Howard Zinn and Irrational Answers 2-6-07

Howard Zinn and Irrational Answers


Richard J. Garfunkel

February 6, 2006



I would love to see Bush impeached, but Howard Zinn is no bargain! I knew him when I was a student at BU and I personally do not like him or agree with his political views. From my perspective Howard Zinn wouldn't be satisfied unless he got the “people” out in the streets behind barricades and throwing rocks and burning down buildings. He reminds me of the “Spartacusites” who brought us the wild radicalism and street warfare of Weimar Germany after the crash. They opened the door for the Nazis and you know what happened! We need real reform and it has to come through our political process not “street” action. When he talks of “people's councils,” his language starts to smack of the creation of “soviets.” When one thinks of the Great Depression one could also think of Gerald L.K. Smith, Francis Townsend and Huey Long and their faux “share the wealth” ideas. When extremists, of the left and the right, start to author the agenda of the country watch out. The world has been through the era of “street radicalism” many times and it has always ended in disaster. Just revisit the simplistic concept of the film “Meet John Doe.”


George Bush is a rotten and corrupt President, but unfortunately when the Iraq War is taken out of his personal equation, the public is not so sick of him. What is really needed is an effort to unearth and defame his other policies. But ironically no one (or very few) is/are in the street protesting his policies regarding; stem cells, tax-giveaways to the rich, women's choice, global warming, open borders, flat-earth faith-based thinking, the environment or a plethora of other shortcomings and disastrous actions and ideas. George Bush is a horror, but to many in this polarized society, it is not his policies or philosophy or lack of it, but his incompetence.


It will certainly be up to the Democrats to have courage on many issues, but history has shown them to be much more in the model of the “cowardly lion,” than their opposites across the aisle. The Democrats have only shown real courage through the White House and even with large majorities on their side, they have rarely been able to create real reform. Only FDR and Johnson were able to be pro-active with their domestic agenda and FDR was forced to veto over 500 bills and Johnson's Great Society got swallowed in the morass of the Vietnam War. Carter was a mediocre failure, JFK could not sufficiently influence the Dixiecrats with his narrow electoral and numerical victory, and Big Bill Clinton was a successful counter-puncher who was able to triangulate Gingrich's “Contract with America” in a way to achieve some middle of the road reforms. Certainly one was overdue welfare reform, which the GOP pushed and the Democrats avoided for years. Truman, like Carter left office with incredibly low popularity, but unlike the peanut farmer from Georgia, was able to achieve high marks from later historians on leadership. But Truman opened the door to the hegemony of Dixiecrat control that existed right through and to JFK, and Carter opened the door to the Conservative Reagan Revolution. The disaster of Vietnam and Korea was placed at the footsteps of the Democrats and it led to political defeat. When Vietnam was essentially de-funded by Democrats, it was the public that did not reward their actions. The GOP would have stayed in control of the White House easily without Watergate. Remember, Ford, a bumbling, inarticulate nobody, who was a failure as President, pardoned Nixon and only lost 51-49 to Carter. Within four years Carter and the Democrats were out!


All in all, the Democratic message must be better articulated and it must be pro-growth also. We cannot afford to finance our huge entitlement obligations by turning to a non-incentive based economy. Richard Ottinger, a liberal Congressman, said many times to me personally, “we must save both the river and the factory.” Ottinger was right. No matter how we pine and moan about social justice, we must find a way to finance it. Taxing for the sake of “leveling the playing field” is not the complete answer. We must recognize the “producers” now and again. Howard Zinn, an academic, who has never run a business, nor made a payroll, or created a genuine product, is a “false prophet” who must be regarded with much skepticism. I would start with a roll-back of the Bush tax giveaways to the super-rich and I would start to create a reasonable alternative to the Bush policy of action without diplomacy. Iraq, a regional problem has been escalated into a worldwide one. Without help of our NATO friends and the regional moderates the Iraq War will be a growing cancer for years to come.




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Impeachment by the People

By Howard Zinn, AlterNet
Posted on February 3, 2007, Printed on February 3, 2007

Courage is in short supply in Washington, D.C. The realities of the Iraq War cry out for the overthrow of a government that is criminally responsible for death, mutilation, torture, humiliation, chaos.

But all we hear in the nation's capital, which is the source of those catastrophes, is a whimper from the Democratic Party, muttering and nattering about “unity” and “bipartisanship,” in a situation that calls for bold action to immediately reverse the present course.

These are the Democrats who were brought to power in November by an electorate fed up with the war, furious at the Bush Administration, and counting on the new majority in Congress to represent the voters.

But if sanity is to be restored in our national policies, it can only come about by a great popular upheaval, pushing both Republicans and Democrats into compliance with the national will.

The Declaration of Independence, revered as a document but ignored as a guide to action, needs to be read from pulpits and podiums, on street corners and community radio stations throughout the nation. Its words, forgotten for over two centuries, need to become a call to action for the first time since it was read aloud to crowds in the early excited days of the American Revolution: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government.”

The “ends” referred to in the Declaration are the equal right of all to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” True, no government in the history of the nation has been faithful to those ends. Favors for the rich, neglect of the poor, massive violence in the interest of continental and world expansion — that is the persistent record of our government.

Still, there seems to be a special viciousness that accompanies the current assault on human rights, in this country and in the world. We have had repressive governments before, but none has legislated the end of habeas corpus, nor openly supported torture, nor declared the possibility of war without end. No government has so casually ignored the will of the people, affirmed the right of the president to ignore the Constitution, even to set aside laws passed by Congress.

The time is right, then, for a national campaign calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Representative John Conyers, who held extensive hearings and introduced an impeachment resolution when the Republicans controlled Congress, is now head of the House Judiciary Committee and in a position to fight for such a resolution. He has apparently been silenced by his Democratic colleagues who throw out as nuggets of wisdom the usual political palaver about “realism” (while ignoring the realities staring them in the face) and politics being “the art of the possible” (while setting limits on what is possible).

I know I'm not the first to talk about impeachment. Indeed, judging by the public opinion polls, there are millions of Americans, indeed a majority of those polled, who declare themselves in favor if it is shown that the President lied us into war (a fact that is not debatable).

There are at least a half-dozen books out on impeachment, and it's been argued for eloquently by some of our finest journalists, John Nichols and Lewis Lapham among them. Indeed, an actual “indictment” has been drawn up by a former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, in a new book called United States v. George W. Bush et al, making a case, in devastating detail, to a fictional grand jury.

There is a logical next step in this development of an impeachment movement: the convening of “people's impeachment hearings” all over the country. This is especially important given the timidity of the Democratic Party. Such hearings would bypass Congress, which is not representing the will of the people, and would constitute an inspiring example of grassroots democracy.

These hearings would be the contemporary equivalents of the unofficial gatherings that marked the resistance to the British Crown in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The story of the American Revolution is usually built around Lexington and Concord, around the battles and the Founding Fathers. What is forgotten is that the American colonists, unable to count on redress of their grievances from the official bodies of government, took matters into their own hands, even before the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

In 1772, town meetings in Massachusetts began setting up Committees of Correspondence, and the following year, such a committee was set up in Virginia. The first Continental Congress, beginning to meet in 1774, was a recognition that an extralegal body was necessary to represent the interests of the people. In 1774 and 1775, all through the colonies, parallel institutions were set up outside the official governmental bodies.

Throughout the nation's history, the failure of government to deliver justice has led to the establishment of grassroots organizations, often ad hoc, dissolving after their purpose was fulfilled. For instance, after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, knowing that the national government could not be counted on to repeal the act, black and white anti-slavery groups organized to nullify the law by acts of civil disobedience. They held meetings, made plans, and set about rescuing escaped slaves who were in danger of being returned to their masters.

In the desperate economic conditions of 1933 and 1934, before the Roosevelt Administration was doing anything to help people in distress, local groups were formed all over the country to demand government action. Unemployed Councils came into being, tenants' groups fought evictions, and hundreds of thousands of people in the country formed self-help organizations to exchange goods and services and enable people to survive.

More recently, we recall the peace groups of the 1980s, which sprang up in hundreds of communities all over the country, and provoked city councils and state legislatures to pass resolutions in favor of a freeze on nuclear weapons. And local organizations have succeeded in getting more than 400 city councils to take a stand against the Patriot Act.

Impeachment hearings all over the country could excite and energize the peace movement. They would make headlines, and could push reluctant members of Congress in both parties to do what the Constitution provides for and what the present circumstances demand: the impeachment and removal from office of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Simply raising the issue in hundreds of communities and Congressional districts would have a healthy effect, and would be a sign that democracy, despite all attempts to destroy it in this era of war, is still alive.

For information on how to get involved in the impeachment effort, go to After Downing Street.

Howard Zinn is the author, most recently, of “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress” published by City Lights Books.

) 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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