By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, July 22, 2023
Remarks in Scranton, Pennsylvania, July 22, 2023
There is something that we need to tell a great many of our friends and neighbors. It is that we have been misled. All is not as it seems.
Here we are outside what appears to be a factory where U.S. government dollars create jobs, boost the economy, and fund activities that support the important needs of the U.S. public and the people of the world. Not a bit of those appearances is real.
When government dollars are spent on weapons, they eliminate jobs, because spending those dollars on education or green energy or never taxing them in the first place creates more jobs than spending them on weapons — and better paying jobs with wider economic impact — and that’s regardless of whether the weapons are given away to a foreign government and whoever ends up with them. Weapons are not products or services that circulate in the economy. They are made to destroy themselves and much else. And a huge chunk of the money ends up with very few people. This economy is drained and degraded by the funding of this factory — a reality that becomes apparent if we direct our vision more widely.
Compare life around here with life in many more wealthy and less wealthy countries. Where is our free higher education? Where is our secure retirement? Where is our healthcare as a human right? Where is our protection from the indignity and ordeal of poverty in the midst of mountainous wealth? Where, oh Amtrak Joe, for the love of all that is decent, are our non-antique trains? Why do we all travel about in Earth-eating automobiles? How is it that we’ve been kept so ignorant that we can be told we’re dreaming of fantasies when we speak of things that are normal for many more people than live in this country — a country where bringing back child labor is deemed progress?
Wait! we are told, first things first. We must manufacture weapons to save the world. After that we can worry about lesser matters. But we have been misled. All is not as it seems. The expansion of NATO, driven by the desire to sell weapons, is one half of the war dance that got us here. The U.S. refusal to allow peace negotiations keeps the war going. It’s not good enough to say that the Russians are immoral and evil and therefore the U.S. should do whatever Russia does. It’s not good enough for each side to justify using various weapons because the other side does, to place nuclear weapons in more countries because the other side does, to declare the only acceptable outcome complete overthrow of a government — whether Ukraine’s or Russia’s — because the other side does. It’s not good enough to say we are fueling a war that is killing off the people of Ukraine because the Ukrainian government supports it. When did corrupt governments run by television actors and bowing to rightwing pressures become our arbiters of moral wisdom? Is it the fumes from these factories that make us forget that we know better?
A journalist recently called giving weapons to Ukraine “too big to fail.” Like giving money to dirty banks. But one only says that about things that should fail but for which one imagines there are no alternatives. We have been misled. All is not as it seems.
President Biden says that Ukraine will join NATO after the war — practically guaranteeing that there will be no end to the war, other than a nuclear end to us all. The U.S. Senate just passed a bill banning ever leaving NATO, meaning that an ever-growing list of governments have the power to compel the rest of them to join in WWIII. Anything — anything at all — is a preferable alternative to this collective suicide pact. And there are some good alternatives. Unfortunately, they require certain emotional and intellectual feats that some find more difficult than sacrificing their own quality of life and the very lives of Ukrainians and Russians. The alternatives require compromise, humility, and acceptance of others as equals — skills we teach our children but not our Congress Members or Presidents.
Peace requires that neither the Russian not the Ukrainian government get everything it wants, everything it thinks it needs, everything it thinks it has killed a great many people for. That’s not easy. But the motivations for making peace could hardly be greater. Not only is this the path away from nuclear apocalypse, but it is also the path toward slowing the climate apocalypse and the accompanying catastrophes of homelessness, hunger, disease, and fascism. We need cooperation in place of combat, and we need it immediately.
The notion that we cannot demand and obtain such changes is in every news report and film. But we have been misled. All is not as it seems. The power of nonviolent action is exactly as strong as is reflected by the massive efforts invested in persuading us that it will not work. Let us remember in the words of Shelley to
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number–
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you–
Ye are many — they are few.