Caitlin Johnstone: The Historic Urgency for an Anti-War Movement

The sparks are flying around flash points that could ignite nuclear war, in Crimea and elsewhere. We need to start organizing against those who would steer our species into extinction. 

Detail from a Ukrainian postage stamp commemorating the explosion of Russia’s Crimea Bridge on Oct. 8, 2022. (Yuriy Shapoval, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

Things are escalating more and more rapidly between the U.S.-centralized power structure and the few remaining nations with the will and the means to stand against its demands for total obedience, namely China, Russia and Iran. The world is becoming increasingly split between two groups of governments who are becoming increasingly hostile toward each other, and you don’t have to be a historian to know it’s probably a bad sign when that happens. Especially in the age of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. State Department’s Victoria Nuland is now saying that the U.S. is supporting Ukrainian strikes on Crimea, drawing sharp rebukes from Moscow with a stern reminder that the peninsula is a “red line” for the Kremlin which will result in escalations in the conflict if crossed. On Friday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the press that Kiev is preparing a large offensive for the “de-occupation” of Crimea, which Moscow has considered a part of the Russian Federation since its annexation in 2014.

As Anatol Lieven explained for Jacobin earlier this month, this exact scenario is currently the one most likely to lead to a sequence of escalations ending in nuclear war. In light of the aforementioned recent revelations, the opening paragraph of Lieven’s article is even more chilling to read now than it was when it came out a couple of weeks ago:

“The greatest threat of nuclear catastrophe that humanity has ever faced is now centered on the Crimean peninsula. In recent months, the Ukrainian government and army have repeatedly vowed to reconquer this territory, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014. The Russian establishment, and most ordinary Russians, for their part believe that holding Crimea is vital to Russian identity and Russia’s position as a great power. As a Russian liberal acquaintance (and no admirer of Putin) told me, ‘In the last resort, America would use nuclear weapons to save Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, and if we have to, we should use them to save Crimea.’”

And that’s just Russia. The war in Ukraine is being used to escalate against all powers not aligned with the U.S.-centralized alliance, with recent developments including drone attacks on an Iranian weapons factory which reportedly arms Russian soldiers in Ukraine and Chinese companies being sanctioned for “backfill activities in support of Russia’s defence sector” following U.S. accusations that the Chinese government is preparing to arm Russia in the war.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been holding multiple meetings with top military officials regarding potential future attacks on Iran to neutralize the alleged threat of Iran developing a nuclear arsenal, a “threat” that Netanyahu has personally been lying about for years.

If you’ve been reading (and if you care about this stuff you probably should be), you’ve been seeing new articles about the latest imperial escalations against China on a near-daily basis now. Sometimes they come out multiple times per day; this past Thursday Dave DeCamp put out two completely separate news stories titled “U.S. Plans to Expand Military Presence in Taiwan, a Move That Risks Provoking China” and “Philippines in Talks With U.S., Australia on Joint South China Sea Patrols.“ Taiwan and the South China Sea are two powder-keg flashpoints where war could quickly erupt at any time in a number of different ways.

If you know where to look for good updates on the behavior of the U.S.-centralized empire and you follow them from day to day, it’s clear that things are accelerating toward a global conflict of unimaginable horror. As bad as things look right now, the future our current trajectory has us pointed toward is much, much, much worse.

Empire apologists will frame this trajectory toward global disaster as an entirely one-sided affair, with bloody-fanged tyrants trying to take over the world because they are evil and hate freedom, and the U.S.-centralized alliance either cast in the role of victim or heroic defender of the weak and helpless depending on which generates more sympathy on that day.

These people are lying. Any intellectually honest research into the West’s aggressions and provocations against both Russia and China will show you that Russia and China are reacting defensively to the empire’s campaign to secure U.S. unipolar planetary hegemony; you might not agree with those reactions, but you cannot deny that they are reactions to a clear and deliberate aggressor.

This is important to understand, because whenever you say that something must be done to try and avert an Atomic Age world war, you’ll get empire apologists saying, “Well go protest in Moscow and Beijing then,” as though the U.S. power alliance is some kind of passive witness to all this. Which is of course a complete falsehood; if World War III does indeed befall us, it will be because of choices that were made by the drivers of the Western empire while ignoring off-ramp after off-ramp.


This tendency to flip reality and frame the Western imperial power structure as the reactive force for peace against malevolent warmongers serves to help quash the emergence of a robust anti-war movement in the West, because if your own government is virtuous and innocent in a conflict then there’s no good reason to go protesting it. But that’s exactly what urgently needs to happen, because these people are driving us to our doom.

In fact, it is fair to say that there has never in history been a time when the need to forcefully oppose the warmongering of our own Western governments was more urgent. The attacks on Vietnam and Iraq were horrific atrocities which unleashed unfathomable suffering upon our world, but they did not pose any major existential threat to the world as a whole. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq killed millions; we’re talking about a conflict that can kill billions.

Each of the World Wars was in turn the worst single thing that happened to our species as a whole up until that point in history. World War I was the worst thing that ever happened until World War II. If World War III breaks out it will almost certainly make World War II look like a schoolyard tussle. This is because all of the major players in that conflict would be armed with nuclear weapons, and at some point, some of them are going to be faced with strong incentives to use them. Once that happens, Mutually Assured Destruction ceases to protect us from Armageddon, and the “mutual” and “destruction” components come in to play.

None of this needs to happen. There is nothing written in adamantine which says the U.S. must rule the world with an iron fist no matter the cost and no matter the risk. There is nothing inscribed upon the fabric of reality which says nations can’t simply coexist peacefully and collaborate toward the common good of all beings, can’t turn away from our primitive impulses of domination and control, can’t do anything but drift passively toward nuclear annihilation all because a few imperialists in Washington convinced everyone to buy into the doctrine of unipolarism.

But we’re not going to turn away from this trajectory unless the masses start using the power of our numbers to force a change from warmongering, militarism and continual escalation toward diplomacy, de-escalation and detente.

We need to start organizing against those who would steer our species into extinction, and working to pry their hands away from the steering wheel if they refuse to turn away. We need to resist all efforts to cast inertia on this most sacred of all priorities, and we need to start moving now. We’re all on a southbound bus to oblivion, and it’s showing no signs of stopping.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

19 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: The Historic Urgency for an Anti-War Movement

  1. Robert Sinuhe
    March 2, 2023 at 14:19

    With intense interest I listened to the House Panel Hearing On US Resources Sent to Ukraine just recently. It was chaired by a member of the House and her questions were directed to a three star general with comments from other members of the panel. It reminded me of a film I saw many years ago of SS debating the efficiency of killing in concentration camps during the second world war. The men approached the questions and comments with straight, detached faces with no hint of the gravity of their undertaking. The current meeting is as frightening and unnerving as the last. Absent was any reasoning for what they were doing and sounds were bandied around about the will of the American people. None of these people asked the American people about anything. If we made clear what we wanted in demonstrations that Caitlin supports would they respond? More than likely they wouldn’t. But, if we didn’t demonstrate they would consider silence as consent.

  2. promptcritical
    March 2, 2023 at 11:44

    There won’t be any anti war movement in the US until the draft is reinstated.

  3. Bostonian
    March 2, 2023 at 11:18

    The establishment has very efficiently plugged the loopholes that made the explosion of mass movements for peace and justice of the Sixties possible. But still, after eight long years of the most masssive demonstrations in our history, the war finally ended – because the people of Vietnam outlasted their invaders. Mass (and sometimes deadly) disobedience among drafted men was, I suspect, a larger factor than affluent middle-class kids carrying protest signs. The powerful “worker-student” coalition we dreamed of then never did quite materialize.

    The movements against the two great world wars have been totally erased from popular memory, as has the widespread popular resistance to both regimes in our Civil War, and even earlier in the War of Independence, when separation from England was far from universally pleasing. Dissent, and its sometimes savage suppression, does not accord with our cultural myths, so it never happened. It’s also a sad commentary on humanity that people who denounce wars while they are ongoing are condemned as traitors, while veterans who recant the atrocities they performed are thought to be heroes, as if confession restores the property they destroyed and the lives of those they slaughtered.

  4. Garrett Connelly
    March 2, 2023 at 11:14

    Peace and environmental movements grow and flourish when spokespersons are picked at random and on the spur of the moment when a news crew appears. When these movements grow in effectiveness they attract celebrities and foundation execs; that’s when the people go home.

    Look at the recent rage for peace on DC and you will see a line up of famous speakers scheduled to talk at the people, who then went home the way they came. Examine contrast with yellow vest gatherings and notice the people grouping as far from celebrity speakers as need in order to converse and build solidarity.

  5. bonin
    March 2, 2023 at 09:37

    Ukraine should make peace with Russia and surrender its territories. That’s the only way to avoid nuclear war.

  6. J Anthony
    March 2, 2023 at 08:57

    True enough, and the biggest challenge is our own selves…the gist of the US civilian population seems to be sleep-walking through this, aware of what’s happening but resigned to the false-notion that there is nothing they can do about it so why bother? in one form another I see a lot of passivity and complacency. It’s almost as if no one would really mind if the end came tomorrow.

  7. Packard
    March 2, 2023 at 08:41

    To paraphrase only a little from Winston Churchill, Never in the history of human conflict has so much been risked by a far away and strategically disinterested country for so very little. Yet, after a year’s time, a wasted $100 billion in promised American military aid, and a mysteriously blown up Nord Stream pipeline (wink, wink, wink!), here we are today.


  8. Francis Lee
    March 2, 2023 at 06:55

    The Ukrainian cockpit.

    What started with a coup in Ukraine in 2014 has now gone global and assumed growing and dangerous proportions. Looking back at history, Ukraine has been the scene of many historical and never ending wars.

    For example. During WW2 the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia (Polish: rze? wo?y?ska, literally: Volhynian slaughter; Ukrainian: ????????? ????????, Volyn tragedy) were part of an ethnic cleansing operation carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)’s North Command in the regions of Volhynia (Reichskommissariat Ukraine) and their South Command in Eastern Galicia (General Government) beginning in March 1943 and lasting until the end of 1944. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children UPA’s methods were particularly savage, and resulted in 35,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 25,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, for the total of between 76,000 and 106,000 casualties.

    The killings were directly linked with the policies of the Stephan Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B) and its military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) led by Roman Shukhevych; the goal was specified at the Second Conference of the OUN-B on 17–23 February 1943 (or March 1943 according to other sources) was to purge all non-Ukrainians, Poles, Russians and Jews, from the future Ukrainian state. Not limiting their activities to the purging of Polish civilians, UPA also wanted to erase all traces of the Polish presence in the area. The violence was endorsed by a significant number of the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy who supported UPA’s nationalist cause. The massacres led to a civil conflict between Polish and Ukrainian forces in the German-occupied territories. To think dangerous forces, particularly in the Western Ukraine, have been have been dormant for many years but the emergence has blossomed into life in 2014 creating the burgeoning preconditions of a generalised war in Europe

    To think that this minor and corrupt east European regime has brought together the great powers who are now moving toward a global denouement. I hope that I am wrong

  9. Zim
    March 2, 2023 at 02:42

    I think the only way this goes nuclear is if NATO uses them in a last ditch effort to avoid another humiliating defeat ala Afghanistan. There are still some sane people in the pentagon & using nukes all sides lose. There’s no way that the UkroNazis can take back Crimea. It has been completely fortified. The reality is that Russia has had naval base there before the US even existed. The Chinese peace proposal has been looked at favorably by even Zelensky along with France, Germany, Hungary & others. There’s nothing in the proposal about returning any territory to Ukraine. As soon as Bakmut falls, this thing is over.

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    March 1, 2023 at 23:38

    The political world is obviously now an organism which has begun to divide and multiply within its orbits. “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? But at least Netanyahu is on our side. That should give us all some comfort – at least those of us who don’t dare to question his continuous approach onto the main stage. The thing that should be remembered, whatever happens, is that it is a Democratic president and party who have put us into this position of danger. You can’t undo our foreign policy since 1947, but you can sure mitigate the damage faced by humanity at large. The people presently in charge don’t care about doing that. So when a madman has come into your living space, what do you do? At the very least, you can tell him (and his cohorts) that they can go back to Washington and pass bills that either serve their masters or those people who still number so many. Then you can say that if you choose to serve your masters, we will come for you and make you pay for the destruction of our experiment in democracy. There will be no progress until fear descends upon the oligarchs and their minions. Their sun has now set.

  11. Rudy Haugeneder
    March 1, 2023 at 22:20

    Hardly anyone I talk to is interested in Peace: actually, almost nobody. And I don’t expect that to change in the near future, no matter how much one tries explain how important it is for our survival. I am no longer even remotely optimistic that peace has a chance.

  12. Jon M
    March 1, 2023 at 21:58

    I sure hope Mikael is right. There do seem to be a lot of analysts who are saying “the war you’re reading about in the mainstream media is not the war that’s actually happening,” but I don’t know, for sure, who’s 100 percent spot on in their assessments. The western elites do seem completely unhinged from reality and that’s very troublesome indeed. I mean they blew up the Nord Steam 2 pipeline for God’s sake. You have to ask yourself where these people’s minds are. I’ve used this analogy before but it’s as if they’ve been playing the Video Game of Life–specifically, the video game of geopolitics and foreign policy–on “God mode” for so long, they think that’s the default, they think it’s the way the game was actually designed to be played when in reality, of course, it’s NOT designed to be played that way.
    Sadly and horrifically, this has potentially hugely negative ramifications for all of us as Caitlin has repeatedly pointed out.
    Hopefully we can build an antiwar movement that picks up speed and momentum and it happens soon. Lately I’ve been involved with a Grandmother’s for Peace group, for example. It beats me, but at least it’s something.
    As far as the general populace is concerned, the overall lack of urgency is appalling in many aspects. I mean, as a “for instance,” take private property. People who own property, above and beyond a simple home on an acre or two of land, are obviously huge believers in the institution of private property. But if the mushroom clouds turn up, you may as well take a prybar and take down all those private property signs you have tacked up all over the place. In lieu of wide scale nuclear war, there will be no infrastructure to maintain and protect the institution of private property. Obviously, there’s a thousand other examples of things we will lose if nuclear war comes. We’ll be going back to the stone ages and living in the pages of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
    I hope to God it never happens.

    • Valerie
      March 2, 2023 at 03:11

      Right Jon. People are so fearful for their property and land. But as you said, there will be nothing of value left under nuclear attacks. I’m glad i don’t have either. Another realistic film like “the road” is called “threads”. It’s a 1984 made for tv drama from the UK, themed on a confrontation between the US and Russia.

  13. Rebecca
    March 1, 2023 at 21:43

    Actually, we need a lot of things but few are forthcoming for one simple reason, apathy. Besides, even if the world overcame WEF/US domination, the citizens of the US will remain on the sofa devouring their Happy Meals while reveling in their false exceptionalism as they foolishly wait for someone (Trump?) to save them.

    • Daedalus
      March 2, 2023 at 10:56

      I share your pessimism, Rebecca.

      One of the biggest drivers of the earlier ‘peace movement’ in the US was the ‘draft’. Every young male had the prospect of being forced into ‘service’ and forced to kill people he didn’t know or understand. I escaped (thanks to college and graduate school), however many didn’t. The ‘draft’ was government imposed slavery. Once the draft disappeared, the impetus was removed, making the chances of a ‘peace movement’ today far less likely.

      Add to that your comment about people being sucked down the corporate (and controlled) rabbit hole of ‘mass media’, and it looks pretty hopeless.

  14. Piotr Berman
    March 1, 2023 at 19:30

    “Zelensky regime” may lack the ability to reconquer Crimea, but with Western, perhaps British (Sunak made such noises) help, it can send a missile barrage to overwhelm air defenses of Crimea in some important place, perhaps maximizing lethality. Suppose that Russia responds by destroying some pipelines from Norway to UK, overtly and with missiles (I guess possible given how shallow North Sea is), thus following American precedent that it is OK to strike pipelines uninvolved in a war directly, and hurting both UK for providing the missiles and Norway for complicity in North Stream attacks. That could be a “pre-nuclear scenario”.

    NATO wants to have benefits of neutrality and of belligerence — gifting weapons, training Ukrainians on NATO soils and even providing troops with changed uniforms. Crossing true redlines would mean that its territory and facilities would not be sheltered from attacks by neutrality status.

    My scenario is speculative, but possible.

  15. Mikael Andersson
    March 1, 2023 at 18:48

    Don’t stress Caitlin, the Ukrainian government and army can vow to reconquer Crimea – which Russia did NOT seize and annex in 2014 (has Mr Lievin heard of democracy and voting?). The Zelensky regime has no ability to reconquer – anything really. It’s barely able to cook dinner in the evening. The Ukraine dogs bark loudly, but it’s only noise so don’t worry. I know things look like crap, but you’re on the right team, and we aren’t accelerating into oblivion. The Kiev Komedian and his mates are nearly exhausted. That “last Ukrainian” you heard about is just about here. Ukraine doesn’t have any Uranium bombs, which is lucky. A more probable development could be chemical and biological. They will probably get dirty before they surrender. Hate does that to people. But they can’t destroy Planet Earth.

    • Daniel F DeMaio
      March 1, 2023 at 20:27

      I agree. Crimea and the Donbas regions that voted to join Russia have to be recognized as legitimately being incorporated into Russia. This legitimacy derives from the votes by the residents of these regions to join Russia and the defacto expulsion from Ukraine of the residents of these regions by the Ukrainian regime’s eight year shelling campaign murdering 14 or 15,000 residents. This legitimacy is furthered evidenced by the genocidal commentary and actions by various segments that are fully integrated into the regime. The election of Zelensky as a “peace” candidate does not negate the clearly racist language used by Poroshenko in rallies to whip up elements in the western Ukrainian population to prosecute the war in the Donbas. Zalensky has simply continued theses policies and, if the information is correct, has been bank rolled by oligarch Kolomoisky who has also bank rolled Nazi infused militias. There can be no expectation that Russia will or should return these peoples to this regime. Calling for Russia’s withdrawal is a non starter.

      A mass movement cannot be built in the western countries that are funding this war and egging on the Ukraine government if there are no troops from theses countries and the “anti war organizers” equate Russia with NATO or refer to the actions of Russia as unprovoked, criminal or illegal (I defer to Scott Ritter on the issue of legality under international law). From an organizational standpoint these are synonyms. Opposition in the U.S must be based on the actions of the U.S government and on the broadest theme, end support for the proxy war against Russia.

      • CaseyG
        March 2, 2023 at 16:52

        I like what you wrote, and I think what you say is true. I look at George Bush the 2nd and at Biden and wonder why those who have never been in a war want to start them. I also worry about if these people are insane—-as who bombs a nation in the early morning and declares it to be “Shock and Awe.”

        It does seem that those who have never been in a war seem to want to start one. I suppose that Biden is doing this so that once this war starts people will reelect Biden. Haven’t humans learned that, “bombs bursting on air, ” don’t solve any problems—it just makes the air, water and food of a place unfit for consumption. Even George Washington warned of those” entangling alliances.” And finally, I wonder, it used to be that only Congress could declare war. Maybe if they all had to go to war if they voted for it, maybe wars would be very rare events.

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