Pants On Fire…

Author:  David Swanson

War is a lie cover (200x300)For the most part, Americans like to think of themselves as a peace loving people.  Unfortunately, despite all the peaceful talk, over 237 years, the United States of America has waged a lot of war.  “We’ve had our reasons”, you might say, and maybe some of them were good ones.  Maybe there really is such a thing as “a just war”.  “Utter nonsense”, says David Swanson, who systematically dismantles every excuse ever offered for war making, in War Is a Lie.

A prolific blogger and essayist over the past several years, Swanson hit full speed in 2005 when he helped publicize the Downing Street Memo, which shed light on the Bush administration’s intentional efforts to mislead the country into the Iraq War.  He subsequently founded WarIsACrime.org and published this book, his second, in 2010.

Rather than presenting the many suspect rationales for war in chronological order, one war at a time, Swanson organizes the different varieties of lies into fourteen chapters, presenting examples from numerous countries and time periods.   From Greek wars to Gettysburg to the present day – when the world’s lone superpower has military personnel in 150 countries – Swanson covers much of world history in this extensive survey.

If you think that wars are justified when fighting against “evil”, Swanson will try and dissuade you.  If you think that wars occasionally need to be launched in self-defense, he will have none of it.  If you think that our troops are heroes, the author will politely, but firmly disagree.  So many war lies have been promulgated for so many centuries that even 300 pages of tightly constructed, highly readable prose is just a start.

Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Laureate, working at the White House in 1975.

Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Laureate, working at the White House in 1975.

While Swanson views the world from an unabashedly liberal perspective, having worked for Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich in the past, he presents his assertions with no particular political axe to grind, taking equal opportunity to criticize Democrat and Republican administrations alike.  He’s also perfectly comfortable castigating war mongering Nobel Peace Prize winners whenever necessary.  Despite the author’s biases, I think he presents numerous thoughtful and well-reasoned arguments regarding those who actually benefit when a country is deceived into a new war.  Surprise!  It’s not Jane and Joe Average Citizen.  I also found his chapter on the blatant illegality of US warfare to be quite enlightening and marveled at the myriad ways that the claim of “self-defense” has been stretched and adulterated over the years to promote various wars and “police actions.”

In the end, War Is a Lie is a comprehensive and well-organized handbook suitable for refuting the various flavors of propaganda peddled by the wealthy war industry.  If US citizens actually had some say in their country’s war making decisions, maybe history’s list of US war actions would be much shorter.  Throughout the book, Swanson’s passionate efforts to guide the US toward a more peaceful future are quite persuasive and inspiring.  Strongly recommended for anyone interested in an alternative perspective on war and peace.  If knowledge is power,  this book provides quite a punch.

— D. Driftless

photo from the National Archives and Records Administration

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