“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
That powerful quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., sums up what those of us opposed to the war in Iraq said, and continue to say today. I agree that a peaceful society in Iraq, free of oppression and murderous rampages, is in the best interests of the Iraqis and the world. I also believe, however, that oppression and murderous rampages are not the right ways to bring about peace.
“The physical casualties of the war in Vietnam are not alone the catastrophes. The casualties of principles and values are equally disastrous and injurious. Indeed, they are ultimately more harmful because they are self-perpetuating. If the casualties of principle are not healed, the physical casualties will continue to mount.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
If we, the Americans, truly stand for peace, democracy, justice, and the downtrodden, then let it be so. Let’s stand for those values everywhere and extend them to everyone. Through the war on Iraq, we have heard language from the Pentagon talking about “softening the opposition”, which means the slaughter of hundreds or thousands of Iraqi soldiers (and quite likely, non-combatant bystanders). We are encouraged to think of the Iraqi soldiers as “Saddam’s evil thugs” as a way to accept this kind of mass murder; yet we know all too well that most of the Iraqi solders didn’t want to fight the Americans. They faced a sobering choice: resist and be tortured and killed by the Iraqis, or fight and be killed by the Americans.
Do we extend our values of peace only to those whom Saddam has not yet oppressed?
How can we justify killing thousands of Iraqis in the name of saving them? As a Russian commentator recently put it, “It reminds me of the Soviet expansion into eastern Europe. They kept ‘liberating’ countries whose citizens never asked for liberation.”
All of this brings us back to our current administration as well as much of the opposition in Washington. If you interviewed each of the politicians on the House, Senate, and White House, you’d find that they’d almost all claim to admire Martin Luther King and what he stood for, to the point of being in support of a national holiday honoring the man and his principled accomplishments.
Yet many of them, Bush included, have been acting for over a year in ways that directly fly in the face of what Martin Luther King stood for.
King’s message was not solely one of black equality in America. It was one of global equality, of help for the repressed, of peace and justice, and of non-violent ways of improving society. Let us not forget that King’s message was far broader than many people today remember, and let us not fail to work for his goals.