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The Unholy Sheehan-Zinn Alliance By: Patrick Poole
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 14, 2006

Over the past year Americans have discovered amidst the intense mainstream media coverage of Cindy Sheehan that there’s hardly a Third World dictator, anti-American organization or anti-Semitic hate group that she doesn’t love. She’s been wined and dined by Comrade Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. She’s been lavished with praise by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. She writes commentaries for Al-Jazeera Magazine. She blogs regularly on Michael Moore’s website. She has teamed up with Saddam Hussein’s defense attorney, Ramsey Clark, to call for President Bush’s impeachment. And she has spoken at events in support of convicted terror accomplice, Lynn Stewart.

It was no surprise then when Sheehan’s new book came out in April, Dear President Bush, that it featured an introduction from the American Left’s favorite Marxist historian, Howard Zinn. Known for expressing his rabid hatred of American society and gushing with effluent praise of virtually every Communist dictatorship in history, Zinn rightfully takes his place among the pantheon of Leftist luminaries and the American intellectual insurgency.


In forging the unholy Sheehan-Zinn alliance, the book’s publishers, San Francisco-based City Lights, clearly intended to marshal Zinn’s prominence to enhance Sheehan’s gravely deficient intellectual profile. In his Introduction to Dear Mr. President, Zinn offers such lofty insights as this:


A box-cutter can bring down a tower. A poem can build up a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution.


Yes, I’m sure we all remember from our school days the stirring stanzas of American poet Alan Seeger’s, I have a rendezvous with Death (and I’m taking some Capitalist pigs with me!) or the patriotic prose from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (for executing the perfect suicide attack against American imperialism) whenever we think of that inspirational act of revolution committed on 9/11.


But the unholy Sheehan-Zinn alliance makes all the more sense when the pair’s understanding of the role of history is considered. Zinn’s most well known work, A People’s History of the United States, has sold more than one million copies and is a standard college American history text. A People’s History is featured on NPR’s Suggested Reading list, and it is currently being serialized into a six-part documentary funded by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in cooperation with the Discovery Times Channel.


What has made Zinn’s A People’s History so attractive to many is that it is an unabashed, unapologetic Marxist reading of history. He makes no pretense of objectivity. Zinn has made it his stated mission to resuscitate Marxism, and he has written a play, Marx in Soho, as a medium to revive Karl Marx for the new millennium. When the play premiered in Havana in May 2004, Zinn told La Jiribilla,


Marx is not dead, and I am going to try to prove it by bringing him back on the scene. And from there I'll show difference the U.S. public what Marxism is really about. Marx himself would explain the difference between Stalinism and Marxism. I'll remind people what Marx's criticism of capitalism was. I would demonstrate that these ideas have much to with the United States today. In other words, that Marxist criticism today is exact and current.


Despite more than 100 million people killed by Marxist regimes in the 20th Century – the bloodiest record of any ideology or religion in the history of mankind – and the listing of Communist regimes reading like a litany of inhumanity, Zinn believes, much like late Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha and North Korean Great Leader Kim Il Sung, that the problem with Marxism is that it just hasn’t been practiced well enough in the past. Capitalism keeps tripping it up and preventing it from blooming into full flower, which necessitates the destruction of the capitalist system.


And this is where the common understanding of history connects between Zinn and Cindy Sheehan. History has “a social aim”. Propaganda is much more important than the facts, and politics is much more important than principle.


For Sheehan, this means that she can reinterpret her son’s actions, such as reenlisting in the Army knowing that he would be sent to Iraq and volunteering for the mission that would lead to his death, such that he is no longer responsible. The Bush/Cheney/Rove/Halliburton cabal deceived her son, Casey, and is just as guilty as the “freedom fighters” who planted to bomb that killed him and his colleagues. And even Casey’s killers aren’t responsible anymore – they are just responding to the neo-conservative occupation of their country (even though they were probably foreign fighters). She can also scrub away the early account she gave of her family’s meeting with President Bush and “reinterpret” it to uncover his true (and more nefarious) motives.


The same is true for Zinn’s reading of history. The socialist regimes of the 20th Century really aren’t to blame for the atrocities that occurred on their watch. Instead, the socialist revolutions were actually undermined by capitalists and American imperialist opposition that were either directly or indirectly responsible for the genocide and democide that were part and parcel of virtually every socialist regime. In the Marxist religion, the gravest sins and bloodiest historical episodes can be made new and washed white as snow.


For both Zinn and Sheehan, the facts are subservient to how they want to interpret reality. In their worldview, facts are troublesome, and frequently irrelevant. They get in the way of the [insert your favorite liberal cause] movement.


But Zinn would take issue with Henry Ford’s assessment that “history is bunk”. Quite the contrary. For Zinn and his comrades, history is a weapon that either serves capitalist interests, or can be put to work in the larger effort to reeducate the masses of the glories of Marxism. In reflecting on George Orwell’s well-known dictum, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past,” Zinn has said,


What the Orwell quote means to me is a very important observation that if you can control history, what people know about history, if you can decide what's in people's history and what's left out, you can order their thinking. You can order their values. You can in effect organize their brains by controlling their knowledge. The people who can do that, who can control the past, are the people who control the present. The people who would dominate the media, who publish the textbooks, who decide in our culture what are the dominant ideas, what gets told and what doesn't.


To paraphrase Chairman Mao, for Zinn history comes out of the barrel of a gun. And as long as it is he and his associates that wield that weapon, they are content for history to play that role.


The consequences of reversing the oppression of American imperialist society are the price that the American people have to pay, like emptying the prisons,


…until our society works differently: until wealth is equally distributed, and people don’t live in slums, and the motivations for crime and punishment become very weak, and the desire to live cooperatively with other people becomes strong.


This is Howard Zinn’s futuristic vision for America – a project signed onto by Cindy Sheehan and her publishers.


It can hardly be accidental that City Lights, the publisher of Sheehan’s Dear Mr. President, have forged the Sheehan-Zinn alliance to synthesize two streams of anti-Western, anti-capitalist, and anti-American movements into a larger Marxist whole. This larger project is what Cindy Sheehan has signed on for.


This should be remembered as she tries to revive the media circus that followed her last year, because it’s doubtful that her fawning supporters in the mainstream media are going to be as direct in questioning Cindy Sheehan about where she and her new-found friends intend to take us if we should follow their vision for the future. The Unholy Sheehan-Zinn Alliance is a marriage made for Marxist revolution.


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Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Frontpagemag.com and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.

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