By David Swanson
Remarks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 12, 2018
There’s action happening now in the U.S. Senate on ending U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. There’s a big loophole in the bill. There’s the matter of selling Saudi Arabia its weapons. There’s the House of Misrepresentatives to worry about. There’s the veto threat. There’s the question of getting compliance out of a president you’ve pretty well promised never to impeach, at least not for any of dozens of documented offenses unrelated to Russia. All that being said, the current action is a very good thing, and New Mexico’s senators have thus far been on the right side of it.
But you can’t just end a war, can you? What should we replace the war on Yemen with? This is a question I get asked. When this war was what President Obama called a “successful” drone war, the question was usually something like this: “Hey, would you rather have a real war? With a drone war at least nobody gets killed!” Without commenting on who counts as nobody and who doesn’t, I’ll just recall that I would respond that I’d replace it with nothing whatsoever, but that it would eventually replace itself with a worse war — as it has now done.
Wars are different from other things one might propose to end. If I say we should get rid of mass incarceration or gerrymandering or fossil fuel subsidies or livestock or nations or religions or war monuments or major television networks or corporate tax breaks or the United States Senate or the Central Intelligence Agency or the off-sides rule or the acceptability of revenge or private campaign funding or aircraft carriers or telemarketing or the Electoral College or the Commission on Presidential Debates or advertising on stadiums — sorry, sometimes it’s hard to stop — it may or may not make sense, depending on one’s perspective, to ask what I would replace each of those things with. You might be asking, in the absence of gerrymandering, exactly how would districts be drawn. But in the absence of advertising on stadiums, the answer could be stadiums with taxes on corporations or it could just be stadiums without advertising on them, couldn’t it? Not everything needs a replacement.
If I say we should get rid of murder or theft or child abuse or rape or the torture-of-kittens, there are a lot of people who would not ask “But what would you replace it with?” There are even people to whom I could say that we should end the torture of human beings, and not just of kittens, who would still not respond by asking “But what would you replace it with?”
Now, let’s look at the war on Yemen. It’s killing men, women, and children by the tens or hundreds of thousands and risking the deaths of millions more. It’s putting men, women, and children through the agony of deadly diseases, starvation, violent attack, and the ever-present possibility of instant death or maiming. Compared to what this war is doing to millions of people who now live with their families in the middle of what used to be called a battlefield, compared to that, being threatened with a bunch of roving Muslims from Honduras crossing the border and taking over your job almost sounds like good news. I mean, at least on your way out the door you’d get to learn something about Hondurans and why they’re all Muslims and maybe even get your hands on that priceless answer to the eternal question “Why do they hate us?” For what you could sell that answer to Fox News for, you wouldn’t need your job anymore.
The war on Yemen is making a few stinking rich people even richer, but most people poorer. It’s causing horrendous damage to the natural environment, including the earth’s climate, and to a society’s basic infrastructure. It’s making the United States hated and the people who live here less safe, not more. It’s strengthening al Qaeda, ISIS, and violence in general. It’s distracting from actual problems that need to be solved rather than manufactured, such as climate, such as nuclear danger, such as oligarchy. It’s serving as an excuse to flood that region with yet more weapons and to keep propping up the nation with the very worst human rights record on earth. A human rights record, by the way, consists of how you treat humans outside of wars. You could bomb a billion houses but never kill anybody with a scimitar or a bone saw and have a glowing human rights record. Or you could oversee a death camp but wage no wars and have a miserable human rights record. Or you could wage more wars than anybody else, and lock up more prisoners than anybody else, engage in executions and solitary confinement and racist police killings, and allow the most poverty and suffering among all wealthy nations and still have such an awesome human rights record that your people believe your wars are waged for the purpose of spreading human rights. Anyway, my point is that you should, of course, only give bombs to governments that have good human rights records, because pretty much everybody prefers to be bombed by those governments.
The war on Yemen is accomplishing nothing good, while the harm it is doing could be listed for the next hour. And it’s costing financially many times what it would take to transform that nation for the better through actual aid. So, what should we replace the war with? What should we do instead of bombing Yemen?
Not bomb Yemen!
Generally, that’s my first answer when it comes to any war, although there are two other good answers that are progressively less flippant. And I think they’re needed, because even though wars like the war on Yemen are fought by militaries, like the U.S. and Saudi militaries, if I ask “What should we replace the U.S. military with?” nobody thinks that’s a crazy question in the way that I do. That is, nobody thinks it’s as ridiculous a question as “What should we replace kitten torturing with?” If anything, people think it’s a crazy question because they aren’t ready to think that militaries should be abolished.
The second type of answer one can give to “What would you do instead of the war on [insert the name of a nation almost nobody can find on a map here]?” is that you should address the supposed problem by sensible means rather than killing large numbers of people and attempting to somehow connect that to the advertised problem. In other words, search for the nonexistent weapons, or prosecute the alleged crime in an actual court, or negotiate an agreement prior to a massacre that you’re pretending has been threatened, or bring home the U.S. citizens you are claiming are in danger or as many of them as you can persuade to leave. Usually you’ll be dealing with a pile of lies, but this solution works regardless. Libya wasn’t at risk of mass slaughter, but bombing it created that. Iraq wasn’t overrun with terrorists, but now it is. Wouldn’t allowing the African Union to meet with Gadaffi or allowing the inspectors to keep searching for the weapons in Iraq have been better than actually making real the fictional concern? Afghanistan was willing to let bin Laden be put on trial. Why not do that? Vietnam was not actually attacking the United States by not actually firing back at ships off its coast. Why not show the Vietnamese the absence of any damage to the ships and ask them to pay the zero dollars for the needed repairs? Spain was willing to go to arbitration over the ship it didn’t blow up in Havana Harbor. Why not do that?
This answer looks a little different when a just cause has been attached to a past war. Whatever you think of slaughtering three-quarters of a million young men and then ending slavery, most of the world rid itself of slavery or serfdom without that first step. If we were to decide to end mass incarceration, would we first find some fields and kill each other in large numbers, and then end mass incarceration? I tend to think we’d be much better off to just jump straight to ending mass incarceration, gradually or rapidly but without the mass murder first.
When I talk about war lies, and about the fact that a just cause can be glued onto a war but cannot become an inherent part of it, cannot actually justify it, people will sometimes ask, “Well, but then, what is the real reason for all the wars?” If the glorious sacrament of Pearl Harbor was not actually a surprise but was sought out, if the United States didn’t actually fight to save Jews but refused them and condemned them to their fate, if Iraq didn’t really take babies out of incubators, if Mexico didn’t really shoot first, if the Commies didn’t really have a set of super dominoes ready to take over the globe, if Saddam Hussein’s friendship with Al Qaeda was about as strong as Donald Trump’s sense of humility, if Canadians aren’t all miserable servants of the King of England as a result of not having ever fought a bloody revolution, if the native peoples of this continent aren’t actually better off for having been slaughtered, then why? Why do it? You can’t just run around killing people by the tens of millions and risking nuclear apocalypse without some reason? What’s the reason?
I hate to break it to most of the people who email me the answer to this question on a regular basis, but the answer is not, as far as I can tell, any one single thing or necessarily rational at all. Is it financial corruption? Yeah, that’s part of it, but not the biggest part, at least not simply and directly through the buying of officials. There’s also the buying of media, the funding of think tanks, the funding of political parties that buy officials, the screening out of any candidates who might push peaceful proposals on their colleagues, etc. But that’s still not much of the answer.
The answer is also not the existence of a secret subspecies of sociopaths who look just like you and me but have no souls, a contention that is no more established by science than are the racist theories of the surging fascists.
It’s also not public opinion, democracy in action, at least not simply and completely. If we had direct democracy, few if any wars would get started, and military spending would be slashed, likely stimulating a reverse arms race that would eventually make any speeches like this one superfluous. Trump took the White House after making as many antiwar as pro-war statements. Clinton lost a couple of key states to — among many other fair and unfair factors — the belief among military families that she would be more likely to get their loved ones killed. The last time people gave the Democrats the majority in Congress it was explicitly to end the war on Iraq, which the Democrats then escalated. Luckily they haven’t been given the majority for any especially clear purpose this time!
Nor can we attribute all the wars to simple inertia, though it is a major factor. You set up an empire of bases, you sell and give weaponry to the most volatile areas, you arm and train three-quarters of the world’s dictators by your own definition of dictator, you train and practice for every possible and plenty of impossible wars, you normalize wars to the point that nobody even notices them. Few can even name all current U.S. wars. Nobody can name all current U.S. bases or the countries they are in. CNN asks presidential candidates if they’d be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of children. Starbucks says it has a store at Guantanamo because not to have one there would amount to taking a political position. You manipulate language and policy until it’s easier to add more wars than to end any of them. Yet, still, inertia is not enough. Somebody has to act.
I’ve never seen a war that didn’t have a lot of real motivations, all of them misguided or reprehensible, and usually chief among them the crazed desire to dominate the earth and to inflict pain and suffering, and a lot of pretended motivations, all of them false or ludicrous. One of the real motivations that has always been around but which has taken a different twist and emphasis lately is related to image. If you’ve been to a lot of peace rallies you may be familiar with the person, who may or may not be secretly working for the police, who believes that a good, energized, nonviolent rally that’s being ignored by the corporate media would be better off boosted onto the frontpage by smashing a few windows — even if that action actually ensures that the next rally will be smaller rather than larger. Now, imagine finding that guy and making him president of the United States. Imagine the people running the big television networks making him president of the United States because they completely agree with him that there is no such thing as bad attention. The CEO of CBS, in explaining all the free air time for one candidate, said that Donald Trump might be bad for the United States but he sure was good for ratings.
As president, Trump seems to be driven by, in no particular order: what Fox News says, what gets him the most attention, what the last person in the room with him said, what increases his personal financial profits, and what results in the most minutes of Trump on TV. But Trump is not alone in caring, in his own way, what certain media outlets say about him. According to the Pentagon Papers, 70% of the reason for continuing the war on Vietnam — for many years and millions of deaths — was simply so as not to end it, because ending it would be criticized more than any method of continuing it. Or so the war planners believed, and it wasn’t a crazy expectation. Watch what the so-called liberal media say every time Trump takes a step away from or a step toward nuclear war with Russia or North Korea. Media outlets’ loyalties are not to peace or justice but to the storylines they’ve developed.
The most recent commander of the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan recommended ending it, as have others, the moment he was out of it. But the reason that recommendation — made about this war by former top officials of all kinds for longer than high school graduates have been alive now — has not been acted on is probably best summed up by what another former commander of that crime, Stanley McChrystal said recently. McChrystal is played by Brad Pitt in The War Machine on Netflix, but he said this stranger-than-fiction line in reality. He said this when asked what should be done in Afghanistan:
“I met with Secretary Pompeo this morning and he asked me the same question, and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I wish I did. If I had a clever answer… if we pull out and people like al Qaeda go back, it’s unacceptable for any political administration in the U.S. It would just be disastrous, and it would be a pain for us. If we put more troops in there and we fight forever, that’s not a good outcome either. I’m not sure what [is] the right answer. My best suggestion is to keep a limited number of forces there and just kind of muddle along and see what we can do. But that means you’re gonna lose some people, and then it’s fair for Americans to ask, ‘why am I doing this? Why am I putting my sons and daughters in harm’s way?’ And the answer is, there’s a certain cost to doing things in the world, being engaged. That’s not as satisfying. That’s not an applause line kind of answer, but that’s what I think, the only thing I could recommend.”
The U.S. military is getting a bit desperate for recruits, and still I have yet to see a poster reading “Sign up to kill people and risk your life for the cause of muddling along! Increase your risk of suicide! We can’t promise you won’t end up freezing on a street or shooting up a night club, but we can guarantee we’ll start lots more wars in the name of supporting you!”
There’s muddling along, and then there’s Army muddling along.
A muddling of one.
Continuing war so as not to end war. That’s a recipe for permawar. And that’s what we’ve got, wars that cannot be ended. And wars that not enough people demand the ending of because not enough of the people being killed in the wars count as what Stanley McChrystal considers people. This past year in Afghanistan has been quite deadly, possibly the deadliest, with more bombs dropped than at any time since the peak in 2011, but fewer than 15 of the deaths have been members of the U.S. military. That number goes up if you count suicides and various other categories that are left out, but it remains tiny compared to Afghan deaths and compared to past wars. That’s what bombing poor people does, it creates one-sided slaughters. But does the U.S. media tell you about it?
I just watched a Hollywood movie called Shock and Awe, which dealt with the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam, and I had to wait for a line of text on the screen at the end for any indication that anyone from any nation attacked had been harmed in any way. Apart from that, it seemed that U.S. wars must be waged against U.S. troops who do 100% of the suffering in the wars.
Across the political spectrum the grandest remaining acceptable form of bigotry is that which considers 96% of humanity to be virtually worthless in comparison with the other 4%. Two weeks ago Senator Elizabeth Warren claimed the war on Iraq had killed 6 thousand people. Of course there are well the over 1 million, possibly 2 million, people who lived there who also died, and we have nothing against them, but they aren’t, you know, people, you know, wink wink — only without the wink winking because this is right out in the open. Try, I dare you, to find a U.S. newspaper article about that U.S. civil war that ended slavery that either (1) admits that it didn’t end slavery, or (2) refrains from referring to it as the deadliest U.S. war ever. You’re far more likely to find a skeptical article on the War on Christmas. Yall are aware that the U.S. Civil War is far from the deadliest U.S. war ever, right?
By the way, I understand that Congressman Adam Smith has said he will introduce legislation to cut off funding for the war on Afghanistan. I think we should support ending the war on Yemen and the war on Afghanistan and putting part of the money from both into a green new deal. And I think the draft Green New Deal should acknowledge that the military budget exists as a potential source of funds and that militarism does severe environmental damage that needs to be halted.
I’ve not encountered an actual war on Christmas, but it’s been a long time since the United States had fewer that a half dozen wars raging on any given Christmas. And almost nobody can even name them. Almost everybody can tell me that some wars are justified and others not. But almost nobody can tell me which are which or even name the existing wars in order to discuss them — a problem that I don’t think even the ancient Romans had. Apart from Yemen, there is of course the war on Afghanistan that we refer to as the longest U.S. war ever because the wars against the people who lived in North America were not real wars because they were not actually totally real people, I mean, you know what I mean. Bombing is up dramatically in Afghanistan last year and again this year, according to the U.S. Air Force Central Command’s account of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Imagine how much worse the prisons would be that little refugee children get stuck in if not for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. They’re going to start making us pay fees to hold public gatherings in Washington, D.C., but surely they’d be higher fees without Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Then there’s Operation Inherent Resolve, a war named so well that almost nobody knows where it is, a war that has seen CIA-trained troops and Pentagon-trained troops fighting each other, a war that generally has never made up its mind what it is for, Operation Inherent Resolve, otherwise known as the bombing of Iraq and Syria. Bombing was up last year when Mosul was demolished, but is down dramatically this year.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism lists documented drone missile strikes. They role on at a steady pace in Afghanistan, and have increased in Yemen and Somalia, but are down drastically in Pakistan. Then there’s ongoing U.S. fighting in Libya. Then there are wars across North Africa, a number of them fueled by the destruction of Iraq and of Libya. Then there’s the endless weapons dealing that has saturated a region of the world that, apart from Israel, makes no more weapons than the Native Americans made whiskey or the Chinese made their own opium.
Then there are all the wars threatened and risked, and the smaller-scale violence in dozens of nations across the globe.
Donald Trump is the first U.S. president since Jimmy Carter not to have yet started any big new wars. And the fact that he hasn’t, even though his television tells him that he’s finally presidential when he bombs people, even though he craves the blind worship that comes to war makers, says something very positive about U.S. culture. While the Vietnam Syndrome that Bush the First believed he’d cured was never perfect, the Iraq Syndrome sure isn’t either, but it does exist. It’s why Congress said no to a massive bombing of Syria in 2013. And it’s undoubtedly a big part of why Trump has not launched all out war on Iran. Nobody wants to do something as despised as is what Bush the Younger did. Nothing is healthier than what U.S. culture calls a syndrome.
Now, I’m not here to deny the existence of the so-called Deep State or to tell you that there are no career bureaucrats in Washington, no lobbyists for life, no toxic groupthink, no insidious corruption. But I won’t be the first to tell you that Trump is superficial. I’ve met a number of Congress Members as well. If they weren’t superficial to begin with, they soon become so. And this is not necessarily a bad thing or an anti-democratic thing. If Trump is resistant to attacking Iran because he and others in government know that the rest of us would sooner or later realize it was a horrendously awful thing to do, and if Senators will turn against Saudi Arabia — including Senators funded by Saudi Arabia — because Saudi Arabia killed a Washington Post reporter without using a missile, this opens up some possibilities for us. What if we treated wars that kill anyone the way that politicians fear we might treat wars that kill lots of Americans? What if we treated preparations for more wars that way?
I haven’t even mentioned the main way in which war kills. Three percent of U.S. military spending could end starvation on earth, one percent the lack of clean water. The United States could provide houses and schools and hospitals for everyone in Afghanistan for far less than it has spent destroying the place. Could things be bad and in some ways worse when the United States gets its military out? Of course. We’ve known that and demanded it anyway for many, many years now, based on the understanding that the later it happened the worse it would be. They say that air pollution both causes the greenhouse effect and reflects sunlight, so that if we actually stopped it and had clean air, the loss of that reflectivity would mean additional warming. But that’s no reason whatsoever to continue polluting. Afghanistan has been getting worse in many ways for many years. What if we were to compel the U.S. media to condemn each day of continued occupation that makes things worse the way it is expected to condemn any withdrawal that makes things worse? What if we were to imagine possible ideas to mitigate the damage as if we had at our disposal the unfathomable funds of the U.S. military budget? Could you disarm a country offering $1,000 per gun? Australia did it offering just what guns cost. If you offered people jobs in solar and wind, would they take them? If you can dump hundreds of billions of dollars into cockamamie theories of how to make Afghans like being occupied, why can’t you spend less than that on creating a civilian conservation corps in Afghanistan? If armed forces have proven so incapable, but unarmed civilian protectors and nonviolent peaceforces have been having successes around the world, why not give the latter a try?
The trouble, of course, is that non-war initiatives that cost money are considered expensive, while wars that cost twice as much are considered inevitable. On June 20, 2013, the Atlantic published an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates called “No, Lincoln Could Not Have ‘Bought the Slaves’.” Why not? Well, the slave owners didn’t want to sell. That’s perfectly true. They didn’t, not at all. But the Atlantic also focuses on another argument, namely that it would have just been too expensive, costing as much as $3 billion (in 1860s money). Yet, if you had read closely—it was easy to miss it—the author admitted that the war cost over twice that much. Nobody foresees what a war will cost at its start, but given that every war in history, as far as I know, has been confidently predicted to cost dramatically less than it ended up costing, and given that wars today never end, we could start considering their costs to lie in a range between enormous and infinite.
The conglomeration of endless wars on terrorism that have predictably increased terrorism have not, by the way, cost whatever enormous sum the latest report exclaims. Each such report on what wars have cost is actually trying to tell you that only a fraction of military spending is for wars, while the rest of it is for something else unidentified. In fact, military spending is all for wars and preparations for wars. It costs the United States over a trillion dollars a year. It’s a top destroyer of the natural environment, in addition to being the only likely place to find the funding to seriously mitigate the environmental collapse that is probably already locked in — which makes odd the omission of its existence from drafts of the Democrats’ version of a Green New Deal and the claim therein that money will simply be manufactured. It is the justification for government secrecy. It is the top justification for the erosion of civil liberties. It is a leading cause of increased racism and bigotry. Its veterans make up over 35% of U.S. mass shooters but only 14% of the male population of the relevant ages. It has led to people in many countries telling pollsters that the United States is the top threat to peace in the world. The institution of war is counter-productive on its own and anybody else’s terms. It does more harm than any particular war. It creates the risk of nuclear apocalypse while many nations are working to ban nuclear weapons. For a particular war to be just it would have to impossibly be justifiable on its own terms and, just as impossibly, outweigh all the death and destruction created and allowed to happen by the choice of dumping our resources into the institution of war.
War is the worst and dumbest thing that humans do, and yet it has been so normalized that it just goes without saying, and the need to be rid of it is never said.
If you read the campaign websites of New Mexico’s two senators and three representatives, you’ll not be able to discover whether any of them thinks 60% of discretionary spending for militarism is too little or too much or just right, nor whether any of them wants the United States to join any of the many treaties it is a hold out on, nor whether any of them wants to end any wars or start any wars, close any bases or open any bases. On the websites of two of them, Ben Ray Lujan and Xochitl Torres Small you’ll find no foreign policy at all and only be able to infer that the world must exist because they believe that veterans protect us and defend our freedom, and veterans must do that somewhere. A third, Deb Haaland, provides three sentences and wants the use of force to be a last resort, but doesn’t explain how that’s possible. Tom Udall is pleased with the war on Afghanistan but nonetheless wants it to end some unspecified year or decade. He imagines that the United States is spreading democracy in the Middle East and that giving weapons to Israel is helpful. Martin Heinrich accuses Trump of saber rattling in one sentence and of isolationism in the next, sees NATO as a force for good, believes North Korea and Russia are “worldwide threats,” and claims Russia has attacked the United States in some unspecified way. Heinrich says that the United States should only commit the mass-murderous crime of starting a war when it has “specific, achievable objectives.” He adds a couple of sentences supporting foreign aid and addressing climate change.
There is a third type of answer to the question “What would you replace this war with?” It is to say that we need to replace the whole institution of war with peaceful industries, diplomacy, democratic international institutions, nonviolent conflict resolution, and a culture of peace, This sort of systemic change is outlined in World BEYOND War’s book, A Global Security System: An Alternative to War.
So, what do we need to do to get there? What are the new actions that are required?
We need to demand the immediate end to particular wars and weapons deals, but we need to do so as part of a campaign aimed at total abolition. That means not opposing wars in order to be better prepared for other wars. It means not opposing weapons on the grounds that they don’t work and better-working weapons are needed. It means not pretending that the 3 or 4 percent of deaths in a war that are U.S. deaths are 100 percent of the deaths. Because they can avoid those deaths while still killing on a massive scale. It means replacing the celebrations of militarism in our culture with celebrations of peacemaking. It means educating people to understand and demand steps toward disarmament and conversion.
But it does not mean a lack of urgency. The growing calls for immediate and massive nonviolent resistance and strikes and interference, including from groups with appropriate names like Extinction Rebellion should also be the aim of those who have looked both at the levels of carbon in the atmosphere and at the nuclear doomsday clock. These twin threats are both closer than ever, and deeply interlocked. Not only is militarism where the money sits that is needed for environmental protection, but militarism is a major force in the destruction of the environment.
I recently wrote a letter to Senator Bernie Sanders asking him to take on militarism in a serious way. I asked 100 scholars and activists to sign it at first, and many thousands have signed it since. Today, World BEYOND War, RootsAction.org, and CODE PINK launched a petition to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, asking for her Green New Deal to acknowledge the existence of the U.S. military both as a destructive force to scale back through base closures and as a source of funding that needs to be moved to human and environmental needs.
World BEYOND War is working on a couple of campaigns that anyone can get involved in. One is closing bases. Another is divesting from weapons dealers. We are also focused on education. We’re speaking in colleges and high schools, and with groups of teachers. We have free webinars and online courses coming up soon that you can sign up for at worldbeyondwar.org.
We’re also doing coalition building. Because war is a top destroyer of the environment and of civil liberties and of the rule of law, and a promoter of racism, and a hole into which funding is dumped that is needed by every good movement out there, we can and must build a broader coalition.
One opportunity to do that is this coming April 4th, which ought to be a day to mark Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech against war and his assassination exactly one day later. NATO plans to celebrate itself, its wars, its bases and weapons on April 4th in Washington, D.C. We plan to celebrate peace and to unwelcome NATO to town, and you’re invited to come to DC and to do your own event here. Check out http://notoNATO.org where you can volunteer, endorse, sponsor, find rides and lodging, etc.
In building a larger coalition, there are many things that divide us and distract us. One of the worst things that does both is partisanship. I think it’s important to recognize the lessons of history: most significant change has come primarily from nonviolent movements that have altered what was acceptable, not from putting different people in power.
I’m not against elections. I think the United States should have them someday at international levels of fairness and verifiability. And I think we should use the rotten system we’ve got. And I’m not opposed to changing who’s in power. In fact, I think elections are much too slow and insufficiently punitive, and that we need impeachment and removal, and the credible threat of another impeachment and removal, which is far more important than who the person is who steps into the office.
When it comes to elections, if you want to do the lesser evil thing, knock yourself out. Refraining from arguing about that would be an enormous gift of time and energy to society. But when it’s not election day, I consider any and all lesser-evil thinking and lesser-evil activism to be horribly self-defeating. Years ago a labor union organized rallies for healthcare legislation at which they forbid people to say the words “single payer” insisting that people pretend to want something called “the public option.” They had asked the Democrats what people should pretend to want. And of course they got neither what people actually wanted nor what people obediently pretended they wanted. Elected officials should do their own compromising. They don’t need you to do it for them.
I recently watched former President Obama bragging about how much he’d increased fossil fuel production. And I recalled that 350.org had held protests of Obama with Obama logos and cheers for Obama and proclamations that Obama should radically change his ways because these people were with him whether he did or not.
A protest demanding the salvation of the earth does not need to be for or against anybody’s team. It needs to be for all of humanity. Our identity does not need to be one corrupted team or another, or even the whole 4 percent of humanity in this country. It needs to be everybody in this species, in other species, and the ecosystems on which we all depend.