End the War

When Martin Luther King, Jr. came out unequivocally against the war in Viet Nam, he was attacked from all sides, including strong criticism from many of his allies. They said that civil rights and peace didn’t mix, that he was hurting the cause of his own people. King responded that he understood their concerns, but nonetheless it saddened him. It saddened him, he said, because it meant that his allies didn’t really know him, and that they didn’t really know the world they lived in.

It’s easy to forget the revolutionary Martin Luther King when the dominant narrative—entombed in the gauzy haze of official memory—is such a sugary and uplifting story:

Once upon a time there were some mean white people (in the South) and some bad laws. But then a Saint came along and told us to love one another. He led a bus boycott, had a dream, gave a speech, and won a peace prize. Then, we were all better, and he got shot.

It’s sweet and simple, and in large part untrue. The real Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist for just thirteen years, a loving and angry pilgrim in pursuit of justice, and he grew and changed dramatically each year of his journey. King’s speeches and sermons in the last years of his life are a chronicle of struggle, set-back, re-thinking, connecting issues, seeking new allies, going deeper, fighting harder.

In the last years of his life he was fighting explicitly for economic and global justice connected to racial justice. He spoke of the link between a rotting shack and a rotted-out democracy, between imperial ambitions abroad and betrayal of justice at home. He noted that the American soul was poisoned by war and racism, and raised the question of whether America would go to hell for her sins.

Concretely he said that the American people bore the greatest responsibility for ending the war since our government bore the responsibility for starting and sustaining it. He called the U.S. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” and argued that he could not condemn desperate, angry young men who picked up guns until he first condemned his own government. He urged resistance to the war and counseled youngsters not to join the armed services. And he said the U.S. was on the wrong side of the world revolution, that we would need to rekindle a revolutionary spirit in order to create a “revolution in values”—against militarism and racism and extreme materialism—that could lead to restructuring our economic and social system top to bottom.

In the spirit of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. we have to dare to see the world as it really is, and then to choose justice over tribe or nation or petty self-interest. We need to organize and mobilize against illegal wars of conquest and domination, send a sharp warning right now as the powerful mobilize to bomb Iran under the banner of the same exhausted lies and rationalizations, and press the demand for peace in concrete terms:

1. Withdraw all mercenary forces immediately.

2. Set a date-certain—within three months—for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

3. Dismantle all U.S. military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

4. Renounce all claims to the natural resources of Iraq.

5. Call for the creation of an independent international commission to assess and monitor the amount of reparations the U.S. owes to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is only a start, and it is still a choice—solidarity with all people, or endless war and death. As King reminded us, those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

67 Responses to End the War

  1. Michael Hureaux says:

    Five years of mayhem in Iraq, the destruction of what was left of a civil society that did nothing to the people of this country, hundreds of thousands in exile, over a million dead, and all Kevin and a lot of other people want to talk about here is “intent”.

    I can’t think of anything that better drives home King’s point that a culture which spends more every year on the implements of death and destruction than it does on programs of spiritual uplift has embraced moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Talking to some of you about this puts me in mind of nothing so much as those apparatchiks who defended the policies of collectivization in the Ukraine implemented by Stalin because he was “defending the Soviet Union from wreckers. Most of what we’re seeing here is party line rationalization of atrocity and an unwilliingness to come to grips with the living nightmare of what criminal policies have set in motion.

    It really is like talking to a wall. But I’m not surprised, many white people I’ve known over my half century of life have tried to convince me that even though racism continues to exist, it’s not really racism since it’s not intended to be. Which is a lot like drinking and driving and arguing that since one never intended to become inebriated, that one isn’t. It’s a clever argument, but it’s bullshit all the same.

  2. Rob Adcox says:

    Racism exists, of course, but it certainly isn’t limited to the “white devil”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been called honky, cracker, that I “smell like a wet dog” when it rains (a slur regarding my “white man’s hair”), etc, etc, ad nauseam. Somehow, you liberals always end up defining racism solely as the white man’s evil. Playing the race card might intimidate or manipulate others, but it won’t work with me.

    As for Iraq, you’re awfully quick to blame Bush for what you cite as an “illegal” war, but where were you when Clinton was bombing Yugoslavia
    in order to draw attention away from his infidelity while occupying the Oral Office? Madelaine albright needs to be charged with war crimes and sent off to prison for the rest of her miserable life. While we’re at it, Janet Reno should also be tossed into the slammer for her role in ordering the attacks on the people in the church in Waco, who were attacked and murdered in cold blood by our wonderful government. Really, the main battle tank was over the top, Mr. Clinton.

    Libs constantly seethe with hatred of we conservatives, but you cannot deny that your “Democratic” Party is well beyond fucked up.

    MLK Jr said we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Character. Now there’s a word which always sends you libs into a tizzy.

  3. Matt Norman says:

    How dare you invoke the words and spirit of Martin Luther King? You should have paid more attention to his words before you got busy making nail bombs. And you obviously are ignorant as to the war. Three months? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  4. Craig Montegue says:

    Chuck: You’re a tool and moron – just the kind of person Ayers is looking for. Why don’t you sign up for his class and become a real “moonie”.

  5. Steve says:

    You are a sad excuse for an American. You are the reason the education system is corrupt in this country. As a resident M.D. in the Chicago area it makes me sick that my tax dollars go to such a terrible human being. You should be ashamed of yourself for exploting the youth in this country. Your version of indoctrination of college level students makes me want to vomit.

  6. william says:

    i only have one comment for you bill, i want you to stand on the american flag in front of me please. do it ! you are one sorry ungreatful non-american i have ever seen you
    are spiting in the face of every true blooded american that has ever died for this counrty. if it was up to me and you had better think god it isnt i would boot you and every left wing liberal out of this country this great country with MY ARMY BOOTS ISUED FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

  7. American says:

    Fuch you and every commie bastard that lives on the face of the earth. You are a scumbag that does not deserve to live in America.

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