Remarks at United National Antiwar Coalition in Richmond, Virginia, June 17, 2017
Did you hear about Trump calling up the mayor of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay and telling him that, contrary to all appearances, his island is not sinking? I want to focus on one element of this story, namely that the guy believed what he was told, rather than what he saw.
Did you hear about Secretary of War Mattis telling Congress that for the 16th year in a row he would produce a plan for “winning” a war on Afghanistan? Congress either believed it or has been paid to act as if it believes it. Congress members Jones and Garamendi have a bill to defund this endless act of mass-murder. We need a movement that can nonviolently shut down Congressional offices until they do so.
We do have marches in various cities this weekend to ban nuclear bombs, and negotiations underway at the UN to create a treaty that does that. Once most countries on earth have banned nuclear bombs, the US will explain that, as with successful bans on guns, banning weapons is just not physically possible. Your eyes must be fooling you. A large percentage of that small percentage of people in this country who hear about the matter at all will believe what they are told.
Even more will believe what they are not told. Many who care about resisting climate change, completely ignore the growing danger of nuclear apocalypse, because they don’t hear about it — some people even going so far as to wantonly demand greater hostility between the US and Russian governments. What could go wrong?
We need radical reforms in our education system that go beyond ending standardized tests, shrinking classrooms, and training and paying teachers. We need courses taught in every school in the subjects of social change, nonviolent action, and refining practical techniques for the successful recognition of bullshit.
Trump says dealing more weapons to Saudi Arabia raises no human rights concerns, but visiting Cuba to drink a mojito on the beach, or allowing Cuban medicines to save US lives, borders on a crime against humanity. Others say that weapons of military mass murder should properly be spread only to nations that murder their domestic prisoners in humane ways, like Arkansas. Meanwhile we can’t talk about millions of people on the edge of starving to death in Yemen, we can’t build a movement against starvation, of all things, because the starvation is caused by war and war is not to be questioned.
Did you know that over in Charlottesville our city voted to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee that was put up by racists in the 1920s? But we can’t take it down because a Virginia state law forbids taking down any war monument. That is a law, if ever there was one, that needs repealing in this capital of the confederacy — or at least amending to require an equal sized peace monument for every monument to war. Imagine what that would do for Richmond’s landscape.
Imagine what it would do for our souls. We are in need of a secular and collective resurrection. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,” said Dr. King, “is approaching spiritual death.” And “a nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.” We’ve paid up, all the installments. We’ve reached spiritual death. We’ve gone into spiritual decomposition. We’re rapidly making our way toward actual extinction.
When the United States wants to start a new war, the number one justification is that some former client “used chemical weapons on his own people,” as if using them on someone else’s people would be OK, and as if people can belong to someone. When the United States uses white phosphorus as a weapon on human beings, we should understand them as our brothers and sisters, our own people. Our government is an outlaw whose own actions by its own standards justify its overthrow.
Here’s what I propose, as a beginning. World flags in place of national flags. Thank yous for their service to everyone engaged in programs of social uplift. Backs turned on national anthems, pledges of allegiance, and war promoters. Peace demonstrations on every war holiday. Peace books promoted at every school board meeting. Picketing and flyering at every weapons dealer. Welcome parties for all immigrants. Divestment from all weapons. Conversion to peaceful industries. Global cooperation in requiring the closing of all foreign bases. Urging every U.S. mayor to endorse the two resolutions coming up before the U.S. Conference of Mayors that tell Congress not to move money from human and environmental needs to the military but to do just the reverse. And nonviolent resistance to business as usual at every local office of every elected official not on board with the radical change needed to protect peace, planet, and people.
Needless to say this requires political independence and principled promotion of policy, not personality. The same people who rigged a primary to nominate one of the only candidates who could have lost to Donald Trump are now targeting Trump with one of the only accusations that can blow up in their faces for lack of proof or in all of our faces in the form of nuclear war. Meanwhile, Trump is openly guilty of illegal wars, illegal prejudicial bans on immigrants, illegal willful destruction of the earth’s climate, unconstitutional domestic and foreign profiteering from his public office, and a whole laundry list of crimes from sexual assault to voter intimidation.
Trump opponents, too wise by half, say don’t impeach him, his successor would be worse. I respectfully maintain that this position fails to recognize what is needed or our power to achieve it. What is needed is to create the power to impeach, eject, unelect, and otherwise hold accountable anyone who holds public office — something we do not now have, something we must have for whoever comes after Trump whenever they come after Trump, but something that we can only have if we create it.
Nancy Pelosi says to sit back, relax, because Trump will “self-impeach.” I respectfully suggest that people no more self-impeach than wars self-end, guns self-ban, police self-reform, energy systems self-convert, schools self-improve, houses self-build, or planets self-protect. The only strategy this mindset leads to is self-destruction. Congress clearly will not self-govern. We have to impose our will. We have to understand what is needed and create it, against the concerted efforts of those in power. “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” said Frederick Douglass. Let’s do some demanding.
Untrump the World — It Won’t Self-Impeach
David Swanson on Jun 17, 2017
David Swanson at UNAC 2017 Richmond VA
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
Remarks at United National Antiwar Coalition in Richmond, Virginia, on June 18, 2017.
It’s not unusual for an activist, focused on one of the millions of worthy causes out there, to try to recruit other activists to that particular cause. That’s not exactly what I want to do. For one thing, if we are going to succeed we are going to have to recruit millions of new people into activism who are not now active at all.
Of course I do favor types of activism that eliminate the need for more activism, such as campaigns to make voter registration automatic or to index the minimum wage to the cost of living. But for the most part I want everyone to keep doing what inspires them. Only, I think I know a way to shift our emphases and unite out movements, a way that doesn’t usually occur to us.
It’s not unusual for an activist to think that their particular field is the unifying top priority.
If we don’t get the money out of politics how can we enact or enforce any laws not favored by money? We’ve legalized bribery for godsake! What else matters until we fix that?
If we don’t create credible democratic independent media, we can’t communicate. Door knocking can’t defeat television. We only know that Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford or Occupyers went to Wall Street because corporate television chose to tell us. Why have elections if we can’t tell the truth about the candidates?
Excuse me, the earth is cooking. Our species and many others are losing their habitats. If it’s not already too late, now is the time to decide whether we will have great grandchildren at all. If we don’t have any, what will it matter what kind of elections or television networks they have?
One can go on and on in this vein, as well as in claiming that one societal evil precedes and causes another. Racism or militarism or extreme materialism is the disease and the others are the symptoms.
All of this is also not exactly what I want to do. I want us to work on everything and use every means of unifying. I want us to recognize how each problem contributes to others and vice versa. Hungry scared people can’t end climate change. A culture that puts a trillion dollars a year into mass-killing of distant dark-skinned people can’t build schools or end racism. Unless we redistribute wealth, we cannot redistribute power. We can’t create media unless we have something important to say. We can’t protect the earth’s climate while steadfastly ignoring the top consumer of petroleum on earth because criticizing the military would be inappropriate. But we will go on ignoring it if we don’t create good media. We have to do it all, and there are various ways in which we can become more united, more strategic, and potentially more effective.
The way that I think we don’t pay enough attention to lies in developing a focus on complete and total war abolition, elimination of all weapons and militaries, all bases, all aircraft carriers, missiles, armed drones, generals, colonels, and if necessary all senators from Arizona.
Why war abolition? I’ll give you 10 reasons.
- It actually makes sense. The reasonable position of opposing some wars and cheering for others, but cheering for the troops even in the bad wars doesn’t attract a lot of energy because it doesn’t make any sense. Jeremy Corbyn just won votes by pointing out that wars generate terrorism, they are counter-productive on their own terms, endangering us rather than protecting us. They need to be replaced with diplomacy, aid, cooperation, the rule of law, the tools of nonviolence, the skills of de-escalation of conflict. Claiming that wars are sort of good but shouldn’t be overdone makes no sense at all — what is the point of them if not to win them? And if wars make murder OK, why is torture so unacceptable? And if bombs dropped by piloted planes are OK, what’s wrong with drones? And if Anthrax is barbaric, why are White Phosphrous and Napalm civilized? None of it makes any sense, which is one reason the top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. You know how to properly love the troops, end all war and give them life options that don’t make them want to kill themselves.
- Nuclear apocalypse is a growing danger on a par with climate chaos and will continue to grow unless war abolition succeeds.
- The biggest destroyer of water, air, land, and atmosphere that we have is militarism. It’s war or planet. Time to choose.
- War kills first and foremost by removing resources from where they are needed, including from famines and disease epidemics created by war. Any activism that seeks funding for any human or environmental needs has to look to ending war. It is where all the money is, more money every single year than could be taken once and only once from the billionaires.
- War creates secrecy, surveillance, classification of public business, warrantless spying on activists, patriotic lying, and illegal actions by secret agencies.
- War militarizes local police, making the public into an enemy.
- War fuels, just as it is fueled by, racism, sexism, bigotry, hatred, and domestic violence. It teaches people to solve problems by shooting guns.
- War divides humanity at a time when we must unite on major projects if we are to survive or prosper.
- A movement to abolish all war, all weapons, and all atrocities that flow out of war can unite opponents of the crimes of one government or group with the opponents of the crimes of another. Without equating all crimes with each other, we can unite as opponents of war rather than of each other.
- War is the primary thing our society does, it sucks down the majority of federal discretionary spending, its promotion permeates our culture. It is the very foundation of the belief that ends can justify evil means. Taking on the myths that sell us war as necessary or inevitable or glorious is an ideal way of opening our minds to rethinking what we’re doing on this little planet.
So let’s not work for an environmentally sensitive military into which women have the equal right to be drafted against their will. Let’s not oppose the weapons that are wasteful or don’t kill well enough. Let’s build a broad multi-issue movement in which one of the unifying factors is the cause of eliminating in its entirety the institution of organized mass murder.
The Unifying Force of War Abolition
David Swanson on Jun 18, 2017
Remarks at UNAC 2017, United National Antiwar Coalition in Richmond, Virginia, June 18, 2017.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. I’ll come anywhere in the world to speak about it. Invite me!
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