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Novelist Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84

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The author Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was 84 years old. Vonnegut authored at least 19 novels including “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Cat’s Cradle.” In recent years, Vonnegut was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and a columnist for the magazine In These Times. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: The author Kurt Vonnegut has died. He was 84 years old. Vonnegut authored at least 19 novels, including Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle. In recent years, Kurt Vonnegut was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and a columnist for the magazine In These Times.

In June of last year, Kurt Vonnegut spoke at the 85th birthday celebration of the peace activist Father Dan Berrigan. I introduced Kurt Vonnegut with some little-known facts about his life.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next speaker once worked in public relations for General Electric, but he is known for a very different kind of writing. He was an advanced scout with the U.S. 106th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge and, in particular, witnessed the bombing of Dresden. While a prisoner of war earned him a Purple Heart would later influence much of his work, the bombing of Dresden would form the core of his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five. We are joined by Kurt Vonnegut to honor Dan Berrigan.

KURT VONNEGUT: Dear Father Berrigan, Dear Daniel, Dear Dan, we love you. This is such a happy occasion for us, because you are still among us, being what you are, doing what you do. They say now that you are 85 years old, but a large part of you is now 2006 years old. And we wish that part of you another thousand years as a presence here on Earth, if we have that long. Dear Father Berrigan, Dear Daniel, Dear Dan, we love you.

AMY GOODMAN: Kurt Vonnegut, speaking at the 85th birthday celebration of Father Dan Berrigan last June. In February of 2003, Vonnegut took part in a reading of historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Vonnegut read Mark Twain’s response to Theodore Roosevelt’s congratulating the commanding general in the 1906 massacre in the Philippines.

MARK TWAIN: [read by Kurt Vonnegut] This incident burst upon the world last Friday in an official cablegram from the commander of our forces in the Philippines to our Government at Washington. The substance of it was as follows: A tribe of Moros, dark-skinned savages, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace.

Our commander, Gen. Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnaissance. It was found that the Moros numbered six hundred, counting women and children; that their crater bowl was in the summit of a peak or mountain 2,200 feet above sea level, and very difficult of access for Christian troops and artillery. Then General Wood ordered a surprise, and went along himself to see the order carried out.

Gen. Wood’s order was, “Kill or capture the six hundred.” There, with 600 engaged on each side, we lost 15 men killed outright, and we had 32 wounded—counting that nose and that elbow. The enemy numbered 600—including women and children—and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States.

So far as I can find out, there was only one person among our eighty millions who allowed himself the privilege of a public remark on this great occasion—that was the President of the United States. All day Friday, he was as studiously silent as the rest. But on Saturday, he recognized that his duty required him to say something, and he took his pen and performed that duty. This is what he said:

Washington, March 10. Wood, Manila: I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag. (Signed) Theodore Roosevelt.

I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

AMY GOODMAN: Kurt Vonnegut reading Mark Twain. Kurt Vonnegut died last night in New York at the age of 84. He had been ailing over the last few weeks after a fall.

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