[And Begins Again]

by Kevin Jon Heller

The indefatigable Glenn Greenwald has unearthed an even more appalling appropriation of Dr. King by the military — a Department of Defense news article entitled “King Might Understand Today’s Wars, Pentagon Lawyer Says.”  The lawyer in question is none other than Jeh Johnson, former DoD General Counsel.  Here is what he says:

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.

“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,” he said.

This is a stunning example of the myth I mentioned in my previous post — that US violence is always used for noble purposes and always promotes peace.  Nearly everything that Dr. King said about Vietnam applies with equal force to the war on terrorism; now as then, instead of trying to understand the complicated relationship between the US and its supposed enemies, the US simply assumes it can kill its way to peace and security.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the idea that Dr. King would support the US drone program and the war in Afghanistan (to say nothing of the war in Iraq) is both completely absurd and an insult to his memory.


3 Responses

  1. We can not know what MLK would have thought about these things – he was murdered.  Any suppositions we make about what he would think are our suppositions.  Given his commitment to non-violent struggle and his speeches – it just is very hard to make the kinds of leaps that these people cavalierly make about what MLK would think or do. 
    It belittles King and is really a disgrace.  Feels like another round of rationalization. 
    MLK and his work can teach all of us.  He and civil rights demonstrators were taught to not provide resistance to the forces of violence when they came at them and to do things of self-defense in terms of covering their heads etc.
    Reminds me of a great quote of Lincoln which was something like we can not know whether God is on our side but can only hope that we are on God’s side in this struggle.

  2. I would add that when this kind of stuff ces fr an African-American, there can be a tendency to freeze up in response for fear of being perceived negatively. Seeing it as the instrumentalization of MLK that it is I think helps one get passed that fear of being perceived negatively by questioning the bona fides of the statement or the statement maker. More prosaically, c’mon man.

  3. Kevin & Ben: Frustration at the shameless use of Dr. King as one’s “imaginary black yes man” (Larry Wilmore’s phrase) was the subject of this piece from a recent Daily Show


Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. There are no trackbacks or pingbacks associated with this post at this time.