Analysis of Howard Zinn's Argument in his Article "Dying for the Government"
In June of 2003, Howard Zinn’s “Dying for the Government” was published in “The Progressive” newspaper. He discusses the government’s claim to military victory in Iraq, and he believes that many innocent people have died for an unjust cause in that war. His claim is that soldiers died for their government, not their country. An important part of his argument is his discussion of democracy, which he says is what our country is supposed to be based on. He also brings up some history of U.S. wars and quotes Mark Twain’s statement about the invasion of the Phillipines by the United States. Even though some of his assertions lack evidence, Zinn uses authority and structure very well to make his argument effective.
Some of Zinn’s assertions are a bit sketchy in his essay because there is no evidence that proves them true. One that really stands out is when he writes, “[they] died for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. And yes, they died for the greed of the oil cartels, for the expansion of the American empire, for the political ambitions of the President. They died to cover up the theft of the nations’ wealth to pay for the machines of death” (159). His argument may seem true to many, but he does not provide us with any evidence that these statements are accurate. He does not say where he got this information, so it may be hard for some to believe this, unless they share the same opinions as him. Another statement he makes is that “[we] have not been given in the American media (we would need to read the foreign press) a full picture of the human suffering caused by our bombing” (159). This is a very strong assertion, but he does not tell us if he actually has read the foreign press. With that statement, I have to assume that he has read the foreign press to believe that he is telling the truth.
To make up for his lack of evidence, Zinn uses strong authority in his essay. He first uses the Declaration of Independence, which he says is “the fundamental document of democracy” (159). He quotes this document when he says “governments are artificial creations, established by the people, ‘deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,’ and charged by the people to ensure the equal right of all to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’” (159). These words are what our country is supposed to be based on, and he strongly feels that the government is violating our trust “when [it] recklessly expends the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power, always claiming that its motives are pure and moral (‘Operation Just Cause’ was the invasion of Panama and ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ in the present instance)” (159). What he is saying is that these so-called “moral” wars are just about power. He feels that if the war in Iraq really was to free them and create a democracy there, then those innocent Iraqi children would not be dead and...