By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, June 7, 2021
Remarks on June 7, 2021, to North Texas Peace Advocates.
In a world beyond war, . . . death, injury, and trauma from violence would be radically reduced, homelessness and immigration driven by fear would be largely eliminated, environmental destruction would slow considerably, government secrecy would lose all justification, bigotry would take a huge setback, the world would gain over $2 trillion and the United States alone $1.25 trillion every year, the world would be spared several trillion dollars of destruction every year, governments would gain huge amounts of time and energy to invest in something else, the concentration of wealth and the corruption of elections would suffer significant setbacks, Hollywood movies would find new consultants, billboards and racecars and pre-game ceremonies would find new sponsors, flags would be dis-enchanted, mass shootings and suicides would suffer serious slowdowns, police would find different heroes, if you wanted to thank someone for a service it would have to be for an actual service, the rule of law might become a reality globally, brutal governments would lose the use of war weaponry domestically and the support of war-mad imperial powers like the U.S. government which currently arms, funds, and/or trains most governments on earth, including almost all of the worst ones (Cuba and North Korea, the two exceptions, are too valuable as enemies; and nobody has noticed or cared that the U.S. arms and funds its latest top enemy, China).
A world beyond war might move us toward democracy, or a democracy might move us toward a world beyond war. How we get there remains to be seen. But the first step is to realize where we are now. At the organization called World BEYOND War we just finished our annual conference, and there were a lot of terrific discussions. One was the democracy one, in which one person suggests that democracy would bring peace, and someone else proves this is false by pointing out how war-crazed the earth’s democracies are. This discussion always bothers me because the earth’s national governments do not actually include any democracies. Capitalist economies? Yes. Do nations with McDonald’s wage war on each other? Yes, they do. And there are McDonald’s in Russia, Ukraine, China, Venezuela, Pakistan, Phillipines, Lebanon, and in U.S. bases in Iraq and Cuba. But democracies? How in the hell would anyone know what democracies would do?
A world beyond war could put up a serious effort to slow the collapse of the climate and ecosystems. A world that does not move beyond war will look like this world we’re now in. Scientists place the Doomsday clock closer to midnight than ever before, the risk of nuclear war higher than it’s ever been, and the expectation of what nuclear war anywhere on the planet would do to the entire planet is worse than it’s ever been. Russia says it will never get rid of its nukes as long as the United States is threatening and dominating the globe with non-nuclear weapons. Israel’s been permitted to aquire but pretend it doesn’t have nuclear weapons, and numerous other nations including Saudi Arabia seem intent on pursuing that path. The United States is building lots more nukes and talking shamelessly about using them. Much of the world has banned the possession of nuclear weapons, and U.S. activists are dreaming of getting their government’s so-called Defense Department merely to say it won’t use them first, which raises the question of what an Offense Department would do differently, and the question of why anyone would believe a statement from the so-called Defense Department, as well as the question of exactly what sort of lunatic would use nuclear weapons second or third. Our luck at avoiding the intentional or accidental use of nukes will not last. And we’ll only get rid of nukes if we get rid of war.
So, we can have a world beyond war or we can have no world at all.
I recently wrote a book debunking misconceptions about World War II, and lies justifying the nuclear bombings are a major part of the problem. But they are failing so fast that Malcom Gladwell just published a book substituting the firebombing of dozens of Japanese cities prior to the nuclear bombings as the supposed necessary evil that saved lives and brought the world peace and prosperity. When this new twist on the propaganda fails, it will be something else, because if the mythology surrounding WWII crumbles so does the whole war machine.
So, how are we doing at moving beyond war? We had a Congress vote repeatedly to end the war on Yemen when it could count on a Trump veto. Since then, not a peep. We’ve seen not a single resolution introduced to actually end the war on Afghanistan, or any other war, or to close a single base anywhere, or to halt the drone murders. A new president has proposed a larger military budget than ever, intentionally avoided reinstating the Iran agreement, supported the abandonment of treaties illegally dumped by Trump such as the Open Skies treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear treaty, upped the hostility with North Korea, doubled down on lies and childish insults toward Russia, and proposed yet more free weapons money for Israel. If a Republican had tried this, there’d be at the very least a rally in the street in Dallas, possibly even in Crawford. If a Republican had been president when they resorted to UFOs as a stand-in for the lack of any credible military enemy on earth, somebody would have at least laughed.
Iran spends 1% and Russia 8% of U.S. military spending. China spends 14% of military spending by the U.S. and its allies and weapons customers (not counting Russia or China). The annual increase in military spending by the U.S. is more than the total military spending of most of its designated enemies. Bombing for peace is in trouble, with polls for years finding the U.S. government in most parts of the world viewed as the top threat to peace. So, it may be necessary to bomb people for democracy. Sadly, however, a recent poll found the U.S. government widely considered the top threat to democracy. So, there may be a need to bomb little Yemeni and Palestinian children for the Rule Based Order.
However, some of us have been searching for the rule based order and have been unable to find it. It seems to not be written down anywhere. The United States is party to fewer major human rights treaties than almost any other government on earth, is the greatest opponent of international courts, is the greatest abuser of United Nations vetoes, is the greatest weapons dealer, is the greatest imprisoner, is in many ways the greatest destroyer of the earth’s environment, and takes part in the most wars and lawless missile murders. The Rule Based Order seems to require boycotting Chinese Olympics because of how China manufactures products, even while buying the products, arming and funding the Chinese military, and collaborating with China on bioweapons labs. Under the Rule Based Order, one must save the South China Sea from China and arm the Saudi royalty against Yemen — and do both of those things for human rights. So, I’ve concluded that the Rule Based Order is too complex to be understood outside of the skull of Antony Blinken, and our duty should principally consist of praying in the direction of the U.S. State Department while sending checks to the Democratic Party.
The U.S. government does not have a major political party that isn’t a catastrophic scam with a good chunk of the country more or less fooled by it. The Republican Party says wealth concentration, authoritarian power, environmental destruction, bigotry, and hatred are good for you. They are not. The Democratic Party Platform and even candidate Joe Biden promised much. In place of most of those promises, people got an off-off-Broadway show in which the President and most of the Congress Members act out the part of being upset that a couple of their members are supposedly blocking everything they really sincerely long to do — if only their hands weren’t tied. This is an act, and we know it’s an act for several reasons:
1) The Democratic Party has a long history of preferring over successes, failures that can be blamed on Republicans but please funders. When the pulic gave the Democrats the Congress in 2006 to end the war on Iraq, Rahm Emanuel, current nominee for ambassador to Japan, made clear that their plan was to keep the war going in order to run against it again in 2008. He was right. I mean, he was a genocidal monster, but people blamed the Republicans for the Democrats’ choice to escalate the war they had been elected to end, just as people will blame Iran for Biden’s choice not to allow peace with Iran.
2) When Party leaders want something, they have a lot of carrots and sticks and do not hesitate to use them. Not one carrot or stick has been deployed against Senators Manchin and Sinema.
3) The Senate could end the filibuster if it wanted to.
4) President Biden has made clear his top priority of working with Republicans, despite the absence of that priority in top demands from people and in the Democratic Party Platform.
5) Biden could choose to take a great many actions without Congress and prefers to try but fail on Capitol Hill.
6) A small number of Democrats in the House of Misrepresentatives could change policy by refusing to pass legislation, an action that would require absolutely nothing of the Senate or the President — an action that could be taken by exclusively the very most heroic progressive Congress Members, the extreme elite. If Republicans were to oppose a military spending bill for their own crazy reasons — such as because the bill opposes rape within the ranks or whatever — a mere five Democrats could vote no and block the bill or impose their terms on it.
Now, I know you can get 100 House members to vote for a proposal to reduce military spending that they are sure will not pass, and for which votes they have zero carrots and sticks used on them by their Party Masters. But votes that might actually accomplish something are a very different story. The so-called Progressive Caucus only recently decided to have any sort of requirements at all for membership, and those requirements do not require any adherence to any particular policy positions. There’s even sort of a semi-secret so-called “Defense” Spending Reduction Caucus that doesn’t require its members to try to prevent increased military spending.
Last week I thought the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Congressman Mark Pocan had tweeted that he would vote No on increased military spending. I thanked him on Twitter. He replied by cursing at and insulting me via Tweets. We went back and forth a half dozen times, and he was just furious that anyone would suggest he commit to voting against something he supposedly opposes.
Later, I saw Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweet that she would not vote for war spending. I tweeted my thanks and my hope that she wouldn’t start cursing at me as Pocan had. After that, Pocan apologized to me and said that actually voting against massive military spending was one of the possible approaches he was considering. He wouldn’t tell me what any of the other approaches are, but presumably they involve voting in favor of increased military spending.
Of course in years gone by we’ve had several dozen Congress Members commit to voting against war funding and then turn around and vote for it, but now you can’t even get them to claim they’ll vote against it.
Nina Turner, who co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ campaign, is running for Congress in Ohio. She’s been on my radio show. I’ve been on hers. She understands the problems of military spending and war. But she has a campaign website that, like most, makes no mention of foreign policy, war, peace, treaties, bases, military spending, the overall budget, or the existence of 96% of humanity. Yesterday, by phone, her campaign manager explained to me that foreign policy was in their “internal platform,” that the public platform was what people in Ohio’s 11th district care about and are impacted by (as if Senator Turner believes that military spending doesn’t impact people in her district), and that Turner hasn’t been elected yet (as if campaign websites should be developed post-election), and that there just wasn’t space (as if the internet has applied a limit to websites). The campaign manager denied any other motivation and claimed that they might someday add foreign policy to their website. This was a faster and far more disappointing sell-out than Senator Raphael Warnock’s 180 on Palestinian rights. It’s not the water in Washington that gets to these people; it’s the long arm of the campaign consultants.
Some say the world will end in fire and some say ice, some say nuclear apocalypse and some say a slower demise brought on by environmental collapse. The two are intimately connected. The wars are driven by desires to dominate dirty energy profits as well as populations. The wars and war preparations are huge contributors to climate and environmental destruction. Money that could be used to address environmental needs is going into the poisonous militaries that devastate even the nations they are supposedly defending. In my city of Charlottesville we passed divestment of public dollars from both weapons and fossil fuels as a single issue. World BEYOND War has a six week couse that starts today on War and the Environment. If there are still spots left, you can grab one via https://worldbeyondwar.org
We also have a petition at https://worldbeyondwar.org/online that demands an end to the practice of excluding militarism from climate treaties and agreements. An opportunity to advance this basic demand may come with the climate summit planned for Glasgow this November.
Infrastructure is on the agenda in Washington these days, at least for political theater, but without conversion and demilitarization. Funding it is on the agenda, but without moving funds from militarism. Several nations have moved funds out of militarism explicitly to address the Coronavirus pandemic. Others have doubled down. The trade offs are obscene. Health, nutrition, and green energy could all be radically transformed globally with a fraction of U.S. military spending. Maybe I shouldn’t say this on a call to Texas, but so could livestock.
The only positions I ever get excited about in U.S. politics are the ones that Republicans pretend Democrats hold. The beef one is no exception.
Lately, Republicans have been pretending not just that Democrats want the usual array of things I wish someone would actually act to institute (a guaranteed income, a decent minimum wage, single-payer healthcare, a Green New Deal, a major shift to progressive taxation, defunding militarism, making college free, etc.) — THE HORROR OF IT! — but also that Biden is going to somehow forbid the consumption of more than a tiny bit of beef.
I didn’t suspect for an instant that there was a grain of truth to this story. In fact, I think I first heard about it as a debunking of a false story. Yet I do wish it were true. And twisting Biden’s actual promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into a ban on gorging on hamburgers makes more sense than might at first be evident to all McDonald’s customers.
Converting energy and transportation systems to green energy is critically important, in some combination with scaling back consumption. But it takes a great deal of time and investment, and then only gives you part of what you needed by yesterday.
Ceasing to consume animals (or dairy products, or sea life) — if the will existed to do it — could be done swiftly, and — according to some studies — the harm done by methane and nitrous oxide is worse than that of CO2, and the benefits of reducing them more rapid.
Some significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions comes from animal agriculture — perhaps a quarter. But that seems like only a part of the story. Animal agriculture uses the vast majority of all U.S. water consumption and nearly half of the land in the 48 contiguous states. Its waste is killing off the oceans. Its growth is deforesting the Amazon.
But even that seems like only a tiny, almost irrelevant piece of the story. The fact is that the crops raised to feed animals to feed people could feed many more people if the animals were removed from the equation. People are starving to death so that the food that could have fed them ten times over can be fed to cows to make hamburgers that can be advertised on media outlets that can report as a terrible joke that someone would restrict meat consumption.
And even that seems like only a part of the problem. The other part is the brutal abuse and killing of all the millions of animals. (And the fact that treating them slightly less brutally would mean using more land and more time to feed even fewer people.) I don’t agree with Tolstoy that you can’t end war without ending the slaughter of animals, but I do want to end both and I do think either one alone might doom humanity.
Sometimes the pretense by Republicans that Democrats favor something is an early good omen, and decades later one can find actual live Democrats who do support the thing. Other times, the Republican propaganda serves to more permanently marginalize good ideas. What we need is a mechanism for widely communicating that what we want — in fact, what we urgently need — is what the Republicans are screaming their opposition to.
Sadly, what the actual Joe Biden values far above the future of the planet is the friendship and good will of Republicans — substances as fictional as the Biden beef ban. Sadly, as well, agriculture is almost as taboo a topic even for environmentalist groups as the environmental destruction done by militaries. There is nothing right now to stop Democrats from making a regular part of their stump speeches a passionate promise never to ban beef, alongside their denials of charges that they want to ban guns. We don’t have much time left to change this.
Another suddenly popular topic in corporate media is bioweapons labs. Have you noticed that a lot of science writers have lately been saying that they were perfectly right a year ago to mock and condemn even considering a lab leak origin for Coronavirus but that now it’s perfectly proper to admit that Coronavirus may very well have come from a lab? It seems to be largely a question of fashion. One doesn’t wear the wrong outfit too early in the season, or explore the wrong epidemiological idea when the White House is claimed by one Party or the other.
In March 2020, I blogged about how articles denouncing the possibility that the Coronavirus pandemic originated with a leak from a bioweapons lab sometimes actually admitted to basic facts that made such an origin seem likely. The first reported outbreak was extremely close to one of the few places on earth actively experimenting with weaponizing Coronavirus, but a huge distance from the supposed source in bats. Not only had various labs had leaks before, but scientists had recently warned of the danger of leaks from the lab in Wuhan.
There was a theory about a seafood market, and the fact that this theory fell apart seems not to have entered the public consciousness to the same extent as the false fact that it supposedly disproved the lab leak theory.
I was by March 2020 very used to the stopped clock problem. Just as even a stopped clock is right twice a day, a bunch of Trump-worshipping China-haters could be right about the origin of the pandemic. Certainly their ravings provided absolutely zero evidence against their claims happening to be correct — just as Trump being depicted as anti-NATO was not actually a reason for me to start loving NATO.
I did not think the lab leak possibility risked providing any good reason to actually hate China. We knew that Anthony Fauci and the U.S. government invested in the Wuhan lab. If the insanely unjustifiable risks taken by that lab were an excuse to hate anything, the objects of that hatred couldn’t be limited to China. And if China is a military threat, why fund its bioweapons research?
I was also very used to censorship surrounding the whole topic of bioweapons. You’re not supposed to talk about the overwhelming evidence that the spread of Lyme disease was thanks to a U.S. bioweapons lab, or the likelihood that the U.S. government’s view is correct that the 2001 Anthrax attacks originated with material from a U.S. bioweapons lab. So, I didn’t take condemnations of even considering the lab-leak theory for Coronavirus as meriting compliance. If anything, the stigma being attached to the lab leak theory made me suspect it was right, or at least that bioweapons makers wanted to hide the fact that a lab leak was quite plausible. In my view the plausibility of a lab leak, even if never proven, was a new good reason to shut down all the world’s bioweapons labs.
I was pleased to see Sam Husseini and a very few others pursue the question with open minds. Corporate media outlets did no such thing. Just as you can’t oppose a looming war or step outside the prescribed limits of debate on numerous topics, you could not for a year or more say certain things about Coronavirus in U.S. corporate media. Now writers tell us that the impossibility of a lab origin was their “knee jerk reaction.” But, first of all, why should a knee-jerk reaction count for anything? And, second of all, group think doesn’t really depend on somebody’s knee-jerk reaction even if that memory is accurate. It depends on editors enforcing prohibitions.
Now writers tell us that they chose to believe scientists rather than Trumpsters. But the reality was also that they chose to believe the CIA and related agencies rather than Trumpsters — the scientific dubiousness of placing faith in the statements of professional liars notwithstanding. The reality is also that they chose to obey decrees published in scientificisticish publications without even questioning the motivations of the authors.
A super serious “letter” published by The Lancet said, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” Not to disprove, not to disagree with, not to offer evidence against, but to “condemn” — and not merely to condemn, but to stigmatize as evil and irrational “conspiracy theories.” But the organizer of that letter, Peter Daszak had funded, at the Wuhan lab, just the research that could have resulted in the pandemic. This massive conflict of interest was no problem at all for The Lancet, or major media outlets. The Lancet even put Daszak on a commission to study the origin question, as did the World Health Organization.
I don’t know where the pandemic came from any more than I know who shot John F. Kennedy on that street in Dallas, but I do know that you wouldn’t have put Allen Dulles on a commission to study Kennedy if even appearing to care about the truth had been a top priority, and I know that Daszak investigating himself and finding himself absolutely blameless is a cause for suspicion, not credulity.
And, no, I do not want the CIA investigating this or anything else or existing at all. Any such investigation has a 100% chance of being done in bad faith and a 50% chance of reaching the right conclusion.
What difference does it make where this pandemic came from? Well, if it came from the tiny remnants of wild nature left on earth, a possible solution might be to cease destruction and deforestation, perhaps even abolish livestock and restore huge areas of land to the wild. But another possible solution, and one guaranteed to be pursued with fervor in the absence of massive pushback, would be to research, investigate, experiment — in other words, invest still more in weapons labs to fend off further assaults on innocent little humanity.
If, on the other hand, the origin is proven to be a weapons lab — and you could make this argument based on just the possibility that it is a weapons lab — then a solution would be to shut the damn things down. The incredible diversion of resources into militarism is a leading cause of environmental destruction, the reason for the risk of nuclear apocalypse, and quite possibly the reason not just for poor investment in medical preparedness but also directly for the disease that has ravaged the globe during this past year. There might be increased basis for questioning the madness of militarism.
Regardless of what, if anything, we manage to learn further about the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic, we do know that questioning corporate media is in order. If “objective” reporting on matters of “science” is basically subject to fashion trends, how much faith should you put in assertions about economics or diplomacy? Of course the media may instruct you not to think something that also happens to be completely false. But if I were you I’d keep my eyes peeled for over-eager dictates on what not to think. Often those will tell you exactly what you might want to look into.
One thing you’re not to think is that war is objectionable. The ACLU is currently pushing for young women to be compelled against their will to kill and die for weapons profits. The unfairness to women of compelling only young men to register for the draft is a problem. War is a normal and inevitable feature of the Rule Based Order.
What we need to do is to make war objectionable. One way to do it is, I think, laid out by the admirable work of the Black Lives Matter movement. Get the videos of the victims. Do disruptive protests. Force the videos into the corporate media. Demand action.
Let’s work on it together.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive 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, 2018, 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.