Interview with American journalist and peace activist David Swanson


Kourosh Ziabari – David Swanson is a renowned American anti-war activist, radio host, blogger and journalist. He obtained a Master of Philosophy degree from the University of Virginia in 1997. He served as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign.

David Swanson is opposed to the U.S. military expeditions around the world and has been one of the influential voices in the United States, calling for the impeachment of former U.S. President George Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney for committing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Swanson believes that Barack Obama is also a war criminal and should be prosecuted.

Swanson is the author of three books and his latest book, “War Is A Lie” was published in 2010. He is the Washington Director of, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America and VotersForPeace and a convenor of the legislative working group of United for Peace and Justice.

The following is the text of my interview with David Swanson in which we talked about the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S. and the appeals of candidates to the war veterans in the country for gaining a wider reputation, the mechanism of the presidential elections in the U.S., the possibility of impeaching George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for committing war crimes, the possibility of a U.S. military strike against Iran and some other issues.

Q: David; the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says that there are currently more than 22 million war veterans in the country. How much important is the role of this population in determining the fate of the upcoming presidential elections? What techniques are the presidential hopefuls, particularly Mitt Romney resorting to in order to attract the vote of the veterans?

A: More than half won’t vote. Those who do will be important to deciding the election, whether or not the election itself is important. A majority may lean toward the more pro-war candidate.  This is where wars come from … from past wars, from acceptance of war making as normal. But I’ve been on my way on Wednesday to the Veterans For Peace convention in Florida. These are veterans working to abolish war.  By no means will all veterans favor a war-monger. Nor do veterans make up the majority of those who do lean toward war-mongers. When Romney promises a bigger military, just as Obama did last time and has delivered on, this is an appeal to weapons makers, war profiteers, and everyone scared enough and ignorant enough to believe that makes them safer.

Q: What has been President Obama’s approach toward the portion of military spending in the federal budget? Has the U.S. military spending increased after Mr. Obama came to office? It seems that the U.S. public is not content with the lavish spending of the administration on military. Is it true?

A: Military spending has not increased as rapidly as when Bush was president, but it has increased every year thus far. But people believe it has gone down. A law passed last year requires that next year it go down very slightly, but Congress is working to undo that. The public actually favors less military spending, but elections are not about appealing to the public; they’re about scaring the public that the other candidate is dangerous while convincing big funders to supply lots of money for more television ads with which to scare more people.

Q: In one of your interviews, you talked to former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who has put forward the possibility of impeaching George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for the war crimes they perpetrated. What’s your own viewpoint with regards to trying Bush and Cheney? Is this a practical objective? Can it be achieved in short-run?

A: It’s legal, Constitutional, precedented, and morally necessary but extremely unlikely, as is the prosecution of Obama. In 1797 the Senate tried Senator William Blount in an impeachment trial despite having already expelled him. He was not convicted, but the reason for not convicting him was not that he was out of office. In 1876 the House impeached and the Senate tried Secretary of War William Worth Belknap, who had resigned prior to the impeachment. The Senate ruled by a vote of 37-29 that it had jurisdiction despite the resignation. Belknap was acquitted, but not because he was not in office. Bush and Cheney and Obama can be impeached at least as long as they are alive. But first we would need to have a Congress that wasn’t subservient to two parties, one of which at any given time is led by the president.

Q: The U.S. troops have pulled out from Iraq, but hundreds of multinational forces are still deployed in Afghanistan and every day, we hear of bomb blasts in different provinces of the country, leading to the killing of innocent civilians and U.S.-led troops. Have the NATO forces succeeded in brining peace and stability back to Afghanistan? When will the time arrive that the U.S.-led forces should finally leave Afghanistan?

They should have never entered and should always have left immediately. They brought violence to Afghanistan and will continue to do so as long as they are there. Seventy percent of U.S. residents want them out. The second leading cause of death for U.S. troops is being shot by the Afghan troops they are working with. The top cause of death is suicide. U.S. taxpayers are funding both sides of a pointless disastrous war which is just a long way of saying a war as we pay for the U.S. military and it pays the Taliban for safe passage on roads. The United States has been a disastrous force in Afghanistan for over 30 years. It’s time to get out and make reparations.

Q: Mitt Romney has recently made aggressive statements with regards to Iran. He has pledged the Israeli officials that he will be supporting their bid for attacking Iran, if they decide to do so. Will he really realize his plan of attacking Iran if elected as the President? What if Obama is reelected? Can the Republicans persuade Obama to enter a new war with Iran?

A: Israeli newspapers claim Obama already has a deal with Israel that will allow them to attack Iran in 2013. Whether or not he does, that course seems very likely, whoever is U.S. president.  It will take a great deal of education and opposition to change it, I’m afraid.

Q: What’s your analysis of the role the U.S. mainstream media play in paving the way for the military invasion of Iran? Are these media influenced by AIPAC and hawkish think tanks that consistently push for war with Iran?

A: They have convinced the majority of the U.S. public that Iran has a nuclear weapon, that war is normal and legal, that sanctions are an attempt to avoid war, that assassinations and cyber attacks and terrorism are acceptable as long as it’s our side doing it. At the same time, they’ve convinced the majority of the U.S. public that the U.S. is reducing its military and working for peace. This is quite an amazing feat and they make it look effortless.

Q: Does the U.S. government pay any attention to the calls of anti-war advocacy groups who demand an end to the U.S. military expeditions and waging wars against other nations? Have such groups been successful in influencing the government’s decisions so far?

A: In 2006 we who oppose war had helping us those who oppose Republican presidents’ wars.  We had some numbers and some noise. Republicans were secretly telling each other to get out of Iraq before they were all voted out of office. Many were voted out of office. They were unable to attack Iran. Then the peace movement shut itself down. Perhaps a peace movement would get even farther when a Democrat is president, but we’ll never know, since the peace movement shuts down during those periods. It’ll be back if Romney’s president. Lots of people will discover that they oppose wars again.

Q: One of your recent interviewees was Rocky Anderson, the Justice Party candidate for U.S. president. Every term, several independent, non-aligned candidates like Rocky run for the office of the U.S. President, but they receive little votes and international media attention, as well. The whole world focuses on the two main Democrat and Republican hopefuls and finally, it’s one of these two rivals who wins the elections.  What’s the reason? Is there anything wrong with the U.S. electoral system?

A: It’s very hard to get other names on ballots in each state. The two parties bar anyone else from televised debates. The corporate television networks only cover the two parties. Only the two parties have the money to buy the TV ads that cause the television networks to cover them.

Q: According to OPEC and CIA Factbook stats, the United States has some 19 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. At the same time, many political commentators believe that America’s wars on Iraq or Libya are aimed at dominating the oil reserves of the Middle East. Does the United States really need to wage wars in the region to take over the oil it needs for its future?

A: No, we’ll all die from the oil if not from the wars.  The United States needs to invest in a massive emergency effort to develop solar, wind, tidal, and other clean sources of energy.  But the wars are aimed at controlling the price of oil as much as at obtaining the oil for U.S. consumption.

Q: Some government-funded institutions in the United States such as the National Endowment for Democracy or Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran and running plans for a possible regime change in Tehran. What’s your viewpoint regarding the covert operations of the United States against Iran?

A: Powerful people in U.S. openly support MEK while U.S. labels it terrorist. U.S. has openly engaged in cyber attacks. U.S. is almost certainly involved in scientist assassinations or at the very least complicit by arming Israel and protecting Israel with endless vetoes at the U.N.

Q: And finally, what do you think regarding the assassination of Iran’s nuclear scientists? Iran’s intelligence ministry has traced the footsteps of Mossad and CIA in the killings. What’s your idea? Wouldn’t the U.S. declare a total war on Iran and the whole Middle East, had Iran assassinated an American nuclear scientist in its soil?

A: Yes, or if Iran had troops near our borders, or if Iran had a history of assaults on our country.  This is not about the rule of law but the rule of force — even over our minds. Most Americans have no idea what happened in 1953 and no idea what has been happening for the past decade.  We need cultural exchanges. We need communication back and forth. American racism and ignorance allow many to support a war on Iran for genocidal reasons and others for “humanitarian” ones. But of course we would never favor a war on our own soil. We need to learn to see and value others as equals, and we’re miles away from it.

Note: this interview was conducted prior to the U.S. 2012 presidential elections.