Our Job is a Simple One:
by Howard Zinn
The Progressive magazine,
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.
I am not going to go into the Bush arguments,
if that's what they are. No, don't make me do that.
Don't make me point out the U.S. violations
of international law.
Don't make me point out that even if Saddam
Hussein has not gone along with this resolution or that resolution
of the U.N. Security Council, the United States is about to violate
the fundamental charter of the United Nations, which declares
that nations may not initiate wars.
No, don't make me do that.
Don't make me point out how this fear
of weapons of mass destruction does not extend to the United States
Bush officials think if they use that phrase "weapons of
mass destruction" again and again and again that people will
cower, cower, cower. Never mind that Iraq is a fifth-rate military
power and not even the strongest military in the region. Israel,
with 200 nuclear weapons, has that distinction. Bush is not demanding
that Ariel Sharon rid himself of his weapons of mass destruction
or face "regime change."
The media are a pitiful lot. They don't
give us any history, they don't give us any analysis, they don't
tell us anything. They don't raise the most basic questions: Who
has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world by far?
Who has used weapons of mass destruction more than any other nation?
Who has killed more people in this world with weapons of mass
destruction than any other nation? The answer: the United States.
Please, I don't want to hear anything
more about Saddam Hussein's possibly making a nuclear bomb in
two years, in five years, nobody knows.
We have 10,000 nuclear weapons.
No, I don't want to talk about that. It's
not worth talking about.
I 'd like to make a few general points
about war. I was a bombardier in the Air Force during World War
II. I say this not to indicate that I am an expert on war-although,
in fact, I am. People who've served in the military, they have
a thousand different viewpoints, so nobody can say, "Oh,
I served in the military, therefore you have to listen to me."
However, in my case . . . I served in the best of wars. The neatest
of wars. The war that I killed the most people, but for good purpose.
The war that had wonderful motives, at least on the part of some
l people. But that war ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and was
interspersed with other atrocities committed by the good guys
against the bad guys. I, being one of the good guys, feel very
proud that I was on the good side, and that if atrocities were
to be committed, they were to be committed by good guys.
One point: War always has unintended consequences.
You start a war, you never know how it ends.
Another point: By now we have reached
a point in human history when the means of war have become so
horrible that they exceed any possible good that can come out
of using them.
Since World War II, war has taken its
toll increasingly against civilians. In World War I, there was
a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians,
whereas in World War II that ratio got closer to one-to-one. And
after World War II, most of the people who have gotten killed
in wars have been civilians.
And by the way, I don't want to insist
on the distinction-and this is something to think about-between
innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi
soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the
Gulf War in 1991, in what way were they not innocent? The U.S.
Army just buried them-buried them-hundreds and hundreds and hundreds
of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down
in the so-called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating, already
defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren't
Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.
In war you kill the people who are the
victims of the tyrant you claim to be fighting against. That's
what you do.
And wars are always wars against children.
In every war, unforgivable numbers of children die.
This brings me to the last general point
I want to make. We ought to remind our neighbors, remind our friends,
remind everybody we can that if we really believe that all people
are created equal we cannot go to war.
If we really believe that the children
of Iraq have as much a right to live as the children of the United
States, then we cannot make war on Iraq.
And if we're going to have globalization,
let's have a globalization of human rights. Let's insist that
we consider the lives of people in China and Afghanistan and Iraq
and Israel and Palestine-that we consider the lives of all these
people-equal to one another, and therefore war can not be tolerated.
Howard Zinn is the author of "A Peoples
History of the United States. " This article is adapted from
a speech Zinn delivered in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 10,
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