Enabling the Warmaking of Empire

Part 1

It is understood by all that at least two sides are required in a war scenario. One side must be waging war on another side. It is not required that the aggressed side fight back. To surrender to a warmaker, however, means coming under the suzerainty of the warmaker. That is almost always anathema to a people since people cherish their freedom. Therefore, succumbing to a warmaker is likened to the indignity of living on one’s knees as opposed to the dignity of dying on one’s feet.

I am antiwar. In a perfect world, all warmaking would be abolished, the toys of war disassembled, and the military industries repurposed to more humane ends. While the warmakers and the armaments industry would likely be discontented in such circumstances, the great mass of humanity would be far better off. But I am not antiwar in a vacuum. Antiwar sentiment cannot be slapdashed in the same manner to any and all protagonists and situations.

On 26 January, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio interviewed prominent antiwar activist and author David Swanson. The episode was entitled “David Swanson on What Russia Could Have Done Instead of Invading Ukraine.”

Attempting to strike an impartial demeanor, and it is assumed that Swanson believes that he is indeed being evenhanded, the antiwar activist says, “I will speak against US warmaking and Russian warmaking which will blow some circuits in most human brains because, God knows, I hear from many people everyday who oppose only one of those two things…”

Drawing an equivalence by pairing “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” (as spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr.) with Russia is not only wrong, but it points to a bias, probably tied to patriotism.

Moreover, speaking to Russian warmaking begs the question of whether Russia’s war in Ukraine was unprovoked or whether it was instead provoked by the US-NATO.

Former US marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter read what he considers journalist Seymour Hersch’s “most important work ever” on the US sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines and concluded:

The decision to attack the Nord Stream pipeline puts a lie to the US contention that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an unprovoked act of aggression, instead underscoring the harsh truth that the United States had a strategic plan which hinged on provoking a conflict with Russia in Ukraine to provide the geopolitical cover for ending Europe’s reliance upon cheap Russian natural gas by demonstrating that every time Russia sought a negotiated end to the crisis, whether before the invasion through implementation of the Minsk Accords, or after in the Istanbul round of talks scheduled for April 1, the United States sabotaged the effort, keeping the conflict alive long enough to implement its major objective—the destruction of Nord Stream.

Horton turns to Swanson and poses the question: “What other choice did Vladimir Putin have?”

Swanson says that Russia could have tried to communicate its position to the world. Swanson opines that most of the world doesn’t believe in “Russia’s innocence.”

Comment: It is assumed that Swanson believes Russia is not innocent since he merely stated it and didn’t refute it? Granted, it matters somewhat what the world believes. What matters much more is the truth of Russia’s innocence. Is it not absurd to describe a country as innocent — presumably in toto, as innocence is all-or-nothing? And it is quite puerile because, after all, what country is innocent? Further clarification is required: what does Swanson mean by “world”? Is he referring to the 8 billion people on the planet? And just how is it that Russia would achieve effective communication of its position? President Vladimir Putin did speak to the Duma about how a NATO member Ukraine would imperil Russian security and that Russia was seeking a binding security guarantee and how that could be achieved. It was posted online and translated into English. Nonetheless, the state of concentrated media ownership and the reliance on advertising revenue would tend to slant any narrative toward that desired by the corporate-governmental nexus (in which the military-industrial complex holds great influence). Or is Swanson speaking to the leaders of the world’s nations? This would also have been fanciful because when does a hegemon – especially one which has accorded to itself exceptional status, indispensability, and the right to full spectrum dominance – bend to the concerns of its subalterns? Besides, the US can count on genuflection from NATO, Sweden, Finland, Israel, Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Japan, and South Korea, and let’s not forget Micronesia. That is a fair chunk of the world, but then there is South America, Africa, and Asia – and it turns out that most of the world’s population is arrayed against the US directives connected to the war in Ukraine – rejecting the sanctioning of Russia and 73% of the global population rejecting the call for Russian reparations to Ukraine. (It is important to note that such demand for reparations from the US and NATO for their warmaking in ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria — or of Israel for its violence against Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria — have not been made widely known. Syria, for one, has demanded reparations for the US invasion, air strikes against it, and theft of its oil.)

Swanson argues that Russia could have signed on to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and sought prosecution of the US.

Comment: How effective would that be? What happened when the ICC sought to investigate the alleged war crimes of US-arch ally Israel, a non-member of the ICC? The Middle East Monitor pointed to a bias causing one to wonder what kind of justice might be expected from the ICC:

This important development came seven years after the Palestinian Authority first asked the Court to investigate crimes “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 13 June, 2014?. In comparison, it took only six days for the same Court to start investigating Russia for the alleged crimes committed during the invasion of Ukraine. The comparison here begs the question: “How far is the ICC prepared to go, and how long will it take to produce any results on Palestine?”

Honestly and pragmatically very little is expected from any investigation and it is likely the ICC will face pressure to shelve any criminal indictments against any Israeli military and political officials.

Given this, if a prosecution of the US were to be undertaken, just how long would the wheels of justice be expected to take to render a decision? And what would happen in Ukraine in the meantime? How many more people in Donbass would have to die or be maimed by the war criminals in the Volodymyr Zelenskyy government? Swanson’s palpable bias comes through in his writing on 12 February 2023: “Needless to say, I think that Putin (and every living U.S. president, and quite a number of other world ‘leaders’) should be prosecuted for their crimes.” Conspicuously absent is a call, by name, for the prosecution of Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. There are videos (if authenticated) that reveal Ukrainian soldiers having executed Russian prisoners-of-war and using chemical weapons. This is not to deny that war crimes were perpetrated by fighters from Russia and other countries. This merely points out that Putin is named by Swanson and Zelenskyy is not named and neither are Biden, Trump, and Obama named. Finally, by having more time, how much better militarily armed and trained would Ukraine become? Might Ukraine not have become a NATO member in the interregnum? Ukraine used the many years after the Minsk agreements to violate them and to militarize. Swanson must have heard the common refrain: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Putin, however, does not come across as a fool.

Swanson suggests that Russia could have sent unarmed non-violent defenders into Donbass. Swanson realizes that some of these unarmed defenders could be killed but rationalizes that thousands more could die in a war.

Comment: All these choices that Swanson puts forward on the radio interview conspicuously place an onus on Russia. Russia did pursue a path to peacefully solve its security concerns vis-à-vis Ukraine seeking membership in NATO. The then-German chancellor Angela Merkel, then-French president Francois Hollande, and Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko have all admitted that the Minsk agreements were a stalling tactic so that Ukraine could become militarily fortified. Furthermore, did Russia not approach the US and NATO to address security concerns for which it was rebuffed?

Swanson proposes a ceasefire.

Comment: Is Swanson a clandestine propagandizing ally of NATO? Why should Russia agree to a ceasefire knowing that time is a critical issue for NATO to resupply Ukraine with weapons and train its fighters?

Swanson: “Russia could have used financial weapons that US and NATO have been using.”

Comment: And how has that gone for the West? Russia’s economy is growing according to the IMF. On 23 June 2022, CNBC headlined, “Russia’s ruble hit strongest level in 7 years despite sanctions.” Blowback is in process as the world is removing a major weapon in the US arsenal with de-dollarization. Besides Russia does not control SWIFT, the IMF, World Bank, or the willingness or necessity of NATO and other countries to use the US dollar. So what are the “financial weapons” that Swanson suggests Russia could use?

Reaching into his bag, Swanson pulls out the Russia-could-have-tried-more card to get Ukraine to comply with the Minsk agreements.

Comment: Why is the onus put on Russia instead of the deal-breaker Ukraine and the deal-breaking guarantors of the agreement, France and Germany? Swanson appears partial and still seemingly unaware of how NATO and Ukraine could take advantage of any time delays.

Swanson calls for a new vote in Crimea and Donbass.

Comment: Swanson, seemingly, does not grasp that this is not just about the territorial acquisitions of Crimea and Donbass. These proposed votes would not address Russian security concerns on the arming of Ukraine and its joining NATO. Besides, does Swanson call for a new vote for Indigenous Hawaiians on return of sovereignty? Or Puerto Ricans for return of their sovereignty? Chagossians, Chamorros, and the Original peoples of the continental US for the return of sovereignty?

Swanson: “There are always choices other than bombing people’s houses.”

Comment: Well, Russia tried other choices with the Minsk agreements and the security proposals to the US. So who is rejecting peace? It clearly points to the US-NATO-Ukraine as rejecting peace. With all due respect to the incredible suggestions put forward by Swanson, Russia must protect its security. History is clear how the US will react to perceived weakness.


Those who identify as antiwar aspire to a world rid of warring. Worldwide peace is the goal of an enlightened, moral humanity. However, the roots of warmaking must be identified as well as the major perpetrator of warmaking. Lumping all countries that wage war together equally without regard for the circumstances that led to their warring is shallow analysis and cossets imperialist warmakers. Such poorly thought-out antiwar rhetoric is antithetical toward bringing about a world beyond war. If this rhetoric is unquestioningly accepted by would-be peacemakers, it, plausibly, detracts from opposition to imperialism, which is a sine qua non for world peace. It must be understood that as long as there is a military superpower that, for its own selfish reasons, threatens other nations, forms strategic military alliances, and surrounds its designated enemies with bases and armaments that any aspiration for a world devoid of war will not be realized. The head must be chopped off the warmaking kingpin.

In Part 2: The impartiality of some antiwar activists.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Read other articles by Kim.