BOOK REVIEW: ‘War Is A Lie’: Handbook for Peace Seekers Debunks The Endless Lies About War

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'War Is A Lie': Handbook for Peace Seekers Debunks The Endless Lies About War

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. — Ecclesiastes 12:12, King James Version

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes 12:12:  “Of making of many wars there is no end,” but peace advocate David Swanson is thinking about issuing a revised version of his October 2010 self-published book “War Is A Lie” (Charlottesville, VA. 372 pages, $25.00, available from Amazon.comand other online sites). As I was nearing the end of the book, I e-mailed Swanson and asked for a comment on the book to include in my review.

He responded: “I wrote it to prevent what is happening now regarding Iran.  I’m considering publishing a special Iran edition in hopes that might work.” He might have added a comment about the current bellicose talk between NATO and Russia over missile deployment, with NATO missiles only 35 miles from Russia’s Kaliningrad oblast (the former German East Prussia). (link:

Having reviewed Swanson’s 2011 book about the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 on this site:  “When The World Outlawed War ( › Entertainment) I had to review the comprehensive book that was published a year before. The title is apt because the basis of all wars is a lie, many lies for many wars, Swanson believes. He makes a good case and this book would be a good handbook for the Occupy Everywhere people. More about that later in this review.

David Swanson

David Swanson

If you think the U.S. was blameless in the Dec. 7, 1941 “sneak” attack atPearl Harbor — the 70th anniversary of which we mark in a few days — read pages 57-65 of “War Is A Lie” to discover how we provoked the admittedly warlike and aggressive Japanese Empire (they invaded Manchuria in 1931 and conducted the “Rape of Nanking” in China in 1937) to attack the U.S. and bring us into a war Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted, on the side of the Allies.

After all, FDR was assistant secretary of the Navy in the administration of another great war interventionist, President Woodrow Wilson, who lied constantly to get us involved in a war we had no business being in, what later was called World War I. The ocean liner  Lusitania  torpedoed by the Germans in 1915  was carrying munitions for the Allies, as well as Canadian troops, Swanson writes. The Germans had taken out advertisements in all the New York newspapers warning that the British liner was traveling in a war zone.

Swanson’s interpretation of Pearl Harbor is no longer considered revisionist history — it’s pretty much accepted as the real version by WWII historians. We knew about the plans of the Japanese, who had been provoked by the U.S. with an oil and scrap metal embargo, thanks to our breaking of their codes. Those who died on Dec. 7, 1941 were, to tell the whole truth, murdered by the U.S. government.

FDR, Wilson, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower: They all lied about war. But this is nothing new in American history, with the acquisition of Texas, Arizona,New Mexico and California all based on lies about Mexico in the 1840s by the Polk Administration. Wars = Lies.

I’m going to select only a few examples from Swanson’s book to discuss, and I urge everyone to get their hands on this book and study it…”study war no more” but study peace.

I’ve been cynical for most of my life about the human species, but Swanson points out that war is not a constant, that there are peaceful nations. He lists the Top 20 on Page 110 and I’m listing them in the order he presents them: New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, Austria, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland,Sweden, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Canada, Qatar, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Australiaand Hungary.

Countries can change from warlike to peaceful, as the inclusion of Germany and Japan on that list clearly shows. They just have to decide — as we most certainly haven’t even under the administration of a president — Barack Obama — who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for no apparent achievements. By the way, that prize was never awarded to Gandhi, although warmakers like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Kissinger received it. To be fair to the Norwegians, who administer the prize, it did go to Frank Kellogg, co-author of the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928.

I was pleased to see the inclusion of Marine Corps Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940) in Swanson’s book (Pages 174 ff). Butler, the most decorated Marine, with two Medals of Honor (often erroneously called Congressional Medals of Honor), who wrote a 1935 book entitled “War Is A Racket.” (read it here:  Swanson points out — on Page 174 — that Butler’s most famous lines are not in that short book but in a 1935 issue of the Socialist newspaper Common Sense:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….”

Read this passage over and over again and think about the Occupy Everywhere movements. I think — and I know Swanson would agree with me — that the Occupy people should concentrate on targeting the lies that are behind all wars. They should occupy the Pentagon and protest at military bases and companies that profit from war, which would mean virtually every company in this country and the world. They should boycott Starbucks, too, because the Seattle coffeehouse chain has a Starbucks at Guantanamo Bay — something that was news to me!

The Occupy Everywhere people should study Page 283 in “War Is A Lie,” where Swanson’s cites Steven Hill’s book “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age.”  Swanson says Hill’s argument is that the EU (European Union) “is the world’s largest and most competitive economy and most of those living in it are wealthier, healthier, and happier than most Americans. Europeans work shorter hours, have a greater say in how their employers behave, receive lengthier paid vacations and paid parental leave, can rely on guaranteed paid pension, have free or extremely inexpensive healthcare, enjoy free or inexpensive educations from preschool to college….”  Whether this will continue given the economic shocks the EU is undergoing is problematical, but I don’t see many Europeans emigrating to the U.S. anymore.

“War Is A Lie” is a thorough refutation of every major argument used to justify wars, drawing on evidence from numerous past wars, with a focus on those wars that have been most widely defended as just and good. This is a handbook of sorts, a manual to be used in debunking future lies before future wars have a chance to begin. For more information visit

About the Author

David Swanson is an American author, blogger, and anti-war activist. He served as press secretary forOhio congressman Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign. He is a contributor to Huntington News Network.  He was a key figure in making the Downing Street Memo known across America. The memo, the leaked minutes of a meeting of the British war cabinet, exposed the lies behind the war in Iraq and was a key element in turning the majority of American people against the war in Iraq.


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