SPECIAL EVENT: David Swanson will be in Columbus at 7pm on Sept. 9 for a book signing and meet-and-greet at Areopagitica, a bookstore at 3510 N. High St. near Oakland Park in Clintonville. For more information, contact Connie Hammond at

F.P.: Tell us about the book.

David Swanson: The book is called Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and forming a more perfect union, and as that title might suggest, it’s somewhat divided into a couple of parts. One part – what’s wrong, and one part, what do we do about it.

The part about what’s wrong deals largely with the real acceleration during the past eight years of the transfer of power -- from the Congress, and the courts and the people to the White House, and the crimes and abuses but also the systemic changes that need to be undone and reversed

The bulk of the book is about -- you know, beyond undoing the damage, how do we form a more perfect union where we have better representation, better government, better public services, a better relationship with the rest of the world, and so on. (The book is about) imagining what could be and then strategizing as to how citizens can be better at making things happen.

Could you tell us about the October 5 protest that is scheduled?

David Swanson:
Sure, one of the things that’s happened in the past 7, 8, or 9 months is that the peace movement has largely gone away and been de-funded… [but] we have human rights groups that would never oppose the war [but are now] helping with opposing torture and war crimes .They would never back impeachment, but they’re all for prosecution.

That’s the good thing from the activism point of view, but the peace movement itself, which would help on impeachment if you dragged it kicking and screaming, and was always there against the wars and was making slow progress against the wars, shut down and went away because the president had a different letter after his name.

We’re trying to revive at least some beginning of a new peace movement and October 5 is a Monday. That previous weekend, there are going to be conferences in Washington D.C. about the legality of the wars and ending the wars.

That Monday, individuals and activist groups are going to protest at least at the White House, possibly at other sites. I had long been pushing for a focus on Congress. It’s not that I oppose going to the White House, but that I really wanted Congress too and we can talk about why if you want.

But at least at the White House there will be a march and a protest and nonviolence resistance of some sort, and people willing to risk arrest if it seems appropriate and helpful to non-violently say we are going to try to slow down what you are doing, because it is criminal and immoral and we need these wars ended.

It [the protest on October 5th] will of course be a day or two before we reach eight years of having been in Afghanistan. So it puts a focus on Afghanistan in particular, as well as Pakistan and Iraq.

Where can someone learn more about the event so they can link up with people and make the trip to D.C. to participate in it?

David Swanson:
You can always go to my website which is but there is also a website you’ll find at, if you want to sign up to help with the non-violent protest, either as someone willing to go to jail, which I highly recommend, or as someone not willing to go to jail.

It’s not frightening at all. It won’t hurt your career or anything else. I recommend doing it if it seems like it will help that day. Or, if you want to be a support person and help out in other ways – in either case, sign up at

Someone can go as a freelance reporter and cover it or put some material on Youtube or write about it. You don’t have to get arrested.

David Swanson:
Absolutely not. We want independent, good media, and the corporate media for that matter, to come and document everything. [There is] absolutely no reason to risk arrest and even citizen activists who are wiling to risk arrest – when it comes down to it, you’re typically given three warnings. You can leave after the third warning and not be arrested.

So, it’s very unlikely that there will be a sort of scenario where they are randomly arresting standers-by, including the media. It’s not impossible. It’s not that it hasn’t happened in recent years, but it’s unlikely.

In a video you have on your website you called for “more organized nonviolent resistance.” I know you’ve written about the issue of torture and how it pertains to prosecuting Bush and Cheney, but what are some of the other issues such a movement may be based on?

David Swanson:
Well, there’s an endless list of issues to work on for people who want peace, nonviolence, and justice in the world. I think in terms of crimes that need to be ended and corrected for. The wars are on at the top of the list.

Torture is almost a trivial concern. It sounds bizarre to say that, but in relation to people who have launched blatantly dishonest, illegal, aggressive wars that have cost over a million lives – innocent lives – the idea that torture is the top offense is a little strange.

Torture is a war crime that will come with any future aggressive wars, even if we prosecute it [the crimes not the war] properly. But if we don’t prosecute it or any of these other offenses, they will continue and are continuing.

We need to oppose the wars. We need to oppose the torture. We need to oppose the empire of [US military] bases around the planet even where there are not hot wars going on. We need to oppose all of the loss of civil rights and liberties and the spying and the idea, the notion of throwing out habeas corpus after centuries of its valued service to our culture.

There are endless points to look at. In the bigger picture, we need to work on moving our priorities, our dollars, from the military and wars to peaceful pursuits, including things like healthcare, education, and energy.

We are facing as big a threat from Global Warming as we are from militarism. I don’t want to discourage anyone from working on any of these issues but we need to be better organized with broader coalitions and more willing to be forceful and aggressive non-violently in resisting these things.

We need to have marches on Saturdays by all means, but we also need to go on weekdays to the places where people work who are doing the things that are done in our name and that are killing people. We need to get in the way of the machine and it takes relatively little effort.

Just about ten minutes ago I drove through Greensboro North Carolina. I am headed down to Charlotte North Carolina for a book event. I’m just reminded as we were talking that the young people of Greensboro went and sat down at lunch counters and refused to move, and marched and organized and went to jail and undid Jim Crowe, undid Apartheid in the United States.

There’s a lunch counter in the Smithsonian. That sort of smart, strategic, courageous, non-violent effort is called for now and need not be a thing of the past.

In a video on your website you said in reference to Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war protest in Martha’s Vineyard where the Obama’s were vacationing last week “when you elect someone better or someone you think might be better [such as Obama] you make a deal as citizens in a representative republic to uphold your part of the bargain, which is to tell them exactly what you want them to do from day one on through.”

You said “it’s not disrespectful, it’s not rude, it’s not disloyal, it’s not un-strategic. It is [what it means to be] an educated citizen in a representative democracy.” It seems to me that the idea you’re presenting is that protest and civil disobedience is a form of patriotism. What are your thoughts on patriotism then, or the role that people engaged in protest play in terms of serving their country, for lack of a better way of saying it?

David Swanson:
Well, patriotism often gets that name. The way the word ‘patriotism’ is used most often, I oppose it. If patriotism means loyalty to your country, right or wrong, in opposition to other countries, favoring your country over any other country--you know American Exceptionalism, the idea that it’s ok to do things in Iraq and Afghanistan that we would not stand for, for one minute here, If that’s patriotism, I am opposed to it.

But if patriotism means working for your country to better your country, not at the expense of anyone else’s country and not at the expense of good international relations, but to make your country a better place, then I am a hundred percent for it.

I don’t think it [patriotism] is … simply bowing down in obedience before whatever the current leaders of your country demand. I think that is entirely inappropriate in a representative democracy. I think it’s destructive and I think it ends up making your country a worse place.

When my country’s right, I’m with it. When my country’s wrong, I work to make it right. That kind of patriotism, I am all for. And so to elect somebody with an agenda you like or from a party that you like, and then to say “ok, out of respect, we going to sit back and give him or her a chance” is to treat them as a ruler of a fascist country, of a dictatorship. There it is appropriate to sit back and given them a chance. You don’t have any choice. But in a representative republic, when you elect someone, you tell them what to do.

Here we have a case where the president is out there quoting Franklin Roosevelt, asking us to force him to do things. Who knows how sincere he is, but he’s saying it and it’s right and that’s what we ought to be doing: going out and forcing him to do the right things.

The insurance companies and the weapons companies, they don’t take a day off. They don’t give anybody six months to see how they do. It’s absolutely outrageous. It’s very un-strategic in that when you have a situation in which the government is almost hopeless [such as when] we had George Bush and Dick Cheney running the show and Congress lying down and doing nothing, you have activism galore. You have massive, well-funded efforts to try to get these people to do things that they [Bush and Cheney] would never do in a million years.

Then you elect a better government that might listen to you, that’s the strategic moment to push harder. Instead, you close up shop. That is disloyalty to your country. That’s stupid. That is to lack patriotism in the best sense.

So you’re saying that some of the activism has gotten lax since Obama got elected. What are some of the specific issues that you are advocating that people push for, now that Obama has been elected?

David Swanson:
A lot of it is maintaining the same fights that were ongoing when Bush, Cheney and the previous Congress were in town. Iraq has not been decreased much less ended. We have the same troop presence in Iraq that we had eight months ago. We have an escalation in Afghanistan. We have routine, criminal strikes into Pakistan. None of this is anymore decent or legal or tolerable now just because there is a different president. That’s absolutely crazy.

On the question of presidential powers, you had Bush and Cheney openly and creatively inventing new abuses of power, new uses for signing statements, new uses for executive orders, new ways to go out and make treaties without consulting the Senate, new ways to appoint people who’ve been rejected by the Senate--all sorts of abuses of power-new ways to keep more things secret, to spend money that wasn’t appropriated for those expenditures.

Obama comes in and the new Congress comes in with the opportunity to undo all of that, to say “This was a freak occurrence. This is not the way that we are going to be in the coming decades.”

But, if anything, we’ve moved in the opposite direction, making it even worse, which is not to say that Obama is worse than Bush. But it’s that Bush has established illegal policies and structures in our government that Obama is cementing in place.

Rather than throwing out Bush’s signing statements, he is leaving them there, saying “I’ll review them. If anyone has a question about one, we’ll see if we want to undo it”, sort of at his whim and writing his own, new signing statements, making new laws with executive orders, adopting as his own this treaty with Iraq that was not approved by the Senate, except where he wants to violate it by staying in Iraq beyond its end.

So we have a – [unintelligible] – who’s keeping just about as much stuff secret as Bush and Cheney did, keeping a White House visitor log secret, keeping all kinds of documents secret, releasing documents when forced by a court, blacking parts of them out, making claims of state secrets in court cases beyond what Bush and Cheney ever tried.

So, in some ways, it’s a worsening of what we were dealing with [under Bush and Cheney] and we need to undo it. It is asking a lot of a president to give up powers. No previous president that I know of has really done that substantially. But where is Congress? Where are the American people? Where are the courts?

So, there’s a lot to be done on just issues of [presidential] power, but on any issue you want to talk about, we have a lot to be done.

What can people do? How can people, number one, get more educated about this, and number two, link up with other people to try to change this?

David Swanson:
There are all kinds of websites and radio shows and independent publications and even good satellite TV shows and cable shows where people can get educated, as well as books. I’ve learned as much in recent years from books as from newspapers or magazines. They [newspapers and magazines] seem to be the place you read about a lot of things for the first time.

People do need to go out of their way to get educated which is hard for people who are working long hours, who are struggling with very local and personal issues ... Yet people understand, increasingly, that sitting in front of a television in the evening will not educate you and will likely mis-educate you.

People in surveys and polls are much better informed than they could possibly be if that [TV] was the only place they were getting their news. The people are way out ahead of our representatives as they’re called, but we need to be further ahead.

We need to take that information and get organized locally, face to face, not just online, and do something about it because real world action in the face of Congress members and others in power, in their offices, locally and in Washington, and working the corporate media and making your own media, and getting active locally with events and speakers and films is how we’re going to save this country, if it can be done.

Regarding peace activism, to what extent do you see it linked with environmentalism given that our nation’s demand for lots of oil plays a key role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and policy toward Afghanistan and throughout the world, whether it’s Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Africa, S.E. Asia, or Latin America?

David Swanson:
There are excellent ways to combine the two movements, for peace and for green energy. It’s always difficult. There are little personal and parochial interests, but it has been done.

There are activists like Ted Glick that I could name who work on it all of the time but the peace movement was well represented in the march on Capitol Hill earlier this year and the nonviolent resistance at the power plant there pushing for clean energy.

We’re up against similar fights. Neither one of us has an easy hill to climb. We need to be combined. The United States and China are the top polluters and far and away the top polluter and the top consumer of oil in the United States is the United States military itself, which is separate from the fact you mentioned that the military fights wars and maintains occupations motivated by oil, not solely by oil, but by oil and the power that comes with it and the geographic strategy of building bases in those places.

It [access to oil] is a huge factor. So the extent that we can move to green energy, we’d take away some of the excuses for wars – there will be other excuses – and we’d take away some of the consumption and pollution.

It’s a message that people can understand. I work with Progressive Democrats of America and we have a slogan “Healthcare not warfare” but we’ve adopted as well “education not warfare,” “green energy not warfare”, and “mass transit not warfare.”

We have to shift our priorities and understand the miracles we could work if we had a little bit of the money that goes to the wars, the military, and the bases. So they are very much connected. The two, twin threats to the future of our civilization are Global Warming and nuclear war. We have to get people active working on both at the same time.

It’s interesting you mention the threat of nuclear war. I’ve imagined that to be something that would spoil someone’s day as much as Global Warming would.

David Swanson:
Nuclear war was something that was used as a threat by Cheney, Bush, and the gang : we were going to be facing a nuclear attack if we didn’t go and attack Iraq. There were people who believed that and were motivated by that absurd fear.

Nonetheless, it [nuclear war] is a real danger, an increasing danger-more and more countries with nuclear weapons, more and more countries with other weapons, more and more wars, more and more shortages of resources. And there’s Global Warming itself, which is likely to be a cause for wars.

It’s a real danger. We’ve been given some great rhetoric by president Obama about reducing nuclear weapons without so far any serious action behind it. It’s something that needs to be done. We need a movement to push for it.

Yet, at the same time we need a movement for local issues and for working on ending current aggressive wars, so we have to bring a long-term vision of what is needed into these more immediate threatening issues, or ridding ourselves of nuclear weapons won‘t get worked on at all.

In terms of the connection between war and access to resources such as oil, to what extent do you see the average citizen tied into all of this. For example, whether you’re a progressive or conservative, most of us drive cars and the vast majority of us eat food produced by petroleum-intensive agriculture.

For example, if you’re a peace activist you might be driving your car from city to city and otherwise relying on a very energy-intensive lifestyle. So in what ways do you see an average person tied into all of this? Perhaps it’s not just a matter of one bad administration or failed policies in Washington, but instead a matter of our entire way of life needing significant change.

David Swanson:
Well, I am talking to you as I drive my gasoline-powered car. So I live in this society and I do what I can for better or for worse to make my own lifestyle the best I can with egregious failures like this one – I’m driving this car.

But, I think there are many people who do better than I do personally in their individual lives and there are many people who perhaps do worse than I do personally, but who do better than I do to push for better national policies which can ultimately do more good.

I think that what’s needed is for people to work at the local level and the state level with people to make their urban gardens, their organic farms, to promote their local produce, to do everything they can to make mass transit work locally and so forth.

But [we need] to use those examples to build structures that can spread those advances nationwide, and press local and state governments and the national government for changes. At the same time, we need to be working on national policy because there is no way that local, individual efforts [by themselves] are going to save us. They can help. They can set examples. They can tell stories. They can spread ideas. They can give legislators the ability to say “this has already been done and works. Here’s the proof. Now we need to do it nationally.”

But local efforts by themselves sometimes involve a sort of escapist retreat from the national fight and that is counter-productive. Nobody can do it all. Nobody can be a leader locally on an environmental innovation and be lobbying Congress everyday, but you have to do a little of it. You have to be tied into the national effort, because it’s only by changing our national policies that we’re going to be able to save our country.

If a nuclear bomb drops, your organic farm goes out with everything else and if the global climate is destroyed then you’re cooking-oil-powered automobile is not going to save you. So without losing focus on the national level, it’s extremely good to be working at the local level too.

You’ve written a lot about the issue of torture. Some people such as Dick Cheney have said that what they refer to as the ‘war on terror’ justifies torturing people. By the way, regarding the 9-11 attacks, I like the term ‘asymmetrical warfare’ more than I like the term ‘terrorism.’

But that aside, what do you think of the idea that such asymmetrical threats against the United States would be reduced if the United States and other developed nations genuinely sought to correct the ways in which we exploit people in the developing nations?

David Swanson:
I agree completely. I think there is a use for the word ‘terrorism’ when you look at the sort of things that Tom Ridge admitted to in his new book, that they were upping the color-coded terror threats baselessly, for political reasons.

That’s not an attack on anybody, but it is terrorism. It’s terrorizing the American public for political reasons. That’s what they were doing. There are other forms of terrorism. A war is a form of terrorism. Occupations are a form of terrorism. We have terrorized people around the world and are doing so as we speak.

Our own intelligence services- FBI and military-will tell you that what we have done in Iraq has been a recruiting tool for anti-US terrorism. Most intelligent observers of 9-11 will tell you that our policies in the Middle East motivated--did not excuse – but motivated those who committed those crimes on 9-11.

I think those crimes should have been treated as crimes, that anyone involved should have been and still should be given a fair trial and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If that’s not sufficient, then the law should be changed through the Congress representing the people’s view of what the law should be.

But to go lawless and to declare that we are going to torture people – in most cases innocent people – for what happened on 9-11 because there’s now this vague war against an unidentifiable enemy, actually creates enemies.

Even if you could prove that torture in some instances works – which would be very hard to prove and nothing we’ve seen yet, including the memos Cheney wanted us to see, even begins to suggest it – you would still have to deal with the fact that torture creates enemies, creates a situation where not only the ones we’re torturing but random people around the world are enraged against us for what we’re doing. It creates a situation in which we can’t tell other nations not to torture anymore, because we don’t have the standing to say that.

So, it’s very much a counter-productive approach that actually does not make us safer. Dick Cheney is not – no matter what our televisions tell you – a disinterested commentator. He was the driving force behind these torture programs. He stands to spent the rest of his life in prison if a real prosecution gets underway.

So the idea that this man who we all now know blatantly misled us into a war should be taken seriously on any issue, but especially this one, is crazy. Given the fact that he, a couple of months back, was yelling about how these two memos would prove him right and we’ve now seen the memos and they’ve done nothing of the sort – why we should tolerate any media outlet that gives him a voice is beyond me.

In one of your articles you talked about the creation of a Cheney Channel.

David Swanson:
It would be nice to concentrate Dick Cheney on one channel. That way no one would have to watch it. But in my book I propose going in the other direction. I propose busting up the media companies we’ve got, making room for and funding and supporting many more independent media outlets and creating a really useful public media, locally and nationally as well, so that we can be far better informed.

If people knew half of the truth and could unlearn half of the lies about torture or many other issues, we might be able to generate the sort of passion for activism that would move our government.

What I was trying to do when I mentioned policies toward developing nations – for example, there’s the G-20 Summit coming up in Pittsburgh and a lot of the groups there, as I understand it, will be protesting about policies of the IMF, the World Bank, and other policies which, as they see it, exploit people in developing nations.

There are people out there who have made the connection between groups that want to attack the United States asymmetrically… and these policies [toward developing nations].

Some people claim that polices of the IMF or World Bank are breeding resentment around the world that feeds the fire [of anti-US terrorism] …

I mentioned this because I was interested in what you thought about a broad movement that connects environmentalism, along with fair trade and doing something about sweatshops, with doing something about militarism.

David Swanson:
Our relationship with other nations is not one among equals. It’s not fair. It’s not honest. It’s not decent. We relate to other nations aggressively and as an empire…We need to change all of these policies. I am strongly in favor of efforts that are underway for serious forums and protests and actions in Pittsburgh for the G-20.

I think it would be a disgrace for our nation, for the world to see that sort of meeting without that sort of protest. We need to overcome our fear and find a way to do it. We’ve done it before in Seattle and it would be that much more of a bad indication to the world if we didn’t do it now in Pittsburgh.

I think it’s absolutely essential. I think we have Congress members and we have a president who came into power promising better ways, promising to redo NAFTA and other treaties, to have better practices with working people and the environment in other nations around the world. And those promises have been torn up. So we have to look at a way to change this.

We’re building the world’s biggest embassies now in Iraq and in Pakistan and we’re planning to stay forever. And it’s not always going to be described as a war. It’s just going to be seen as a US presence in an embassy, albeit in an enormous military compound. And we will be enforcing financial policies that hurt the people in those countries. So we can’t separate them (the issues of militarism, environmentalism, and economics).

We also have to look at the damage done very directly and blatantly to the people of this country when we pass something like the War Supplemental/IMF Bill that was passed in June that gave a fortune of our grandchildren’s unearned pay to a couple of wars and another fortune in loans to European bankers to do the same sort of bail out that 90 percent of the country opposed when we did it for Wall Street at the end of the Bush-Cheney term.

To what extent have you thought about the idea that the United States ought to willingly let go of being a superpower so as to maybe attempt to save our nation, or at least more willingly share its power with other nations.

In 2002, the Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy involved a shift away from deterrence and toward preemption. Many people have said that the focus on preemption … may inflame international conflict.

So, what do you think of the idea of people imagining the United States as a non-superpower or at least not having that [being a super-power] as the highest priority? Some may think it’s unpatriotic or even treasonous to think this, but do you see this idea as playing a role in doing something about militarism?

David Swanson:
I think that when we’ve seen in past centuries great powers cease to be super-powers--Great Britain for example--the people are better off. There’s no reason that we have to have a thousand military bases around the world – at great expense to ourselves, enraging people against us, conveying a bad image of our nation to our fellow human beings across the planet – to be well-off ourselves.

There’s no reason we need to militarily enforce cruel and exploitative industrial policies on workers in other nations in order to be better off ourselves. It’s not necessarily a trade-off. We can be as well off and as happy in many ways and have as much of the freedoms, rights, and benefits, if not more, shutting down the empire, as we can by keeping it.

But I don’t think we have any choice. I don’t think we can continue the way we’re going. I don’t think we can afford it financially or in terms of intentional relations or in terms of ‘blow-back’ to ourselves, in terms of the rage it creates around the world… I don’t think that we can continue to treat international laws as something for everybody else but not us. Already you see that other nations say to us “well, you don’t follow the laws, why should we?” It becomes very difficult for the United Nations or for any nation to say to a country “you must not launch an aggressive war against your neighbor” because the United States does it so openly and it becomes accepted.

We go through multiple regimes in Washington and it [US violation of international law] continues to be accepted. I don’t think we can survive that way. I think we had it much better, especially in terms of our rhetoric at Nuremburg. We said we were establishing the rule of law that would apply to us as well and that if it didn’t, we’d be done for. I think that was right.

Sounds like this goes beyond party affiliation – whether it’s a Democratic president in office or a Republican, and that this is a systemic, structural issue you’re talking about.

David Swanson:
There are ways to restrain wars and the military that the founders of the United States were actually pretty advanced and smart about, but that we have let fade away.

We weren’t supposed to have a standing army. We weren’t supposed to have a standing army with a presence around the globe. We weren’t supposed to have a president able to launch a war.

The power to launch a war and fund a war and raise, oversee, and organize a military – all these things were to be in Congress. And the president’s job was to be the leader of the military during a war while there was a war, but any such wars were to be defensive wars, not to go around the globe in search of monsters.

Yet that’s routine now. We have a military…with a presence around the world ready to engage in wars at a moment’s notice. We have an industrialized structure and a campaign funding structure that puts the weapons makers and those who gain from war in charge in Washington so that we have to have wars.

All of these things have to be changed. The funding has to be changed. The funding to make war possible has to be moved from the presidency to the Congress. There are all kinds of structural changes that are needed if we are to shut down the empire. There are several steps that need to be done first which is why it was sort of helpful to me to sit down and write a book because it’s hard to do it in 800 words.

It seems that you’ve talked me into going to D.C. on the 5th [of October]. I might make the drive out there. I’m reluctant to drive. I bicycle and use public transportation as much as I can. But you make a good case about the need for participating on a national scale in combination with activities on a local scale.

David Swanson:
That’s wonderful. I’m glad to hear it. I’m sure at the very least you can share a ride. There will be people coming and I’m sure that at and at we can hook you up with people. I think that it is worthwhile but there are also ways to confront national leaders – Congress members and senators--without leaving Ohio or anywhere else.

October 17 has been set aside by a number of peace groups as a day for local actions, protests, and marches. So you might consider that or do that as well. But I think it would be great to see you – with everybody listening to you and reading what you’re writing – make it to DC on October 5th .

The information about the events on the 17th should be on the same website?

David Swanson:
No, not at Nogoodwar but certainly at
we’ll be posting everything we have about that.

What would be your response if someone said to you “Hey, relax. Life is good. Enjoy all of the good things we have in America – clean water, nice weather, lots of good food, the freedom to drive around the country. Why are you talking about all of these problems? Why aren’t you appreciating all of the great things we have in America?”

I think about that myself as I bicycle on a beautiful day, thinking that in so many ways life is actually pretty good, at least for me. I don’t agree with the point of view of someone who would ask such a question, but I definitely can relate to it and wouldn’t be surprised by it.
v David Swanson:
Millions of Americans live in poverty, live without security, live without preventive healthcare, work extremely long hours, do not see their families, are locked away in prison, are sent to kill and die in wars based on lies, suffer from preventable violence and crime, are not provided a decent education, experience discrimination because of race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic background.

We spend more on healthcare than any other country does, per capita, and get much less for it – meaning thousands upon thousands of people die preventable deaths, including infants. Our nation is very well segregated, so that it is possible not to see social injustice and suffering, but out of sight should not mean out of mind. We impose horrible financial policies and working conditions, not to mention wars and occupations, on people around the globe. By all means, enjoy a nice bike ride - but as a way to recharge to work for peace and justice.

What do you think of the following idea? Sure, it’s good to get involved and protest, but citizens should not push too hard in terms of protesting against our government’s policies, because if we push too hard, then maybe there will be a government crack-down in which we lose the freedoms that we now have. Maybe behaving ourselves is what's best.

But I guess you could also argue the reverse: if we don’t exercise our rights to the hilt, we may be more likely to lose them.

David Swanson:
Historians of nonviolent struggle will tell you that it always gets worse before better, that there is always a crackdown, but that a crackdown is a sign of impending success -- if people are able to fearlessly continue.

You said that you highly recommend getting arrested at the Oct 5 protest, saying that it’s not frightening at all. But my guess is that it can be expensive for people of modest incomes, if there is bail to pay or if it causes them to miss work.

David Swanson:
Good point. I'm hopeful the organizers will be able to help some people with paying fines and am sure they would welcome contributions toward that end.

You said “you have to be tied into the national effort, because it’s only by changing our national policies that we’re going to be able to save our country.” I relate to what you’re saying and I want to get involved with national and international efforts.

But there are some green activists who think in terms of ‘bio-regions.’ Some of them say that the nation-state as we know it will not survive the coming energy constraints. Such people may not put much stock into working with the national government.

But I guess your response to that line of reasoning could be that we should at least work on a national scale while our nation-state is still a meaningful political entity.

David Swanson:
If you can change what our military and factories and transportation systems across the middle chunk of North America are doing to the planet without going through the US government, terrific. I don't see how you'll be able to do that in the time available, but I don't know everything.

You said in reference to the United States’ respect for international law “I think we had it much better, especially in terms of our rhetoric at Nuremburg. We said we were establishing the rule of law that would apply to us as well.”

By this do you mean that US foreign policy was much less blatant in its violation of international law, given that in decades past the US manipulated the affairs of other nations but did so much more covertly such as the installation of the Shaw of Iran or the various covert activities in Latin America?

I venture I can reasonably assume that you’re not suggesting that there was some sort of golden age of noble US foreign policy that existed from say, the late 1940s to the late 1990s. But correct me if you think I am mistaken.

David Swanson:
No, the US has been violating international law since before it existed. But we helped bring it into existence, even if with some degree of hypocrisy. Now we are working to take it back out of existence.