On a chilly Monday morning outside Capitol Hill, the 44th President of the United States of America was re-inaugurated using the Bible of Dr. Martin Luther King, implying the president would swear to uphold the same values King strove, lived and died for. The announcement of the ceremony caused a painful uproar among black intellectuals such as Dr. Cornel West from Princeton University. West appeared a week before on C-SPAN and held nothing back. “You don’t use his prophetic fire as just a moment in a presidential pageantry without understanding the challenge he presents to all of those in power…”(C-SPAN) he preached furiously. West and many others in the black community have accurate claims. Would King approve of the dubious foreign policy of the Obama administration? From drone strikes to covert assassinations, preaching peace with malicious intentions, would these policies get under Dr. King’s skin? Absolutely. Had he been living in the present age, Dr. Martin Luther King would condemn the rise of drone warfare and current American policy in the Middle East. It is not a strange claim. Dr. King absorbed hateful criticisms from the press when he remonstrated against the atrocities in Vietnam in A Time to Break Silence. He was a man of supreme principle who seldom let public opinion get in the way of speaking his mind and standing up for the right thing.
Before knowing what Dr. King would say about the issues mentioned, we must first understand what they are. Drone strikes are no conspiracy theories, but actual happenings that are progressively shattering the image of the United States not only in the Middle East but around the international community. What does a drone do? In effect they are weapons specializing in assassination and extermination of a particular target via a missile attack. Their use sparked after 9/11 and peaked during the Obama administrations hide-and-seek game with Osama bin Laden. In effect, “these Unnamed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have become the most effectual weaponry to be used by the sole super power of the world against Al Qaeda and the militants”(Mazhar,187). The use of drones has been defended by Washington by saying they provide “a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer,”(CNN). Of course it is safer. No marine or solider gets killed and a suspected ruffian gets blown to pieces at the bequest of the President. Murdering has never been so graceful and guiltless. It is the perfect solution. But how would King respond? The interesting thing is that he already has half a century ago. In Kings condemnation of the Vietnam war in A Time to Break Silence, he states “…they languish under our bombs and consider us-not their fellow Vietnamese-the real enemy”(King,142). Martin’s words were a prophecy of what is happening today. As US drone strikes increase, Al-Qaeda recruits thousands of frustrated young Pakistani, Yemeni and Afgani men to their cause. Our intentions to keep America safe go in the opposite direction. This was Martins’ main argument against Vietnam: Good Intentions do not usually produce good results. The use of Drones also raises severe questions on the international stage concerning their legality. Is it legal to invade a foreign countries airspace, fly into a remote village unnoticed and lay waste to an entire compound with a predatordrone? Has the world trulybecome our oyster? “Those are war crimes just like war crimes in Vietnam!”(C-SPAN) contends West, the former civil rights activist. Martin King would have been of the same view because this was a primary reason he drew criticism for his stance on the Vietnam war. He says “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…”(King 145). In keeping true with these words, King would have seen the current drone witch hunts as deadly, irresponsible and immature games played by a Government interested not in peace, but in the acquisition of control over the Middle East, a sensitive region of the world.
Martin Luther King at heart was Libertarian in his foreign policy. He saw international peace as a product of diplomacy, not the result of young men slaughtered in a fight against communism. In the 21st century, communism has been replaced by Terrorism and “Terrorist Networks”, the amazing contention that 1.7 billion of the worlds population is conspiring to bring about the downfall of democracy, freedom and all that is sacred and Christian. Ever since the horrific events of September 11th 2001, the United States was given the opportunity to “…interpret the doctrine of self-defense in a way it wishes along with the invention of the doctrine of ‘Pre-Emptive Strike’,”(Mazhar, 187). This revolutionary and blasphemous idea of “Pre-Emptive Strike” is the root cause behind thousands of innocents blown to ashes in the outskirts of Pakistan and Yemen. Martin Luther King believed fiercely in diplomacy and would have opposed this Hit-them-before-they-hit-us attitude. The era of drone strikes also revived the repugnant tradition of American Jingoism which sets walls between any understanding between the American and Muslims perspective. Suspects are immediately labeled “terrorists”, their motives ignored and their words unheard. The right course for America as King so eloquently points out is “…to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves.”(King, 143). This seems like the winning formula, yet in the wake of the republican ticket for President, Congressman Ron Paul was violently booed off stage upon stating the same approach to foreign policy. The infestation of violence and war-mongering not only hug those with power, but the American people as well. As Martin foretold some six decades ago, the media of this country has “hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens.”(West) towards militarism.
So far I have discussed the controversy surrounding drone warfare and general attitude shift of American policy in the region these drones are being used. Had he been alive we would be seeing Martin Luther King on CNN and ABC, criticizing these circumstances. Now the details of drone warfare must be addressed. Would Martin Luther King oppose drone warfare if it was 100% accurate? Thankfully we do not need to answer this question as drone strikes arelargely inaccurate. Much of the procedures regarding how the Obama administration acts as judge, jury and executioner are hidden from the public, though the charismatic President assures us that a target must meet “very tight and very strict standards,”(CNN). These standards seem to have no grounds in American law, nor are these “suspects” tried in a court. One such example is Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen put on the terrorist list as he was promptly “linked” to several non-existent terrorist plots to overthrow the United States. The administration dare not bring him to face the justice of the courts (as is mandated by the constitution) but issued a kill-on-sight order immediately resulting in his death. Might I add that his 16 year old son was also blown to pieces. This is an insult to the very legacy of Martin, a true believer in justice, even for his staunchest enemies.It also seems civilians that live around supposed “terrorist camps” fall under these strict standards. According to a CNN report “…available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 -3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.” Oh but wait, there is more. The initial stages of the drone project was just as civilian unfriendly. “The CIVIC researcher, Christopher Rogers, investigated nine of the 139 drone strikes carried out since the beginning of 2009 and found that a total of 30 civilians had been killed in those strikes,”(Porter, 29) with figures like these Mr.Obama would have been wiser to follow a different course of action. Martin King despised the Vietnam war because of the pointless slaughter of innocents it caused (King, 145). These figures would make him weep for the soul of our President. Yet foreign policy officials wonder how Al-Qadea keeps on recruiting fresh faces everyday. The dead tell the truth behind the terrorist witch hunt. Putting the legal issues aside, drone strikes have killed thousands of innocents. This alone would be enough to infuriate Dr. Martin Luther King, not to mention the constant association of the President to King’s legacy.
Martin Luther King’s love of America cannot be understated. He sincerely believed that the mindless tension in Vietnam was destroying the very soul of this great nation. History repeats itself. Now, America is no longer the greatest super power in the world. A substantial national debt persists and the outrageous amount of funds fed to the military industrial complex only exacerbates the problem. Amidst this terrifying moment in American history, the world increasingly distances itself from the fountain of hate created by our foreign policy. “History is cluttered with the wreckage of of nations and individuals that pursued this self defeating path of hate.”(King 150) said Martin. It was the same situation when he stood before his congregation rebuking the Vietnam war and it is the same now. Dropping bombs on unsuspecting civilians based on scant evidence (Porter, 30) is not the way to uproot the seed of hate planted in the Middle East. The issues are not black and white as the region has an unpleasant and resentful history with the west. Martin was wise to understand this in Vietnam. This is why he urged diplomacy and understanding rather than righteous words coated with malicious intentions (as in the case of Iraq). Martin was fundamentally committed to achieving peace and his only wish was that his country would have the same mindset. Martin said about Vietnam, “Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies.”(King, 143). Maybe we should follow his suggestion and seek to understand the root cause of conflict in the Middle east instead of murdering our enemies(and innocents) gracefully. Perhaps we should come to terms with an uncomfortable fact as Martin King would have done. Some parts of the world do not want puppet governments supported by the US. Martin would be fundamentally committed to the revolutionaries in the East that seek to achieve self-determination from centuries of Western supported dictators as in the case of Syria, Yemen, Saudi and substantial part of Latin America. If the US had the same mindset, this would turn the tide against this sea of hate.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a man of esteem principle and character whose moral compass would be disturbed by current US foreign policy and drone warfare. He had risked his entire reputation and career to preach against Vietnam and had he lived, he would have done the same for the Middle East. Martin King weeps from his grave. He weeps for the murder of innocents in the name of democracy and the murderer escaping justice. He weeps atthe callous attitude of America to unfamiliar. But most surely, he weeps for his legacy and how it has been misrepresented by the administration of the President of the United States.
King, Martin Luther. “A Time to Break Silence.” I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that
Changed the World. Ed. James M. Washington. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. 135-152.
West, Cornel. “Dr. King Weeps From His Grave.”The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
CNN, Wire Staff. “Drone Strikes Kill, Maim and Traumatize Too Many Civilians, U.S. Study
Says.”CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 04 Feb. 2013
Mazhar, Muhammad Saleem, and Naheed S. Goraya. “Drone War Against Pakistan: An Analytical Study.” Journal of Political Studies18.2 (2011): 187-206. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.
Porter, Gareth. “Report shows Drone Strikes Based on Scant Evidence.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 29.9 (2010): 34-5. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.
“Tavis Smiley Presents Poverty in America.” C-SPAN. C-SPAN Video Library, 17 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.