Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two dissidents, Zinn and Chomsky, on Democracy Now!

historian Howard Zinn

This week Democracy Now! has been featuring both Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. The two noted humanitarian dissidents commented on a variety of matters, especially, as you might guess, the Iraq War. Here are some of their more piquant observations from the transcripts.

Zinn urges soldiers to practice civil disobedience from Thoreau's example:

And so, that (Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience) stands as a classic statement for Americans, that it's honorable and right to not to pay your taxes or to refuse military service or to disobey your government when you believe that your government is wrong. And so, the hope is that today more soldiers who are asked to go to Iraq, more young people who are asked to enlist in the war against Iraq, will read Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience, will take its advice to heart, realize that the government is not holy, that what's holy is human life and human freedom and the right of people to resist authority. And so, Thoreau has great lessons for us today.

Zinn on patriotism:

So today, for instance, the highest act of patriotism I suggest, would be opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Simply because everything about the war violates the fundamental principles of equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, not just for Americans, but for people in another part of the world. So, yes, patriotism today requires citizens to be active on many, many different fronts to oppose government policies on the war, government policies which have taken trillions of dollars from this country's treasury and used it for war and militarism. That's what patriotism would require today.

Chomsky on the Iraq war:

This is one of the worst catastrophes in military history and also in political history. The most recent studies of the Red Cross show that Iraq has suffered the worst decline in child mortality, infant mortality, an increase in infant mortality known. But it’s since 1990. That is, it's a combination of the affect of the murderers' and brutal sanctions regime, which we don’t talk much about, which devastated society through the 1990's and strengthened Saddam Hussein, compelled the population to rely on him for survival, which probably saved him from the fate of a whole long series of other tyrants who were overthrown by their own people supported by the U.S.

And then came the war on top of it which has simply increased the horrors. The decline is unprecedented. The increase in infant mortality is unprecedented; it's now below the level of, worse than some of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It's one index of what's happened. The most probable measure of deaths in a study sponsored by M.I.T. incidentally carried out by leading specialists in Iraq and here last October was about 650,000 killed, soon to be pushing a million. There are several million people fled including the large part of the professional classes, people who could in principal help rebuild the country. And without going on, it's a hideous catastrophe and getting worse.

Chomsky on whether the U.S. can "win" the Iraq War:

It depends on what you mean by win. The United States certainly has the capacity to wipe the country out. If that's winning, yeah, you can win. It's -- in terms of the goals that the United States attempted to achieve, the U.S. Government, not the -- the United States, to install a client regime, which would be obedient to the United States, which would permit military bases, which would allow U.S. and British corporations to control the energy resources and so on, in terms of achieving that goal, I don't know if they can achieve that. But that they could destroy the country, that's beyond question.

Zinn on the same:

Noam said, yes, we could win in Iraq by destroying all of Iraq. The Russians could have won Afghanistan by destroying all of Afghanistan. We could have won in Vietnam by dropping nuclear bombs instead of killing two million people in Vietnam, killing 10 million people in Vietnam. And that would be considered victory, who would take satisfaction in that?

Zinn applies the Viet Nam lesson to Iraq:

Just as today when they say, oh, there will be civil war, there will be chaos if we withdraw from Iraq. There is civil war, there is chaos and no one is pointing out what we have done to Iraq. Two million people driven from their homes and children in dire straits, no water, no food. And so the remembrance of Vietnam is important if we are going to make it clear that we must withdraw from Iraq and find another way, not for the United States, for some international group, preferably a group composed mostly of representatives of Arab nations to come into Iraq and help mediate whatever strife there is among the various fractions in Iraq. But certainly the absolute necessary first step in Iraq now is what we should have done in Vietnam in 1967 and that is simply get out as fast as ships and planes can carry us out.

Chomsky on the current U.S political climate for progressive change:

There are periods of regression. We're now in a period of regression, but if you look at the cycle over time, it's upwards. And there's no limits that it can't reach.

1 comment:

Liberality said...

Great post on two of the most progressive thinkers here in this country, thanks.