By David Swanson, Remarks on Feb. 19th at Lincoln Memorial as part of https://rageagainstwar.com , Washington D.C., February 20, 2023
I want to say THANK YOU to everyone here today and especially to those of you who have been here to oppose every war or who are now committed to opposing every war. This Lincoln Memorial glorifies a war of long ago, and it really doesn’t matter what our various opinions are on the wisdom of the U.S. having used war, unlike much of the rest of the world, as a tool against slavery, as long as today state after state is removing the exception that allows slavery as punishment for a crime simply by passing legislation without first picking out some big fields and slaughtering lots of people. I haven’t read a single proposal to end mass incarceration that says the first step should be mass murder and leveling cities and the second step banning mass incarceration. Today we know enough to jump straight to the useful goal without using it to justify war. Today we have more effective tools than war to bring about change. Like it or not, we’ve progressed somewhat. But only somewhat.
It’s always nice to have new people oppose a new war, but sad to see people who opposed a past war support a new one, because if we ever want to mobilize the activism required to de-fund the most expensive and destructive institution ever created, the U.S. military, we will have to come to an understanding that the problem is not any particular war. The problem is not any side of any particular war. The problem, the only thing we should be calling an enemy, is the very idea that there can be a right side in the toxic tango of organized mass murder that is every war.
I’m not here to demand that the U.S. stop arming Ukraine in order to aid me or those near me. The money buying the weapons to ship to Ukraine, and to prepare for yet more wars, is making Ukraine worse off, not better, while risking nuclear apocalypse for us all, and could instead, if spent wisely, be a major benefit not just to this country but to the world. The U.S. government is blocking peace in Ukraine and telling you that it is only Ukraine demanding that the war go on. But you’re not falling for it, are you?
The massive rallies of 40 years ago against nuclear weapons disappeared along with many of the weapons, but enough weapons remained to end life on Earth, and the risk of that is rising, and the only way out of it is the abolition of war and of nuclear weapons.
I know that supporters of war believe, against all evidence, but in line with everything this culture tells them, that war is a wise tool for defense — a belief on which limits are not easily imposed. Everyone’s supposed to be welcome to believe whatever they want, but just as with climate denial, denial of the superior power of nonviolence is a belief that will end all other beliefs when it ends all life. Our luck cannot hold out. If the nuclear weapons do not get us, the environmental destruction exacerbated by war, and the lack of global cooperation impeded by war, will.
Meanwhile war fuels bigotry, justifies secrecy, proliferates violence and weaponry, and corrodes our culture, conflating disagreement with murderous enmity. War thinking makes even looking at the facts on nonviolent activism seem like some sort of shameful betrayal. But our choice remains, as when Dr. King said it, between nonviolence and nonexistence. Any world we can hope for for our children and grandchildren is a world beyond war, a world — perfectly possible if we choose it — in which governments behave with the minimal decency we expect of preschoolers, a world in which we don’t litter this new Roman Forum with marble celebrations and phallic eyesores glorifying the greatest orgies of mass murder, but in which we model and praise generosity, humility, understanding, and self-sacrifice without violence, a world we will only get if we place ourselves in the way of business as usual in this town.
I leave you with these goals: Russia out of Ukraine. NATO out of existence. The war machine abolished. Peace on our planet.
See the 2:07:00 point in the video.