Tag Archives: Vietnam War

Restoring honor of USAF General John Lavelle for sake of post-Vietnam war criminals

Air Force general John Lavelle fell from grace in 1971 after overseeing unauthorized bombing raids over North Vietnam. Now his family has allies trying to rehabilitate Lavelle’s reputation, obfuscating his “rogue” misdeeds. If today’s US air strikes can carpet bomb adversaries and collateral civilian bystanders with precision impunity, you can’t blame Lavelle’s champions for expecting US impunity to apply retroactively, it’s only fair, in American terms.

Tea-Potty successfully test-fire Dumb Bomb, counters “Smart Bombs” nicely.

Remember the infamous Speech boycotted by whole School Districts including D-11 locally? The Hoam Skule parents, aided and abetted by the Tea-Party, in turn organized and funded by Fox News, combined to convince themselves that Education Is Satanic.
Frightened Tea-Baggers kept their kids from hearing the Zombie-Brainwashing message that educational excellence is a good thing.
In doing so, they set up a series of events that has led to among other school districts the Kansas City MO ISD closing half their schools, school closings are the Drug of Choice for the “conservatives” because quite simply, the only way they can hold any kind of political power is to Keep the People Ignorant. They remind me of the “Gone Tertiary” mobs in the movie “Omega Man”, led by a former (until they burned down every radio and TV station as “evil”) Rush Limbaugh think-alike named Matthias. With their torches and robes, burning down schools, libraries, museums, any form of culture and education, chanting “Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil!”
BUT… there is a bright side to this. As painful as it seems, they’re tearing their own Empire down. Already, after 8 years of Bush junior and 12 years of the Reagan/Bush Regime breaking down American Public Education into a 12 year Political Indoctrination session for each kiddo, the Pentagoons report that American kids who they wanted to recruit into the Murder Machine, aren’t qualified for it anymore.

They’re too fat, too lazy and too damn dumb.

The Fox OUTRAGE! Nation has dumbed itself into a corner. They want world-wide power, but the people they were counting on doing their fighting for them, (Because let’s face it, the NeoCons ain’t ever going to fight for their own gain, they have always counted on Other People to be stupid enough to do it for them and always will) got the necessary Political Indoctrination, where they’re Stupid Enough to believe that they’d be “fighting for Freedom”…

But it came at a price, they’re also too stupid to operate advanced weaponry. And fat and lazy. This according to the Pentagon.

It’s a major OOPSIE!! moment for the Right WingNuts. And that damage was accomplished BEFORE the mass hysteria inflamed by the Fox Propagandists. “Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil! Evil! ” They’ll drag American War Technology so low that they’ll never again be beaten down by Small Third World Nations like North Korea, VietNam, and Somalia. Because they’ll be too stupid to find their way over there and wouldn’t have enough High-Tech weaponry to make them feel safe enough to start the wars in the first place.

No more being humiliated by Barefoot Armies.

Ignoble WWII bombing of Coventry commemorated with coined slur, ours

Here’s a bit of WWII distortion the History Channel is passing off as, um, history. Did you know that those dirty Krauts leveled the English city of Coventry so completely that they coined a word to celebrate it? Apparently that term was “Coventrated.” Oh, it’s a real verb alright — trouble is, it’s English. The British intelligence office seized upon the conjugated Coventriert to mean: subjected to heavy bombardment, and pretended the Huns were such bastards they commemorated the atrocity by mocking their victims in the Teutonic dictionary.

Also problematic, the barbaric Teutons failed to “coventrate” with equal efficacy anywhere else. But the Allies sure did. By night and by day, the UK and US bombers respectively “coventrated” the German and Hungarian homelands, with all the more ferocity because they were dishing the Nazis, haha, a taste of their own medicine.

The bombing of Coventry was tragedy enough, and might have been ameliorated had Churchill responded to the intelligence forewarning but risk betraying that the Brits were intercepting Germany’s secret ciphers. Allowing Coventry to fall victim was one of the high prices of keeping ULTRA a secret, but Hitler’s choice to bomb the historic city and its famed Cathedral was to provoke much enmity with the English public. Britain’s propaganda ministry was able to compound the resentment against the Germans for the devastation of Coventry by portraying the enemy as not just Philistine, but Bombast.

Of course more German cities suffered under the 24-hour US-UK tag-team bombing raids, many incurring orders of magnitude greater casualties than the 600 dead of Coventry. Notable among the Axis cities was the medieval capital of Dresden which possessed not one legitimate military target. No mention of those victims in the History Channel’s records of military misdeeds, meanwhile propagandist Newscorp property HarperCollins is weaving the coventriert detail for revisionist Dresden-deniers.

The stories of America’s firebombing of Japanese cities have already been suppressed. Apologists have long been at work justifying the use of atomic weapons against civilians in Hiroshima and Nagazaki. Where were the propagandists to conjugate Hiroshima?

America’s other unique bombing method would later be described minus geographical references, as simple carpet bombing.

The History Channel is part of the A&E network, co-owed by warmongers Disney, Hearst and NBC/GE. Their mention of “coventrate” came in a program about Lao Tsu’s Art of War, as his military edicts might have predicted, Nostradamus-like, the outcome of the Viet Nam War. Here’s an example of the program’s perspective:

The Vietcong lost the public support of many Vietnamese when they executed thousands of South Vietnamese under the employ of the US.

Meanwhile the American cause lost its public support when the US public caught sight of photographs of US war casualties.

Sound like a fair comparison? The Vietnamese weren’t demoralized by the millions killed in their midst, while the antiwar movement was not galvanized by the revelations of US atrocities? Right.

Imperialism, a tomb for humanity

OSPAAAL posterEarlier this year we passed the 4,000 mark for US troop casualties in Iraq, and we’re within a week of hitting the 1,000th US soldier death in Afghan- Pakistan. It seems as good a time as any to rediscover this Vietnam War era poster.
 
Western imperialism didn’t meet its match in Indochina. Few could probably have imagined the voracious E Pluribus Empire would collapse instead into an intractable doomsday machine.

Beyond MLK worship: Beyond Vietnam

MLK“A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”
Martin Luther King Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break the Silence
Full text of 1967 speech below.

Riverside Church, New York City, 4 April 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines:

“A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: 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.

“I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.”

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

“For the sake of those boys,
for the sake of this governent,
for the sake of hundreds of thousands
trembling under our violence,
I cannot be silent.”

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and 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. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

“Surely we must see
that the men we supported
pressed them to their violence.”

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

“Before long they must know
that their government has sent them
into a struggle among Vietnamese,
and the more sophisticated surely realize
that we are on the side of the wealthy
and the secure
while we create hell for the poor.”

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to re-colonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us – not their fellow Vietnamese — the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

“Somehow this madness must cease.”

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong-inflicted” injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the Unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

“We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam.”

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

“When machines and computers,
profit motives and property rights
are considered more important than people,
the giant triplets of
racism,
materialism
and militarism
are incapable of being conquered.”

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

“A nation that continues
year after year
to spend more money on military defense
than on programs of social uplift
is approaching spiritual death.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

• End all bombing in North and South Vietnam

• Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

• Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

• Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

• Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

“If we do not act
we shall surely be dragged down
the long and shameful corridors of time
reserved for those who possess
power without compassion,
might without morality,
and strength without sight.”

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy-and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said,

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.”

It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.”

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 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.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept – so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force – has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says :

“Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.”

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world – a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

Olbermann offers Obama an out

obama barack hype bondKeith Olbermann’s Special Comment on Afghanistan is being summarized as telling President Obama to Get Out Now. Olbermann’s words stir our enthusiasm, but he leaves damning loopholes as far as I am concerned. The MSNBC newsman conditions his advice to the president with “unless you are right,” then at the end, showing a tact far too reckless, he tells Obama to “listen to yourself.”

No. That’s not why we elected Barack Obama.

The inexperienced senator had no record. Our hope didn’t spring from a demonstration of ability. Obama was elected for the hope he offered because he appeared to be listening to the American people. It would probably have been inconceivable to imagine then that Obama could not but respond to the unprecedented surge of electoral participation prompted by George W. Bush’s wars.

Listen to the people Mr. Obama, and no one else. To ask Obama to listen to himself is to offer him entirely too much slack. Give an authoritarian leader too much rope, that’s more rope he has to hang you.

And then there is no “unless you are right.”

What is that but a straight man’s setup? That line is for the President to show America how sure he is of his decision. The people want a leader who’s offering supreme confidence, so Olbermann is holding the door. He goes on to frame the challenges posed by Afghanistan, as surmountable by a qualified prez. Olbermann invites the President to be “precisely right.” Isn’t that exactly what will sooth the viewers, after Obama has famously taken so much time to arrive at a decision?

But there is no “unless you are right.” Unless Olbermann meant it with an implied irony. But he didn’t. He didn’t say unless black is white, or up is down. Olbermann allowed for the possibility that an escalation could be right.

“If not, Mr. President, this way lies Vietnam.”

IF NOT Olbermann says. Doesn’t he mean no if and or buts?

When Walter Cronkite finally spoke out about Vietnam, and declared the war un-winnable, it was not because it had become un-winnable. It had not transformed into a quagmire, the chance for victory had not escaped us. The illegal and immoral subjugation of the Vietnamese people was never a winnable strategy. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, it was a predictable calamity, a crime. Moral observers knew it from the beginning.

America did not LOSE Vietnam, and we will not LOSE Iraq and Afghanistan. We DESTROYED those landscapes and millions of lives, and we continue to “finish the job.” It’s an immeasurable, apocalyptic tragedy.

If Barack Obama escalates in the footsteps of Lyndon Johnson, it will similarly be no mistake. The travesty is that the American people have once again been waylaid in their determination to find a leader to represent their desire for peace.

Here is the text of Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment:

SPECIAL COMMENT
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, ‘Countdown’
Mon., Nov . 30, 2009

Mr. President, it now falls to you to be both former Republican Senator George Aiken and the man to whom he spoke, Lyndon Johnson. You must declare victory, and get out.??

You should survey the dismal array of options in front of you — even the orders given out last night — sort them into the unacceptable, the unsuccessful, and the merely un-palatable, and then put your arm down on the table and wipe the entire assortment of them off your desk — off this nation’s desk — and into the scrap heap of history. ??

Unless you are utterly convinced — willing to bet American lives on it — that the military understands the clock is running, and that the check is not blank, and that the Pentagon will go to sleep when you tell it to, even though the Pentagon is a bunch of perpetually 12-year old boys desperate to stay up as late as possible by any means necessary — get out now. ??

We are, at present, fighting, in no particular order, the Taliban; a series of sleazy political-slash-military adventurers, not the least of whom is this mountebank election-fixer Karzai, and what National Security Advisor Jones estimated in October was around eight dozen al-Qaida in the neighborhood.??

But poll after poll, and anecdote after anecdote, of the reality of public opinion inside Afghanistan is that its residents believe we are fighting Afghanistan. That we, Sir, have become an occupying force. Yes: if we leave, Afghanistan certainly will have an occupying force, whether it’s from Pakistan, or consisting of foreign fighters who will try to ally themselves with the Taliban.??

Can you prevent that? Can you convince the Afghans that you can prevent that? Can you convince Americans that it is the only way to un-do Bush and Cheney policy catastrophes dating back to Cheney’s days as Secretary of Defense in the ’90s? If not, Mr. President, this way lies Vietnam. If you liked Iraq, you’ll love Afghanistan with 35,000 more troops, complete with the new wrinkle, straight from the minder-binder lingo of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”??

President Obama will be presenting an exit strategy for Afghanistan. The exit strategy that begins by entering still further. Lose to win, sink to swim, escalate to disengage. And even this disconnect of fundamental logic is predicated on the assumption that once the extra troops go in, when the President says “okay, time for adult swim, Generals, time to get out of the pool and bring the troops with you,” that the Pentagon is just going to say “Yeppers.”??

The Pentagon, often to our eternal relief, but just as often to our eternal regret is in the War business. You were right, Mr. President, to slow the process down, once a series of exit strategies was offered to you by men whose power and in some case livelihoods are predicated on making sure all exit strategies, everywhere, forever, don’t really result in any service-man or woman actually exiting.??

These men are still in the belly of what President Eisenhower so rightly, so prophetically, christened the military-industrial complex. Now and later as the civilian gray eminences with “retired” next to their names, formally lobbying the House and Senate and informally lobbying the nation through television and the printed word, to “engage” here, or “serve” there, or “invest” everywhere, they are, in many cases, just glorified hardware salesmen. ??

It was political and operational brilliance, Sir, to retain Mr. Bush’s last Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates. It was transitional and bipartisan insight, Sir, to maintain General Stanley McChrystal as a key leader in the field. ??

And it was a subtle but powerful reminder to the authoritarian minded War-hawks like John McCain, and the blithering idiots like former Governor Palin, of the Civilian authority of the Constitution it was a picture drawn in crayon for ease of digestion by the Right, to tell our employees at the Pentagon, to take their loaded options and go away and come back with some real ones.??

You reminded them, Mr. President, that Mr. Gates works for the people of the United States of America, not the other way around. You reminded them, Mr. President, that General McChrystal is our employee, not our dictator. You’ve reminded them Mr. President. Now, tonight, remind yourself. Stanley McChrystal.??

General McChrystal has doubtless served his country bravely and honorably and at great risk, but to date his lasting legacy will be as the great facilitator of the obscenity that was transmuting the greatest symbol of this nation’s true patriotism, of its actual willingness to sacrifice, into a distorted circus fun-house mirror version of such selflessness.??

Friendly fire killed Pat Tillman. Mr. McChrystal killed the truth about Pat Tillman. And that willingness to stand truth on its head on behalf of “selling” a war or the generic idea of America being at war to turn a dead hero into a meaningless recruiting poster, should ring essentially relevant right now.??

From the very center of a part of our nation that could lie to the public, could lie to his mother, about what really happened to Pat Tillman, from the very man who was at the operational center of that plan, comes the entire series of plans to help us supposedly find the way out of Afghanistan? We are supposed to believe General McChrystal isn’t lying about Afghanistan???

Didn’t he blow his credibility by lying, so obviously and so painfully, about Pat Tillman? Why are we believing the McChrystals? Their reasons might sound better than the ones they helped George Bush and Dick Cheney fabricate for Iraq, but surely they are just as transparently oblivious of the forest. ??

Half of them insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of not repeating Iraq, while the other half, believing Bush failed in Iraq by having too few troops, insist we must stay in Afghanistan out of fear of repeating Iraq. And they are suddenly sounding frighteningly similar to what the Soviet Generals were telling the Soviet Politicos in the 1980s about Afghanistan.??

Sure it’s not going well, sure we need to get out, we all see that. But first let’s make sure it’s stabilized and then we get out. The Afghans will be impressed by our commitment and will then take over the cost of policing themselves, even though the cost would be several times their gross national product. Just send in those extra troops, just for awhile. Just 350,000.

I’m sorry, did I say 350,000? I meant 35,000. Must be a coffee stain on the paper. Mr. President, last fall, you were elected. Not General McChrystal, not Secretary Gates, not another Bushian Drone of a politician. You. On the Change Ticket. On the pitch that all politicians are not created equal.??

And upon arrival you were greeted by a Three Mile Island of an economy, so bad that in the most paranoid recesses of the mind one could wonder if the Republicans didn’t plan it that way, to leave you in the position of having to prove the ultimate negative, that you staved off worldwide financial collapse, that if you had not done what you so swiftly did, that this “economic cloudy day” would have otherwise been the “biblical flood of finance.”??

So, much of the change for which you were elected, Sir, has thus far been understandably, if begrudgingly, tabled, delayed, made more open-ended. But patience ebbs, Mr. President. And while the first one thousand key decisions of your presidency were already made about the economy, the first public, easy-to-discern, mouse-or-elephant kind of decision comes tomorrow night at West Point at eight o’clock.

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war. Nothing makes less sense to our economy than the cost of supply for 35,000 new troops. Nothing will do more to slow economic recovery. You might as well shoot the revivified auto industry or embrace John Boehner Health Care Reform and Spray-Tan Reimbursement.

You know this, Mr. President: we cannot afford this war. Nothing makes less sense to our status in the world than for us to re-up as occupiers of Afghanistan and for you to look like you were unable to extricate yourself from a Military Chinese Finger Puzzle left for you by Bush and Cheney and the rest of Halliburton’s hench-men.

And most of all, and those of us who have watched these first nine months trust both your judgment and the fact you know this, Mr. President: unless you are exactly right, we cannot afford this war. For if all else is even, and everything from the opinion of the generals to the opinion of the public is even, we cannot afford to send these troops back into that quagmire for second tours, or thirds, or fourths, or fifths.

We cannot afford this ethically, Sir. The country has, for eight shameful years, forgotten its moral compass and its world purpose. And here is your chance to reassert that there is, in fact, American Exceptionalism. We are better. We know when to stop making our troops suffer, in order to make our generals happy.

You, Sir, called for change, for the better way, for the safety of our citizens including the citizens being wasted in war-for-the-sake-of-war, for a reasserting of our moral force. And we listened. And now you must listen. You must listen to yourself.

You have forgotten what to remember

You are not forgottenCan someone please explain to me what it means to fly this flag? The POW-MIA flag is ubiquitous these days around veterans. Our town hall flies this black flag halfway below the Stars and Stripes. When the latter is at half mast, the former hangs indecorously low. Which reminds me of a pirate ship stalking a wavering Old Glory.
 
I understand POW and MIA, and “you are not forgotten.” But there is no flag for the veterans, the dead or wounded, to whom does this lone flag speak and why?

Since the Gulf War, the US military maintains that it loses track of none of its soldiers. We’ve had POWs but they’ve been returned, and we’ve had MIAs whose bodies have been found. One was recovered even recently, though it was the body of a pilot lost over Iraq, understood to have died. Casualties at sea are still sometimes unrecoverable, but at least something about American war-making proficiency now permits us to confirm deaths even sans corpus. Supposedly.

US military engagements between those wars, and later, have been kept outside public scrutiny, or not officially admitted. As a result, they’ve added no POWs or MIAs for the home front to worry over.

Which leaves Vietnam, from whose era comes the dark silhouette of a bent inmate in the shadow of a prison guard tower. According to the last report, there remain 1728 American soldiers missing in action in Indochina. They are unaccounted for — it might be more fair to say–not missing persons, expected to turn up.

During the Vietnam War, the MIA list gave hope that your soldier wasn’t among the fallen. It was a hope that loved ones could cling to for even years after the fall of Siagon. On the radio, a Dick Curless hit from 1965 continued to resonate even as the war receded from memory. “Six Times a Day” told of a bride in post-WWII Germany who met the trains every day, awaiting the return of her German soldier, held by the Soviets in war-reparation labor camps until the Russians considered them to have atoned. Was this what we expected Vietnam was doing?

Six times a day the trains came down from Frankfort
The night he came ten years were almost through
She held him close and said I knew you’d be here
He said I had no doubt you’d be here too

American wives were determined to wait even longer, except evidence of post-war prisoners never came. There was speculation of a cover-up, suspicions which politicians like John Kerry and John McCain do little to assuage. After the war, some believe that prisoner GIs were left behind, whom the North Vietnamese hoped to exchange for war reparations. Instead of paying, it’s conjectured that the US government chose to deny the existence of those men. No American diplomat has ever confirmed the scenario, and no surviving GI has ever surfaced.

The closest we’ve come to rescuing POWs was at the movies, when Rambo went back for a jailbreak and to do-over America’s lost war.

Even as the rumor persisted, the fate of the abandoned POWs is assumed to have been execution at the hands of their former foe, presumed so exasperated and bitter. The general consensus today, no matter the theory, is that no veteran is anticipated to step alive from the sad lists of the Vietnam MIA.

If they are presumed dead, then what separates an MIA from the dead, who we honor together with all veterans? The Vietnam MIA have been added to the Vietnam Memorial. How now is their memory any different?

Even recently I’ve seen relatives of those MIA conduct special ceremonies on Memorial Day, with the empty place setting, the chair, the vase and rose, etc. It looks to me as though the family members have even passed the ritual down to grandchildren who would not even have know the missing soldier. But this ceremony isn’t conducted for the regular dead, who are also missing from the family table, it’s reserved for the missing dead. And so I wonder at the distinction.

MIAs represent casualties who fell off the books. If a soldier’s capture is confirmed, his status changes to POW, otherwise soldiers come up missing through desertion, treason, malfeasance, or physical obliteration. Mother nature can dispose of bodies, but the most common cause of disappearance is owed to the inhuman scale of mechanized war. As weapons grew more powerful, physical bodies more frequently disintegrated. Missing bodies today, even looking back retrospectively, are the result of human beings eclipsed by machine violence. In the engagements America has chosen from Vietnam onward, usually the technology for the big violence is our side’s alone. Which is not to implicate friendly fire. Often USAF air strikes are called in over battlefields strewn already with GI fatalities.

At first the act of flying a POW flag was aimed at the Vietnamese, to remind all around us, with a sideways glance at our enemies, of our concern for our soldiers. Perhaps the MIA component was an urging to Vietnam as well, after the war, to put effort into recovering US soldier remains. Over the decades, I’m not sure that Vietnam could have shown itself more cooperative. If archeological digs are today able to unearth more evidence, it’s not because the Vietnamese weren’t trying.

Who today are we addressing with the POW-MIA flags? I see these flags usually paired with the Red, White and Blue. But those are directed at our foes.

If a soldier’s relation has question to suspect their soldier is an MIA, isn’t that a beef to take up with the US military? The POW-MIA flag seems to say, we don’t trust you, don’t lie to us about our boys in uniform. We don’t want you smashing their bodies to smithereens, or leaving them behind and not telling us. The POW-MIA flag is a renegade message which says: we support the troops, but not their mission. Give them back.

Flying the POW-MIA flag is so unpatriotic, it’s patriotic.

Life Magazine knows Afghanistan

life-aug57-vietnam-keep-village-freeWhy, it’s the price of freedom. LIFE didn’t question it in 1965, its readers know no better today. You have to destroy a village to free it. You have to cripple an enemy child before you can take him fishing.
 
Alanis Morissette couldn’t tell from irony, and neither can America. Then and now. Americans wouldn’t recognize irony if it blew up in their face 44 years later.

life-mag-july65-deeper-into-vietnamIn Vietnam in 1965, our photographers were allowed to depict US wounded. Six years into the conflict, the antiwar movement was still nascent, US GI casualties passed 2,000 (by 1966 they would quadruple), and America’s worst atrocities in Southeast Asia were yet to come. This Life Magazine cover story is titled “DEEPER INTO THE VIETNAM WAR.”

About Afghanistan, shoot the messenger

OSPAAAL posterThis time let’s learn something from the travesty of Vietnam. The interests which drove US soldiers into the hamlets of Southeast Asia are directing the massacres today. We call them the hawks, as if war was mere blood sport. Though South Vietnamese collaborators were forced to flee for their lives from Saigon, their US cohorts were never held to account. This time as America extricates itself from terrorizing Afghanistan, let’s note those among us with blood on our hands and prosecute. Not the soldiers, but the warmongers in the charge: those commanders who every month reported the war “is still winnable” those propagandists who blamed the failure of occupation on waning public resolve, those politicians who rationalized inhumanity, and the war industrialists, all of them.

Lt. Calley finally apologizes for My Lai

antiwar poster by haeberle and brandtLt. William Calley has expressed remorse for the first time for leading the 1968 My Lai Massacre. Although he still maintains he was only following orders. Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role, but President Nixon commuted his punishment to three years of house arrest. Who should have been accountable for the 500 civilians executed in My Lai?

The US – Islam War nears halfway mark

I have to do more research, but I’m pretty sure October 7, 2009 should mark the HALFWAY POINT of the US-ISLAM WAR. I realize the Pentagon brass are calling for fifty years more of insurgency suppression in Afghanistan and Iraq, but if we grant them no more time than for America’s longest military intervention, we’ve got another eight years before beating our humiliating retreat.
iraq

Those who insist we could have won the Vietnam War, would have our murderous troops there still. No foreign occupation has succeeded in modern times, with the ongoing exception of Israel, which by its swallowing of Palestine has been skewing the definition of occupation to the Old Testament model of mass extermination. The treacherous method worked against the Native Americans, it may still doom the (Palestinian) Native Israelis.

Afghanistan and Iraq remain occupations, where Vichy puppet governments prosecute genocide against the native resistance. How long before Americans lose their stomach for continuous bloody repression? I cannot account for the Russians in Chechnya, but on the US-Islam front, we are halfway there.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, we may already have surpassed half the civilian death tolls in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It’s hard to say, the US “doesn’t do body counts” now, and we didn’t then either. Our own military casualties grew exponentially in Vietnam. If such statistics bear comparison, today’s numbers cannot be but comparable.

It’s being whispered that American casualties are approaching a multiple of a thousand mark. Official soldier deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are conjectured to be reaching a round number.

I’m not told how many US mercenaries are being killed. We have as many hired-guns contracted as government soldiers. Want to lay odds on how many body bags they’ve required?

Nor are we told how many US soldiers are being wounded, many of them with injuries which would not have sustained their lives in Vietnam. Surely there is a sad gray area of injury which we could round up as it approximates death.

Warmongers do end run on Vietnam Wall

US Vietnam Veterans War Memorial
WASHINGTON DC- Who knew it wasn’t just the Vietnam War veterans who had misgivings about Maya Lin’s design for a memorial? Fair enough it doesn’t celebrate the achievements of our armies. This peripheral statue offers the more conventional bronze tribute. It depicts as addendum, three survivors emerging from the woods, disheveled and still brandishing assault rifles. They appear to regard the wall and its visitors with wariness. I recognize the faces now, they are the chicken hawks who didn’t go, but still want to wage war, and had to figure out how to get America over that wall.

Nearby, the WWII memorial celebrates the victors more than it commemorates the dead, it’s fashioned like a stone coliseum, as might have been fashioned by the world champion rooster after an undefeated string of cockfights.

MLK: Why I am Opposed to the War

Martin Luther King Jr“You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”
 
Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967. Full text below.

The sermon which I am preaching this morning in a sense is not the usual kind of sermon, but it is a sermon and an important subject, nevertheless, because the issue that I will be discussing today is one of the most controversial issues confronting our nation. I’m using as a subject from which to preach,

“Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.”

Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.

Polls reveal that almost fifteen million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.

Yes, we must stand, and we must speak. [tape skip]…have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam. Many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud:

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say.

And so this morning, I speak to you on this issue, because I am determined to take the Gospel seriously. And I come this morning to my pulpit to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.

This sermon is not addressed to Hanoi, or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Nor is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in a successful resolution of the problem. This morning, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans, who bear the greatest responsibility, and entered a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

Now, since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hope of the poor at home. It was sending their sons, and their brothers, and their husbands to fight and die in extraordinarily high proportion relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta. Now, I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years–especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action; for they ask and write me, “So what about Vietnam?” They ask if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted.

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent.

Been a lot of applauding over the last few years. They applauded our total movement; they’ve applauded me. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, we can’t do it this way. They applauded us in the sit-in movement–we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, Be non-violent toward Bull Connor; when I was saying, Be non-violent toward [Selma, Alabama segregationist sheriff] Jim Clark.

There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There’s something wrong with that press!

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was not just something taking place, but it was a commission–a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of Man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved His enemies so fully that he died for them? What, then, can I say to the Vietcong, or to Castro, or to Mao, as a faithful minister to Jesus Christ? Can I threaten them with death, or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be the son of the Living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. And because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come today to speak for them.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak not now of the soldiers of each side, not of the military government of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries.

Now, let me tell you the truth about it. They must see Americans as strange liberators.

Do you realize that the Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation? And incidentally, this was before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. And this is a little-known fact, and these people declared themselves independent in 1945. They quoted our Declaration of Independence in their document of freedom, and yet our government refused to recognize them. President Truman said they were not ready for independence. So we fell victim as a nation at that time of the same deadly arrogance that has poisoned the international situation for all of these years. France then set out to reconquer its former colony. And they fought eight long, hard, brutal years trying to re-conquer Vietnam. You know who helped France? It was the United States of America. It came to the point that we were meeting more than eighty percent of the war costs. And even when France started despairing of its reckless action, we did not. And in 1954, a conference was called at Geneva, and an agreement was reached, because France had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu.

But even after that, and after the Geneva Accord, we did not stop. We must face the sad fact that our government sought, in a real sense, to sabotage the Geneva Accord. Well, after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through the Geneva agreement. But instead the United States came and started supporting a man named Diem who turned out to be one of the most ruthless dictators in the history of the world. He set out to silence all opposition. People were brutally murdered because they raised their voices against the brutal policies of Diem. And the peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States influence and by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown, they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace. And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It’s a man by the name of general Ky [Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky] who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and the press generally won’t tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support and all the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps, where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women, and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the towns and see thousands of thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the United Buddhist Church. This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be changed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say, “This is not just.” 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.

Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that these are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. They are saying, unconsciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around!” It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when

“every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are bothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State–they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America’s strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue.

Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America,

“You’re too arrogant!

And if you don’t change your ways,

I will rise up and break the backbone of your power,

and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name.

Be still and know that I’m God.”

Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?” And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower to the Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome” because Carlyle was right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth pressed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet, that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the bible is right: “You shall reap what you sow.”

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more.