Martin Luther King Jr. would want peace, not war with Iran | COMMENTARY

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963 in Washington.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963 in Washington. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

A great way to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to listen to his words for peace. We need his inspiration as we are dangerously sliding toward war with Iran, and many other conflicts remain ongoing.

King advocated diplomacy, talking to your enemies to build peace treaties instead of an endless spiral of tension and violence. When Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize he said: “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace…If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”


We need to talk to Iran and build peace treaties. We had such a start when President Barack Obama achieved a nuclear deal with Iran, which through verifiable inspections would ensure they would never build a nuclear weapon.

The Iran nuclear deal offered a springboard for more agreements. President Donald Trump tragically withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and escalated tensions into the latest bombings the two countries have exchanged in recent weeks.


We should choose Dr. King’s way of nonviolence and start diplomacy again with Iran. A quick way would be to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Trump should do so right away and end the madness that is spiraling us closer to war with Iran.

Dr. King would also see this diplomacy as crucial for ending the horrible civil war in Yemen. The conflict between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels has left over 20 million in desperate need of food. Over 85,000 Yemeni kids have died from hunger and disease, according to Save the Children.

Dr. King would object to our military support and arms sales to the Saudis, which has prolonged the conflict. He would say the United States must be a peacemaker and humanitarian in Yemen, and bring an end to the war through diplomacy. He would also advocate for strengthening our food for peace program to help the world. As he once said: “We have amazing knowledge of vitamins, nutrition, the chemistry of food and the versatility of atoms. There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will.”

So often the plight of the hungry is brushed aside. Dr. King said “The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible.”

We have to remember the hungry in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, the Sahel and Haiti. How many people know of the massive droughts in Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa which have left millions of people hungry? Yet there is enough food in the world for everyone.

Dr. King inspires us to build a global nutrition program that feeds all hungry infants. The McGovern-Dole global school lunch program should be expanded as part of an international effort to ensure meals for all children. “The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled and feed the unfed," he once said. "Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for “the least of these.” We must feed the hungry at home and abroad.

We must pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons, which robs resources from the poor and hungry. Dr. King was a strong advocate for achieving a treaty banning nuclear weapons testing to help lead to disarmament.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, first pursued by Dwight Eisenhower and also JFK, has still yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Only the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 is in force.

Mr. Trump could actually achieve one of Dr. King’s goals by simply calling the Senate and asking them to finally ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. This would help jump start efforts toward nuclear disarmament, which have been lagging in recent years.

Martin Luther King can still inspire us to peace, if we only listen.

William Lambers (williamlambersc@aol.com) is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program and Catholic Relief Services on the book Ending World Hunger.

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