By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, November 29, 2023
- It’s a U.S. war on the U.S. government’s preferred model.
The ideal war for the U.S. government and the weapons dealers that have such control over it is a war fought with U.S. weapons by non-U.S. fighters. The war in Ukraine, the Saudi war on Yemen, the current war on Gaza — these risk few U.S. lives directly but enrich U.S. oligarchs substantially. The only improvement would be a war like Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Iran-Iraq war, the Mexican drug war, World War II, and so many others that have had U.S.-made weapons on both sides. The propaganda advantage in not using U.S. troops is the avoidance of a lot of U.S. coffins, but it’s also a disadvantage because when people in the U.S. turn against a war that uses few U.S. troops they feel no grotesque need to keep it going in order to vindicate anyone who’s already died.
- It’s a war against, not for, a rules based order.
Over a month ago, the U.S. government’s opposition blocked a United Nations resolution for a ceasefire in the massacre in Gaza. In the preceding years, the U.S. has vetoed 46 resolutions on Israel, 34 of them related to its crimes in Palestine and the need for peace. The U.S. president may talk about a rules based order but runs the world’s leading abuser of the veto, leading dealer of weapons, leading holdout on basic human rights and disarmament treaties, and leading opponent of international courts. Israel kills with U.S. weapons and U.S. protection from the rule of law. Not long ago, the president of Ukraine said the United Nations should abolish the veto. While he had Russia in mind, I expect his arms dealer in Washington quickly explained to him why he needed to keep quiet and keep the cannon fodder flowing. The war on Gaza is of course marketed as a cops-of-the-world police action against the crimes of Hamas, but bombing people is law violation, not law enforcement. By proclaiming this its “911” the Israeli government was declaring that it would not prosecute any crimes but would feel free to commit them.
- It’s a war. It’s a genocide. And most wars are genocides.
Thus far in Gaza and Israel since the beginning of October, the proportion of the casualties that have been Israeli is not as small as the proportion of casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan that were U.S. casualties. The speed of the killing, the rhetoric of the officials, the presence of social media users, the wideness of the grassroots opposition around the world — these are all different and extreme. But Ukraine is the war that is atypical, not Gaza. For over a century, most wars have not happened on battlefields or killed mostly soldiers or resembled what people think the typical war is. Genocide means killing or otherwise acting with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such. Most wars are one-sided slaughters of mostly civilians, and any argument that a war is not a genocide has to focus on the rhetoric rather than the action. In this case, the rhetoric is just blatantly genocidal. There’s rhetoric on the other side of this war that is also genocidal, and a great deal that is misinterpreted as being genocidal, but that is legally, morally, and otherwise no excuse. Bombing a nation because a fraction of those killed are members of the government isn’t made legitimate because that government has committed crimes, or because the U.S. president declares eliminating a government through murder is legitimate. It isn’t, and the U.S. government wouldn’t think it was if someone were bombing the United States to eliminate the U.S. Congress.
- This war is not separate from the creation of Israel in 1948, but a continuation of it.
It goes on mattering, decade after decade, that most U.S. students never encounter the word Nakba. It matters that Israel was created in 1948 through war/terrorism, through massacring families, driving some 750,000 people out of their homes, demolishing over 400 villages. It’s not difficult to know. Many books — even comic books — have been published, films have been made, apps for your phone can locate vanished villages, etc. But a massive industry promotes unknowing it, substitutes other stories and myths, warns you not to read those books and not to use those apps.
- The war is not being done humanely, and there is no such thing.
The notion that you can commit mass-murder on an enormous scale but make it all right by sending in enough food to feed a fraction of the people still at risk of murder is as useful as New York City’s notion that in the event of a nuclear bomb falling on New York you should go indoors. Pausing to allow ethnic cleansing and plot the next attacks doesn’t make a war humane. Human rights groups that demand the Israeli military give proper warning before blowing up each home are advocating something other than human rights. The human rights groups that are proposing amendments to a bill in Congress for yet more weapons, amendments that would stipulate that the weapons be used legally and that particular illegal weapons not be used are putting poison lipstick on a pig. If free weapons for a genocide can’t be simply opposed, rather than beautified, is there anything that can?
- Israel is lying and it does not matter.
Telling tales about beheaded babies, exaggerating Israeli body counts, hiding Israeli friendly fire (as it’s perversely called), pretending there’s a military headquarters under a hospital, and so on. There’s an endless logorrhea of lies. But if they were all true, they would not move the needle one inch toward legalizing or justifying genocide. You don’t get to and should not want to murder men, women, children, and infants because their government did or did not do something. You don’t get to and should not want to tell people what government to have, unless you are inviting them to join equally in a shared government.
- It’s not OK to murder non-civilians.
We hear so much in what people call a propaganda war about who is or is not killing civilians, that it seems almost rude to point this out, but it is not acceptable to murder non-civilians. Not if they enthusiastically volunteered and not if they were recruited at gun point, not if they’re lovely endearing people and not if they’re hateful and guilty of atrocities. Not if they were some significant percentage of those being killed, and not if — as in most modern wars — they are a small fraction of the casualties. War is a crime and a horror that always, always, always includes things people object to like torture, rape, home-destruction, and starvation. We should object as well to the murder.
- War and bigotry are not opponents but partners.
Opposing war by the Israeli government gets you labeled with the now almost meaningless label “Antisemite.” Meanwhile people who hate Jews or want Jews to help bring about the destruction of the world and the transportation of Christians to magic-land get to count as non-Antisemites because they’re in favor of war. But in reality war is fueled by bigotry of the religious, racist, and nationalist varieties, and those bigotries are fueled by war. Look at the violence and hatred being directed in the United States against Muslims and Jews. Censoring and punishing and denouncing advocates for peace just pours fuel on the fire — you know fuel, that stuff that always seems to be near wars and which Israel is already plotting to suck out of the ocean floor near Gaza.
- The ceasefire proves diplomacy works, delegitimizing recommencement.
If you can talk, and halt the slaughter, and exchange prisoners, then you have to stop pretending that the other side only understands violence. You can’t resume the mad fit of mass murder and claim you had no other choice.
- The two state delusion is not helping.
Not only is there no land left for a non-Israeli state in Palestine, and much of the land covered in rubble, but there has always been an incoherence in the idea of two amicably coexisting states, one of which is an apartheid state dedicated to discriminating against all but one religious group. Unless two-states are understood as a step toward a confederation and then one non-apartheid state with basic rights for all, continuing to say “I’m for a two-state solution” is not helpful.
- Zero states will soon be possible in an overheated desert.
Palestine is warming twice as fast as the world as a whole, has seen a 3% decline in rainfall in the past 30 years and can expect a 30% decline by 2100. Chunks of the coast, possibly much or all of Gaza, are going to go underwater. The river to the sea is going to be a dry riverbed to a growing, heating, and dying sea.
- War is a distraction, division, diversion, delusion, and disaster.
We’ve all forgotten about the war in Ukraine even as those running it are admitting lies and conceding the need to end it. Even more so we’ve forgotten about the non-optional crises. Here’s COP28 — how much did you hear about plans for it? The cooperative pull-out-all-stops effort needed to globally address human and environmental catastrophes is prevented by keeping the institution of war around and insisting that nations compete and fight rather than collaborate. You can call peacemaking a fantasy, but warmaking can’t go on much longer and humanity survive.
- Every day of war risks a wider war and a nuclear war.
Wars are not controllable, in part because other parties jump in — parties in Iran or Iraq or Yemen or Lebanon, and then further afield. Warmakers are playing with apocalypse.
- Funding four wars is a sign of a degenerate society but also of desperation.
The proposal from Genocide Joe to fund four wars at once (Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and the border of Mexico) — not all of them exactly wars yet — is an indication of how normalized war has become in the U.S. government, how hard it is to oppose. But it’s also a sign of desperation, because divisions within the Congress are making it hard to fund wars one at a time. This means that we have chances of stopping the weapons flow closer to what we would have if we had actual public representatives in Congress.
- We are many, they are few.
Polling — limited as it is in many ways — shows that opposition to continuing the war in Ukraine with more weapons is growing, and that we already from day 1 have had a good majority for ending the war in Gaza, and a majority of Democrats if not of everyone for ending the shipments of weapons to Israel.
- Activism gets the job done.
The ceasefire in Gaza is due to activism, which is due to long-term organizing and educating. If the ceasefire is maintained or renewed, it will be due to activism. We need more nonviolent activism, less apathy, and less obsession with elections in a rotten election system. But we need those who oppose war on Gaza to find solidarity with those who oppose war in Ukraine with those who oppose militarizing borders with those who oppose building up to a war with China in a very similar way to how the war with Russia was approached in decades past. We are stronger together, and our understanding of the problem is stronger when the problem is not a particular war but the disease of war itself.
- We need to prioritize demilitarization and denuclearization.
If the goal is survival, we need to place a priority on ceasing to manufacture and ship, give away and sell, use and stockpile murder weapons, especially nuclear ones. This doesn’t make the news for all the usual reasons. Even a rally for peace is called — and in some cases is — a rally for one side of a war or, at best, against a particular war. But we have to make opposition to each war opposition to the entire industry of war.
- Governments do not try to end wars.
Governments that wage wars usually do so because they think it benefits them politically. They do not think ending wars helps them. And they do not think anyone would dare replace them during a war. You don’t change horses in the middle of an apocalypse, as Cindy Sheehan used to say. But people end wars. And people end governments. And Johnson, and Nixon, and Bush the Older, and countless others would rethink their political strategies if given the chance and the inclination.
- The Monroe Doctrine should be recalled after tens of millions of fatalities.
When the Monroe Doctrine turns 200 on Saturday, events in several countries will symbolically bury it. But we need it actually buried, along with the arrogance, hypocrisy, and hostility that has accompanied it for two centuries.
- Abolition is the way.
As with trial by ordeal, dueling, slavery, and other supposedly permanent structures of stability and goodness, war needs to be abolished. The peace movement has allies and advisors in the movements to abolish police, prisons, and other problematic institutions, and vice versa. It’s time for a world beyond war.