Zinn Sin

by Richard Oxman

> “So you take requests? How ’bout an article on Howard Zinn, ginseng and the challenges of climate change and continual carnage?” — The author’s neighbor

One doesn’t come across titles like this in leftish circles for much of the same reason one doesn’t come across titles like “Bush Bullshit” in rightish ones. There’s too much hawking what’s hallowed ground in both cases.

Well, I venerate Howard Zinn as much as the next activist guy or gal. Truly. But one diff might be that I’m not a stiff about icons. HZ’s fair game for criticism…just like anyone else should be. And I neither think that the Left World will fall apart if attacks are made (on *anyone* in its circles), nor do I believe we can advance much unless we do seek improvement in *sacred quarters*.

Fact is, I’m sure the Zinn Meister would welcome what I have to say, encourage having the controversial blah blah that follows on the table.

In that spirit, I ask the reader to peruse the recent Tomdispatch interview with Zinn below, making special note of my boldfaced/capitalized comments. I trust that readers won’t think I’m *shouting* with the caps, as my form is for convenience only. Following the interview, I add a few addtional points.

—–

**Tomdispatch:** You and Anthony Arnove just came out with a new book, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, featuring American voices of resistance from our earliest moments to late last night. Now, we have a striking new voice of resistance, Cindy Sheehan. I was wondering what you made of her?

Howard **Zinn:** Often a protest movement that’s already underway — and the present antiwar movement was underway even before the Iraq War began — gets a special impetus, a special spark, from one person’s act of defiance. I think of Rosa Parks and that one act of hers and what it meant. **HERE WE HAVE THE FALLACY OF BELIEVING THAT TODAY HAS MORE IN COMMON WITH THE PAST THAN IT DOES. THE BASIC POINT IS TRUE ENOUGH, BUT NO INDIVIDUAL TODAY IS LIKELY TO SET OFF A LARGE ENOUGH SPARK TO ADDRESS OUR GRIEVANCES, THE DEEP THREATS TO US. THIS HAS ZERO TO DO WITH SAYING THAT INDIVIDUALS CAN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH DENYING THAT WE’RE ON SOME KIND OF LINEAR (CUMULATIVE) TIMELINE, ALONG WHICH PROTEST FORMS FROM THE PAST CAN BE SUPERIMPOSED ON A WORLD WHICH HAS DIFFERENT FOES, A RADICALLY DIFFERENT FACE, EXCRUTIATINGLY DISPARATE THREATS. ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE ROSA PARKS PARADIGM WILL LEAD TO OUR RIDING BUSES (OR MARCHING) IN CIRCLES…AS WHAT DARK LOOMS LURCHES CLOSER TO US.**

**TD:** Can you think of other Cindy Sheehan-like figures in the past who made movements coalesce?

**Zinn:** In the antiwar movement of the Vietnam years, there wasn’t one person, but when I think back to the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass was a special figure in that way. When he came north, out of slavery, and spoke for the first time to a group of antislavery people, the beginnings of a movement existed. [William Lloyd] Garrison had already started [his antislavery newspaper] the Liberator, but Frederick Douglass was able to represent slavery itself in a way that Garrison and the other abolitionists could not. His dramatic appearance, his eloquence, provided a special spark for the abolitionist movement. **SURE, SOMEONE CAN ADD FIRE TO THE ANTIWAR FLAME. BUT HOWARD’S ULTIMATE CONCERN (LAID OUT VERY CLEARLY AT THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW) WILL NOT BE ADDRESSED BY ENDING THE IRAQ WAR. IT DOES NO GOOD TO POSTPONE THE ULTIMATE CONFRONTATION WHICH DEMANDS THAT WE DO NOT RATIONALIZE *ANY* WAR. CINDY’S TYPE OF ACTION POSES PROBLEMS ON AT LEAST TWO COUNTS: 1) ANOTHER “IRAQ” WILL SPRING UP BEFORE VERY LONG AND 2) EMBRACING THE NOTION THAT ONE MUST FIGHT AGAINST THE WAR THAT’S IN FRONT OF ONE’S FACE (INSTEAD OF WAR IN GENERAL, IN LIEU OF MEETING THE SYSTEM HEAD ON) RISKS STRETCHING OUT OUR CHALLENGE FOR MUCH TOO LONG. FOR ONE, THE NUCLEAR THREATS ASSOCIATED WITH CONTINUED WARFARE, WHICH KEEP INCREASING, DO NOT PERMIT SUCH AN APPROACH).**

**TD:** I guess Cindy Sheehan also represents something that can’t be represented by anyone else, almost, in fact, can’t be represented — the American dead in the war and, of course, her own dead son.

**Zinn:** It’s interesting. There have been mothers other than Cindy Sheehan who have spoken out, but she decided on an act that had a special resonance, which was simply to find where Bush was going [he chuckles to himself at the thought] and have a confrontation between the two poles of this war, between its maker and the opposition. She just parked herself near Bush and became the center of national attention, of gravity, around which people gathered, hundreds and hundreds of people. **THIS IS ALL SPOT-ON-TARGET BY HOWARD…AS FAR AS IT GOES. THE TROUBLE IS THAT TOO MUCH IS BEING MADE OF IT. AND THE CONSEQUENCE IS THAT ANTIWAR ENERGIES –EXTREMELY LIMITED OVER THE NECESSARY LONG HAUL– WILL BE DISSIPATED AT THE POLLS OR IN THE PEWS, OR DUE LEFT ON MARCHES. ZINN SPEAKS OF “POLES,” AND I SUBMIT THAT THERE IS AS MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SHEEHANITES WHO PRAISE “OUR BOYS” AND THOSE WHO WOULD IMPLEMENT WHAT ZINN ADDRESSES AT THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW AS THERE IS BETWEEN THE GENERAL POLES OF LEFT AND RIGHT.**

**TD:** The Bush administration has had such a long-term strategy of never venturing anywhere that the President might be challenged, but now, unless he’s literally on a military base, I suspect he’s no longer safe from that, and even then…

**Zinn:** Did you read about the Mayor of Salt Lake City speaking out before 2,000 people to protest a presidential speech there? This is just what began to happen in the Vietnam War. After a while, [President Lyndon] Johnson and [Vice President Hubert] Humphrey couldn’t go anywhere except military bases. And the thing about Cindy Sheehan is that she’s not a moderate voice either. I mean, she’s saying we must withdraw from Iraq so boldly and clearly that even an antiwar person like [New York Times columnist] Frank Rich refers to her position as “apocalyptic” and kind of outside the pale. And that’s terrible, because on the issue of withdrawal she represents, I think, the unspoken desires of a huge number of people and is willing to say what the politicians and the journalists have not yet dared to say. There are very few newspapers in the country — maybe the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and one other — that have simply called for withdrawal without talking about timetables and conditions. **I KNOW ROCKY ANDERSON, THE MAYOR, AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT HE’S NOWHERE NEAR –WILL NEVER GET NEAR– THE ATTITUDINAL SET THAT ZINN WANTS US TO ADOPT ABOUT WAR; THE MOST WE CAN COUNT ON HIM FOR WOULD BE TO JOIN HANDS WITH CINDY AND OTHER *ROSA-TYPES* IN AN EFFORT TO END A PARTICULAR WAR. AGAIN, THE NOTION THAT PROTESTS AGAINST INDIVIDUAL WARS, ONE AFTER THE OTHER (OVER A LONG ENOUGH TIME), WILL RESULT IN ABOLISHING WAR OR MAKING WAR LESS LIKELY IS A PRODUCT OF FALLACIOUS REASONING ON SEVERAL COUNTS. THE PRIME FALLACY INVOLVED IS THE PREMISE THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF CITIZENS ARE REASONABLE AND HAVE BEEN REASONED INTO SUPPORTING EACH WAR WE’VE TAKEN ON. AND THAT WE CAN TEAR THEM AWAY FROM THE HABITS THEY HANG ONTO WHICH DRAW THEM EMOTIONALLY INTO SUPPORTING U.S. WARS THROUGH THE ENCOURAGEMENT/ASCENDENCY OF REASON COUPLED WITH THE ASSERTION OF MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS. AS I OFTEN NOTE (CITING JONATHAN SWIFT), YOU CAN’T REASON A MAN OUT OF WHAT HE DIDN’T REASON HIMSELF INTO.**

### The Logic of Withdrawal in Two Wars

**TD:** As the person who, in 1967, wrote Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, how do you compare the logic of withdrawal discussions in this moment with that one?

**Zinn:** There was a point early in the Vietnam War when no major figure and no critic of the war was simply calling for immediate withdrawal. Everybody was hedging in some way. We must negotiate. We must compromise. We must stop the bombing north of this or that parallel. I think we’re at a comparable point now, two years after the beginning of the Iraq War. When my book came out in the Spring of ‘67, it was just two years after the escalation in early ‘65 when Johnson sent in the first major infusions of American troops. What’s comparable, I think, are the arguments then and now. Even the language is similar. We mustn’t cut and run. We mustn’t give them a victory. We mustn’t lose prestige in the world. **AGAIN, FINE AND DANDY AS FAR AS IT GOES. HOWEVER, EVEN ON THE LEVEL THAT HOWARD IS DEALING WITH MOMENTUM HERE THERE ARE SEVERAL CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SHOULD ENTER THE DISCUSSION. ONE OF WHICH IS THE FACT THAT WE’RE NOT “AT A COMPARABLE POINT” WHEN IT COMES TO IMPLEMENTING NATIONAL SENTIMENT…AT THE POLLS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF OUR CITIZENRY –INCLUDING THE “OPPOSITION PARTY”– HAS TOLERATED ELECTORAL FRAUD REPEATEDLY. ULTIMATELY, ANTIWAR FEELINGS MUST BE EXPRESSED AT THE POLLS IN THE REALM IN WHICH HOWARD LIVES. AT LEAST IN THE REALM WHICH MOST OF HIS READERS/LISTENERS LIVE…RESPECTING HOW CHANGE WILL BE BROUGHT ABOUT. AND THOSE PEOPLE –WHICH INCLUDES THE MAYOR OF SALT LAKE CITY, BY THE WAY– ARE NOT SLATED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE ROTTEN ELECTORAL CORE WHICH SERVES AS A CUSHION AGAINST RADICAL CHANGE IN THIS COUNTRY.**

**TD:** …credibility was the word then.

**Zinn:** Yes, exactly, credibility. There will be chaos and civil war if we leave…

**TD:** …and a bloodbath.

**Zinn:** Yes, and a bloodbath — because the one way you can justify an ongoing catastrophe is to posit a greater catastrophe if you don’t continue with the present one. We’ve seen that psychology operating again and again. We saw it, for instance, with Hiroshima. I mean, we have to kill hundreds of thousands of people to avert a greater catastrophe, the death of a million people in the invasion of Japan.

It’s interesting that when we finally did leave Vietnam, none of those dire warnings really came true. It’s not that things were good after we left. The Chinese were expelled, and there were the boat people and the reeducation camps, but none of that compared to the ongoing slaughter taking place when the American troops were there. So while no one can predict what will happen — I think this is important to say — when the United States withdraws its troops from Iraq, the point is that we’re choosing between the certainty of an ongoing disaster, the chaos and violence that are taking place in Iraq today, and an eventuality we can’t predict which may be bad. But what may be bad is uncertain; what’s bad with our occupation right now is certain. It seems to me that, choosing between the two, you have to take a chance on what might happen if you end the occupation. At the same time, of course, you do whatever you can to mitigate the worst possibilities of your leaving. **IT’S ALWAYS WONDERFUL TO LISTEN TO HOWARD, AND HIS STUFF HAS TO BE GONE OVER AND OVER. BUT…IT *IS* “OLD HAT” NOW. IT’S A HAT THAT HAS BEEN DONNED FOR QUITE SOME TIME, BUT WHICH HAS LED TO NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN OUR MACABRE EASTER PARADE, AN EVENT WHICH DREDGES UP CORPSES ON AN ANNUAL BASIS, RESURRECTS INSANITY REGULARLY. HOWARD’S COMMITMENT, INTELLIGENCE AND CHARM MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO HARM US, HYPNOTIZE US INTO NODDING (OUT) IN AGREEMENT.**

### Resistance in the Military

**TD:** I want to return for a moment to Cindy Sheehan. By the last years of the Vietnam War, the American military was almost incapable of fighting and, though there were military families against the war, the main resistance to the war was by then coming from draft-age soldiers themselves. Now we have an all-volunteer army; we know that morale is sinking and that there are specific cases of resistance — refusals to return to Iraq, for instance — within the military, but most of the resistance this time seems to be coming from the families of the soldiers. I wonder whether there’s any historical precedent for that?

**Zinn:** I don’t know of any previous war where something like this happened… in the United States anyway. The closest you might get would be in the Confederacy in the Civil War, when the wives of soldiers rioted because their husbands were dying and the plantation owners were profiting from the sale of cotton, refusing to grow grains for civilians to eat. David Williams in Valdosta, Georgia, is coming out this fall with A People’s History of the Civil War in which he describes that phenomenon.

In the case of the Soviet Union, though, there may be a closer parallel. Russian mothers protested the continuing war in Afghanistan, their Vietnam. I don’t know how strong a part that played in the Soviet decision to withdraw, but certainly there was something dramatic about that.

We had gold star mothers against the war in the Vietnam era, but nothing like this and I think you’ve pointed to the reason. The GIs in Iraq are not in the same position the draftees were in — although I have to temper that by noting that a lot of the resistance in the Vietnam War came from people who had enlisted in the Army. And, in a certain sense, there are also draftees in this war, people who didn’t sign up to fight, or National Guards and Reserves who didn’t expect to go to war. You might say that they had been drafted.

Still, because it’s a largely all-volunteer army, the protesting has been left to the parents in an unprecedented way. Their children just aren’t in a position to protest as easily, and yet I think there’s going to be more and more GI protest as the war goes on. That’s inevitable. I imagine — there’s no way of proving this — that there’s already a lot more subterranean protest and disaffection in the military than has been reported, maybe much more than can be reported because it’s probably not visible.

When I try to think what would really compel the Bush administration to get out of Iraq, the one thing is a rebellion in the military. David Cortright [author of Soldiers In Revolt: GI Resistance During The Vietnam War] believes that what happened to the military in Vietnam was the crucial factor in finally bringing the United States out of Vietnam. **AGAIN, WONDROUS, HEADY STUFF. REBELLION IN THE MILITARY? I’D LOVE TO SEE IT, IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT FAILURE IN THAT REALM COULD TIGHTEN THE NOOSE. WE’D STILL LIKE TO SEE IT ATTEMPTED, YES? ANOTHER DOWNSIDE, HOWEVER, IS THE FACT THAT MILITARY PEOPLE WHO GET THEIR WAY WITH MADMEN LIKE BUSH DON’T EMBRACE ANTIWAR ATTITUDES IN GENERAL. THE GENERALS MAKE SURE OF THAT. AND THAT’S ONE OF THE DANGERS POSED BY INDIVIDUALS LIKE STAN GOFF, BY THE WAY. CHECK OUT EACH AND EVERYONE’S ATTITUDE TOWARD “THE GUN,” WHAT’S FUN AND GAMES FOR THEM, WHAT THEIR BACKGROUND DICTATES, WHAT THEIR CAREER CALLS FOR, WHICH WARS HAVE BEEN/MIGHT BE FINE AND DANDY WITH THEM.**

**TD:** And what about military resistance at the top rather than the bottom? As far back as Korea, there was a feeling among officers of being in the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time and that was replicated in Vietnam. It’s clear that the top people in the field in Iraq have known for a long time that they’re involved in a catastrophe. They were the ones recently who began talking about draw-downs and withdrawals without permission from the Bush administration.

**Zinn:** It’s a very important development, because when cracks occur in what had previously seemed to be the solidity of the top, it becomes that much more difficult to carry on. One example I think of — it’s not a war situation — is McCarthyism. When [red-baiting Senator Joseph] McCarthy began to go after important figures in the Eisenhower administration, when he went after General [George] Marshall and his forays came closer and closer to the top, more and more people moved away from him, and that was critical to his demise. Disaffection in the top ranks of the military has been evident for some time now. [Retired Centcom commander] General [Anthony] Zinni, for instance, has been speaking out from the beginning. For a while I was worried about the similarity between our names [he laughs], but I feel better about it now that he’s come out speaking the way he has. **SO WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG…WITH THOSE ON THE TOP? WOULD IT WERE SO. GEN’L ZINNI’S A GOOD EXAMPLE TO TAKE FROM ZINN. LET’S LOOK AT HIS RECORD, PUTTING IRAQ ASIDE FOR CONVERSATION’S SAKE. GO AHEAD, LET THAT BE YOUR HOMEWORK.**

**TD:** And retired generals like him are always speaking for others inside the military.

**Zinn:** That’s right. They’re in a position to say what others can’t say. I mean there’s been military resistance in many of our wars, but until Vietnam it never reached the point where it actually changed policy. There were mutinies against Washington in the revolutionary army. In the Mexican War, even huge numbers of desertions didn’t stop the war. I can’t think of any military resistance in World War I. Of course, the United States was only in for a brief time, a year and a half really. Certainly, World War II was a different situation. That’s what makes Vietnam such a historical phenomenon. It was the first time you had a movement in the military that was an important factor in changing government policy. And it’s interesting that we’ve had short wars ever since, except for this one, and those wars were deliberately designed to be short so that there wouldn’t be time for an antiwar movement to develop. In this case, they miscalculated. Now, I don’t think it’s a question of if, just when. When and how. I don’t think there’s any question that the United States is going to have to get out of Iraq. The only questions are: How long will it take? How many more people will die? And how will it be done? **THERE IS ANOTHER QUESTION TO ASK. TO WIT, WHEN WILL THE NEXT “IRAQ” START UP AGAIN, IF WE DON’T FACE THE ULTIMATE CONFRONTATION ABOUT WARS THAT ZINN BRINGS UP BELOW?**

### The Outer Limits of Empire

**TD:** Let me turn to another issue you certainly wrote about in the 60s, war crimes. But “war crimes” was the last charge to arrive in the mainstream in those years and the first to depart. We’ve certainly experienced many crimes in the last few years, from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo to Afghanistan. I wonder why, as a concept, it sticks so poorly with Americans?

**Zinn:** It does seem like a hard concept — war crimes, war criminals — to catch on here. There’s a willingness to say the leadership is wrong, but it’s a great jump from there to saying that the leadership is vicious. Unfortunately, in American culture, there’s still a kind of monarchical idea that the President, the people up there, are very special people and while they may make mistakes, they couldn’t be criminals. Even after the public had turned against the Vietnam War, there was no widespread talk about Johnson, [Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara, and the rest of them being war criminals. And I think it has to do with an American culture of deference to the President and his men — beyond which people refuse to think. **AND UNTIL WE DO “FORCE” THE PUBLIC TO THINK ALONG THESE LINES WE’RE GONNA BE BOGGED DOWN WITH PROTESTING ONE WAR AFTER ANOTHER, LETTING PEOPLE FRET AD INFINITUM ABOUT OUR VULNERABILITY, LEANING ON THE ARROGANT SENSE OF SUPERIORITY… WITHOUT WHICH ONE WOULD NOT BE SO PRONE TO DO WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING FROM THE GET-GO. THIS ADDRESSES WHAT’S DIRECTLY BELOW.**

**TD:** How does an American culture of exceptionalism play into this?

**Zinn:** I would guess that a very large number of Americans against the war in Vietnam still believed in the essential goodness of this country. They thought of Vietnam as an aberration. Only a minority in the antiwar movement saw it as part of a continuous policy of imperialism and expansion. I think that’s true today as well. It’s very hard for Americans to let go of the idea that we’re an especially good nation. It’s comforting to know that, even though we do wrong things from time to time, these are just individual aberrations. I think it takes a great deal of political consciousness to extend the criticism of a particular policy or a particular war to a general negative appraisal of the country and its history. It strikes too close to something Americans seem to need to hold onto.

Of course, there’s an element that’s right in this as well — in that there are principles for which the United States presumably stands that are good. It’s just that people confuse the principles with the policies — and so long as they can keep those principles in their heads (justice for all, equality, and so on), they are very reluctant to accept the fact that they have been crassly, consistently violated. This is the only way I can account for the stopping short when it comes to looking at the President and the people around him as war criminals.

**TD:** Stepping back from the catastrophe in Iraq, what do you make of the Bush administration’s version of the American imperial project?

**Zinn:** I like to think that the American empire has reached its outer limits with the Middle East. I don’t believe it has a future in Latin America. I think it’s worn out whatever power it had there and we’re seeing the rise of governments that will not play ball with the United States. This may be one of the reasons why the war in Iraq is so important to this administration. Beyond Iraq there’s no place to go. So, let’s put it this way, I see withdrawal from Iraq whenever it takes place — and think of this as partly wish and partly belief [he chuckles at himself] — as the first step in the retrenchment of the American empire. After all we aren’t the first country in history to be forced to do this.

I’d like to say that this will be because of American domestic opposition, but I suspect mostly it will be because the rest of the world won’t accept further American forays into places where we don’t belong. In the future, I believe 9/11 may be seen as representing the beginning of the dissolution of the American empire; that is, the very event that immediately crystallized popular support for war, in the long run — and I don’t know how long that will be — may be seen as the beginning of the weakening and crumbling of the American empire.

**AGAIN, QUITE INSIGHTFUL, ALONG THE LINES OF WHAT WE HAVE COME TO EXPECT FROM HOWARD ZINN. SPOT-ON-TARGET, AS USUAL. BUT, BUT, BUT…PERHAPS THE READER CAN SEE HOW THIS KIND OF TUNNEL TALK RESTS ON A SENSE OF OUR HAVING A HELLUVA LOT MORE TIME FOR THINGS TO WORK OUT THAN WE ACTUALLY HAVE, ENVIRONMENTALLY-WISE AND OTHERWISE.**

**TD:** There would be an irony in that.

**Zinn:** Yes, certainly.

### War’s End

**TD:** I wanted to turn to the issue of war. You’ve written about the possible end of war not being a purely utopian project. Do you really believe war could end or is it in our genes?

**Zinn:** Although lots of things are unclear to me, one thing is very clear. It’s not in our genes. Whenever I read accounts, even by people who have been in war, that suggest there’s something in the masculine psyche that requires this kind of violence and militarism I don’t believe it. I say this on the basis of historical experience; that is, if you compare the instances in which people, mostly men, have committed violent acts and gone to war to those in which people have not gone to war, have rejected war, it seems people don’t naturally want war.

They may want a lot of things associated with war — the comradeship, the thrill that comes from holding a weapon. I think this is what confuses people. Thrills, comradeship, all of that can come in many different ways; it comes from war, though, only when people are manipulated into it. To me the strongest argument against an inherent drive to war is the extent to which governments have to resort to get people to go to war, the huge amounts of propaganda and deception of which we had an example very recently. And don’t forget coercion. So I discard that idea of a natural inclination to war.

**THIS ATTITUDINAL SET IS ARGUABLY HOWARD’S GREATEST CONTRIBUTION HERE, AMONG MANY PLUSES. HOWEVER, IT BEGS THE QUESTION OF WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT. THE INTERVIEWER IS SLATED –OR HAVEN’T YOU NOTICED?– TO REPEAT THE QUESTION TO ANOTHER LUMINARY SOMEWHERE DOWN THE LINE, NOT REALLY EVER INTENDING TO LIFT A HANDS-ON FINGER TO FORCE THE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE TO THE FORE. I’M FLOORED THAT ACTIVISTS THINK THEY CAN CONTINUE TO TAKE PART IN SUCH DIALOGUE, RATIONALIZING THE VALUE OF SUCH WAY OUT OF PROPORTION. *OF COURSE* WAR IS NOT NECESSARY!!! BUT ONE OF THE REASONS IT CONTINUES TO DRAIN, MAIM AND KILL US ALL IS THAT WE’RE TALKIN’ ABOUT THE WRONG SUBJECT.**

**TD:** You went to war yourself…

**Zinn:** I was 20 years old. I was a bombardier in the 8th Air Force on a B-17 crew that flew some of the last missions of the war out of England. I went in as a young, radical, antifascist, believing in this war and believing in the idea of a just war against fascism. At war’s end I was beginning to have doubts about whether the mayhem we had engaged in was justified: the bombing of cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bombings I had engaged in. And then I was beginning to suspect the motives of the Allied leaders. Did they really care that much about fascism? Did they care about the Jews? Was it a war for empire? In the Air Force I encountered a young Trotskyite on another air crew who said to me, “You know, this is an imperialist war.” I was sort of shocked. I said, “Well, you’re flying missions! Why are you here?” He replied, “I’m here to talk to people like you.” [He laughs.] I mean, he didn’t convert me, but he shook me up a little.

After the war, as the years went by, I couldn’t help contemplating the promises that had been made about what the war would accomplish. You know, General Marshall sent me — and 16 million others — a letter congratulating us for winning the war and telling us how the world would now be a different place. Fifty million people were dead and the world was not really that different. I mean, Hitler and Mussolini were gone, as was the Japanese military machine, but fascism and militarism, and racism were still all over the world, and wars were still continuing. So I came to the conclusion that war, whatever quick fix it might give you — Oh, we’ve defeated this phenomenon, fascism; we’ve gotten rid of Hitler (like we’ve gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, you see) — whatever spurt of enthusiasm, the after-effects were like those of a drug; first a high and then you settle back into something horrible. So I began to think that any wars, even wars against evil, simply don’t accomplish much of anything. In the long run, they simply don’t solve the problem. In the interim, an enormous number of people die.

I also came to the conclusion that, given the technology of modern warfare, war is inevitably a war against children, against civilians. When you look at the ratio of civilian to military dead, it changes from 50-50 in World War II to 80-20 in Vietnam, maybe as high as 90-10 today. Do you know this Italian war surgeon, Gino Strada? He wrote Green Parrots: A War Surgeon’s Diary. He was doing war surgery in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. Ninety percent of the people he operated on were civilians. When you face that fact, war is now always a war against civilians, and so against children. No political goal can justify it, and so the great challenge before the human race in our time is to solve the problems of tyranny and aggression, and do it without war. [He laughs quietly.] A very complex and difficult job, but something that has to be faced — and that’s what accounts for my becoming involved in antiwar movements ever since the end of World War II. **WONDERFUL ON MANY COUNTS. BUT WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS AND FUTURE GENERATIONS TO GO EXPERIENCE EPIPHANIES IN QUITE THE SAME WAY THAT HOWARD DID. OVER THE SAME TIME SPAN. IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT CERTAIN THINGS DO TAKE TIME, CANNOT BE RUSHED. HOWEVER, HOWARD HIMSELF, I’M SURE, WOULD BE THE FIRST TO AGREE THAT SOME THINGS CAN AND MUST BE PUSHED INTO BEING *YESTERDAY*. THAT SUCH INTERVIEWS AS THIS ARE IN DIRE NEED OF DOCTORING.**

Doctor Ox found out that ginseng, long praised as a panacea, was gathered by the 18th century Great Lakes Iroquois to exchange for guns and liquor with Europeans. Many medicine men worried that their braves would forget their hunting skills spending inordinate amounts of time gathering roots.

Doctor Ox is concerned that activists will not learn the skills necessary to do what’s necessary in time. That they will continue to spend too much time…gathering. Discussing *roots* only…ad infinitum.

And never go for the Big Kill.

Richard “Doc” Oxman will go for it… dueleft@yahoo.com And he’s ready to vote for the Picasso/Zinn ticket, should it rear its beautiful head; see The Arts, not Old Farts for elaboration. HZ has always been a great champion of artists, in his heart a heartening advocate of The Impossible. Long live what Howard would have us do…ideally!