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Just & Unjust Wars

Program #ZINH007. Recorded in Madison, WI on March 21, 1991.

From ancient Athens to 21st century America, the rhetoric is the same. When "the dogs of war" are set loose, there is a cascade of jingoistic platitudes and cliches. We want peace. When we fight a war, it is just. We are good. The enemy is evil. We are victims seeking justice. We are making the world safe for democracy. And if they were honest they'd add, We are making the world safe for lexical and moral hypocrisy. Erasmus, the great 16th century philosopher monk, said of war, "There is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more loathsome." He then added that war was useful to a government for it enabled it to extend its power over citizens. Erasmus warned that "Once war has been declared then all the affairs of the State are at the mercy of the appetites of a few."

Speaker(s):

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University, was perhaps this country's premier radical historian. He was born in Brooklyn in 1922. His parents, poor immigrants, were constantly moving to stay, as he once told me, "one step ahead of the landlord." After high school, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During World War II, he saw combat duty as an air force bombardier. After the war, he went to Columbia University on the GI Bill. He taught at Spelman, the all black women's college in Atlanta. He was an active figure in the civil rights movement and served on the board of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was fired by Spelman for his activism. He was among the first to oppose U.S. aggression in Indochina. His book Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal was an instant classic. A principled opponent of imperialism and militarism, he was an advocate of non-violent civil disobedience. He spoke and marched against the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. His masterwork, A People's History of the United States, continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many books are A Power Governments Cannot Suppress and Original Zinn with David Barsamian. Just before his death he completed his last great project, the documentary The People Speak. Always ready to lend a hand, he believed in and practiced solidarity. Witty, erudite, generous and loved, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. His words inspire many the world over, "We don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. To live now, as human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

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