Monday, April 5, 2010

Dr. King and Resisting the Madness

As Bob Herbert notes in his column on Saturday, it was on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke publicly for the first time in opposition to the Vietnam War. He chose to make this speech at New York City's Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It took great courage for Dr. King to make this declaration of opposition to a war that was wreaking such carnage on a very restricted segment of the American public - the poor, people of color, the marginally educated - with surprisingly little sacrifice from the rest of Americans. Of course, the criticism that King expected from this speech came down on him in torrents of condemnation, including from the New York Times which heaped opprobrium on King for supposedly speaking outside his area of expertise.

Today, we think of King in this speech, like so many others, as a wise prophet of the folly of far too many such interventions supporting a government which more often than not has proved to be "singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support." As Herbert points out, that's pretty much where we are once again in our deepening support for the government of Hamid Karzai, a man who leads the ruling government in Afghanistan that is said to be one of the "most corrupt and inept on the planet."

When do we learn our lesson that the the vast, vast majority of these wars solve nothing and only bring more untold suffering, often experienced silently by returning veterans and with shockingly little help from the US government? I have come to the conclusion that if this government is going to go to war and in the process put so many thousands on both sides in harm's way that we must demand a full and candid accounting of the reasons. And it better be convincing, because if it isn't, I think a lot of us, who have become embittered and cynical witnesses to this repeated madness, are going to be hitting the streets, perhaps as never before, strongly protesting the actions of the duly elected government of the United States, regardless of who who happens to be in charge.

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