Out of war's horrors, a case for peace

08/02/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By SUSAN McMAHON
Sun Staff

LOWELL As the voices crying for military action against Iraq grow louder, Howard Zinn opened the curtain on the stark realities of war during a speech at UMass Lowell yesterday.

Zinn, a left-leaning historian who wrote A People's History of the United States, addressed a standing-room-only crowd on the topic of war its ravages, its deceits and its consequences.

He came to his conclusions despite his experience as a World War II bombardier, a time when he believed in the cause, when he thought he was supporting an idea that was greater than himself.

But, after returning, the fog lifted. And the consequences of war became all too apparent.

"Sure, the enemy was evil. Yes, fascism had to be resisted in some way. The question is, did it have to be resisted through Dresden? Did it have to be resisted through Hiroshima and Nagasaki? War does not solve fundamental problems, even though it seems to. War is a quick fix. It's like a drug, really."

During his talk, Zinn took his listeners through the history of war and U.S. foreign policy. A knowledge of the history of conflict and American policy around the world were both essential to fully understanding the present situation, he said.

Whether it be knowing that wars fought to advance the cause of democracy often have not done so, or that the war to end all wars was only one in a continuous string, knowledge of the causes and results of armed conflict enables Americans to think for themselves, rather than accept a government decision.

"If you don't know history, it's as if you were born yesterday," he said.

As for the current administration moving closer and closer to war with Iraq, Zinn focused on what he believed to be the root cause of the rumblings oil. Talk of a clear and present danger posed by Iraq is more of a future anticipation of a clear and present danger, he said.

And, if they have them, Iraq would not be the only country to hold nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, which raises the question: Why Iraq?

"None of the reasons add up. None of them make any sense," he said.

But going to war will not solve any potential crisis in Iraq, Zinn said, just like bombing Afghanistan did not eradicate the fear of terrorism from American minds. And the consequences, which often cannot be determined beforehand, will absolutely include the loss of civilian life.

"When you go to war, whether you understand this consciously or not, you are making an assumption that the people you are going to war against do not have an equal right to life as your people do," Zinn said. "You have to accept that if you are going to accept war."

Following the speech, several students and faculty said Zinn's arguments had cemented their stands against war in Iraq.

"I'm starting to believe there's not a political base for the administration to stand on," said Jason Carter, a student from Reading.

Susan McMahon's e-mail address is smcmahon@lowellsun.com .