By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 12, 2023
Remarks on RootsAction.org’s Defuse Nuclear War livestream on January 12, 2023. Video here.
Thank you for all for being here and for including me.
We know the risks. They’re no secret. The Doomsday clock has almost nowhere to go but oblivion.
We know what’s needed. We’ve made a national holiday of a man who said he would oppose all nukes and all wars without any regard to whether it was popular, who said the choice was between nonviolence and nonexistence.
We are so aware of what’s needed that we all routinely tell our kids to be radical peacemakers, to deescalate, to back away, to apologize, to compromise.
We know what war is and at long last (with white Christian European victims to blame on Russia) we see its images in the news media. We also finally hear what it costs financially.
But we hear what it costs financially not in terms of the tradeoffs, of the human and environmental good far greater than ending war that could be done with the funding now spent on war — Rather in the ridiculous terms of spending money, including on human and environmental needs, somehow being an evil in itself.
Victims of war are presented, not as reasons to end war, but as reasons to continue it.
Guidance you would give to children is widely shunned. In fact it’s tantamount to treason to even suggest the sort of wise steps one would insist on children learning.
In our government, a tiny group of rightwingers actually exercise power for the good of cutting military spending combined with the evil of cutting human and environmental spending, and some of those who supposedly care about the future of life on Earth find that worthy of mockery.
The value of the day is inaction. The supreme attribute is cowardice. So-called progressives inside and outside of Congress support endless mountains of weapons shipments to keep a war going, to starve children who need those same resources, and to heighten the risk of nuclear apocalypse, while making the quietest little self-contradictory peeps about negotiating peace — and when anyone objects to that, these progressives run screaming from their own shadows or blame a staffer for the misunderstanding that they ever meant to attempt anything at all.
MLK Day should be a day for courage, for independence, for nonpartisanship, and for nonviolent action for the complete ending and abolishing of participation in any war. The rightwing in the U.S. government will not cut war spending without public pressure. Those claiming to oppose the rightwing will place that very opposition above the task of making peace, in the absence of tremendous principled and independent public pressure.
We have to ask ourselves: what do we oppose more, hunger or Republicans? the destruction of all life on Earth or Republicans? war or Republicans? We can oppose many things properly prioritized. We can even do so through uncomfortably large coalitions.
We don’t need vegetarians between meals, or peace advocates between wars — or between Democratic presidencies. We need a principled stand for peace precisely in time of overwhelming war propaganda.
It’s worth remembering that a reasonable agreement was reached at Minsk in 2015, that the current president of Ukraine was elected in 2019 promising peace negotiations, and that the U.S. (and rightwing groups in Ukraine) pushed back against that.
It’s worth remembering that Russia’s demands prior to its invasion of Ukraine were perfectly reasonable, and a better deal from Ukraine’s perspective than anything discussed since.
The U.S. has also been a force against negotiations during the past ten months. Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J.S. Davies wrote in September:
“For those who say negotiations are impossible, we have only to look at the talks that took place during the first month after the Russian invasion, when Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to a fifteen-point peace plan in talks mediated by Turkey. Details still had to be worked out, but the framework and the political will were there. Russia was ready to withdraw from all of Ukraine, except for Crimea and the self-declared republics in Donbas. Ukraine was ready to renounce future membership in NATO and adopt a position of neutrality between Russia and NATO. The agreed framework provided for political transitions in Crimea and Donbas that both sides would accept and recognize, based on self-determination for the people of those regions. The future security of Ukraine was to be guaranteed by a group of other countries, but Ukraine would not host foreign military bases on its territory.
“On March 27, President Zelenskyy told a national TV audience, ‘Our goal is obvious—peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible.’ He laid out his ‘red lines’ for the negotiations on TV to reassure his people he would not concede too much, and he promised them a referendum on the neutrality agreement before it would take effect. . . . Ukrainian and Turkish sources have revealed that the U.K. and U.S. governments played decisive roles in torpedoing those early prospects for peace. During U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘surprise visit’ to Kyiv on April 9th, he reportedly told Prime Minister Zelenskyy that the U.K. was ‘in it for the long run,’ that it would not be party to any agreement between Russia and Ukraine, and that the ‘collective West’ saw a chance to ‘press’ Russia and was determined to make the most of it. The same message was reiterated by U.S. Defense Secretary Austin, who followed Johnson to Kyiv on April 25th and made it clear that the U.S. and NATO were no longer just trying to help Ukraine defend itself but were now committed to using the war to ‘weaken’ Russia. Turkish diplomats told retired British diplomat Craig Murray that these messages from the U.S. and U.K. killed their otherwise promising efforts to mediate a ceasefire and a diplomatic resolution.”
How can you tell that someone does not want peace? They carefully avoid it. Both sides in this war propose preconditions for peace talks that they know the other side will not accept. And when one side calls a ceasefire for 2 days, the other side doesn’t call their bluff and propose one for 4 days, choosing instead to ridicule it.
Once we understand that the path to peace is not war, and that peace is available through compromise if governments want it, what can we do?
Here are upcoming actions that will have as big an impact as we make them have. I hope to see you all at as many of them as possible. You’ll be emailed this presentation and can find the events at worldbeyondwar.org.