Guest columnist Dave King: Not heeding anti-militarist message of MLK


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Published: 01-17-2024 8:07 AM

Here we are again, another Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when we all look forward to legions of politicians trotting out MLK’s “I have a dream” speech to remind us we should be striving together in harmony for a world where all peoples can enjoy our country’s prosperity. Tellingly, establishment politicians shun King’s speech at Riverside Church, where he labeled the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Can it be denied? Currently the U.S. is illegally bombing Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and is complicit with Israel’s war crimes by furnishing them with the bombs they are using on Gaza and Lebanon. It is true that the number of civilians killed using our tax dollars in Gaza pales in comparison to the 432,093 civilians the Watson Institute calculates have been killed by the U.S. post-9/11, but it still is impressive from the standpoint of number of civilians killed per unit in time, a record as I understand.

The U.S. culpability explains to some extent the reluctance to condemn Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in Gaza. For the U.S. military, it is just the cost of exercising hegemony. And those same sociopaths are now planning to attack Iran and China, who have for too long defied the impositions of U.S. power. Somehow, though they can’t come up with funds for student debt forgiveness or health care, they are somehow able to approve billions upon billions of dollars of weaponry to rain down on the rest of the planet.

For these reasons, a more appropriate commemoration of this year’s MLK observation would be that speech from April 4, 1967, in which King made a statement about the gutting of social programs to fuel war that is as true as the day he first uttered it: “Then came the buildup in [next country to be attacked here], and I watched this 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 [country being attacked] continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

Assuming the Biden administration does not trigger World War III and the end of life on this planet with this most recent round of reckless war-making, we will all need to work together to excise the poison of militarism and chronic warfare from our society. That’s my dream.

Dave King lives in Amherst.

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