Humanitarian Superpower? Why Not?
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
April 15, 2003

In the time of war the “patriots” are exemplified as those who blindly support their ruling government. As if patriotism is synonymous with ruling party loyalty.

Howard Zinn, the Boston University professor writes, “The distinction between dying for our country and dying for your government is crucial in understanding what I believe to be the definition of patriotism in a democracy. According to the Declaration of Independence - the fundamental document of democracy - 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." Furthermore, as the Declaration says, "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."

Howard Zinn is one of the pioneers in furthering liberal progressive ideas and this is the reason he is under constant attack from the counterfeit “patriots” (Read neo-conservatives).

The real patriotism does not reside in one’s unquestioning support for their leaders who might confound them, deceit them to gain more political and economic might. The real patriots are those who are constantly analyzing a nation’s governance toward its people, its economic policy and its military objectives by keeping mind open, free from greed salivation.

Howard Zinn is a patriot because he does care for our world and innocent people in faraway land. Mark Twain was a patriot because he was bold in his condemnation of war and Philippine’s civilian casualties in another brutal war at the turn of last century. John Quincy Adams, American sixth President was a patriot when he fearlessly stood up against racism and unjust treatment of African captives like Cinch in his famous court battle later portrayed as “Amistad” in movies and books. Barbara Kingsolver, Susan Sontag, Bob Herbert, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy, Abdul Gaffar Chowdhuri, Margaret Atwood, Gunter Grass and many others are all patriots in their own nation for their fearless writings against injustice.

All the conservative agenda that’s being revealed to the public are exposing itself to be the fateful instrument in sliding our world back to the earlier centuries of witch-burning, crusade, jihad and “roth-jatra” filled darkness comprised of endless wars for the sake of religions, retribution against the dissenters, and crafty sanitary tasks in journalism to keep people away from the ugliness of war and other mischievous actions to divert people’s attention from the real pressing political and international issues of our time.

Howard Zinn’s suggestions are priceless: “I suggest that patriotic Americans who care for their country might act on behalf of a different vision. Do we want to be feared for our military might or respected for our dedication to human rights? With the war in Iraq over, if indeed it is really over, we need to ask what kind of a country will we be. Is it important that we be a military superpower? Is it not exactly that that makes us a target for terrorism? Perhaps we could become instead a humanitarian superpower.”

And that could bring boundless joy and happiness to our world’s vast majority people who are living under miserable poverty. War brings chaos, deaths, resentments among old and new generations who strive for vengeance thus creating decades of hurtful rivalries among nations who could have used their combined resources in alleviating poverty, furthering science, art, literature for the progress of civilization not building innovative bombs to kill more.

For the children of the world who suffer the most in any war, Howard Zinn writes, “Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.”

It is the rise of insensate ideologies toward the people of different nationality, race and religions, are becoming the driving force for the powerful. In war, children are forcefully subjected to devastations, and it is children who are the least prepared in coping with tragic events from the deaths of family, losing limbs and other brutal reality of war. Certainly, adults or children, all suffer from war, but children have no say in the governance of their respective nation, nor they condone or accept any undemocratic or democratic regime. But the war does not differentiate among people. In the destructive frenzy of war, children are termed as another statistics of “collateral damage”.

In the coming election Americans will have that golden opportunity to put the real patriots, not the phony ones into the seat of power that will lead America away from dangerous self-destructive global militarism to become world’s “humanitarian superpower”. Who knows, perhaps billions of people’s heart-felt wishes for peace may come true. And America may retain back its long lost respect by its renewal of consistent humanitarian vision. Not the selective ones.


1. Howard Zinn, “A Kinder, Gentler Patriotism”,, April 14, 2003.
2. Picture Reference:


Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: