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Hope in the Horror

Alia Levin
Date Published: 
July 14, 2002

Terrorism and War
Howard Zinn
Seven Stories Press 2002

At first appearances, this is a small, innocuous volume, largely based on a series of interviews and talks with Howard Zinn, carried out by Anthony Arnove, between September 2001 and January 2002.

Terrorism and War opens by outlining Zinn’s observances on the subsequent intervention by Bush and his merry military in Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. The pages turn quickly in this slim, simply written book, and Zinn’s comments on the current state of affairs soon expand to place the attacks of last September into a necessary global and historical context of a long-standing record of trigger-happy U.S. interference; one that is consistently—and critically—absent from almost all mainstream media and information sources.

The content of Terrorism and War is (as to be expected of Zinn) an uncompromising critique of United States Foreign Policy and its heavy-handed military actions. Bush doesn’t get shafted with all the blame though; Zinn lists a long line of U.S. offenses over the last century, nimbly outlining various volatile, bloody, and ill-planned interventions in countries all over the world.

Fortunately, Zinn’s observances, and those of his interviewer, Arnove, are not at all volatile. Indeed, given the nature of the content, Zinn’s comments are hardly inflammatory at all. In Terrorism and War, Zinn quietly puts forth his opinion on the actions of the U.S. Government, whose dealings (sadly) need no hyperbole to shock the reader, as they are simply described by both Zinn and Arnove.

Potential for change

This could be a disturbing, and depressing book on the various horrors conducted at the hands of the U.S. Government. Indeed, given the content, it could be expected, but Terrorism and War is not solely a recounting and prophecy of doom. There is a surprising amount of joy, occurring in uncontained and frequent bouts of optimism from Howard Zinn. He advocates, time and again, “humane solutions to the problem of terrorism,” calling for reliance on what he defines as the “universal instinct of compassion.” Compassion instead of militarism: what a concept.

Zinn encourages the reader to pay attention to the counter-culture, reminding the cynical reader (i.e.: me) of the “enormous potential for change in this country,” pointing out major movements in United States history that did bring about change for the better, the most obvious being the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements, and citing such heroes of the United States as, “Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, and Jack London.”

With clear, concise editing, by Arnove and Seven Stories editor Dan Simon, and Zinn’s own succinct choice of words, Terrorism and War is extremely accessible. Zinn’s careful insights and his staunch belief that there is “a moral good sense in the American people …when the blanket of propaganda begins to be lifted,” renders Terrorism and War to be informative, engaging, and (perhaps most importantly) hopeful.