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Howard Zinn on the History of the U.S. Government and CIA “Changing Regimes” Around the World

StoryNovember 28, 2002
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We turn now to an excerpt of a speech historian Howard Zinn gave earlier this month at Brown University. Howard Zinn is the author of “A People’s History of the United States.” Zinn talks about the Bush administration’s desire to invade Iraq. He talks about the history of the U.S. government and the CIA changing regimes around the world.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, on Thanksgiving, we bring you an hour-long talk from one of the country’s most respected historians, Howard Zinn. In his People’s History of the United States, Zinn breaks down the myths around the history of Thanksgiving. He writes, “When the Pilgrims came to New England, they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians.” Zinn quotes a Dutch traveler in New Netherland in 1656, who wrote, “the Indians … before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them,
… were ten times [more] numerous [than] they now are, … their population had been melted down by this disease, … nine-tenths of them have died.” Zinn estimates approximately 10 million Native peoples lived in the Americas before the so-called discovery of the New World by Columbus. A couple of centuries later, less than a million remain.

On this Thanksgiving Day, as the Bush administration prepares to wage war on Iraq, we present a recent lecture at Brown University by historian Howard Zinn.

HOWARD ZINN: I will talk about terrorism. Right? Isn’t that what people are talking about? War. I like to talk about what people are talking about — terrorism, war. I like to talk about what the president is talking about. He sets my agenda. After he speaks, I know where I stand, you see.

So, of course, the war on terrorism doesn’t take much thought to consider that a war on terrorism makes absolutely no sense. I mean, how can you make war on terrorism? I mean, you can make war on a particular place, you know, yes. But terrorism is not that sort of thing, right? Terrorism can spring from anywhere. It’s no particular place. You can’t single out a country and bomb it and declaring it you’re making war on terrorism. You know, it’s just that you don’t really want to do anything about terrorism. You really don’t. But you have to show you’re doing something, and so you pick out — pick out a really powerful country like Afghanistan, a country that can really fight back, a country that will really give you trouble, and you’ll bomb it, because it hasn’t been bombed enough. It hasn’t gone through enough war, hasn’t had enough starvation, hasn’t had enough refugees. So you’ll bomb it again for a year and declare that you are making a war against terrorism. You know, I mean, how absurd.

And all you have to do — there’s a simple test, right? We’ve been bombing Afghanistan for a year. You feel safer now?


HOWARD ZINN: Right? I mean, well, we know we don’t. In fact, they tell us we shouldn’t feel safer. They’re warning us every day: “There he is. Well, we don’t know where he is. But he’s somewhere.” You know — or is it a she? Is Osama bin Laden a cross-dresser? Where? You know, maybe he’s in Providence. Who knows? But we’ve been bombing for a year, and they keep warning us about more terrorist acts. And, you know, they’re very helpful. They tell us, “There’s going to be a terrorist act, probably, very soon. We don’t know where. We don’t know when.” What are you supposed to do?

And, I mean, terrorism, just by its nature, cannot be made war against. And the president — if any of you had the — what does it take? — the courage to listen to Bush’s State of the Union address — you know, I forced myself to listen to it, because some radio station said, “Will you comment on it?” And I said, “Really, must I? Must I listen to it? You know, must I listen to the president, and all the members of Congress sitting there and all getting up every five minutes and applauding?” It’s exactly like the pictures of the Supreme Soviet under Stalin. You know, really.

But if you listened to that, Bush started off his speech saying, “We are winning the war on terrorism.” Great. Then, if he says so, it must be true. Then, a few paragraphs later — a few paragraphs later, he says, “There are tens of thousands of trained terrorists all over the world.” Really. “And there are terrorists in at least a dozen countries.” Well, actually, sometimes they’ve said 20 countries, sometimes 30 countries. Right? They don’t know how many countries. They don’t know where the terrorists are.

And you’ll hear people say this: “Well, we have to do something.” You hear that a lot. I hear it a lot. When I say something gently — because I’m always speaking very gently, as you can see, about war and things like that. I say something gently against war, they say, “Yeah, but you have to do something.” And I agree immediately: You have to do something. But why war? Why? Why this?

There’s something — something fundamentally wrong here. It means that they don’t really care about terrorism, means they don’t want to make war on terror. If they really wanted to do something about terrorism, because terrorism is real — yeah, I mean, it’s real not only here. It’s real not only here in New York on September 11, 2001. It’s real all over the world. It’s real all over the world, in many ways with much, much greater damage done than even that was — what was done here in New York. So, yes, terrorism is real.

But if you want to do something about terrorism, you have to think intelligently about what it is and what’s behind it, and you have to think about it historically. And you think — have to think about it, you know, latitudinally. That is, where in other places have you seen terrorism? And you look at other instances of terrorism. When you look at the IRA, when you look at the Palestinian terrorism and suicide bombers, and you say, “What was the answer to that?” Well, the answer of the British to the IRA terrorism was force. And what did it do? Did it stop terrorism? No, because they didn’t get at the root of the problem, which was there was a grievance there. There was a deep grievance there. And the Israelis, how did they respond to suicide bombers? With their own terrorism, right? And again and again, and they repeat, keep repeating it. This history, it’s as if that history didn’t exist, that history of terrorism and responses to terrorism didn’t exist, because that history makes it plain: You can’t deal with terrorism by force. If Israel wanted to do something about terrorism, it would have to immediately get out of the Occupied Territories. That’s what it would have to do.

You have to find out what is it — what is it that makes so many people angry? The United States would have to look at the attacks on the twin towers and on the Pentagon and ask, “Why would people be angry at the twin towers and at the Pentagon?” Yeah, well, was it just an accident that they picked symbols of high finance and symbols of the military? You know, why didn’t they bomb Dunkin’ Donuts? You know. No, there must be a reason. It must have something to do with the United States as the symbol of economic power exerted all over the world and causing distress in so many parts of the world. It must be because the Pentagon is a symbol of American military might all over the world, a hundred or more military bases all over the world, American ships on every sea in the world, and causing anger, indignation among people all over the world, and especially among people in the Middle East, who watched the sanctions on Iraq take their toll in hundreds of thousands of lives in all these years since the first Gulf War, watching American military bases build up in Saudi Arabia, and now in Afghanistan, and now in Central Asia, now in Uzbekistan, in Turkmenistan, in Tajikistan, and how many — who knows how many other stans, you know, see?

But the people watching that and people feeling that, is it any wonder that they would feel anger at this colossus coming into their part of the world and causing great damage to human life and causing great suffering? Is it any wonder that out of the millions of people who would feel this anger, that a small number of them would become so fanatic enough and so desperate enough and so cruel enough — because terrorism is cruel and indefensible — to become cruel enough and fanatic enough to decide to blow up anything that’s, you know, a symbol, no matter how many innocent people are killed?

Sure, if the United States wanted to do something about terrorism, it would take those planes that carry bombs and would fill them with food and medicine and send them to the Middle East, you see? You know, it would fill up those ships, you know, yes, fill up those ships with food and medicine, send them to Africa.

You know, right after September 11th, a reporter, actually a New York Times reporter — I sort of always hesitate to say something nice about The New York Times. But sometimes if you read the inside pages in the last paragraphs, you will find interesting things in The New York Times. And they sent a report — this was in the inside pages of The New York Times. And they sent a reporter to check out people in different Third World countries on what was their reaction to September 11th. And all of their reactions, including in the Middle East, including in the Occupied Territories, you know, despite all the pictures that they insisted on showing on TV of happy Palestinians gloating over the destruction of the twin towers, the fact is that all of these people, wherever they interviewed them, said, “This was a terrible thing, and we are opposed to that.” But then they added something else. They said, “But, you know, you never became so involved and so angry at what had been happening to us.” And a person from South Africa said, “Millions of people are dying in Africa because of AIDS, and the United States is contributing a pittance to that, when they need billions and billions of dollars for medicine, which would help prolong the lives of people for 10 and 20 years, and you’re not doing anything about that. And so, yes, we sympathize with you, but you have to enlarge your compassion.” We are compassionate for the people. And that’s the way I feel. We are compassionate for the victims and the relatives of victims of 9/11. But we mustn’t draw a boundary around that compassion, as if we are the only people in the world who have suffered, you see.

And it’s shameful, shameful to drop bombs on people who need food and medicine. It’s a crime against humanity. And now we’re planning to do this to Iraq. I mean, it’s — when you think about it, it’s weird, you see. We bomb Afghanistan for a year, presumably to do something about terrorism. Well, it doesn’t do anything about terrorism, obviously. So we’ve got to do something else. Who should we pick on this time? Let’s find a place that’s rich in oil. There’s no point picking — right? — a place that has only sand. No, a place that has oil is a good place, and a place that has a tyrant, of somebody you can really put up there on the screen, and you know that this man is evil, and concentrate on him, because he is the only tyrant in the world. I mean, it’s interesting. Why are we going to bomb Iraq? Because we want to get rid of a tyrant.

And it’s interesting how people are closed in. They’re closed in, and they have — the administration and the press have the power to put walls around the subject and not let people look outside of it. And they have the power to close in a place, not only in space but in time — that is, to close people off from history. Because if they — if people could get outside those walls and look around, and if people could break through that time capsule, going back into history, it would become immediately evident that there’s something terribly wrong with the idea of bombing Afghanistan, of making war on Iraq.

You know, the tyrants, tyranny. I mean, Nigeria — right? — has just sentenced a woman to death — right? — for having sex outside of marriage. Right? And we are saying, well, we’re so happy. The reason we bombed — suddenly, they decided the reason they bombed Afghanistan was to get rid of the Taliban. That was not their intent, of course, but it was a nice, you know, sort of a freebie, got rid of Afghanistan. And so, we’re happy about it because this administration has always been conscious of the rights of women. And, you know — but Saudi Arabia treats women the way the Taliban did. And Nigeria is about to put a woman to death for the same kinds of things that the Taliban was outlawing. But, no, no, we have to concentrate on Iraq, on this particular tyrant.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to historian Howard Zinn. He was speaking at Brown University. We are going to go back to that speech. If you would like to get a video or audio copy, you can call 1-800-881-2359. That’s 1-800-881-2359. Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Juan Avila, “Sleeping Giant,” here on Democracy Now!, as we go back to historian Howard Zinn.

HOWARD ZINN: As if we have not loved tyrants in our past. I mean, it just takes some — a little history to see the relationship of the United States to tyrants in the world. No, we need to change this regime, because we believe in democracy; we would like Iraq to have free elections. That is a real laugh, you see. You know, we’re really making fun — and, of course, it is — it’s a joke having an election in which 99% or 100% vote. It’s a joke. Not like us. I mean, we have honest and clean elections, you see. But the idea we’re going to change Iraq, create a democracy in Iraq, because that’s what we do, because we love democracy, that’s where history comes in, because the United States has a history of regime change, a long history of regime change.

And I know they like to skip over a lot and go back to Japan and Germany. They say, “Oh, well, look” — you know, they seize upon that. And, of course, as soon as they seized upon Japan, they said, “We’ll do to Iraq what we did in Japan. You know, we’ll find General MacArthur, you know, and we’ll — or somebody like him, you know, and we’ll do lovely things to Iraq, like we did to Japan.” But immediately, the leading Japanese experts in the United States, you know, John Dower, Chalmers Johnson, immediately write, “No, this is not Japan. This is not the same situation. It’s a very, very different situation.”

But if you look at the history of regime change in the United States, that the United States has engaged in, you know, in 1953 — right? — we changed the regime. I always say “we,” because I like to associate myself with the government of the United States. And we changed the regime in Iran in 1953. Why? Because of the tyranny? Not really. But because they had — because Mosaddegh, the new leader of Iran, had nationalized the oil in Iran. That is intolerable. You can’t do anything that will hurt the oil corporations. If you do that, you have to go. And so Mosaddegh went — the CIA went to work, and Mosaddegh was gone, and we changed the regime. We put the shah in, a real believer in democracy, you know. Some of you may know the history of the shah. You know, don’t fool with the shah. Don’t fool with his secret police. Don’t fool with his torture chambers or — no, put the shah in.

The year later, we had another regime change in Guatemala. Well, they actually had had a democratic election in Guatemala. We can’t say the guy, you know, was military. No, they had an election, one of the few democratically elected — elections in the history of Guatemala. And this guy, Árbenz, is elected in Guatemala in 1951. And he’s not a communist. Now, it’s true, he’s not a Republican. And, you know — but he’s not a communist. He’s sort of, I don’t know, a little — he’s left enough of center, so he believes that the Guatemalan people should take back the land from the United Fruit Company that the United Fruit Company had taken from the people of Guatemala. So, he’s taking back. But consider this: To show he’s not really a revolutionary, he’s willing to pay United Fruit for the land. This is ridiculous. I mean, I wouldn’t, you see. But, you know, he didn’t — he didn’t ask me. You know, he’s a moderate. He’s going to pay them. He’s going to pay them according to the valuation they put on the land for tax purposes. Right? Unfair, unsatisfactory. And so the United States organizes an armed force to go in and overthrow the Árbenz regime — and put in what? A democratic regime? You know, to put in a military dictatorship in which terrorist squads become the rule and in which the Indigenous peoples of Guatemala then become the victims of murder, in the course of which over the years perhaps 200,000 people die in Guatemala. I mean, imagine 200,000 people in a country of what? I don’t know. Ten million people or so? And extrapolate that to the United States, and imagine how many millions of people would be dead in the United States. That was regime change, you see.

In 1973, another regime change in Chile, right? Again, a democratically elected leader in Chile, Allende. Isn’t it interesting how the United States is always saying, “Oh, we want to make sure they have free elections. We want to make sure. Yes, that’s what we really care about”? But when they have free elections, and they elect somebody we don’t like, well, that somebody has to go, especially if it’s somebody like Allende — again, not communist. I don’t know. Maybe he’s a little — maybe he’s a socialist. Maybe — who knows? Maybe he’s a little of a Marxist. Anyway, he’s done something Marxist-like. He — right? And he’s nationalizing things, taking away things from — the opposite of privatization, right? Publicization. He’s taking things and making them public enterprises. And so, what happened? So, the CIA and IT&T begin having meetings together. Not an unusual thing — right? — for a very powerful corporation and a very powerful arm of the government to fraternize and make plans together, Kissinger being the chairman of this, what was called the 40 Committee. And all this is detailed very, very neatly in the Senate investigation of 1975, the Church Committee hearings, which — and you can find a special little booklet on what happened in Chile in 1973. And so, well, the covert stuff doesn’t work — that is, trying to buy the election and defeat Allende, that doesn’t work. Buy the press, no. So they turn to phase two. You can hear — see this all described as the plans of Kissinger’s committee. And plan two is now we get tough. And so there’s a military coup in Chile, and the Allende regime is gone, and Allende is killed, and the — Pinochet comes in. And then you have murders and tortures, and people are herded into the soccer stadium and mowed down with machine guns. You know, that’s part of our history of regime change.

I mean, we have more. We changed the regime in, oh, Grenada, right. That was one of our great military victories, Grenada. Grenada was a real threat to our national security. And we took care of that.

And then Panama, another regime — we had to get rid of Noriega in Panama, because, well, Noriega was involved with drugs. He was the only person actually in Latin America who was involved with drugs. So, we — Noriega is the guy. Now, it’s true that Noriega had also worked for the CIA. But he was downsized. Something happened. He was no longer — no longer a good CIA man. He was behaving in ways that the United States didn’t like. And there he is. You know, he’s right near the Panama Canal, which is ours. You know, it’s in Panama, but it’s ours. It belongs to us, you know. As one of our senators said, “We stole it fair and square,” you know. And so, we invade Panama. We kill, we don’t know how many people. A thousand, 2,000 people in Panama. We destroy neighborhoods in Panama with our bombardment. There’s a very, very neat, just brief description of that in John le Carré’s novel, The Tailor of Panama. You ought to read the novel just for fun, but you will also come across that little description of the American invasion of Panama and the havoc wrought in Panama by that invasion. And so, another successful regime change.

So, yeah, if people knew a little history — and that’s the job of everybody here, right? That’s our job. It’s not the job of historians. Maybe historians are the last ones. Well, a few historians will do it. But really, you know, people — people are historians. People teach other people. People spread the word. People point people to books. People urge people to go to the library. People destroy television sets — I’m sorry. And people do something to spread the word and teach people this history. But if people — if American people knew this history, they would not believe for a moment what the administration is telling them. I mean, if you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday. If you were born yesterday, anybody in power can get up before the microphones and say to you, “We must go to war,” for this reason or that reason. “They’ve attacked us in the Gulf of Tonkin. They’ve done this, they’ve done that. There’s an evil man there, and he may do something to us. So, before that possibility, we’re going to do something to him.”

Actually, we’re not going to do it to him, we’re going to do it to his people. It’s important to keep that in mind. We’re not going to make a war — I mean, maybe Saddam Hussein will be killed or exiled, or maybe he’ll join Osama bin Laden in a bridge game somewhere. Who knows? But whatever happens to him, it’s the people of Iraq who will die and who will suffer in the war. That’s something that should be kept in mind. When you go to war against a tyrant, you kill the victims of the tyrant. That whole part of it is forgotten. It’s forgotten deliberately. I mean, you notice that in all the discussion that goes on around the impending war in Iraq and the discussion about regime change and the discussion about weapons inspections and about, you know, weapons of mass destruction, it’s — about also the political discussion, and you notice how little discussion there is about the human toll of the war.

You know, occasionally it comes in. It comes in mostly, when it does come in, when they’re thinking that maybe there will be American casualties. Really, that’s when it comes in. And even when the issue of American casualties comes in, it’s not even because they really are concerned about Americans who will die in this war. When they bring in the issue of American casualties, they just bring it in to discuss what political effect this will have, what effect this will have on the continuation of the war, as “Will there be enough casualties to cause the American government to change its policy?”

That’s what — they don’t care. I mean, it’s one of the fundamental lessons that people must learn in growing up politically. When they learn this lesson, everything changes. And the lesson is: Governments don’t give a damn about their own people, you see. When they learn that, you know, so much else falls into place, so much else becomes clear.

So, weapons of mass destruction. Right? That’s the mantra, and repeated so often, so often, so often, that, you know, there’s only one country in the world that has weapons of mass destruction. Really. And John Kerry, senator of Massachusetts, becomes well known for opposing the War in Vietnam, Vietnam veteran, and then, after, after Vietnam, supports every war the United States has engaged in, you see. And, well, we had a write-in campaign in Massachusetts, just to — for Randy Forsberg, just to show — just to show that we did not support John Kerry’s hypocrisy. Well, she didn’t win, but they make it hard for write-in campaigns. But the point is that this — and Kerry’s argument was, “Oh, well, you know, he’s a bad man. And he has these weapons.” Actually, we don’t know what weapons he has. And, you know, if you — just read the papers with just a small degree of care, and you can — and you have an idea of what weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein may have. He may have one nuclear bomb — not now, but a year from now or two years from now or five years from now.

And the administration, by the way, has — I know this is big news to you — the administration has lied about this again and again. You know, Bush, in a news conference on September 7th with Tony Blair, with his favorite pet, Bush says, “I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were finally denied access in 1998” — that’s a lie right there, right? They were not denied access, they were pulled out — “a report came out of the International Atomic Energy Agency that they were six months away from developing a weapon.” Well, and then he said, “I don’t know what more evidence we need.” Well, the fact is, it was a total falsehood. I always use the word “falsehood” instead of “lie,” because I don’t like to insult people, especially the president of the United States, or whoever he is. And he is — but, in fact, he had quoted the International Atomic Energy Agency. The International Atomic Agency said that this was absolutely untrue that Iraq was six months away from developing a nuclear weapon, and he said it never issued a report like that. And when this was pointed out to the press — deputy press secretary of the White House, he said, “Oh, well, he meant 1991, not 1998,” you see. And then they went back to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the spokesman for the agency said, “No report was ever such made, even in 1991.” Anyway, it becomes ridiculous. They might develop a nuclear weapon in one to five years. Israel has 200 nuclear weapons. The United States has 20,000 nuclear weapons. And even if Iraq developed a nuclear weapon, they likely, immediately, because they wouldn’t know what else to do with it, immediately use it. There’s something absurd. I mean, we’re living in an absurd world, but that’s one of the greatest absurdities, you know.

Oh, chemical and biological agents. Well, of course, the United States contributed a lot to whatever chemical and biological agents that — American companies sold the elements of biological and chemical agents to Saddam Hussein and, you know, licensed and sent over there. But, no, maybe he does. The thing about biological and chemical agents, they’re very easy to hide, you know. And so you never know. But what if he does? Is he the only country in the world that has chemical and biological agents? And by the way, there are eight countries in the world that have nuclear weapons. There are many countries in the world that have biological and chemical agents, including the United States. Would the United States agree to inspection to see what it has, what nerve gas it has, what deadly chemical and biological weapons are there in the arsenals of the United States? Would the United States agree to such an inspection? See, I am all for inspecting Iraq. I am all for disarming Iraq. But I am for inspecting and disarming every country in the world, really.

So, you know, if we really want democracy in Iraq, well, we would lift the sanctions, let the people of Iraq live and breathe, you know, and in time, they will get rid of their tyrant, as other places have gotten rid of their tyrants without war. Not going to make war on every country just to get rid of a tyrant, even if that really is your aim, and of course it isn’t really the aim, you know. But, no, all over the world tyrannies have toppled, and dictators have fled with their suitcases full of money, you know, without war made from the outside by some great, kindly superpower. You know, no, the people of Iraq at some point will do something to make their lives better. And bombs will not help them at all. And, you know, wherever crimes — wherever governments commit crimes against their own people, sure, those governments should change, but they should change from within.

And, of course, I believe that crimes are being committed by our government against our own people. I think that when the government — when the government takes the wealth of this country and, instead of using it for education, instead of using it for health, instead of using it for child care, instead of in using it to clean up the environment, it sucks the wealth out of the citizenry and uses this wealth for bombs and uses this wealth to make the 1% of the richest people even richer, that’s a crime against the people of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Howard Zinn, speaking at Brown University earlier this month. And we’re going to go back to his speech. If you’d like to order a video or audio cassette copy, you can call 1-800-881-2359. That’s 1-800-881-2359. We’ll be back with Howard Zinn in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: “The Sleeping Giant,” Juan Avila, here on Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report, as we return to historian Howard Zinn, speaking just a few weeks ago at Brown University.

HOWARD ZINN: The bombing will take place, and the government will — Rumsfeld and Fleischer and all those —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Condoleezza Rice.

HOWARD ZINN: What’s that?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Condoleezza Rice.

HOWARD ZINN: Condoleezza Rice, that’s right. It’s diversity. We believe in diversity. You know, it’s wonderful. There are more Jews and Black people up there supporting the war. That’s wonderful. Yes. But they will — you know, they will explain the killing of people by bombing, as it has been explained again and again, from Vietnam down to the present day and through, you know, Afghanistan. And if you’re watching, you know, Rumsfeld on television at his press conferences, and a reporter dares to bring up — and you know how timid reporters are about bringing these things up. You know how obsequious the press is when confronted with this panoply of greats in government. But Rumsfeld will say, “Well, this was an accident. Sorry, yes, we bombed this wedding party, but it was an accident. Yes, this was a truck carrying elders to a meeting in Kabul, but it was an accident. Well, this was an intelligence failure.”

Well, intelligence. I mean, the word “intelligence” always makes me laugh. But I remember I was in the Air Force. I didn’t mean to bring that up. But I was a bombardier in the Air Force. And I remember the laughs we would get listening to what was called intelligence briefings. But an intelligence error, and so we bombed, you know, this school and this hospital and this and that, you know, and all the — but, really, we only aim at military targets. Well, the word “accident” ought to be looked at carefully, because it may well be — that is, this pilot did not really intend to kill the people in this wedding party. Right? He intended for the bomb to drop somewhere else. But the fact is, bombs are not that smart, no matter what they say. You know, smart, smart — smart bombs are dropped by dumb people, you see, and on targets picked out by dumb people, you see.

And the killing of innocent people in a war is not an accident. Now, you can say it’s not deliberate. And that’s the distinction they make. When you say, you know, “There’s terrorism against us. September 11th was terrorism against us,” and then if you say to somebody, “But, you know, now we are engaging in terrorism ourselves,” they say, “Oh, no, there’s a difference. Difference is, they are deliberately killing civilians; we are accidentally killing civilians.” Well, there is something in between deliberate and accidental, and the word is “inevitable.” If you bomb a country, if you engage in a bombing campaign, you will inevitably kill large numbers of innocent people, and you can’t claim innocence. And you can’t claim, “Oh, you know, sorry, we didn’t mean it.” You know, in Vietnam, a million civilians die. “Sorry, we didn’t mean that.” No.

And just one more word about military targets. In fact, they may really only aim at or mean to aim at military targets. But the definition of “military targets” is very elusive. Do you know — I don’t think too many people know this. Occasionally I tell people things that they don’t know. Do you know that Truman called Hiroshima a military target? He did. He said — and right after, he said, “Today we have bombed Hiroshima, a military target,” in one of his announcements after the bombing. Well, that gives you a clue that you have to be very careful about what is called a military target.

In Vietnam, again and again, they said, “We are only bombing military targets.” I was in North Vietnam during the war. And I and some other — and we saw villages, as remote as you could find from any possible industrial or military site, villages which had been visited night after night by jet bombers dropping bombs, and the fresh dug graves of children outside these villages. And those villages were considered military targets.

In the middle of the Gulf War, that Gulf War, 1991, the war of the elder Bush, the smarter Bush, the — in the middle of that war, February, in the middle of February 1991, the United States declared an air raid shelter in Baghdad a military target. Imagine? Declared an air raid shelter a military target, and dropped bombs on that air raid shelter. They were smart bombs. They hit the air raid shelter great, you see. They incinerated 400 men, women and children. A military target. Why? Well, the United States explained it. They said there was electronic equipment in that air raid shelter. Of course, you might ask, even if there was electronic equipment in that air raid shelter, was the United States in danger of losing the war because of that electronic equipment? And even if that, does that justify what was done? In fact, reporters going through the wreckage of the shelter immediately after said no sign of any kind of electronic equipment. Military targets. Just wanted to alert us to the kind of statements that are going to be made if and when we start bombing Iraq, you know, or some other place.

And, well, I shouldn’t talk too much longer, because you have a big agenda. You have us teach-in tonight. And we want to leave time for — right? — questions and responses and so on. So I’ll just say a couple of quick things. I know it’s very dangerous when a speaker says, “And now in conclusion.” Then you know you have another hour to go, you see.

But, no, I won’t — I won’t discuss patriotism. There’s no point, no point discussing patriotism — except to say this. You know, patriotism does not mean supporting your government no matter what it does. That’s what patriotism is. No, patriotism — you know, patriotism does not mean marching off to war because the government tells you to march off to war. I mean, those, you know, 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial should say something about that kind of misguided patriotism. No, patriotism is love for — not for the government, for your country, for the people, for the principles it’s supposed to stand for.

You see, Mark Twain — if you read — read Mark Twain’s definition of patriotism, which is very different than Theodore Roosevelt’s definition of patriotism. You know, Theodore Roosevelt, I want to talk — don’t get me started on Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt, ooh. There he is on Mount Rushmore. He’s on Mount Rushmore. How can you get him off? You see. This racist, this imperialist, this warmonger, this — anyway. No, see how Mark Twain defined patriotism when he denounced Theodore Roosevelt for congratulating the general who had committed a massacre in the Philippines. Read what Emma Goldman said about patriotism, you know.

And when the government goes against the principles for which the government is supposed to stand, the government is being unpatriotic, and it should be pointed out. And the people who support those principles are being patriots in the truest sense. But it’s also true that patriotism should be extended. It should not be bounded nationally. Patriotism is not just supporting here, these people who happen to live in the United States. Patriotism needs to be extended to support of people all over the world. Not just all people in this country have the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but people all over the world have an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If people really believed in that — and I believe that, actually, people do believe in that. When you put it to them, if you ask people, you know, “Do you really think — do you think that, really, that people all over the world are equal? The children of Iraq are equal?” well, in an abstract sense, yes. And then you point out, “But, you know, when you make war, war means that you are considering that a people who live over there do not have an equal right to life with the people who live here.” When you make war on Iraq, you are deciding the children of Iraq do not have an equal right to life with the children of the United States. When we dropped that bomb on Hiroshima, we were deciding that the children of Hiroshima did not have an equal right to life with children in the United States. And if you believe and say — and I think that in order to have people think, again, again, about war, about patriotism, about all of this, I think you have to appeal to what I think is a natural moral decency in people, because I think there’s a natural moral decency in which people, down deep, really believe that all of us are created equal, and having made the connection that if you make war, you’re violating your own principle. So, we always have to point out to people what the — remind people what their principles are, and point out how present policies are violating that.

And what’s happening in this country now is the movement against the war is growing. It’s really growing. It’s growing faster than it grew in the early part of the Vietnam War. I said — I guess it’s growing faster out of desperation, because we need it to grow faster. But there have been hundreds of teach-ins all over the country. They have been hundreds of rallies and demonstrations. I got word the other day of an antiwar demonstration in Bozeman, Montana, you see, and — yeah, obviously, there are a lot of people here from Bozeman, Montana — and three other cities in Montana, and about five antiwar rallies in different cities in Alaska. They’re all over this country, not just in Boston or Providence, the great metropolises of the world, you see. But in all little towns everywhere, there’s an antiwar movement that’s growing. So, it’s important to know that, you know, we’re not alone. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been listening to Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, speaking at Brown University. If you would like to order a video or audio cassette copy of today’s program, you can call 1-800-881-2359. That’s 1-800-881-2359. And we want to thank Robbie Leppzer of Turning Tide Productions for videoing that speech. You are listening to Democracy Now! You can email us at That’s You can go to our website at That’s And we’d love to hear from you. You can actually send us letters, snail mail, and you can send them to Democracy Now! at P.O. Box 693, New York, New York 10013. That’s P.O. Box 693, Democracy Now!, New York, New York 10013. Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Alex Wolfe, Ana Nogueira. Our engineer and music maestro is Mike Di Filippo. And again, if you’d like to get a copy of today’s program, you can call 1-800-881-2359. That’s 1-800-881-2359. And today, on this Thanksgiving, we’re going to go out with a song of Juan Avila called “Sleeping Giant.” I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for listening.

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