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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Urging 'a Mature America' – Eisenhower - King

Thoughts from a president and an activist on power and war, power and peace
Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.…
The Table scarred by many past frustrations cannot be abandoned for certain agony of the battlefield
─ Eisenhower 1961 ─
Only a tragic 'death wish' prevents us from
reordering our priorities in pursuit of peace ─ King 1967 ─
Excerpts from former President Dwight David Eisenhower’s Farewell address and
 Dr. Martin Luther King’s dissent on the Vietnam War; minor formatting, editing by Carolyn Bennett

“We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts, America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches, and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.…”
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.…”
“As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
“During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
“Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we ─ protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
“Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.

“Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. … As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.… As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address delivered January 17, 1961, Copyright Status: This text = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html; Also in hardcopy, The American Reader: Words that Moved a Nation (edited by Diane Ravitch, HarperPerennial, 1991) Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States (1953–61). Before his election to the presidency, he had been supreme commander of the Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II.

KING 1967
“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war ─ ‘This way of settling differences is not just.
“This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“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 [fellowship].”

“… The world now demands a maturity of America … It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.”

Previous long war against Southeast Asia
of War Creating, recreating, protracting self-fulfilling prophesy ─ 'the poor'
“…We encouraged [the French] with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at re-colonization.”

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America…”
“Then came the buildup in Vietnam… I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. … I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”
“… [The] war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.…”
“… [My] mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.…”
“… [What] we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know, after a short period there, that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.…”
“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies… The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and  democracy, but the image of violence and militarism …. If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play.”
“… We are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.… [No] one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. … I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence” (Declaration against the Vietnam War), delivered April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church, New York City. Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Intellectual Properties Management, One Freedom Plaza 449 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30312, Fax: 404-526-8969 , Top 100 American Speeches,  Online Speech Bank, © Copyright 2001-2009, American Rhetoric, HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller, All rights reserved. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm. [Martin] Luther King, JrMichael. was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the U.S. civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.
originally Posted on Bennett's Column December 127, 2009 
If the things we report and the way we report them serve only to confuse people or frighten them or anger them, we diminish their understanding of the great issues of the day. Ideally, what we report or discuss will lead to calm reflection and informed debate on the subject

 ─ Canadian Journalist Michael Enright ─