Citizen Action Monitor

Although Occupy has disappeared from headlines, anti-military activism is on the rise

No 751 Posted by fw, May 20, 2013

David Swanson joins Paul Jay of The Real News Network (TRNN) to review anti-military protest actions across America, reminding people that while Occupy may have disappeared from the headlines, the protest movement is building momentum.

Click on the following linked title to watch the interview with Swanson and to access the complete transcript. Or scroll down to watch an embedded copy of the 14-minute interview and read an abridged version of the transcript with added subheadings, text highlighting and hyperlinks.

Occupy No Longer in Headlines But Activism Continues Nationwide, David Swanson interview, TRNN, May 19, 2013.


[Introduction by Paul Jay, Senior Editor, TRNN]

[According to David Swanson] activists succeeding in turning public opinion against drone strikes; other forms of actions on the rise. Now joining us to discuss protest actions across the country and remind us that in fact this movement is not over is David Swanson. David’s an author whose books include War Is a Lie. He blogs at and He also works as a campaign coordinator for online activist organization RootsAction. And he hosts Talk Nation Radio.

So the media’s filled with this. Occupy fizzled out. Occupy didn’t go anywhere. And they’re kind of back to just covering two-party politics. But you have a different story to tell.

[David Swanson is the sole source for all the following passages]

Media created Occupy then killed it, but activism didn’t die, it’s still there

The media created it [Occupy] as a national movement and then killed it off. But it didn’t die. It’s still there. And when I travel around the country and I participate in events, people are still organized as Occupy. There’s Occupy Dallas and Occupy every city you go to as a way that people are still connected and organizing to do the same sorts of actions and new kinds of actions. And activism, whether it’s part of Occupy or not, is very much alive and well in this country, little though it may be noted in the corporate media.

Drones have been a huge focus of activist attention

Well, you know, the issue of drones has been a huge focus. Earlier this year, a group of organizations and individuals got together and planned a month of activities through the month of April that was by many measures a huge success that saw massive demonstrations and protests and many people going to jail and making news and passing resolutions. We’ve passed a resolution against drones here in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I was just up in Syracuse, New York, where there was a big conference about the issue and then a protest that saw another over 30 individuals going to jail, some of them risking serious jail time because there was a protective order against them, protecting a commander of an Air Force base from nonviolent peace activists, if you can understand that. But in fact they’ve been there so many times that they’re getting through to the judge and educating the judge and the public in the process.

Activists deserve credit for the plummeting public support for drone use

And you’ve seen the polls on U.S. support for drone use domestically and abroad and to kill non-Americans, about whom supposedly we don’t care at all, plummeting–still a majority, but now a small majority of Americans who are okay with killing foreigners with drones. And that’s in large part the work of activists.

City of Charlottesville’s anti-drone resolution prompts other municipalities to take it up

The city of Charlottesville, where I live, passed a resolution that has now inspired many other towns and cities and counties to take it up, very few of which have thus far passed, but many of which are imminently pending, as well as states. The majority of U.S. state legislatures have now taken up legislation to ban or to restrict or regulate drone use, weaponized drones and surveillance drones. The state of Virginia is in the process of figuring out exactly the details on what will be a two-year moratorium on drone use, which I think is a very wise approach.

You know, we’re told that drones will bring us coffee and drones will fight fires and drones will do all these wonderful, good things. Well, let’s take a breath and figure out a way to do that that is compatible with the First and the Fourth and the Fifth Amendment. And if we can’t, well, then, you know, we survived this many millennia without getting our coffee delivered by drone; I think we can survive it going forward.

But the city of Charlottesville made a great deal of news, and city council members got more attention from the U.S. and world media than they ever had before in the rest of their lives put together because Charlottesville went first and passed a resolution against drones in our skies.

Activists protested George “Mission Accomplished” Bush Library opening in Dallas

[I swear I heard Swanson say “lie-bury”? If not, he should have].

Well, of course, I was down in Dallas for the big protest of the Bush library opening, and it was very encouraging to see such a showing. But it was, you know, sadly, something of a reunion of people who have not been together as much since Obama’s been in the White House. And so it’s very encouraging to see movements growing while Obama is in the White House, including the drone movement.

National War Tax Resistant Coordinating Committee have figured out a way not to pay war taxes

I was just down in Asheville, North Carolina, for a gathering of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. These are people who have figured out ways to not pay their war taxes as a means of resisting militarism and the funding of war and whose experience — in some cases these are people who’ve been doing this for half a century. It’s… their experiences, I think, can be quite valuable to movements that are now growing against home foreclosures, against repaying student loans. These are types of resistance that are growing, not as dramatically as I might like, but significantly are on the rise.

Big efforts are being planned for worldwide fasts in solidarity with Guantanamo prisoners

It’s changing very, very slowly. You know, there are big efforts planned for fasts in this country and around the world in solidarity with the prisoners of Guantanamo, who are now thought of as Obama’s prisoners, no longer Bush’s. It’s been too long. There are huge demonstrations planned, as I’m sure you know.

It’s possible to take a stand on military issue without being for Obama or for Bush

When we were in Dallas there were people there protesting who have been protesting throughout the Obama years. But there were also people I just haven’t seen in five years. So it was very much a reunion. And you did hear chants against Republicans and so forth.

And, in fact, when everybody came out of the ceremony with the five former presidents there at the Bush library, a woman came up and yelled at me as a protester and said, why don’t you people protest Obama? And I was wearing my Arrest Bush and Obama shirt, so I said, ma’am, can you read? But then she sort of–eventually she switched and started saying, well, if Obama does it, why don’t you like it? You know, because this is the mindset that everybody’s got – either you’re with Obama or you’re with Bush; you’re not against murder; you’re not for peace. And slowly people are beginning to grasp that that can be a position that you don’t have to be with one side or the other.

People are beginning to understand that Obama is engaged in a massive drone-based program of murder

Of course, we’re sort of right in the middle between presidential election seasons at the moment, so this is the closest chance we have for nonpartisan breathing space, but it is beginning to grow, and it’s beginning to grow in large part because of the dramatically increased awareness of the drone kill program, that when it was on the front page of The New York Times before the election, with the cooperation of the White House, nobody who disapproved of it noticed it. You know, they just remained oblivious. And now people are beginning to understand that there is a massive program of murder, including of U.S. citizens, but primarily of non-U.S. citizens, and people are beginning to get upset about that.

Yemeni man tells Senate Judiciary Committee drone strike “tore my heart”

Just a few weeks ago, there was a hearing, and the Obama administration sent no witnesses, has never sent any to any of these hearings. But there was a young man from Yemen scheduled to speak. And because the hearing was delayed — it so happens that his village in Yemen was struck by a drone the week before he testified. And his testimony — a young man named Farea al-Muslimi — was absolutely stunning. It was as if somebody had brought the dead bodies of the children we’re killing and put them on the committee table in front of these senators who didn’t want to see it.

“It’s outrageous to have this notion that a president can make war without limit in time or space”

But I think, you know, what really struck me in that hearing was how concisely one of the law professors — I think her name was Rosa Brooks — summed up the attitude of the legal community. And she said, if these drone strikes are part of a war, they are perfectly acceptable. If they are not part of a war, then they are murder. And she used that word, the word I think everybody should be using. And how can we know, she continued, whether they are part of a war or not? Well, we can’t, because the memos are secret.

So what distinguishes a war from a nonwar? Nothing substantive. Something you can write on a piece of paper and stick in a drawer in the White House and hide. And if it’s a war, well, then murder has become acceptable. And if it’s not, well, then it’s murder. This is the absurd approach that’s been reached not just by the neocons but by the human rights organizations, by anyone who sort of accepts war and then tries to figure out what’s legal within it and what’s legal in peacetime and how do these two sets of laws work.

But, in fact, under the Kellogg-Briand Pact and under the UN Charter and under the U.S. Constitution, war itself is illegal. And so you cannot legalize murder by maintaining that it’s part of a war. In fact, there was a law professor who had been scheduled to speak, who I’m told would have testified to that effect and was uninvited. So this is the consensus in Washington at this point.

Although Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s bill to repeal authorization to use military force is exemplary activism, the question of interpretation remains open

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s bill that would repeal the so-called authorization to use military force is exactly right and should be passed and should be signed into law. It’s outrageous to have this notion that a president can make war without limit in time or space. But this is the understanding of the witnesses and the senators and congress members in these hearings. There is no limit in time or space.

And, of course, you have this retroactive identification of victims as enemies if they are male and fighting age. And, of course, the victims are almost entirely Muslim. And so you have this message being sent to the world that we are at war with Muslim men, there is no limit in time or space, and it is everywhere.

How is drone-bombing a peaceful Yemen village any different from bombing the Boston Marathon?

And so, I mean, that attitude that blows up a peaceful village in Yemen is not altogether different from the attitude that puts bombs at marathons and sporting events. I mean, killing has been declared righteous and legal and without limit in time or space. It’s a global war. And so we have to undo that idea.

But even with that authorization on the books, there’s the question of how it should be interpreted. And many never dreamed of interpreting it the way it has been interpreted since about 2006, when they started shooting missiles into places like Yemen that were not officially war zones. And there remain a handful of law professors in this country who will tell you, yes, Afghanistan, it’s fine; you can kill anybody you like. But go to Yemen, go to some other country, go to Somalia, and you’re now outside the realm of legality. And so I would agree with them as far as they go and further.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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