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Iraq Bombing : Another Lie

January 12, 1999 by Administrator in January/February 1999

By Howard Zinn

[Immediately after President Clinton announced the bombing of Iraq, Mother Joneswww.mojones.com called Boston University historian Howard Zinn and asked for his take. After a few minutes, he sent this forceful accusation.]

President Clinton has just told another lie, this time not about the relatively trivial matter of his sexual activities, but about matters of life and death. In explaining his decision to bomb Baghdad, he said that other nations besides Iraq have weapons of mass destruction, but Iraq alone has used them.

He could only say this to a population deprived of history. The United States has supplied Turkey, Israel, and Indonesia with such weapons and they have used them against civilian populations. But the nation most guilty is our own. No nation in the world possesses greater weapons of mass destruction than we do, and none has used them more often, or with greater loss of civilian life. In Hiroshima hundreds of thousands died, in Korea and Vietnam millions died as a result of our use of such weapons.

Our economic sanctions are also weapons of mass destruction, having resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Saddam Hussein may well have weapons of mass destruction, he may indeed be inclined to use them, but only the United States is actually using them, and at this very moment, people are dying in Iraq as a result.

However evil Saddam Hussein is, whatever potential danger he may represent, he is not, as the president said tonight (telling another lie) a “clear and present danger” to the peace of the world. We are. And, as the president said, if there is a clear and present danger we must act against it. It is a time for protest. We are living in times of madness, when men in suits and ties, and yes, a woman secretary of state, can solemnly defend the use, in the present, of indiscriminate violence – they do not know what they are bombing! – against a tyrant who may use violence, in the future. The phrase “clear and present danger” has therefore lost its meaning. The phrase “weapons of mass destruction” too has lost its meaning when a nation which possesses more such weapons, and has used them more often than any other, uses those words to justify the killing of civilians “to send a message.” We who are offended by this should send our own message to our demented leaders.


Howard Zinn is professor emeritus of history at Boston University, and author of A People’s History of the United States. This article was originally published by the MoJo Wire, Mother Jones magazine’s online sister: www.mojones.com.

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