In my comments this afternoon I would like to make 3 points. I hope you will remember my 3 points.
Newscasters and politicians will soon tell you that March 19 marks 8 years of U.S. War in Iraq. This is not true. This day twenty years ago, I was sitting in the Arabian Desert waiting to attack Iraq. The war began the next day Jan 16th with bombings. I with thousands of U.S. troops rolled in to Iraq on February 23rd.
My first point: The U.S. has been waging war on the people of Iraq for 20 years. Today, we have 50 thousand troops there and we have pledged to finally leave by the end of this year. We must hold our government to this time table.
As I said, we have been at war in Iraq for 20 years. October 12th will mark 10 years of U.S. war in Afghanistan. So far in both wars nearly 6 thousand U.S troops have been killed and tens of thousands injured. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died. The wars have cost nearly 1.2 trillion dollars. That is more than the $787 billion stimulus we spent to save our economy. New Jersey’s portion of that $1.2 trillion is $52 billion and the city of Newark, meaning you and I are paying $825 million and counting. Second point: Money spent on war could help us here at home. Bloomberg News reports that NJ has a $10.5 billion budget deficit. Governor Christie is planning to cut Medicaid as well as other important services like education. Last year Newark had a $100 million dollar deficit. The $52 billion and $825 million spent on the war would easily cover both deficits for years. Veterans For Peace ask how is the war economy working for you? From what I can tell with budget cuts layoffs and few jobs, it is not working for most of us. But believe me a chosen few are getting richer and richer.
Moving to the third point; this past Friday, the Pentagon’s top lawyer, Jeh C. Johnson, gave a keynote speech to the Department of Defense for their 26th annual observance of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Johnson speculated on King’s position on war.
Quoting Mr. Johnson from the DOD’s website, “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack,”
This is a sad and crazy illustration of how Dr. King’s legacy is being twisted and hijacked to justify positions and actions he would find indefensible. We are constantly reminded of his nonviolent methods but there is little emphasis on the purpose of his mission; to resist injustice and his challenge to us to create a beloved community where each person’s human dignity is universally recognized.
King’s anti-war stance is clear and is best known via his 1967 speech against the Viet Nam war at Riverside Church but he spoke strongly against war before that time. In Strength to Love published in 1963 King admonished the church saying their support of war “is testimony to the fact that the church has hearkened more to the authority of the world than the authority of God.
King plainly spoke out against war in his 1964 Nobel Laureate speech when he cited war as one of the three larger problems that grow out of man’s ethical immaturity; they are racial injustice, poverty and war.
My last point is to challenge each and everyone here including myself to read one or more books by Dr. King between now and the April 4th the day of his death. We must not let brothers like Mr. Johnson who are confused and people like Glen Beck who knowingly twist King’s legacy be the leading voices educating about King. We must build on King’s legacy of peace and justice. We must echo his challenge to undergo a radical revolution of values. He tells us. “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. “
He warns us that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Heeding his warnings and meeting his challenges are crucial to our survival today. I challenge all of us to remember King by reading his words, meeting his challenges and walking in his path. Let us reclaim his dream. Power to the people, power to the peaceful.