Just a few days ago, Jeh C. Johnson, general counsel for the Department of Defense, gave a speech at the Pentagon in recognition of Martin Luther King Day. Toward the end of his talk, Johnson mused about what the non-violent preacher, a man who railed ceaselessly against the Vietnam War, would feel about our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were he alive today.
It is hard to imagine a more wrong-headed analysis of Rev. King’s philosophy of non-violence. After correctly noting King’s unwavering stand against the Vietnam War, Johnson loses his way. Quoting from the “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech given the day before King was assassinated, Johnson mistakenly likens King’s reference to the compassionate aid of the Good Samaritan to the Shock and Awe of a mighty armed force. He equates giving aid to waging war.