Ending War on Earth in Illinois (Or Any Other Locality)

Al Mytty in Illinois during webinar for which these remarks were prepared.

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, May 12, 2023

We very much need World BEYOND War educational and activist events and campaigns in Illinois (and every other location). We also need the people of Illinois (and every other location on Earth) as part of the global movement to end war.

I say that having been in Chicago many times and at least once to Carbondale. Interstate 64 which comes by my house also cuts through Illinois, so a few cups of coffee and I’m there.

We started World BEYOND War in 2014 to work with thousands of existing peace groups but to do three things a bit differently. One is to be global. Another is to go after the entire institution of war. Another is to use education and activism, both and together. I’ll say a few words about each of these things.

First, on being global. There’s a great peace activist named Bill Astore who has an article this week at TomDispatch where he suggests that if we rid the world of nuclear weapons he could like his country better. I also read yesterday a book by my old philosophy professor Richard Rorty, probably the smartest person in many ways I’ve ever met, who simply obsesses over the need to view U.S. history as a glass half full, even if it means believing in myths and ignoring ugly facts. Unless one does that, he writes, we cannot do the work of creating a better country. He never even entertains long enough to reject it the possibility of staring at all the facts head-on and doing the work regardless (is the question of whether a country has done more harm or more good even answerable?). Nor does he ever even consider the possibility of identifying with the world or a locality more so than a nation.

What I love most about online World BEYOND War events is that people use the word “we” to mean we people of the Earth. Now and again, you’ll have someone — always it’s someone from the United States — use “we” to mean a military — always it’s the U.S. military. As in “Hey, I remember you from that jail cell we were in for protesting the fact that we were bombing Afghanistan.” This assertion would seem like a riddle to a Martian who might wonder how one can bomb Afghanistan from a jail cell and why one would have also protested one​’s own action,​ but it’s understandable to everyone on Earth who all know that U.S. citizens recount the Pentagon’s crimes in the first person. No, I don’t mind if you feel responsible for your tax dollars or your so-called representative government. But if we don’t start thinking as world citizens I see no hope for the survival of the world.

World BEYOND War’s book, A Global Security System, describes the structure and culture of peace. That is to say, we need laws and institutions and policies that facilitate peace; and we need a culture that respects and celebrates peacemaking and nonviolent changemaking. We also need structures and cultures of peace activism​ to get us to that world​. We need our movement to be global in organization and decision making ​in order ​to be strong and strategic enough to defeat the global and imperial business of war. We also need the culture of a global peace movement, because people who want life on Earth to survive have more in common with people on the other side of the globe who agree with them than they do with the people running their own country.

When a U.S. peace activist identifies with the world, he or she gains billions of friends and allies and role models. It’s not just presidents of distant countries proposing peace in Ukraine; it’s fellow humans. But the biggest hurdle is humility. When anyone in the U.S. proposes that the U.S. government do better on nuclear weapons or environmental policies or any topic under the sun, it is almost guaranteed that they will ask the U.S. government to lead the rest of the world in a better direction, even though much or even all of the rest of the world has already headed off in that direction.

Second, on the entire institution of war. The problem is not just the worst atrocities of a war or the newest weapons of a war or the wars when a particular political party is on the throne in the White House. It’s not just the wars a particular country is involved in or indirectly involved in or supplying the weapons for. The problem is the entire business of war, which risks nuclear apocalypse, which thus far kills far more through directing money away from useful programs than through violence, which is a leading destroyer of the environment, which is the excuse for government secrecy, which fuels bigotry and lawlessness, ​and ​which impedes global cooperation on non-optional crises. So, we don’t just oppose the weapons that don’t kill well enough or insist on ending a bad war to be better prepared for a good one. We strive to educate and agitate the world out of the very idea of preparing for or using war, and into viewing war as something as archaic as dueling.

Third, on using education and activism. We do both and try to be doing both together as often as possible. We do online and real-world events and courses and books and videos. We put up billboards and then do events at the billboards. We pass city resolutions and educate the cities in the process. We do conferences, demonstrations, protests, banner displays, blocking of trucks, and every other sort of nonviolent activism. We work on campaigns for divestment, such as for the City of Chicago to cease investing in weapons — on which we’re working in a coalition and with the lessons we’ve learned from many successful and unsuccessful divestment campaigns elsewhere. We plan local real-world and online educational events, lectures, debates, panels, teach-ins, courses, and rallies. We pass resolutions and ordinances for conversion from military spending, for ending wars, for banning drones, for establishing nuclear free zones, for demilitarizing police, etc. We help with lobbying elected officials, generating handouts and graphics, reaching media outlets, and creating media.

We answer the same relentless questions transmitted through everyone’s minds by the U.S. media about a topic like Ukraine, and encourage you to tell others who might tell others who might tell others so that someday the questions might change.

We do campaigns to close or to block the creation of military bases, as we’re doing right now in Montenegro. And we work across borders to provide solidarity. In a small country like Montenegro, any sign of support from the United States is of vastly more value than you’d likely imagine. Activism that you can easily do may not move the U.S. Congress but may have a huge impact in a place whose fate is determined by U.S. Congress Members who couldn’t find it on a map.

In a place called Sinjajevina, the U.S. military is trying to create a new military training ground against the wishes of the people who live there and who have been risking their lives to prevent it. They would be super grateful and it might even make the news in Montenegro if you were to go to worldbeyondwar.org and click on the first big image at the top to get to worldbeyondwar.org/sinjajevina and find the graphic to print out as a sign, hold up, and take a picture of yourself, in an ordinary place or at an outdoor landmark, and email it to info AT worldbeyondwar.org.

If you don’t mind I’ll say a few words about Sinjajevina. The flowers are in bloom in the mountain pastures of Sinjajevina. And the U.S. military is on its way to trample them and practice destroying things. What did these beautiful sheep-herding families in this European mountain paradise do to the Pentagon?

Not a damn thing. In fact, they followed all the proper rules. They spoke in public fora, educated their fellow citizens, produced scientific research, listened carefully to the most ludicrous contrary opinions, lobbied, campaigned, voted, and elected officials who promised not to destroy their mountain homes for the U.S. military and a new NATO training ground too large for the Montenegrin military to know what to do with. They lived within the rules based order, and they’ve simply been lied to when not ignored. Not a single U.S. media outlet has deigned to even mention their existence, even as they’ve risked their lives as human shields to protect their way of life and all the creatures of the mountain ecosystem.

Now 500 U.S. troops, according to the Montenegrin Ministry of “Defense,” will be practicing organized murder and destruction from May 22 to June 2, 2023. And the people plan to nonviolently resist and protest. No doubt the United States will involve some token troops from some NATO sidekicks and call it an “international” defense of “democracy” “operation.” But has anyone involved asked themselves what democracy is? If democracy is the right of the U.S. military to destroy people’s homes wherever it sees fit, as a reward for signing onto NATO, buying weapons, and swearing subservience, then those who scorn democracy can hardly be faulted, can they?

We’ve also just released our annual update of what we call Mapping Militarism, a series of interactive maps that let you examine the shape of war and peace in the world. That, too, is on the website.

In conclusion, I’ve told you nothing and am probably incapable of telling you anything that isn’t said better on our website at worldbeyondwar.org, and if anyone can ask me a question today that hasn’t already been answered better than I can answer it on our website it will be an historic first. So I encourage spending some time reading the website.

But there are some bits that are only for chapters. ​W​e can work with you to create a chapter webpage. We can work with you to create a chapter account in the online tool we use called Action Network, so that you can create petitions, email actions, event registration pages, fundraisers, emails, etc. As a chapter, you get all of our public resources plus some that nobody else gets, plus assistance from our staff, our board, and all our other chapters and affiliates and friends and allies around the world who stand in solidarity with you as a global community for sanity and peace. Thank you.

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