West Point Candlelight Vigil
Obama Afghanistan Speech
December 1, 2009
Presentation by Larry McGovern
Westchester County for Peace and Justice
Thank you for inviting me to speak.
My brothers Ray and Joe collaborated with me on this statement.
* * *
In one brief year, President Barack Obama has left a trail of shattered dreams, culminating in his option for more war in Afghanistan.
Shattered dreams are nothing new. Four weeks before he was murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that life is full of shattered dreams.
At the same time, he insisted that it is our job to hold those dreams tight to our hearts and do our best, in the time given us, to make real the dream of peace.
Four decades ago, as another war raged in Vietnam, Dan Berrigan explained—explained, not excused—the lack of committed peacemakers. He said:
“The making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace, and prison, and even death in its wake.”
Michael Moore has asked President Obama, “What would Martin Luther King do?”
King made that very clear in 1967 in a talk at Riverside Church just down the river from here. Just substitute Afghanistan when you hear Vietnam.
King had been trying to get inner-city youth to buy into nonviolence, but they responded, “What about Vietnam?”
“Their question hit home. I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government…”
King mentions “another burden of responsibility” placed on him in 1964:
“I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.”
Need we say more about the travesty of our President going to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in person, hard on the heels of his speech tonight?
In concluding his speech at Riverside Church Martin Luther King says this:
“Somehow this madness must cease…I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. 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.”
And so it must be, for—sadly—Barack Obama is no Martin Luther King.
This is the test for us: Do we have the courage that Obama lacks to confront hidebound generals corrupted by their medals and covetous of still more power—including the presidency?
Do we have the guts to confront those profiteering from war? We speak not only of the Halliburtons and Blackwaters. We speak also of corporations that covet the huge—we mean HUGE—amounts of gas and oil in countries just north of Afghanistan.
Those corporations are happy to have our young people kill and be killed so they can build a pipeline through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean, bypassing both the Persian Gulf and Russia.
Can we stop the second resource war of the 21st Century—and prevent a third one against Iran?
It really seems as though we need a new chant:
OBAMA WON‘T, BUT YES WE CAN!
Are we willing to do what Dan Berrigan says is necessary, if we are to be serious about the making of peace?
A new book, “Good Soldiers,” focuses on some “real history,” in depicting a hospital recovery ward where war is stripped of its glory. There in the ward, lie legless, armless, mauled, burnt, depressed, and half-dead soldiers among grieving mothers and wives.
One soldier who lost an eye in Iraq found a permanent way to express his rage at the politicians and generals who sent him there. He has put crosshairs on his glass eye. “I don’t like pretending I have an eye there,” he says. “I want people to know the price of war.”
We who have eyes to see, we who are willing to bear the disruptive personal costs of peacemaking have to stop this madness. And we know how.
We raised such hell about Vietnam that Congress finally cut off the funding, and our troops came home.
That’s how we stop the corporations and the generals who have cowed our young president.
Can we force Congress to deny funds for further escalation? Can we do that?
YES WE CAN.
Will we do that?
YES WE WILL.