Friday, January 20, 2012

Howard Zinn on War

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New World Notes News
Vol. 5, No. 3 -- January 20, 2012

This week in New World Notes, radio programs #203, January 24, 2012

Howard Zinn on War

In brief

Some highly relevant reflections on our wars by the late Progressive historian (and World War Two veteran) Howard Zinn. Among his main points:

If war resulted from human nature, national leaders would not need propaganda, the draft, and prisons to cajole and compel citizens to participate. It's the leaders--not the citizens--who want war. Therefore, the first step to war is a propaganda campaign at home. War solves no problems, transforms virtuous people into beasts, and kills primarily innocent civilians. Finally: It's an uphill battle (forgive the metaphor), but people may be able to abolish war if they try.

As a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, Zinn helped kill his share of innocent civilians--as he later realized and acknowledged. A particularly striking incident, in which Zinn participated, was the destruction of the French resort town of Royan--a town of no military significance--in the final days of the war (April 1945).

Zinn later learned that the massive raid on Royan had killed a few German soldiers--who were "hiding and waiting out the closing days of the war"--and more than 1,500 French civilians. The carnage gave a few generals another "success" to add to their resumes. And it gave the Air Corps its first chance to test a new weapon it had developed: napalm.

1,500 civilians. Not even "enemy" civilians but "allied" civilians--though Zinn rejects that distinction as specious. Many of them burned to death. By the R.A.F. and the U.S. Army Air Corps. For what purpose?

At what point do we say, "This is insane"?

Royan, 1945

Notes, credits, & links

Zinn died two years ago, on January 27, 2010.

Zinn's remarks are taken from a video interview (courtesy of and a public speech in Madison, WI, in 2006 (courtesy of

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Series overview:
Political and social commentary in a variety of genres. Exploring the gap between what we want ... and what they're trying to make us settle for.

Zinn in 2009. He died in January 2010,

Coming soon (Tuesday air debut date shown)
  • January 31 -- Noam Chomsky
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