A U.S. Citizen's Defense Against War Propaganda - a review of War Is A Lie
America has been lied into war over and over again. The gullibility of the American public is an essential and perennial factor in our leaders' ability to credibly threaten other countries with the use of force and to fulfill its illegal threats. When President Obama and Wolf Blitzer tell us that Iran or North Korea must be attacked, will we once again play the part of Homer Simpson, wondering what is this fiery place and what are we doing in this hand-basket, or will we have sufficient knowledge of our own history and the reality at hand to say, "That's not true", and organize effective resistance?
David Swanson's new book, War Is A Lie (http://www.amazon.com/War-Lie-David-CN-Swanson/dp/0983083002/ref=sr_1_1?...), is a handbook to make us the intelligent, well-informed citizens that we would like to be, instead of the nation of Homer Simpsons we have so often been until now. The publication of War Is A Lie raises a tantalizing prospect, one that even the most committed of peace-loving Americans hardly dares to hope for: What if America's leaders targeted a new enemy and the corporate media blanketed the air-waves with flag-waving and fear, but a sober and war-wisened public simply dismissed the whole stinking propaganda campaign as a pack of lies?
We all remember the uncomfortable feeling we had as the war-drums began to beat in 2001 and 2002. We knew there had to be a better way, an alternative response to the crisis, but we were frequently tongue-tied or hesitant because we just didn't have the information at our finger-tips to clearly and accurately counter the avalanche of war propaganda. David Swanson, former press secretary for Dennis Kucinich and maybe the hardest-working peace activist in America, possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of American wars and war propaganda. In his new book, War Is A Lie, he shares his knowledge with all of us. This book is the tool we need to counter current war propaganda, and a strategic shield against the escalations and new aggressions that our government will keep trying to sell us as it encounters increasingly effective global resistance to its own militarism and violence.
As a researcher and writer on U.S. foreign policy and history, I have to admire the way Swanson has organized and presented parts of our history that I already knew, but I am also impressed by how much I have learned from War Is A Lie that I didn't already know. His choice of title may seem simplistic or hyperbolic at first glance, but it makes more and more sense as he uncovers the predictable consistency of the lies we are told, from the foundation myths of our country through war after war to the carefully-constructed but historically empty obfuscations on the front page of today's New York Times.
Swanson's background in philosophy and grasp of ideas frame his exposition of history, as each chapter demolishes one of the central tenets of American militarism, from "Chapter 1. Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil" to "Chapter 13. Wars Cannot Be Both Planned and Avoided", culminating in a detailed prescription for action based on John and Yoko's peace anthem: "War Is Over! if you want it". Swanson exposes war and militarism as a sort of religion, based on articles of faith rather than reason or evidence, let alone actual human experience of its devastation and horror. Each chapter in the book is an antidote to one of these articles of faith, eloquently identifying, exposing and then debunking them until the entire structure of this bloodthirsty cult of ritualized mass murder and indiscriminate child sacrifice is laid bare and demolished.
Swanson also exposes the sordid details of war as a "racket". This is of course what Major General Smedley Butler called it at the end of his career as the most decorated member of the U.S. Marine Corps, which involved him in wars and occupations in at least 10 countries, from Mexico and Haiti to China and the Philippines. Swanson's unmasking of the vested interests that drive the cult of militarism reveals its most sordid underbelly. This is surely the ultimate betrayal of our humanity and perhaps the most disturbing indictment of our leaders: that they trade millions of human lives, not for the elusive goals of stability or security, which could be attained by other means, nor even for political dominance, but for profit.
As David explains in the Introduction, lies about war can be divided into three broad categories; lies to start wars; lies to justify and prolong wars once the fighting begins; and lies after the fact to whitewash them for future generations, and hence to facilitate future ones. He attacks all three with equal passion, eloquence and historical detail. His attention to detail dovetails with his grasp of the illicit purpose of all these lies to produce a scathing indictment of American political leadership that transcends political parties, personalities and the particulars of each war or occupation. Yet it is by dissecting and countering the arguments used to justify each of them that he provides such a comprehensive narrative of consistently unscrupulous deception.
War Is A Lie is a book that belongs on the bookshelf or the bedside-table of every American, with pages dog-eared for future reference, and choice passages marked or highlighted. You can reach for it as a shield against lies and hypocrisy during Presidential speeches or as you watch Congressional committee hearings on C-SPAN, or wherever mythological versions of history are trotted out to justify policies or actions that threaten human life. If enough Americans read this book, it will give us the collective power to stand up to our warmongering leaders by disarming the most powerful and destructive of all their weapons: their lies.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq (http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Our-Hands-American-Destruction/dp/193484098X...). He is also the local coordinator of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) in Miami.