US Military Abuses Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy For Pro-War Propaganda on MLK Day
Civil Rights Movement icon Martin Luther King, Jr. is well-known for his anti-war stance, especially regarding the US involvement in the Vietnam War at the time. But now some people within several branches of the US military have decided, in true orwellian fashion, to abuse MLK as an advocate for militarism and expanding military budgets on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 15).
If we are to believe those within the US military apparatus who promote this fantasy version of MLK, then apparently, like the slogan of the fictional ‘Ingsoc’ party’ in George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ contends, “WAR IS PEACE” and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”
King on militarism during the Vietnam War:
Here is what King had to say in his 1967 Riverside Church speech ‘Beyond Vietnam‘:
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
And just in case that was not clear enough:
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
Finally, King lambasted the US at the time as the
greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.
The US military mischaracterizing King:
In contrast, here is what the US Marines tweeted for MLK Day 2013:
“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
And here is what the United States Air Force’s Global Strike Command claimed in an essay on its website:
Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team – comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion – standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense.
Martin Luther King, Jr. would roll over in his grave if he could witness these pathetic attempts at deceiving the American public. To take a peace advocate and refashion him into a mouthpiece for militarism amounts to nothing but disgusting propaganda. A figure like King surely deserves better than this.
In my opinion, there are good reasons to be outraged at such revisionist practices: They smack of Stalin erasing Communist Party members from photographs after they fell from grace, China’s censorship of material covering the Tiananmen Square massacre, or the GDR’s claim that the Berlin Wall was an “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart” —all purposeful distortions of reality unworthy of a democratic society.
There is something inherently evil in lying this way about historic figures. Whenever it happens, we need to be alert.
“Martin Luther King Jr., champion of military defense?” (David Sirota, Salon, 2013/02/01)
“Santa Claus-ifying Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Sirota, In These Times, 2013/02/01)
“Black-and-whitewashing the US military.” (Belen Fernandez, Al Jazeera English, 2013/01/25)
“US military says Martin Luther King would be proud of its weapons.” (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 2013/01/22)
“A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (contents)” (King Papers Project, King Institute at Stanford University) – Read all of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches for yourself here.
Bacevich, Andrew J. The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. (Oxford UP, 2006).