Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and opposed the war in Vietnam for the last three years of his life. He did not believe that by doing so he was failing to do something that goes by the name “supporting the troops.” In fact his interest was in the well being of those men and women when he said:
“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 veins of people 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.”
Let us not hide acceptance of the mass murder of which war consists behind the patriotism of troops and flags. Howard Zinn spoke the truth when he said “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for a purpose which is unattainable.”
Let us not suppose that self-governance does not involve us, that using our money to kill in our name is none of our affair.
51 years ago today President Eisenhower warned of the danger posed by the Military Industrial Complex. He said “The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.”
Well, let us say this: not in our city.
Our City Council opposed attacking Iraq, and that stand was part of an effort that has educated the country. There are more ears prepared to hear warnings of war today. And the push for war is almost identical. Iran is not allowing inspections. The inspections that are not happening have found a weapons program. Never mind that the Secretary of Defense says it isn’t true. Never mind that the New York Times has already had to apologize, several years ahead of schedule. Never mind that if all the claims were true there would still be no moral or legal ground for war.
The UN Charter forbids war, the Kellogg Briand Pact forbids war, the Hague Convention of 1899 requires that we take this dispute to arbitration.
We face the danger of a war with a nation three times the size and with many times the armaments of Iraq, a nation that has not attacked another in centuries, a nation which ours has almost completely surrounded, economically sanctioned, flown drones over, and funded terrorism within its borders, a nation we continue to threaten. Yes, we. You and I, unless we say otherwise.
Our lives begin to end, said Martin Luther King Jr, the day we become silent about things that matter. Let’s not begin to end our lives tonight. Let’s begin to end the institution of war instead.