Howard Zinn - "A Just Cause, Not a Just War"

November 9, 2001 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Howard Zinn - "A Just Cause, Not a Just War"
"The moral equation in Afghanistan is clear. Civilian casualties are certain. The outcome is uncertain. No one knows what this bombing will accomplish - whether it will lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden (perhaps), or the end of the Taliban (possibly), or a democratic Afghanistan (very unlikely), or an end to terrorism (almost certainly not)."

A well-reasoned, dispassionate argument against the war, from the man who brought us "A People's History of the United States."
posted by mapalm (68 comments total)
 
My wife is currently using the "People's History" book in her college course. I've read a couple of chapters, and it's the biggest pile of left-wing propaganda you've ever read. Zinn sounds like an ultra-left version of Oliver Stone -- everything is a conspiracy by rich white men to rule the world!

Daniel Boorstin's The Americans series has its flaws, but is a much better overview of American history. Zinn is a lousy historian because, unlike Boorstin, he doesn't discriminate between his own ideological beliefs and those of the people he writes about -- he projects modern-day values and outlooks onto the past, with predictable results.

It's obvious that Zinn, despite being a veteran himself, is opposed to war-making in general (read this review of Saving Private Ryan), so this latest diatribe should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the man's work.
posted by mrmanley at 10:20 AM on November 9, 2001


I admire Zinn's book but it could be noted that is a book about the losers--ok. Excuse the term, but those he writes about are those who lost out to those who had more power, more fortitude, more money, more know-how, or whatever.
Reminds me of the story about the story a father would tell his son each night. The might hunter always bagged the lion or tiger. The son asked when wil the animals win. The Father: When animals write books.
Wars suck. Agreed. But face it, since WWI (a war fought mainly out of trenches) civlians have always been casualties. WEI: Dresden fire bombing Nakagsaki, Hiroshima, Buzz bombs tossed at London etc etc.
Now ever civilian that gets killed and a shout of how horrible the war and Americans. Oh, yea. The 6000 in WTC were not military folks, were they?
How do you know when a war is just: a Green Beret on tv said it: when you don;'t so many guys fleeing the draft, running away, or protesting.
posted by Postroad at 10:26 AM on November 9, 2001


War, by its nature, is unfocused, indiscriminate, and especially in our time when the technology is so murderous, inevitably involves the deaths of large numbers of people and the suffering of even more.

Exactly. The innocence of the civilian is a preposterous illusion promulgated to comfort the frightened, but even were it true, it would be largely irrelevant given the way war works. Even in an historical context, cases of two armies of professional soldiers meeting on a field of combat to decide the outcome of a war, with no effect on the people, infrastructure, culture or economy of the nation-states involved, are extremely rare. Raping and pillaging and otherwise terrorizing the populace is much closer to the norm.
posted by rushmc at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2001


Let us be a more modest nation. We will then be more secure. The modest nations of the world don't face the threat of terrorism

This is basically the solidly Judeo-Christian approach, the meek shall inherit the earth and all that.
Christianity and its "love thy neighbor" crap has got to be eradicated from this country.
It arose in the decay of the Roman empire and it's causing wobbly knees in the American Empire. The Christian meme is preventing us from the necessary task of completely obliterating bin Laden and anyone within 500 miles radius of him, and then salting the earth so nothing ever grows there again.
I shudder to think what devastation would have been wrought had 5,000 Roman citizens been victim of a terrorist attack circa 1 B.C.
When Crassus crushed Spartacus' revolt, he crucified 6,000 men along the road to Rome and paraded through the remains into the city triumphant.
70 years later Christ was born, and this sort of thing became frowned upon.
We need to rewind the clock 2,000 years and start worshipping te Gods of War again.
posted by quercus at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2001


The innocence of the civilian is a preposterous illusion

So....the civilians killed in the WTC were innocent, but the civilians killed in Afghanistan aren't? How does THAT work, exactly?

Or are you saying the people in New York deserved to die?

If the WTC attack was an act of war, as our Noble President insists, how can there be any difference? Don't we all deserve to die, then, since we are all complicit in the war?
posted by briank at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2001


The innocence of the civilian is a preposterous illusion

how true... i've never met an innocent older than about 6 years old. i don't think that means they need to die, though.
posted by phalkin at 10:41 AM on November 9, 2001


Seems kind of woolly to me. Overlooks the fact that for whatever reasons (strategic oil supply, support of regional stability, etc) we went to Saudi Arabia to protect it, and to prevent the handover of Kuwait to a powerful, expansionist dictator.

(Side note: I doubt many devout Muslims relish the idea of a secular Ba'athist dictator taking stewardship of Islam's holiest sites).

We're still there because the dictator is still there; and very few would deny that his expansionist inclinations remain intact. There he remains, running his creepy, cult-of-personality police state, making bioweapons, trying to build or buy nuclear weapons... you know: dictator stuff.

Put it another way: if we had been more aggressive in dealing with Saddam Hussein in 1992, then maybe our troops could've departed from SA and Kuwait already.
posted by coelecanth at 10:45 AM on November 9, 2001


From the linked article: "Is it really an accident when civilians die under our bombs? Even if you grant that the intention is not to kill civilians, if they nevertheless become victims, again and again and again, can that be called an accident? If the deaths of civilians are inevitable in bombing, it may not be deliberate, but it is not an accident, and the bombers cannot be considered innocent. They are committing murder as surely as are the terrorists"

So, the impossibility of guaranteeing that civilians won't be killed in a military action makes such action, by that fact, immoral. And those attempting to get rid of the people who aid and abet terrorists, who have killed thousands of Americans and state proudly they want to kill more, are "murder[ers] as surely as are the terrorists." You know, when your philosophy causes you to come up with such a reprehensible statement, I think it's a clue that it's time to revisit your premises.
posted by mw at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2001


Wow, it's just ugly in this thread. Guess Zinn brings out the worst in people, huh?

First off, if you were rich, white, and powerful, wouldn't you take steps to insure your continued power?

Zinn's historical analysis is informed by his morality, one that is based on Judeo-Christian principles, much to your chagrin, quercus. Zinn looks at the negative effects of history on its victims. While he himself is not balanced, his work is balancing because it refutes the well-worn notion that "history is written by the winners."

And guess what? Our planes drop bombs to kill people. Therefore, they're murderers. Civilians die. And while you can read into Zinn's statement any number of reprehensible things, the fact is he's just stating the obvious. What's the harm in acknowledging that? Soliders are hired killers. That's that.
posted by solistrato at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2001


Don't we all deserve to die, then, since we are all complicit in the war?

Why do you equate "not being innocent" with "deserving to die"?
posted by rushmc at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2001


Our planes drop bombs to kill people. Therefore, they're murderers.

We must build more prisons in which to incarcerate these evil planes, where they will be subjected to repeated episodes of prison rape, engage in lengthy soul-searching, and go to work for FedEx when they get out, becoming useful, contributing members of society!
posted by rushmc at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2001


solistrato: "murder" and "killing" are not the same things. Murder is unlawful killing. There's a world of difference between killers and murderers -- and it's precisely this distinction Zinn is trying to wipe out.
posted by mw at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2001


mw, should I assume from your last remark that, though the military targets are presumably only the Taliban and Al-Qaeda political and military infrastructure and any supporting physical infrastructure, the now abundant and increasing number of civilian deaths (I'm not going to use that other phrase) are lawful killing?
posted by mmarcos at 11:23 AM on November 9, 2001


Don't we all deserve to die, then, since we are all complicit in the war?

Why do you equate "not being innocent" with "deserving to die"?


Perhaps a better choice of phrase would have been "deserve to be killed". The implication of your assertion is that we are all agents of war, and agents of war are valid targets for their opponents. This is clearly how Osama bin Laden views things -- all Muslims are called upon to fight against all Americans. You can rationalize this perspective through the precedents of history, but it is exactly people like Zinn who are here to remind us that just because things happened a certain way doesn't mean it was the right way.
posted by briank at 11:24 AM on November 9, 2001


A timely, alternative viewpoint from Slate about who's to blame for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
posted by coelecanth at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2001


rushmc, what do you mean by "The innocence of the civilian is a preposterous illusion promulgated to comfort the frightened?" You've stated it before, I believe, and I still don't understand. How am I, for instance, not innocent in this "war on terrorism"?
Everyone acknowledges that civilians are killed in wars, and always have been, but that doesn't make them any less innocent. Do you mean they have never been considered innocent by parties at war?
mw, pulling out the dictionaries definition of murder is a pretty weak argument. Whose "law" should you consider? American law? Afghanistani law? International law? I think a better definition in a situation like this is an immoral killing, and for that a case can be made.
posted by Doug at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2001


How can a war be truly just when it involves the daily killing of civilians, when it causes hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children to leave their homes to escape the bombs, when it may not find those who planned the September 11 attacks, and when it will multiply the ranks of people who are angry enough at this country to become terrorists themselves?

Zinn doesn't understand the definition of Just War. The present situation meets both Just Cause (jus ad bellum) and Just War "rules of engagement" (jus in bello) requiremenents. War convention jus in bello requirements state that civilian deaths are allowed if they meet the following four conditions: a) the deaths were not intended (and Zinn's argument that because they keep happening, they were intended is faulty logic. Car accidents keep happening as well, despite reasonable steps to avoid them, and I think it's fair to say that this is in no way indicative of drivers intending for them to happen.) b) te deaths occured during an action that was a military necessity (material to winning); c) civilian deaths were not used as a means to winning; and d) theyh occured despite steps being taken to minimize them.

No killing of innocents, whether deliberate or "accidental," can be justified

If Zinn is seriously trying to argue just war theory, this is simply wrong and doesn't conform to war convention.

Pacifism, which I define as a rejection of war, rests on a very powerful logic. In war, the means--indiscriminate killing--are immediate and certain; the ends, however desirable, are distant and uncertain.

it's hard to call this "powerful logic," and insinuate that it's universal, when virtually all non-pacifists disagree with the premises. (means are indiscriminate? never. Ends are distant and uncertain? sometimes, but not always.)

Let us be a more modest nation. We will then be more secure. The modest nations of the world don't face the threat of terrorism.

And how does Zinn propose we do this? Even if we pulled troops out of every foreign base we have, there would still be states and regimes that would consider our economic power a threat, simply by its existence. Then what? We're a capitalist state and as long as we remain one, we're always going to have imperialist tendencies. Even without overt imperialism, we export American culture every day, creating hegemonic power that many other states resent. The only way to become a more modest state is to become a weaker state, both militarily and economically, and that's not a prospect that i find particularly appealing.

What we're facing now has nothing to do with U.S. modesty or arrogance; it's about U.S. power and the ubiquity of U.S. culture, which by its very existence is often deemed "arrogant." If the U.S. didn't exist, bin Laden would likely be attacking London or Rome. We happen to be a the top of the international food chain - or the portion of it that embodies "western culture" - and that makes us the most obvious target.
posted by lizs at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2001


This whole "war is immoral because innocent civilians will be killed" idea is just nonsense. Innocent people die every day: they die in car wrecks, falls from ladders, slips in bathtubs, anonymous muggings, and stray bullets from gang-wars. They die of disease, malnutrition, old age, infirmity, accidents, and malfeasance by others. It's called nature, red in tooth and claw. Humans are not immune from this ruthless culling of the living.

If I understand the argument correctly, the thinking on the Left goes like this: unless we can assure that no civilians will be hit, we shouldn't be bombing at all. In other words, unless we can guarantee 100% accuracy in our targeting and weapons-delivery, we shouldn't even make the attempt. The Left seems to be arguing that inaction in the face of even such a heinous provocation is preferable to inexact but proportional action.

I argue that this is an immoral choice simply because it prefers stasis to any kind of action at all. It cedes the field to the barbarians, and that is intolerable.
posted by mrmanley at 11:43 AM on November 9, 2001


Plain and simple:

1. This military action is appropriate for removing the Taliban.
2. The same military action is not appropriate (by itself) for a war on terror.
posted by jragon at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2001


Oh, yea. The 6000 in WTC were not military folks, were they?

I love the way the WTC body count fluctuates depending on the level of indignation in the argument in which it's used.
posted by andnbsp at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2001 [1 favorite]


I think a better definition [of murder] in a situation like this is an immoral killing

I agree.
posted by mw at 12:08 PM on November 9, 2001


'red in tooth and claw', 'ruthless culling of the living'... mrmanley, you've given me a few moments of happiness relishing the fact that a lot of people in the world do not think like this.
posted by mmarcos at 12:15 PM on November 9, 2001


mmarcos:

Nature doesn't give a crap what human beings think, or feel, or want. The biosphere has its own imperatives. Life is only possible in the face of massive death, death on an unimaginable scale. You and I only live because millions before us died, mmarcos. And we will die in our turn to make way for those that come after us.

In many ways, mmarcos, life is like a rorschach blot: the only shape it has is the one we impose on it.
posted by mrmanley at 12:27 PM on November 9, 2001


mrmanley, you're saying because accidents happen and that people die everyday that war is not an immoral act? What kind of wacked out reasoning are you using?

I think the left is more interested in the hypocrisy of trying to save lives by killing non-combatants. If you're trying to get rid of gangs you don't just carpet-bomb a couple of Chicago neighborhoods and take every dead innocent as a moral act of war because they were going to die of old age anyhow. Oh man, you guys crack me up.

I see the methods employed in Afghanistan to have little in common with its supposed goal and at best its creating more reasons to join up with an anti-american group after your house and family have been destroyed.

I don't think any government has been toppled soley by air strikes and worse the supposed saviors of this war are another group of ultra-religious opportunists that aren't much better than the Taliban themselves.
posted by skallas at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2001


The problem with immoral killing is that only one side in the war seems to have any concern about morality. (true of any war, written from the perspective of the winner).

There can be no objective morality in the conflict of cultures. I find it just as immoral to place military installations and operations in close proximity to civilians witih the express purpose of causing your enemy to cease hostilities, or give you propoganda fodder.

Maybe it's just me.
posted by dwivian at 12:46 PM on November 9, 2001


a modest nation: one that does not toy with the lives of millions (or billions) of citizens of our and other nations constantly for questionable gains (like cheaper energy commodities and the rest of the laundry list) but instead seeks to preserve a common good in cooperation with other nations. We are the World's egotist and bully and we have been a long time. We have made problems that are not easily solved by forcing others to accept our policies and decisions.

a just war: History _has_ been written by the winners and their conditions of truth have become our own. It could be noted that there are documented cases of US bombs destroying apartment buildings full of civilians in Iraq, not to mention the "road of death" firebombing of up to 40,000 fleeing civilians on a road there, that US firebomb bombardments against Germany in the late days of WWII were thought to be of little or no use to out war effort (German civilian deaths meant next to nothing to Hitler at that point) but came at tremendous cost (hundreds of times more deaths than WTC, if not more.)

Zinn is certainly a pacifist, but I've read _A People's History..._ more than once and he is a pacifist with a point: the US has always been run by a plutocracy that has little interest in the affairs of the common folk of the world. Throughout our history so much has been done for liberty and freedom, which are certainly wonderful reasons to do something, while at the same time our leaders have besmirched those principles by always hiding the same "rich get richer" agenda behind the flag. And looking at the rulers of our country (*cough* oil barons!) and the current distribution of wealth (which is way out of control) who is going to argue that our actions today are those of a well-informed benevolent government?

Dissenters speak out! Our times are grim and while solutions to these problems are rare indeed that is no reason to allow the US to continue to be governed by treachery and lies.
posted by n9 at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2001


I'd like to recommend Sven Lindqvist's new book "A History of Bombing."

"Drawing on a rich range of sources, from popular fiction, to first hand accounts by the victims and perpetrators of bombing, from official government documents, to his own personal experiences as a child, parent and grandparent, Lindqvist unearths the fascinating history of the development of air power. He exposes the racist assumptions underlying colonial bombing campaigns in North Africa, and France and England's use of bombing to subdue postwar independence movements; and he probes the psychology of [Sir Arthur] 'Bomber' Harris. He sets out the recipe for napalm, and the science of smart bombs, and he asks some uncomfortable questions: Did bombs ever produce the expected results? Is bombing civilians a war crime, and if so why have the laws of war and international justice proved so impotent? Why can't the truth about Hiroshima be told in the Air and Space museum in Washington?" (from Granta)
posted by Carol Anne at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2001


coelecanth's link to the Slate article -- I read it, and agree with it. All of the "killing civilians means this war is immoral" people should read it.
posted by yesster at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2001


Did bombs ever produce the expected results?

Japan surrendered. Guess that was a total surprise?
posted by dwivian at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2001


Yesster, you're a cop. You see a suspect that you know to be a mass murderer. He's running down the street in manhattan, weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic. You know that if he gets away, he'll kill other people. He's said he'll do it. But if you shoot at him, you will certainly hit civilians, and some of them will die.
We'd never let a cop shoot at the fleeing criminal in a crowded street. It wouldn't happen. But suddenly, when war is declared, it's ok to open fire and slaughter civilians. More than that, we'd blame the deaths on the criminal, for running through a crowded streets. But in the situation above, if you'd have fired on the criminal, who would have been at fault?
posted by Doug at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2001


The trouble with Zinn is that it's one thing to promote a more honest assessment of our own history (and present actions). It's another to draw strict moral equivalence, and to argue that because we've done X, Y, and Z wrong in the past, we have no right to do A, B, and C today. We've been wrong, yes, but hell yes we've been right, too.

Zinn and Roy and all the others want to list every action we've ever taken that has killed or hurt or (heck) just marginalized someone, and judge us by those alone. Did we "steal" North America from the Indians? Sometimes. Did we enslave Africans? Hell yes. Have we invented some really nasty weapons? Darn tootin'. But we also created a liberal democracy, one which sparked independence movements around the world, one which saved Europe and Asia from fascism, and one to which people continue to flock. Maybe history books ignoring the former and being full of the latter are in need of balance, and high school or college is a good time to discover Zinn, but then there are people who continue to see the world only through Zinn's eyes.

I had a friend tell me a few weeks ago how offensive the US flag was to him, because he was descended from slaves, as a way of chastising the flag on my truck. It's one thing to be angry about the Confederate flag (and I'm a moderate even on that, e.g. it shouldn't be on the official government buildings, but a veterans' memorial is just fine). It's quite another to say that not only has the US failed you in the past, but it continues to fail you in every way today, and gives you no hope for the future.

This kind of Zinnism -- not just lifting up the rug, but flipping it so you're walking on jute -- is very frustrating. In normal times I let it wash off me, because I'm tolerant and sympathetic and all that. But I can't accept that as the sole determinant of our moral status today.

And when Zinnist arguments are used against today's war, well, I see that Afghans are poor and their country has been destroyed, but I'm not ready to accept the Taliban as having the same legitimacy as a government which is elected by the people and recognized by international law and in return deals with the world as a grown-up. Self-determination has its merits, but those end when your country's main export itself is death and destruction. Noting that we have oil interests in the Middle East is insightful, but it doesn't by itself prove that we're wrong to be there or that we've trumped up this war just for the purpose of somebody's stock prices. There are other ways to get the oil out of Central Asia that don't go through Afghanistan, after all. And generally when we buy oil from someplace, we haven't taken it; we pay them for it.

And even if you look at our history in the Middle East alone, there are many actions that have enhanced the self-determination, freedom, and overall wealth of the reason. Need we apologize for those, as well? From the Suez Crisis, where we essentially let Nasser take over the Canal from Europe, we've supported statehood and self-determination for countries throughout the region. If it weren't for the Camp David accords, Arafat would still be renting office space in Tunis. We gave the Muslim mujahedin arms to defend Afghanistan against the Soviets. We went to Somalia to feed people, and end up getting blamed for defending that operation against brigands. Sure, we prop up a boneheaded royal family in Saudi Arabia, but we also support a parliamentary democracy in Turkey. Yet the fanatics like bin Laden find reason to fault us for both.

Essentially they just want us the hell out. But they don't have the political legitimacy to say that. They don't have the ownership of the oil fields to sell oil to people they prefer over us. We need make no apologies for being engaged in the Middle East. For specific actions, perhaps, but not for being there, period. But that's the frame that bin Laden puts around the question.
posted by dhartung at 1:26 PM on November 9, 2001


Perhaps a better choice of phrase would have been "deserve to be killed".

I don't see that change making a significant difference? [/uptalk] Any implication of "deserving" seems does not seem to follow, and is not implied in any of my comments. One can be an "appropriate" target in a conflict without in any moral sense "deserving" to die or be killed.

The implication of your assertion is that we are all agents of war, and agents of war are valid targets for their opponents.

Okay, now that seems a fairer representation of what I am saying. When at war (and one can debate what constitutes actual war and when one is "in" one), I do think that all "agents of war" are equally valid targets for their opponents. If you don't want to risk the threat, don't go to war.
posted by rushmc at 1:44 PM on November 9, 2001


Your membership in your nation makes you responsible for the actions of its leaders and its military. Even if you oppose such actions, you still bear some responsibility for them. We are not helpless victims held hostage by our politicians--though often, in day to day affairs, we perceive ourselves and allow ourselves to be perceived as such--we are members of this society, and in accepting the many benefits of that position, we also necessarily, implicitly, accept the responsibilities. Thus, the citizens of Afghanistan are responsible for allowing the Taliban's reign of terror to bring them to this point, and you are responsible for the U.S.'s response and whatever results from it, EVEN IF they or you had or think you had little recourse to change things. (Responsibility is not synonymous with blame, though they are often closely linked.)

It is easy to blame the average German citizens (alert: Godwin's Law incoming) for not doing more to halt the Nazi atrocities, but in many cases it would have been about as difficult (though riskier, as yet) for them to make any meaningful change in what was happening as it would be for you, say, to alter Bush's approach in prosecuting this war--and yet, you (and I) feel that they SHOULD have done more. But we can't require them to do that which is not possible, so deep down, we do feel that there were things they could have done, and therefore we hold them culpable for not having done them.

We have a lot more to risk and lose today than the German citizenry did in WWII, as our status quo is much more comfortable. Granted, the impetus for us to act is not as great as it was for them, either (yet). But moral responsibility doesn't care what sacrifices we must make to comply with it: we either admit and live up to it or (more often) we don't.
posted by rushmc at 1:58 PM on November 9, 2001


War convention jus in bello requirements state that civilian deaths are allowed if they meet the following four conditions: a) the deaths were not intended (and Zinn's argument that because they keep happening, they were intended is faulty logic. Car accidents keep happening as well, despite reasonable steps to avoid them, and I think it's fair to say that this is in no way indicative of drivers intending for them to happen....

That's a very well-argued statement. lizs. The only thing I would add is that drivers of cars still bear some responsibility for every death caused by an automobile. A very small amount, certainly not comparable to the driver of the offending vehicle, or the manufacturer who built and sold a vehicle with a faulty system (or one prone to fault). But in choosing to participate in the system which produces (accidental) death as a side effect, we share in the responsibility for it to some degree.

Now, that is NOT an argument that we should give up cars (though, personally, I do think we have a moral obligation to make certain improvements to the current system (no, that's NOT an anti-SUV rant)). We deem the deaths caused by the use of automobiles in our society to be an acceptable loss in exchange for the benefits we derive (as well as those we merely perceive that we derive) from their use. What I object to is people's running around with blinders on, pretending that we haven't made this choice and therefore don't bear any responsibility for its consequences. Ditto for war.
posted by rushmc at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2001


Excellent post, dhartung!

To me it boils down to this: life is complex. History is complex. Politics is complex. All human motivation and interaction is complex. And those who try to simplify any of the above down to a slogan that can fit on a bumpersticker or a cheer they can rah-rah-rah to make themselves feel better is doing everyone a disservice. Oversimplification is the dread enemy of understanding, but unfortunately in this day and age many of us are addicted to it. We've been programmed to expect it ([cough] TV), and balk at anything which requires more attention, more consideration, more thoughtfulness to comprehend. And that is bad. That allows the kind of knee-jerk reactionary behavior that we see so often, and leads to the kind of thinking that turns a complex situation into a "crusade" of us vs. them.
posted by rushmc at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2001


Zinn is like a lot of old-school liberals, worth listening to on domestic issues but utterly clueless on foreign policy. His kind of "try-to-please-everyone-but-end-up-pleasing-noone-including-yourself"(sorry about the hyphen abuse) is symptomatic of what got us into this mess in the first place.
Now war is always a brutal, painful, difficult last resort as anyone who has ever been a soldier will tell you(and as many combat veterans have told me over the past month and a half)but it is what we are left with.
What truly irks me about the current crop of war protesters is that beyond decrying the brutality of war(which is a regrettable given) they have no suggestions for alternatives. Gee, Killing Osama will solve this problem. Well, what should we do buy him an ice cream cone?!
My best freind is an EMT in New York City.(He's OK for those who wonder)I spent the better part of September 11th making frantic calls and emails to him to be sure he was alive. For that experience alone, I want Al Qaeda and those like them to feel some of our wrath.
Me and my freind may be two of the most anti-war, anti-establishment people around as anyone who knows us can attest. But in this particular instance, We stand behind our country's efforts in this matter. If that makes me a "knee-jerk reactionary" or "hawk" or whatever the latest epithet for anyone to the right of Noam Chomsky is, to some of you than so be it. Guess we wont be exchanging Xmas cards.
posted by jonmc at 3:51 PM on November 9, 2001


I think i'm missing a "not" after "Killing Osama." Sorry, emotion got the better of me
posted by jonmc at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2001


Few of you seem to be able to put yourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of your Afghan counterparts. If it's not too much of a stretch, imagine for a moment that you had grown up under the control of a completely undemocratic government which you didn't support. And imagine that someone from your nation organises the biggest and most despicable act of terrorism against a building you have never heard of in a country you have never been to. You don't support this act of terrorism or the individual behind it.

Suddenly the victim nation starts dropping bombs on your country. Mostly military targets, but - whoops - some residential areas too. Some of your friends are killed. You decide to move your already starving family further from the city where it may be safer. You may end up in a refugee camp. Do you deserve this? Is this right? Do you feel that this is just, that some greater good is being served?

Just keep this thought in mind, melodramatic though it may seem, while you're arguing that killing civilians is a neccessary evil.
posted by skylar at 5:01 PM on November 9, 2001


How did Zinn come down on WWII? (let's exclude Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
posted by ParisParamus at 5:17 PM on November 9, 2001


"Military weapons are the means used by the Sage to
punish violence and cruelty, to give peace to
troublous times, to remove difficulties and dangers,
and to succor those who are in peril. Every animal
with blood in its veins and horns on its head will
fight when it is attacked. How much more so will man,
who carries in his breast the faculties of love and
hatred, joy and anger! When he is pleased, a feeling
of affection springs up within him; when angry, his
poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the
natural law which governs his being....

What then shall be said of those scholars of our time,
blind to all great issues, and without any
appreciation of relative values, who can only bark out
their stale formulas about "virtue" and
"civilization," condemning the use of military
weapons? They will surely bring our country to
impotence and dishonor and the loss of her rightful
heritage; or, at the very least, they will bring about
invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and
general enfeeblement...

All one can say is that this power will be exercised
wisely by some, foolishly by others, and that among
those who bear arms some will be loyal and others
rebellious."

By Ssu-ma Ch`ien, showing that for all his ardent
admiration of Confucius, he was yet no advocate of
peace at any price.
posted by semmi at 5:34 PM on November 9, 2001


Wow. I guess Zinn really brought out the "best" in folks. Increasingly, everywhere, I hear what I can only describe as the "Conceit of Empire." That after all the arguments, all the debate, all the back and forth, at the end of the day, for those who support this war, it comes down to an unshakeable feeling that no matter what, America is right, and that it can and will (and must) do whatever it takes to preserve its hegemony and dominion over the world (and the accompanying high standard of living), and that if people die along the way, so be it.

Funny that there are so many allusions to Rome in this thread. Yeah, I see it, too: the gluttonous American Empire sitting astride a world in which death and dying is the norm, in which those with power/money live, and those without die.

And people think that this war is going to make life *better*? Jesus f---ing Christ. That is the Conceit of Empire.
posted by mapalm at 6:54 PM on November 9, 2001


Your membership in your nation makes you responsible for the actions of its leaders and its military.

No it doesn't. The responsible are those with the power to make the decisions. Sorry but the elite rule, and the blood is on their hands.
posted by skallas at 6:56 PM on November 9, 2001


Recipe for mapalm MeFi thread:
1) post antiwar article, with generous loads of praise for the author and his staggeringly enlightened views.
2) Sit back and wait for people to disagree.
3) 40 posts later, claim moral superiority over everyone. Bonus points for implying that posters a) enjoy war b) support the gratuitous slaughter of civilians c) secretly harbor desire to poison babies in their beds.
Repeat until ego is sated.
posted by darukaru at 8:13 PM on November 9, 2001


The responsible are those with the power to make the decisions.

Exactly. And we are among those.
posted by rushmc at 9:25 PM on November 9, 2001


darukaru...wow, you pegged me exactly! congrats. but you left out the bit about me being a worthless lefty.
posted by mapalm at 10:34 PM on November 9, 2001


Recipe for mapalm MeFi thread:(mapalms chat room)
1) post antiwar article, with generous loads of praise for the author and his
staggeringly enlightened views.
2) Sit back and wait for people to disagree.
3) 40 posts later, claim moral superiority over everyone. Bonus points for
implying that posters a) enjoy war b) support the gratuitous slaughter of
civilians c) secretly harbor desire to poison babies in their beds.
Repeat until ego is sated.Thank you, darukaru
posted by Mack Twain at 10:36 PM on November 9, 2001


Bonus points for
implying that posters a) enjoy war b) support the gratuitous slaughter of
civilians c) secretly harbor desire to poison babies in their beds.
Repeat until ego is sated.Thank you, darukaru


Who's ego are we talking about here anyway? I have yet to see mapalm ever get all up in the face and shit wit any of you muthuhfuckers. I've never known him to be discourteous or express anything other than his own perceptions and thoughts--just like everyone else here.

One thing that is clear however, is that there is not a thread that mapalm starts or partakes of where he isn't unduly snickered and demonized for leaning heavily toward the left. All the crackpots seem to take advantage of this because he is actually, get this, NICE!

darukaru...wow, you pegged me exactly! congrats. but you left out the bit about me being a worthless lefty.

The man has exhibited some self control. Unlike all you all. . .

I'd a' been so steamin' pissed at all this bullying were it directed at me.

(Yes this should be in MeTa. Yes this is the second time I've spoken up about the way some of you treat mapalm.)
posted by crasspastor at 11:20 PM on November 9, 2001


I like the irony previous post about how clueless Zinn is one foreign policy. Seems to me that US foreign policy in the late 20th century has been just about the worst collection of failures imaginable. How many lives were lost because of Henry Kissinger? Reagan? Bush? And to anticipate your ? I'd have to say that the USSR collapsing under its own weight and leaving the biggest fucking environmental and human mess, ever, does not count as a foreign policy win.

Perhaps some "useless lefty" humane policy towards the world would do everyone good, but you can't know until you try.
posted by n9 at 11:38 PM on November 9, 2001


Great article. Somebody's showing some damn sense.
posted by Kikkoman at 1:22 AM on November 10, 2001


privitisation after the USSR collapsed, which the US had a hand in, has also been considered a failure. putting the cart before the proverbial "rule of law" horse.
posted by kliuless at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2001


I have no problem with mapalm, crasspaster, but he's not entirely blameless, nor always "nice":

Wow. I guess Zinn really brought out the "best" in folks.

Statements like that are borderline trolling, guaranteed to provoke a negative response.
posted by rushmc at 8:57 AM on November 10, 2001


Thanks for the support, crasspastor. The invective hurled at myself and others on the left was frustrating at first, but I honestly believe that it comes from fear and ignorance. There are plenty of intelligent people on MeFi...and many of them are fearful, self-absorbed, myopic pseudo-intellectuals who have fallen victim to the smothering insular socio-political context in which America operates. I pity them more than anything.

Remember, when the Vietnam war began, the whole country was behind it. It took several years, but the truth eventually came out. Be patient.
posted by mapalm at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2001


rushmc - fyi, sarcasm is not trolling. read the comments in this thread. some are quite nasty.
posted by mapalm at 9:09 AM on November 10, 2001


I consider any statement posted with intent to provoke a negative reaction from someone, especially when they include or imply personal attacks against other people rather than the issues at hand, to be trolling.

Example:

and many of them are fearful, self-absorbed, myopic pseudo-intellectuals who have fallen victim to the smothering insular socio-political context in which America operates. I pity them more than anything.

Totally inappropriate. If you want to diss other MeFi users to a crony, take it to email.
posted by rushmc at 11:43 AM on November 10, 2001


I happen to agree with that rushmc. I stuck my neck out. I don't know whether I will again.
posted by crasspastor at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2001


Suddenly the victim nation starts dropping bombs on your country. Mostly military targets, but - whoops - some residential areas too. Some of your friends are killed. You decide to move... further from the city where it may be safer.

Sounds like D.C. and NYC, Sept. 11... only replace "dropping bombs on your country" with "guiding passenger planes into your cities," it was only one military target, and take out the - whoops -. Sound familiar now?

mapalm, you do take a lot of shit around here (and you take most of it in stride, kudos to you), but your comments often strike an arrogant, holier-than-thou attitude that are sure to rub others the wrong way. And you have to admit, darukaru's perception of your posting habits aren't entirely off base. I've come to know that when I see a mapalm link on the front page, I'm about to read the same argument I always read from a mapalm link, only the author switched the order of some words or, at the very least, used a thesaurus to find a different term for "bad" when referring to war.

And if you are on a personal crusade as you say, take note of comments directed towards bas67 along the same lines while you wonder why you are taking so much of the above mentioned shit.
posted by David Dark at 1:19 PM on November 10, 2001


DavidDark:

"Crusade?" Not really. Just sharing the latest essays by people whom I believe to be offering alternative viewpoints. It seems that there are plenty of folks on MeFi who appreciate the posts. There are also, however, plenty of other people who jump at the chance to lay into me whenever I do. And while I humbly agree that I do take a lot of ribbing "in stride" as you say, I will also admit that my frustration does sometimes get the better of me.

But will I keep posting? You betcha!
posted by mapalm at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2001


mapalm:

crusade.
posted by David Dark at 2:32 PM on November 10, 2001


And BTW, I didn't ask you if were going to keep posting. That would be like asking if we were going to keep bombing. Same answer.
posted by David Dark at 3:08 PM on November 10, 2001


Oh, *that* crusade...See, like I said, I sometimes let my frustration get the better of me. (I guess I can still laugh at myself.)

And DavidDark - I'll only keep posting if you keep reading.
posted by mapalm at 4:25 PM on November 10, 2001


I don't suppose anyone would care about my response to this article?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:43 PM on November 10, 2001


I was interested enough to read it. Funny, SDB, you come off as self-assured as Zinn when you write about the opposite point of view. The ironic aspect is that you criticize Zinn for glossing history and the situation to match his point of view and you do very much the same thing. You use a voice of authority and espouse what you consider to be true. You define what War is in your terms. You decide that the US military's report on the death of 500 innocents was correct. Etc. Yet you do not see the fallibility of _your_ logic and point of view. In an argument I would definitely admit that there is a chance that you are right on all counts, no matter how much I doubt it, but yet it seems that you have no such considerations for Zinn. In an argument I would never consider trying to gloss a thing like War with my own definition and call it the truth, but I see that you have.

This seems to be the polarizing factor here, on MeFi. I fear that the bombing is unjust and that innocents are dying and I equate that horror with the deaths in my hometown, NYC. I feel we are complicit in yet another "kill from the sky innocents be damned we won't engage on the ground because it will be messy" war. Because of this you see me as weak and after reading your reply to this thread I see you as the insane helecopter door gunner in Full Metal Jacket. "How can you kill women and children?"
posted by n9 at 9:10 PM on November 10, 2001


I defined war in the way that Clausewitz did, and in the way that all major military theoreticians have done so ever since. In fact, in a sense the definition of war I gave is implicit in Sun Tzu, but Clausewitz refined it and made it explicit, and it's been the center of military science ever since.

It's sort of like a doctor defining a certain disease as being caused by a virus, and someone else claiming it's due to possession by a demon. They disagree, but their opinions are not equally valid. Zinn is wrong not because I am right, but because Clausewitz is right. But the point is that I think Zinn is being deliberately wrong. He wants to characterize war as indiscriminate killing because it makes it easier to argue against.

I recognize that I might be wrong: I'm not uncertain but I could be mistaken. That's why I believe in the marketplace of ideas: Zinn writes what he wants, I write what I want, you write what you want, American voters read us all and decide who made the best case -- and 90% are in favor of this war. Evidently my arguments and the arguments of those who think like me are coming across the most convincingly.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:33 PM on November 10, 2001


I don't suppose anyone would care about my response to this article?

Gee, SDB, you've become so...reticent and insecure. A little self-esteem, man!

Thanks for the link. I miss your perspectives 'round here.
posted by rushmc at 9:45 PM on November 10, 2001


"I defined war in [the way that]... all major military theoreticians have done..."

Exactly. You define war in a military sense. Military thought has not been noted for its humanity, you could say. Humanity and social justice are what Zinn is all about, he is a personal historian and as such he defines war in a personal sense, meaning that his concern is for the people of the world, not the winners and their post slaughter rationalization. To gloss what war is in such a way is thug mentality. I'm proposing a polyphonic view of war. Admit real people into your thoughts -- after all the thousands of dead real people in WTC are why we are killing those statistics over there, right?

"It's sort of like a doctor defining a certain disease as being caused by a virus, and someone else claiming it's due to possession by a demon."

In which way? Your way or Zinn's way? I personally think that you, with your careful collections of war-dogma (Bible-thumpin' demon banishing knowledge) are completely full of it while Zinn (a historian who refuses to follow the the bullshit ideas the majority are offering in pursuit of the truth) might have a point about how all these tiny, tiny factors contribute to the big picture in such an important way and how we have to believe this even though this is all so much in conflict with the commonly held assumptions -- and that if we don't start paying attention to things that are not visible to the naked eye we are all doomed

Your hubris would be admirable if you were not talking about dealing death. The word War is not a general's property or yours to define as you see fit, if anyone owns it is the innocent who have been killed for no reason as a result of it and it's meanings are many. You argue like an Objectivist: you claim the words as yours, define them to match your way of thinking and then push other points of view into withcraft. If 90% of the US thinks like you do no wonder the rest of the world hates us. Because, after all "...90% are in favor of this war."

And why would that be? Could it be the gross manipulation of public sentiment that the media has pouring out thick of every media outlet. Give me a break! Unbelievable! Massive public support for something says nothing about it's righteousness. Were the 75%+ of US citizens who were admitted antisemites right in the 30s? The Media was dying for a war, they made sure we got it.

"Evidently my arguments and the arguments of those who think like me are coming across the most convincingly."

Speak for yourself, exorcist. Quack. I'll be here wishing that there was some way I could alter the course of the events happening across the globe, where the offense that we have suffered is being repeated upon more innocents. We bombed Kosovo for months because of one man more or less -- who knows how many were killed (US media's reporting on this is a worldwide joke) likewise with Iraq (Iraqi civilian dead were also massively under-reported, if you don't know about this please take a look around.) Likewise with Dresdon. and on and on. I hope that this is in your Military Encyclopedia: You cannot win a war with nothing but airplanes unless you plan on killing a lot of civilians. I doubt your military history textbook that defines war so cleverly deals with this kind of confrontation and its results. So go on and get that demon outta there if you can , my thinking is that your mode of thought (or superstition) is doing no one anything but harm.
posted by n9 at 4:38 AM on November 11, 2001


One of the problems with war is that like all human activities it has good and bad sides, only they are even more stark. The difficulty is that the good sides are long term and difficult to see at the beginning, whereas the evil is blatantly obvious and in your face.

It's easy to be blinded by the evil and not see the benefit. A historical study of war leads to a longer view: all war is cruel, but sometimes not fighting one is even worse. I believe that this war is such a case.

As to validity of definition, the problem with Zinn's definition is that it is a prescription for failure. It may be valid, but in the marketplace of ideas it will fall by the wayside because nations which adopt Clausewitz's point of view tend to win wars; those who adopt Zinn's point of view will lose. Clausewitz's definition of war is practical and that is more important.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:03 AM on November 11, 2001


So, perhaps, we need idealists to help us avoid wars, and utilitarians to win them for us?
posted by rushmc at 9:22 AM on November 11, 2001


Nov. 25
It seems now that we are winning the war with minimal civilian casualties. It also seems that Afghan civilians wanted us to win this war, to bomb, and rid their country of foreign (Muslim) terrorists who usurped power and terrorized them. It seems that Afghanis will come out as winners in their fight for independence. Perhaps the whole process will inspire a new era of accommodation between the various tribes, religions, and countries including India and Pakistan.
posted by semmi at 4:01 PM on November 25, 2001


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