Building a War Abolition / Peace Movement

Building a War Abolition / Peace Movement

By David Swanson for Peace Fresno

At least ninety percent of humanity is represented by governments that wage war much less than the U.S. government. Over ninety-nine percent of people in the United States are not in the military. There has never been a single case of PTSD from war deprivation. The largest cause of death in members of the U.S. military is suicide. War supporters can try to claim that hunter-gatherers waged wars despite the lack of evidence, or that chimpanzees wage wars despite the lack of either evidence or relevance. But the very idea that humans all wage war or that it comes naturally is ridiculous on its face.

But people in the United States imagine themselves at war. Over 40% say that they “would” join a war (what’s stopping them?). Troops are thanked for their so-called service and allowed to board airplanes first. Troops are thanked for watching the Super Bowl from 175 nations. President Obama has bragged about having bombed seven nations, and at most events where I speak nobody can name all seven. War has been so normalized that we pay it no attention. The arms trade, led by the United States, has been normalized further beyond that.

The people of Fresno will pay about $800 million in taxes this year just for the Department of so-called Defense, not counting Homeland so-called Security, nuclear weapons in the Department of Energy, mercenaries and weapons marketing in the Department of State, veterans care, debt on past war spending, etc. What could Fresno do with well over a billion dollars a year? What could the U.S. government do? Fresno is just one city, and every U.S. town is sending in its hard-earned money to pay for wars and principally for preparation for wars. Tens of billions could end starvation worldwide or make college free at home.

The peace movement is bigger, more active, and more successful than we imagine. We prevented the UN from legalizing the war on Iraq. We stopped the 2013 bombing of Syria. We prevented an attack on Iran in 2007 and 2015. Our allies in Okinawa have just stopped a base. Our allies in Ireland are taking risks to get U.S. war planes out of their airport. Our allies in Holland are moving legislation to ban nuclear weapons from their country. Activists in the United States are protesting drone murders, moving drone pilots to refuse to fly and to become whistleblowers. College students are advancing the cause of Palestinian rights, including the right not to be bombed. War support prevented Hillary Clinton from winning one presidential nomination — and is helping to make another very difficult.

World Beyond War (at is an effort to move the peace movement toward the cause of total abolition of war. Rather than talking about Pentagon waste, we can oppose Pentagon efficiency and applaud the waste. Rather than opposing a war in order to be prepared for better wars, we can oppose a war as a model for stopping all wars. World Beyond War is also an effort to work across borders. People in 133 nations and rising have signed the pledge to work for peace at the World Beyond War website.

I’m on a tour with my new book: War Is A Lie: Second Edition (see http://warisalie. org ) hoping to prepare people to reject war lies better than we now do. The rejection of lies about Syria and Iran has been encouraging, as have public attitudes regarding some lies about Libya and Ukraine. But lies about ISIS, and the fear they create, have proved very powerful. And the basic lies about the possibility of a just war remain in place. But they have at least just finally been rejected by the Pope and the Catholic Church after centuries of damage. It’s time for supposedly advanced philosophers and academics to catch up with the Catholic Church!

Part of abolishing war is replacing it with peace, with nonviolent tools to resist tyranny or attack, with institutions to uphold the rule of law, humanitarian aid, sustainable energy, diplomacy and cooperation. World Beyond War is working hard to advance these sorts of alternatives to war.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my book that has been published, along with a bit more, by Truthdig:

Once you allow that there is an option other than war, your effort to start a war is doomed, or at least must be delayed. Bush had said he would not attack Iraq if Iraq turned over its weapons. But he had quite possibly known that Iraq did not have the weapons and therefore would not be turning them over. Syria actually had the weapons that Kerry said it could turn over and avoid being bombed. Syria had proposed years earlier to turn over those weapons as part of establishing a WMD-free Middle-East, an initiative blocked by Israel.

In 2015, former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said that in 2012 Russia had proposed a process of peace settlement between the Syrian government and its opponents that would have included Assad stepping down. But, according to Ahtisaari, the United States was so confident that Assad would soon be violently overthrown that it rejected the proposal. U.S. and European diplomats deny that this is what happened by claiming that the Russian diplomat making the proposal couldn’t really speak for Moscow and shouldn’t really have been taken seriously, but their denials make clear that they were not open to believing any possibility of peace was worth pursuing.

Incidents like this one— and the fact that Spain wanted the matter of the Maine to go to international arbitration, that Japan wanted peace before Hiroshima, that the Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War, and that the United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French—wreak havoc with the public pretense that war is a “last resort.”

When a Spanish newspaper reported that Saddam Hussein had offered to leave Iraq before the 2003 invasion, U.S. media took little interest. When British media reported that the Taliban was willing to have Osama bin Laden put on trial before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. journalists yawned. Iran’s 2003 offer to negotiate ending its nuclear energy program wasn’t mentioned much during the 2015 debate over an agreement with Iran—which was itself nearly rejected as an impediment to war. The catastrophic Syrian civil war since 2012 has followed U.S. adherence to actual U.S. policy in which peaceful compromise is usually the last resort.

In January 2015, a scholarly study found that the U.S. public believes that whenever the U.S. government proposes a war, it has already exhausted all other possibilities. When a sample group was asked if they supported a particular war, and a second group was asked if they supported that particular war after being told that all alternatives were no good, and a third group was asked if they supported that war even though there were good alternatives, the first two groups registered the same level of support, while support for war dropped off significantly in the third group. This led the researchers to the conclusion that if alternatives are not mentioned, people don’t assume they exist—rather, people assume they’ve already been tried. So, if you mention that there is a serious alternative, the game is up. You’ll have to get your war on later.


David Swanson is an activist, author, blogger and radio host. He is director of He hosts a weekly radio show, Talk Nation Radio. He blogs at: and


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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