Swanson the War Myth-Buster
by Ralph Lopez
Since Helen of Troy many people have suspected that most purported reasons for war are really just the excuse, and that wars are rarely fought for the reasons stated. In “War is a Lie” David Swanson carves himself a monumental task: to prove the truth of this in every historical instance for which background is available. He accomplishes his task, with a weight of evidence which can only be described as devastating. Swanson sets forth a deceptively simple yet provocative thesis: War is never the only choice, and always the worst one.
Perhaps not since Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” or General Smedley D. Butler’s “War is a Racket” has a voice cut through the well-practiced, frequently recycled seductions of war to focus clearly on the unimaginable human suffering which are its cost. As with Chomsky, no amount of dissembling over attempts to avoid civilian casualties forgives the grim accounting of lives, limbs, eyes, and lost minds which fill the ledgers utterly predictably.
Of course the acid test for Swanson’s thesis is the so-called “Good War” (he argues convincingly there is no such thing,) World War II, in which the magnitude of evil being opposed was visible for all on the world stage. Swanson brings out many little-known facts of history such as the Western powers’, including the United States’ and the UK’s, shameful refusal to raise immigration quotas as Hitler first sought to expel the Jewish population. The author also concisely outlines the role of U.S financiers in assisting the rise of Nazism, including the 43rd president’s grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush. Whether or not one believes Swanson makes his case in this most hideous of conflicts in which 75 million people, mostly civilians, died, he leaves you with plenty to think about.
In all, Swanson provokes, smashes myths which long needed to be smashed, and places the reader in a position to perhaps reflect on a new world order, rather than war, which is nothing but the old one. Here is the real value of the book. Let Swanson’s scholarship and clear moral compass sound a death-knell for an institution which should long ago have gone the way of open chattell slavery, with the same good riddance by all.