Monday, March 05, 2012

Zinn, Chapter 25

This is the last of of a multi-part blog series in Howard Zinn's groundbreaking and controversial book, "A People's History of the United States."

This chapter starts by comparing the Gore/Lieberman and Bush/Cheney campaigns. Zinn argues that both options were pro-business and basically pro-establishment. Third-party candidate Nader was a breath of fresh air, so he was largely ignored. There was low turnout at the polls in the 2000 election, Zinn says, because the U.S. voters felt disillusioned. Bush 'won,' but as Justice Stephens wrote, "Although we never know the complete certainty of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Zinn describes Bush's early pro-business, anti-environment policies and then writes a bit about the War on Terror after 9/11. It is a good chapter and a decent analysis, but I've read other books lately that are solely about Islam, terorrism, bin Laden, etc., so I don't feel the need to recreate Zinn's points here. Some of the points that anger me most, though, include the insane jingoism that allowed the Patriot Act to pass and the war's complete support by Congress. We detained Muslims and other persons of interest at home illegally, and we killed thousands of civilians and destroyed infrastructures in the name of revenge abroad.

The U.S. did not want to seem weak. Sure, I will agree that we should not have been bombed. There is no excuse for the murder of American citizens, but that doesn't mean there weren't reasons: "Critics of the bombing campaign argued that terrorism was rooted in deep grievances against the United States, and that to stop terrorism, these must be addressed. These grievances were not hard to identify: the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabi, site of the most holy of Moslem shrines; the ten years of sanctions against Iraq which, according to the United Nations, had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children; the continued U.S. support of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, including billions in military aid." Bin Laden cited these things pretty clearly decades before 9/11. Even conservative thinkers like Michael Scheuer corroborate simple facts like that.

"However, these issues could not be addressed without fundamental changes in American foreign policy. Such changes could not be accepted by the military-industry complex that dominated both major parties, because they would require withdrawing military forces from around the world, giving up political and economic domination of other countries—in short, relinquishing the cherished role of the United States as a superpower.

"Such fundamental changes would require a radical change in priorities, from spending $300 to $400 billion a year for the military, to using this wealth to improve the living conditions of Americans and people in other parts of the world. For instance, it was estimated by the World Health Organization that a small portion of the American military budget, if given to the treatment of tuberculosis in the world, could save millions of lives." Lester Brown, Benazir Bhutto, and others corroborate the potential efficacy and bringing about of world peace this aid-instead-of-bombs use of money would likely promote as well.

"Three years before the terrible events of September 11, 2001, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Robert Bowman, who had flown 101 combat missions in Vietnam, and then had become a Catholic bishop, commented on the terrorist bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In an article in the National Catholic Reporter he wrote about the roots of terrorism:
"We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism ... Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kills Arab so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children... In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is he truth the American people need to hear."
That pretty much sums up how I feel about foreign policy in general. Let's not let multinational corporations use us - our tax money or our sons and daughters - as fodder to feed the machine, to steal resources from people abroad who live on land we want to control. It is not our God-given right to control all the bauxite, forests, diamonds, bananas, coffee, and oil in the world. Manifest destiny is a lie. Might does not make right. Respect for one another and for the world we live in are paramount to our continued survival.

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