King’s Words 50 Years Ago on Vietnam Still Ring True

by: Ralph E. Moore Jr. Special to the AFRO
/ (AP Photo) /

The War on Poverty was launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in his January 1964 State of the Union address. In the more than fifty years since the campaign was announced, $22 trillion has been spent on anti-poverty programs.  Imagine if the government had just given the money to the poor folks directly.  But Head Start, Legal Aid and Medicare and Medicaid, and food and nutrition programs have been lifesavers for the poor. Soon after Johnson launched his war on poverty, he escalated U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam by seeking and getting Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964. The resolution authorized LBJ to “take any measures he believed were necessary to retaliate and to promote the maintenance of peace and security in southeast Asia.” The nation’s time, attention and treasure (funding) was shifted from fighting poverty at home to fighting the Viet Cong overseas. King understood the shift. It moved him after he realized poverty was losing the nation’s attention, thereby hurting folks, especially in the inner-cities, even as the war in Vietnam was killing and maiming American and Vietnamese citizens, disproportionately those from the inner-cities and Asian villages. His increasing awareness of that triple whammy of death, injury and mass poverty seems to have been the biggest influence on King to speak out. He saw the racist nature of the war. He would be greatly saddened to see open racism is resurging in America today.

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