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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/13/16

Ten Revealing War Lies

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5. In 1931, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Republican from Idaho, Senator William Borah remarked: "Much has been said, and will continue to be said, for the doctrine of force dies hard, about implementing the peace pact. It is said that we must put teeth into it -- an apt word revealing again that theory of peace which is based upon tearing, maiming, destroying, murdering. Many have inquired of me: What is meant by implementing the peace pact? I will seek to make it plain. What they mean is to change the peace pact into a military pact. They would transform it into another peace scheme based upon force, and force is another name for war. By putting teeth into it, they mean an agreement to employ armies and navies wherever the fertile mind of some ambitious schemer can find an aggressor . . . I have no language to express my horror of this proposal to build peace treaties, or peace schemes, upon the doctrine of force."

Borah wanted peace through peace, which in the United States today is generally deemed naive and foolish. President Obama and the Pentagon claim to want peace through war, which in today's United States is generally deemed wise and reasonable. Borah referred to the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928 which banned all war. Why exactly did it fail? Well, why exactly did the first steps taken to abolish slavery fail until additional steps were taken that advanced that cause to its current far from perfect position? Why did the first guy to propose ending duelling as a ridiculous institution probably take a bullet to the head? Why have so many international treaties banning so many weapons and cruelties not achieved the support of every nation yet? Because change takes time and must press against resisting inclinations.

While nations signed the peace pact, they engaged in an arms race, funded fascism, and thought in the same patterns as before. But the peace movement thought very differently from how it does today, and it banned all war with a vision of war abolition that many today don't dare contemplate. At least one-sided justice punished World War II makers, and the wealthy nations haven't gone to war with each other since; they've just waged war on poor nations of the world. We need disarmament. We need courts. We need aid. We need generosity. We need diplomacy. But we have to start with the unacceptability of war and stop insisting that drone murders be transparent and wars follow Geneva Conventions. Imagine requiring transparency in cruelty to animals or Geneva Conventions for proper child abuse. We have to stop accepting war and stop demanding that everything have teeth put into it.

6. In December 2015, in a CNN presidential debate, one of the moderators asked this: "We're talking about ruthless things tonight. Carpet bombing, toughness, war, and people wonder, could you do that? Could you order airstrikes that would kill innocent children, not scores but hundreds and thousands. Could you wage war as a commander in chief?" There is, as far as I know, only one nation on earth where something like this could happen. Other nations wage war, but not as a matter of routine, not as the primary duty of a publicly elected official whose willingness to slaughter children by the thousands is required by a representative of a massive communications corporation hoping to air the footage with, of course, tasteful discretion in showing any of the bugsplat. This incident wasn't a lie but a truth telling about how Washington, D.C., views war. The lies are the 90% of public statements on war that pretend it's not a one-sided slaughter of innocents.

7. A couple of weeks ago a U.S. State Department spokesperson was asked if the United States favored Syria reclaiming the city of Palmyra from ISIS or favored ISIS holding onto it. He found this a very difficult question to answer and made clear he did not want to see ISIS weakened if it meant any sort of gain for Syria. If any ordinary war supporter were shown this video, they might find it confusing. The U.S. government has prioritized one enemy, whom it has utterly failed to scare the U.S. public with, while the U.S. government has made a distant second priority of attacking another enemy that most people in the United States are so terrified of they can hardly think straight. President Obama and Secretary Kerry did what they could in 2013 to persuade us to want war with the Syrian government, but they failed. ISIS videos in 2014 succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of ISIS, the Obama administration, and the weapons makers. But the U.S. government jumped into the war in 2014 with the same priority it had had in 2013 and had been developing for years, and which had even helped motivate the 2003 attack on Iraq, namely the goal of overthrowing Syria, a goal for which it has been arming the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria for years now. This example should help people recognize that public and government motivations for a war are not always the same.

8. Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer says the more the U.S. fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism. U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, says blowing people up with missiles is generating more blowback, not less. The CIA's own report says drone killing is counterproductive. Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence, says the same. Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts: "We're seeing that blowback. If you're trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you're going to upset people even if they're not targeted." Dozens of just retired top officials agree. There is little question that the war on terrorism is not ending terrorism. There should be little question that ending terrorism is not the goal of the wagers of this series of wars, and not even the goal of many of its ordinary supporters.

9. If you watch an advertisement for the U.S. National Guard, it appears to be 8 parts helping people during natural disasters, 1 part doing something vague in distant lands to somehow protect the best nation on earth from all those other nations, and 1 part summer camp. If you watch a video of a comedian in one of those other countries opposing U.S. wars you find it hard to imagine they're talking about the same enterprise. Here's Frankie Boyle explaining the advantages of Scottish independence: "Scotland would no longer have to invade places like Afghanistan for American interests. . . . I don't support America's wars. I don't even think they are wars. They're one-way traffic, mass-murder. There's never been a time when a shepherd has beaten a helicopter. You never switch on the news to see 'A shock result in Afghanistan today when a missile was destroyed by a wedding.' Because not only will America go into your country and kill all your people. But what's worse I think is they'll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad. Oh boo hoo hoo. Americans making a movie about what Vietnam did to the soldiers is like a serial killer telling you what stopping suddenly for hitchhikers did to his clutch." Of course the sadness is very real. Of course many more U.S. soldiers kill themselves after a war than died in it. But look at the world's perspective. One-sided slaughters of civilians cannot be all about the sadness of the soldiers. There has to be more to the story. Yet, the chief thing the U.S. military does, slaughtering people, could never be included in an advertisement for the U.S. military. And when polls find that people around the globe consider the United States the biggest threat to peace on earth, people in the United States could be forgiven for concluding that the world is simply crazy and ungrateful.

10. In 2013, public pressure was key in preventing a massive bombing campaign on Syria, and that public pressure rested on a decade of protest of the war on Iraq. Last year, public pressure was key in upholding a nuclear agreement with Iran. Nobody announces these events as victories, and when they can be they are hidden entirely. Lawrence Wittner's book, Working for Peace and Justice, describes his first political demonstration in 1961. The USSR was withdrawing from a moratorium on nuclear testing. A protest at the White House urged President Kennedy not to follow suit: "Picking up what I considered a very clever sign ('Kennedy, Don't Mimic the Russians!'), I joined the others (supplemented by a second busload of students from a Quaker college in the Midwest) circling around a couple of trees outside the White House. Mike and I -- as new and zealous recruits -- circled all day without taking a lunch or a dinner break. For decades I looked back on this venture as a trifle ridiculous. After all, we and other small bands of protesters couldn't have had any impact on U.S. policy, could we? Then in the mid-1990s, while doing research at the Kennedy Library on the history of the world nuclear disarmament movement, I stumbled onto an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was explaining why Kennedy delayed resuming atmospheric nuclear tests until April 1962. Kennedy personally wanted to resume such tests, Fisher recalled, 'but he also recognized that there were a lot of people that were going to be deeply offended by the United States resuming atmospheric testing. We had people picketing the White House, and there was a lot of excitement about it -- just because the Russians do it, why do we have to do it?'" Yes, Kennedy delayed a horrible action. He didn't, at that time, block it permanently. But if the picketers in 1961 had had the slightest notion that Kennedy was being influenced by them, their numbers would have multiplied 10-fold, as would the delay have correspondingly lengthened. Yes, our government was more responsive to public opinion in the 1960s than now, but part of the reason is that more people were active then. And another reason is that government officials are doing a better job now of hiding any responsiveness to public sentiment, which helps convince the public it has no impact, which reduces activism further. The biggest lie is that nonviolent public pressure doesn't work. We could expose that lie by trying it.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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