Zinn reflects on war and how his views changed from being “a gung-ho eager bombardier” in World War II. He says, “There’s no ideological reason, no territorial reason, no reason that can justify the cruelty of war. The means of war have reached the point where they overwhelm any possible decent ends.” Then he adds, “I had a student who once said, ‘They’re always classifying wars like they classify wines. This was a good year. This was a bad year. This was a good war. This was a bad war. I say, Wars are not like wines. War is like cyanide. One drop and you’re dead.’”
Interview by David Barsamian.
Recorded at KGNU.
HOWARD ZINN CENTENARY 1922-2022
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 masterpiece, A People’s History of the United States, continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many other books are You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian and Original Zinn with David Barsamian. Shortly 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 by many the world over, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. He would say, Don’t mourn. Get active. The struggle for peace and justice continues.