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Just War? Or Just War…


Politics, it is said, makes strange bedfellows — but the Nobel Peace Prize may make even stranger ones.
 
There has been considerable commentary over the award to President Barack Obama, and whether or not it was deserved.
 
His speech upon receipt of the honor was not about peace, but about war — or, to be precise "just war." (For centuries, popes and princes have put forth theories of what constitutes just — as opposed to unjust — wars).
 
As if calling the Afghanistan war a ‘just’ one wasn’t ironic enough (the State of Afghanistan didn’t attack the U.S. – a group of foreigners in that country did), to be accepting a peace prize while escalating war makes the prize about as meaningful as the latest reality show on TV.
 
Rather than ‘just war’, perhaps the speech should’ve been about justifying war — something that politicians are pretty good at.
 
One could hardly miss the contrast between Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose previous receipt of the prize, and ‘dream’ oratory were drafted into the service of war.
 
But if King were alive, he would doubtless be a protester rather than an applauder of more war.
 
King’s friend and speech writer, Rev. Dr. Vincent Harding, points to Kings’ Riverside speech in New York, where he came out forcefully against the war in Vietnam.  When the nation’s political, religious and media leaders defended the war as just as necessary, King saw the human suffering of Vietnamese people and found it intolerable.
 
In Harding’s book Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, (Maryknoll: 1996) King’s comments to his SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)  staff after reading a Jan. 1967 Ramparts magazine article on the war was illustrative.
 
Said King,"…[A]fter reading that article, I said to myself, "Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation and destroying thousands and thousands of little children in Vietnam’ " (p.101)
 
Several months later he would preach at Riverside, where he would tell the congregation "the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism" (101)
 
Obama’s references to the reality of evil in world affairs thrilled conservatives, for it endorsed war (the capitalist nations’s greatest economic engine ) as a solution.
 
King addressed evil squarely 42 years ago; but to King, war was evil, not a solution to it.
 
 
[Source: Harding, Vincent, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero (Maryknoll: New York, 1996.]

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