Debate on Just War
Howard Zinn is joined by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, Tracey Stark of Emerson College, and Denis Atwater of Suffolk University in a lively discussion of just war. Stark reviews the basic theories of just war and says the invasion of Iraq does not meet the general criteria. Atwater denounces Zinn as someone who “lives in a land of dreamy innocence.” He adds, “The terrorists say the same things Zinn says.” Jacoby concedes, “There are many black spots” in U.S. foreign policy but he asks Zinn, “Where is the sympathy on the left for Saddam’s victims?” To which Zinn replies: “I care about Saddam’s victims. All human life is sacred. But we are most responsible for what our country does.” He then adds, “It would be naive to assume that we are going to bring liberty and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Democracy cannot be imposed. It must come from within. The record of the U.S. is one of military intervention, making war, and supporting dictatorships all over the world especially in Latin America and the Middle East.”
Recorded ay Suffolk University.
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.”
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for the Boston Globe. Prior to that, from 1987 to 1994, he was chief editorial writer for the Boston Herald. In the 1980s he worked as an assistant to John Silber, president of Boston University.