PEOPLE’S MOBILIZATION UNITES FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

| , NEWSLETTER

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is two weeks away. The “People’s Mobe” will be held from September 20 to 23 in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly.

Members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective started organizing the People’s Mobe in May. Organizers sought to bring the issue of US violations of international law, such as when the State Department violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the Venezuelan Embassy on May 16, to the UN General Assembly and began to plan around September 21, the International Day of Peace. Organizers wrote:

At a time when all of the world leaders gather, we will say we’ve had enough of the US War Machine.

We demand the US be held accountable for its destructive acts. It’s time for the US government to obey the United Nations Charter by stopping regime change operations, ending the use of unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and ceasing military attacks.

We demand the US sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty, rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate treaty, disband NATO and close bases and outposts around the world.

We demand an immediate transition to a peace economy that uses our resources to meet human needs and protect the planet.

The People’s Mobe begins with the Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, an international day of action on the climate crisis, and ends with a solidarity evening uniting countries and popular movements around opposition to US intervention and respect for international laws that uphold sovereignty, human rights and protection of the planet.

The weekend will also focus on decolonization joining a protest for the liberation of Puerto Rico and black resistance to racism and militarism in the “Americas.”

Schedule of Events for the People’s Mobilization Against the US War Machine

Friday, September 20 – People’s Climate Strike. Starts at Foley Square at noon, then a march to Battery Park for a rally at 3:00 pm. We’ll bring messages connecting militarism and the climate crisis.

Saturday, September 21 – Puerto Rico Independence Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN. It’s time to decolonize Puerto Rico! Time TBA.

Saturday, September 21 – Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the “America’s” from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Green Worker Cooperative, 1231 Lafayette Ave in the Bronx.

Sunday, September 22 – People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet Rally and March, Herald Square near 34th St.and 6th Ave., 2:00 pm. Featuring Cornel West, Roger Waters, members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Chairman Omali Yeshitela, music by Ben Grosscup plus many solidarity, climate crisis, and resistance groups. More special guests to be announced.

Monday, September 23 – Solidarity evening with UN representatives from countries targeted by US sanctions and intervention. “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” Location: Community Church of New York 40 East 35th St., New York City, 10016. Hear from UN representatives and social movements. The Peace Memorial Prize will be awarded and David Rovics will perform. Time:  6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). You must register in advance. Register at http://bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. The event is free but we will accept donations to help cover the costs.

People’s Mobilization Shows Interconnections At Historical Moment

The People’s Mobe is connecting the issues of militarism, climate crisis, racism, and decolonization. We cannot achieve economic, racial and environmental justice or peace without forming a united people’s force that demands international law be obeyed by the greatest violator of laws, the United States.

We face multiple crisis issues that are reaching their breaking points. We are in a climate emergency as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and drought are becoming common experiences, destroying communities and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Even if the US government ignores climate science, people understand it and realize these conditions are worsening. As a result, the Global Climate Strike from September 20-27 was called. Popular Resistance will participate in the Strike in NYC; other peace activists are joining the Shut-Down DC Climate Strike.  We urge peace activists throughout the country to support the Climate Strike and demonstrate the connection between militarism and climate.

The role of the US military in climate change is massive as oil is essential for the war machine. There is no such thing as a Green War. We cannot confront climate change without confronting US militarism.

Even though the US military produces more climate pollution than 140 countries combined, the US-made sure the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change from 1997, the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, excluded fossil fuel emissions by the military. Even the Paris Agreement, which Trump withdrew from, still enabled the US to avoid reporting Pentagon emissions.

As a result, the greatest fossil fuel polluter on the planet is excluded despite the fact that the US  military accounts for 25% of the total US consumption of oil, which is itself 25% of the total world consumption. US military fossil fuel pollution is equivalent to 25 million additional cars on US roads. The US Air Force is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.

The US and allies learned in World War II that controlling the oil supply and cutting off Germany’s access to oil was essential to defeating Hitler. Since then, domination of oil reserves has been a central goal of US policy to ensure its role as the global superpower. Even with the rapid increase in US fossil fuel production, denying China access to oil from Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and other sources is critical to remaining the world’s dominant power. The US and its war machine drive the rise in greenhouse gases.

The ties between war and racism have been evident throughout US history since the “Indian Wars” of Manifest Destiny and the theft of one-fifth of Mexico during the US war with Mexico, which gave the US control of much of North America. As the US expanded its empire beyond the continent, the US fought wars against people of color all over the world and today is rapidly militarizing Africa.

As happens with empires, the empire turns against its own people to take as much as it can from its poor and working classes for the wealthiest. Not only has this resulted in an immense wealth divide and widespread povertyhomelessness and inadequate education for many people in the US, but it has also led to militarized police forces that use weapons and techniques of war against the people in the United States. The prime targets of domestic militarized police are communities of color, which have been left destitute from neglect and the funneling of wealth upwards in a racially-biased manner.

Part of being the largest empire in world history not only includes an empire of bases and dollar domination of trade and the global economy, but also the US remains a colonizer nation. While decolonization created scores of independent nations from 1945-1960, the United States did not decolonize. As a result states like Hawaii, which was an independent nation throughout most of its history, did not become independent and territories like Puerto Rico, which had broken from Spanish colonization only to be captured as a US colony, remain.

Uniting To End Empire and Militarization, and put People and Planet First

The Peoples Mobilization comes at a time when all of these fronts of struggle are coming together. Climate activists realize that ending wars for oil, closing bases and making serious cuts to military funding are essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and financing a global Green New Deal. Anti-war activists recognize that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essential for stopping endless wars.

It is time to stop the US war machine and for the US government to stop its global gangsterism. The US must obey international law and be held accountable for illegal and destructive acts. The Non-Aligned Movement countries made a commitment to do what they can this past July. Now, we need a global popular movement that pushes to make peace, justice, and a livable future a reality.

If you agree, sign onto the Global Appeal for Peace. We plan to deliver it to the United Nations while they are in session. Beyond that, we will continue to build a global solidarity movement to Stop The US War Machine and Save the Planet.

BDS is a peaceful approach to change

The controversy over Israel’s refusal to allow an official visit by two members of Congress highlights the negative effects of a misguided bipartisan attempt by representatives of both major political parties to attack and smear the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and freedom. By an overwhelming margin in July, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution to condemn the BDS movement and to endorse an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution. Legislatures in more than two dozen U.S. states have passed measures condemning the BDS movement or banning contracts with businesses involved with it.


Newsday
Letter to the Editor
Published August 25, 2019


Such undemocratic action is divisive and violates free-speech rights. It is outrageous that lawmakers have supported legislation to penalize or vilify anyone who advocates a boycott of Israel for its oppressive treatment of Palestinians under a decades-old occupation.

BDS is a peaceful approach to change — part of the process of negotiation, now stalled — that is desperately needed to bring a just and lasting peace to Israel and Palestine.

Joseph Naham and Jim Brown

Newsday Editor’s note: The writers are chair and secretary, respectively, of the Green Party of Nassau County

Kevin Zeese: Greens Show Leadership Against US Coup In Venezuela

By Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance

Above photo: Embassy Protection Collective members before they were arrested: Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine and David Paul from the People’s Dispatch. All four voted for Stein-Baraka in 2016.

One of the things the final four people in the Venezuelan Embassy who were arrested had in common was that they all voted for Stein-Baraka in 2016. Two of us were Greens (Margaret Flowers and me) and two were independents. The participation of Greens in the Embassy Protection Collective once again shows how the Green Party of the United States is the party of the popular movement in the United States.

The Embassy Protection Collective was a unique event in US history. US peace activists going into a foreign embassy in Washington, DC to protect Venezuela from a US coup. We issued a Declaration of the Embassy Protection Collective that explains why we took the actions we did. Three days before the police violated international law to illegally evict and arrest us we told the State Department there was a legal path to resolving this dispute, i.e. mutual Protecting Power Agreements between the US and Venezuela to allow a third country to protect the vacant US embassy in Caracas and the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We still hope such a mutual agreement will be put in place.

Margaret is a co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and ran for US Senate in 2016. I have been a Green since 2000,  a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Green Party and a Green Party US Senate candidate in 2006.  Margaret and I were not the only Greens involved in the Embassy Protection Collective. Many Greens were involved both inside and outside of the embassy. The Collective included Greens and non-Greens, often the role of Green Party activists goes unnoticed in the media, so I want to highlight some of the work of Greens in this initiative.

The Secret Service allowed a pro-coup mob to surround the embassy, assault, threaten and try to intimidate members of the Collective into leaving, and let them block food entering the embassy.  During this siege I noticed there were Greens from multiple states including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, Greens joined us outside from Connecticut, DC, and Virginia.  We were not there as Greens but as people who are part of the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace. The Green Party takes strong positions against militarism and anti-imperialism and many of its members are part of peace and justice movements.

Poor Peoples Army called for water turned to be back on the embassy as well as sought to deliver food and flowers to Embassy Protectors from Poor Peoples Economic and Human Rights Campaign.

Past Two Vice Presidential Candidates Show Up to Provide Food, Water and Flowers

In fact, both Green Party vice presidential candidates in the 2016 and 2012 elections, Ajamu Baraka the national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace and Cheri Honkala of the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign, played leadership roles in the Collective outside of the embassy.

Honkala came with the Poor Peoples Army and attempted to get food into the embassy as well as bring us flowers on Mother’s Day. They attempted to put food in a bag we had thrown from a second-floor window. The rope was grabbed by both the pro-coup protesters and the police. The police cut the rope and the food was not able to be delivered. After the attempt, the Poor People’s Army had a confrontation with police outside the embassy where they accused them of violating the human rights of Embassy Protectors. They argued that denial of food, water and electricity was putting people at risk, many of the same challenges poor people face every day.

In addition, the Poor People’s Army protested at PEPCO, the DC power company that shut off the electricity in the embassy, which also resulted in the electric pumps needed for water being unable to operate. The people inside the embassy noted the aggressive action of Honkala and her team. On the morning we were arrested, we heard the Poor People’s Army was making a return visit and we were looking forward to seeing their support and showing our love for their efforts on our behalf. Unfortunately, we were arrested before they arrived.

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) played an integral role in the Collective. In the early phases of our living in the embassy when we are holding nightly forums and cultural events, members of the Black Alliance for Peace who are members of Pan-African Community Action(PACA) joined us for a forum on the militarization of Africa and then need to end Africom, the US Africa Command.

Embassy Protection Collective, Black Alliance for Peace members at the White House after marching from the Venezuelan embassy.

Members were regular attendees at the forums and also were part of the outside Collective. They consistently joined activists on a daily basis to show support for stopping the US coup and protecting the Venezuelan Embassy from takeover.

Earlier this year we traveled to Venezuela with Ajamu Baraka as part of a peace delegationorganized by the US Peace Council. Ajamu is a close ally and advisor to Popular Resistance who has been integral in our work that led to stopping the Trump Military Parade, developing the Peace Congress, building the US Coalition Against Foreign Military Basesand with the United National Antiwar Coalition.

Baraka was at the embassy the day that Rev. Jesse Jackson came to support us. Baraka knows Jackson from his two presidential runs and joined him and other members of the Collective in helping to deliver food to the embassy. As you can see in the video below, there was a scuffle with a pro-coup supporter who tried to pull a bag of food out of Jackson’s hands as well as wrapped the rope to pull the bag to the second floor around his arms. Baraka can be seen battling with the pro-couper along with another Maryland Green Party member, Paul Pumphrey of Friends of the Congo, and others in order to successfully deliver four bags of food into the embassy.

Colorado Green, Andrea Mérida Cuéllar, who is also a co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, summarized the role of Greens and our former vice presidential candidates in a Facebook post, writing:

“It was Greens from all over the eastern seaboard who held space outside and fought the police and the Venezuelan expatriate gusano fascists to bring food to the defenders. It was a Green Vice Presidential candidate who fought with the power company to turn the electricity back on. It was another Green Vice Presidential candidate who dragged the fascists away so that Jesse Jackson could deliver sustenance to our defenders.”

Hawkins speaking at No To NATO protest at the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on April 4, 2019.

Green Presidential Nominee Front-Runner, Howie Hawkins, Speaks Out Against US Imperialism

One of the founders of the Green Party, Howie Hawkins, who is currently exploring a run for president in 2020, wrote three blog posts on his website supporting the Embassy Protection Collective and opposing the US coup in Venezuela.

On April 24, two weeks after we entered the embassy, Hawkins, who is known for being the first candidate to run on a full-fledged Green New Deal, wrote about how the US should not be threatening war against Venezuela for oil especially during a time of climate crisis. Hawkins wrote more clearly than any presidential candidate about the US economic war, theft of Venezuela’s wealth, the impact of sanctions, opposition to the US coup as well as US threats of war. Hawkins strongly opposed US imperialism against Venezuela which he correctly described as bi-partisan.  He described Trump’s open comments about stealing Venezuelan oil from early in his presidency and put his false comments on Venezuela in context, writing:

All Trump talk about restoring human rights and democracy in Venezuela are just more lies. Trump doesn’t support them in the US. He orders the violation of human rights against asylum seekers at the US border. He constantly spouts racist tropes and incites violence against minorities and political opponents. He supports voter suppression and opposes verifiable vote-counting laws.

The next day, Hawkins highlighted a study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research that found that there were 40,000 deaths from 2017 to 2018 as a result of US economic sanctions which are illegal under international law.

The day we were arrested, April 16, Hawkins put out an excellent statement describing how international law had been violated by the US invading the embassy. He mentioned Margaret Flowers and me since we are both volunteering for his exploratory campaign, and put the US action in historical context writing;

The arrests show that the US is a rogue state. Violating the diplomatic immunity of the Venezuelan embassy takes the US back before the 1200s, when Genghis Khan’s Eurasian empire brought the notion of inviolable diplomatic immunity to a West that was riddled at the time with endemic warfare and banditry among the feuding feudal fiefdoms. Trump—and his Republican and Democratic minions alike—have taken us back nearly a millennium to the Dark Ages.

We are grateful that the Green Party is likely to have a nominee in the 2020 election cycle who understands the importance of international law and stands against US imperialism and empire.

In 2020 We Must Make US Regime Change Unacceptable and Work To End US Empire

We intend to build on the action at the embassy so that the political consensus in the United States opposes the US coup and threats of military action against Venezuela. The Green Party will be speaking out in 2020 as they always have been against war, militarism and regime change. We will be calling for cuts to the military budget and putting the necessities of the people and planet before war.

The Embassy Protectors and our allies intend to build a movement that will make it impossible for any candidate of any party to support the US coup in Venezuela. We will be escalating our actions against the US coup and organizing national and international days of action leading to a mass protest on September 21 in New York City when the UN General Assembly is meeting.

This campaign against the Venezuela coup and threats of militarism around the world is part of an ongoing effort to end US empire as quickly and responsibly as possible so the US stops creating global chaos and destruction. The people of the United States need to understand that the Empire Economy does not work for them or the people of the world and needs to come to an end.

Original post: https://independentpoliticalreport.com/2019/05/greens-show-leaderhship-against-us-coup-in-venezuela/

Tell Congress to Respect International Diplomatic Law

Sign Petition Here: https://www.codepink.org/embassyprotection

CODEPINK is part of the Venezuela Embassy Protection Collective, a group of organizations and individuals residing and working in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC at the invitation of the elected Venezuelan government. We are there to serve as an interim protectorate keeping the embassy safe from right-wing Guiado supporters, who have been harassing them and preventing the delivery of food and medicines into the building. Many of the activists, including CODEPINK team members, have been assaulted but the police have been refusing to arrest the thugs surrounding the embassy. 

The U.S. is orchestrating a coup in Venezuela that is likely to lead to bloodshed — even civil war — and US economic sanctions are leading to more misery and death. Instead of meddling in the internal affairs of another country, the U.S. should be supporting peaceful dialogue facilitated by mediators such as Mexico and the Vatican. We have seen the effects of past U.S. backed coups in Latin America — Guatemala in 1953, Chile in 1973, Honduras in 2009. It always turns out disastrous for the people, as is evidenced by people fleeing U.S.-orchestrated violence across Latin America and seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border.

There is legislation in Congress to promote a peaceful solution. H.R.1004 in the House and S.J.Res.11 in the Senate make it clear to President Trump that without congressional authorization — authorization he does NOT have — he may not use military force in Venezuela.

Contact your Congressional representatives now to tell them to obey international diplomatic law and protect the integrity of the embassy, as well as ensure the safety of the peace activists at the DC Venezuela Embassy, who must be kept safe from violence and harassment, and must be allowed to receive food, water, and medicine.  Tell them to support H.R.1004 in the House and S.J.Res.11 in the Senate.

May 13, 2019 This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies.

May 13, 2019

Statement from The Maduro Embassy in DC

“Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.”

From Kevin Zeese:
To: US State Department
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
From: Embassy Protection Collective
Re: Exiting the Venezuelan Embassy
Date: May 13, 2019

This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law.

This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies. We are encouraging people to publish this memo as a transparent process is needed to prevent the US from making a unilateral decision that could impact the security of embassies around the world and lead to military conflict.

There are two ways to resolve the issues around the Venezuelan embassy in DC, which we will explain.

Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives.

We are here in the embassy lawfully. We are breaking no laws. We did not unlawfully enter and we are not trespassing.

1. Exiting with a Protecting Power Agreement

The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC. Such agreements are not uncommon when diplomatic relations are severed.

A Protecting Power Agreement would avoid a military conflict that could lead to war. A war in Venezuela would be catastrophic for Venezuela, the United States, and for the region. It would lead to lives lost and mass migration from the chaos and conflict of war. It would cost the United States trillions of dollars and become a quagmire involving allied countries around the world.

We are serving as interim protectors in the hope that the two nations can negotiate this resolution. If this occurs we will take the banners off the building, pack our materials, and leave voluntarily. The electricity could be turned on and we will drive out.

We suggest a video walk-through with embassy officials to show that the Embassy Protection Collective did not damage the building. The only damage to the building has been inflicted by coup supporters in the course of their unprosecuted break-ins.

2. The United States violates the Vienna Convention, makes an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests

This approach will violate international law and is fraught with risks. The United States would have to cut the chains in the front door put up by embassy staff and violate the embassy. We have put up barriers there and at other entrances to protect us from constant break-ins and threats from the trespassers whom the police are permitting outside the embassy. The police’s failure to protect the embassy and the US citizens inside has forced us to take these actions.

The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law.

Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.

Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies.

If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable.

If there is a notice that we are trespassing and need to vacate the premises, please provide it to our attorney Mara Verhayden-Hilliard, copied on this memo.

We have taken care of this embassy and request a video tour of the building before any arrests.

We hope a wise and calm solution to this issue can be achieved so escalation of this conflict can avoided.

There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.

The Embassy Protection Collective
May 13, 2019

A Military Psy-Ops Campaign in the Heart of Washington is Directed at U.S. Citizens

Nonviolent ActivismNorth AmericaSouth America

By Pat Elder, World BEYOND War, May 6, 2019

A fortified door inside the Venezuelan Embassy.

I’ve been studying the Pentagon’s use of psychological tactics in the way it recruits youth into the armed forces for 20 years, so I have a sense of the lack of boundaries practiced by the US government through its military. Now I can report on the psychological tactics employed by the State Department through the Secret Service Police. I spent a week in the besieged Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, and I was exposed to a relentless psychological operations campaign (psy-ops) orchestrated by my government to drive peace activists like myself from the embassy.

Our attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, addressed the severity of the threat to us in her May 3rd letter to the Secret Service Police, in which she wrote:

“At this moment, the violent mob that you have allowed to continually  commit acts of violence against persons and property at the Venezuelan embassy is actively working to smash in the doors while your officers give permission to the assault and explicitly refuse to intervene.

“As you know, and your officers have witnessed, members of this mob have   physically attacked and made death threats to the peace activists who are   inside and around the embassy. This presence inside the embassy, as you also know, is lawful, as the peace activists were invited inside the embassy by those lawfully in charge of the premises.

“There has been no action that has divested them of the right to be inside the  embassy or lawful process that could authorize removal.

“Instead you are authorizing a vigilante group to attack the peace activists inside.

“You must take action immediately to cease this assault and ensure that there is no violence against the persons inside. They are in grave danger from the mob you have facilitated and authorized to besiege the embassy.

“You are responsible for any acts of violence that will be committed against these peace activists inside the embassy.”

Physical harm and the fear of death stir the greatest terror in our hearts. These kinds of operations are designed to frame the image of an impending disaster, like being pummeled to death by an angry mob. You think it can’t happen here, but you quickly correct yourself, realizing the United States under Donald Trump is capable of orchestrating such a scenario.

There are apparently no enforced audio level limits in the District of Columbia from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The decibel level from the outside cacophony rattle the windows.  I feel badly for the residents of the adjacent James Place Condominium who endure the same audio onslaught.

The psy-ops campaign is being directed by one individual who arrived several days before the orchestrated onslaught began on April 30. That was the day when fake ambassador Carlos Vecchio arrived to claim the embassy for Juan Guaido, the make-believe president, designated by the U.S. government. The Vecchio embassy coup attempt was foiled by a poor turnout and a surprisingly strong showing of those who support our mission and adherence to international law.

I spoke to the man in charge of this psy-op campaign on several occasions, before he took command after the Vecchio visit. It’s best not to divulge the name he gave me.  He stood a little taller than 6 feet, likely of Spanish/European descent. He was perhaps 55 with leathery skin, a three-day beard, with seriously graying hair and dark sun glasses. He wore black jeans and a tattered, green military jacket. He sat for hours alone, writing on a yellow legal pad what he said were philosophical responses to deep questions. For several days, he was camped with peace activists at the main entrance to the embassy.

He spoke of philosophers and history from the early colonial period and he ran down a brief overview of political philosophers. His politics seemed muddled, even contradictory. I pulled away from him after our second 15-minute exchange, wondering where he was coming from. What he said didn’t fit. I was puzzled. He was accompanied by a screaming, seemingly crazy lady who only shouted at the top of her lungs and repeated the same lines over-and-over again. “Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” “This is our embassy.” She screamed for four or five twelve-hour days before Vecchio arrived when she was joined by three or four dozen protesters who took orders from the tattered general and stayed on the premises for long hours and returned every day.

I witnessed three women wearing designer clothes emerge from a late-model Mercedes to join the fracas and take on tasks delegated by the general.

Once the operation got under way, lieutenants would report, and he would dispatch the necessary tools to carry out various operations.

The first line of attack in this military campaign was the emergency siren. Four of these torturous devices were allowed to blare on each side of the building, with the intensity of a passing ambulance. Odysseus of old ordered his men to use beeswax to plug their ears from the potentially lethal wales of the Sirens, while some of us used ear plugs and others retreated to interior rooms.  Wee-ooh  wee-ooh, from 6:00 am to 10 pm.

The second assault used air-powered cans that emit an amazingly loud, piercing noise often heard after touchdowns are scored at high school football games. They’d point their blasters at us when we looked out the window. Several of these have been continuously employed since Vecchio’s visit. I spotted a box full of these devices on the embassy grounds.

Several bull horns were activated to emit a grating, high pitched noise. The well- dressed women, after inserting earplugs, took on these jobs, at least for part of one evening.

There were always two or three outside who used bullhorns to constantly repeat a few lines of their propaganda. “You must leave the embassy now.”  “You are violating the law!”   Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” It was irritating, but it didn’t move us. One lady, with a loud, shrieking voice, sounding hysterical, screamed repeatedly at the top of her lungs, “You are with the criminals.” “You are with the murderers!”

Rarely did more than a few hours go by before one of our supporters outside was assaulted. The police allowed the assaults to occur. After one attack, when a man in his 70’s, who was attempting to deliver toothbrushes to us, was knocked to the ground semi-conscious, a crowd of 50 cheered his injury and all of the sirens came together to celebrate his writhing body.  Each time there’s a beating, chaos reigns and hell breaks loose. It’s an attempt to orchestrate chaos, intending to instill panic and terror.  It’s textbook stuff.

The mob covered up all of the first-floor windows with anti-Maduro/ pro Guiado posters, blocking our view. They smashed the security cameras to knock out our ability to see what was going on.  It never affected us, though, because we were confident of the security improvements we improvised around the doors, windows, and large vents. The place is a fortress. Thankfully, the embassy has a large machine tool workroom with an array of power tools and materials. We boarded up doors and secured bottom floor and 2nd story windows with 4-inch screws, while the attacking force relentlessly pounded away, demanding we leave immediately.

The loudest decibels were probably registered by the incessant pounding on several bottom-floor metal doors with hammers, rocks, and large iron frying pans. The right-wing insurgents worked in groups of a half dozen or so, taking turns pounding on several doors.

At one point on Friday evening about 50 vigilantes converged at a basement door while their incessant banging shook the door frame and the walls. There were no DC Metropolitan Police or Secret Service visibly present. The police had retreated into the adjacent James Place Condominium. Several of us called 911 and were immediately referred to the Secret Service Police when we provided the address of 1099 30th St., NW Washington, DC. Apparently, the DC police have jurisdiction over the streets and sidewalks, while the Secret Service Police are responsible for maintaining the security of the embassies.  I explained to the Secret Service officer on the phone that the mob was damaging the door while there were no police present. I explained that they were using rocks and hammers and a frying pan. “A frying pan?” said the Secret Service officer. “Were they cooking up anything good?” I said, “Let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Are you guaranteeing our safety or not?” he replied by asking under whose authority we were in the building and I responded that we were invited in by the government of Venezuela and he said we were not. He said we were illegally trespassing. I again asked him if it was the intention of the police to protect our safety and he replied that we were there illegally, and he again asked what they were cooking in that frying pan.

I am an American citizen, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, from a family of professional federal workers dating back to the 19th century. In the heart of Georgetown, I was subjected to a dystopian psychological operation that would have horrified my ancestors who helped create the federal structures dedicated to a separation of powers, governmental transparency, and the rule of law.  I tremble for the fate of the world as fascism takes hold in the United States of America.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

Fifty-two years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his most important speeches at Riverside Church in New York City.  It was a big boost to the peace movement but divided the civil rights movement between the hawks and the doves. It is still important today as the US is involved in another endless war. King was assassinated exactly one year later in Memphis, TN.

Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967 

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. 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. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the 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. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that 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. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and 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. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace 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, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, 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.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them 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 recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that 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 hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. 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 death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“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. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. 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. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. 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 horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. 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.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

  1. End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
  2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
  4. Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
  5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisers” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands 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 veins of people 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 brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam War.  King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Original Post: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2012/01/16/beyond-vietnam-time-break-silence