Predicting forty years worth of war and wasted lives: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech

Forty-three years ago, on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before the date of his death, Martin Luther King Jr., gave a speech that remains one most powerful statements against U.S. militarism ever given. In the speech, entitled "Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence," King looked forward, demanding Americans address the root causes of our constant war-making, predicting our future with almost uncanny accuracy:

"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."

King linked the U.S. occupation in Vietnam to the struggle for civil rights at home and the violent uprisings then taking place in American cities, saying, "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."

And King connected the billions squandered on war to unmet human needs at home - not just as a practical issue, but as a powerful warning of the impending loss of our nation's soul, saying, " A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Read the whole speech here...

The PBS series Tavis Smiley Reports looks at King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech, examines the reaction to it, and discusses King's legacy with Cornel West, speech co-author Vincent Harding and with clergy who discuss the need for faith leaders to speak out on issues of social justice here...

Tavis Smiley speaks to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! about the series, about King, and the inevitable comparisons to President Obama here...