David Swanson: Top 100 Reasons Not to Bomb Iran

By David Swanson


1 There are over 80 million men, women, and children in Iran. Bombing them would be mass-murder.

2 If the U.S. government and its allies bomb Libya and Iran when their governments choose not to have nuclear weapons, you can forget about North Korea and the rest of the world choosing not to have nuclear weapons.

3 The longer the world has nuclear weapons, and the more countries that have them, the greater the likelihood of nuclear war.

4 We now know that even a small nuclear war can block out the sun, kill crops, and starve everyone on earth who survives.

5 Bombing people makes those who survive and many who care about them very angry, which is why the “war on terrorism” has predictably increased terrorism.

6 Bombing people kills many, injures more, traumatizes even more, enrages even more, creates huge numbers of refugees, and destabilizes the region bombed.

7 Bombing Iran will produce anti-U.S. and anti-Western and anti-Israeli terrorism.

8 Bombing Iran risks direct war between the United States and nuclear governments including Russia.

9 If you think people want to be bombed because of shortcomings and evil deeds of their governments, you’re not actually thinking at all; you don’t want to be bombed because of the shortcomings and evil deeds of your government.

10 If bombing nations made people better off and created human rights, earth would be a paradise by now.

11 Bombing countries is illegal under the Kellogg-Briand Pact without exceptions, and regardless of whether Congress “authorizes” it. Another country bombing you would be a crime regardless of which parts of its government “authorized” it.

12 Bombing countries is illegal under the United Nations Charter with two narrow exceptions, and regardless of whether or not the U.S. Congress does or does not do anything.

13 One of those exceptions is when the U.N. Security Council “authorizes” a war. It has not done so in this case and certainly will not. And doing so wouldn’t get you around the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

14 The other exception is “defense,” but if anything is not defense it is the bombing of a far smaller country half-way around the world that has not attacked or even threatened to attack your country.

15 Attempts to provoke Iran into attacking U.S. military forces near Iran (or to disguise some U.S. forces as Iranian and have U.S. forces shoot at each other, as Vice President Dick Cheney once proposed) does not result in an Iranian attack on the actual United States or any legal ability to claim “defense.”

16 Israel is not a U.S. state.

17 The Israeli government has been threatening, provoking, and lying about Iran for decades, which are not defensive behaviors.

18 Saudi Arabia is not a U.S. state.

19 The Saudi government has been threatening, provoking, and lying about Iran for decades, which are not defensive behaviors.

20 Iraq is not a U.S. state. It is the smoldering ruin of a previous war launched on almost identical and wholly dishonest pretexts.

21 Not only waging war is a crime, but threatening war is a crime under the United Nations Charter. The United States has been threatening war on Iran for decades, and any attack would follow that string of criminal actions.

22 The idea that the government of Iraq or Israel or some other nation could invite the U.S. government to wage war against Iran in and from its territory does not exist in written law and would not legitimize yet another war in the eyes of the world.

23 Gallup polling finds that in most countries out of 65 surveyed, people’s top choice as the greatest threat to peace in the world is the United States government. This needs to be countered, not exacerbated.

24 It is hard to find anyone in the United States, and even in the U.S. government, who can even name every current U.S. war, much less every minor military action the U.S. military is engaged in. This is a sign that something has spiraled out of control.

25 Including recent U.S. wars on Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iraq, the United States military has, just since World War II, killed or helped kill some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 84 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. In many cases, these actions have undone democracy. In none have they created or “spread” it.

26 A nation possessing prohibited weapons is no legal, moral, or practical justification for war. If every lie about Iraq in 2002-2003 had been true, it would have been no justification for bombing Iraq. The United States did and still does possess nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and that doesn’t justify anyone bombing the United States.

27 The very same people who told lies about Iraq are telling almost identical lies about Iran. They’re counting on you to have no memory, no sense of judgment, no ability to resist fear mongering and fluttering flags. They’re counting on you to fall in line and obey like a drooling idiot.

28 In 2003, Iran proposed negotiations with the United States with everything on the table, including its nuclear technology, and the United States refused. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. government started angling for a war.

29 War supporters said the United States urgently needed to attack Iran in 2004, 2007, 2015. It did not attack. The claims turned out to be lies. Even a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 pushed back and admitted that Iran had no nuclear weapons program.

30 The United States gave Iran nuclear energy technology and encouraged its use.

31 Iran was attacked with chemical weapons by Iraq, in part provided by the United States, and refused to use similar weapons in response.

32 Iran’s Muslim leader has forbidden the use or possession of weapons of mass destruction.

33 The CIA gave Iran slightly and obviously flawed plans to build a nuclear bomb, as part of an effort to frame Iran, and the man who blew the whistle on that to Congress, Jeffrey Sterling, was sent to prison as a reward.

34 The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran that have denied it green energy technologies and caused significant human suffering.

35 It is one of the worst possible ways to blame victims when a government imposes sanctions that create deprivation, blames the suffering country for suffering, and justifies war as a result.

36 Sanctions were used as a step toward war in the case of Iraq, and many in the U.S. government have been pushing for war on Iran since 1979.

37 These include lots of nasty old war mongers who do things like sing the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” changing the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran.” If we let them bomb Iran they will never shut up.

38 The United States has been lying about Iran having a nuclear weapons program for decades, as well documented by Gareth Porter and other journalists.

39 The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement was not necessitated by anything Iran did. Iran agreed to tougher inspections than any other country on earth has ever agreed to, and those inspections have established that the agreement was not necessitated by anything Iran did.

40 The agreement was an alternative to war, which many in the U.S. Congress and media were clamoring for and demanding urgently. The failure to launch the war then or on any of the previous occasions when it was supposedly urgently needed has resulted in nothing but further evidence that there is no need for a war.

41 The White House has made clear that it wants to manufacture any possible excuse to abandon the agreement.

42 Eventually, after numerous broken agreements, the nations native to North America stopped making or believing in agreements with the U.S. government. The nations of the world will do the same, if the United States refuses to abide by its commitments.

43 Iran’s government is deeply flawed, but not in comparison with governments the United States arms and funds and supports.

44 The U.S. government facilitates weapons sales from the United States to 73% of the world’s dictatorships, and gives military training to most of them.

45 There is no correlation between where wars happen and where human rights are abused or democracy lacking or threats to world peace emanating.

46 There is no correlation between where wars happen and population density or resource scarcity or religion or ideology.

47 There is a strong correlation between where wars happen and where fossil fuels are produced.

48 There is a strong correlation between which nations launch wars and which nations import fossil fuels.

49 There is a strong correlation between which nations launch wars and which nations’ people accept war as a legitimate tool of public policy.

50 There is a strong correlation between where the United States launches wars and where that small number of nations remains that have no U.S. military bases and accept no economic dictates from the United States.

51 It’s good for the world, including the people of the United States, for such places to continue to exist, for the U.S. government not to become a world government by force of arms. Such an effort is doomed to failure and misery.

52 Look at a map. Iran is surrounded by U.S. wars and bases. Its government has shown more restraint than recklessness in that context, perhaps, than the U.S. government might show were the Canadian and Mexican borders (in violation of laws of physics as well as of humans) lined with Iranian military bases.

53 S. figures, including Senator John McCain, have spoken often over the years of wanting to overthrow the government of Syria and subsequently the government of Iran. The first step has been disastrous in human and in its own terms. The larger criminal goal of overthrowing Iran will lead to more disasters if it is not abandoned.

54 Following the failure to overthrow Assad despite so much effort, a war on Iran would require extremely massive murder and destruction.

55 Think of all the crazy people who have ever held power in Washington, D.C. Attacking Iran was too crazy for them.

56 On February 27, 2017, Donald Trump said, “Almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East . . . $6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East . . . and we’re nowhere, actually if you think about it we’re less than nowhere, the Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago, there’s not even a contest . . . we have a hornet’s nest . . . .”

57 Trump campaigned for office, like most candidates before him, claiming to oppose overthrowing governments, and admitting what disasters are produced by doing so.

58 Military families in swing states made the difference (as did thousands of other factors in that close election) by turning against Hillary Clinton, believing she would be more likely to engage in more wars.

59 In fact, polling has long found the U.S. public to favor a significant reduction in military spending, greater use of diplomacy, and fewer wars.

60 Waging wars for democracy is not terribly democratic when the people don’t want them and are not allowed any say in the matter.

61 When Korea announced plans for peace in April 2018, major U.S. weapons companies’ stocks plummeted, and propaganda for a war on Iran surged.

62 Congress and President Trump in 2017 pushed military spending up to well over 60% of the federal discretionary budget, stripping funding away from human and environmental needs at home and abroad. That trend of many years cannot be reversed unless the wars are stopped.

63 Converting to peaceful industries would involve so much savings that anyone in need could be re-trained and assisted in the transition.

64 Bombing Iran would be an environmental catastrophe for the earth far outstripping any green energy efforts you’re engaged in.

65 Maintaining the U.S. military in preparation for the possibility of bombing Iran — a possibility that grows with every threat of peace breaking out in Korea or between the United States and Russia — is an environmental catastrophe for the earth far outstripping any green energy efforts you’re engaged in.

66 A war on Iran would easily cost more than, and a small fraction of annual U.S. military spending is more than, what it would cost to end starvation on earth, or end the lack of clean drinking water on earth, or make U.S. colleges free, or convert the United States to clean energy, or quintuple actual non-weapons U.S. foreign aid, or build fast trains connecting all major U.S. cities.

67 The way to alleviate refugee crises is to halt existing wars and put a fraction of their cost into aiding refugees, not launch new wars that leave many more people homeless.

68 A United States government responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world, and it could become such a benefactor for far less than it spends making itself hated.

69 With every war for freedom we can count on losing more of our actual freedoms, and that would be all the more so with a war as crazy as an attack on Iran.

70 An attack on Iran would also require intense propaganda fueling the racist and Islamophobic bigotry already on the rise in the United States.

71 Results in the United States can be safely predicted to include: more racist violence, even more militarized policing, restrictions of speech and assembly, and a rise in fundamentalist religious hatred and gun sales.

72 Results in the United States can also be counted on to include: cuts to all human and environmental needs, and a major pushback against all progressive political initiatives in the name of war.

73 If the U.S. government bombs Iran, then that insane NRA video with Charlie Daniels demanding a war on Iran — which you may have thought was merely a ploy to sell guns to fantasy backyard warriors — will have gotten what it said it wanted. That lunacy will be U.S. policy.

74 If the U.S. government bombs Iran, Netanyahu will openly tell the world that the United States and its people are a bunch of easily manipulated chumps.

75 If the U.S. government bombs Iran, John Bolton will never be off your television channel, and any station without him will have his moustache on.

76 The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations claims that Iranian weapons have been used in a war that the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and allies are illegally and disastrously waging in Yemen, creating the single greatest human catastrophe on earth, the worst famine seen in ages, and the worst outbreak of cholera ever in the world. That’s not a justification to impose similar suffering, or any suffering, on the people of Iran.

77 While Iranian militarism should be ended, Iran spends less than 1 percent what the United States does on militarism, and the comparison in terms of foreign weapons sales is even more extreme.

78 It is hard to find a war anywhere on the planet without U.S. weapons in it. In fact, a report that made news the same day as the ambassador’s claims about Iranian weapons pointed to the long-known fact that many of the weapons used by ISIS had once belonged to the United States, many of them having been given by the U.S. to non-state fighters (aka terrorists) in Syria.

79 Alternatives to war include the rule of law. Iranians suspected of crimes, like Americans and Saudis and anyone else suspected of crimes, should be prosecuted or otherwise held accountable through processes of truth and reconciliation. Committing more crimes does not reduce crime.

80 Prime Minister Netanyahu should be questioned about sharpshooters murdering nonviolent demonstrators in Gaza, not listened to as he proclaims the same baseless lies about Iran that he did 16 years earlier about Iraq.

81 The United States overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator / weapons customer who lasted until 1979. Iran has never done anything like that to the United States.

82 The United States shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 people. Iran has never done anything like that to the United States.

83 The United States has labeled Iran an evil nation, attacked and destroyed the other non-nuclear nation on the list of evil nations, designated part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, falsely accused Iran of crimes including the attacks of 9-11, murdered Iranian scientists, funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designates as terrorist), flown drones over Iran, openly and illegally threatened to attack Iran, and built up military forces all around Iran’s borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country. Iran has never done anything like any of these things to the United States.

84 The United States now has a president who seeks the approval of people who want to bring about the end of the world in the Middle East for religious reasons, and who have praised President Trump’s announcement of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem for just those reasons.

85 The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

86 In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow. The line among the powerful in Washington in 2003 was that Iraq would be a cakewalk but that real men go to Tehran. The arguments in these old forgotten memos were not what the war makers tell the public, but much closer to what they tell each other. The concerns here are those of dominating regions rich in resources, intimidating others, and establishing bases from which to maintain control of puppet governments.

87 The reason why “real men go to Tehran” is that Iran is not the impoverished disarmed nation that one might find in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya. Iran is much bigger and much better armed. Whether the United States launches a major assault on Iran or Israel does, Iran will retaliate against U.S. troops and probably Israel and possibly the United States itself as well. And the United States will without any doubt re-retaliate for that. Iran cannot be unaware that the U.S. government’s pressure on the Israeli government not to attack Iran consists of reassuring the Israelis that the United States will attack when needed, and does not include even threatening to stop funding Israel’s military or to stop vetoing measures of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations. President Obama’s ambassador refrained from one veto on illegal settlements, while President-Elect Trump lobbied foreign governments to block the resolution.

88 As in any country, no matter what its government, the people of Iran are fundamentally good, decent, peaceful, just, and fundamentally like you and me. I’ve met people from Iran. You may have met people from Iran. They’re not a different species. They’re not evil. A “surgical strike” against a “facility” in their country would cause a great many of them to die very painful and horrible deaths.

89 The proponents of attacking Iran themselves admit that if Iran had nukes it would not use them. This is from the American Enterprise Institute: “The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.’ … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.” Is that clear? Iran using a nuclear weapon would be bad. But what would be really bad would be Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and doing what every other nation with them has done since Nagasaki: nothing. That would be really bad because it would damage an argument for war and make war more difficult, thus allowing Iran to run its country as it, rather than the United States, sees fit. Of course it might run it very badly (although we’re hardly establishing a model for the world over here either), but it would run it without U.S. approval, and cease to be an argument for military spending increases, and that would be worse than nuclear destruction.

90 Ahmadinejad did not say “Israel should be wiped off the map.” A more accurate translation was “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” The government of Israel, not the nation of Israel. Not even the government of Israel, but the current regime. Hell, Americans say that about their own regimes all the time, alternating every four to eight years depending on political party. Iran has made clear it would approve of a two-state solution if Palestinians approved of it.

91 Violent solutions are less likely to succeed than nonviolent ones, especially violent solutions in search of a problem to justify them. The tools of nonviolence are developing quickly and racking up successes. They are more likely to achieve good ends, and those successes are almost always far longer lasting. The United States government needs to catch up with the times.

92 The choices are not (a) bomb another country, or (b) do nothing. Other choices include aid, diplomacy, the rule of law, disarmament. Every time people try to urgently rush us into a bad choice, we can point out all the years in which we could have been transforming the world with a whole variety of good choices.

93 We could start making those choices now. But those who want peace have to be as organized and determined as those who want war. We have to actively demand diplomacy and sanctions relief and aid and cooperation and arms embargoes and conversion.

94 There is no such thing as arriving at a war as a last resort. War is a choice. A “hawk” is nothing other than someone who prefers to choose war.

95 There is everything to be gained by making peace with Iran, governmentally, culturally, economically.

96 Persian history is at the roots of Western history and could be studied as such.

97 Cultural and academic exchanges with a country that produces wonderful art, films, books, food, and a soccer team that actually qualifies for the world cup would be far preferable to yet more war.

98 A U.S. war on Iran, with or without a handful of partners or sidekicks, would unite the people of Iran and much of the world against the United States. It would justify in the eyes of much of the world an underground Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, a program that does not now exist.

99 The environmental damage would be tremendous, the precedent set incredibly dangerous, all talk of cutting the U.S. military budget would be buried in a wave of war frenzy, civil liberties and representative government would be flushed down the Potomac, a nuclear arms race would spread to additional countries, and any momentary sadistic glee would be outweighed by accelerating home foreclosures, mounting student debt, and accumulating layers of cultural stupidity.

100 The “news” broadcasters who called Trump “presidential” when he started bombing people http://davidswanson.org/top-100-reasons-not-to-bomb-iran/on a small scale would declare him something just short of king for life if he bombed Iran.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook, and sign up for: Activist alerts. Articles. David Swanson news. World Beyond War news. Charlottesville news.

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VFP joins Corvallis activists to say #Enough

The college Republicans at Oregon State University love their firearms…or maybe they just needed the money. They concluded their second amendment week with their annual drawing for a rifle and other firearm paraphernalia.

The Corvallis community was not happy. Many were upset that the college group would continue this well-worn tradition despite recent school and other mass shootings. It appeared especially insensitive to hold the drawing on the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre and on the same day high school students across the nation were holding walkouts to protest the virtually unrestricted proliferation of weaponry.

Photo: Ricardo Small, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND)

A dozen or so Corvallis community members and high school students arrived at the OSU campus at the time the drawing was expected to occur, based on prior years. VFP, Moms Demand Action, Re-Sisters, and the Crescent Valley High School Political Activism Committee were represented.

But the young Republicans didn’t show.

This used to be a big event, complete with a right-wing radio host to MC the drawing. Lots of hoopla.

This year…nothing.

Here’s an excellent photo essay from Ricardo Small, who was on hand to document the gathering.

This issue is central to the Veterans For Peace mission. See our national page on Peace at Home; Peace Abroad.

Photo: Ricardo Small, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND)

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Help stop the humanitarian crisis (and war crimes) in Yemen

Please visit this link to sign a petition to Congress, supporting an existing resolution that will stop US aid to the Saudi war crimes against the Yemeni people:


Urge your rep and senators to co-sponsor and support the bipartisan War Powers Resolution S.J.Res. 54 sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT). The privileged resolution would end U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

This award-winning video explains what mainstream media will not, because they are tied too closely to the war machine.

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Letter to Oregon Congressional Delegates: End War on Yemen

Jan. 26, 2018. From the Peace and Justice Works (pjw.info) Iraq Affinity Group:

To Oregon’s Congressional delegation: Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden and Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden:

We are writing to urge you to put an end to the US war in Yemen and support for the Saudi-led war there.

In December, all five members of Oregon’s House delegation voted to support H. Res. 599, calling for a political solution and pointing out that there is no Authorization for Use of Military Force in Yemen. That Resolution passed 366-30.

In June, both Senators voted on S. Res. 42, which called to stop the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia which allow it to continue conducting the war. Unfortunately, that Resolution failed 47-53.

You are all aware that the war in Yemen has brought about one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. Our group watched for many years as Iraq suffered a similar fate under sanctions and bombs– in that case, launched by a coalition led by our own country.

Jennifer Newstead, a nominee for legal advisor to the State Department, admitted that US law prohibits American assistance to countries which block the flow of humanitarian aid (Foreign Policy, December 19). Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tim Lenderking said there is no military solution to the war in Yemen, calling instead for “aggressive diplomacy” (Al Jazeera, December 22).

Since our entire delegation has already shown its support for the people of Yemen, Peace and Justice Works calls upon all seven of you to take the following steps:

1) Make this matter a focus of any public appearances, especially media appearances.

2) Take steps to strengthen the resolutions by creating or supporting legislation (such as H. Res. 81) that would stop:

a) the flow of arms to Saudi Arabia,

b) the use of American aircraft to help refuel Saudi planes,


c) the use of US drones and ground troops (confirmed by NBC on December 20), which only add more fuel to the flames of conflict in Yemen.

3) Ensure humanitarian aid is supported financially and can find its way to the Yemeni people.

We look forward to your prompt responses.

Dan Handelman, Wayne Haythorn and other members of

Peace and Justice Works

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Ambassador Tom Graham Jr. Speaks on Nuclear Weapons

Lecture on Eliminating Nuclear Weapons at Oregon State University.
“The Future of Nuclear Weapons: Can They Be Eliminated?”
Jan. 29, 3pm, OSU Memorial Union, Journey Room 104
Lecture by Ambassador Tom Graham Jr. At a time when North Korea and the United States confront one another, and their leaders threaten the use of their “nuclear buttons,” is there a way to end the nuclear threat?
Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. is a former senior US diplomat and Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Lightly Catered. Free and open to all.
Hosted by OSU School of History, Philosophy & Religion.

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Whither the Anti-war Movement?

The duopoly succumbed to the war machine, while organized resistance got pushed to the fringe.

By DANIEL MARTINDecember 15, 2017


“Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.”

A more useful line when it comes to our current wars may be “Imagine there’s no duopoly.” It’s hard to fault John Lennon for his idealism, of course. In his day, many blamed religion on the wars of history. But a much bigger obstacle right now, at least in the U.S., is partisanship. The two major political parties, in power and out, have been so co-opted by the war machine that any modern anti-war movement has been completely subsumed and marginalized—even as American troops and killer drones continue to operate in or near combat zones all over the world.

Aside from the very early days of the Iraq war, the anti-war movement has been a small, ineffectual pinprick on the post-9/11 landscape. A less generous assessment is that it’s been a bust. After liberals helped elect the “anti-war” Barack Obama, the movement all but disappeared, even though the wars did not. By putting a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Democratic face on his inherited wars, Obama expanded into new conflicts (Libya, Syria, Yemen) with little resistance, ultimately bombing seven different countries during his tenure. By 2013, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin lamented, “We’ve been protesting Obama’s foreign policy for years now, but we can’t get the same numbers because the people who would’ve been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama.”

It’s easy to blame the military-industrial complex, the corporate media, and the greed and malleability of politicians. But what about the anti-war movement itself? Why has it failed so miserably, and can it revive as President Donald Trump continues the wars of his predecessors and threatens new ones?

The rallies and protests in the early 2000s attracted significant numbers but they were weighed down by far-left organizations like the World Workers Party, which brought with them myriad other issues beyond war like global warming and poverty. There was also long-held and fairly broad skepticism about the intentions of United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which organized most of the big protests over the last 17 years. This was due to the “big tent” affiliations of some of their steering committee members, which critics say led to a dilution of the message and drove the anti-war movement further from the mainstream.

Perhaps the movement’s biggest weakness was that it shied away from directly attacking its own—the liberal Democrats who voted for the war in Congress.

In a sense, Democrats did emerge as the de facto anti-war party during the Iraq war, but that was only because a Republican—George W. Bush—was commander-in-chief. And what of the Democrats who voted for the war and continued to fund it? Out of 77 senators who supported the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq in 2002, 20 are still in office and roughly half are Democrats, while out of the 296 votes in favor in the House, 90 are still in office and 57 of them are Democrats. Some of them, like Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, went on to become party leaders. Two others, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, went on to become secretaries of state and their party’s nominees for president in 2004 and 2016 respectively. All went on to support new military interventions and regime changes, albeit under a new, liberal interventionist, Democratic banner.

Conversely, steadfast non-interventionist Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who voted against the resolution, failed badly in both his 2004 and 2008 attempts at his party’s presidential nomination. Bottom line: Support for the war was hardly a deal-breaker for voters, any more than opposition to it was a dealmaker.

Reaction to war is just a microcosm of the political landscape, a manifestation of partisan-driven, short-term memory. Sure there might have been momentary disapproval, but when it came time to decide whether supporters of the war stayed or went, the sins of one’s party leaders meant very little in the zero-sum game of electoral politics. Parties outside the duopoly be damned.

The same thing happened to the anti-war right, as the Ron Paul movement took off in 2008 with an immense level of grassroots energy. One of the singular successes of his movement was the ability to reach people on an intellectual and practical level about the folly of our foreign interventions and the waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars. Paul didn’t shy from criticizing his own party’s leaders and actions. He explained the Federal Reserve’s relationship to the monetary costs of war.

Ultimately, media blackouts and distortion of Paul’s message (for example, conflating his non-interventionist foreign policy views with “isolationism”) helped kill his campaign. After Paul’s 2008 defeat, conservative political activists seized upon the Texas congressman’s libertarian-leaning revolutionary momentum and channeled it into the Tea Party—while leaving the non-interventionist impulses behind. By 2011, national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin acknowledged, “On foreign policy probably the majority [of Tea Party Patriots] are more like [hawks] Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich.”

And don’t underestimate how the escalation of drone warfare during the Obama presidency muted the anti-war effort. Drone attacks made fewer headlines because they supposedly caused less collateral damage and kept U.S. troops out of harm’s way, which was portrayed by administration officials and the war establishment in Washington as progress.

What the drone program did, in essence, was to create the illusion of “less war.” Nevertheless, studies showing an increase of terrorism since the beginning of the “war on terror” indicate precisely the opposite: Civilian drone deaths (not always reported) create more enemies, meaning more of our troops will be put in harm’s way eventually.

So where should the anti-war movement go from here? Perhaps it should begin by tempering its far-left impulses and embracing its allies on the right who have been made to feel unwelcome. They could take a lesson from right-leaning places like Antiwar.com and TAC that have long been open to writers and activists on the left.

Meanwhile, flying “Resist Trump” signs at rallies not only misses the mark by suggesting that our needless wars aren’t a bipartisan, systemic problem, but creates a non-inclusive atmosphere for anti-war Trump voters. Ironically, not much “resistance” was heard when Democrats recently helped pass Trump’s $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and failed to repeal the original post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force, as was advocated for by Senator Rand Paul this year.

In addition, the few on the anti-war left who oppose war based on pacifist or religious reasons need to acknowledge that the majority of Americans believe in a strong national defense as outlined in the Constitution. Most people are willing to accept that there’s a big difference between that and the terrible waste and tragedy that comes with waging unnecessary wars overseas.

They are also averse to their lawmakers doing favors for special interests. Focusing on the money and influence that giant defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing have on Capitol Hill—essentially making war a business—makes the anti-war point by raising the issue of crony capitalism and the cozy relationship between politicians and big business, which increasingly leaves the American public out of the equation.

These corporations, along with Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, have accounted for $42 million in contributions to congressional candidates since 2009, with $12 million in the 2016 cycle alone. The majority of these funds have targeted Armed Services Committee members, such as perennial war hawk John McCain. In addition, influential neoconservative think tanks have received millions in grants over the years from “philanthropic” organizations such as the Bradley Foundation and the Olin Foundation, which have corporate backgrounds in the defense industry. The conservative Heritage Foundation is reportedly considering the vice president of Lockheed as its new president.

Furthermore, mantras and slogans like, “you’re either with us or against us” and “support our troops” have been used as powerful psy-ops to create a false dichotomy: you either support the war policy or you’re not patriotic. Debunking this by pointing out how these wars profit the elite while serving as a pipeline that puts more American military servicemembers—often from working-class backgrounds—into harm’s way should appeal to the current populist spirit on both sides of the political fence. In fact, it could begin to draw new, disenchanted voters into the movement.

Americans today are tired of war, which is good, for now. Unfortunately, without a strong anti-war movement, there won’t be much resistance when the next “big threat” comes along. The two major parties have proven to be false friends when it comes to opposing war—they only do it when it suits them politically. Moving beyond them and becoming stronger with allies and numbers—imagine, there’s no parties—is the best way to build a real opposition.

Daniel Martin is an anti-war activist, musician, and rock journalist from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @MartysInvasion.

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Vietnam Full Disclosure Discussion Notes

Viet Nam Full Disclosure
VFP Discussion Session, Odd Fellows Hall, Corvallis
4 October 2017

Vietnam Full Disclosure discussion in Corvallis, Oregon, Oct. 4, 2017. photo: Bart Bolger

Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter, Corvallis and the Odd Fellows World Forum hosted a discussion about the American War in Vietnam following the airing of the Ken Burns documentary series on PBS. We invited the public, but especially veterans who had spent time in country or in direct support of the war and those who were active in the antiwar movement during the war.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times covered the discussion in their October 5 edition here.

We set up the forum as a “Fish Bowl” discussion, with chairs arranged in two concentric circles. The inner circle was initially reserved for vets and resisters who began the discussion. Later, other attendees were invited to join the inner circle and the discussion.

Bart Bolger of VFP Corvallis (vfpcorvallis.org) began by introducing the purpose and procedures for the forum.

The Veterans For Peace national project, Vietnam Full Disclosure began in response to the US government “commemoration” of 50th anniversary, started in 2008 under President Obama and scheduled to run through 2025.

The Ken Burns documentary has brought the topic into the public and afforded an opportunity to examine veterans’ personal experiences, the war resistance, and US foreign policy and national leadership then and now. The “Full Disclosure” 28-page newspaper published and recently updated by VFP is an excellent resource. Copies were available for handout at this forum. More are available on request from info@vfpcorvallis.org.

Introductions began with Vietnam vets, conscientious objectors, and war resisters in inner circle, followed by all participants in outer circle, many of whom had very close ties to the American War in Vietnam…parents, deferments, etc., or other wars.

The following are very brief highlights of some of the participant’s comments. They will not be attributed by name, for privacy reasons.

The military draft during the war was a disruption of the entire society, not just individual lives. Before there was a lottery, no one of a certain age knew what was going to happen. Nerve wracking for everyone.

Many participants admitted to being uninformed about and unengaged with the war as it was being conducted and event since then. It was very common among the general public that most people didn’t know much about what was going on, or don’t have strong memories.
Many Vietnam vets were reluctant to watch the Ken Burns series—too painful. But the Burns series did explain—to a very limited degree, according to several participants—what was going on with the government leaders and the politics involved, e.g., the history of our early involvement in SE Asia.

Discussion of what was an “imminent” threat—whether the Vietnam was really justified.

Don’t have regret or guilt if you didn’t serve. Biggest problem is with government, not fellow peers.

Need to demand integrity from elected officials. We have the power, but must demand and use it to pressure elected officials to follow public will.

Moderator offered this quote from the narration of Burns’ episode one for comment:

America’s involvement in Vietnam began in secrecy. It ended 30 years later in failure, witnessed by the entire world. It was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculation.

Participant comments:
The war was something that very rich people made others do so that they could profit. Started waking up after he was in country. Felt bamboozled. Why are we here? Parallels to today.
Saw heroin addiction, homicides, suicides—what he really saw was that the war was a lie. When he came back, people didn’t believe what he said about Laotians, Cambodians, and other attempts to bear witness. When you give information that threatens someone’s core belief, there arises an instinct to disbelief.
Amount of combat is inconsequential when you talk to the civilian South Vietnamese. If you want to know the truth, you have to break your own heart. Saw many atrocities—war itself is an atrocity. War was mass murder.
Since end of WWII, U.S. has bombed 30 different countries. Citizens don’t want to know, and will not believe it is true because it violates their core beliefs. My Lai was not an aberration. In a war without aim, you tend not to aim.

Felt fortunate that he was actually fighting Viet Cong in the DMZ, and not civilians in the south. There was more than one Vietnam. Country is as divided now (then?) as it was during the Civil War. Sees things more in grey than black and white.

As a protestor, view of the country divided. His CO decision divided his family. Had to get letters of support to prove to the draft board that you were a CO. Could not get letters from his parents or friends. Later parents changed their opinion. Lost friends. He was protesting, but not radical. Investigated by government—basically kidnapped—taken away by 6 agents in unmarked car. Thinks the country is still divided. There is no resolution. Still fighting about that war.

Enter into a war in “good faith.” He had good faith when he entered. Senior NCO sent the message about Gulf of Tonkin. If they’re dead they are VC. Same thing that Iraq vets say now.

COs had to be opposed to all wars, not just some wars. There has never been a good war.

Lot of omissions in Burns series. No mention of opium. Kept pounding “Communists” as something evil—not just N Vietnam, but also Russia, China, etc. Money was the driver in continuing the war. Wasn’t discussed at all in the film. Everyone has a voice, but we have to use them to express our power.

The notion that they combatants are equals is false. There are predators and there are victims. When you plan to invade, first send in the missionaries, then protection for missionaries…mission creep.

Repetition. Politicians lie. People die. Now in Iraq, Afghanistan, more people die.

What are the tools we use to keep these things from happening again? Must speak up.

Enter wars even knowing that they can’t be won. Vietnam and Afghanistan…?

[VFP newspaper] Vietnam Full Disclosure is still echoing the lie that Kennedy was no different from Johnson. CIA assassinated Kennedy and rolled back all of Kennedy’s policies. JFK signed an executive order to prepare to pull out of Vietnam.

Criminalize the dissenters. Good protesters and bad protesters. Vietnam vets were not spit on—that was a myth. Not a single documented case, except by construction workers spitting on dissenters in Boston and NYC. In Corvallis, Vietnam vets were at the heart of the antiwar efforts. Try to divide natural allies. Vietnam vet recruiters on campus [OSU] were abused. There was a subtle distancing from Vietnam vet. Only one or two old friends even wanted to talk. Suicidal tendencies make it a lot worse. Launched rounds randomly. Killed couple hundred people—feels guilt and has been suicidal. But very disheartening for vets who kill people with no good reason. Takes your soul away.

The military-industrial complex is self-perpetuating machine. Have to consume product to keep it going.

Ego of president was also a driver of the war.

Does Burns ever talk about the Hmong people? Another omission. Didn’t’ cover the draft either, which had a lot to do with the ending of the war.

Mistreatment of Vietnam vets was more by conservatives who were angry that the veterans didn’t “win.” [Participant’s father was a Vietnam vet.] Her anger is directed not at the soldiers, but at the civilian leadership.

Agent Orange—was illegal to use in the U.S. [for agricultural purposes] at the same time it was used in Vietnam because the dangers were well known.

Young person: three things. Father did not have close relationship with his father, but had a clear memory of conversation of him saying “it’s all about the tin.” [referring to natural resources in SE Asia] Second: On C-Span recently heard proposal that non-mandatory service the civilians of the country do not have enough of a stake to really care. Draft would actually be a deterrent. One thing the government learned is that the draft does not work. Now the strategy is to encourage the narrative of honor and duty. How do we make civilians feel like they have a stake in war? Third: Connection to war has been as a student—to vets: how can we best support you? Take care of the vets coming home now.

Strategy to keep public quiet—don’t televise.

People don’t know that 18 year old men still have to register for selective service.

Worried that highest levels of our current government are being held by former high-ranking military officers.



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