Time for Pre-emptive Peace

Category: Americas, Nature & Science Views: 1823

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 mega-deaths, 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 silence.

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 shells".

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 unprecedented 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 year!"

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 University. He is the author of the best seller "A Peoples History of the United States".

Source: Common Dreams

  Category: Americas, Nature & Science
Views: 1823
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Older Comments:
Dr.Howard Zinn will have to Add a Chapter in his best seller "A Peoples History of the United States".... The title should be "Bush the ..President" He should empahsize the fact that "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."


Thank you Dr Zinn. I was beginning to think that the human race is doomed to perish by its own foolishness, but you have shown that peaceful resistance has worked in the past, and will continue to do so again. Civil disobedience is the answer to manipulations by the powerful.

i put my self in the position of the palestinians and the iraquis now, what would i do to defend my self against a giant on the intent of killing me my family and take what god gave me from my land where i was born, and frankly there is no limit as to what i would have to do to defend my self and or avenge my violated rights,some how i have the sneaking suspition that the nukem all mentality wont work to well this time,because you are more than likely going to miss some people and they may just be the ones to watch out for, if it would take me all my life i would get revenge when ever i could,what in gods name makes any nation think they have the right to attack a country steal its accets and have nothing ever happen to it? thanks to bush we are in for the ride of our lives i cant fault people defending their land ,family and accets, god gave that land to them,it is not for any one to steal it ,what do we think that there just going to sit and let the usa kill them?of course theyll be casualties,thats why its a war anything is fair in war ,lets all remember that when we feel the pains of it.theres a saying the bigger they are the harder they fall, i live in this country and we have alot of house cleaning to do here, keep our dollars here and lets stop creating more future binladens.fire everyone in the government they are not doing a good job.

To my understanding war is internecine,i.e it is destructive regardless of the motive. This one, in particular is profit, ill-goal motivated. The result is certainly much much worse than what it is perceived to be. Whoever planned/plans it is filthy-minded, of inhuman character, does not value human life. The American policy is returning to its former one, Gunboat diplomacy. It has to be surely known that this war will not produce the positive result as is thought to be. It is going to be really devastating, not only to Iraq, United States but definitely the whole world. The world is going to be made a witness of a deliberate mass destruction of human life. We have always said that Adolf Hitler was a sick-minded man, but now we see that coming to pass again, in this so-called modern, civilized world perpetrated by the government that boasts itself as a global example of civilization. If this war is launched USA will be a typical mockery of its beliefs in basic human rights and a regard for human dignity. The Us and Great Britai can go to war but they better bear in mind that they are settting themselves a flagrant self-destruction, out of greed. The world will only regret the consequences which regretably could not control; what a pity.

After reading this article by Dr. Zinn if any normal human being didnt get chills running down his/her spine and didnt atleast soften his/her heart there has to be something wrong with that persons humanity. ie John, Cecil, Mike hale, and davidC.

David C. I fully agree with the Dr. Zinn's article and with Noreen's post. It takes courage to speak the truth and be labelled "unpatriotic." I'm Kuwaiti by the way.
The UN inspectors (all 300 hundred of them) have not uncovered any wmds. Yet we have more than enough proof that the US military used a wmd against the people of Iraq" :irradiated enriched ammunition, that goes on killing and deforming for 4.5 billion years.

If Saddam had these weapons, it seems strange that he didnt use them in the Gulf war, when he was much closer to his prime.

Also as a Kuwaiti I can tell you that Kuwaitis do not feel any threat from saddam, and nor do any of his other neighbors.
We are however currently occupied by American soldiers (in 2/3 of Kuwait).

This war has nothing to do with Sept 11. That is simply an excuse used by christian extremists and Zionists such as Norman and cecil. This war has everything to do with controlling Oil, water supplies, territory and helping out oppressive nazi-like Israel.


Perhaps Ruki Mehta could let us know if he believes that people in the Third World should take responsibility for their own lives. Does he take responsibilty for his? This constant carping about US Imperialism is well past its sell-by date. And if he is going to go on about it, then lets have his critique about Third World Imperialism, including Chinese,Muslim, Arab, Vietnamese, Nigerian, Malian, Sudanese imperialisms as well.

Its about time the Third World realised that many of the solutions lie in its own hands. And if they cannot solve their own problems, then we will have to go back to UN Mandates to get rid of the corruption and the incapacity of the Third World to manage its own affairs. Grow up.

iViews is now posting opinion columns from
athiestic/socialist agitators? Where are the articles by
Kuwaiti Muslims?

I totally agree with Dr. Howard Zinn and with Noreen.
The 9/11 terror attacks, the ones before that, and the current terror threats the American people feel are the direct result of the policies of various American administrations. Over the years, US governments have killed ten times more people worldwide than done by Saddam. The innocent American people are suffering the consequences of their Government's imperialist actions. It is time the people call a halt to the Bush administration's selfish motives. More innocent deaths worldwide would only mean more enemies the American people will be faced with. You cannot impose military solutions all the time. You have to win the hearts and minds. This administration has achieved the unique distinction of turning the whole world's support & sympathies after 9/11 into opposition today. I urge the likes of Norman to open their eyes and minds and reflect on the situation with fairness and justice.

Noreen: You are quite right, I did not point out that they were Iraqis since their nationality is irrelevant in this case. I did say that they were muslims. Read correctly, Noreen, the next time you decide to post.

And, I reaffirm it once again, that there is no military draft. It is a simple sentence to understand, written in plain English. There is absolutely no gobbledegook here. I reaffirm, also once again, that people who join the miltary are aware of the risks they take when they do.

The good professor writes with a very vivid imagination. He manufactures ideas, statements and statistics to verify his ludicrous judgements on America. Our country has never been perfect and the idea of debate about government decisions is always valid. Our government has done many things wrong and will continue to do so. But a retrospective look at the last 100 years proves beyond a doubt right prevails more than wrong in this country.
When people like the professor and the hollywood left believe the proclamations that Saddam issues and further disbelieve EVERYTHING that Bush says are neither having a dialogue nor considering one. They want Bill xrated President Clinton back in office.
Kumbahyah, Kumbahyah, Kumbahyah., sing with me Noreen.
No Justice No Peace

The war will create a very great desaster to all people of Iraq.We muslims here are ready to fight along Iraqee brothers in every means and opportunities we have got.Now, the time is not to write articles rather it is to defend help less muslim mothers children and elders.We make dua to Allah and Allah(S.W) will help us.We are condemn all western values because they are full of evils their politics ,moral,economy,social values etc.Especially americans are selfish people still they need the bloods and flesh of the most deprived. Truly speaking they are satans.They are not holy people.Some media announce that only the leaders are responsible for this destruction. We do not agree, first of all who elected them through the so called democratic election who finance them,who encourage them,who adopt the ideology they are holding,who train them.american people.We know american history, it starts with agression buchering selfishness and still continues.american congress is full of criminals we do not expect them to be holy they print in their mony papers that "we believe in god" but it is wrong they believe in wealth,not in human freedom but in slavery,not in equality but in superiority and cocealed slavery.they are mercyless people.We will fight these Allah enemies at the last drop of our blood.They corrupt most of the so called ideot leaders in Islamic world.Don't worry Allah will protect his people and religion.We accept whatever Allah brings to us good or bad it is our fate.

Norman, why dont you shut up and go join the army ? If you're so eager for war...by all means walk the walk. You're just another Jewish hate-monger trolling around with your insipid and moronic comments. Professor Zinn's article is poison to the like of lying filth like you. Another 99 cent ZioNAZI ..wanting other peoples sons and daughters to go die for their agenda.
And take "cecil" with you....both you chickenhawk bozos deserve each other.

An excellent article by Howard Zinn. However yet again Norman has posted nonsense.

None of the alleged Sept.11 attackers were Iraqi, nor do they or al-Qaida have any affiliations with Saddam Hussein's administration (as determined by the CIA and reported by the BBC). Those attackers have been primarily determined to be Saudi Arabian citizens. How quickly Afghanistan has been forgotten.

But I suppose to bigots like John Norman, any Arab or Arab/Muslim country will do; the more the better, they all look the same anyways.

Particularly a devastated people already radiated and bombed to the bones, with a population of 50% under the age of 15. The US government has killed far more innocent people than Saddam or al-Qaida ever could.

If Norman had bothered to do any research before posting ignorant hate messages, he would have come across documents that described Bush and Cheney's plans to attack Iraq again, long before they were even appointed the presedency in court and long before the attacks of September 11.

He also would have come across clear evidence that the former Bush's administration concocted fables about Iraqi troop buildup at the Saudi border and attrocities by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait.

Norman would also learn that military drafts do indeed exist in the US. In the event that the war drags on because the bombs dropped by planes on defenseless starving people can't kill them fast enough to liberate them, young men and women will be drafted and sent to the Persian Gulf.

This attack by the US government will be cowardly, murderous and illegal; they will commit genocide and theft of oil. Perhaps Norman will be able to photograph all the dead children in Iraq.


Unless you live under a rock, Saddam has messed with your mind. What do you think will happen if we back down? Saddam land!

To add a couple of other points. Mr. Zinn talks about responsibility. Perhaps if Muslims like Mohammed Atta had decided to take responsibility, with another 18 Muslim conspirators, and not slam a couple of airplanes into the WTC and murdering 4000 people, there would be no need to go to war. As it is, militant Islamo-fascists gave notice to the world that it was intent on bringing the US to its knees. It did so in a spectacularly vicious way. The US got the message and understood it plainly. Perhaps if individual muslims took responsibility for their own lives instead of bemoaning their loss of influence in the world and blaming it on everybody else, Mr. Bush and the US would not be going to war in a couple of weeks time. But Prof. Zinn, as a communist doesn't believe in individual freedoms, only in totalitarian societies like Iraq where the president gets 99% of the popular vote. WAs Prof Zinn pleased? You bet!

Mr. Zinn talks nonsense as he always does.

He might try getting one point correct. There is no military draft in the US as there is not in the UK. People who join the military forces join with the specific knowledge that they might be asked to go to war at one point in their military career. If they did not wished to be hurt, they should not have joined in the first place. To talk about damage to the professional soldier's health, as Mr. Zinn does, is to evade the issue of individual responsibility for the choice he or she made in volunteering for the armed forces. Mr. Zinn would do that, of course, as the unreconstructed communist that he is. Never mind the 100 million people murdered by the communists in the last century.

Rightly said. I applaud your concern

Mr.Zinn Your article is heart touching and true. My personel experience is americans are very nice and hmble people on the earth but, their goverment is cruled and terorist.