Howard Zinn: On "The People Speak," the Supreme Court, and Haiti





Note: Howard Zinn passed away on Jan. 27 at age 87. This is his latest published interview, conducted by Joan Brunwasser at OpEdNews.

Howard Zinn is a historian, author, social activist, and American icon. His book"A People's History of the United States" has sold over two million copies. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Howard. The dust has had a chance to settle a bit since last month's airing of your documentary"The People Speak." What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

We've received lots of nice messages on"The People Speak." The History Channel tells us that eight million people have seen part or all of the film, and two million on the first night it was shown (apparently they have no way of telling if a viewer cuts out on the program). It will be on the History Channel again February 22nd and March 1st....

...[W]ould you like to comment on the Supreme Court's decision last week to strike down corporate campaign finance limits?

Liberals get excited about things like that as if they signal a dramatic change. No, the corporations ran our elections before the decision and will do so now -- just with a fig leaf of"legality." The designation of corporations as"persons" which started in 1886 is just proof of how our legal system, the Constitution, the courts have always been tools of the wealthy classes....

On the international front, Haiti recently suffered a devastating earthquake. At this point, we still don't know how many people died as rescue and medical efforts continue. Americans have a notoriously short attention span and aren't generally interested in other nations' history. If we were to look beyond the corruption of Duvalier father and son, we would see that America had a hand in making Haiti what it is today, wouldn't we?

Haiti is one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. foreign policy because Haiti is a neighbor (as is Cuba, where a similar relationship has persisted) and we have treated Haiti with cruelty all through our history. When it became the first independent black Republic in this hemisphere, defeating the Napoleonic army, the administration of Thomas Jefferson (ironically, author of our Declaration of Independence) refused to recognize it.

And in the early 20th century, repeated Marine excursions to put down rebellions, and in 1916, the supposed"idealist" and proclaimer of"self-determination" Woodrow Wilson sent an occupation army, killing several thousand Haitians who would not accept our rule. The occupation lasted eighteen years.

And since then, as you note, support of the Duvalier dictatorship. And hostility to Aristide the first democratically elected president. And for some time now, strangling Haiti economically, and ruining its rice crop for the benefit of U.S. exporters. If we weren't spending hundreds of billions on stupid wars, we could have made much of Port-Au-Prince less vulnerable to natural disasters.



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