When the World Outlawed War
by David Swanson
AVAILABILITY: Readily available
Publication Date: October 2011
Publisher: David Swanson
Condition: Special Sale
Description: This is a masterful account of how people in the United States and around the world worked to abolish war as a legitimate act of state policy and won in 1928, outlawing war with a treaty that is still on the books. Swanson's account of the successful work of those who came before us to insist that war be outlawed points us toward new ways of thinking about both war and political activism.
Imagine if war were illegal. It is!
Court reporters' marginalia, overridden vetos, op-eds, and speeches have been used in recent years to "legalize" corporate personhood, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, and torture.
On the side of human decency, in contrast, actual laws that go beyond our wildest dreams are neglected.
In January 1929 the U.S. Senate ratified by a vote of 85 to 1 a treaty that is still on the books, still upheld by most of the world, and still listed on the U.S. State Department's website — a treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme law of the land."
This treaty, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, bans all war. Bad wars and "good wars," aggressive wars and "humanitarian wars" — they are all illegal, having been legally abolished like duelling, blood feuds, and slavery before them.
"When the World Outlawed War" seeks to revive the wisdom of the War Outlawry movement of the 1920s and to find lessons for our day in the activism that successfully worked from 1918 until 1928 to outlaw war.
The book explains how the Kellogg-Briand Pact was, in defiance of all expectations, made law, what it was understood to mean, and how it has shaped history -- including the prosecution of Nazis for the crime of making war.
As the Occupy Wall Street and Washington and the world movement powerfully reminds us, there are times in history when the possibilities of far-reaching change are limited only by our imaginations.
The Outlawry of War has never been fully implemented. The Kellogg-Briand Pact was only the first step in a plan that has not been followed through on. The revival of the Pact for post-World War II prosecutions was incomplete and distorting. What we need now, more badly than ever, is a truer revival of Outlawry.
"When the World Outlawed War" has been written toward that end.
Review(s): "David Swanson is a truth-teller and witness-bearer whose voice and action warrant our attention." — Cornel West.
“David Swanson has written a fascinating account of how peace once became the law of the land, through the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It is particularly pertinent in the era of the Endless War, by giving encouragement and suggestions of a path forward to those who want to give peace a chance.” — Liz Holtzman, former member of the U.S. Congress.
"David Swanson brings his laser focus, brilliant writing, and incredible intelligence to bear in this book, where he makes the case that the Kellogg-Briand Pact was a major step -- as yet unrecognized -- on the path towards eliminating war. He tells a wonderful story, shines light on the unknown peace activists who refused to be deterred by what was considered possible or reasonable, and makes a compelling analogy with slavery -- like war, a worldwide activity deemed unstoppable -- and like war, an immoral crime that must be ended. I have been active in the antiwar movement from Vietnam through Iraq. I have done political work for some of the most antiwar candidates of the modern era -- McGovern, Jackson, Nader, Kucinich. I have marched and petitioned, organized and strategized, and played a part in peace demonstrations from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to London and New York. And I am a history buff. But until I read David Swanson's book, I had never heard this story before -- and certainly never understood why it was important." — Steve Cobble, former political director of the National Rainbow Coalition, advisor to Jackson, Nader, and Kucinich presidential campaigns
“Swanson has done it again. This is a masterful account of how Americans and people around the world worked to abolish war as a legitimate act of state policy and won. Swanson’s account of the successful work of those who came before us to insist that war be outlawed compels us today to rethink the cost and morality of cynical or weary inaction in the face of our repeated resort to military threats and warfare to achieve policy goals.” — Jeff Clements, Author of Corporations Are Not People.
"David Swanson's fascinating new history of the development of the much neglected campaign in the 1920s to outlaw war has many lessons for anti-war activists today. An essential read." — Andrew Burgin, Stop the War Coalition.
"David Swanson predicates his belief that nonviolence can change the world on careful research and historical analysis. This compelling and wonderfully readable narrative examines pacifist developments in the U.S., dating back to the 1920s. Swanson then examines contemporary anti-war efforts. He writes from a particularly advantageous perspective because he is firmly rooted in plans and actions designed to put an end to war. Drawing from historical examples of success and failure, he help readers imagine achieving the U.N.’s eloquent mandate: 'to eliminate the scourge of war.'" — Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
“From Daybreak to War Is A Lie to When the World Outlawed War to a prodigious number of essays (and that’s just since the ’08 election) David Swanson combines the timeliest scholarship and logical elegance in a call to action: ‘to learn how to enjoy working for the moral good for its own sake.’” — John Heuer, Veterans for Peace.
“One of the best ways to radicalize someone’s thinking is to force the person to look at a cherished ideal in a fundamentally new way. David Swanson does that with War, an ideal cherished by too many Americans. Can the United States ever be weaned from its love affair with war — Endless War? This book provides the background for dealing with that question.” — William Blum, author of Killing Hope, and of Freeing the World to Death.
“How many Americans know that an American peace movement in the 1920s mobilized millions of people, and eventually the U.S. government, to get the world’s major powers to formally renounce war? Or that the Kellogg-Briand Pact is still on the books making our current leaders guilty of the same crime that we hung people for at Nuremberg? It’s time for a little education! David Swanson has written a wonderfully well-documented history of a time when Americans discovered their own power to organize and impact their government on the most vital issue facing the world, then and now: the abolition of war.” — Nicolas Davies, author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.
“Polls show a large majority of U.S. citizens oppose current U.S. wars, but many Americans’ reluctance to engage in antiwar activism is in part due to their sense of impotence at having any impact on their own government. This book tells the story of how the highly energized Peace Movement in the 1920s, supported by an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens from every level of society, was able to push politicians into something quite remarkable — the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. The 1920s War Outlawry movement was so popular that most politicians could not afford to oppose it. If any one piece of American history can re-energize the American people to again push their politicians, then this book can do it.” — Bruce E. Levine, author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.
“‘Ahhh, peace, that would be so nice,’ an Afghan grandmother whispered after recounting how 30 years of war had devastated her family. The world community has failed her miserably, as it has failed so many millions from the Congo to Iraq to Sri Lanka. But David Swanson’s book gives us a glimpse of another possible reality, a world that says no to war. By recounting the heroic efforts of a generation in the 1920s that actually did pass a treaty banning war, Swanson invites us to dream, to scheme and most important, to take action.” — Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK.
“David Swanson is on a mission to end war. In his latest book he brings to life an important story about a time when a national peace movement raged across our nation. The media covered this movement, and members of Congress were active participants. Through this movement a treaty was signed that outlawed war. Sadly today few know about this significant moment in our history, but Swanson’s book will help change that.” — Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.