This War Too Is A Lie
By David Swanson /

Some smart people thought, and perhaps some still think, that the 2003-2011 war on Iraq was unique in that it was promoted with the use of blatant lies.  When I’d researched dozens of other wars and failed to find one that wasn’t based on a foundation of similar lies, I wrote a book about the most common war lie varieties. I called it War Is A Lie.

That book has sold more than any of my others, and I like to think it’s contributed some teeny bit to the remarkable and very welcome skepticism that is greeting the U.S. government’s current claims about Syria.  The fact is that, were the White House telling the truth about the need for an attack on Syria, it would be a first in history.  Every other case for war has always been dishonest.

The United States sought out war with Mexico, not the reverse.  There was never any evidence that Spain sank the Maine.  The Philippines didn’t benefit from U.S. occupation.  The Lusitania was known to be carrying troops and arms.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened.  Iraq didn’t take any babies out of incubators.  The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to be tried in a neutral court.  Libya wasn’t about to kill everyone in Benghazi.  Et cetera.  Even wars that people like to imagine as justified, such as World War II, were nonetheless packaged in lies; FDR’s tales about the Greer and the Kearney and supposed secret Nazi maps and plans were a step on the steady trajectory from Woodrow Wilson to Karl Rove.

The idea that Syria used chemical weapons is more plausible than the idea that Iraq had vast stockpiles of chemical, biological, and (in some versions) nuclear weapons and was working with al Qaeda.  But the evidence offered in the case of Syria is no stronger than that for Iraq.  It’s harder to disprove merely because there’s nothing to it: no documentation, no sources, no science.  Congress members who have seen the classified version say it’s no better than the declassified.  Experts within the government and reporters in Syria who have seen more than that say they don’t believe the White House’s claims.  The assertions masquerading as a case come packaged in dishonest claims about how quickly Syria gave access to inspectors, and are written in a manner to suggest far greater knowledge and certainty than they actually assert on careful examination.  The latest claims follow a series of failed claims over a period of months and stand to benefit a Syrian opposition that has been found repeatedly to be manufacturing false propaganda aimed at bringing the United States into the war.  It seems, at this point, unlikely that the Assad government used chemical weapons two weeks ago, and already certain that even if it did, President Obama and Secretary Kerry don’t know it — they’ve only guessed it at best.

The debate over chemical weapons, itself, is framed by the lie that a law against chemical weapons can be enforced by one nation attacking another.  In fact, Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.  If it were, it would be subject to prosecution in court.  In any event, it is subject to the judgment and action of the world and its courts, not of one vigilante representing 4% of the world.  The bizarre idea that bombing a country can be a form of law enforcement dishonestly hides the fact that the action itself violates the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact.

Wars, a central lie maintains, are fought against evil.  But Assad is not the devil incarnate.  He’s a horrendously awful ruler, pushed in bad directions by those around him as much as they by him.  He’s someone who has proposed disarmament in the past and been rejected by the United States.  He’s someone who has done evil things in cooperation with the United States, including lawless imprisonment and torture.  He’s not going to eat American children in their sleep.  He’s never threatened the United States, and has shown remarkable restraint in the face of threats by the United States and the CIA’s efforts to undermine and attack his government.  Residents of the United States in search of dangers to get excited about shouldn’t arrive at Bashar al Assad until far, far down the list past poor diet, poor healthcare, lack of exercise, automobiles, obesity, industrial pollution, unsafe workplaces, gun accidents, chain saws, lightning strikes, and countless other causes of death.

Wars, a common lie holds, are fought in defense.  But Syria is no threat to the United States, and when President Obama suggests that theoretically it could be, the laughter you hear from most listeners is the correct response.  The White House hasn’t sought to build much of a case for “defensive war” against Syria, even on the Benghazi model, and that deficiency is a major weakness.  Most people have no tolerance for non-defensive wars.  Exceptions are sadists and believers in humanitarian bombings, or — to name a category that encompasses both of those groups — imperialists.

The Syrian government is, like any government the United States wants to attack, a brutal government that the United States worked with until recently, situated in a region full of brutal governments the United States still supports.  In this case, the brutal governments still armed and supported by the U.S. government include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Yemen.  If the US. government wanted to reduce violence, it could end its 2001-begun war on Afghanistan, it could end its drone strikes, and it could stop supplying Saudi Arabia with cluster bombs and Egypt with tear gas and Bahrain with ex-police chiefs.  Wars are not driven by generosity, despite what you’ll often — and increasingly — hear.

We’ve also been hearing that President Obama has no choice.  He’s painted himself into a corner.  War simply must happen now, for better or worse.  This is nonsense, of course.  If Kennedy could back off from a nuclear pissing match with Khrushchev, then surely Obama can accede to the opinion of the United States and the world on the matter of Syria.  Had Kennedy prioritized stupid machismo, we wouldn’t admire him more. We wouldn’t do anything at all.  We’d all be dead or never born.  Wars, despite a common lie, are not inevitable.

Violence doesn’t reduce violence, despite the prevalence of this lie.  Wars are not ended by enlarging them.  Adding violence to the Syrian civil war will kill directly, escalate the killing by both sides, risk further escalation into a regional conflict, exacerbate a refugee crisis, damage existing aid operations, and make a cease-fire and negotiations more difficult.  Killing some Syrians and blowing up some Syrian buildings will leave Assad with exactly whatever “impunity” he had before — particularly if no nations pursue his indictment in any court for any crimes.  But those Syrians killed and everyone else impacted indirectly will be worse off, not better.

As war drags on and expands, the arguments for continuing it will be retaliation against the attacks of other nations, even if our nation provoked them, and the almost religious duty to “support the troops.”  But the dirty little secret hidden by that shiny lie is that the troops don’t benefit from adding years to each quagmire.  The troops, in fact, suffer — often severely.  Wars are not prolonged for the good of soldiers, no matter what your television says.  They’re prolonged for politicians and profiteers.

The beneficiaries of a U.S. attack on Syria will be war profiteers, their political servants, media outlets that gain higher ratings, and a gang increasingly dominated by al Qaeda-affiliated groups that is seeking power in Syria through the use of vicious violence that is illegal in its entirety.  War makers do not have noble motives.

A U.S. war on Syria, short or long, will not be fought by armies on a battlefield.  It will be fought by missiles and planes and drones in and above the neighborhoods where men, women, and children live.  The human, societal, and environmental damage will be something that too many parts of the world are familiar with but the United States itself is not.

This war, like others of its sort, will not be won.  Syria was not going to be the first case in which a war was based on honesty.  It’s also not going to be the first place where a humanitarian war benefits humanity.  It’s not going to be the first place where the U.S. military builds a stable democratic nation.  It’s not going to be the first nation whose people are grateful for such an intervention.  And it’s not going to involve anything that could be properly called a victory.

The deepest lie at the route of this drive for war is perhaps the lie that a nation can prepare for war, dumping its energies and resources into every possible plan for every conceivable war, and yet manage to avoid those wars unless they are forced upon it as a “last resort.”  This next dishonest, immoral, illegal, unpopular, murderous, atrocity-laden, uncontrollable, environment-destroying, rights-eroding, money-wasting war will come relentlessly, ineluctably, it will come . . .  unless we compel our government to consider other possible courses of action, including that of actively working for peace through a posture of respect for others that would require a bit of truthfulness.

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 14,423 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 10,058 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 7,739 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 5,950 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 4,718 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,079 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 2,866 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 2,430 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 2,324 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 2,026 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,950 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,772 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 1,266 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 1,131 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 955 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 757 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 700 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 636 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 509 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 461 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
This War Too Is A Lie