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Rep. John Lewis on 10th Anniversary of Invasion of Iraq

March 19, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON—“Today is not a day for celebration, but a time when this nation should reflect upon the true meaning of our involvement in Iraq.  We can take heart in the fact that the most brutal aspects of this conflict seem to be coming to an end.  And we continually marvel at the courage and bravery of our young men and women in uniform who face the hardest responsibility we can imagine.  They deserve our honor and our enduring allegiance.

                “As I reflect on this conflict, it reminds me of the greatest speech Martin Luther King Jr. ever made, in my estimation.  He spoke at Riverside Baptist Church in Harlem on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he died.  In the 50th anniversary year of the March on Washington and only a few weeks before the anniversary of his death, I find it meaningful to hear what he said. Decades later, his words still ring true, especially when you simply think the word Iraq or Afghanistan in place of the word Vietnam.”  The following are excerpts of his speech:

                “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 must be ours...The words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’…..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. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered….

            “…. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; …It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth… and say: This 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.’  A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death… 

 “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 re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world…. The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”