Would Martin Luther King Love Him Some Warz?
Today is Martin Luther King Day. Saw this story and was enraged enough to post it. The general counsel for the Department of Defense, Jeh Johnson, speaking at today's Pentagon commemoration of Dr. King, seized the opportunity to enlist his posthumous support (courtesy of Salon):
“I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,” he said.Given that Dr. King privately deplored war, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and publicly gave a speech themed "My Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam" at Manhattan's Riverside Church in 1967, the Pentagon lawyer might just have his tranquilizer dosages set to Bobsled Run.
Johnson goes on to argue that American soldiers play the role of the Biblical Good Samaritan cited by King because they "have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people."
In that forthright 1967 speech, Dr. King factually defined the United States as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," and defied it for dropping "thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8000 miles from its shores." Some statements he made from that pulpit may well have gotten himself marked for assassination; either way, at a distance of 43 years it rings like prophecy:
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."He went on to call for an immediate cease fire and full US withdrawal from Vietnam. As for Jeh Johnson, David Dayen of FDL put up the full transcript of his remarks, in which he recalls graduating from Morehouse College, getting chummy with MLK III, and traversing the mazes of overt and veiled racism on his way to career success. And, hopefully, not yet all the way to spiritual death.
Dr. King's techniques for persistent and pressing yet non-violent change were but a subset of his far more liberating message, one deeply embedded with a solid understanding of gospel principles. We would do well to review and keep those principles, which easily transcend any creed, uppermost in our minds as we face the challenges of building the church of Earth. In the meantime, give unto the Pentagon that which is the Pentagon's.