April 24, 2006


Removing America's Blinders (Howard Zinn, April 24, 2006, The Progressive)

[I]f we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson -- so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist" -- lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam -- Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991-- hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq?

Hard to take him seriously when he leaves Lincoln and FDR, not because they lied any less but for fear of offending blacks and Jews who were liberated by such lies, as were the Iraqis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2006 8:27 AM

Heck, in Zinn's "People's History of the United States" he lays the blame for WWII squarely on FDR's doorstep because FDR wouldn't assist the peace-loving Japanese in spreading their economic co-prosperity sphere to the grateful population of Nanking. And Lincoln got the brutal industrial North into war with the gentlemanly agricultural South because he was the willing servant of Big Industry. Howard Zinn has apparently never heard of Occam's Razor and instead prefers to think that there's nothing so simple that it can't be explained with a labyrinthine conspiracy theory.
Someday, I'm actually going to get around to reading the whole thing, but you know, life's too short to spend too much time with Comrade Zinn.

Posted by: Bryan at April 24, 2006 9:04 AM

There it is, "James Knox Polk lied; people died." We knew it was coming.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 24, 2006 10:34 AM

Funny how the Left always manages to leave their list of lies and the people who died because of them off the lists. (Like the Vietnamese who got left behind, and all of Cambodia, are just two examples for you trolls who have selective memories.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 24, 2006 11:18 AM

Nothing funny about it Mr. Ortega. 'You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.' Name the quote, win a prize!

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 24, 2006 11:26 AM


The Middle East and Africa after WWI, because Wilson pursued his League instead of self-determination. All of Eastern Europe because FDR and Truman didn't think Bolshevism was as bad as Nazism.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:27 AM

I think that Zinn, unlike Chomsky, really believes this nonsense. Just another sign of how trivial and cliche the left's "fundamental insights" are.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 24, 2006 12:50 PM

Following a Zinn lecture, pushing his latest book a few years ago, I asked him if he would support a law that disallowed the deployment of conscripts outside of the continental USA. He answered he'd have to think about it.

If he only had the courage of his forebears and would leave the USA, as they left wherever, to find a more acceptable future for their progeny.

However, on the other hand, Howard has created a niche industry for his anti-Americanism so why leave?

Posted by: Genecis at April 24, 2006 1:18 PM

It's about the money.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 24, 2006 2:43 PM

The Philippines is a valuable piece of real estate?

maybe then.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 24, 2006 2:47 PM

The Senate gave 22 reasons for authorizing Bush to use military force against Saddam's Iraq. Were all of them lies?

Posted by: GER at April 24, 2006 3:28 PM

Not to mention all the ones the UN gave:


Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 3:34 PM


Not quite. Zinn concedes that the Axis powers were evil, but strongly suggests that America & Britain were no better -- even at one point posing the matter as a rhetorical question.

His comments on Lincoln and particularly the Emancipation Proclamation are, as you note, infuriatingly addlebrained.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 7:38 PM