Forty years ago this year, Martin Luther broke his silence and spoke out against the war in Vietnam. He denounced its atrocities and condemned the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
Just last week, our liar in chief, George Bush himself invoked Vietnam in an attempt to justify the occupation of Iraq. In an absurd revision of history, he claimed, “Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps,’ and ‘killing fields.’”
Bush’s lies know no end. The US intervention was the cause of the problems of Vietnam. It would never have provided a solution. Nowhere is that more clear than in Iraq today. Bush has created his own boat people, the 4 million Iraqi refugees. He has created his own re-education camps from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to the secret detention centers all around the world. He has created his own killing fields in Iraq, where over 1 million have lost their lives since the invasion. King, not Bush, was right; the US government is the greatest purveyor of violence in our world today.
The US pursues its so-called War on Terror today for oil, profit and empire in the Middle East. The entire US establishment endorses these aims. Save for a handful, the Democrats voted for the war; they refuse to cut funding; they refuse to demand an immediate withdrawal of all US forces and corporations; they refuse even to impeach the war criminals in the Whitehouse.
Our rulers have used the so-called war on terror as a cover to assert US dominion over the Middle East from Iraq to Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Iran. By controlling Middle-eastern oil, the US aims to dominate the world. They treat each war and occupation as part of their overall strategy. We in the anti-war movement must therefore oppose not just one of them, but all of them together. It is all one imperial war.
But we, the majority here in the US have not benefited from the horrors the US has wrought in the Middle East. As King said in his speech, the “bombs dropped abroad explode at home.” At the very same time the US government has pursued a war abroad, it has pursued one at home. It has shredded our civil liberties, scapegoated Arabs and Muslims, and wasted billions that could have aided the black people of New Orleans after Katrina. While the US has blown up bridges in Iraq, it has not even repaired them in Minneapolis.
A great awakening is taking place among the masses of Americans. Now a majority opposes the war in Iraq and want progressive social change at home. The question we face is how to transform that sentiment into a fighting force. We have to re-build an anti-war organization in our cities, on our campuses, in our workplaces, and inside the military itself. We have to turn sentiment into organization and social power to shut down the war machine.
But we cannot stop just with ending this war but must challenge the capitalist system that breeds war. As King said “for years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”
We need an anti-war movement and a new American left that can fight for a new society based on international solidarity, human need, and the elevation of the downtrodden here and abroad as the masters of our own destinies. Another world is possible; another world is necessary, let’s begin to fight for it!