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Glenn Greenwald: MLK's Vehement Condemnation of American Militarism

His vital April 4, 1967 speech is a direct repudiation of the sophistry now used to defend US violence and aggression

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Arguing that "we must drone-bomb people in order to stop terrorism" is the equivalent of arguing that "we must continue to smoke cigarettes in order to stop lung cancer". As  ample evidence proves, the so-called "solution" to Terrorism - endless violence and killing - is actually its primary cause. As the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia  put it this weekendafter a series of multiple drones strikes on her country: "For those arguing effectiveness of drones, let me explain: civilians killed => animosity towards US = Qaeda members increase = Vicious [circle]!"

King made the same argument about Communists: that western militarism is not a solution to that ideology but is precisely what drives people to embrace it. He quoted a Vietnamese Buddhist leader who wrote that "each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct"; that "the Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies"; and that "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." That Buddhist leader, quoted King, warned that "the image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."

Citing the massive violence brought by the US to the world, King urged: "How can they trust us when now we . . . 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." Anticipating the predictable smears of him that he knew were coming from making this argument - from pointing out the US's own responsibility for the violence and extremism it claimed to be fighting - he said: "We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who . . . recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days."

But a citizenry whose "soul becomes totally poisoned" by endless war is incapable of considering nonviolence as an alternative. It loses its capacity for empathy (to understand what motivates others' actions), for self-assessment (to acknowledge the role one's own actions play in perpetuating this violence), for rationality (to consider whether those being killed are actually implacable foes), and for communion (to see "the enemy" as anything more than dehumanized Others who must be extinguished). Thus do we hear - in the face of endless reports of dead children and innocent adults from US violence - this morally stunted defense: I can't think of an alternative other than boots on the ground. That's the mantra of a degraded citizenry trained to recite from a script of endless war.

Exactly the same mindset instantly arises if one points out the  severeand escalating suffering from the sanctions regime which the US and its Nato allies are imposing on Iranians. The inevitable defense one will hear is identical to the drone defense: it's better than boots on the ground and all-out war.

Here we find the same stunted worldview. US aggression and belligerence toward  Iran are and should be inevitable, and the only Serious debate is which weapons should be used to perpetuate it: sanctions or bombing? Questioning whether Iran is pursuing a bomb, or a negotiated settlement with its leaders, or containment if they do proliferate, are not even acknowledged as alternatives. It doesn't even enter the imagination. A citizenry that has been fed a steady diet of war and aggression and demonization is understandably incapable of even entertaining "alternatives" that do not involve causing the deaths of others, and of expressing nothing but pure callousness when confronted with the human suffering of the policies they support.

 
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