Zinn—whose 1980 book A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present has sold millions of copies—assailed President Bush’s use of Wilsonian idealism to support the occupation.
“The history of American occupation is not a pretty history,” said Zinn, citing numerous atrocities committed during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration in Mexico and Haiti at the beginning of last century. “It is a history of cruelty and violence.”
Zinn did not restrict his attacks to American presidents—he also blasted University President Lawrence H. Summers for his support of the military.
“I was about to say that people at Harvard have always responded well [to social issues] from the president on down but that’s not so,” he said.
Zinn wrapped up his argument by accusing the U.S. government of exhibiting “a whiff of fascism.”
“Bush, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, they are all terrorists,” he said. “I want a country that has a peace with the world.”
The event was a part of a nationwide campus tour by the Campus Anti-War Network and the Muslim Student Association, entitled “Speaking Truth to Empire.”
Hebah M. Ismail ’06, a spokesperson for the Muslim Student Association, said she liked the speech and had been dismayed at a lack of discussion of the occupation.
“I think we needed to bring dialogue to campus,” she said.
Reactions to the speech varied widely. however. Corey M. Rennell ’07 called the speech inspiring. “It gave more hope than cynicism,” he said.
But his classmate, Mary O. Thomas ’07, panned the speech. “The things he said were predictable. I didn’t feel like I got a lot out of new material out of it,” he said.
Shannon M. Lavelle ’07 said she enjoyed the talk but worried about the audience.
“It would have been more effective if there were more people from the other side,” she said.