By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, October 19, 2023
Remarks on October 19 at Uniting for Peace Conference
Likely place to find video: https://unitingforpeace.com
For Western media consumers, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Azerbaijan, and various other ongoing wars might as well not exist. But Joe Biden is seeking money from the U.S. Congress for four wars at once, so that he can pay the world’s largest merchants of death to ship massive piles of free weapons to Ukraine, Israel, and (even if it’s not a war yet) Taiwan, plus to what might as well be a war in the U.S. infotainment system, the fascistified U.S. border of Mexico. The thinking, if I may call it that, is that while a handful of Congress Members may find the decency or some perverse partisan reason to finally oppose one war, hardly any of them will oppose four at once. So, unless something anti-racist or pro-transgender rights, or perhaps a half sentence disrespecting Donald Trump can be snuck into the bill, we’ll see another $100 billion for death — enough money to transform the world if applied to hunger or homelessness or environment. This many wars, playing simultaneously on the worst media outlets I’ve seen in my lifetime has got the “war is always everywhere, there ain’t nothin we can do” crowd rolling in clover, and the Pinkerists whose phony stats claim war has almost vanished scratching their inflated heads.
There’s an eerie silence from the “If things would only get a little worse, things would get better” crew. Joseph just mentioned mafia values in foreign policy. Revenge is out in the open. You won’t find it in a single Just-War-Theory treatise from the past 2,000 years, but there’s not a corporate media outlet or repeat guest who doesn’t find revenge a total moral and legal sanction for war. They’ve seen too many movies in which violent revenge solves everything, movies in which weaponry has advanced a million-fold, men have fist-fights every day, and yet life remains. Movies in which people live happily or tentatively ever after, even though in every single life in the real world the ending is death. In the real world an eye for an eye leads — as inevitably as death — to leaving the whole world in nuclear winter.
In the real world, despite sides being unequal, and having different grievances, and understanding that governments are not populations — not a single population on Earth is well represented by its government — we consistently see two sides of wars agreeing on the irrational choice of a cycle of violence that leads to death. And if you ask them whether they know that violence is counterproductive on its own terms, they do not answer, but scream at you the ancient and meaningless question “Would you deny me the right to fight back?” Then you carefully back away, because how could you deny them an imaginary concept, but it’s clear they don’t want your advice, which you could give them.
The cycle of violent revenge that leads to death, along the way leads to celebrating Nazis in the Canadian Parliament, and to what passes for public intellectuals in the United States advocating the denial of all food and water to the world’s largest concentration camp, as a defense of the Rules Based Order, or is it Rules Based Murder?
We’re also treated to the reductio ad absurdum of humane and proper war. The Rules Based Murder team is simultaneously shipping over the weapons with which to obliterate a population and trucks full of food and water that are as likely to be bombed as if they were a hospital — to which Genocide Joe will reply “the other team did it, coach.” Take a bench, Joe. Have a seat. Step aside. It turns out we didn’t need a demented invertebrate corporatist hack, after all. Our mistake.
So, what is the response to the new spotlights shining on the absurdity of war, lighting the nocturnal monster of militarism up brighter than the sun? Well, it’s mixed.
Many people, and just about everyone in corporate media, are tragically and ridiculously backing one side of each war. If you’re not for Israeli missiles, you’re for Hamas missiles. If you’re not for Ukrainian missiles, you’re for Russian missiles. Of course, this doesn’t make any of the missiles faster or larger, but it does give the other side the justification to continue. The very idea of opposing both sides of a war, of treating war itself as the only enemy, is so incomprehensible that my friend Yurii Sheliazhenko is being prosecuted by the heroic Ukrainian democracy for supporting the Russian invasion in a statement in which he does not support and in fact explicitly condemns the Russian invasion.
Many people, and just about everyone in corporate media, are missing the ongoing lesson that weapons and bases and provocations lead toward and not away from war, in order to argue that the solution when you’re in a hole is to keep on digging. Over the past 10 months neither Russia nor Ukraine has conquered enough territory to hold the graves of the people lost conquering it, and yet both sides are just moments away from complete victory if you’ll just close your eyes and believe — oh, and send more weapons.
Many of those people who don’t want to send more weapons want to send them to different wars, so the four-wars-at-a-time legislation is perfect for them. Many others want to stop what they call “aiding” Ukraine (which nation they imagine bitterly and jealously turned into the sort of socialist paradise they claim to despise) and instead they want all the money spent on the 4% of the world’s people who are worth any more than a warm bucket of spit, namely the U.S. public. While I generally lose no sleep over reports that U.S. students can’t do math, sometimes I do wish a trillion dollars a year were explained in the sort of detail that is applied to votes for a house speaker. If it were, there would be no need to demand that the money be spent in one place rather than another.
It’s easy to get discouraged as old crusty warmongers you thought had died when you were a kid are wheeled out to comment on and profit from each war, and as identity politics is further entrenched through war support and opposition alike.
And yet, people, lots and lots of people, those qualified by having just stumbled out of the rubble in Israel, and otherwise — masses of people — people risking arrest, people turning out in the streets just as people do in normal countries, people surrounding the White House and the Capitol, crowds of diverse and heartwarming people are getting and saying and doing everything exactly right.
Horribly insufficient as the response is to a publicly celebrated genocide in Gaza, it is not, in the United States, as bad as the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So, in the words of the late — I mean, oh god he’s still with us — George W. Bush, is our children learning?
Maybe. Maybe. The question I want to answer is whether anyone is following the logic of opposing both sides to where it leads. If you’ve understood that denouncing the mass slaughter of civilians by two sides of a war is not only the right thing to say but honestly the right thing to believe, and if you’ve exclaimed that “It’s not a war, it’s something worse” but also noticed that we’ve been exclaiming that during just about every war since World War I, then do you follow the logic where it leads? If both sides are engaged in immoral outrages, if the problem is not whichever side you’ve been trained to hate, but war itself. And if war itself is the biggest drain on resources desperately needed thereby killing more people indirectly than directly, and if war itself is the reason we are at risk of nuclear Armageddon, and if war itself is a leading cause of bigotry, and the sole justification for government secrecy, and a major cause of environmental destruction, and the big impediment to global cooperation, and if you’ve understood that governments do not train their populations in unarmed civilian defense not because it doesn’t work as well as militarism but because they are afraid of their own populations, then you are now a war abolitionist, and it’s time we set to work, not saving our weapons for a more proper war, not arming the world to protect us from one club of oligarchs getting richer than another club of oligarchs, but ridding the world of wars, war plans, war tools, and war thinking.
Goodbye, war. Good riddance.
Let’s try peace.