Large, well-funded organizations are beginning to edge toward opposition to at least certain wars, organizations that didn’t oppose any wars when George Bush II was president, much less when Obama was.
For those of us who fully expected most U.S. peace activists to vanish once Barack Obama became president but expected them to come back once Donald Trump ascended the throne, the failure of our second expectation has been hard, crushingly hard. But there are a few silver linings.
First, there is now a multi-issue campaign that, unlike the women’s march or the climate march or so many other marches, and perhaps because it draws its platform in part from one written 50 years ago, opposes war and militarism. It’s called the new Poor People’s Campaign.
Second, there are large, well-funded organizations beginning to edge toward opposition at least to certain wars, organizations that — as far as I know — didn’t oppose any wars when George Bush II was president, much less when Obama was.
One of these is the ACLU. I’ve never known the ACLU to oppose any war, much less the institution of war, much less the military spending that generates many of the symptoms that the ACLU regularly does oppose. I’m sending this article to the ACLU and requesting any updates or corrections. What is new, as far as I know, is this statement in which the ACLU rejects a U.S. attack on Syria as illegal without a Congressional “authorization:”
NEW YORK — President Trump announced tonight that he had launched missile strikes against Syria.
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, had this reaction:
“This military action is illegal. In the face of constitutional law barring hostile use of force without congressional authorization, and international law forbidding unilateral use of force except in self-defense, President Trump has unilaterally launched strikes against a country that has not attacked us — and without any authorization from Congress. Doing so violates some of the most important legal constraints on the use of force.”
Plus this one in which the ACLU admits that Congress has no legal power to “authorize” something that is a crime under a treaty that the United States is party to — in this case the UN Charter:
We call on Congress to act swiftly and do its job by taking up the monumental question of whether President Trump may continue to use military force in Syria. To do otherwise would be an abdication by Congress of the war powers reserved for it under Article I of the Constitution. And because these monumental decisions must be informed by meaningful public debate, we are also filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Trump administration seeking its full domestic and international law justification for the strikes in Syria.
The ACLU’s recommendation, despite that admission, is that Congress authorize the war or decline to — a position that is weak, nonsensical, and amoral, yet a gigantic step in the direction of the ACLU engaging with the existence of war and militarism in the world.
Another is Oxfam, which has actually set up an email action for urging your Congress member to block U.S. participation in the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen. Oxfam has previously vaguely asked all parties to find a peaceful solution. Oxfam has also opposed the arms and ammunition trade. But has it opposed a Western war before? Not that I’ve ever heard of. I’m sending this to Oxfam, asking them to inform me if they have.
While Amnesty International has long refused to oppose war on the basis of what it somehow considers some sort of principle, but has facilitated Western war propaganda for decades, what might be conceived of as encouraging is not quite opposition to any war, but a position against weapons sales to Saudi Arabia because of their use in a particular war. It would seem to be a small step from there to opposing the United States’ military’s role in refueling and targeting those weapons, and a really baby step from there to admitting that such an immoral behavior is also illegal. I’m sending this to Amnesty International, requesting any updates.
Human Rights Watch is unlikely to oppose any war, but I’m convinced that such a thing is possible. I’m sending this to HRW, requesting notification of any wars it has opposed or chooses to begin opposing. And if that should happen, what would prevent the U.S. Institute of Peace from picking its first ever war to oppose, or for that matter Congress doing the same?
Top Photo | Peace activist Marilyn Cornell, of Strongsville, Ohio, holds an American flag with a peace sign on it during an anti-war protest in Washington, on March 20, 2010, where thousands of protesters marched through Washington to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Find him on Facebook and Twitter and contact him at david at davidswanson dot org.