Howard Zinn, author of the classic A People’s History of the United States, has a new book, A People’s History of American Empire, part of what Zinn calls “The American Empire Project.” Empire is adapted from Zinn’s previous book and presented in graphic style through the work of comic artist Mike Konopacki, whose previous work includes MAD in USA and Working Class Hero.Narrated by Zinn, A People’s History of American Empire opens with the events of 9/11 and then looks back at the different ways in which the U.S. has exercised its power in order to expand its reach around the world. Interspersed throughout this epic is the story of Zinn’s own immigrant family.
NUVO recently caught up with Howard Zinn for an email interview regarding the idea of American empire.
NUVO: In spite of its vogue among neo-cons in the Bush Administration, it seems many Americans are reluctant, if not in denial, about applying the word “empire” to our country’s behavior – as if this something other countries do, but not us. Why do you think this is?
Zinn: We are brought up in this country in an atmosphere of national pride, even arrogance )”God Bless America,” “Liberty and Justice for All,” “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”), believing that we are a good nation, doiong good in the world, and the word “empire” suggests something that other nations do, planting themselves in other lands, dominating other countries. When we intervene in other countries, we are told it is to do good, to spread democracy and liberty.
NUVO: What has imperial ambition cost our country?
Zinn: It has cost us the respect and admiration of the world which (against the historical record, actually) did look upon us as a good and generous nation. It also has cost us a huge part of our national wealth spent on our enormous military budget, $500 billion this year, trillions and trillions over the years. All this wealth unavailable to solve problems at home, to give people free healthcare, to guarantee jobs and free college education, to end poverty and homelessness.
NUVO: How do globalism and imperialism relate to one another?
Zinn: Globalism is a euphemism for imperialism. It is a recognition that this is really one world and pretends that we are a nation among other nations, suggesting a kind of equality even while we advertise ourselves as the leading superpower in the world. So they are really contradictory but the conflict between globalism and imperialism is not acknowledged.
NUVO: Does global warming and the crisi of climate change make the nation-state obsolete?
Zinn: Yes, among other facts that make the nation-state obsolete. Global warming is a phenomenon that creates a crisis of global proportions, which nation-states are not in a position to deal with, which requires a true world order, a marshalling of world resources.
NUVO: What might responsible global citizenship look like?
Zinn: It would require renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy, opening borders, eliminating passports and visas and immigration quotas, doing to the nation states what the American revolution did to individual colonies, wiping out barriers, creating a world citizenship, equalizing wealth.