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The Obscenity of War

Amy Goodman @ Truthdig - President Barack Obama has just returned from his first trip as commander in chief to Afghanistan. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation of that country are now in their ninth year, amid increasing comparisons to Vietnam.

Daniel Ellsberg, whom Henry Kissinger once called “the most dangerous man in America,” leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg, who was a top Pentagon analyst, photocopied this secret, 7,000-page history of the U.S. role in Vietnam and released it to the press, helping to end the Vietnam War.

“President Obama is taking every symbolic step he can to nominate this as Obama’s war,” Ellsberg told me recently. He cites the “Eikenberry memos,” written by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, which were leaked, then printed last January by The New York Times.

Ellsberg said: “Eikenberry’s cables read like a summary of the Pentagon Papers of Afghanistan. ... Just change the place names from ‘Saigon’ to ‘Kabul’ ... and they read almost exactly the same.”

Tavis Smiley has a PBS special this week on one of the most powerful, and overlooked, speeches given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The address was made on April 4, 1967, exactly one year to the day before King was assassinated. The civil rights leader titled his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” and controversially called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

The press vilified King. Time magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” Smiley told me: “Most Americans, I think, know the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Some Americans know the ‘Mountaintop’ speech given the night before he was assassinated in Memphis. But most Americans do not know this ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech.” Smiley added, “If you replace the words Iraq for Vietnam, Afghanistan for Vietnam, Pakistan for Vietnam, this speech is so relevant today.”

Like King, Obama is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, Obama mentioned King six times, yet defended his war in Afghanistan. Princeton University professor Cornel West, interviewed by Smiley, said of Obama’s Nobel speech, “It upset me when I heard my dear brother Barack Obama criticize Martin on the global stage, saying that Martin Luther King Jr.‘s insights were not useful for a commander in chief, because evil exists, as if Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t know about evil.” Read more.

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