Gabbard’s quest for peace inspired by Dr. King

What is the Democratic party going to do with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the most outspoken anti-war candidate in the primaries? Gabbard’s provocative campaign presents an irony for Democrats. She is more consistently anti-interventionist as a soldier than all the other candidates (except Sanders) who are civilians.

Liberals who feel ill-at-ease in the presence of an anti-war soldier fail to understand that, in the words of Chris Hedges, “Those who hate war the most, are the veterans who know it.”

In her quest for peace Gabbard draws inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Almost all other candidates, in contrast, seem indifferent to King’s teaching about the folly of U.S. militarism.

In a 2018 address, Gabbard said: “Dr. King’s convictions were formed in the crucible of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. Dr. King was a forceful voice against the regime-change policies that create a perpetual state of war, fueled by the military-industrial complex.…Dr. King’s powerful message represents the values of aloha that I grew up with — respect, compassion, and love — and that are so needed in our world today.”

Gabbard was not even born when Dr. King delivered his prophetic anti-war address at Riverside Church in New York, April 4, 1967. What makes King’s address so relevant to the coming election, especially to Gabbard’s campaign for peace, is not King’s denunciation of aggression, important as that is. It’s how King demonstrates the role of militarism in causing economic inequality, unrelieved destitution, and a loss of idealism and hope among American youth.

Dr. King saw our domestic crisis coming, when social reforms of the “great society” were being put on hold. “A few years ago,” he began from his well-lit pulpit, “there was a shining moment in our struggle…There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched the programs broken.” The war abroad destroyed the war on poverty at home.

Like Dr. King, Gabbard sees regime-change wars as the enemy of hope and social reform. “There is one issue central to all the rest, one issue central to our ability to address our needs, and that issue is the cost of war—the ongoing regime-change wars, and this new cold war, the nuclear arms race.”

In recent years, the U.S. has conducted serious bombing campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — killing civilians, destroying infrastructure, and causing environmental ruin. At the Watson Institute, Gabbard gave an impassioned address, “Build, Don’t Bomb.” Gabbard called on us to use our “limited resources to meet the needs of our people and communities.

Because the reality is, that as long as we are wasting trillions of dollars preparing for nuclear war, whether it be with a country like Russia or China, as long as we continue waging one regime-change war after another, we will not be able to provide healthcare for all.

We will not have the resources we need to make sure our kids are getting a good education. We will not have the resources we need to make the kind of bold investments in green renewable energy.

Do we want to continue … to be the world’s police, intervening in one foreign country after another, toppling one dictator after another, or focus on rebuilding our communities. We cannot afford both. We cannot afford to do both.”

Gabbard is incisive, practical, and convincing, where other candidates are silent. “Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that this country, the wealthiest country in the world, can’t afford to maintain our roads and bridges … Can’t afford to make sure that every American has clean water to drink? How is it possible that this country cannot provide healthcare for its people? We look to the cost of war.

Since 9/11 alone, we spent anywhere from $6 to 8 trillion on regime-change wars. The U.S. spent over a trillion dollars in Afghanistan alone. We continue to spend $4 billion in Afghanistan, dollars that are coming out of our pockets every single month. Four billion dollars a month. We’ve seen countless lives lost, both American and Afghan lives… For what? For what?!”

As Dr. King put it: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” King said famously: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice.”

Tulsi Gabbard is bending the arc of history away from war toward peace.


Paul Rockwell is a resident of Oakland, Calif. and a frequent visitor to Kauai. He is columnist for the East Bay Times and his commentaries have appeared in The L.A.Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News.

  1. Orville Berry August 21, 2019 1:28 am Reply

    Unlike Rep. Gabbard, I was 21 years old when Dr. King was murdered. I’m inspired by this piece which so clearly points out the similarities between Rev. King’s and Rep. Gabbard’s philosophies. For those of us who came of age in the 1960s, our lives are still haunted — and sometimes still dominated — by the Vietnam war.
    Rep. Gabbard’s voice is important and must be heard. We cannot allow the mainstream media and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party to use money and name recognition as the sole basis for debate participation.
    Forget the metrics, go with the ideas.
    Let Tulsi continue to speak,. America will be better for it.

  2. Jose Bulatao, Jr. August 21, 2019 12:14 pm Reply

    It will be interesting to see to what extent Tulsi will resonate with the voting public and whether she will emerge as the Democratic Party’s candidate to become the next President of the USA. Will the public-at-large become fired up with her stance and approach to be to PEACE candidate… bring back to the consciousness of ALL Americans how necessary it is for ALL of us to be pro-actively involved and engaged in ways in which peace and harmony can be “normalized” where ever we live? Let’s see if the nation is ready for it….or will we continue to be first and foremost in the ways in which we can wage wars? Auwe! Sincerely, MrB

  3. RG DeSoto August 21, 2019 5:24 pm Reply

    Tulsi is routinely attacked by the neocons who prefer war and conflict to peace…as Randolph Bourne said “War is the health of the state”.

    “Bourne made few friends by adopting this stance. It brought him, as the journalist Ben Reiner later put it, “into sharp conflict with the rising pro-war hysteria that preceded America’s entry into World War I.” In the view of yet another journalistic commentator, Christopher Phelps,
    few 20th-century American dissenters have … suffered the wrath of their targets as greatly as Bourne did. By 1917, The New Republic stopped publishing his political pieces. The Seven Arts … collapsed when its financial angel refused further support because of Bourne’s antiwar articles.”
    Tulsi is experiencing the same wrath for her anti-war stance which is based on actual combat deployments and a keen observation that the US interventions have only brought death and misery to the world.
    RG DeSoto

  4. Daniel Foley August 22, 2019 10:26 am Reply

    Martin Luther King championed the cause of civil rights for all.
    Tulsi spent much of her life fighting against the civil rights of the LGBT community.
    Although she has apologized for her past acts, her name does not bring Martin Luther King to mind.

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