The Unifying Force of War Abolition

Remarks at United National Antiwar Coalition in Richmond, Virginia, on June 18, 2017.

It’s not unusual for an activist, focused on one of the millions of worthy causes out there, to try to recruit other activists to that particular cause. That’s not exactly what I want to do. For one thing, if we are going to succeed we are going to have to recruit millions of new people into activism who are not now active at all.

Of course I do favor types of activism that eliminate the need for more activism, such as campaigns to make voter registration automatic or to index the minimum wage to the cost of living. But for the most part I want everyone to keep doing what inspires them. Only, I think I know a way to shift our emphases and unite out movements, a way that doesn’t usually occur to us.

It’s not unusual for an activist to think that their particular field is the unifying top priority.

For example:

If we don’t get the money out of politics how can we enact or enforce any laws not favored by money? We’ve legalized bribery for godsake! What else matters until we fix that?

Or:

If we don’t create credible democratic independent media, we can’t communicate. Door knocking can’t defeat television. We only know that Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford or Occupyers went to Wall Street because corporate television chose to tell us. Why have elections if we can’t tell the truth about the candidates?

Or:

Excuse me, the earth is cooking. Our species and many others are losing their habitats. If it’s not already too late, now is the time to decide whether we will have great grandchildren at all. If we don’t have any, what will it matter what kind of elections or television networks they have?

One can go on and on in this vein, as well as in claiming that one societal evil precedes and causes another. Racism or militarism or extreme materialism is the disease and the others are the symptoms.

All of this is also not exactly what I want to do. I want us to work on everything and use every means of unifying. I want us to recognize how each problem contributes to others and vice versa. Hungry scared people can’t end climate change. A culture that puts a trillion dollars a year into mass-killing of distant dark-skinned people can’t build schools or end racism. Unless we redistribute wealth, we cannot redistribute power. We can’t create media unless we have something important to say. We can’t protect the earth’s climate while steadfastly ignoring the top consumer of petroleum on earth because criticizing the military would be inappropriate. But we will go on ignoring it if we don’t create good media. We have to do it all, and there are various ways in which we can become more united, more strategic, and potentially more effective.

The way that I think we don’t pay enough attention to lies in developing a focus on complete and total war abolition, elimination of all weapons and militaries, all bases, all aircraft carriers, missiles, armed drones, generals, colonels, and if necessary all senators from Arizona.

Why war abolition? I’ll give you 10 reasons.

  1. It actually makes sense. The reasonable position of opposing some wars and cheering for others, but cheering for the troops even in the bad wars doesn’t attract a lot of energy because it doesn’t make any sense. Jeremy Corbyn just won votes by pointing out that wars generate terrorism, they are counter-productive on their own terms, endangering us rather than protecting us. They need to be replaced with diplomacy, aid, cooperation, the rule of law, the tools of nonviolence, the skills of de-escalation of conflict. Claiming that wars are sort of good but shouldn’t be overdone makes no sense at all — what is the point of them if not to win them? And if wars make murder OK, why is torture so unacceptable? And if bombs dropped by piloted planes are OK, what’s wrong with drones? And if Anthrax is barbaric, why are White Phosphrous and Napalm civilized? None of it makes any sense, which is one reason the top killer of U.S. troops is suicide. You know how to properly love the troops, end all war and give them life options that don’t make them want to kill themselves.
  2. Nuclear apocalypse is a growing danger on a par with climate chaos and will continue to grow unless war abolition succeeds.
  3. The biggest destroyer of water, air, land, and atmosphere that we have is militarism. It’s war or planet. Time to choose.
  4. War kills first and foremost by removing resources from where they are needed, including from famines and disease epidemics created by war. Any activism that seeks funding for any human or environmental needs has to look to ending war. It is where all the money is, more money every single year than could be taken once and only once from the billionaires.
  5. War creates secrecy, surveillance, classification of public business, warrantless spying on activists, patriotic lying, and illegal actions by secret agencies.
  6. War militarizes local police, making the public into an enemy.
  7. War fuels, just as it is fueled by, racism, sexism, bigotry, hatred, and domestic violence. It teaches people to solve problems by shooting guns.
  8. War divides humanity at a time when we must unite on major projects if we are to survive or prosper.
  9. A movement to abolish all war, all weapons, and all atrocities that flow out of war can unite opponents of the crimes of one government or group with the opponents of the crimes of another. Without equating all crimes with each other, we can unite as opponents of war rather than of each other.
  10. War is the primary thing our society does, it sucks down the majority of federal discretionary spending, its promotion permeates our culture. It is the very foundation of the belief that ends can justify evil means. Taking on the myths that sell us war as necessary or inevitable or glorious is an ideal way of opening our minds to rethinking what we’re doing on this little planet.

So let’s not work for an environmentally sensitive military into which women have the equal right to be drafted against their will. Let’s not oppose the weapons that are wasteful or don’t kill well enough. Let’s build a broad multi-issue movement in which one of the unifying factors is the cause of eliminating in its entirety the institution of organized mass murder.

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