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43 Million People Kicked Out of Their Homes

10:04 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A soldier hands supplies to Afghan child refugees.

“Humanitarian wars have a homelessness problem.”

War, our leaders tell us, is needed to make the world a better place.

Well, maybe not so much for the 43 million people who’ve been driven out of their homes and remain in a precarious state as internally displaced persons (24 million), refugees (12 million), and those struggling to return to their homes.

The U.N.’s figures for the end of 2013 (found here) list Syria as the origin of 9 million such exiles. The cost of escalating the war in Syria is often treated as a financial cost or — in rare cases — as a human cost in injury and death. There is also the human cost of ruining homes, neighborhoods, villages, and cities as places in which to live.

Just ask Colombia which comes in second place following years of war — a place where peace talks are underway and desperately needed with — among other catastrophes — nearly 6 million people deprived of their homes.

The war on drugs is rivaled by the war on Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo coming in third after years of the U.S.-backed deadliest war since World War II, but only because the war on “terror” has slipped. Afghanistan is in fourth place with 3.6 million desperate, suffering, dying, and in many cases understandably angry and resentful at losing a place to live.  (Remember that over 90% of Afghans not only didn’t participate in the events of 9-11 involving Saudis flying planes into buildings, but have never even heard of those events.) Post-liberation Iraq is at 1.5 million displaced and refugees. Other nations graced by regular U.S. missile strikes that make the top of the list include Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen — and, of course, with Israeli help: Palestine.

Humanitarian wars have a homelessness problem.

Part of that problem finds its way to Western borders where the people involved should be greeted with restitution rather than resentment. Honduran children aren’t bringing Ebola-infected Korans. They’re fleeing a U.S.-backed coup and Fort Benning-trained torturers.  The “immigration problem” and “immigrants rights” debate should be replaced with a serious discussion of refugee rights, human rights, and the-right-to-peace.

Start here.

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Monty Python State Department

4:21 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Scene:  A cafe.  One table is occupied by a group of Vikings wearing horned helmets.

Whenever the word “war” is repeated, they begin singing and/or chanting.

A man and woman enter.  The man is played by Eric Idle, the woman is played by Graham Chapman (in drag), and the Secretary of State is played by Terry Jones, also in drag.
high school tee
Man:   You sit here, dear.

Woman:          All right.

Man:   Morning!

Secretary of State:     Morning!

Man:   Well, what’ve you got?

Secretary of State:     Well, there’s sanctions and prosecutions; sanctions drone strikes and prosecutions; sanctions and war; sanctions prosecutions and war; sanctions prosecutions drone strikes and war; war prosecutions drone strikes and war; war sanctions war war prosecutions and war; war drone strikes war war prosecutions war cyber war and war;

Vikings:           War war war war…

Secretary of State:     …war war war sanctions and war; war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war…

Vikings:           War! Lovely war! Lovely war!

Secretary of State:     …or a United Nations resolution combined with infiltration, a USAID fake Twitter application, a CIA overthrow, trained enhanced interrogators and with crippling sanctions on top and war.

Woman:          Have you got anything without war?

Secretary of State:     Well, there’s war sanctions drone strikes and war, that’s not got much war in it.

Woman:          I don’t want ANY war!

Man:   Why can’t she have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes?

Woman:          THAT’S got war in it!

Man:   Hasn’t got as much war in it as war sanctions drone strikes and war, has it?

Vikings:           War war war war… (Crescendo through next few lines…)

Woman:          Could you do the sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war then?

Secretary of State:     Urgghh!

Woman:          What do you mean ‘Urgghh’? I don’t like war!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can’t have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war.

Woman:          I don’t like war!

Man:   Sshh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your war. I love it. I’m having war war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war and war!

Vikings:           War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!! Targeted assassinations are off.

Man:   Well could I have her war instead of the targeted assassinations then?

Secretary of State:     You mean war war war war war war… (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)

Vikings:           (Singing elaborately…) War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war! War w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war. Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! War war war war!

 

 

No actual diplomats were harmed in the making of this production.
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Causes of War Krugman Overlooked

5:47 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A head of brocolli

“If Iraq’s top export were broccoli there’d have been no 2003 war.”

While I’m working on a campaign to abolish war, it’s helpful and appreciated that a columnist for one of the most effective war promoting institutions in the world, the New York Times, on Sunday mused aloud about why in the world wars are still waged.

Paul Krugman rightly pointed to the destructive nature of wars even for their victors. He admirably presented the insights of Norman Angell who figured out that war didn’t pay economically over a century ago. But Krugman didn’t get much further than that, his one proposal to explain wars fought by wealthy nations being political gain for the war makers.

Robert Parry has pointed out the falsity of Krugman’s pretense that Vladimir Putin is the cause of trouble in Ukraine. One might also question Krugman’s claim that George W. Bush actually “won” his reelection in 2004, considering what went on in Ohio’s vote counting.

Yes, indeed, a great many fools will rally around any high official who wages war, and it’s good for Krugman to point that out. But it’s just plain bizarre for an economist to lament the cost (to the U.S.) of the U.S. war on Iraq as reaching possibly $1 trillion, and never notice that the United States spends roughly $1 trillion on preparations for war each and every year through basic routine military spending — itself economically destructive, as well as morally and physically destructive.

What drives the spending that Eisenhower warned would drive the wars? Profits, legalized bribery, and a culture that searches for the causes of war primarily among the 95 percent of humanity that invests dramatically less in war-making than the United States does.

Krugman dismisses economic gain as relevant only to poor nations’ internal wars, but doesn’t explain why U.S. wars concentrate in oil-rich areas. “I am saddened,” wrote Alan Greenspan, “that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” As Krugman is no doubt aware, rising oil prices are not lamented by everyone, and the high cost of weaponry is not a downside from the perspective of weapons makers. Wars don’t economically benefit societies, but they do enrich individuals. That same principle is central to explaining the U.S. government’s conduct on any area other than war; why should war be different?

No particular war, and certainly not the institution as a whole, has a single simple explanation. But it’s certainly true that if Iraq’s top export were broccoli there’d have been no 2003 war. It’s also possible that if war profiteering were illegal and prevented there’d have been no war. It’s also possible that if the U.S. culture didn’t reward war-making politicians, and/or the New York Times reported on war honestly, and/or Congress had made a habit of impeaching war-makers, and/or campaigns were publicly financed, and/or U.S. culture celebrated nonviolence rather than violence there’d have been no war. It’s also possible that if George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney and a few others were healthier psychologically there’d have been no war.

We should be wary of creating the assumption that there are always rational calculations behind wars. The fact that we can never quite find them is almost certainly not a failure of imagination, but a reluctance to recognize the irrational and evil behavior of our political officials.  Global domination, machismo, sadism, and lust for power contribute significantly to the discussions of war planners.

But what makes war common in certain societies and not others? Extensive research suggests that the answer has nothing to do with economic pressures or the natural environment or other impersonal forces. Rather the answer is cultural acceptance. A culture that accepts or celebrates war will have war. One that spurns war as absurd and barbaric will know peace.

If Krugman and his readers are beginning to think of war as a bit archaic, as something requiring an explanation, that can only be good news for the movement to abolish war making.

The next big leap might come sooner if we all try to see the world for a moment from the perspective of someone outside the United States. After all, the idea that the U.S. should not be bombing Iraq only sounds like a denial that there is a major crisis in Iraq requiring swift action, to people who suppose that crises require bombs to solve them — and most of those people, by some coincidence, seem to live in the United States.

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If We Dislike War Like We Dislike Cancer

6:46 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Cupcakes with pink breast cancer ribbons

What if ending war was became as important as ending cancer?

War and cancer are among our leading causes of human death around the world. They can’t be strictly separated and compared since war is a major cause of cancer, as is war preparation. (And a small fraction of the U.S. budget for war preparations could fund cancer research well beyond all the money raised by public and private funding and by all the 5-K races for a cure and other activities we’ve become familiar with.) War and cancer, by their nature, also can’t be addressed with the same sort of responses.

Cancer prevention, including possibly radical changes in industrial and energy policies, is fairly off-limits, whereas cancer treatment and the search for a cure is almost certainly our most widespread and publicly visible form of altruistic charity and advocacy  When you see athletes or celebrities marked with bright pink, or a public event packed with pink shirts or ribbons, or — alongside a road — a giant pink inflatable anything, you are now less likely to think “WTF is that?” than “We need to help cure breast cancer.”

War prevention, including radical redirection of our resources and economy away from war, re-education away from the propaganda of beneficial violence, support for nonviolent conflict resolution, and promotion of international law and the prosecution of war makers, is likewise fairly off-limits. But war treatment and the search for a cure for war once begun, seems significantly less useful than the search for a cure for cancer. War is indisputably and entirely human-made. Most of its fatal victims die immediately. Halting a war once begun is immensely more difficult than refraining from starting it, as no one party can control a war’s path, and support-the-troops propaganda convinces people that ending a war is more evil than continuing it. Once a war ends, undoing the resentment and hatred and habits of violence, and the environmental destruction (and the cancer epidemics), and the destruction to liberties and democracy, all adds up to an immense — if not impossible — task compared to that of avoiding wars before they’re started.

So, when we compare a public demand to abolish cancer with one to abolish war, the latter seems to require halting our biggest public program, whereas the former allows us to go on driving our SUVs to Wal-Mart as long as we stick a pink ribbon on the back to indicate that doctors and scientists should continue the great march of progress. And of course they should. We should be investing vastly more in curing cancer, not to mention Alzheimer’s which is as big a killer as cancer but opposed by far less funding (and not a particular threat to that favorite of all body parts: the breast).

But abolishing war may be the more pressing demand. Nuclear weapons could be used intentionally or accidentally and destroy us all. The resources dumped into war are badly needed for the work of averting environmental catastrophe (not to mention curing cancer). What if a campaign to abolish war were to learn a few tricks from the campaign to abolish breast cancer?

Following the lead of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Campaign Nonviolence, World Beyond War, and other peace groups are encouraging everyone to use sky blue scarves and bracelets as symbols of peace and support for ending all wars. What if sky blue symbols became as widespread as pink ones? What would that look like?

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War in Our Collective Imagination

4:40 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Remarks at Veterans For Peace Convention, Asheville, NC, July 27, 2014.

I started seeing graphics pop up on social media sites this past week that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s murder.”  So I started asking people what exactly they think war is if it’s distinct from murder.  Well, war, some of them told me, takes place between armies.  So I asked for anyone to name a war during the past century (that is, after World War I) where all or even most or even a majority of the dying was done by members of armies.  There may have been such a war.  There are enough scholars here today that somebody probably knows of one.  But if so, it isn’t the norm, and these people I was chatting with through social media couldn’t think of any such war and yet insisted that that’s just what war is.  So, is war then over and nobody told us?

For whatever reasons, I then very soon began seeing a graphic sent around that said about Gaza: “It’s not war. It’s genocide.”  And the typical explanation I got when I questioned this one was that the wagers of war and the wagers of genocide have different attitudes.  Are we sure about that? I’ve spoken to advocates for recent U.S. wars who wanted all or part of a population wiped out.  Plenty of supporters of the latest attacks on Gaza see them as counter-terrorism.  In wars between advanced militaries and poor peoples most of the death and injury is on one side and most of it — by anyone’s definition — civilian.  This is as true in Afghanistan, where war rolls on largely unchallenged, as in Gaza, about which we are newly outraged.

Well, what’s wrong with outrage? Who cares what people call it? Why not criticize the war advocates rather than nitpicking the war opponents’ choice of words?  When people are outraged they will reach for whatever word their culture tells them is most powerful, be it murder or genocide or whatever.  Why not encourage that and worry a little more about the lunatics who are calling it defense or policing or terrorist removal?  (Eight-year-old terrorists!)

Yes, of course.  I’ve been going after CNN news readers for claiming Palestinians want to die and NBC for yanking its best reporter and ABC for claiming scenes of destruction in Gaza that just don’t exist in Israel are in fact in Israel — and the U.S. government for providing the weapons and the criminal immunity.  I’ve been promoting rallies and events aimed at swaying public opinion against what Israel has been doing, and against the sadistic bloodthirsty culture of those standing on hills cheering for the death and destruction below, quite regardless of what they call it.  But, as you’re probably aware, only the very most open-minded war advocates attend conventions of Veterans For Peace.  So, I’m speaking here backstage, as it were, at the peace movement.  Among those of us who want to stop the killing, are there better and worse ways to talk about it?  And is anything revealed by the ways in which we tend to talk about it when we aren’t hyper-focused on our language?

I think so.  I think it’s telling that the worst word anyone can think of isn’t war.  I think it’s even more telling that we condemn things by contrasting them with war, framing war as relatively acceptable.  I think this fact ought to be unsettling because a very good case can be made that war, in fact, is the worst thing we do, and that the distinctions between war and such evils as murder or genocide can require squinting very hard to discern.

We’ve all heard that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  There is a parallel belief that wars don’t kill people, people who misuse wars, who fight bad wars, who fight wars improperly, kill people.  This is a big contrast with many other evil institutions.  We don’t oppose child abuse selectively, holding out the possibility of just and good incidents of child abuse while opposing the bad or dumb or non-strategic or excessive cases of child abuse. We don’t have Geneva Conventions for proper conduct while abusing children.  We don’t have human rights groups writing reports on atrocities and possible law violations committed in the course of abusing children.  We don’t distinguish UN-sanctioned child abuse.  The same goes for numerous behaviors generally understood as always evil: slavery or rape or blood feuds or duelling or dog fighting or sexual harassment or bullying or human experimentation or — I don’t know — producing piles of I’m-Ready-for-Hillary posters.  We don’t imagine there are good, just, and defensible cases of such actions.

And this is the core problem: not support for bombing Gaza or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or anywhere else that actually gets bombed, but support for an imaginary war in the near future between two armies with different colored jerseys and sponsors, competing on an isolated battlefield apart from any villages or towns, and suffering bravely and heroically for their non-murderous non-genocidal cause while complying with the whistles blown by the referees in the human rights organizations whenever any of the proper killing drifts into lawless imprisonment or torture or the use of improper weaponry.  Support for specific possible wars in the United States right now is generally under 10 percent.  More people believe in ghosts, angels, and the integrity of our electoral system than want a new U.S. war in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The Washington Post found a little over 10 percent want a war in Ukraine but that the people who held that view were the people who placed Ukraine on the world map the furthest from its actual location, including people who placed it in the United States.  These are the idiots who favor specific wars.  Even Congress, speaking of idiots, on Friday told Obama no new war on Iraq.

The problem is the people, ranging across the population from morons right up to geniuses, who favor imaginary wars.  Millions of people will tell you we need to be prepared for more wars in case there’s another Adolf Hitler, failing to understand that the wars and militarism and weapons sales and weapons gifts — the whole U.S. role as the arsenal of democracies and dictatorships alike — increase rather than decrease dangers, that other wealthy countries spend less than 10 percent what the U.S. does on their militaries, and that 10 percent of what the U.S. spends on its military could end global starvation, provide the globe with clean water, and fund sustainable energy and agriculture programs that would go further toward preventing mass violence than any stockpiles of weaponry.  Millions will tell you that the world needs a global policeman, even though polls of the world find the widespread belief that the United States is currently the greatest threat to peace on earth.  In fact if you start asking people who have opposed every war in our lifetimes or in the past decade to work on opposing the entire institution of war, you’ll be surprised by many of the people who say no.

I’m a big fan of a book called Addicted to War.  I think it will probably be a powerful tool for war abolition right up until war is abolished.  But its author told me this week that he can’t work to oppose all wars because he favors some of them.  Specifically, he said, he doesn’t want to ask Palestinians to not defend themselves.  Now, there’s a really vicious cycle.  If we can’t shut down the institution of war because Palestinians need to use it, then it’s harder to go after U.S. military spending, which is of course what funds much of the weaponry being used against Palestinians.  I think we should get a little clarity about what a war abolition movement does and does not do.  It does not tell people what they must do when attacked.  It is not focused on advising, much less instructing, the victims of war, but on preventing their victimization.  It does not advise the individual victim of a mugging to turn the other cheek.  But it also does not accept the disproven notion that violence is a defensive strategy for a population.  Nonviolence has proven far more effective and its victories longer lasting.  If people in Gaza have done anything at all to assist in their own destruction, it is not the supposed offenses of staying in their homes or visiting hospitals or playing on beaches; it is the ridiculously counterproductive firing of rockets that only encourages and provides political cover for war/ genocide/ mass murder.

I’m a huge fan of Chris Hedges and find him one of the most useful and inspiring writers we have.  But he thought attacking Libya was a good idea up until it quite predictably and obviously turned out not to be.  He still thinks Bosnia was a just war.  I could go on through dozens of names of people who contribute mightily to an anti-war movement who oppose abolishing war.  The point is not that anyone who believes in 1 good war out of 100 is to blame for the trillion dollar U.S. military budget and all the destruction it brings.  The point is that they are wrong about that 1 war out of 100, and that even if they were right, the side-effects of maintaining a culture accepting of war preparations would outweigh the benefits of getting 1 war right.  The lives lost by not spending $1 trillion a year in the U.S. and another $1 trillion in the rest of the world on useful projects like environmental protection, sustainable agriculture, medicine and hygiene absolutely dwarf the number of lives that would be saved by halting our routine level of war making.

If you talk about abolishing war entirely, as many of us have begun focusing on through a new project called World Beyond War, you’ll also find people who want to abolish war but believe it’s impossible. War is natural, they say, inevitable, in our genes, decreed by our economy, the unavoidable result of racism or consumerism or capitalism or exceptionalism or carnivorism or nationalism.  And of course many cultural patterns interact with and facilitate war, but the idea that it’s in our genes is absurd, given how many cultures in our species have done and do without it.  I don’t know what — if anything — people usually mean when they call something “natural” but presumably it’s not the provocation of suicide, which is such a common result of participating in war, while the first case of PTSD due to war deprivation has yet to be discovered.  Most of our species’ existence, as hunter-gatherers, did not know war, and only the last century — a split-second in evolutionary terms — has known war that at all resembles war today.  War didn’t used to kill like this.  Soldiers weren’t conditioned to kill.  Most guns picked up at Gettysburg had been loaded more than once.  The big killers were diseases, even in the U.S. Civil War, the war that the U.S. media calls the most deadly because Filipinos and Koreans and Vietnamese and Iraqis don’t count.  Now the big killer is a disease in our thinking, a combination of what Dr. King called self-guided missiles and misguided men.

Another hurdle for abolishing war is that the idea rose to popularity in the West in the 1920s and 1930s and then sank into a category of thought that is vaguely treasonous.  War abolition was tried and failed, the thinking goes, like communism or labor unions and now we know better.  While abolishing war is popular in much of the world, that fact is easily ignored by the 1% who misrepresent the 10% or 15% who live in the places that constitute the so-called International Community.  Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come or weaker than an idea whose time has come and gone.  Or so we think.  But the Renaissance was, as its name suggests, an idea whose time came again, new and improved and victorious.  The 1920s and 1930s are a resource for us.  We have stockpiles of wisdom to draw upon.  We have example of where things were headed and how they went of track.

Andrew Carnegie took war profits and set up an endowment with the mandate to eliminate war and then to hold a board meeting, determine the second worst thing in the world, and begin eliminating that.  This sounds unique or eccentric, but is I believe a basic understanding of ethics that ought to be understood and acted upon by all of us.  When someone asks me why I’m a peace activist I ask them why in the hell anyone isn’t.  So, reminding the Carnegie Endowment for Peace what it’s legally obligated to do, and dozens of other organizations along with it, may be part of the process of drawing inspiration from the past.  And of course insisting that the Nobel Committee not bestow another peace prize on a war-thirsty presidential candidate or any other advocate of war is part of that.

The case against war that is laid out at WorldBeyondWar.orgincludes these topics:

War is immoral.

War endangers us.

War threatens our environment.

War erodes our liberties.

War impoverishes us.

We need $2 trillion/year for other things.

I find the case to be overwhelming and suspect many of you would agree.  In fact Veterans For Peace and numerous chapters and members of Veterans For Peace have been among the first to sign on and participate.  And we’ve begun finding that thousands of people and organizations from around the world agree as people and groups from 68 countries and rising have added their names on the website in support of ending all war.  And many of these people and organizations are not peace groups.  These are environmental and civic groups of all sorts and people never involved in a peace movement before.  Our hope is of course to greatly enlarge the peace movement by making war abolition as mainstream as cancer abolition.  But we think enlargement is not the only alteration that could benefit the peace movement.  We think a focus on each antiwar project as part of a broader campaign to end the whole institution of war will significantly change how specific wars and weapons and tactics are opposed.

How many of you have heard appeals to oppose Pentagon waste? I’m in favor of Pentagon waste and opposed to Pentagon efficiency.  How can we not be, when what the Pentagon does is evil?  How many of you have heard of opposition to unnecessary wars that leave the military ill-prepared?  I’m in favor of leaving the military ill-prepared, but not of distinguishing unnecessary from supposedly necessary wars. Which are the necessary ones?  When sending missiles into Syria is stopped, in large part by public pressure, war as last resort is replaced by all sorts of other options that were always available.  That would be the case anytime any war is stopped.  War is never a last resort any more than rape or child abuse is a last resort.  How many of you have seen opposition to U.S. wars that focuses almost exclusively on the financial cost and the suffering endured by Americans?  Did you know polls find Americans believing that Iraq benefitted and the United States suffered from the war that destroyed Iraq?  What if the financial costs and the costs to the aggressor nation were in addition to moral objections to mass-slaughter rather than instead of?  How many of you have seen antiwar organizations trumpet their love for troops and veterans and war holidays, or groups like the AARP that advocate for benefits for the elderly by focusing on elderly veterans, as though veterans are the most deserving?  Is that good activism?

I want to celebrate those who resist and oppose war, not those who engage in it.  I love Veterans For Peace because it’s for peace.  It’s for peace in a certain powerful way, but it’s the being for peace that I value.  And being for peace in the straightforward meaning of being against war.  Most organizations are afraid of being for peace; it always has to be peace and justice or peace and something else.  Or it’s peace in our hearts and peace in our homes and the world will take care of itself.  Well, as Veterans For Peace know, the world doesn’t take care of itself.  The world is driving itself off a cliff.  As Woody Allen said, I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen, I want to live on in my apartment.  Well, I don’t want to find peace in my heart or my garden, I want to find peace in the elimination of war.  At WorldBeyondWar.org is a list of projects we think may help advance that, including, among others:

  • Creating an easily recognizable and joinable mainstream international movement to end all war.
  • Education about war, peace, and nonviolent action — including all that is to be gained by ending war.
  • Improving access to accurate information about wars. Exposing falsehoods.
  • Improving access to information about successful steps away from war in other parts of the world.
  • Increased understanding of partial steps as movement in the direction of eliminating, not reforming, war.
  • Partial and full disarmament.
  • Conversion or transition to peaceful industries.
  • Closing, converting or donating foreign military bases.
  • Democratizing militaries while they exist and making them truly volunteer.
  • Banning foreign weapons sales and gifts.
  • Outlawing profiteering from war.
  • Banning the use of mercenaries and private contractors.
  • Abolishing the CIA and other secret agencies.
  • Promoting diplomacy and international law, and consistent enforcement of laws against war, including prosecution of violators.
  • Reforming or replacing the U.N. and the ICC.
  • Expansion of peace teams and human shields.
  • Promotion of nonmilitary foreign aid and crisis prevention.
  • Placing restrictions on military recruitment and providing potential soldiers with alternatives.
  • Thanking resisters for their service.
  • Encouraging cultural exchange.
  • Discouraging racism and nationalism.
  • Developing less destructive and exploitative lifestyles.
  • Expanding the use of public demonstrations and nonviolent civil resistance to enact all of these changes.

I would add learning from and working with organizations that have been, like Veterans For Peace, working toward war abolition for years now and inspiring others to do the same.  And I would invite you all to work with WorldBeyondWartoward our common goal.

 

David Swanson is Director of World Beyond War, host of Talk Nation Radio, author of books including War No More: The Case for Abolition, War Is A Lie, and When the World Outlawed War.

War Meat

6:26 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The most patriotic Fourth of July celebration I’ve ever been to was not in Washington, D.C., but at a little lake in Virginia. We were picnicking on the shore of the lake along with about 75 not very close friends and family. This was a few years ago. I must have been 8 years old.

Glistening meat on a BBQ grill

David Swanson reflects on the season of meat and patriotism.

The lake was packed with boats almost the way the Beltway gets packed with cars, but this fact wasn’t slowing them down. The boats were mostly, if not all, decorated with red, white, and blue, and mostly, if not all, had motors and were using them. Predictably enough, every once in a while two boats would collide. It sounded like the end of a car crash, without the screeching before it.

The first time two boats crashed into each other, my Dad jumped into panic mode, ready to call 911, eager to coordinate a rescue, but my Uncle and some other grownups standing around waved him off. This was normal, they said. Everyone would be all right. “Are you sure?” asked my Dad. He seemed worried, but by about the third crash he didn’t even look up.

It was about 90 degrees out in the bright sun of early afternoon when the fireworks started. There was a floating platform out in the lake, and a bunch of kids on it began setting off fireworks that were no doubt smaller than those on the National Mall but really didn’t seem it. Some of the boats slowed down to watch, but watched from as close as immediately against the platform.

You should know that my Mom has always been horrified of fireworks. When they began going off in the daytime, she assumed something was wrong.  And when it was kids, some of them younger than I, setting them off, she — in her turn — went into panic mode. She was quickly reassured by all around her that nothing was amiss. I’ll admit I thought this was all pretty cool.

But when a little boy on the fireworks platform began screaming as if in horrible pain, I started to worry. The fireworks continued, uninterrupted, but there was a bunch of hurried movement, and a few minutes later a man carried a boy up the grass away from the lake, blood dripping from his arm, which was wrapped in what looked like an American flag. The kid had “just lost a pinky” everyone said, and had some “minor burns.”

Not one to make a public fuss, my Mom spoke quietly to me, but more seriously than I can ever recall: “Don’t ever go near fireworks. Do you understand?”

I said that I did, and it was actually true. I did.

Uncles and others were firing up grills when the fireworks finally stopped and the sound of boats motoring and crunching into each other returned. I was actually feeling hungry. Nobody had consumed anything yet, except soda or beer.

As soon as the smoke had all cleared from the sky, the air show began. There was a buzzing noise that drowned out all the boat motors. A shadow passed over our picnic table. A predator drone, flying very low and carrying two very visible Hellfire missiles, circled over the lake. Drunk guys started telling their girlfriends that the drone was going to blow some people up, so that when it turned toward us there was lots of screaming, followed by uproarious laughter.

Luckily, the drone finally left without firing. I wish it hadn’t. Left, I mean. As soon as it was gone, all concentration seemed to focus on food preparation.  I’ve never been much of a meat eater, and there appeared to be nothing but hot dogs and hamburgers. I asked one of my cousins if there were any veggie-dogs and he acted like I’d said something rude. “Only other thing is war meat,” he said. Whatever that meant.

I found out soon enough. The man at the grill by our table shouted for everyone to listen up. He pulled a metal container, like a large curved lunchbox, out of a freezer. “Are you ready?” he asked.  For what, I did not know, but everyone nodded. “One,” he said. “Two. One. Two. Three. Four.” And our whole table started singing the Star Spangled Banner, and I mean bad enough to make a dog cry in agony, which a couple of them did.

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Honestly, War Is Over

3:06 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Remarks in Los Angeles, May 10, 2014.

Thank you to Pat Alviso and all the individuals and groups involved in setting this event up. Thank you to Lila Garrett for doing twice what I do at twice my age, including hosting the best radio show around. And thank you to our friend, recently lost, Tim Carpenter, for whom there is a memorial event today in Massachusetts. We will not forget you, Tim, and we will carry on.

Now, about ending war.

When we start talking about ending war, one common reaction — not as common as “You’re a lunatic,” but fairly common — is to propose that if we want to get rid of war we’ll have to get rid of something else first, or sometimes it’s a series of something elses. We’ll have to get rid of bankers or bribery or the current structure of our government, or the corporate media monopoly. We’ll have to get rid of racism or bigotry or extreme materialism. We’ll have to abolish capitalism or environmental exploitation or religion or greed or resource shortages or sociopaths, and then we’ll be able to move on to abolishing war.

Now, I think there’s truth and falsehood in a lot of such two-step proposals. War is made easier by many evil things. Ending war would be easier if we ended those things. Ending war and some other things together might be an easier job because of the broader coalition that would work on it. And I’m in favor of ending lots of bad things — racism, bribery, predatory capitalism, mass incarceration, the White House Correspondents Dinner, etc. — and I would be even if doing so didn’t help end war.

But war is not made necessary by anything else. The United States has roughly 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s military spending. Many nations spend 10% or 5% or less what the United States spends on war, but they don’t have only 5% of the racism or 5% as many sociopaths (how ever those are defined). Nations with plenty of bigotry and serious resource shortages manage to nonetheless avoid U.S. levels of war investment (whether measured absolutely or as a proportion of wealth). The U.S. media at the moment seems to care about burned Nigerians more than burned Ukrainians; racism can serve imperialism but can also be trumped by it.

In addition, if you look at particular wars launched and possible wars not launched, it becomes clear that the decisions are entirely contingent on human choices. When a particular war is stopped, the lesson we ought to take away is not that the forces of consumerism and capitalism and exploitation will build up greater pressure, making it more likely than before that another war will soon be launched. The lesson we ought to take away, on the contrary, is that because one war has been stopped, the next war can be stopped as well, and the one after it, and the next 100 after that one.

I’m a big fan of the journalist Seymour Hersh, including of the help he’s been in exposing the fraudulent case that was built up to support a White House proposal last summer for missile strikes into Syria — and the help he’s been in exposing the massive scale of the attack that was being contemplated. Some of us had figured out all on our own that when Secretary of State John Kerry said the missile strikes would shift the balance in the war AND be so small as to have no effect on the war, at least one of those two assertions had to be false. It turns out that the plan was for a major assault, not a tiny one. What the result would have been nobody can be sure — beyond widespread death, injury, trauma, and suffering. Two wings of B-52 bombers carrying 2,000-pound bombs were to take out “electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.” This was not a few missiles. This was shock and awe, targeting numerous facilities in densely populated urban areas. If you need an example of the Obama White House immediately expanding a war like this one once begun, the obvious example is Libya.

But when Hersh writes and talks about what went on back in August and September, he doesn’t seem to even consider the possibility that public pressure might have played even the slightest role in preventing the missile strikes. Democracy Now! interviewed Hersh and didn’t raise the topic. I don’t mean to pick on Seymour Hersh or Democracy Now! Nobody else has done any different. A friend of mine, a former CIA officer, Ray McGovern, has been doing some great writing about Syria. He, like Hersh, considers the steps taken by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Congress, the Russians, the President. Nowhere is the public mentioned.

Now, even if the public played no role whatsoever, that fact in itself would be worthy of serious consideration. Members of both houses of Congress from both parties said they had heard more from their constituents on the missiles-into-Syria proposal than they had heard ever before on anything else, and that what they heard was more one-sided than anything they’d experienced before. If the public had no impact, or if Congress had no impact, the scale of the pretense otherwise — and the possible futility of ever lobbying Congress on anything — would make for a remarkable story.

Virtually this entire country was opposed to the missile strikes. Add to that the fact that Congress members were on break and being directly confronted at district townhall meetings, accused of joining a war on the side of al Qaeda, accused of falling for propaganda again. It didn’t hurt that Jewish holidays left AIPAC missing in action. It was an advantage that many people in the halls of power were themselves reluctant to launch a war. But why were they? Why were members of Congress stating that they didn’t want to be the guy who voted for another Iraq war? Why did the House of Commons oppose a prime minister on war for the first time since Yorktown? Why did the conversation swing away from the missile strikes?

President Obama and his Secretary of State were telling us to watch Youtubes of suffering children and support that suffering or support missile strikes. That’s not a half-hearted sales pitch. Wall Street was completely sold: Raytheon, the company that made the missiles, saw its stock hit an all-time high. The leaders of both big political parties were on board. The corporate news outlets were gung ho. John Kerry was calling Bashar al Assad a new Hitler. The illegality of the proposed action was hardly a blip in the conversation, the way it might have been before Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and the drone wars. Illegality had become the new normal.

Russia and Syria came up with a solution, but they’d been willing to do that for some time. President Obama allowed Congress to have a say as he had not on Libya and does not on most drone strikes (we all, including Congress, pretend it’s up to the president to allow Congress to act). But why did he? I think it can help to contrast the war-and-peace climate in the U.S. in 2013 with a different, imaginary one. I proposed this to Ray McGovern, and he completely agreed. Read the rest of this entry →

If War Was Funded Like College Tuition

7:08 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Are you as tired as I am of news stories about college tuition costs rising? I’ve been out of college for many years, and you’d have to pay me to go back, but this is ridiculous.

Graduates throw their mortar hats in the air.

“What if college were as free and unquestionable as military spending is now, but military spending arrived as an optional bill?”

To see how ridiculous, try a little thought experiment. Imagine opening your newspaper and reading this:

War and War Preparations Costs to U.S. Households Rose Again This Year

Continuing a decades-long trend, the cost each U.S. resident pays for his or her wars and war preparations rose 5.3 percent this year.

With all costs of the U.S. military, across numerous government departments, reaching $1.2 trillion annually, according to Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project, and with a U.S. population of 314 million people, bills to those opting for war-making as their foreign policy choice this year came to $3,822 each — not counting room, board, and books.

Of course, that bill is for anyone who supports the U.S. government’s spending priorities and anyone who doesn’t, and it’s a bill for every person, from disabled senior citizen to new-born infant.

It’s a bill that might strike some as a bit high.  So, here’s one way this imaginary news story might develop:

In an expanding trend, thousands of Americans opted for a smaller military investment this year.  Choosing to pay their share of a military the size of China’s — $188 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute — some war consumers bought the $599 war plan this year.

Others opted for the Russian model at a cost of $280.  But with polls showing that Americans believe Iran to be the greatest threat to peace, the Iranian-sized military has become this year’s most rapid climber in the rankings; of course, the $20 price tag doesn’t hurt.

Buddy Beaverton of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, remarked at the post office as he mailed a check: ‘If we could have Canada’s annual supply of wars for $59 each, why should I have to pay $3,822? It’s bad enough they’ve got cheaper prescription drugs that we’re not allowed to buy!’

Mr. Beaverton would have a point.  Some other nations that don’t invest in wars and war preparations the way the United States does also make college education free or affordable — and still have plenty of money to spare for frivolous luxuries like healthcare or energy systems that don’t render the planet unlivable.

What would our lives be like if college were as free and unquestionable as military spending is now, but military spending arrived as an optional bill?

Those who didn’t want it could choose not to pay.  Those who wanted a coast guard, a national guard, and some anti-aircraft weapons could chip in a few bucks. Those who wanted a bit more than that could pay a bit more.

And those who wanted troops in 175 nations, aircraft carriers in every sea, enough nuclear weapons to destroy life on several planets, and fleets of drones with which to traumatize and antagonize several nations at once — well, they could pay their $3,822, plus of course another $3,822 for anybody opting out.

What a naive proposal! Left to individual choice, the commons would be destroyed, and our national defense would crumble!

Really? People in the United States give over $300 billion to charity each year. Nobody forces them to. If they believed weapons and wars were the most important cause to donate their dollars to, they’d do it.  No nation on earth spends $300 billion or anywhere close to it on its military, other than the United States.

And with the government no longer funding the military in its socialistic manner, it might choose instead to fund many of the humanitarian causes to which private charity is now largely devoted. Private giving could take care of the Pentagon.

But if wisdom about the counter-productive results of militarism spread, if nonviolent alternatives were learned, if free college had a positive impact on our collective intellect, and if the fact that we could end global poverty or halt global warming for a fraction of current military spending leaked out, who knows? Maybe militarism would fail in the free market.

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War for Dummies

7:09 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

A conical dunce cap, labelled DUNCE, sits on a stool in a corner.

A stylish hat favored by warmongers.

Sorry for the headline if it got you hoping for a quick 1-step guide on how to bomb a country without breaking a sweat. I didn’t actually mean that I could teach a dummy to wage a war. I meant that only dummies want to wage wars.

Need proof?

Check out a recent Washington Post report.

Now there I go misleading you again. While it’s true that the editors of the Washington Post are often dummies and often want wars to be waged, that’s not what I mean right now. I think members of the U.S. government and its obedient media constitute an important but tiny exception to the rule this report points to.

The facts as reported on April 7th are these:

  • 13% of us in the United States want our government to use force in Ukraine;
  • 16% of us can accurately identify Ukraine’s location on a map;
  • the median error by Americans placing Ukraine on a map is 1,800 miles;
  • some Americans, based on where they identified Ukraine on a map, believe that Ukraine is in the United States, some say it’s in Canada, some Africa, some Australia, some Greenland, some Argentina, Brazil, China, or India;
  • only a small number believe Ukraine is in an ocean.

And here’s the interesting bit:

[T]he further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests.

I take this to mean that some people believe that attacking Alaska or the continental United States (where they believe Ukraine to be located) will advance “U.S. national security interests.” This suggests one of two things: either they believe the United States would be better off bombed (and perhaps suicidal tendencies account for some of the staggering stupidity reported by the Washington Post) or they believe the United States is located in Asia or Africa or somewhere other than where they’ve indicated that Ukraine is on the map.

I also take this report to mean the following: ignorant jackasses are the only statistically significant group that wants more wars. Virtually nobody in the United States wants a U.S. war in Iran or Syria or Ukraine. Nobody. Except for serious hardcore idiots. We’re talking about people who can’t place Ukraine in the correct landmass, but who believe the United States should go to war there.

People informed enough to find Ukraine on a map are also informed enough to oppose wars. People who can’t find Ukraine on a map but possess an ounce of humility or a drop of decency also oppose war. You don’t have to be smart to oppose wars. But you have to be an unfathomably ignorant jackass to favor them. Or — back to that exception — you could work for the government.

Why, I wonder, don’t pollsters always poll and report sufficiently to tell us whether an opinion correlates with being informed on an issue? I recall a poll (by Rasmussen), tragic or humorous depending on your mood, that found 25% of Americans wanting their government to always spend at least three times as much on its military as any other nation spends, while 64% said their government spends the right amount on the military now or should spend more. This only gets tragic or humorous if you are aware that the United States already spends much more than three times what any other nation spends on its military. In other words, large numbers of people want military spending increased only because they don’t know how high it is already.

But what I want to know is: Do the individuals who have the facts most wrong want the biggest spending increases?

And I wonder: do pollsters want us to know how much opinions follow facts? If opinions follow factual beliefs, after all, it might make sense to replace some of the bickering of pundits on our televisions with educational information, and to stop thinking of ourselves as divided by ideology or temperament when what we’re divided by is largely the possession of facts and the lack thereof.

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The War Activists

7:38 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda.  We don’t think of them as activists because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking — without having to generate a protest first.

They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism — further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers.  But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics.  They don’t inform or educate.  They advocate.  They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.

World War I Marines with Gas Masks, circa 1918William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists.  They’ve modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization.  They talk less about oil and more about human rights.  But they insist on U.S. domination of the world.  They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States.  And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it.  War, for these war activists, is an end in itself.  As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.

Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war.  He does have cause for concern.  The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun.  In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance.  In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure.  The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.

The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars.  This hasn’t happened yet.  During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations.  Weapons sales are soaring.  New nukes are being developed.  NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia.  But the possibility of change is in the air.  A new peace activist group at WorldBeyondWar.org has begun pushing for war’s abolition.

Here’s Kristol panicking:

“A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan’s stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War.”

Here’s Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:

“As Yan Xuetong recently noted, ‘military strength underpins hegemony.’ Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America’s relative military capacity — at least not yet.”

This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team.  Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars.  Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he’ll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.

The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much.  The response from some peace activists is to play to people’s selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home.  But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they’re only pretending or badly misguided about how to help.  It’s OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains.  But it’s important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine.  We could be the most beloved nation.  I know that’s not the status the war activists are after.  In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.
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