"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Monday, January 17, 2011

Messages from Dr. King and President Eisenhower


Today is not only the official holiday celebrating the memory of Martin Luther King Jr, but also the anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address. Dr. King warned us in 1967 that "a nation that year after year spends more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." President Eisenhower, in his farewell address of January 17, 1961, warned us of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex."

Today the monstrous military-industrial complex has a stranglehold on the nation, driving it into an economic hole as it drives U.S. foreign policy, pursuing military solutions across the board to maintain the empire.

I have extracted some of the key portions of Eisenhower's address that articulate not only his concerns about the military-industrial complex, but also our responsibilities as citizens:

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 huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together...

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. 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.

Down 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 difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. 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...

You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

May we heed both King's and Eisenhower's words and do all we can to convince our government to pursue diplomacy and nonviolent conflict resolution over shortsighted military solutions. If we do not, we will be doomed to an endless cycle of wars and endless spending that will make the war profiteers richer while bankrupting our nation both spiritually and economically.



Click here to read President Eisenhower's entire farewell address.

Click here to read Dr. King's Beyond Vietnam speech.

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