Historian's Take on the News: Archives 1-29-03 to 3-14-03Roundup
HOWARD ZINN: WHY HE OPPOSES WAR WITH IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)
HOWARD ZINN: WHY HE OPPOSES WAR WITH IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)Kim Campbell, staff writer of the Christian Science Monitor (March 13, 2003):
Howard Zinn frames his opposition to a war with Iraq in terms of the casualties.
"I believe that people who die in wars, whether they are civilians or soldiers, are innocent," the historian and activist told an audience last week at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. "A lot of innocent people will die in this war."
Mr. Zinn's focus on the human toll of an attack is not surprising, given his interest in telling American history from the bottom up, from the view of the factory workers, women, and minorities - not the officials - who lived through it.
Politically, Zinn stands to the left of the left. His recent UMass talk, for example, was sponsored by the on-campus International Socialist Club. But his bestselling "A People's History of the United States," first published more than 20 years ago, is regularly assigned in college classes across the nation. That and a long tradition of activism ensure that his name is well-known among a significant segment of the antiwar movement.
Zinn starts from the perspective that wars never solve fundamental problems, "that war by its nature has unpredictable consequences. That the means of war are inevitably horrible and ends of war are always uncertain."
He is not dissuaded by the argument that more Iraqis could die if Saddam Hussein remains in power. "That is a permanent argument for any atrocity," he says. "The only way you can justify something which is obviously atrocious is by claiming that it will prevent something that is more atrocious."
Mr. Hussein is a tyrant and is tyrannizing his own people, Zinn says, "but that's true of many, many places in the world."
Zinn, a bombardier in World War II, who later became an antiwar activist, is not a pacifist. "I don't argue for an absolute stance against the use of violence or military action," he says. "But I place very rigorous barriers against military action."
He proposes, rather, a solution that he believes would reduce the dangers of terrorism against the US. He wants America to stop being a military superpower, to pull its forces out of countries all over the world, and not antagonize people.
He's probably among a small minority who think bombing Afghanis-tan was not the appropriate response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The US is no safer from terrorism, argues the professor emeritus from Boston University. Any thwarting of the terrorist network is offset by "the increased number of people hostile to the United States as a result of its policy."
To win the war on terror, he says, the US needs to get at the roots of that hostility. "If it doesn't do that, no military action ... is going to have any effect in diminishing terrorism."
ALLAN LICHTMAN: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND WAR (posted 3-14-03)Jill Lawrence, writing in USA Today about the effect of a war on Iraq on the developing presidential election of 2004 (March 12, 2004):
Historians point to 1940 as an example of how war can upend a primary campaign. The Republican candidates were Sens. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan and Robert Taft of Ohio, both conservative isolationists, and Thomas Dewey, then a New York County prosecutor without national experience. Come spring,"The German blitzkrieg streaked across Europe, gobbling up one country after another. The French government fell. And none of these guys seemed adequate anymore," says Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University."So out of the woodwork comes Wendell Wilkie." Wilkie, a former Democrat and first-time candidate, was"an internationalist but not considered a warmonger," Lichtman says. Eastern business interests saw him as their best shot against Franklin Roosevelt. Wilkie gathered so much steam he won the nomination. But Americans declined to change presidents with the world at war.
ROGER MORRIS: JFK'S ROLE IN REGIME CHANGE IN IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)Roger Morris, author of Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, writing about the Kennedy administration's role in unseating Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who had seized power from the Hasemite king of Iraq in 1958; in the NYT (March 14, 2003):
From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem's harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington's Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980's against the common foe of Iran. By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel's arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country's old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East all steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.
In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies chiefly France and Germany resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.'s "Health Alteration Committee," as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.
Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.
As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.
According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.
The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq.
JAMES RESTON, JR.: LESSONS OF THE CRUSADES (posted 3-14-03)
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