Saturday, August 31, 2013

Waging War on Peacemakers

Vietnam vet Frank Wagner at March on Washington 8/24/13

That the Obama Administration is set on waging war in yet another nation, amid national celebrations of the 1963 March on Washington, is beyond bizarre. It is a betrayal of everything Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and fellow peaceful demonstrators stood for 50 years ago and since.

On Wednesday, speaking to the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, President Obama invoked much of Dr. King’s stance on civil rights, but pointedly ignored the major theme—nonviolence—of his life.

Instead, Obama spent most of the week preparing public opinion for his plan to launch a military attack on Syria—even as his administration is still entangled in violent whirlwinds from its military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and enabling support for the military regime in Egypt that violently overthrow a democratically elected president and killed hundreds of nonviolent protesters.

Had he truly wished to honor Dr. King, Obama could have done so with an appropriate quote, such as this:

“Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment, or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.”

And if Obama were truly aware of his administration’s reckless continuation of the violent American tradition of waging war on other people, from Native Americans to other nationalities around the world, he could have cut to the chase and quoted this statement by Dr. King:

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today--my own government.”

Yet even with a once-dissident Vietnam veteran as his Secretary of State and another once-outspoken-on-the-costs-of-war Vietnam vet as Secretary of Defense, Obama has mounted the bully pulpit and brushed aside the searing lessons of the Vietnam War’s disastrous effects at home to pursue yet another in a series of ruinous war policies.

Apparently, Obama never studied Dr. King’s career after 1963. Apparently, he never studied nonviolent conflict resolution. Apparently, he never consulted fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipients on how to end wars, rather than enflame them.

Otherwise, this president—who campaigned to end the war in Iraq, but then widened US military actions into other Muslim nations—would be challenging fellow Americans to live up to the fullness of Dr. King’s dream, as expressed in numerous sermons and public statements on the Vietnam War. If Obama truly honored the change in America that Dr. King lived and died for, he would channel the man who said this of waging war:

“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.”

Instead, the Obama Administration has aimed and fired America’s military weapons at people around the world, aimed its national security apparatus at fellow Americans at home and abroad, prosecuted and persecuted whistle-blowers who sought to inform the public of what the government is doing, supplied and enabled state and local police to repeatedly assault peaceful demonstrators, including dissenting veterans of Obama’s wars, and continued waging year after year a brutal war in Afghanistan that is daily, in Dr. King’s phrase, “sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged.”  

President Obama does not wear the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Increasingly, he has acted like Lyndon Baines Johnson—whose bull-headed presidency wrecked social welfare programs at home in the pursuit of  a monstrous war in Vietnam—and Richard Nixon, who waged war on fellow Americans protesting his expansion of war, combined.   

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