Howard Zinn's Disappointing History of the United States
On Thursday March 25, 2004 the Organization of American Historians (OAH) honored the work of Howard Zinn at a Town Meeting held in Boston at the opening of the OAH's annual convention. Click here to read an account.
Every work of history, according to Howard Zinn, is a political document. He titled his thick survey A People's History (A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present [NY: Perennial Classics, 2003]) so that no potential reader would wonder about his own point of view:"With all its limitations, it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance."
That judgment, Zinn proudly announces, sets his book apart from nearly every other account of their past that most Americans are likely to read."The mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction--so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements--that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission."
His message has certainly been heard. A People's History may well be the most popular work of history an American leftist has ever written. First published in 1980, it has gone through five editions and multiple printings, been assigned in thousands of college courses, sold more than a million copies, and made the author something of a celebrity--although one who appears to lack the egomaniacal trappings of the breed. Matt Damon, playing a working-class wunderkind in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, quoted from Zinn's book to show up an arrogant Harvard boy (and impress a Harvard girl). Damon and his buddy Ben Affleck then signed with Fox to produce a ten-hour miniseries based on the book, before Rupert Murdoch's minions backed out of the deal.
But Zinn's big book is quite unworthy of such fame and influence. A People's History is bad history, albeit gilded with virtuous intentions. Zinn reduces the past to a Manichean fable and makes no serious attempt to address the biggest question a leftist can ask about U.S. history: why have most Americans accepted the legitimacy of the capitalist republic in which they live?
His failure is grounded in a premise better suited to a conspiracy-monger's Web site than to a work of scholarship. According to Zinn,"99 percent" of Americans share a" commonality" that is profoundly at odds with the interests of their rulers. And knowledge of that awesome fact is"exactly what the governments of the United States, and the wealthy elite allied to them--from the Founding Fathers to now--have tried their best to prevent."
History for Zinn is thus a painful narrative about ordinary folks who keep struggling to achieve equality, democracy, and a tolerant society, yet somehow are always defeated by a tiny band of rulers whose wiles match their greed. He describes the American Revolution as a clever device to defeat"potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership." His Civil War was another elaborate confidence game. Soldiers who fought to preserve the Union got duped by"an aura of moral crusade" against slavery that"worked effectively to dim class resentments against the rich and powerful, and turn much of the anger against 'the enemy.'"
Nothing of consequence, in his view, changed during the industrial era, notwithstanding the growth of cities, railroads, and mass communications. Zinn views the tens of millions of Europeans and Asians who crossed oceans at the turn of the past century as little more than a mass of surplus labor. He details their miserable jobs in factories and mines and their desperate, often violent strikes at the end of the nineteenth century-most of which failed. The doleful narrative makes one wonder why anyone but the wealthy came to the United States at all and, after working for a spell, why anyone wished to stay.
Zinn does reveal a few moments of democratic glory--occasions when"the people," or at least a politically conscious fraction of them, temporarily broke through the elite's thick web of lies and coercion. Agrarian rebels formed cooperatives, allied with radical unionists, and charted their own financial system, the subtreasury, which they hoped would break the grip of heartless bankers. But, alas, the Populists were seduced in 1896 by William Jennings Bryan, who sold out their movement to the retrograde Democratic Party. During the Great Depression, wage earners across the industrial Midwest staged heroic sit-down strikes that demonstrated their ability to shut down the economy. But, for unexplained reasons, these working-class heroes allowed CIO unions and the New Deal state to smother their discontent within long-term contracts and bureaucratic procedures. Similarly, the civil rights movement toppled the Southern citadel of Jim Crow without taking on the capitalist system that kept the black masses mired in poverty.
This is history as cynicism. Zinn omits the real choices our left ancestors faced and the true pathos, and drama, of their decisions. In fact, most Populists cheered Bryan and voted for him because he shared their enemies and their vision of a producers' republic. Unlike Zinn, they grasped the dilemma of third parties in the American electoral system, which Richard Hofstadter likened to honeybees,"once they have stung, they die." And to bewail the fact that liberal Democrats saw an advantage to supporting rights for unions and minorities is a stunning feat of historical naiveté. Short of revolution, a strategic alliance with one element of"the Establishment" is the only way social movements ever make lasting changes in law and public policy.
Zinn's conception of American elites is akin to the medieval church's image of the Devil. For him, a governing class is motivated solely by its appetite for riches and power--and by its fear of losing them. Numerous historians may regard George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton as astute, if seriously flawed, men who erected a structure for the new nation that has endured for over two centuries. But Zinn curtly dismisses them as"leaders of the new aristocracy" and regards the nation-state itself as a cunning device to lull ordinary folks with"the fanfare of patriotism and unity."
Such phrases may hint of Marxism, but the old Rhinelander never took so static or simplistic a view of history. Zinn's ruling elite is a transhistorical entity, a virtual monolith; neither its interests nor its ideology change markedly from the days when its members owned slaves and wore knee-britches to the era of the Internet and Armani. Zinn thus sees nothing unusual in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It simply"meant that another part of the Establishment," albeit"more crass" than its immediate antecedents, was now in charge.
The ironic effect of such portraits of rulers is to rob"the people" of cultural richness and variety, characteristics that might gain the respect and not just the sympathy of contemporary readers. For Zinn, ordinary Americans seem to live only to fight the rich and haughty and, inevitably, to be fooled by them. They are like bobble-head dolls in work-shirts and overalls--ever sanguine about fighting the powers-that-be, always about to fall on their earnest faces. Zinn takes no notice of immigrants who built businesses and churches and craft unions, of women who backed both suffrage and temperance on maternalist grounds, of black Americans who merged the community-building gospel of Booker T. Washington and the militancy of W.E.B. Du Bois, or of wage-earners who took pleasure in the new cars and new houses those awful long-term contracts enabled them to buy.
From the 1960s onward, scholars, most of whom lean leftward, have patiently and empathetically illuminated such topics--and explained how progressive movements succeeded as well as why they fell short of their goals. But Zinn cares only about winners and losers in a class conflict most Americans didn't even know they were fighting. Like most propagandists, he measures individuals according to his own rigid standard of how they should have thought and acted. Thus, he depicts John Brown as an unblemished martyr but sees Lincoln as nothing more than a cautious politician who left slavery alone as long as possible. To explain why the latter's election in 1860 convinced most slaveowners to back secession, Zinn falls back on the old saw, beloved by economic determinists, that the Civil War was"not a clash of peoples…but of elites," Southern planters vs. Northern industrialists. Pity the slaves and their abolitionist allies; in their ignorance, they viewed it as a war of liberation and wept when Lincoln was murdered.
To borrow a phrase from the British historian John Saville, Zinn expects the past to do its duty. He has been active on the left since his youth in the 1930s. During the 1960s, he fought for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam and wrote fine books that sprang directly from those experiences. But to make sense of a nation's entire history, an author has to explain the weight and meaning of worldviews that are not his own and that, as an engaged citizen, he does not favor. Zinn has no taste for such disagreeable tasks.
The fact that his text barely mentions either conservatism or Christianity is telling. The former is nothing but an excuse to grind the poor (" conservatism" itself doesn't even appear in the index), while religion gets a brief mention during Anne Hutchinson's rebellion against the Puritan fathers and then vanishes from the next 370 years of history.
Given his approach to history, Zinn's angry pages about the global reach of U.S. power are about as surprising as his support for Ralph Nader in 2000. Of course, President William McKinley decided to go to war with Spain at"the urging of the business community." Zinn ignores the scholarly verdict that most Americans from all classes and races backed the cause of"Cuba Libre"--but not the later decisions to vassalize the Caribbean island and colonize the Philippines. Of course, as an imperial bully, the United States had no right, in World War II,"to step forward as a defender of helpless countries." Zinn thins the meaning of the biggest war in history down to its meanest components: profits for military industries, racism toward the Japanese, and the senseless destruction of enemy cities--from Dresden to Hiroshima. His chapter on that conflict does ring with a special passion; Zinn served as a bombardier in the European theater and the experience made him a lifelong pacifist. But the idea that Franklin Roosevelt and his aides were motivated both by realpolitik and by an abhorrence of fascism seems not to occur to him.
The latest edition of the book includes a few paragraphs about the attacks of September 11, and they demonstrate how poorly Zinn's view of the past equips him to analyze the present."It was an unprecedented assault against enormous symbols of American wealth and power," he writes. The nineteen hijackers"were willing to die in order to deliver a deadly blow against what they clearly saw as their enemy, a superpower that had thought itself invulnerable." Zinn then quickly moves on to condemn the United States for killing innocent people in Afghanistan.
Is this an example of how to express the" commonality" of the great majority of U.S. citizens, who believed that the gruesome strike against America's evil empire was aimed at them? Zinn's flat, dualistic view of how U.S. power has been used throughout history omits what is obvious to the most casual observer: al-Qaeda's religious fanaticism and the potential danger it poses to anyone that Osama bin Laden and his disciples deem an enemy of Islam. Surely one can hate imperialism without ignoring the odiousness of killers who mouth the same sentiment.
Not everything in A People's History is so obtuse and dogmatic. Zinn punctuates his narrative with hundreds of quotes from slaves and Populists, anonymous wage-earners and such articulate radicals as Eugene V. Debs, DuBois, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Stokely Carmichael, and Helen Keller. These supply texture and eloquence absent from the author's own predictable renderings. It's satisfying to know that a million readers have encountered the words Debs spoke upon being sentenced to jail for opposing the First World War:
Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Zinn also fills several pages with excerpts from poems by Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen and from the autobiography of Richard Wright. But the richness of these lines doesn't mitigate the poverty of his interpretations. Rage at injustice does not explain why that injustice occurs.
Pointing out what's wrong with Zinn's passionate tome is not difficult for anyone with a smattering of knowledge about the American past. By why has this polemic disguised as history attracted so many enthusiastic readers?
For the majority of reviewers on Amazon.com (381, as of February 2004), A People's History has the force and authority of revelation."Zinn single-handedly initiated a Copernican revolution in historicism," writes"eco-william" from Oregon. Others rave about his" compassion and eye for detail" and proclaim the survey"a top contender for greatest book ever written." Zinn's admirers have a quick retort to conservatives who claim his work is"biased." Writes" culov" from Anaheim:"The book is purposely meant to be biased. It tells the story of American history from the point of view of 'the losers' because we all know that the winners write history. If you want something written from George Washington's point of view, go buy a textbook . . . those are as biased as possible."
The unqualified directness of Zinn's prose clearly appeals to his readers. Unlike scholars who aspire to add one or two new bricks to an edifice that has been under construction for decades or even centuries, he brings dynamite to the job."To understand," wrote Frederick Douglass,"one must stand under." Although Zinn doesn't quote that axiom, the sensibility appears on every page of his book. His fans can supply the corollary themselves: only the utterly contemptible stand on top.
Many radicals and some liberals clearly want to hear this moral stated and re-stated. Even Eric Foner, whose splendid scholarship delivers no such easy lessons, praised Zinn's book in the New York Times as"a coherent new version of American history." The Story of American Freedom, Foner's own 1996 attempt to write a survey for non-academic readers, is far more scrupulous--and far less popular.
Zinn fills a need shaped by our recent past. The years since 1980 have not been good ones for the American left. Three Republicans and one centrist Democrat occupied the White House; conservatives captured both houses of Congress; the phantom hope of state socialism vanished almost overnight; and progressive movements spent most of their time struggling to preserve earlier gains instead of daring to envision and fight for new ideas and programs.
In the face of such unrelenting grimness, A People's History offers a certain consolation."The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history," writes Zinn. It uses wealth to"turn those in the 99 percent against one another" and employs war, patriotism, and the National Guard to"absorb and divert" the occasional rebellion. So"the people" can never really win, unless and until they make a revolution. But they can comprehend the evil of this four-hundred-year-old order, and that knowledge will, to an extent, set them free.
Thus, a narrative about demonic elites becomes an apology for political failure. By Zinn's account, the modern left made no errors of judgment, rhetoric, or strategy. He never mentions the Communist Party's lockstep praise of Stalin or the New Left's fantasy of guerilla warfare. Radical activists simply failed to muster enough clear-eyed troops to pierce through the enemy's mighty, sophisticated defenses.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of his book is that Zinn encourages readers to view so formidable a force as just a pack of lying bullies. He refuses to acknowledge that when they speak about their ideals, those who hold national power usually mean what they say. If FDR lied to Americans about the threat posed by Japanese-Americans during World War II, why should anyone believe his prattle about the Four Freedoms? So there's no point in debating conservatives who prescribe libertarian economics, Victorian moral values, and preemptive interventions for what ails the United States and the world. All right-wingers really care about is keeping all the resources and power for themselves.
This cynical myopia afflicts an alarming number of people on the left today. The gloom of defeat tends to obscure the landscape of real politics, which has always witnessed a clash of ideologies as well as interests, persuasion as well as buy-offs and sellouts. Zinn fiercely details the outrages committed by America's rulers at home and abroad. But he makes no serious attempt to examine why these rulers kept getting elected, or how economic and social reform improved the lives of millions even if they sapped whatever mass appetite existed for radical change.
No work of history can substitute for a social movement. Yet intelligent, sober studies can make sense of how changing structures of power and ideas provide openings for challenges from below, while also shifting the basis on which a reigning order claims legitimacy for itself. These qualities mark the work of such influential (and widely read) historians on the left as Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson, Gerda Lerner, C.L.R. James, and the erstwhile populist C. Vann Woodward. Reading their work makes one wiser about the obstacles to change as well as encouraged about the capacity of ordinary men and women to achieve a degree of independence and happiness, even within unjust societies. In contrast, Howard Zinn is an evangelist of little imagination for whom history is one long chain of stark moral dualities. His fatalistic vision can only keep the left just where it is: on the margins of American political life.
Click here to read comments posted on HNN Blog Cliopatria concerning this article.
This article was first published in Dissent and is reprinted with permission.
- Howard Zinn - Tributes, Memorials, and Obituaries
- Howard Zinn's show has been"hyped" says Ron Radosh in a highly critical review
- Rick Shenkman: The Left's Blind Spot
- Michael Kazin: Howard Zinn's Disappointing History of the United States
- Joseph A. Palermo: Remembering Howard Zinn
- Michael Honey: Howard Zinn's Disputed Legacy
- Ron Briley: Thank You, Howard Zinn
- Ron Radosh: America the Awful - Howard Zinn's History
- Sheldon M. Stern: Howard Zinn Briefly Recalled
- Staughton Lynd: The Howard Zinn I Remember
- Eric Foner: Zinn's Critical History
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Jeremy Alan Perron - 4/26/2009
This sums up my views on Zinn perfectly thank you, Prof. Kazin
Norma J F Harrison - 1/13/2009
on second reading, this review has a strong position I agree with. And reflecting on readings of history that I have done - and I'm not an academic so it's not from that standpoint I say, the references in the review, to ways history is conventionally reported are familiar to me, the call for the proletarian response being a good call. Meaning the review references facts over and over.
The critique turns out to be a worthy adjunct to Zinn. Zinn's approach is to offer the opposing look at history in a volume not too large to handle, being simplistic pretty much of necessity, in the areas cited in this critique. Nevertheless it is extremely valuable in reaching to the heart of people long abused by didactic insistence on history as advancing in our - meaning the ruling elites' - favors.
Neil H Parsons - 10/24/2006
your name perhaps/probably implies the long and insecure wordiness of your critique... and in actuality, folks from your bloodline should still be in the middle-east rather than jousting with an honest white guy, here in 'the new world'....
Stephen Vinson - 4/6/2004
Ad hominem attacks are fun. Anyway:
"When your country is being ravaged by a despotic international economic system that rapes and destroys your native economy, of course you are going to want to immigrate where money exists. I have traveled throughout Latin and SOuth America and Africa teaching Sustainable Development Law and I see the same thing over and over...poverty and sickness specifically linked to US economic policies (actually it is even bigger than the US at this point, multi-national corporate policies)."
Those immigrants have left economic systems closer to the ones you support to go to countries with economic systems Zinn opposes.
"You certainly do not work harder, are not better educated, dont know as much about the world outside your nation, dont have better overall health care, dont have as much overall press freedom..as well as several other social indicators that the US ranks last among developed nations and even ranks behind some developing nations."
Bet you can't defend those assertions, kemosabe.
Americans work on average ~10 hours per work more than Europeans and more than most other developed countries. Many more people obtain higher education here than on average and those universities blow foreign universities out of the water in every survey I've ever seen. We have the highest per capita GDP of every country outside of Luxembourg.
"There are some places in the world where democracy is not the best system."
Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/6/2004
Poor, lost forlorn Chris........if the USA is the "devil" he makes it out to be, then perforce it must also have the potential to God, or vice versa.
Delighted to hear that you have travelled in South Africa. How well do you speak, read and understand any southern Nguni languages?
As Shannon reminds Chris over and over, his overheated rhetoric and incoherent rambling from topic to topic and region to region is not subject to rational responses.
If you Chris would like to dissect and analyze 20th century South African political economy, then let's hear from you - briefly please!!!
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
Do Iraqis have American Democracy?
They can not vote.
They have absolutely no rights, at least as far as unlimited search, seizure and detention, by US forces, is de rigeur.
Will America, at any point, try to help them have an election?
Are you happy with Afghanistans "American style democracy?" Are you aware that they only allowe ONE CANDIDATE ON THE BALLOT?
I'm not stinking communist, SL Anaya, so you are going to have dig a little deeper to try to dismiss the fact that you come off as a complete naif.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
If you think that's amusing, you should sit with us while we watch the President and his crew slam the reputations of...
J DiUlio, the head of the White House Office of Faith Based Services
P O'Neill, the former Secretary of the Treasury
R Clarke, the guy that C Rice put in charge of counter-terrorism after 9/11
That part is hilarious.
I am just worried about people like SL Anaya. When they finally figure out what was going on, it is going to make them feel real bad. They may end up taking it out on the wrong people. That's why we have to take away suffrage from people who are obviously this ignorant.
SL Anaya, can you give us any indication that you should be allowed to vote? Can you illustrate an understanding of even the most basic of political things?
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
I've never read Zinn's work, but I can tell Charles V. Mutschler isn't playing with a full deck.
Chuck, Hey Chuck! The Socialists just cleaned up in Spain and France, and the rest of Europe is going the same way.
In fact, it's already happened.
Iceland's Prime Minister supported Bush, and he's gone.
Latvia's coalition supported the war, and it dissovled.
Azerbaijan, where the son of the former Commissar won, is the only nation, so far, where a Fascist Bush supporter has won re-election.
Labor in the UK lost 800 local seats in the 2003 midterm elections, and Labor has not regained any popularity.
Do you think A Blair's role in having those civilians strung up on that bridge as a good thing, or a bad thing, for Labour's election prospects?
Democracy and warmongering don't mix, duh.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
Huh? I'm having a good time watching the ghouls of the right slam their own bigwigs, and you have fun watching people on a chat board "consume" each other, and I have to be more individual, and less a leftists.
What pals? I hate everyone, equally, for their stupidity.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
Actually, not only are you fundamentally wrong about many things, but you are simply lying about Afghanistan.
They have Shari'a law in Afghanistan today.
The Chief Justice of the Afghan Supreme Court is just as much anti-woman as the Taleban. I certainly haven't seen any prominent US women there.
Most of the top Iraqi women have ALREADY BEEN ASSASSINATED. You may find that hilarious, but I don't.
You can call me a communist, a progressive, whatever you want. I am an ultra-conservative.
This war killed 50,000 Iraqis, to get one man. How many Iraqis dead would have been fine. If we had to have killed all 20,000,000? You never cared a whit about these people, and you still don't. You can prove that by your stupid claims that women are fine now in Afghanistna.
Only a stupid propagandist could produce such lies.
Call me a communist totalitarian Nazi, i don't care. you are still an idiot
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
Assumes reading comprehension skills.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
No nation states?
Not to mention the inevitable force you have in mind to get rid of them, and the possible bloody consequences thereof...
What replaces them?
Perhaps you have a link to what you had in mind?
I'm extremely dubious.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
The people are rarely fooled.
But new, completely ignorant people reach maturity every day, and only "one" voice, the voice of the major media outlets, reaches them all.
Are you entirely ignorant of Elbridge Gerry?
E Gerry, famous for the Gerrymander, was at the 2nd Constitutional Convention. He sat and supported most every single part of the Constitution, as it developed. In fact, his arguments, according to some, prevented America from going in other directions.
His support of the Constitution seemed unquestioned.
The day they decided to repudiate the kind of currency he held vast stocks of, he changed entirely, and became a critic of every aspect of the Constitution.
Gerry was not evil, nor was he dumb. He wanted the Constitution to be good. But when it threatened to impoverish him, he damned the whole thing, and fought it thereafter.
"I would spend half my money to protect the other half." -- quote of a guy who tried to overthrow FDR
Who were the "Fascists" in Spain, in the 1930s? The industrialists, the wealthy, the church-leaders, and army officers.
Who were the "rebels" in Haiti, this year? The wealthy, big drug-dealers, fundamentalist preachers, and former army officers.
Who were the "coup-masters" in Venezuela in 2001? The wealthy (banging pots and pans in their chi-chi neighborhoods), the oil industrialists, a faction in the military. I don't think the Church was there, but there was probably a denomination of the upper classes that was there.
Who does GW Bush support with his platform? The wealthy, the industrialists, church leaders, and the military.
Does GW Bush care about religious power in Bangladesh?
Did Franco care about the Malaysian industrialists?
When a canton in Switzerland passed a regressive income tax, that starts regressing at ~700,000 USD/year, are they showing concern for the Chilean wealthy?
Do Venezuelan military leaders concern themselves over the role of the Namibian military in Namibia's government?
The political right in America has brought us to defeat. Decades of second-rate, well-funded intellectual thought has poisoned the well so badly, I constantly wonder whether Usama and Saddam will fight for the credit.
Josh S Narins - 4/6/2004
I too hastily referred to E Gerry's role before the currency he held was repudiated.
I should rather have said that there was nothing in the Constitution, before that point, with which he disagreed.
He had been entirely satisfied with the Constitution, until he was going to go broke, then the whole thing was bad news.
Why did the American Revolution happen?
Hegel might say "because it could."
Because the King of England was mad.
Because instructions from England were one month late and referred to situations two months old.
Because Thomas Jefferson read Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws.
Because sometimes they used cyphers to speak to each other.
Mr. Kazin does not deserve a vote, but anyone can run for office.
Charles V. Mutschler - 4/6/2004
Mr. Narins, you may be clarvoyant, but generally, it is considered poor practice to critique something you have not read. By your own admission, you have not even read Zinn's _People's History of the United States._ Consequently, I would say that you are in no position to have much to say that even bears on the question. Your response to my post bears this out very well.
The discussion is NOT about the current elections in Spain, or tthe war in Iraq. If you want to discuss those issues, there are other more appropriate places to do so, including threads on this site. The subject of this thread is not Iraq, but it is Mr. Zinn's book. Perhaps you should read Mr. Zinn's book BEFORE you comment on it. Mr. Kazin's points still stand, and you have not addressed them at all: How does Mr. Zinn address the serious substantive issues that conflict with his narrative? As I and others have noted, the problem is, Mr. Zinn does not. His book may be entertaining reading, but it is not very effective history.
Charles V. Mutschler
Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/4/2004
Shannon scores another perfect ten.......but the Blame America First mob and the lefty haters make it easy to do.......
Richard EH Barnes - 4/4/2004
What exactly was "Blair's role in having those civilians strung up on that bridge" please ?
We don't have "midterm elections" in the UK. If you're referring to the local council elections the Tories regained or won more seats from Labour than any other party, and they were more in favour of the action that was taken in Iraq than Labour was. They won 540 council seats out of the 750+ that Labour lost.
Paul Noonan - 4/3/2004
Actually, I'm not a Marxist. I merely pointed out that Marxism does not always entail Leninist totalitarianism. There have been, and are today, Marxists who are committed to democracy. The essential problem they've faced is that they've never been able to convince a majority of the electorate in any democracy to support them. So one of two things happens to democratic Marxist parties. They either are marginalized to utter insignificance , like the Socialist Party of Great Britain (not to be confused with the Labor Party) or they cease to be Marxist, like the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which is really just another liberal party today.
I'm not an academic, but I doubt that Marxism is really that influential a force in academia anymore. It may influence the thought of some professors, but probably not all that many under 50, and they are not being replaced in younger generations. From what I can see the 19th century thinker who has most influenced younger academics is Nietzsche, both directly and through his intellectual descendents.
I'm not aware of any Marxists in America today destroying property or threatening lives. I'm aware that the Communist Party of the United States engaged in abusive tactics towards its enemies (mostly former or dissident Communists) in its heyday, but that heyday is long past and the thousand or so (mostly geriatric) members of the CP today probably only endanger those they come in contact with by threatening to bore them to death.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/3/2004
Keep it short... I'm sure you have mounds and mounds of material to support your view. But I don't have time to grind through all of your intellectual bloviating.
As far as borders: Gee wouldn't it be nice if we could just all get along and love one another in peace, acceptance, and respect. Nice dream, now try living in reality. If families can't even get along what in the world makes you think a borderless world is the answer? If you want mass chaos, remove the borders. Borders are a necessary order for society. If you wish to become a Citizen of The World then go to a country where borders are not respected. Gee, that would be just about any communist country - wouldn't it?
Shannon L Anaya - 4/3/2004
I suppose your affection for communism comes from the delusional belief that if we just get the right people to rule over the masses then communism will work? Who might that be? The Bolshevik’s didn't have an exit strategy from communism and as a result countless millions died over the course of 70 years. Oh, I believe that some of you Marxists found Lenin and Stalin's form of bastardized Marxism to be abhorrent. You have to be able to compartmentalize the bloody rule of these upholders of Communist ideology.
But Marxism is doomed to failure because it cannot exist without stripping individuals of their freedom, creativity, and God given right to individual thought. We see it now on our college campuses - The Marxist radicals can't allow for any diversity in ideas because allowing for any other ideology would undermine its control. Marxists don't take into account the reality that there will always be people who criticize its sordid belief. Marxism must have totalitarianism as its partner because otherwise it would fail. It's one thing to take the mind of a young person and manipulate it... how easy. It's like picking cherries off a cherry tree. But take an adult and try to brainwash them. Adults are a much more complicated foe. So they must be silenced. Trotsky was murdered, others were sent to the gulags in Siberia, others were taken away from their families and disappeared without a trace. In America, the tactic cannot be so blatant. A Marxist must attack the opposing menace in more subtle ways. They do this by slandering them, attacking their integrity, and name-calling. If the person is still not subdued, then the Marxist must intimidate them in more overt ways - harassing them in their own homes or public belittlement. If that doesn’t work then Marxists destroy their property, threaten their lives, and it goes on and on. There is no question that wherever Marxism raises its ugly head, hatred, disharmony, and destruction follows, because Marxists have to be radical in order to survive.
In Josh Narins own words… “What pals? I hate everyone, equally, for their stupidity.”
Thus is the legacy of Marxism.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/3/2004
Resorting to name calling is exactly my point regarding the 'marxist left'. And yes Josh, you do hate. Such wasted energy when you should celebrate that you live in a Country which allows you the Freedom to hate Her.
chris l pettit - 4/3/2004
Other than name calling and baseless allegations...I have still not seen any factual evidence to refute a single fact that I put in front of you.
Addressing what you would call "conspiracy"...documents released by the National Security Archives confirmed that the Clinton Administration knew about the Rwandan genocide plan well before it was put into motion and did nothing. The transcripts of the UN Security Council meetings also confirm that the US was the major force in preventing a quick response to the massacres. As for the former Yugoslavia, the NSA again comes in handy showing that Clinton government operatives confirmed that bombing certain parts of Serbia was certain to speed up the ethnic cleansing that was taking place. In addition, the ethnic cleansing was highly suspect and was actually occurring on both sides...as has now been widely demonstrated by Albanians recently attempting to slaughter Serbs. once again, the US is propping up (via NATO) a nasty government that happens to be strategically allied with it. i have not seen any punitive sanctions coming against the Albanians. By the way...I helped author a book on the topic if you would like a copy...it might enlighten you.
By the way...when did being verbose become a negative? Simply because I buried any point you had under an avalanche of fact suddenly makes it bad to present facts as a refutation of silly arguments? I don't get it...
When your country is being ravaged by a despotic international economic system that rapes and destroys your native economy, of course you are going to want to immigrate where money exists. I have traveled throughout Latin and SOuth America and Africa teaching Sustainable Development Law and I see the same thing over and over...poverty and sickness specifically linked to US economic policies (actually it is even bigger than the US at this point, multi-national corporate policies). People in these countries try and elect leaders that will make a difference, without realising that it does not matter who comes to power...the majority of citizens will continue to live under the poverty line and a small number of corporate elite with connections into corporate bodies will continue to become rich. Until international policies change, people will flock to the US because they can earn nothing picking tomatoes for Taco Bell...the race to the bottom continues. Returning to the economic realm, you really ought to pick up a book and read something useful to find out how our economic policies impact other nations and how we dump excess crops into their countries, ruining their economic bases.
Shannon...I have not seen you reference an international or moderate news source yet...are you even the slightest bit interested in what is actually happening oputside your white wealthy dreamworld? Or are you so self interested and greedy that you would just deny rights to all those who do not think like you? Let me know where to sign up and get my Stars and Stripes armband and Bush II picture to put on my wall and salute every morning. Maybe our troops should start goose stepping around Iraq...we can even compel the Iraqis to place their hands on their hearts and say the pledge...under God (our Christian God of course, since his dangle doo is bigger than that heathen Muslim god's). Do you even realise how intolerant and ignorant you sound? Do you realise that you are a human being and that there are certain rights that are guaranteed to every human being in this world? Now, if you take the position that Americans are right and good and the greatest people in the world, thats fine...just state it and confirm that Americans deserve all the rights and privileges and the right to take anything they want away from the rest of the world. I'll send you your American Aryan Nation t-shirt and you can be happy with the fact that, just because you live in between two imaginary lines drawn on a map, you are somehow better than the rest of humanity and deserve more than they do. You certainly do not work harder, are not better educated, dont know as much about the world outside your nation, dont have better overall health care, dont have as much overall press freedom..as well as several other social indicators that the US ranks last among developed nations and even ranks behind some developing nations.
Another question...what is "my party"? Did you even read my post? I attack Clinton and Kerry as vociferously as I attack Bush...I can't stand any of them. Clinton's human rights record was as bad as if not worse than Bush's has been. THis is not a party issue...this trancends party lines and spreads across all mainstream parties...it is a product of miseducation and the mistaken belief that somehow Americans and the US system are better than everyone else and their systems, when in reality there are goodnesses to be drawn from all nations, all faiths and all systems.
There are several texts on illiberal democracies...I suggest you pick one up. The fact is that in its current state, Iraq is not going to have true democracy. By the way...define that word for me because currently it looks like it means hand picked leaders that the majority of people on the ground do not acknowledge to even be Iraqi as well as permanent bases where an imperial power can station thousands of troops to help govern...yup, that sounds like democracy to me! There are some places in the world where democracy is not the best system. Political scientists in the US have programmed themselves and the public into thinking that there is a one size fits all black and white "democracy" that fits every situation, without understanding the historical, cultural and sociological nuances in every situation. That is a key problem with our imperial adventure in Iraq...the Bush administration had no clue about history or culture...they just thought they could walk in and solve everything...cuz they were 'mericans(gotta say it in your best uneducated slur guys).
I'm sorry...I just can't understand anyone who thinks that they are special just because they live in a certain boundary area drawn on a map. You are no different than anyone else living in this world and are no better because you were born in the US. You are a human being and part of a global community...the sooner you wake up to that the better. I am anti-nation state and sovereignty because it has become an outdated system that needs to fade into the background. nation states serve their purpose in domestic governance but must be subversive to the authority of international law and the global community and global economic needs. Adopting a despotic imperial idealism has and always will fail because you cannot suppress the entire globe (we are trying).
I see you still have not looked up Communism...ought to get on that.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/3/2004
You're acting like a child who got his feelings hurt. I challenged your view - hopefully it will make you think on your own without all your pals to influence you. Be an individual Josh, or you'll never be free from the shackles of leftist idealism that consumes you and drives your hatred. Don't be a puppet.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/3/2004
Gee Josh, what did you expect, a Democracy in 24 hours? Sorry it doesn't work that way; but then again I wouldn't expect you to understand that good things take time. Democracy is a process it's not something you can just whip up like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. But in answer to your question I believe the people of Iraq have been voting for years, the difference will be that one candidate will not get 100% of the vote.
I don't know you, so I can't say where your hatred for America comes from, I'm going to have to assume that you're just young and impudent and have never known suffering or sacrifice in your life. I'm guessing that you're at the age where justice and injustice is black and white. Perhaps you'll grow out of this view, but considering your comments in previous posts I'm not so sure that you'll ever acquire the ability to be intellectually honest with your Self.
As for your remark regarding Afghani's... I cannot comment, other than to say that women are no longer being subjected to the harsh laws set upon them by the ruling Taleban. Try to really consider what it might be like to not be able to bathe without an escort, or to go to school, or to go out in public without being able to feel the warmth of the sun or even a cool evening breeze on your face. America freed the Afghani people, not once but twice. And please don't go down the 'Blame America' road of trying to claim that we 'armed' the Taleban, unless of course you're willing to admit that America aided the Northern Alliance against the hostile Soviet invasion of that Country. Radical leftists during their tirades against America frequently miss this small detail.
Stinking communists ... what are you then, a 'Progressive'? Same thing and it still stinks. The differences perhaps being that ‘Progressives’ are more arrogant in ideology because they honestly believe that Communism could work if the right people were in power. Progressives see themselves as being more noble, loftier in their altruism - a kinder, more gentle communist.
Read this article. David Gelernter expresses the views of millions of Americans far more eloquently than I ever could.
The Holocaust Shrug
Why is there so much indifference to the liberation of Iraq?
By DAVID GELERNTER (Weekly Standard, April5, 2004
Paul Noonan - 4/3/2004
I'm not particularly familiar with Zinn, but from what I've been able to find out about him online he seems to be a democratic socialist, not a Leninist. Here is a quote from his PEOPLE'S HISTORY:
"The victors [of World War II] were the Soviet Union and the United States (also England, France and Nationalist China, but they were weak). Both these countries now went to work--without swastikas, goose-stepping, or officially declared racism, but under the cover of "socialism" on one side, and "democracy" on the other, to carve out their own empires of influence. They proceeded to share and contest with one another the domination of the world, to build military machines far greater than the Fascist countries had built, to control the destinies of more countries than Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan had been able to do. They also acted to control their own populations, each country with its own techniques-crude in the Soviet Union, sophisticated in the United States--to make their rule secure."
From the above it seems his distaste for the former USSR is about as great as his distaste for this country.
It's is a typical conservative ploy to attribute a fondness for Lenin and Stalin to everyone on the left when such is far from the case. Even some quite far to the left have been extremely critical of Soviet and Chinese Communism. Frankly, when I read something hostile to Communism written by, say, Norman Thomas, I know I am reading something from an author who is truly affronted by the supression of human liberty. When I read something against Communism by, say, William Randolph Hearst I wonder if he is worried about any freedom other than his freedom to live in what amounts to a palace.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/2/2004
Why is it that my short paragraph forced you to go into a diatribe of tired old canards to defend your Party? Are you that insecure in its validity that you feel the need to defend it with such verbosity? If Communism is so wonderful, why isn't the whole world communist? According to my understanding of history, the majority of the world decided that communism didn't work and abandoned it. The only people who hang on are the ones who refuse to face the reality of its demise. Old Marxists are rather like old slappers who continue to pursue their youth by dressing like their teenage daughters. May I remind you of a quote written on a banner by people who actually experienced Communist oppression - "70 Years on the Road to Nowhere". Since you're the one who feels the need to teach me history, I'm sure you know the source. If not, look it up - I'm not your history teacher.
You attack my patriotism by attempting to belittle it by implying that somehow yours is more righteous and omnipotent, then you immediately accuse America of being despotic and imperialistic as if you've seen the light and others have not. This is clearly a concern of yours. If you mean America is imperialistic because of Iraq, then I suppose I could ask you which form of governance would you prefer in Iraq? Saddam's Totalitarianism or America's Democracy? By your vehement defense of Communism, I'm guessing the latter. Or perhaps I could give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're caught up on 'principle'. In which case I would have to conclude that you lack the ability to separate the reality of how people actually live verses your principled view on how America should behave. But then again you hate America really, you're just too intellectually dishonest to admit it, so anywhere in the world where American style democracy might root you would naturally oppose. I suppose it never occurred to you that Iraq may create a democracy uniquely suited to Her own culture - you're so wrapped up in the evils of so called American despotism and imperialism. Or does that charge simply come from your hatred of President Bush? It's hard to tell with you people, because you're all over the map.
As for comparing my post to Ann Coulter - I'm honoured.
Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/2/2004
You two blokes are far sighted and imaginative, all right. Bright as hell and deeply read. I am impressed and amused. Thanks for reconfirming why oh why it is that the USA accepts more immigrants each year than the rest of the world (toute de monde) combined.
To err is human.... to forgive divine......
Y'all stay well now......
Kevin Shanks - 4/1/2004
Most immigrants to the U.S. (especially the illegal ones) trek over the meadow and through the woods (and across the Rio Grande) for one simple reason: $$$$$. Freedom? Democracy? Hell, they can't even *read* the Constitution much less know what it says. They just want to get exploited by a sugar grower in Florida who doesn't even provide toilets for his workers because they get paid ten times what they would in their home country.
Guess what other country has literally millions of foreigners eager to "move heavan and earth" so they can work there: Saudi Arabia. Another bastion of freedom and demoncracy.
Dude, it's all about the Benjamins...
Oscar Chamberlain - 4/1/2004
People want to move to the United States because life is better here. True. But what does that have to do with America's international actions?
A republic can oppress, can make bad decisions, can ignore the needs of other nations. Certainly the internal freedom can make them more amenable to corrections, but that does not make them less likely to err.
Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/1/2004
With your predictably hilarious list of wrongs, insults, slurs, innuendoes, conspiratorial assumptions, attacks, and sarcasm against the USA, one wonders how or why it is that so many of the world's oppressed and suffering people ignore your blandishments and move heaven and earth to try and start a new life in this wicked, debased Hades of ours?
Brevity is a virtue, mon brave.
Actually, I spend a lot of time immersed in other cultures - Somali, Zulu, West Australian Aborigine, among others - and I must bring you news that your sour, hoarse, cramped view of the world and its history is not shared by many of them.
Hey Chris.... the 70's are over... let 'em go.
Charles V. Mutschler - 4/1/2004
As others have noted, Kazin's assessment of Howard Zinn's _A People's History of the United States_ is right on the money. As a work of history, the book is too shallow and too pat to be very useful. As a polemic, _A People's History_ works better, a sort of mirror image of the US compared to the view taken by Parson Weems when he made George Washington out to be utterly without blemish.
Quite frankly, I think _A People's History of the United States_ is one of the most over-rated US survey texts ever marketed. I wonder if Professor Zinn realizes how ironic it is that his book proves the viability of the free market which he finds so objectionable, and the old dictum of Pt.T. Barnum that there is a sucker born every minute.
As others note, Professor Zinn simply repeats the same chorus throughout, and never addresses the questions of *why* the workers have consistently voted for the party of the bosses; why socialism has never taken hold here; why people keep coming to the US, etc. While it may be entertaining, it isn't very good history.
There are much better books available.
Charles V. Mutschler
chris l pettit - 4/1/2004
Charles, I appreciate the jest...
However, I am not a Marxist nor do i believe in the eternal revolution. History has not and will not pass me by, as by acknowledging globalisation and the fact that the world is getting smaller, I actually can understand the social factors making up the world today. By the way...Marx's history was completely wrong. What don't you understand about HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER and ACTIVIST? Does this automatically make me a Marxist? I suppose in your narrowminded world it does. I do not choose to concern myself exclusively with something so shortsighted and black and white as economics...it does not allow one to solve the worlds problems and truly make progress. I have a very intensive economics base to my scholarship, but recognise its limitations as a discipline and the needs to be well-rounded, something that certain posters on this website can't seem to handle.
I can see that you cannot refute anything I said in my post...and I can fill you in on a bit more history of our great freedom loving nation if you like.
Why don't we talk to the people of the democratically elected governments that we have overthrown to install despots about freedom. Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Iran, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Liberia...list goes on and on. How about the genocides we ignore and stonewall the UN into ignoring...Rwanda, Congo? How about the genocides that we actively have a hand in accelerating, like that in former Yugoslavia? How about the support that we gave and give to the apartheid regimes of South Africa and Israel? How about the support that was given to Hitler and Germany before it became too politically hazardous to do so? How about the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII? How about firebombing Tokyo and Dresden? How about being the only nation to employ a nuclear weapon?
Here is some pertinent international law information for you about our respect for rights and freedoms...
In December 2001, the United States officially withdrew from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, gutting the landmark agreement-the first time in the nuclear era that the US renounced a major arms control accord.
2. 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention ratified by 144 nations including the United States. In July 2001 the US walked out of a London conference to discuss a 1994 protocol designed to strengthen the Convention by providing for on-site inspections. At Geneva in November 2001, US Undersecretary of State John Bolton stated that "the protocol is dead," at the same time accusing Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, and Syria of violating the Convention but offering no specific allegations or supporting evidence.
3. UN Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms, July 2001: the US was the only nation to oppose it.
4. April 2001, the US was not re-elected to the UN Human Rights Commission, after years of withholding dues to the UN (including current dues of $244 million)-and after having forced the UN to lower its share of the UN budget from 25 to 22 percent. (In the Human Rights Commission, the US stood virtually alone in opposing resolutions supporting lower-cost access to HIV/AIDS drugs, acknowledging a basic human right to adequate food, and calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.)
5. International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty, to be set up in The Hague to try political leaders and military personnel charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Signed in Rome in July 1998, the Treaty was approved by 120 countries, with 7 opposed (including the US). In October 2001 Great Britain became the 42nd nation to sign. In December 2001 the US Senate again added an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would keep US military personnel from obeying the jurisdiction of the proposed ICC.
6. Land Mine Treaty, banning land mines; signed in Ottawa in December 1997 by 122 nations. The United States refused to sign, along with Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Egypt, and Turkey. President Clinton rejected the Treaty, claiming that mines were needed to protect South Korea against North Korea's "overwhelming military advantage." He stated that the US would "eventually" comply, in 2006; this was disavowed by President Bush in August 2001.
7. Kyoto Protocol of 1997, for controlling global warming: declared "dead" by President Bush in March 2001. In November 2001, the Bush administration shunned negotiations in Marrakech (Morocco) to revise the accord, mainly by watering it down in a vain attempt to gain US approval.
8. In May 2001, refused to meet with European Union nations to discuss, even at lower levels of government, economic espionage and electronic surveillance of phone calls, e-mail, and faxes (the US "Echelon" program),
9. Refused to participate in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-sponsored talks in Paris, May 2001, on ways to crack down on off-shore and other tax and money-laundering havens.
10. Refused to join 123 nations pledged to ban the use and production of anti-personnel bombs and mines, February 2001
11. September 2001: withdrew from International Conference on Racism, bringing together 163 countries in Durban, South Africa
12. International Plan for Cleaner Energy: G-8 group of industrial nations (US, Canada, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, UK), July 2001: the US was the only one to oppose it.
13. Enforcing an illegal boycott of Cuba, now being made tighter. In the UN in October 2001, the General Assembly passed a resolution, for the tenth consecutive year, calling for an end to the US embargo, by a vote of 167 to 3 (the US, Israel, and the Marshall Islands in opposition).
14. Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty. Signed by 164 nations and ratified by 89 including France, Great Britain, and Russia; signed by President Clinton in 1996 but rejected by the Senate in 1999. The US is one of 13 nonratifiers among countries that have nuclear weapons or nuclear power programs. In November 2001, the US forced a vote in the UN Committee on Disarmament and Security to demonstrate its opposition to the Test Ban Treaty.
15. In 1986 the International Court of Justice (The Hague) ruled that the US was in violation of international law for "unlawful use of force" in Nicaragua, through its actions and those of its Contra proxy army. The US refused to recognize the Court's jurisdiction. A UN resolution calling for compliance with the Court's decision was approved 94-2 (US and Israel voting no).
16. In 1984 the US quit UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and ceased its payments for UNESCO's budget, over the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) project designed to lessen world media dependence on the "big four" wire agencies (AP, UPI, Agence France-Presse, Reuters). The US charged UNESCO with "curtailment of press freedom," as well as mismanagement and other faults, despite a 148-1 in vote in favor of NWICO in the UN. UNESCO terminated NWICO in 1989; the US nonetheless refused to rejoin. In 1995 the Clinton administration proposed rejoining; the move was blocked in Congress and Clinton did not press the issue. In February 2000 the US finally paid some of its arrears to the UN but excluded UNESCO, which the US has not rejoined.
17. Optional Protocol, 1989, to the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolition of the death penalty and containing a provision banning the execution of those under 18. The US has neither signed nor ratified and specifically exempts itself from the latter provision, making it one of five countries that still execute juveniles (with Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria). China abolished the practice in 1997, Pakistan in 2000.
18. 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The only countries that have signed but not ratified are the US, Afghanistan, Sao Tome and Principe.
19. The US has signed but not ratified the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects the economic and social rights of children. The only other country not to ratify is Somalia, which has no functioning government.
20. UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, covering a wide range of rights and monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The US signed in 1977 but has not ratified.
21. UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948. The US finally ratified in 1988, adding several "reservations" to the effect that the US Constitution and the "advice and consent" of the Senate are required to judge whether any "acts in the course of armed conflict" constitute genocide. The reservations are rejected by Britain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Mexico, Estonia, and others.
22. Is the status of "we're number one!" Rogue overcome by generous foreign aid to given less fortunate countries? The three best aid providers, measured by the foreign aid percentage of their gross domestic products, are Denmark (1.01%), Norway (0.91%), and the Netherlands (0.79), The three worst: USA (0.10%), UK (0.23%), Australia, Portugal, and Austria (all 0.26).
You do realise that the US was the major proponent of UN and recent international treaty law at its inception...it was only after international law started encroching its imperial ambitions that the US withdrew or refused to take part in international treaties. and now it has resorted to flat out violating them. The rest of the world tends to function rather well with their regional bodies. For example, the UK just had the European Court of Human Rights rule against it and state that the UK had to allow those in prison to vote due to the fact it was a guaranteed human right...and the UK is adjusting its policies accordingly. The US is the only nation to blatantly violate a ruling of the ICJ directly affecting it (see the Nicaragua case). Other nations have violated the ICJ judgments, specifically in the nuclear weapons case (again led by the US), but most of the time it has been adhered to as the clarifying body of the international law framework. point is that most of the world respects and lives by international law. The fact that it exists and that nations could come together to construct it as a global community demonstrates that states and peoples have fundamental tenets in common that can be agreed upon. States and communities also obviously recognise that there are inalienable human rights that must be respected in all peoples. While ignorant (Buddhist meaning...look it up), miseducated (not un) and narrow minded Americans have been too insulated by their poor educational system and government propoganda to realise it, the rest of the world is necessarily building for the future as an international community. THe US is becoming more and more isolated in terms of its philosophies.
On the history of international law...Grotius wrote the most famous treatise on international law in the early 17th century, during the 30 years war. He was appalled at how greedy monarchs slaughtered peasants and each other and set about putting together internatioal laws between state sovereigns (as monarchs were going out of vogue at the time). For a long time international law remained a utopian ideology (as you might now claim). Well along came WWI and its horrors and in its aftermath the world (at least the commonfolk) decided they were shaken enough to never want another war. So the League of Nations and such were set up...but of course the nationalists and selfish materialists in Congress would not have it so they refused to ratify such a measure and the whole thing collapsed. The oppressive terms of the Versailles Treaty that created the conditions that allowed for the rise of Nazi Socialism did not help matters. So WWII occurred and since the US was the only nation not having to endure strikes on its own soil (Hawaii was not a state yet), the US came out relatively unscathed compared to the other powers. THe US and its allies then proceeded...spurred on by international opinion to create a series of international laws respecting human rights, declaring the laws of war and forming an international community in the UN. The UN and international legal framework was now a reality and had some respect. it is now time for international law to take the next logical step and become the preeminent member in the realm of legal authority. however it will take the US reversing 75% of its policies to do that. Unfortunately, the last two major steps in the progress of international law have required major wars...the question is will the next and ultimately most important step occur without a war or will it take a nuclear war, global conflict, or mass wave of terror for people to finally remove their heads from their rear ends and wake up to the fact that we are a global community and it is impossible to do much of anything without affecting someone thousands of miles away in some fashion. Maybe it is too hard for marrowminded individuals to fathom.
I guess to end the education lesson, I should reiterate that I am neither left nor right...and could care less about politics to be honest since in this country they are pretty much the same self interested greedy individuals and groups. I am simply a historical and human rights law scholar who can see which way the current is flowing internationally without my nationalistic blinders on.
Maybe you ought to try travelling abroad and actually broadening your scholarship. in my travels I have actually gotten to see what the rest of the world looks like and how our despotic policies affect those nations we insist on raping on a daily basis.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it guys...Charles, Shannon...you need to come into the present from your 16th century havens.
Charles Lee Geshekter - 4/1/2004
Was reading some stuff on modern Turkish politics and Islam and came across this fabulous quote that may resonate with you.
It's from a guy named Hasan Cemal who was once a Marxist revolutionary in Turkey (1960s style), now a much tamer, more sensible news commentator. You know the type, right?
Anyhow, apropos your own remarks, Cernal said this about himself and his fellow Marxist revoutionaries: "We were waiting at the wrong stop. We thought that history would pick us up there. But it passed us by."
Is that you too?
chris l pettit - 4/1/2004
1) Patriotism is making sure your country is worth defending
2)Blind followers make lousy patriots
It amuses me that anyone could suggest that if you disagree with the way this country is run, you should leave. There are some of us who do actually still love this country and what it is supposed to stand for and are true patriots who oppose the despotic and imperial turn that the government has taken.
Kind of interesting that the rights and freedoms you speak of are not given to the poor, most blacks and latinos, immigrants (arent you one?..I doubt you are a Native American), homosexuals, the elderly, and several others. I laugh when I hear people describe the US as the oldest democracy...are we even a democracy? Certainly not at the inception of the US...slaves had no vote...neither did women or people without money and land. Blacks did not get rights until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's and those still have not been implemented fully. Women did not get the right to vote until the turn of the century...where is your democracy and freedom? I would speculate that you are probably one of those white wealthy (relatively) souls that benefits from all these freedoms and dont want them taken away from you...greed does that. I should tell you I was raised white and relatively healthy as well, so the accusations wont really work with me.
By the way...communist? Learn what it means...and it is not what you have been taught by US schools. Communism as you think of it is actually totalitarianism in which the government is the sole corporation running everything...which is more similar to the way things are run in the US currently (albeit by 4 or 5 multinational industries) than to anything resembling communism. The term communism has been misused and misinterpreted so much as to have no meaning. Anti- "free market"? You better believe I am. As a human rights lawyer and activist i have to be, since all the "free market" system has done is curtail the rights of a majority of the population of this planet.
It is also interesting that you can support "freedom" when YOUR President was not even elected, he was appointed. And please don't try and debate this fact...legally there is no argument. i would be glad to help you look foolish if you care to try though. How is that "freedom"?
Another thing...you should look in the mirror and realise that you are a human being, just like everyone else on this planet. Do you really think you can wrap yourself in this nationalist rhetoric and shut out the rest of the world because they do not share your facist beliefs? Globalization makes this impossible. With the internet, intertwining global economies, ease of travel, communication, whatnot, it is impossible to isolate yourself the way the US is doing. Do you realise how similar your rhetoric, flag waving and silly song singing is to how the Nazis rallied everyone to their cause? Or how Israelis get support to commit genocide? Or how Russians and Chinese justify their massacres in Chechnya and Tibet? Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
As for this article and Zinn...while I find him to be a bit too simplistic in this text for my tastes, his analysis has a great deal of truth to it and he brings out a lot of historical events that are never covered in US government textbooks. He has his niche and is a brilliant man, even if he presents his ideas a bit simplistically. Other texts he has written, such as his text on True Democracy, True Dissent, are brilliantly done and truely great works. Anyone who approaches things as narrow mindedly as the above author needs to be approached and analysed with caution. We must not reduce ourselves to seeing things in black and white, and must realize the intricacies involved in every situation.
Shannon, you obviously have a very limited grasp on US history and the US imperial role in the world today, and since the turn of the century. I encourage you to read Prof. Zinn's text for some history that you wont get in your obviously sheltered environment. Then read more history from an international perspective. Dont believe everything you read straight out...do a critical analysis...if that is not too tough for you. I suspect you have a bit of trouble thinking for yourself, as your post reads like an Ann Coulter post.
The claim of the US as a "beacon" is as false today as it has ever been. THere are certain points in our history in which we have stood for human rights...but most of those times there were individuals who were too concerned about their pocketbooks and nationalistic fantasies who were able to block or water down those sentiments. THe funny thing is Shannon, that you would probably be one of those blocking true progress.
Leave our nation? Well...we can learn a lot from other nations and had better start if we truly want to make the world a better place. but as for moving to another nation? Nah, as a true patriot i would prefer to educate and elevate our nation to hopefully live up to those ideals that are enshrined in our great Constitution, possibly for the first time in our history. I would also prefer to bring the US into the international community of nations, cultures and peoples that is needed to truly promote "freedoms" and human rights.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/1/2004
Get a grip Josh. I don't see you moving to Haiti to live, or Spain, or Venezuela! You America hating communists are fortunate to live in a Country that tolerates your point of view without tossing you into gulags. I've rather had enough of your constant attacks on MY Country and MY President who serves us all with honour and integrity. What frighten's me isn't terrorism... what frightens me is your sick ideology. You live in a delusional world. This country was predicated upon the rights and freedoms of ALL its citizens, including you communists who hate Her. America is the beacon of Freedom and Hope for those who live in the third world, and I would gladly trade the immigrants from those countries for ideologues like you and the so called 'historians' who post on this website. Your constant complaining about this Country leads me to believe that you'd be far happier if you left it. Why stay in a place you abhore? Isn't that hypocritical? If America is so evil, if President Bush is so evil, why don't you live elsewhere to spout your rubbish? I would gladly put the first $1.00 down towards your one way ticket to North Korea. You can write to me in a year to let me know how you're getting on with the Communist Government there. I'm sure you'd find it cozy.
Shannon L Anaya - 4/1/2004
Interesting to see Communists critising Communists. Has there been a rift in the ranks? There's nothing more beautiful than to see America hating communist academics bickering with each other. Where can I buy my ring side tickets?
Charles Lee Geshekter - 3/31/2004
I agreed with Kazin's surgical dissection of Zinn's shrill polemical screeds.
The contributors to *Reconstructing History* edited by Fox-Genovese and Lasch-Quinn (1999) provide tons of sensible corrections and careful analysis to rebut many of Zinn's howlers.
John Patrick Diggins refers to folks like Zinn and his cultish followers as "bottomists," and I think he may may be onto something.
David C Battle - 3/31/2004
I'd pay good money to read a book by Howard Zinn on the "people's" history of the soviet Union. It would be pure comedy gold I'm sure.