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An interview with David Swanson


An interview with David Swanson

Mark-Alec Mellor: Conscription is sometimes justified as a duty of reciprocity: the state provides for us, confers civic rights upon us, and defends our natural rights; in return we have an obligation to fight for our country. Is this a sound argument?


David Swanson: “Natural rights” has a mystical, Enlightenment sound to my ear. Any and all rights are invented by human societies and nobody and nothing else. War and war preparations are major threats to such rights. We’re often told that wars are fought for “freedom.” But when a wealthy nation fights a war against a poor (if often resource-rich) nation halfway around the globe, among the goals is not actually to prevent that poor nation from taking over the wealthy one, after which it might restrict people’s rights and liberties. The fears used to build support for war don’t involve such incredible scenarios at all; rather the threat is depicted as one to safety, not liberty. What happens, predictably and consistently, is just the reverse of wars protecting freedoms. In close proportion to levels of military spending, liberties are restricted in the name of war—even while wars may simultaneously be waged in the name of liberty. Populations try to resist the erosion of liberties, the militarization of the police, the warrantless surveillance, the drones in the skies, the lawless imprisonment, the torture, the assassinations, the denial of a lawyer, the denial of access to information on the government, etc. But these are symptoms. The disease is war and the preparations for war. It is the idea of the enemy that allows government secrecy.

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