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Part two: Liberal historian looks to Vietnam as Iraq votes

John Byrne

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Zinn: I think the war is about several things... [not so much about oil as] about the availability of oil, because if we didn't control the oil, Iraq would have to sell the oil; they would sell it to us and to everybody else. The war isn't really about oil but about the price of oil which makes the loss of life even more horrendous.

The control of oil is certainly a major factor. All of our policies since the end of World War II have been based on the control of oil, hence the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 over his nationalization of oil. Beyond oil, it's a matter of empire. Were the French in Indochina because of rubber? Yes, but that was only part of it. Did Mussolini go into Ethiopia because the Italians needed land? No, Mussolini wanted to restore the glory of the Roman Empire, and the United States is hellbent on creating the greatest empire in world history. It's oil, and it's empire and it's business.

And it's control. Wars create a situation where the ruling party is better able to control the situation, hence the Patriot Act, and war is an opportunity for profiteering.... I remember during the Vietnam war one of the great posters was done by a quite well-known artist Seymour Chwast, and the poster simply said in big letters: "War Is Good for Business: Invest Your Son." Very chilling, but true.

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Raw Story: Do you think we can win in Iraq?

Zinn: The overall sense is not even it's a question of being a winnable war, it's a war we shouldn't win. If we were winning that wouldn't have made it right; the point is we shouldn't be there in the first place. We don't belong there. We invaded that country. It didn't attack us. It's as clear cut a case of naked aggression as you can find. People were sentenced to hang at Nuremberg in World War II for engaging in a war of aggression against other nations and that's what we've done in Iraq. Just reading about Tookie [who was executed by lethal injection in California]... and here is Schwarzenegger showing no remorse... Bush and Cheney and the whole White House group are responsible for the killing of millions of people. They have shown no remorse. So we are in a crazy world where this black man who may have killed four people twenty years ago is sent to prison and other people who are killing people daily right now are free. We've living in absurdity.

Raw Story: How well do you think the media is doing at explaining the situation in Iraq?

Zinn: The media is not educating the America public. The media is not playing the role that the media should be which is to sharply criticize the government when it knows the government is wrong and to represent the interests of the people. And you see the press conferences, and you see how soft the questions are. Take what's supposed to be the best of the media, that is public television, and the Lehrer Newshour, and what you see is... blatant government policies. They have a discussion on torture and they have a lawyer for torture and a lawyer who is sort of against torture. And you wouldn't there have someone on the Holocaust - you wouldn't have somebody who supports the Holocaust and someone who is sort of against the Holocaust. The spectrum that's represented in the media runs from slightly left of center to the extreme right.

Raw Story: There have recently been revelations of secret CIA prisons. Is this unusual for the CIA?

Zinn: The government has never been reluctant to go outside the law to carry out its policies. If you look at the reports of the Church Committee in 1975 of the CIA and the FBI and you see absolutely blatant violations of law by both the CIA and the FBI. You see planned assassination attempts, you see all sorts of skullduggery going on. But I think what we are seeing now in the detention of people in Guantanamo Bay and secret places overseas, you're seeing something more far reaching in the violation of basic constitution rights than we've ever seen before.

In World War I, people were put on trial or sent to prison. But here we have a situation where people aren't even put on trial, they are just put away and nobody hears from them again. You might say the Bush Administration is taking the history of the abuse of civil liberties and just going twenty degrees beyond it.

Raw Story: What's going well?

Zinn: What's going well is the growing rejection of the war by Americans, the growing willingness of the Americans to speak up against the war, the growing protest against high school recruiting by young people and people all over the country. What's going well is what has always gone well - the willingness of the American people to resist the war and growing consciousness of what is wrong. The graph is moving in the direction of greater public understanding and also going in the direction of the crumbling of the legitimacy of this Administration.

Back to part one

Originally published on Thursday December 15, 2005

 


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