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War, by Howard Zinn

    As I write this, it looks like war. 

    This, in spite of the obvious lack of enthusiasm in the country for
    war. The polls that register "approve" or "disapprove" can only count
    numbers, they cannot test the depth of feeling. And there are many
    signs that the support for war is shallow and shaky and ambivalent..
    That's why the numbers showing approval for war have been steadily
    going down. 

    This administration will not likely be stopped, though it knows its
    support is thin.  In fact, that is undoubtedly why it is in such a
    hurry; it wants to go to war before the support declines even further.

    The assumption is that once the soldiers are in combat, the American
    people will unite behind the war. The television screens will be
    dominated by images showing "smart bombs" exploding, and the Secretary
    of Defense will assure the American people that civilian casualties
    are being kept to a minimum. (We're in the age of megadeaths, and any
    number of casualties less than a million is no cause for concern). 

    This is the way it has been. Unity behind the president in time of
    war. But it may not be that way again. 

    The anti-war movement will not likely surrender to the martial
    atmosphere. The hundreds of thousands who marched in Washington and
    San Francisco and New York and Boston - and in villages, towns, cities
    all over the country from Georgia to Montana - will not meekly
    withdraw. Unlike the shallow support for the war, the opposition to
    the war is deep, cannot be easily dislodged or frightened into

    Indeed, the anti-war feelings are bound to become more intense. To the
    demand "Support Our GIs", the movement will be able to reply: "Yes, we
    support our GIs, we want them to live, we want them to be brought
    home. The government is not supporting them. It is sending them to
    die, or to be wounded, or to be poisoned by our own depleted uranium

    No, our casualties will not be numerous, but every single one will be
    a waste of an important human life. We will insist that this
    government be held responsible for every death, every dismemberment,
    every case of sickness, every case of psychic trauma caused by the
    shock of war. 

    And though the media will be blocked from access to the dead and
    wounded of Iraq, though the human tragedy unfolding in Iraq will be
    told in numbers, in abstractions, and not in the stories of real human
    beings, real children, real mothers and fathers - the movement will
    find a way to tell that story. And when it does, the American people,
    who can be cold to death on "the other side", but who also wake up
    when "the other side" is suddenly seen as a man, a woman, a child -
    just like us - will respond. 

    This is not a fantasy, not a vain hope. It happened in the Vietnam
    years. For a long time, what was being done to the peasants of Vietnam
    was concealed by statistics, the "body count", without bodies being
    shown, without faces being shown, without pain, fear, anguish shown.
    But then the stories began to come through - the story of the My Lai
    massacre, the stories told by returning GIs of atrocities they had
    participated in. 

    And the pictures appeared - the little girl struck by napalm running
    down the road, her skin shredding, the mothers holding their babies to
    them in the trenches as GIs poured rounds of bullets from automatic
    rifles into their bodies. 

    When those stories began to come out, when the photos were seen, the
    American people could not fail to be moved. The war "against
    Communism" was seen as a war against poor peasants in a tiny country
    half the world away. 

    At some point in this coming war, and no one can say when, the lies
    coming from the administration - "the death of this family was an
    accident", "we apologize for the dismemberment of this child", "this
    was an intelligence mistake", "a radar misfunction" - will begin to
    come apart. 

    How soon that will happen depends not only on the millions now -
    whether actively or silently -- in the anti-war movement, but also on
    the emergence of whistle blowers inside the Establishment who begin to
    talk, of journalists who become tired of being manipulated by the
    government, and begin to write to truth. . And of dissident soldiers
    sick of a war that is not a war but a massacre --how else describe the
    mayhem caused by the most powerful military machine on earth raining
    thousands of bombs on a fifth-rate military power already reduced to
    poverty by two wars and ten years of economic sanctions? 

    The anti-war movement has the responsibility of encouraging defections
    from the war machine. It does this simply by its existence, by its
    example, by its persistence, by its voices reaching out over the walls
    of government control and speaking to the consciences of people. 

    Those voices have already become a chorus, joined by Americans in all
    walks of life, of all ages, in every part of the country. 

    There is a basic weakness in governments, however massive their
    armies, however wealthy they are, however they control the information
    given to the public, because their power depends on the obedience of
    citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists and writers
    and teachers and artists. When these people begin to suspect they have
    been deceived, and withdraw their support, the government loses its
    legitimacy, and its power. 

    We have seen this happen in recent decades, all around the globe.
    Leaders who were apparently all-powerful, surrounded by their
    generals, suddenly faced the anger of an aroused people, the hundreds
    of thousands in the streets and the reluctance of the soldiers to
    fire, and those leaders soon rushed to the airport, carrying their
    suitcases of money with them. 

    The process of undermining the legitimacy of this government has
    begun. There has been a worm eating at the innards of its complacency
    all along - the knowledge of the American public, buried, but in a
    very shallow grave, easy to disinter, that this government came to
    power by a political coup, not by popular will. 

    The movement should not let this be forgotten. 

    The first steps to de-legitimize this government are being taken, in
    small but significant ways. The wife of the President must call off a
    gathering of poets in the White House because the poets have rebelled,
    because they see the march to war as a violation of the most sacred
    values of poets through the ages. 

    The generals who led the Gulf War of 1991 speak out against this
    impending war as foolish, unnecessary, dangerous. The C.I.A.
    contradicts the president by saying Saddam Hussein is not likely to
    use his weapons unless he is attacked. 

    All across the country - not just the great metropolitan centers, like
    Chicago, but places like Boesman, Montana, Des Moines, Iowa, San Luis
    Obispo, California, Nederland, Colorado, Tacoma, Washington, York,
    Pennsylvania, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gary, Indiana, Carrboro, North
    Carolina -- fifty-seven cities and counties in all -- have passed
    resolutions against the war, responding to their citizens. 

    The actions will multiply, once the war has begun. The stakes will be
    higher. People will be dying every day. The responsibility of the
    peace movement will be huge - to speak to what people may feel but are
    hesitant to say. To say that this is a war for oil, for business.
    Bring back the Vietnam-era poster: "War Is Good For Business - Invest
    your Son". (In this morning's Boston Globe, a headline: "Extra $15
    Billion for Military Would Profit New England Firms") 

    Yes, no blood for Oil, no blood for Bush, no blood for Rumsfeld or
    Cheney or Powell. No blood for political ambition, for grandiose
    designs of empire. 

    No action should be seen as too small, no non-violent action should be
    seen as too large. The calls now for the impeachment of George Bush
    should multiply. The constitutional requirement "high crimes and
    misdemeanors" certainly applies to sending our young halfway around
    the world to kill and be killed in a war of aggression against a
    people who have not attacked us. 

    Those poets troubled Laura Bush because by bringing the war into her
    ceremony they were doing something "inappropriate". That should be the
    key; people will continue to do "inappropriate" things, because that
    brings attention - the rejection of propriety, the refusal to be
    "professional" (which usually means not breaking out of the box in
    which your business or your profession insists you stay in). 

    The absurdity of this war is so starkly clear that people who have
    never been involved in an anti-war demonstration have been showing up
    in huge numbers at recent rallies. Anyone who has been to one of them
    can testify to the numbers of young people present, obviously doing
    this for the first time. 

    Arguments for the war are paper thin and fall apart at first touch.
    Weapons of mass destruction? Iraq may develop one nuclear bomb (though
    the UN inspectors find no sign of development) - but Israel has 200
    nuclear weapons and the US has 20,000 and six other countries have
    undisclosed numbers. Saddam Hussein a tyrant? Undoubtedly, like many
    others in the world? A threat to the world? Then how come the rest of
    the world, much closer to Iraq, does not want war? Defending
    ourselves? The most incredible statement of all. Fighting terrorism?
    No connection found between Sept. 11 and Iraq. 

    I believe it is the obvious emptiness of the administration position
    that is responsible for the unprecedentedly quick growth of the
    anti-war movement. And for the emergence of new voices, unheard
    before, speaking "inappropriately" outside their professional
    boundaries. 1500 historians have signed an anti-war petition.
    Businessmen, clergy, have put full page ads in newspapers. All
    refusing to stick to their "profession" and instead professing that
    they are human beings first. 

    I think of Sean Penn traveling to Baghdad, in spite of mutterings
    about patriotism. Or Jessica Lange, speaking at a movie festival in
    Spain: "I despise George Bush and his administration." The actress
    Renee Zellweger spoke to a reporter for the Boston Globe, about "how
    public opinion is manipulated by what we're told. You see it all the
    time, especially now....The good will of the American people is being
    manipulated. It gives me the chills...I'm so going to go to jail this

    Rap artists have been speaking out on war, on injustice. The rapper
    Mr. Lif says: "I think people have been on vacation and it's time to
    wake up. We need to look at our economic, social and foreign policies
    and not be duped into believing the spin that comes from the
    government and the media." 

    In the cartoon, "The Boondocks", which reaches 20 million readers
    every day, the cartoonist Aaron Magruder has his character, a black
    youngster named Huey Freedman, say the following: "In this time of war
    against Osama bin Laden and the oppressive Taliban regime, we are
    thankful that OUR leader isn't the spoiled son of a powerful
    politician from a wealthy oil family who is supported by religious
    fundamentalists, operates through clandestine organizations, has no
    respect for the democratic electoral process, bombs innocents, and
    uses war to deny people their civil liberties. Amen." 

    The voices will multiply. The actions, from silent vigils to acts of
    civil disobedience (three nuns are facing long jail terms for pouring
    their blood on missile silos in Colorado), will multiply. 

    If Bush starts a war, he will be responsible for the lives lost, the
    children crippled, the terrorizing of millions of ordinary people, the
    American GIs not returning to their families. And all of us will be
    responsible for bringing that to a halt. 

    Men who have no respect for human life or for freedom or justice have
    taken over this beautiful country of ours. It will be up to the
    American people to take it back.

    Dr. Howard Zinn is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston

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Last edited March 6, 2003 12:07 pm CentralTimeUSA by MichaelHerman
© 1998-2020 Michael Herman and www.michaelherman.com, unless signed by another author or organization. Please do not reprint or distribute for commercial purposes without permission and full attribution, including web address and this copyright notice. Permission has always been granted gladly to those who contact me and say something about themselves, their work, and their use of these materials. Thank you and good luck! - Michael