Bruce Levine Interviews David Swanson on When the World Outlawed War

For those who know war only through television, criminalizing it sounds like proposing to criminalize government. But there was a time when the masses made war illegal.
David Swanson’s recently released book, When the World Outlawed War, tells the story of how the highly energized peace movement in the 1920s, supported by an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens from every level of society, was able to push politicians into something quite remarkable—the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. The 1920s “War Outlawry” movement in the United States was so popular that most politicians could not afford to oppose it.  

David Swanson, since serving as press secretary in Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, has emerged as one of the leading anti-war activists in the United States. While Swanson has fought against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tried to alert Americans to the fact that U.S. military spending is the source of most of our economic problems, his anti-war activism goes much deeper. He wants to stigmatize militarist politicians as criminals. In his previous book War is a Lie, Swanson made the case for the abolition of war as an instrument of national policy, and When the World Outlawed War provides an historical example of just how powerful war abolitionism can be. 

Bruce Levine: At a college lecture that you recently gave, you asked the students and professors if they believed war was illegal or if they had ever heard of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and only about 2 or 3 percent of a large group raised their hands. But what really seems to have disturbed you is when you asked if war should be illegal, and only 5 percent thought that it should be.


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