Altruism and Sadism in Public Policy
By David Swanson
Remarks at Peace Resource Center of San Diego, June 23, 2018.
There are three things that are almost always underestimated: the U.S. military budget, altruism, and sadism.
First, the military budget.
The U.S. military budget, including all things military in various departments, is roughly 60% of federal discretionary spending, meaning the spending that Congress members decide on each year. It is also, by my very rough estimate, the topic of well under 1% of the discussions of government spending engaged in by candidates for Congress. Most Democrats running for Congress this year have websites that don’t even acknowledge the existence of foreign policy, beyond expressing their passionate love for veterans. They’re campaigning for 40% of a job.
U.S. political debate for decades has been framed between those who want a smaller government with fewer social benefits, and those who want a larger government with more social benefits. Someone like myself who wants a smaller government with more social benefits can’t even be comprehended. Yet it shouldn’t be so very hard to grasp that if you were to eliminate one little program that makes up 60% of discretionary spending, you could increase many other things and still have a smaller government.
The U.S. military budget is over $1 trillion. When you hear an advocate for peace tell you that U.S. wars in recent years have cost some outrageous figure in the hundreds of billions or low trillions, what they are doing is normalizing most military spending as somehow being for something other than wars. But military spending is, by definition, spending on wars and preparations for wars. And it is $1 trillion each and every year for that and nothing else.
When you hear an advocate for economic fairness tell you how much money you could get by taxing billionaires, it’s less than one year’s military budget. If you taxed every dime away from every billionaire, I’d throw you a party and raise a toast, but the next year you’d have to tax millionaires instead, as there wouldn’t be any billionaires left. In contrast, the trillions for militarism just keep flowing, year after year. For a little over 1% of a trillion dollars a year, you could end the lack of clean drinking water everywhere on earth. For about 3% of a trillion dollars a year, you could end starvation everywhere on earth. For larger fractions you could put up a serious struggle against climate chaos. You could provide much of the world with cleaner energy, better education, happier lives.
You could make yourself widely loved in the process. While 95% of suicide terrorist attacks are motivated by a desire to get a military occupier to end an occupation, exactly 0% of such attacks thus far have been motivated by resentment of gifts of food, medicine, schools, or clean energy.
Militarism threatens nuclear apocalypse and is the single biggest cause of climate and environmental collapse, but in the short term it kills more by the diversion of funds from useful projects than through all the mass-murdering horrors of war. That’s how big the military budget is. And by “horrors of war” I mean to include the intentional creation of famine and disease epidemics in places like Yemen, and the creation of life-shortening hells from which refugees flee only to get themselves resented as illegal alien immigrants.
Global military spending is roughly $2 trillion, meaning that the rest of the world combined makes up roughly another $1 trillion, to match the United States’ trillion. So, now you’re talking about a doubly incomprehensible number, and a sum capable of doing doubly unimaginable good if converted, redirected, and put to moral use. And I’m not even counting the trillions of dollars of damage that the violence of war does to property each year. Well over three-quarters of world military spending is spent by the United States and its close allies and weapons customers whom the U.S. government leans on hard to increase their spending. China spends a fraction of what the U.S. does, Russia a tiny fraction (and Russia has been reducing its military spending dramatically); Iran and North Korea each spend 1 to 2 percent what the U.S. does.
This is why the Pentagon has struggled for years to identify an enemy to justify U.S. spending. Military officials in recent years, including before and after Trump’s arrival in the White House, have openly told reporters that the motivations behind the new Cold War with Russia are bureaucratic and profit driven. The lack of a credible national enemy has clearly also been a motivation behind the generation, exaggeration, and demonization of smaller, non-governmental enemies, as well as the marketing of wars as means to rid small non-threatening nations of non-existent weapons and to prevent imminent if fictional massacres. With the United States in the lead as the top weapons dealer to the world, to poor nations, and to dictatorships, it has become unusual not to have U.S. weapons on both sides of a war. And the counter-productive nature of the wars, generating more enemies than they eliminate, has been well established and conscientiously ignored. As I’ve said before, given the record of the war on terrorism spreading terrorism, the war on drugs spreading drugs, and the war on poverty increasing poverty, I would strongly support a war on prosperity, sustainability, and joy.
A big chunk of U.S. military spending goes to maintain some 1,000 military bases in other people’s countries. The rest of the world’s nations combined maintain a couple of dozen bases outside their borders. When President Trump recently mentioned ending war rehearsals in Korea and the bare possibility of bringing U.S. troops home from there, many Democratic Party members in Washington, D.C., and in the corporate media nearly lost their minds. Senator Tammy Duckworth immediately introduced legislation to forbid bringing any troops home, an action she seemed to consider would be an attack on those troops.
I need to pause in my remarks here for a few sadly necessary diversions related to personalities, parties, and troops. First, personalities. I don’t think any cause is helped by the deification or demonization of any individual politician. I think the best of them in the U.S. government do far more harm than good, and the worst of them do good sometimes. I think activists need to focus on policy, not personality. When Trump was threatening nuclear war on North Korea, I was demanding his impeachment for it. I still am demanding his impeachment for a long list of quintessentially impeachable offenses, none of which involve unproven and ridiculous accusations of having conspired with Vladimir Putin to besmirch the utterly corrupt, antidemocratic, unverifiable, broken beyond belief U.S. election system. But when Trump stopped threatening North Korea and began talking about peace, I didn’t need to turn against peace because I’m on the anti-Trump team or a card-carrying member of the so-called Resistance that steadily votes Trump bigger war budgets and expanded tyrannical powers. It’s fair to recognize that the main thing Trump has done is cease prolonging a crisis of his own buffoonish creation. It’s fair to be embarrassed by the propaganda video he showed in Singapore, and his dishonest and ignorant discussion of recent events. But the people of South Korea and the world have been demanding an end to the war rehearsals, the so-called war games. When Trump announces something we’ve been demanding, we ought to express our approval and insist on follow-through, because we ought to be on the side of peace and not care a fig for being on the side for or against the current king of the kakistocracy. In saying that, I’m about a trillion miles away from supporting Trump for a Nobel peace prize. Even President Moon, who is far more deserving, is not a peace activist in need of funding for the work of abolishing war. Others in Korea and around the world actually qualify under Alfred Nobel’s will.
Second, parties. I want to offer a similar caveat. Activism is not served by devotion to a lesser evil political party. If you want to do lesser evil voting on election day, knock yourself out. But if you can’t do it without becoming an apologist for the evils of a particular party throughout the year, then it’s not a good trade off. What we do on non-election days is more important than what we do on election days. Nonviolent activism in all of its millions of forms is what has always changed the world. And the fact that both the lesser and the greater evil continue to steadily grow more evil is not an argument for or against lesser evil voting, and certainly not an argument for lesser evil activism.
Third, troops. The United States has a poverty draft. No volunteer in its so-called volunteer military is permitted to cease volunteering. The massive budget increases for more weapons are not actually for the troops. No war has ever actually been extended for the benefit of the troops; nor has the ending of any war ever damaged the troops. The top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. The top cause of troop suicide is moral injury, which is to say deep regret for what these young men and women come to realize they were swindled into taking part in, namely mass murder. There are zero recorded cases of moral injury or PTSD or brain injury from war deprivation. Admitting that this is a cruel system is a first step in fixing it, not a treasonous attack on troops. Demanding basic human rights, like free college, guaranteed retirement, or a habitable future climate for troops and non-troops alike is not anti-troop. Demanding free job retraining for all former troops during a process of conversion to a peaceful economy is not anti-troop, even if one believes that we ought to stop calling mass murder a service and stop thanking anyone for it, that people should board airplanes in the fastest rather than the most militarist or the most profitable order, that the handicapped rather than the uniformed should get the close parking places at the supermarket, and that aircraft carriers should not be used as tourist attractions in non-sociopathic societies. So, in my view pollsters who ask if you are pro-war or anti-troop are engaged in a nasty sort of deception, while hash tags that encourage veterans of recent wars to make up their own personal beliefs about what they claim to have been fighting for is pure anti-intellectualism of the worst sort. You may very well favor democracy or freedom or faith or family or any number of other phrases, but that doesn’t mean you were sent to Iraq for that purpose or that your being in Iraq served that purpose, or that I can’t denounce the criminal enterprise you were part of without opposing you and your noble sentiments.
A final word on the underestimated military budget before I turn to underestimated altruism and sadism. Trump has just proposed saving money by merging the Education and Labor Departments which have nothing to do with each other and now cost a combined 7 percent or so of the military budget, while Congress is busy cutting food stamps. At the same time, Trump has proposed to create a whole new branch of the U.S. military: a space force. The idea of weaponizing space has been prevalent in the U.S. military since Operation Paperclip brought hundreds of former Nazis from Germany to the United States to work in the U.S. military and to develop U.S. rockets and a U.S. space program. The Nazi scientists who worked in Huntsville, Alabama, were widely considered by the locals to be what Trump called the fascists who marched through my town of Charlottesville last year, namely very fine people. A space force is a misnomer working off troopist propaganda. Trump’s proposal is not to send armies into space, but to expand current efforts to send weapons into space. In other words, a space force would consist of weapons makers and make weapons makers into troops whose supposed wishes must be religiously obeyed, even though the only thing preventing a global treaty banning all weapons from space has for many years been the United States government. With weapons companies now flying their own drones for the U.S. military and mercenaries widely employed, the merging of profiteering with the status of troops is already underway.
The second thing that is often underestimated is altruism. That sounds odd in a conversation about war and peace, but I think it’s true nonetheless. Why are people rallying to prevent the separation of refugee parents and children? It’s not just taking sides for a political team. People generally do that while solidly seated on their sofas. And it’s not selfishness.
People are rallying against this cruelty to children and parents, because people care about children and parents. Why do millions of people walk and run and otherwise fundraise against cancer and autism? Why do white people wave Black Lives Matter signs and men join in women’s marches? Why do people demand rights for other species and ecosystems? Why do people donate to many charities? Why are non-poor people participating in the Poor People’s Campaign today? The answer is altruism. Altruism is not some sort of logical mystery that needs to be explained any more than air is. We can try to better understand it, but its existence is self-evident.
When I wrote a book called When the World Outlawed War about the peace movement in the 1920s, I found that the arguments people used for ending war were moral arguments much more often than today, and that they were much more often successful. In contrast, today, and for decades now, we’ve heard from peace activists that to mobilize people for peace you must focus on something that impacts them directly and selfishly. You must focus on U.S. troops with whom they can relate. You must focus on the financial cost to their own bank accounts. You must not expect people to be good or decent or caring.
We even have peace activists who join in with the Democratic Congress members who want to compel 18-year-old women to register for any possible draft along with men, so that they can be compelled to go to war against their wishes as a remedy for sexist discrimination. Peace activists argue that a draft would mobilize selfish imaginary right-wing-economic-theory persons to finally care about war. But drafts don’t have a good record of ending wars, and do have a good record of facilitating wars. The U.S. draft during the war on Vietnam didn’t prevent the killing of some 6 million people, which I don’t consider a price worth paying for a larger peace movement, which I think we can get by other means.
I think the fact that people will take action for refugee families as soon as the corporate media tells them about those families provides good reason to believe that many would similarly take action for Yemeni or Afghan or Palestinian or other people if they were told about them by corporate or enlarged independent media. If war victims had names and faces and stories and loved ones, nothing else would be likely to prevent those who care about separating families to care also about killing families or creating orphans via murder instead of via deportation.
The third thing that is quite often underestimated is sadism. Just as we’re trained to find some so-called rational explanation for altruism, we’re solidly in the habit of seeking out sensible motivations behind actions driven by irrational urges, especially evil ones. When someone claims he cannot possibly end the policy of separating children from parents and then does so, our inclination is to assume that at least he’s being honest with himself, that somewhere there is a secret explanation that makes sense and it’s just not being shared with us. But locking up little children at a greater cost than what it would be to place them and their families in luxury hotels or top boarding schools or hospitals or job training programs, and instead depriving them of basic needs, doesn’t scream out for a rational explanation.
The U.S. practice of mass incarceration of refugees and non-refugees makes zero financial or public policy sense. It doesn’t reduce crime in the way that a smaller expense put into education and health would. It’s not designed around protecting the public, as most of the people locked up are no particular threat and many of them never were. You can call it correctional, but it’s not designed to correct anything. Incarceration and the torture of solitary confinement and the horror of state execution are, however, often openly justified as vengeance — meaning that the point is not forward looking at all but backward, the point is cruelty toward someone being blamed for something — just as I’ve seen on social media people blaming the victims of the separation policy for their own hardships.
Why do some people scream for environmental destruction, yell “drill baby drill,” spend the money for the biggest gas guzzling vehicles possible, or hunt the biggest animals possible? It isn’t all profit motive. Most people don’t own oil companies. It isn’t all ignorance or denial. People may pretend that the earth isn’t dying, or that the livestock industry isn’t a big part of what’s killing it, or that the animals grown for human consumption don’t suffer. But other people, and often the very same people, take glee in the creation of suffering. That we are engaged in a mass suicide, taking many other species with us, is not all an accident, not all a tragedy of the commons. In fact there’s no such thing as a tragedy of the commons — there’s a tragedy of privatization.
I wrote a book called War Is a Lie in which I examined various types of lies used to initiate or extend wars, and then tried to also answer what really motivates the wars for which the lies are told. I found that I just couldn’t explain all wars with profit motives or political calculation or even misguided national defense. I found that I needed the mad drive toward domination and the willful cruelty of pointless destruction to explain wars. When U.S. war planners would privately discuss extending the war on Vietnam they would consider what reasons to give the public, and they would separately discuss what reasons to give each other, but they would never discuss whether or not to extend the war. That was simply understood. The Pentagon Papers’ analysis put percentages on motivations, including 70 percent of the motivation being that of saving face — continuing a war purely so as not to end it. That seems mad enough, but where in that analysis was the motivation of sadism? This was a war full of the massacre of innocents, their ears collected as trophies, with war supporters back home screaming for racist killing.
In recent wars, you can — as a fraction of the U.S. population does — claim to be supporting the destruction of Iraq or Libya as an act of philanthropy for the benefit of its victims, but you’ll find yourself on the same side of the issue with those shouting for blood and urging the use of nuclear weapons. Participants in these wars painfully catch on to what they’ve been engaged in. Some of them can’t handle the realization. Some of them become dedicated whistleblowers. And yet others publicly proclaim the great service they’ve rendered and appreciate being thanked for it. And we’re supposed to think ourselves cruel if we don’t offer up our gratitude, including to those who’ve supposedly given their lives. No matter how courageously or misguidedly they acted, I say their lives were not given but taken from them by the monstrous urges of those in power who pursue pointless counter-productive policies while chanting “There is no military solution,” “There is no military solution” and knowing perfectly well that those words are true.
When George W. Bush proposed painting a plane with UN colors and flying it low to try to get it shot at to start a war that he said God had instructed him to wage and which was needed because Saddam Hussein had supposedly tried to kill his daddy, or when Lyndon Johnson gloated, “I didn’t just screw Ho Chi Minh, I cut his pecker off,” or when Bill Clinton remarked about Somalis “We’re not inflicting pain on these fuckers . . . I can’t believe we’re being pushed around by these two-bit pricks,” or when New York Times columnist Tom Friedman said the purpose of the Iraq war was to kick in doors and declare “Suck on this!” or when people have sent me death threats for advocating peace, or when Barack Obama announced immunity for crimes through a policy of “looking forward” but rolled out a new sort of war using flying robots targeting small numbers of people, the majority of them never identified — in these and countless other cases, what we’re dealing with is not sanity, not logic, and not tough love. What we’re dealing with is cruelty run amok.
What else could one call the idea of building smaller, more supposedly usable nukes, meaning nukes roughly the strength of those dropped on Japan, and knowing full well that an exchange of nuclear weapons could black out the sun and starve us? Attempts to rationalize Harry Truman’s approval of nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather than following the advice of his top generals who opposed it, rather than listening to the top strategists who said it wasn’t needed, rather than demonstrating a nuclear weapon on an unpopulated area and threatening to use it on people, rather than allowing one rather than two nukings to suffice — these attempts fall short. Truman was the same man who had said that if the Germans were winning the United States should help the Russians and if the Russians were winning the United States should help the Nazis, because that way more people would die. The notion that he saw maximizing Japanese deaths as a downside of any decision is not supported by any evidence. U.S. support for multiple sides in wars like the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s or the current war in Syria is not purely incompetence. Like much of public policy, like arresting homeless people in San Diego for being homeless rather than giving them homes, we can better understand what we’re dealing with if we admit to each other that we’re dealing with sadism.
This doesn’t mean that wars don’t also have lots of more rational motivations, and it doesn’t means that all war supporters are drooling lunatics. I’ve done civil public debates with war supporters and found through polling the room before and after the debates that such rational discussion changes minds. The lesson that everyone has learned about believers in WMDs holding their beliefs all the more firmly after being presented with facts should not be overblown. Persuading people of what they’d rather not know is difficult, not impossible. But for many supporters of wars some factors are not fact-based thoughtful considerations.
A preacher in Alabama wants any football player who doesn’t properly worship the U.S. flag and national anthem to be killed. President Trump merely wants them fired. He also claims that anyone who cares about refugee families must hate the victims of any murders committed by refugees (while presumably caring compassionately for the victims of any murders committed by non-refugees). Sadism and patriotism and exceptionalism mesh nicely together, and none of them makes any sense. There’s no particular reason that people should identify with other people at the level of a nation more so than at the level of a family or neighborhood or city or state or continent or planet. Belief in national exceptionalism (in U.S. superiority to other places) is — and this is the topic of my new book Curing Exceptionalism — no more fact-based and no less harmful than racism, sexism, or other sorts of bigotry. While poor white people could for centuries proclaim “At least I’m better than non-white people,” anyone in the United States can claim “At least I’m better than non-Americans.” And anyone can try to believe that, but it doesn’t make sense and it does do great damage.
In Curing Exceptionalism I review ways in which the United States might be the greatest nation on earth, and I’m unable to find any. It’s not by anybody’s measure most free or most democratic or richest or most prosperous or best educated or healthiest or holding the longest life expectancy or the greatest happiness or the most environmental sustainability or anything else that one might want to use to provide substance to chants of “We’re Number One.” The United States is number one in locking people in cages, in military spending, in various measures of environmental destruction, and other sources of shame rather than pride. But basically it is a worse place to live by most quantifiable measurements than any other wealthy country, while still being a better place to live than a poor country or a country where the CIA is assisting a coup or a country being endlessly liberated by NATO.
The fact that people try to immigrate to the United States is not actually evidence of greatest nation on earth status. The United States is not the most preferred destination, does not accept the most immigrants, is not kindest to immigrants when they arrive, and does not shape its immigration policies around aiding those most in need but rather around preferences for Europeans. The fact that people need to escape danger and poverty in poor nations is just not relevant to the question of whether the United States can bring itself up to the standards of other wealthy nations. Or it’s only relevant in the sense that by redirecting priorities to human and environmental needs at home and abroad, the U.S. government could catch up to the rich countries while ceasing to contribute to the suffering of many poor countries, and in fact help to make many countries places where people prefer to remain. Do we need a slightly less cruel immigration policy and a larger wall, or do we need open borders that will allow in billions of people? Neither. We need open borders combined with unimaginably enormous efforts to make people’s own countries desirable places to live, and a halt to policies that help make them unlivable. And this we can do by redirecting a fraction of military spending.
But people in the United States view the United States as exceptionally great. Their patriotism, their belief in unique superiority, the prevalence of flags and national anthems outpaces those in other countries. Even the poor in the United States who have it worse than the poor in other wealthy countries are more patriotic than the poor in other countries or than the wealthy in their own country. The damage this does takes many forms. It distracts people from organizing and acting for change. It leads people to support politicians, not because they will do them any good, but because they are patriotic. (The least likely person to be elected U.S. president is not actually an atheist. It is a non-patriot.) Exceptionalism leads people to support wars and to oppose international cooperation and law. It leads people to reject proven solutions to gun control and healthcare and education because they’ve been proven in other countries that ought to learn from this one rather than the other way around. It leads to indifference to United Nations’ reports on the cruelty of poverty in the United States. It leads to the rejection of foreign aid following so-called natural disasters in the United States.
We need to come around to the understanding that patriotism, nationalism, exceptionalism is not something to be done properly, but a nightmare from which to awaken. Peace is not patriotic. Peace is globalist. Peace depends on our identifying as humans rather than as Americans. This does not mean feeling national shame instead of national pride. It does not mean identifying with some other nation. It means diminishing one’s identification with nationalism in order to identify as an individual, a member of various communities, a global citizen, part of a fragile ecosystem.
When the U.S. government raises your taxes or claims the right to part of your land or bails out Wall Street or expands the rights of corporations or any of the other things it does, people don’t tend to place those actions in the first person. Few people say “We just re-gerrymandered the districts,” or “We gave more war weapons to local police departments,” or “We take in billions in campaign contributions.” Instead, people talk about the government using the word “government.” They say “the government raised my taxes,” or “the state government made voter registration automatic,” or “the local government built a park.” But when it comes to war, even peace activists announce that “We just bombed another country.” That identification needs to end. We need to remember and increase our awareness of our responsibility to change things. But we don’t need to make our identity into one that looks better to us if we imagine the Pentagon must have some good reason for helping to starve the people of Yemen.
In Curing Exceptionalism I look at various techniques for curing exceptionalism, including role reversal. Let me just quote one paragraph:
Let’s imagine that for whatever reasons, beginning some seventy years ago North Korea drew a line through the United States, from sea to shining sea, and divided it, and educated and trained and armed a brutal dictator in the South United States, and destroyed 80 percent of the cities in the North United States, and killed millions of North USians. Then North Korea refused to allow any U.S. reunification or official end to the war, maintained wartime control of the South United States military, built major North Korean military bases in the South United States, placed missiles just south of the U.S. demilitarized zone that ran through the middle of the country, and imposed brutal economic sanctions on the North United States for decades. As a resident of the North United States, what might you think when the president of North Korea threatened your country with “fire and fury”? Your own government might have gazillions of current and historical crimes and shortcomings to its credit, but what would you think of threats coming from the country that killed your grandparents and walled you off from your cousins? Or would you be too scared to think rationally? This experiment is possible in hundreds of variations, and I recommend trying it repeatedly in your own mind and in groups, so that people’s creativity can feed into the imagination of others.
What is my point in suggesting that we underestimate military spending, altruism, and sadism? Well, mainly to come up with an accurate understanding. Then we can try to draw lessons for how to act. One lesson might be this: in undoing sadism, we need interventions that recognize the possibility of altruism. Members of the Ku Klux Klan have been converted into advocates for racial justice. People have joined across racial lines for economic justice in poor people’s campaigns, old and new. Those who identify with imagined U.S. greatness often fantasize about levels of U.S. generosity and goodness which, if made real, would transform the world for the better. Learning a little bit about another culture or language is not hard, and may not meet as much resistance as a peace demonstration, but can make all the difference. Studies have found that willingness to bomb a country is inversely proportional to ability to accurately locate it on a map. What if super-patriots could somehow be tricked into learning the geography of the globe that they seek to rule?
And ultimately, what would happen if people could be made aware of the size of the U.S. military budget, and the fact that it reduces jobs rather than creating them, endangers Americans rather than protecting them, destroys the natural environment rather than preserving it, erodes liberties rather than creating freedom, shortens our lives, reduces our health, and threatens our security. What if those who want the United States to be generous could join forces with those who pretend it is generous and act on the basis of facts to make it into the sort of government that not only doesn’t remove children from their living parents, but also doesn’t create millions of orphans by killing their parents with wars?
People do care about cruelty they find out about. But cruelty in foreign policy is the least found out about, because no major political party wants it known, because the corporate media wants it unknown, because school boards consider such knowledge treasonous, and because people do not want to know. George Orwell said that nationalists will not just excuse atrocities committed by their nation, but they will show a remarkable ability never to find out about them. Yet, we know that if people could be compelled to find out about them, they would care. And if they found out about them through a communications system that made them aware that others were finding out as well, they would act.
As things stand, with our very limited awareness, we are not powerless. Preventing the 2013 bombing of Syria, upholding for a few years the 2015 Iran agreement, halting the threats of fire and fury, stopping the removal of children from families — these are all partial victories that point to far greater potential.
I’ve written a children’s book called Tube World that tries to give children a non-exceptionalist, kind, and constructive perspective on things. I’ve also written and brought with me today a book called War Is Never Just which I wrote in preparing for a debate and which is a critique of so-called just war theory. In it I make a case that many criteria of just war theory can never be met, but that if they could then a miraculous just war would still — in order to be morally justified — need to outweigh the damage done by keeping the institution of war around and dumping a trillion dollars a year into it. Such a feat is impossible, given the alternatives we have developed in non-violent action, unarmed peace keeping, truth and reconciliation, diplomacy, aid, and the rule of law.
This perspective of taking on the entire institution of war is that of an organization I work for called World BEYOND War. We have a very short pledge that people have signed in 158 countries, and which I’ll pass around on a clipboard in just a moment in case you’d like to sign it too, and put down your email address if you’d like to be more involved, and put it down really super legibly if you’d like us to not accidentally email somebody else. I’ll read you the pledge so you don’t have to read it off the clipboard:
“I understand that wars and militarism make us less safe rather than protect us, that they kill, injure and traumatize adults, children and infants, severely damage the natural environment, erode civil liberties, and drain our economies, siphoning resources from life-affirming activities. I commit to engage in and support nonviolent efforts to end all war and preparations for war and to create a sustainable and just peace.”
We work on educational and activist efforts to advance this goal and steps in its direction. We seek the closure of bases, divestment from weapons, accountability for crimes, shifts in budgets, etc. And sometimes we plan big days of actions. One that’s coming up on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, exactly 100 years since the ending of World War I, is Armistice Day, which was a holiday for peace up until its conversion into Veterans Day during the destruction of North Korea in the 1950s. Now it’s a holiday on which Veterans For Peace groups in various cities are forbidden to participate in parades. We need to turn it back into Armistice Day, and in particular we need to overwhelm with our celebration of Armistice Day the celebration of weaponry of war (and the implicit threat to the world) that Donald Trump has planned for the day in Washington, D.C. Go to worldbeyondwar.org/armisticeday to learn more.
Now I’d love to try to answer any questions or engage in any discussion.
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.
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