War Is A Lie

The first edition was published in 2010, and this second-edition in 2016.

Get it in paperback or ebook from Just World Books, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.

High-resolution cover image.

“In January 2020, at a point in my life where I had very little understanding of war or America’s true role in history, I stumbled across the original edition of War is a Lie in a local library. I want to thank you for all you wrote; it opened my eyes and started my journey to a more realistic and just worldview. Now I keep a couple copies of the most recent edition around, one to lend and one to reference… and soon I’ll get my court date for blocking the entrance to the Bangor Nuclear Sub Base 🙂 Thank you again!” –Sean from Virginia

“I showed my wife a couple of your tweets, so now she’s reading ‘War Is A Lie.’ Often out loud. To me!” —Twitter comment

Here’s a flyer.

War Is A Lie is a thorough refutation of every major argument used to justify wars, drawing on evidence from numerous past wars, with a focus on those that have been most widely defended as just and good. This is a handbook of sorts, an engaging, always informative manual that can be used to debunk future lies before the wars they’re deployed to justify have any chance to begin. For this edition of the book, the original 2010 version has been updated and expanded with material on lessons from the United States’s most recent wars, more pointers on what can be done to end warmaking, and an epilogue that analyzes new trends in war lying and in resistance to it. No one to whom you give this book can claim they haven’t been warned!

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. His books include When the World Outlawed War, and War No More: The Case for Abolition. Swanson serves as director of World Beyond War, and host of Talk Nation Radio. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He was a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Swanson was instrumental in exposing the Downing Street Minutes and other evidence of Iraq war lies.

The first edition of War Is A Lie had a huge impact in 2010 and was published in the United States, Europe, and China. It has been taken out of print in preparation for the new one.

At events Swanson will speak about and take questions on a variety of approaches to resisting, reducing and eliminating war, from counter-recruitment in schools, ending the draft, and conscientious objection, to lobbying, protesting, and dramatically disrupting the machinery of war. He will focus, however, on the process of educating people to recognize false justifications for war and to reject them. Swanson argues that, while the prevention of a U.S. bombing campaign in Syria in 2013 and the upholding of a nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015 left much to be desired, they also provide grounds for encouragement, and were built on the public understanding of the lies about Iraq that had been promoted in 2002-2003 by such public figures as Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton. Swanson argues for a different understanding of current U.S. wars in Western Asia from that most often promoted on television. Frightening beheading videos, he suggests, were intended to draw the United States into war, and succeeded only because the U.S. public is not yet sufficiently resistant to such manipulation.

Here’s audio of David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan discussing War Is A Lie.

The new leader of the Labour Party in the UK recommends this book.

Here’s a good review.

Audio talk with Lila Garrett.

Audio with Rob Lorei.

Audio with Mitch LeMay.

Audio with Dan Yaseen.

Audio with Peter B. Collins.

More recommendations:

“For a sophisticated & systematic demystification of War,  consult @davidcnswanson‘s book “War Is A Lie.” — Johan Galtung

“A terrific tool for recognizing and resisting war lies before it’s too late.” — Daniel Ellsberg.

“David Swanson, a dynamic and powerful anti-war writer, speaker and organizer, provides a sharp and critically important update in this expanded edition of War Is a Lie. Swanson eloquently demonstrates both how people power prevailed in stopping the US drive to war in Syria and Iran and the immensity of the work still to be done to demilitarize our society and put an end to permanent warfare. Elucidating, lively, and thought-provoking, War Is a Lie is a must-read for all Americans who bear responsibility for the actions of our government both and home and abroad which are eviscerating human rights.”  — Josh Ruebner, author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

“May be the most comprehensive antiwar statement available in the English language.” — Kevin Young, journalist.

“David Swanson is a truth-teller and witness-bearer whose voice and action warrant our attention.” — Cornel West.

“David Swanson is the most consistently great writer of this generation.” — Jean Athey, peace activist.

“The world needs more true advocates of democracy like David Swanson!” — Thom Hartmann, author, radio host.

Listen to Thom Hartmann tell a caller he needs to read this book: mp3.

“David Swanson predicates his belief that nonviolence can change the world on careful research and historical analysis.” — Kathy Kelly, author, peace activist.

“David Swanson is a longtime friend and one of my personal heroes because he is relentlessly and uncompromisingly against war. This is an important book that dispels any myths about ‘good wars.'” — Cindy Sheehan, peace activist, author, talk show host.

“Our times cry out for a smart, witty and courageous Populist who hasn’t forgotten how to play offense. Luckily we have David Swanson.” — Mike Ferner, author, peace activist, veteran.

“David Swanson’s War Is A Lie should be required reading. It lays bare the hypocrisy of American ‘do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do’ foreign policy, exposing the lies and the deliberate glorification of military disasters. Swanson advocates for endless diplomacy rather than endless war, a much cheaper and less bloody alternative to present U.S. militarism. War Is A Lie gives you the arguments, outrage and inspiration you need to take action. Read it. — Medea Benjamin, author, peace activist.

“Not since General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket has a simpler, more brilliant, or truer book been published.” — Geoffrey Millard, peace activist, veteran.

“Debunks every argument you’ve heard used to justify, glorify, instigate, promote, prolong, and expand war.” — Kim Carlyle, peace activist, veteran.

“There are three insightful books I’ve read that explain how and why no good can come of the current U.S. reliance on military force and war in seeking its desired ‘Pax Americana’: War Is A Racket by General Smedley Butler; War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, and War Is A Lie by David Swanson.” — Coleen Rowley, peace activist, whistleblower, retired FBI agent.

“If you stop and think, and genuinely wonder, and long for a new, better world, I urge you to read a book I’ve just finished. It’s brilliantly and passionately written, and while being truthful is full of hope of destroying the military-industrial-media-congressional-imperialpresidential-complex.” — Mumia Abu-Jamal, author, radio commentator.

“In his usual meticulous, forthright style, Swanson does us a tremendous service by outlining, in detail and with a large body of examples, the lies behind all the U.S. wars, the money behind them, and the politicians who sell them to the public. If you want to know why and how U.S. wars are truly waged, read this critically important book. — Dahr Jamail, journalist, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq.

“This book is every American’s best defense against the greatest danger we face as human beings: the threat of war. Swanson reveals how American leaders (from both major political parties) have confused the public to create the illusion of consent for endless destruction and slaughter. This updated version of David Swanson’s classic, War Is A Lie, dispels any notion that the Obama administration has been more truthful or law-abiding than Bush and Co. On the most critical issue of our time, ‘hope and change’ have meant only more sophisticated lies, secrets and war propaganda, not a new commitment to peace.” — Nicolas J. S. Davies, author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

“Five years ago, David Swanson let us all in on a little secret: Everything we believe to be true about war is a big fat lie … actually, a series of lies that are intertwined and reinforce each other until the lies are the only thing we can see. In this second edition of War Is A Lie, Swanson provides an epilogue describing how the war lies have continued perpetuating war over the past five years, describing one instance after another of unnecessary, immoral and illegal military conflict. Still, Swanson is hopeful. He believes that war can be eradicated by exposing the lies that nurture it, and through the coordinated resistance of the world’s citizens. If the global community will unite against the war interests and reclaim the planet for the benefit of humanity instead of profit, we can put a stop to the madness of war. Like John Lennon, Swanson believes that ‘War is over…if you want it.'” — Leah Bolger, activist, veteran.

“This book is revolutionary, and certainly truth-telling in a remarkable and brave way.” — Jennifer Van Bergen, author.

“A vital guide to understanding deadly propaganda, War Is a Lie maps out the deceptive terrain where people fall into accepting perpetual war as necessary. David Swanson has done the difficult work of making it easy for readers to grasp the extent of the lies — and the horrific consequences. With meticulous research and moral clarity, this book could transform your view of war and the real possibilities for peace.” — Norman Solomon, author, film maker, activist.

“I’ve been reading a bit of this book every night since I got it. The effect it’s having on me is hard to explain. Like I’ve been born into a cult whether or not I want it, but now the lies are being washed away by the rain.” — John Bostrom, peace activist.

“Activist David Swanson is well respected in the anti-war community as a man who walks his talk in a bold, committed, solid way, that he is a principled leader. Now we must add to that list of credentials authorship of an important, destined to be classic book. ‘War Is A Lie’ addresses the web of lies, the taboo subjects, the false claims, the mythic messages that are hollow and empty and it lays waste to them.” — Rob Kall, journalist, radio host.

Thanks to Mark Binder, Programmer, “Yesterday’s Dead Today”, Mondays 7-9 p.m. Eastern, WSLR Sarasota Low-Power FM Community Radio 96.5, www.wslr.org

“If decisions to go to war were really made on the basis of reason and facts, rather than greed and power, David Swanson’s brilliant new book would put a stop to them. Those of us who know David understand that he writes quickly and eloquently, speaks honestly and powerfully, and follows a logical point all the way to its conclusion. He has a philosopher’s mind with a computer’s precision. And he always maintains a justifiable moral outrage at the lies of the war criminals — calling out their crimes, detailing their carnage, poking holes in their excuses. Reading ‘War Is a Lie’ is like reading Mark Twain’s ‘War Prayer,’ only in book form.” — Steve Cobble, political strategist.

“While Americans elect leaders whom they trust are honest, truthful and really care about the kids they send to kill for our country, War Is A Lie reveals decade after decade the sordid side of our history — that our elected officials lie us into war with stunning and embarrassing regularity and are little concerned about the harm to innocent civilians, much less to members of our own military.” — Ann Wright, peace activist, author, veteran.

“Swanson offers an incisive examination of the rationalizations, justifications, and outright lies that have led the United States, and other nations, into battle. And he shows the personal cost to the current generation of combatants returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” — Cynthia Wachtell, author.

“David Swanson has taken the mantle of AJ Muste, who had the guts and the audacity to declare World War II to have been unnecessary and wrong. Swanson takes Muste’s argument further to make the audacious claim that all wars are not just unnecessary, but a crime.” — Dave Lindorff, journalist, author.

“War is a Lie is a must read for anyone who wants to break the centuries-long cycle of a perennially war-waging United States. In this carefully researched book, Mr. Swanson exposes the falsehoods that a willing government sells to a gullible public to gain support for one unnecessary war after another. The profit motives, power plays and perennial chest-thumping, that have all been given more importance than human lives, are exposed in all their ugliness. This book should be required reading in every high school history class in the country.” — Robert Fantina, author, peace activist.

“It was a Republican U.S. senator, Hiram Johnson of California, who is credited with coining the phrase: ‘The first casualty when war comes is truth.’ … Were he serving in the Senate now, Hiram Johnson would go to the floor of the Senate, hold up a copy of David Swanson’s essential new book and demand that the chamber and the whole of the American people recognize the reality of its title: War Is a Lie.” — John Nichols, journalist, author.

“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.” — Ralph Lopez, peace activist.

“David Swanson writes in the tradition of Howard Zinn. He always goes for clarity, both in his relentless orchestration of the facts and his ethical vision. War Is A Lie is as clear as the title. Wars are all based on lies, could not be fought without lies, and would not be fought at all if people held their governments to any reasonable standard of honesty. The book is easy to understand, easy to read, if you have the will to face a vast array of facts that hold the United States government to a reasonable standard of honesty.” — Charles M. Young, journalist.

“Swanson’s penetrating analysis of the lies behind wars, backed by his extensive historical knowledge, shine a light not only on the destructive wars but on the irrational, delusional thinking and propaganda that starts and prolongs them and leads to so much death, destruction, and suffering.” — Jay Kvale, peace activist.

“David Swanson’s new book has given me a fresh perspective on a topic I’ve dedicated my life to: America’s war culture and its ever-nuanced fall out. Economic collapse, pollution, dependence on fossil fuels, even global warming: you can’t begin to fathom our predicaments until you conceive of the American war monster. Swanson rips away the public relations/advertising of this military industrial giant to show its true cancerous colors. Read slowly, America. This is a powerful mirror for those still clinging to our media distortions. It’s an indictment of a culture grown dependent on, and distorted by the machinery of violence. But there is a compassion, an empathy to the author’s tone. We are all victims, Swanson argues. We are a people kept blind to the true costs, the human tragedies, by the never ending lie of war.” — Charles Bivona, writer, professor.

“It’s been a week since I finished War Is A Lie, and I can’t stop thinking/talking about it…. Everyone in my life is getting a copy for their birthday this year and I’m composing a letter to the editor of every major paper in Idaho. Thank you for rocking my world.” — Kim Mazik, peace activist.

“This book is a nonviolent assault on the acceptance and justification of war, of all wars. For those of us who already are familiar with the uncountable arguments supporting Swanson’s position, he was successful in compiling them in a very readable work which also serves as a reference book. For those of us who more or less blindly accept our culture of militarism, I am hopeful that the exposure to the clear, compelling, evidence-based debunking of general war myths and lies laid out by Swanson will open new windows of understanding.” — Patrick Hiller, conflict transformation scholar, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, the Steering Committee of World Beyond War and Director of the War Prevention Initiative by the Jubitz Family Foundation.

“No one has worked harder than David Swanson to free the U.S. from the grip of militarism. His recently updated book War Is a Lie, brilliantly exposes just our profound addiction to war. I hope it jumpstarts a conversation about how we can achieve enduring peace.” — John Horgan, science journalist, author, The End of War.

“In War Is a Lie, David Swanson underscores a vital point that has been ignored by far too many people who hoped President Obama and the Democrats would bring about a break from the disastrous policies of the Bush years: ‘we can’t sit in elected officials’ offices demanding peace while promising to vote for them, no matter what they do – not if we expect to be heard.’ He shows how Democrats historically — and President Obama today — are part of the toxic bipartisan consensus that sustains repeated military intervention, at enormous and mounting cost to the world. And he importantly reminds us that it will take mobilize, active, engaged popular movements to change a status quo that will lead to only more wars.” Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.

“When you signed my copy at the Charlottesville, VA reading/signing you asked me to let you know what I thought of War is a Lie. I just finished reading it. Excellent, comprehensive and well written. Great manual for spotting the lies and countering arguments for war. Just what I needed after a discouraging campaign season to get me charged up and back in the peacemaking game. Thanks for broadening our knowledge and telling what needed to be told.” — Harry Davis

“Well, here we are in the 21st century of the Common Era, and given the violent history of the past decade, evidently the arguments about the disutility of warfare still need to be made, again and again and again… Depressing, really. But thank goodness David Swanson has taken up the effort. Buy the book!” — Helena Cobban

“I am less than halfway through the book – and – I am learning so much! I consider myself very well read, a student of history, TV-free for over 14 years, etc. etc. – but – your book is a revelation. I’ve known for decades that the history we were fed in school is nothing but propaganda and lies, but the information in your book takes that to a whole new level. I have told people to read your book and that I rate its importance, for what it reveals about the mendacity of scholars, historians, the liberal class, politicians and propagandists, up there with Zinn’s People’s History. I’m serious about that – I don’t say it lightly. Thank you for writing this book. I hope sales are going better than you expected. I am telling people about the book and making sure that when I’m reading it in a public place people see the title. I’ve had a couple people approach me, so I’ve been happy to tell them about such an important work. My husband is an artist and focused on his work (landscapes in oils) but I read him a lot of things that I read – and last night while he was making dinner, I read excerpts – things he didn’t know either. He wants me to read him more – which I will happily do! I’ve been reading it at lunch and in what little free time I have in the evenings and weekends – which isn’t much. My proverbial hat is off to you, David. I’m really impressed. Of course, I thought it would be another good and valuable addition to ‘left’ literature, but it is proving to be much more than that to me. I strongly feel the facts you have revealed are intrinsic to Americans’ understanding of our real history – history which is forgotten, deliberately hidden and covered with the propaganda masquerading as history in our schools. I have an awful feeling that your book may not have a wide readership – which it certainly should – because of how books are marketed these days and the problems inherent within the publishing industry. I’m doing what little I can do alert people to its value and importance. And I’m not even quite halfway through yet!” — Maria Allwine

“David Swanson is one of the greatest peace strategists alive today. You will find War Is A Lie to be engaging, insightful, inspirational, and useful.”  — Michael D. Knox, PhD – Chair, US Peace Memorial Foundation

Peace Fresno event in Fresno, CA
Video by Richard Iyall, board member of Peace Fresno, also with Community Alliance newspaper of Fresno at fresnoalliance.com and of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe

A typical comment from Facebook:

Doug Massey

David, I just started reading “War Is A Lie,” and it is captivating from the very first sentence. I already know that I am really going to enjoy this ride through your observations and conclusions. Personally, when I took the occasional philosophy course along the route to my English degree, I felt kind of bogged down in the generalities of each philosopher. I am probably not expressing that accurately. What I am saying, though, is that your interpretations of individual and collective behavior with regard to the manipulation of the masses is so clear and spot-on that it has me shaking my head in embarrassment when I realize how I, too, was duped along the way from childhood to adulthood. Just wanted you to know.