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Bill Moyers Talks to Howard Zinn

by Bill Moyers Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003 at 6:42 PM
patels@thirteen.org Public Affairs Television, 450 W 33rd Street, New York, NY 10001

In an upcoming episode of NOW with Bill Moyers, author and historian Howard Zinn discusses his opposition to the impending war with Iraq and the arguments made in his latest book, Terrorism and War. Read an excerpt from this conversation to be aired on NOW with Bill Moyers Friday, January 10 at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings at ):

Bill Moyers talks to Howard Zinn

On NOW with Bill Moyers Friday, January 10 at 9pm ET on PBS

(check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/now/sched.html)


As of now, do you think war with Iraq is imminent?


01:07:40;04 It feels imminent. It feels immanent simply because the Bush administration seems absolutely determined to have a war no matter what-- no matter what the opposition is, no matter what the international community thinks. No matter how reluctant people in this country are. And I do believe there's a lot of reluctance in this country about war-- and about going to war.


What are the real reasons, in your opinion, for why we're going to war? I mean we know the stated reasons, weapons of mass destruction, all of that. Why do you think they want war? We know the stated reasons that-- the weapons of mass destruction (UNINTEL)-- why do you think they are so eager to go to war?


Yeah, I mean there's no doubt-- as you say there are stated reasons. None of those stated reasons make sense, you know? Saddam Hussein is a tyrant-- well-- we've tolerated tyrants-- lots of them. We've put tyrants in power. You know, weapons of mass destruction, well we just had an example.

Korea has more weapons of mass destruction than Saddam Hussein but we're not making war on Korea. Besides, eight nuclear countries, right? Eight countries that have nuclear weapons. No, we're not making war on them. No, it's not that.

So, if-- I think oil is one of the important factors. But I think that there are others. And one of them has to do with something psychological. That macho feeling that people in power have about the United States being the number one superpower and determined to show it.


Is there any evidence they could present or any argument they could make that would give you second thoughts about your opposition to the war?


I can't think of any. And I think there's a fundamental reason why I can't think of any. And that is, you know, whatever they might come up with about weapons of mass destruction and what Saddam Hussein does, one fact remains clear. If we go to war, we will kill thousands, tens of thousands, we don't know how many people. A hundred thousand? We will kill huge numbers of people. And who will we kill? We will kill the victims of Saddam Hussein.

If we go to war against Iraq, we are killing the victims of the tyrant. That to me creates a moral equation which is intolerable.


A moral equation?


I mean-- I mean that one of the moral principals about war and about just war you know, is the issue of proportionality. And that is what harm do you do in the course of a war-- in the furtherance of some end. Even presuming the end is good. And to me what is clear-- and this is a statement about war in general, not just about the war against Iraq. It's a statement about modern warfare. And that is the means in modern warfare, even in small wars, you know, small wars, the means are horrific. I mean the means are deadly to human beings. And certain-- that is there's a certainty when you go to war you are going to kill, maim, injure, blind children, women, all sorts of people. A certainty.

The end, however moral it appears to be, is always uncertain. So, when you're faced with a certain terrible means, and uncertain end, to me it is very clear you mustn't go to war.


This is the kind of war that the terrorists are fighting right now. I mean when they drove those airplane bombs into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they were striking innocent people for their own purposes.


Exactly. Exactly. That's exactly what they were doing.


Are you saying that’s what we’re about to do in Iraq?


Well, that's right. I mean-- there's-- it's a-- war is a form of terrorism. I know there are people who don't like to equate-- what was done-- you know on September 11th, 2001, they don't like to equate that with a war that the United States engaged in. Sure, they're different.

But they're not different in the-- in the fundamental principal that drives the terrorists and that is, they're saying, we're going to kill a lot of people but it will be worth it. We're trying to do something. We're trying to accomplish something. They-- the terrorists are not killing people just for the sake of killing people, they have some end in mind. To show that the American empire is vulnerable or to make some point about American policy in the Middle East. But they have an end in mind. We are doing the same thing. I mean, as I say, the details are different, but we are willing to kill a lot of people for some political end that we have declared.


And in this case, it's ridding the world of a regime that President Bush says is part of the Axis of Evil.


Yeah, well, you know-- (LAUGHS) there are so many evil countries in the world. So, I don't really believe him when he says we simply want to rid the world of an axis of evil. Because-- they're-- there are too many evil countries in the world. And also, there's something else. There are too many places in the world that require attention because human beings are suffering.

If we care about human beings, and presumably the reason we are going to depose Saddam Hussein is, oh, we care about the human beings in Iraq whom he has tyrannized. And of course, we should care about them.

But, we have-- drawn a line around this little country in the Middle East and said, "This is where all evil reposes." And we are shunning our eyes to the deaths of millions and millions of people. Which is not a potential, which is not a potential like Iraq having a nuclear weapon. But which is a present, ongoing reality. And what is the United States doing about AIDS in Africa? It is giving a pittance to help the people in Africa while it is concentrating on this war in Iraq.

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