklyn, New York.
That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Struggle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we proceed with our Zinntennial. That’s proper, the legendary historian Howard Zinn would have been 100 years previous at the moment. In 2006, we featured a speech Zinn delivered in Madison, Wisconsin, as he obtained the Haven Middle’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Vital Scholarship. His lecture was titled “The Makes use of of Historical past and the Struggle on Terrorism.”
HOWARD ZINN: I used to be speaking to my barber the opposite day, as a result of we at all times talk about world politics. And he’s completely politically unpredictable, as most barbers are, you see. He mentioned, “Howard,” he mentioned, “you realize, you and I disagree on many issues, however on one factor we agree: Struggle solves nothing.” And I believed, “Yeah.” It’s not arduous for folks to understand that.
And there once more, historical past is beneficial. We’ve had a historical past of warfare after warfare after warfare after warfare. What have they solved? What have they completed? Even World Struggle II, the “good warfare,” the warfare wherein I volunteered, the warfare wherein I dropped bombs, the warfare after which, you realize, I obtained a letter from Basic Marshall, basic of generals, a letter addressed personally to me, and to 16 million others, wherein he mentioned, “We’ve received the warfare. It is going to be a brand new world.” Properly, after all, it wasn’t a brand new world. It hasn’t been a brand new world, warfare after warfare after warfare.
There are specific — I got here out of that warfare, the warfare wherein I had volunteered, the warfare wherein I used to be an enthusiastic bombardier, I got here out of that warfare with sure concepts, which simply developed step by step on the finish of the warfare, concepts about warfare. One, that warfare corrupts everyone who engages in it. Struggle poisons everyone who engages in it. You begin off as the great guys, as we did in World Struggle II. They’re the dangerous guys. They’re the fascists. What could possibly be worse? So that they’re the dangerous guys, we’re the great guys. And because the warfare goes on, the great guys start behaving just like the dangerous guys. You may hint this again to the Peloponnesian Struggle. You may hint it again to the great man, the Athenians, and the dangerous guys, the Spartans. And after some time, the Athenians turn out to be ruthless and merciless, just like the Spartans.
And we did that in World Struggle II. We, after Hitler dedicated his atrocities, we dedicated our atrocities — you realize, our killing of 600,000 civilians in Japan, our killing of in all probability an equal variety of civilians in Germany. These, they weren’t Hitler, they weren’t Tojo. They weren’t — no, they have been simply atypical folks, like we’re atypical folks dwelling in a rustic that may be a marauding nation, they usually have been dwelling in international locations that have been marauding international locations, they usually have been caught up in no matter it was and afraid to talk up. And I don’t know, I got here to the conclusion, sure, warfare poisons everyone.
And warfare — this is a crucial factor to remember, that once you go to warfare in opposition to a tyrant — and this was one of many claims: “Oh, we’re going to eliminate Saddam Hussein,” which was, after all, nonsense. They didn’t — did our authorities care that Saddam Hussein tyrannized his personal folks? We helped him tyrannize his folks. We helped him fuel the Kurds. We helped him accumulate weapons of mass destruction, actually.
However once you go to warfare in opposition to a tyrant, the folks you kill within the warfare are the victims of the tyrant. The folks we killed in Germany have been the victims of Hitler. The folks we killed in Japan have been the victims of the Japan Imperial Military, you realize. And the individuals who die in wars are an increasing number of and extra people who find themselves not within the army. You might know this concerning the completely different ratio of civilian-to-military deaths in warfare, how in World Struggle I, 10 army useless for one civilian useless; in World Struggle II, it was 50-50, half army, half civilian; in Vietnam, it was 70% civilian and 30% army; and within the wars since then, it’s 80% and 85% civilian.
I grew to become buddies a couple of years in the past with an Italian warfare surgeon named Gino Strada. He spent 10 years, 15 years doing surgical procedure on warfare victims all around the world. And he wrote a ebook about it, Inexperienced Parrots: Diary of a Struggle Surgeon. He mentioned in all of the sufferers that he operated on in Iraq and Afghanistan and in every single place, 85% of them have been civilians, one-third of them, youngsters. When you perceive, and if folks perceive, and if you happen to unfold the phrase of this understanding, that no matter is instructed to you about warfare and the way we should go to warfare, and regardless of the menace is or regardless of the aim is — a democracy or liberty — it would at all times be a warfare in opposition to youngsters. They’re those who will die in giant numbers.
So, warfare — nicely, Einstein mentioned this after World Struggle I. He mentioned, “Struggle can’t be humanized. It will probably solely be abolished.” Struggle must be abolished, you realize. And it’s — I do know it’s an extended shot. I perceive that. However it’s a must to — when one thing’s an extended shot, nevertheless it must be completed, it’s a must to begin doing it. Simply because the ending of slavery on this nation within the 1830s was a very lengthy shot, however folks caught at it, and it took 30 years, however slavery was completed away with. And we are able to see this many times. So, we now have a job to do. Now we have a lot of issues to do.
One of many issues we are able to be taught from historical past is that historical past will not be solely a historical past of issues inflicted on us by the powers that be. Historical past can be a historical past of resistance. It’s a historical past of people that endure tyranny for many years, however who finally stand up and overthrow the dictator. We’ve seen this in nation after nation, shock after shock. Rulers who appear to have whole management, they all of the sudden get up someday, and there are 1,000,000 folks within the streets, they usually pack up and depart. This has occurred within the Philippines, in Yemen, throughout, in Nepal. Million folks within the streets, after which the ruler has to get out of the best way. So, that is what we’re aiming for on this nation.
All the things we do is essential. Each little factor we do, each picket line we stroll on, each letter we write, each act of civil disobedience we have interaction in, any recruiter that we speak to, any dad or mum that we speak to, any GI that we speak to, any younger individual that we speak to, something we do at school, exterior of sophistication, every thing we do within the route of a distinct world is essential, despite the fact that in the intervening time they appear futile, as a result of that’s how change comes about. Change comes about when tens of millions of individuals do little issues, which at sure factors in historical past come collectively, after which one thing good and one thing essential occurs.
AMY GOODMAN: Legendary historian Howard Zinn, talking in 2006. Properly, three years later, in Could of 2009, the yr earlier than he died, Howard Zinn joined us within the Democracy Now! studio as he launched the paperback version of A Younger Individuals’s Historical past of america. I requested him if he thought his retelling of historical past about Columbus and different conventional heroes was appropriate for kids.
HOWARD ZINN: It’s true that individuals have requested that query many times. You recognize, ought to we inform children that Columbus, whom they’ve been instructed was a terrific hero, that Columbus mutilated Indians and kidnapped them and killed them in pursuit of gold? Ought to we inform those who Theodore Roosevelt, who’s held up as certainly one of our nice presidents, was actually a warmonger who cherished army exploits and who congratulated an American basic who dedicated a bloodbath within the Philippines? Ought to we inform younger those who?
And I believe the reply is: We ought to be sincere with younger folks; we should always not deceive them. We ought to be sincere concerning the historical past of our nation. And we ought to be not solely taking down the standard heroes, like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, however we ought to be giving younger folks an alternate set of heroes.
As an alternative of Theodore Roosevelt, inform them about Mark Twain. Mark Twain — nicely, Mark Twain, everyone learns about because the writer of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, however after we go to high school, we don’t find out about Mark Twain because the vice chairman of the Anti-Imperialist League. We aren’t instructed that Mark Twain denounced Theodore Roosevelt for approving this bloodbath within the Philippines. No.
We need to give younger folks ultimate figures like Helen Keller. And I keep in mind studying about Helen Keller. All people learns about Helen Keller, you realize, a disabled one who overcame her handicaps and have become well-known. However folks don’t be taught at school and younger folks don’t be taught at school what we would like them to be taught after we do books like A Younger Individuals’s Historical past of america, that Helen Keller was a socialist. She was a labor organizer. She refused to cross a picket line that was picketing a theater displaying a play about her.
And so, there are these alternate heroes in American historical past. There’s Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses. There are the heroes of the civil rights motion. There are lots of people who’re obscure, who usually are not identified. Now we have — on this Younger Individuals’s Historical past, we now have a younger hero who was sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to depart the entrance of the bus. And that was earlier than Rosa Parks. I imply, Rosa Parks is justifiably well-known for refusing to depart her seat, and she or he obtained arrested, and that was the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and actually the start of a terrific motion within the South. However this 15-year-old lady did it first. And so, we now have lots of — we are attempting to convey lots of these obscure folks again into the forefront of our consideration and encourage younger folks to say, “That is the best way to dwell.”
AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn within the Democracy Now! studio in 2009. Tune in Labor Day for an expanded Zinntennial, our tribute to Howard Zinn to mark what would have been his a centesimal birthday. We’ll embody dramatic readings from Voices of a Individuals’s Historical past, together with Alfre Woodard studying the phrases of the labor activist Mom Jones.
Particular due to Mike Burke, Neil Shibata and Brendan Allen. I’m Amy Goodman.