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Hard to believe as it is that people still don’t know what the TSA is doing in this country ("as long as nothing happens to me, it's all okay!"), I’m always glad to meet a new convert. Even if it means that in order to be converted, that person has to be mistreated him- or herself. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way the world works. As the saying by Livy goes, “Eventus stultorum magister est” — “Fools must be taught by experience.”
“Congressman, you have a noon meeting with a group of peace activists who want to talk with you about your position on Syria. And I should warn you that there are some TV vans down in the parking lot.”
By Alfredo Lopez
Recently, Richard Stallman published an article in Wired about Free and Open Source Software  and its alternative, "Proprietary Software". As he has for 30 years now, he vigorously called for the use and defense of FOSS and warned about the nefarious nature of Proprietary.
You laugh, but that could be a side-effect. Consider:
The Capitol Police just murdered an unarmed mother fleeing her car on foot, declared her child "unharmed," and received the longest standing-ovation in Congress since Osama bin Laden's Muslim sea burial. Try holding your breath until Congress takes the standing ovation back, and you'll wish your were in the "Holy Land" having your house sprayed with "Skunk" artificial sewage by the Israeli military or in Old Town Alexandria tasting the air of the authentic raw sewage across the river until it's "treated" and spread on farms in the exurbs for the benefit of we the people.
Why? Because freedom.
Who would give all of this up in exchange for a reduced military costing less than $1 trillion per year? Well, maybe the dude who just cremated himself alive on the National Mall, it's hard to know. Or possibly me the next time a tourist asks me why they named it the National Mall knowing fully damn well that they'd confuse everyone who arrived expecting department stores and food courts.
This weekend, government programs aimed at slowing the starvation or other premature death of the least well off among us were closed, out of business, gone fishing. But the fucking football game between the Navy and the Air Force was an essential government service proudly played for the honor of "everyone fighting for this country" as one brainwashed midshipman put it. Did you know the top paid people in the U.S. military are all football coaches, and essential public servants?
President after president of countries 8% of us could find on a map are going to the United Nations to compare U.S. "exceptionalism" to Nazi Ubermenschen. Can you imagine the anti-American idiocy involved? But the last living prosecutor at Nuremberg, an American, has been saying the same thing. What'shis problem? And how could he dare if this weren't all hallucinatory?
President Obama was praised for his speech at the United Nations because he didn't threaten a first nuclear strike. That's the standard. Now he's getting credit for locking people up on ships outside of any system of law, because he can't have murdered them if he locked them up on ships. That's progress! If you squeeze down the passages of this psychedelic rabbit hole and peer out a window, you see a radically different world outside.
Switzerland is working on a maximum wage and a guaranteed basic income. But how many wars are they going to be able to join in after that colossal waste of funding? Their entire population is already suffering war deprivation. The Swiss can't expect the U.S. to pick up the tab for their wars while they make chocolate and don't even have the decency to spray sewage on anyone.
I once heard a likely lunatic propose that instead of paying farmers not to farm (and dumping sludge on their land) the U.S. government could pay weapons makers not to make weapons, stop giving and selling weapons to everybody else's governments, and ban U.S. troops and mercenaries from any distance greater than 500 miles from the United States. I say lunatic, because in this particular hallucination that we're all living through money multiplies itself if it's spent on killing people. A half a billion dollars for Solyndra is an outrageous waste that kills nobody and is lost forever. But a half billion dollars for two days -- give or take a speech by Congressman Cruz -- of blowing stuff up in Afghanistan is cost-free since the half billion dollars reproduces itself at the Federal Reserve which not only grows laboratory hamburgers but sells them to foreigners for national security resources misplaced beneath the wrong nations.
The winding down drawdown ending of the gradual scaling back of the wrapping up completed war on Afghanistan has eaten the wrong sort of size pill somehow. There are now almost twice as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan as when Barack Obama became president.
We're still spending over $10 million every hour (even during a government shutdown) for a war in Afghanistan that has now completed its 12th year and begins its 13th today. This spending drains rather than fueling the U.S. economy. Inflicting more war on Afghanistan has involved the killing of thousands of civilians. Experts in the U.S., British, and Afghan governments agree that this is making us less safe, not protecting us.
Why? Because Obama.
Captain Peace Prize is attempting what he failed at in Iraq: an agreement with a puppet to continue an "ended" war indefinitely. President Obama is trying to negotiate a deal with corrupt lame-duck President Hamid Karzai to keep some U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with immunity from prosecution for crimes and the right to continue attacking Afghans including with raids on their homes at night. This could mean nine major U.S. military bases remaining in Afghanistan at a huge cost in dollars, lives, safety, and environmental destruction for decades to come.
Oh, and the good, smart, humanitarian, not-Iraq war on Afghanistan is as illegal as whatever we consumed to induce this bizarre hallucination.
There's a place to scream I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore right here.
Al Jolson wrote a note to President Harding some years back now:
"The weary world is waiting for
So take away the gun
From every mother's son
And put an end to war."
And still, 86 new Adolf Hitler misidentifications later, they do not listen. Except that they listened on missiles into Syria. The two parties wanted the missiles. Raytheon's stock was through the roof. And we said no, no, and hell no, and go Dick Cheney yourselves. And the bipartisan agreement was stopped by our 90% opposition and 0.5% actively expressed outrage. And within a couple of weeks the zombie of pretended partisanship was back in the form of a shutdown dispute that, through a perfectly harmonious bipartisan agreement, didn't shut down the military or the NSA or the Navy v. Air Force football game.
Everything useful is shut down. Everything deadly is up and running. And a gang of truckers is on its way to DC to shut down the government. Make sense of any of this if you dare, and I'm willing to bet you've worn a Redskins shirt to the Holocaust museum.
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This article is the Introduction to the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition, published in October 2013.
As I write this, in September 2013, something extraordinary has just happened. Public pressure has led the British Parliament to refuse a prime minister's demand for war for the first time since the surrender at Yorktown, and the U.S. Congress has followed suit by making clear to the U.S. president that his proposed authorization for war on Syria would not pass through either the Senate or the House.
Now, this may all fall apart in a week or a month or a year or a decade. The forces pressing for a war on Syria have not gone away. The civil war and the humanitarian crisis in Syria are not over. The partisan makeup of the Parliament and the Congress played a role in their actions (although the leaders of both major parties in Congress favored attacking Syria). Foreign nations' intervention played a role. But the decisive force driving governments around the world and U.S. government (and military) insiders to resist this war was public opinion. We heard the stories of children suffering and dying in Syria, but we rejected the idea that killing more Syrians with U.S. weapons would make Syria better off.
Those of us who believe that we should always have the right to reject our government's arguments for war should feel empowered. Now that it's been done, we cannot be told it's impossible to do it again ... and again, and again.
In the space of a day, discussions in Washington, D.C., shifted from the supposed necessity of war to the clear desirability of avoiding war. If that can happen once, even if only momentarily, why can it not happen every time? Why cannot our government's eagerness for war be permanently done away with? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the unsuccessful marketing campaign for an attack on Syria, had famously asked, many years earlier, during what the Vietnamese call the American War, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" We have it within our power to make war a thing of the past and to leave Secretary Kerry the last man to have tried to sell us a dead idea.
(An argument will be made that the threat of war aided diplomatic efforts to disarm the Syrian government. It should not be forgotten that when Kerry suggested that Syria could avoid a war by handing over its chemical weapons, everyone knew he didn't mean it. In fact, when Russia called his bluff and Syria immediately agreed, Kerry's staff put out this statement: "Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used. His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That's why the world faces this moment." In other words: stop getting in the way of our war! By the next day, however, with Congress rejecting war, Kerry was claiming to have meant his remark quite seriously and to believe the process had a good chance of succeeding.)
In this book I make the case outlined in the four section titles: War can be ended; War should be ended; War is not going to end on its own; We have to end war.
Others have made the case that war can be ended, but they have tended to look for the source of war in poor nations, overlooking the nation that builds, sells, buys, stockpiles, and uses the most weapons, engages in the most conflicts, stations the most troops in the most countries, and carries out the most deadly and destructive wars. By these and other measures, the United States government is the world's leading war-maker, and—in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.—the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. Ending U.S. war-making wouldn't eliminate all war from the world, but ending war-making only by poor countries wouldn't come close.
This should not come as a shock or an offense to most people in the United States, some 80 percent of whom consistently tell pollsters that our government is broken. It's been over half a century since President Dwight Eisenhower warned that a military industrial complex would corrupt the United States. Military spending is roughly half of the U.S. government's discretionary spending every year, dwarfing any other expense. The United States is closely tied with the European Union as the wealthiest place on earth. Surely that money must be going somewhere. Surely a broken government is bound to be at least a little broken in the primary thing it does—in this case, the making of war.
By "war" I mean roughly: the use of a nation's military abroad. The use of a military at home to establish a police state or attack a sub-population is related to war and sometimes hard to distinguish from war, but usually distinct (the exceptions being called civil wars). The use of military-like tactics by a non-nation group or individual may sometimes be morally or visually indistinguishable from war, but it differs from war in terms of responsibility and appropriate response. The use of a nation's military abroad for purely non-war purposes, such as humanitarian relief, is not what I mean by war, and also not easy to find actual examples of. By the term "military," I mean to include uniformed and non-uniformed, official troops and contractors, acknowledged and clandestine—anyone (or any robot) engaged in military activity for a government.
I intend this book for people everywhere, but especially in the United States and the West. Most people in the United States do not believe that war can be ended. And I suspect that most are aware of the significant role the United States plays in war-making, because most also believe that war should not be ended. Few actually view war as desirable—once a widespread belief, but one heard less and less since about the time of World War I. Rather, people tend to believe that war is necessary to protect them or to prevent something worse than war.
So, in Part II, I make the case that war endangers, rather than protecting us, and that there isn't something worse than war that war can be used to prevent. I argue that war is not justified by evil forces it opposes or by false claims to humanitarian purposes. War is not benefitting us at home or the people in the nations where our wars are fought, out of sight and sometimes out of mind. War kills huge numbers of innocent people, ruins nations, devastates the natural environment, drains the economy, breeds hostility, and strips away civil liberties at home no matter how many times we say "freedom."
This case is not so much philosophical as factual. The most significant cause of war, I believe and argue in the book, is bad information about past wars. A majority in the United States believes Iraq benefitted from the 2003-2011 war that destroyed Iraq. If I believed that, I'd favor launching another one right away. A majority in Iraq believes the war left them even worse off than they were before it. (See, for example, the Zogby poll of December 20, 2011.) Extensive evidence, discussed below, as well as basic common sense, suggests that Iraqis, like anyone else, actually know best what their own situation is. Therefore, I want to prevent a repeat.
I wish I could have written a theoretical case against war, without mentioning any wars. But, everyone would have agreed with it and then made exceptions, like the school board member where I live who said he wanted to support a celebration of peace as long as everyone was clear he wasn't opposing any wars. As it is, I had to include actual wars, and facts about them. Where I've suspected someone will object to a piece of information, I've included a source for it right in the text. I discuss in this book the wars launched when George W. Bush was president and the wars launched or escalated since Barack Obama became president, as well as some of the most cherished "good wars" in U.S. culture, such as World War II and the U.S. Civil War. I also recommend reading this book in combination with a previous book of mine called War Is A Lie.
I don't recommend taking my word for anything. I encourage independent research. And a few other points may help with keeping an open-mind while reading this book: There's no partisan agenda here. The Democrats and Republicans are partners in war, and I have no loyalty to either of them. There's no national agenda here. I'm not interested in defending or attacking the U.S. government, or any other government. I'm interested in the facts about war and peace and what we should do about them. There's no political agenda here on the spectrum from libertarian to socialist. I certainly place myself on the socialist side of that spectrum, but on the question of war it's not particularly relevant. I think Switzerland has had a pretty good foreign policy. I admire Costa Rica's elimination of its military. Sure, I think useful and essential things should be done with the money that's now dumped into war and war preparations, but I'd favor ending war if the money were never collected or even if it were collected and burned.
Disturbing as it is to run into countless people who believe war can't and/or shouldn't be ended (including quite a few who say it can't be ended but should be ended, presumably meaning that they wish it could be ended but are sure it can't be), I've begun running into people who tell me—even more disturbingly—that war is in the process of ending, so there's nothing to worry about and nothing to be done. The arguments that have set people on this path distort and minimize death counts in recent wars, define large portions of wars as civil wars (and thus not wars), measure casualties in isolated wars against the entire population of the globe, and conflate downward trends in other types of violence with trends in war-making. Part III, therefore, makes the case that war is not, in fact, going away.
Part IV addresses how we should go about causing war to go away. Largely, I believe that we need to take steps to improve our production, distribution, and consumption of information, including by adjusting our worldviews to make ourselves more open to learning and understanding unpleasant facts about the world—and acting on them. More difficult tasks than the abolition of war have been accomplished before. The first step has usually been recognizing that we have a problem.
This article is the Introduction to the new book War No More: The Case for Abolition.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons system the US military has ever pursued. With massive delays, cost blowouts and performance failings, the F-35 has become a symbol of the excess of the military industrial complex. It has also become a flashpoint of popular opposition to runaway military spending, and now the Burlington City Council may vote to take a stand, by prohibiting the basing of the aircraft at the city-owned airport in Northern Vermont.
The following article outlines the problems with the F-35 Project, the situation in Vermont and the opportunity arising for people power at a local level to challenge militarism across the United States.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
On the first day of the federal government shut-down, as hundreds of tourists were turned away from the shuttered Liberty Bell and other fabled sites within the Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia, Richard Dyost stood near the building housing the Bell and received a big laugh.
Here's one battle we can win: Help One Women's Rights Hero Defeat Anti-Abortionists Trying to Steal Her Family Farm
By Dave Lindorff
The family farm in America may be going the way of the dodo, thanks to the corrupt political influence of corporate agribusiness, but here's a chance for us all to concretely save at least one family's farm.
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America Needs The NEED Act
Today our politicians squabble over healthcare legislation passed years ago and in a few more days their fight will be over the federal deficit. For the 95th time in the last 67 years, Congress and the President will be confronted with passing legislation to raise the "debt ceiling". What citizens should know is that our country can pay off its debt as it comes due, put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, provide debt free federal support for cash-strapped State governments, provide interest free funds for local governments and in addition give all Americans a Citizens' Dividend payment--putting immediate cash in the hands of all our citizens and thus giving our beleaguered small businesses what they need, customers with cash to spend on their goods and services.
By Dave Lindorff
Ha ha ha ha! Best news I've heard all week:
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By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
Originally published at:
Having had their Facebook page shut down by Facebook administrators earlier this month, a group spearheaded by the Independent Truckers of America is calling for a three-day 'buy nothing' period from October 11 - 13.
Here's the October 2013 War Criminals Appearances/Protests. Let us know if you are planning something in your area so we might assist you and publicize your event. You may download leaflets and posters at www.warcriminalswatch.com
10/2/13 Colorado Springs CO
by War Criminals Watch Torture suspect and former U.S. Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney is scheduled to speak at the Toronto Global Forum, October 31, 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The event is hosted by the International Economic Forum of the Americas.
ThisCantBeHappening! just into its fourth year of publication, has learned that we have won our fourth Project Censored Award, this time for Dave Lindorff's article Incidents raise suspicions on motive: Killing of Journalists by US Forces a Growing Problem, published in TCBH! on Nov. 22, 1012.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of the websites Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddah. He reported on / participated in Occupy Wall Street from before Day 1. He has now published Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
David Swanson will answer questions about his new book War No More: The Case for Abolition in an online chat hosted by Medea Benjamin. To take part, just be at Firedoglake.com at 5:00pm ET / 2:00pm PT, Saturday, October 5th, for the FDL Book Salon discussion, which will run for 2 hours. To participate and comment, stop by a few minutes early to register and get a password. To just read along, no registration is required.
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By Linn Washington, Jr.
Imagine U.S. House Speaker John Boehner blasted on weed.
Given Boehner’s teary-eyed trait, he’d probably cry uncontrollably when high on pot alternating his crocodile tears with hysterical laughter…perhaps even laughing at some of that dumb shi-tuff he and his GOP colleagues constantly do on Capitol Hill.
On October 11, we'll learn whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee is interested in reviving the Nobel Peace Prize or putting another nail in its coffin.
Alfred Nobel's vision for the Nobel Peace Prize created in his will was a good one and, one might have thought, a legally binding one as well.
The peace prize is not supposed to be awarded to proponents of war, such as Barack Obama or the European Union.
It is not supposed to be awarded to good humanitarians whose work has little or nothing to do with peace, such as most other recent recipients. As with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace which works for almost anything but, in violation of its creator's will, and as with many a "peace and justice" group focused on all sorts of good causes that aren't the elimination of militarism, the Nobel has become a "peace" prize, rather than a peace prize.
The peace prize was not supposed to be given even to war reformers or war civilizers. The peace prize is for: "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The prize is not a lifetime award, but goes, along with the other Nobel prizes, "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."
Nobel laureates are not even asked whether they support the abolition of standing armies. Few have taken the approach of Barack Obama, who praised wars and militarism in his acceptance speech, but many others would almost certainly have to respond in the negative; they do not support and have not worked for the abolition of standing armies. Nor do they plan to put the prize money to work for that goal.
Norwegian author and lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl has for years now been leading an effort to enforce Alfred Nobel's will. "Letters Nobel wrote confirm," says Heffermehl, "that he established his prize to fulfill a promise to Bertha von Suttner," a promise to create a prize to fund work toward war abolition. In March 2012 the Swedish Foundations Authority ordered the Nobel Foundation to examine the will and ensure compliance. When the next award was given to the European Union in blatant violation of the will, former recipients -- including Adolfo Esquivel, Mairead Maguire, and Desmond Tutu -- protested. The Nobel Foundation has defied the order to comply with the will and applied for a permanent exception from such oversight.
This year there are 259 nominees, 50 of which are organizations. (Even Heffermehl does not object to the practice of giving the prize meant for a "person" to an organization.) The list of nominees is kept secret, but some are known. In Heffermehl's view, none of the favorites for this year's prize legally qualifies. That includes Malala Yousafzai, whose work for education certainly deserves a prize, just not this one. And it includes Denis Mukwege, whose work to aid victims of sexual violence should be honored, just not with the prize intended for those working to abolish armies. Civil rights in Russia, freedom of the press in Burma, and many other great causes could end up being awarded with a prize for opposition to war next week.
The name Steve Pinker has been mentioned along with the proposal that he be given the peace prize as reward for having written a grossly misleading and deceptive book falsely arguing that war is going away on its own. That would at least be a new twist on the abuse and degradation of this prize, although with Bill Clinton on the nominees list the options for truly disgusting outcomes are not exactly limited.
Heffermehl has found some names on the list that do actually qualify. They include American professor Richard Falk, Norwegian ambassador Gunnar Garbo, American David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the former director general of UNESCO Federico Mayor of Spain, Swedish peace scientist and organizer Jan Oberg, and American professor of peace education Betty Reardon. "These clearly are," says Heffermehl, "the kind of 'champions of peace' described in Nobel's will, working for global disarmament based on global law." I would include Gene Sharp, from among the list of nominees, as someone who probably qualifies, although there are certainly arguments against it. Among qualified organizations nominated for 2013, in Heffermehl's view, are the International Peace Bureau, the Transnational Foundation, UNESCO, and the Womens' International League for Peace and Freedom.
Other indivuals and organizations on the list, Heffermehl thinks, are "dedicated peacemakers or have courageously exposed the dangers of militarism, but they may not pursue the vision of general and complete disarmament that Nobel saw as essential for world peace." These include Norwegian Steinar Bryn, Americans Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden (the latter not nominated by the 2013 deadline), Israeli Mordechai Vanunu, and Abolition 2000.
Many of us have urged that Manning be given the prize, arguing with Norman Solomon that "the Nobel Peace Prize needs Bradley Manning more than Bradley Manning needs the Nobel Peace Prize." There are, however, many options for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to begin to redeem itself, and many options for its continued desecration of a noble ideal.
By David Swanson, with foreword by Kathy Kelly. Get it here.
By Kathy Kelly
This article is the foreword to David Swanson's new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition.
I lived in Iraq during the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing. On April 1st, about two weeks into the aerial bombardment, a medical doctor who was one of my fellow peace team members urged me to go with her to the Al Kindi Hospital in Baghdad, where she knew she could be of some help. With no medical training, I tried to be unobtrusive, as families raced into the hospital carrying wounded loved ones. At one point, a woman sitting next to me began to weep uncontrollably. “How I tell him?” she asked, in broken English. “What I say?” She was Jamela Abbas, the aunt of a young man, named Ali. Early in the morning on March 31st, U.S. war planes had fired on her family home, while she alone of all her family was outside. Jamela wept as she searched for words to tell Ali that surgeons had amputated both of his badly damaged arms, close to his shoulders. What’s more, she would have to tell him that she was now his sole surviving relative.
Returning to the Al Fanar hotel, I hid in my room. Furious tears flowed. I remember pounding my pillow and asking “Will we always be this way?”
David Swanson reminds me to look to humanity’s incredible achievements in resisting war, in choosing the alternatives which we have yet to show our full power to realize.
A hundred years ago, Eugene Debs campaigned tirelessly in the U.S. to build a better society, where justice and equality would prevail and ordinary people would no longer be sent to fight wars on behalf of tyrannical elites. From 1900 to 1920 Debs ran for president in each of five elections. He waged his 1920 campaign from inside the Atlanta prison to which he’d been sentenced for sedition for having spoken vigorously against U.S. entry into World War I. Insisting that wars throughout history have always been fought for purposes of conquest and plunder, Debs had distinguished between the master class that declares wars and the subjugated who fight the battles. “The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose,” said Debs in the speech for which he was imprisoned, “while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.”
Debs hoped to create a mindset throughout the American electorate that withstood propaganda and rejected war. It was no easy process. As a labor historian writes, “With no radio and television spots, and with little sympathetic coverage of progressive, third party causes, there was no alternative but to travel incessantly, one city or whistle-stop at a time, in searing heat or numbing cold, before crowds large or small, in whatever hall, park or train station where a crowd could be assembled.”
He didn’t prevent U.S. entry into World War I, but Swanson tells us in his 2011 book, When the World Outlawed War, there came a point in U.S. history, in 1928, when wealthy elites decided that it was in their enlightened self-interest to negotiate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, intended to avert future wars, and to prevent future U.S. governments from seeking war. Swanson encourages us to study and build on moments in history when war was rejected, and to refuse to tell ourselves that warfare is inevitable.
Surely we must join Swanson in acknowledging the enormous challenges we face in campaigning to avoid war, or to abolish it. He writes: “In addition to being immersed in a false world view of war’s inevitability, people in the United States are up against corrupt elections, complicit media, shoddy education, slick propaganda, insidious entertainment, and a gargantuan permanent war machine falsely presented as a necessary economic program that cannot be dismantled.” Swanson refuses to be deterred by large challenges. An ethical life is an extraordinary challenge, and encompasses lesser challenges, such as democratizing our societies. Part of the challenge is to honestly acknowledge its difficulty: to clear-sightedly witness the forces that make war more likely in our time and place, but Swanson refuses to categorize these forces as insurmountable obstacles.
A few years ago, I heard once more about Jamela Abbas’ nephew, Ali. Now he was 16 years old, living in London where a BBC reporter had interviewed him. Ali had become an accomplished artist, using his toes to hold a paint brush. He had also learned to feed himself using his feet. “Ali,” asked the interviewer, “what would you like to be when you grow up?” In perfect English, Ali had answered, “I’m not sure. But I would like to work for peace.” David Swanson reminds us that we will not always be this way. We will transcend in ways that we cannot yet properly imagine, through the determination to rise above our incapacities and achieve our purposes on earth. Obviously Ali’s story is not a feel-good story. Humanity has lost so much to war and what so often seems its incapacity for peace is like the most grievous of disfigurements. We don’t know the ways we will discover in which to work to rise above these disfigurements. We learn from the past, we keep our eyes on our goal, we fully grieve our losses, and we expect to be surprised by the fruits of diligent labor and a passion to keep humanity alive, and to help it create again.
If David is right, if humanity survives, war itself will go the route of death-duels and infanticide, child labor and institutionalized slavery. Perhaps someday, beyond being made illegal, it will even be eliminated. Our other struggles for justice, against the slow grinding war of rich against poor, against the human sacrifice of capital punishment, against the tyranny that the fear of war so emboldens, feed into this one. Our organized movements working for these and countless other causes often are themselves models of peace, of coordination, a dissolution of isolation and of conflict in creative fellowship, the end of war made, in patches, already visible.
In Chicago, where I live, an annual summer extravaganza has been held on the lakefront for as long as I can remember. Called “The Air and Water Show,” it grew in the past decade into a huge display of military force and a significant recruiting event. Prior to the big show, the Air Force would practice military maneuvers and we’d hear sonic booms throughout a week of preparation. The event would attract millions of people, and amid a picnic atmosphere the U.S. military potential to destroy and maim other people was presented as a set of heroic, triumphant adventures.
In the summer of 2013, word reached me in Afghanistan that the air and water show had occurred but that the U.S. military was a “no show.”
My friend Sean had staked out a park entrance for the previous few yearly events in a solo protest, cheerily encouraging attendees to “enjoy the show” all the more for its incredible cost to them in tax dollars, in lives and global stability and political freedom lost to imperial militarization. Eager to acknowledge the human impulse to marvel at the impressive spectacle and technical achievement on display, he would insist of the planes, and in as friendly a tone as possible, “They look a lot cooler when they’re not bombing you!” This year he was expecting smaller crowds, having heard (although apparently too busy assembling his several thousand fliers to closely research this year’s particular event) that several military acts had cancelled. “Two hundred flyers later, I found out that this was because THE MILITARY HAD BACKED OUT!” he wrote me on the day itself: “They weren’t there _at all_ save for some desultory Air Force tents that I did find when I biked through looking for recruitment stations. I suddenly understood why I hadn’t heard any sonic booms leading up to the weekend.” (I had always complained to Sean of the yearly agony of listening to those planes rehearse for the show) “Too pleased to be mortified by my own idiocy, I put away my fliers and biked happily through the event. It was a lovely morning, and the skies of Chicago had been healed!”
Our incapacities are never the whole story; our victories come in small cumulative ways that surprise us. A movement of millions arises to protest a war, whose onset is delayed, its impact lessened, by how many months or years, by how many lives never lost, by how many limbs never torn from the bodies of children? How completely are the cruel imaginations of the war-makers distracted by having to defend their current lethal plans, how many new outrages, thanks to our resistance, will they never so much as conceive? By how many factors as the years proceed will our demonstrations against war continue, with setbacks, to grow? How acutely will the humanity of our neighbors be aroused, to what level will their awareness be raised, how much more tightly knit in community will they learn to be in our shared efforts to challenge and resist war? Of course we can’t know.
What we know is that we won’t always be this way. War may exterminate us utterly, and if unchecked, unchallenged, it shows every potential for doing so. But David Swanson’s War No More imagines a time where the Ali Abbases of the world exhibit their tremendous courage in a world that has abolished warfare, where no-one has to relive their tragedies at the hands of rampaging nations, where we celebrate the demise of war. Beyond this it envisions a time when humanity has found the true purpose, meaning, and community of its calling to end warfare together, to live the challenge that is replacing war with peace, discovering lives of resistance, and of truly human activity. Rather than glorify armed soldiers as heroes, let us appreciate a child rendered armless by a U.S. bomb who must know that few incapacities are an excuse for inaction, that what is or isn’t possible changes, and who, despite all we’ve done to him, still resolutely intends to work for peace.
War No More: The Case for Abolition is available on Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and available for $2 as PDF, ePub, kindle, audio, or iTunes, or at discount when buying 10 or more, all at http://davidswanson.org/warnomore