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King's Anguish When He Condemned U.S. War Crimes and Foreign Policy Worthy of Emulation

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"For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Riverside Church, New York City, April 4th, 1967

We should make constant use of King's 1967 speeches condemning the war and foreign policy of his country, and insisting that every citizen protest. His words then, fit our situation today exactly. So much so, that we could, and should, have King still leading us now, by a non-stop quoting of his words, repeating the toughest phrases like:

"The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.!"

Our nation was forced to recognize his leadership and actions risking his life and suffering arrest and jail to cause immoral laws to be revoked, undemocratic laws to be changed, new laws to be written criminalizing behavior previously tolerated, and unfair practices and policies, at even the top echelons of government, to be altered in fresh recognition of human dignity.

King is now an icon. King has stature. His words bite! They are respected and are almost impossible for anyone to answer in criticism. Ignoring them is all the war supporters can try to continue to do. King made people feel ashamed. We caught his shame, his sense of responsibility.

His presentation of the history of U.S. immoral acts of violence in third world countries and call for action in protest is our best instrument for confronting ignorance and apathy.

We can resurrect King's outcry against US war crimes, buried by corporate mass media, at a time in which a criminally insane administration, and liberals as well, seek to convince us that the violence coming back at us is the 'greater' violence that justifies our present massive overkill policies.

King's birthday holiday is progressives' annual opportunity to re-broadcast Rev. King Jr.' preaching against the war on Vietnam, and to relate his words to today's wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.

Public readings of King's entire "Beyond Vietnam" speech would be a constructive way to honor him. He would have liked for us to see the present day tight parallels between then and now. King outlined a condemning history of the U.S. in Vietnam going back to President Truman, who callously brought back and funded the French re-conquest of the very Vietnamese who had been our allies in war against Japan and Vichy France.

Today, King would be tracing for us the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, beginning with Brzezinski convincing President Carter to arm and fund the fundamentalist hill tribes fighting against a modern, women liberating Kabul government, in order to sucker the Soviets into intervening six months later - Brzezinski now boasts of this, disregarding the blow-back of 9/11. King would be speaking of the of CIA with Saudi Arabia having funded thousands of new Wahhabi extremist schools in Afghanistan and initially supporting the Taliban government to facilitate construction of an oil pipeline. Recently the NY Times has been reporting multiple killings of merely suspected Taliban as good news.

If King were here today he would go back to study the U.S. originally promoting Iraqi Bathists into power. Now Bathists 'insurgents' are killing U.S. soldiers.

KIng spoke of the U.S. sponsoring the "murderous reign of Diem" until Diem's assassination was allowed by President Kennedy to make room for a long line of Generals to dictate, while we provided troops to quell a rebellion in the delta. King in 2007 would have not let us forget that in Iraq, Reagan used his man Saddam to war against Iran at a cost of one million lives. Our Saddam gets hanged as a criminal, while our occupation troops continue to fight rebellion.

Substitute Iraq/Afghanistan for the word "Vietnam" and Kings speech of 1967 fits for Iraq and Afghanistan: "Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam [substitute 2007 Iraq]. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted."

"The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

One can be sure that if King were here now, he would be exhorting everyone to act today as he did so eloquently and forcefully back then:

"We in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. [substitute Iraq 2007] We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible."

"Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest."

"... my conscience leaves me no other choice... I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam." [substitute 2007 Iraq, and there is now a Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Iraq].

"... men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on... We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."

"We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any
less our brothers. "... it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."

King wanted to go beyond stopping the war. He attacked the capitalist roots of war:

"The war in Vietnam [substitute Iraq 2007] is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism [substitute terrorism 2007] grows and develops."

" A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just" It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just."

"A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love."

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

"America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the
pursuit of war."

"This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. [in 2007 read anti-Western terrorism] War is not the answer."

Its up to us to use internet's alternative media to get out these powerful and useful words. Conglomerate owned major media entertainment/news will continue to portray King as a dreamer. Major network TV is not only selecting what we should know about Martin Luther King. Sound bites talk shows, panel discussions in grand overview seek to oppose King's less remembered message with blatant pro war propaganda - even recasting the Vietnam war in heroic light.

Lastly, read King's 1967 demands. They correspond to what is needed now in 2007 - just change the names of the countries:

"I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict: Number one: End all bombing .... Two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire ... Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds ... curtailing our military buildup ... and our interference ... Four: Realistically accept the fact that ... has substantial support and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future ... government. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from ... . Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done."

Lets make King's five point plan plus reparations be known to all peace and justice activists, and more importantly, known to their war supporting adversaries. King would have liked that, having paid with his life in order to give us this opportunity.

 

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Jay Janson is an archival research peoples historian activist, musician and writer; has lived and worked on all continents; articles on media published in China, Italy, UK, India and the US; now resides in NYC; First effort was a series of (more...)
 

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