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Bruce Levine Interviews David Swanson on When the World Outlawed War


For those who know war only through television, criminalizing it sounds like proposing to criminalize government. But there was a time when the masses made war illegal.

David Swanson’s recently released book, When the World Outlawed War, tells the story of how the highly energized peace movement in the 1920s, supported by an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens from every level of society, was able to push politicians into something quite remarkable—the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. The 1920s “War Outlawry” movement in the United States was so popular that most politicians could not afford to oppose it.  

David Swanson, since serving as press secretary in Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, has emerged as one of the leading anti-war activists in the United States. While Swanson has fought against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tried to alert Americans to the fact that U.S. military spending is the source of most of our economic problems, his anti-war activism goes much deeper. He wants to stigmatize militarist politicians as criminals. In his previous book War is a Lie, Swanson made the case for the abolition of war as an instrument of national policy, and When the World Outlawed War provides an historical example of just how powerful war abolitionism can be. 

Bruce Levine: At a college lecture that you recently gave, you asked the students and professors if they believed war was illegal or if they had ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and only about 2 or 3 percent of a large group raised their hands. But what really seems to have disturbed you is when you asked if war should be illegal, and only 5 percent thought that it should be.

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The 1920s “War Outlawry” movement in the United States was so popular that most politicians could not afford to oppose it.

"Man", it'ld be great to have such a movement again today.

David Swanson, since serving as press secretary in Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, has emerged as one of the leading anti-war activists in the United States.

That's merited recognition, I believe.  And thank you, David!

Bruce Levine: At a college lecture that you recently gave, you asked the students and professors if they believed war was illegal or if they had ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, .... But what really seems to have disturbed you is when you asked if war should be illegal, and only 5 percent thought that it should be.

Is there ever any good news?  We always have to receive bad news, when reporting is honest? Excuse me for a moment, while I go to the bathroom to vomit, after such bad news as this.  My eyes just crossed each other, the left and right sides of my brain just changed positions, ....  I need to momentarily vomit, and thank you very much for your patience.

David Swanson: Well, both responses bothered me somewhat, but only one surprised me at all, and only one offended me. I knew people in the United States did not believe war was illegal.

That's darkly laughable.  Of course war has to be illegal.  We can't make war-making legal.  There's no question about it.  Making war-making legal is to make war of aggression legal, and no one who understands this can agree that we can supposedly make this legal.  We do it, so we can do it, but we can't ethically, sanely, ... do it.  We can only do it if we're liars, hypocrites, hegemonious, and extremely or totally insane.

We can support defence being legal, as long as the defence is carefully conducted, with great effort made by the resistance forces to do all they can to try to avoid harming innocent people; needing to target only the forces of aggression, and traitors working with those enemy forces.  We have the right to defend ourselves.  But, we don't have any sort of right at all for making war. And the defence or resistance movement can be active, fighting defence, as well as peaceful or non-violent protest demonstrations.  We just can't possibly have any right whatsoever for making war.  Making war is to be aggressor. Defence is reaction to aggression, and no one can deny us this right, regardless of whether the govts permit it or not.  Defence is a natural and inalienable right.  No one can take it away from us.  We can be oppressed, etc., sure, but we can maintain spirit of defence, nevertheless.  It then only becomes caged, say, defence.  The spirit, however, can live on; as long as the oppressors, etc., don't render us senile, mind-controlled, etc.  When  that happens, then it's not the fault of the victim. It's again the fault of the aggressors.  There's no legitimacy in aggression; none whatsoever.

And, again, thank you, David.

Keep up the excellent activism and education.  I probably would've never learned of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, if not for this article.

I probably would've never learned that it wasn't No. Korea that initiated the Korean War, if it wasn't for David.

And just these two parts of history learned from him tells me that a lot more important information would be learned by learning everything he knows about wars and politics.

We are to be very grateful for his activism.

Thank you, David.

 

Mike C.

USA'n in Canada (due to the H-1B program)

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