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David Swanson: “We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war”

By davidswanson - Posted on 24 October 2016


This post is also available in: Italian

David Swanson: “We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war”
(Image by Ragesoss, Wikimedia Commons)

In your website you say: “We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace, in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed”. So which role and value can nonviolence have in building such a culture?

Nonviolent action can play at least three roles here.

  1. It can demonstrate a superior means of resisting tyranny that causes less suffering, is more likely to succeed, and is likely to have a longer lasting success. While most of the examples, such as Tunisia 2011, are of overcoming domestic tyranny, there is a growing list of successful nonviolent resistance actions against foreign invasion and occupation as well — and a growing understanding of how to apply the lessons of domestic nonviolence to resistance to foreign attack.
  1. It can model a world that has outgrown war. Nations can lead by example, by joining international bodies and treaties, abiding by the rule of law and enforcing it. The International Criminal Court could indict a non-African. The United States which has stopped manufacturing cluster bombs could join the ban on them. Truth and reconciliation commissions could be expanded. Disarmament talks, humanitarian aid on a new scale, and the closure of foreign bases could be the change we want to see.
  1. Nonviolent protest and resistance tools can be used by activists to resist bases, weapons manufacture, military recruitment, and new wars. We didn’t stop Dal Molin in Vicenza, but we don’t have to accept it. The U.S. military should not be permitted to use facilities in Sicily to murder with drones in Asia and Africa. A year’s service to one’s country should not involve participating in a military.  Public and private funds must be divested from weapons companies. Et cetera.

What can be done in your opinion to transform the culture of violence and revenge that produces so many victims in the United States?

We need structural reform of mass media, of entertainment and news producers, and of schools. But we can begin by presenting people with the information they are lacking. Often what people need are facts, not ideologies. When a Miss Italy winner said she’d like to have lived through World War II, people laughed at her, but I could find you millions of Americans who would say the same. None of them have any idea what it was like to live under bombs or they wouldn’t say that. Few of them have any idea what it’s like to live under US or NATO bombs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Libya, or Yemen. So when I go and talk at universities (video from this weekend: ) I try to give people facts they are missing. Independent media, and social media, foreign movies: these can all be tools. So can travel. When I spent a year in Italy after high school as an exchange student, that did more than anything else to allow me to view U.S. culture from a new perspective. And that habit, then, of course also allows me to view cultural habits that the United States and Italy share from a questioning perspective. What would really change things, though, would be the ability to produce and obtain and widely share videos of the victims of Western war makers in the way that we now share videos of the victims of police murders in the United States.

The US spends about a trillion dollars each year for wars and weapons and the Democratic and Republican Parties and the media never question this choice. What do you think can be done to increase the general awareness of this huge military spending and its possible alternatives?

Here’s a video aimed at doing that: And here’s an organization we invite everyone to join that aims at accomplishing this: Another useful tool, if presented well by an introduction or post-screening discussion is Michael Moore’s movie Where To Invade Next.

Many fear that if elected President Hillary Clinton will start a war with Russia over Syria. Is the US peace movement ready to try to stop this plan? And what could peace movements in other countries do to help?

We are sadly ill-prepared. U.S. activists suffer from partisanship and traditionally oppose Republican wars much better than Democratic ones. We suffer from election obsession. The day after the election will see thousands of people collapse from exhaustion and the belief that they have now finished what they need to do. We also suffer from the ideology of war and from miscommunication and division over Syria to an extent unseen in living memory. Some support war on ISIS, others war on Syria, others war on both, others war by Syrians, others war by Russians. And anyone who opposes U.S. war making is accused of supporting Syrian war making, and vice versa. We need to unite globally around opposition to the entire institution of war — by everybody — and not be dissuaded by the silly accusation that we must be equating one party’s minor war crimes with another’s massive war crimes. We need to put a focus on the weapons dealing. The weapons come from the United States and Europe, and secondarily from Russia and China. The nations suffering under war do not make the weapons. It is up to us to halt the manufacture and sale and giving of these instruments of death. Small arms sales, and deaths from small arms sales, have tripled in past 15 years. We need to put a focus on actual humanitarian aid on an enormous scale that we never dare dream of but which would cost a lot less than the wars. And we certainly need to not fall for the tokenism scam yet again, not imagine that a woman president like an African American president is going to be magically better despite their records. Get a solid peace accord in Ukraine by January, and if possible in Syria. And for god’s sake do NOT give her a Nobel peace prize next year as she’s escalating the wars.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

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