President Bush no Martin Luther King Jr.

President Bush no Martin Luther King Jr.

By Dan Post
graphic by Holly Randall
January 19, 2005

What if George W. Bush had chosen the peaceful diplomatic route, the route of Martin Luther King Jr., toward eliminating terrorism?

No war in Afghanistan, no war in Iraq. Rather, after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush the pacifist announces his plan to create an open dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews. He holds a summit between the major industrialized powers and the terrorist-harboring governments and promises to stop imposing his country's cultural will on them. He signs free trade agreements with them; American businesses are elated about the new frontier of corporate hegemony. They are willing to cease their attacks if America withdraws its armies from Muslim holy lands. Bush, empowered by his success at diplomacy and sky high approval ratings, begins to issue sweeping propaganda against violence. He secures the homeland in a truly defensive way - more port security and immigration reform. There are no Abu-Ghraibs, no mission accomplished signs, no American soldiers dead. He strengthens social security and health care with an $87 billion infusion and preaches compassion and peace like Jesus did. He easily wins re-election.

However, Bush is no Martin Luther King Jr.

King's tactics were peaceful and rational with the goal of ending social injustices - and he was a successful leader. Antithetically, Bush's policies scare people, through wars and frightening propaganda, into believing that certain American ideologies are the pinnacle of truth - regardless of their effectiveness, and regardless of the social injustices they lead to.

Perhaps the greatest social injustice of Bush's wars is the human cost.

More than 1,300 American soldiers are dead in the Iraq conflict, most of them in their teens and 20s. More than 10,000 U.S. troops are considered wounded by the Department of Defense. The number of civilian deaths reported by the media in the nearly two-year-old war in Iraq has reached 15,000, according to At least 7,000 of these deaths have occurred after the end of major combat operations, since the beginning of the so-called insurgency war.

This collateral damage has rarely been reported by the media and has gained little space on the average American's conscience. Americans seem to deflect these numbers as unimportant or unnecessary to our goal of defeating the terrorists. There is no longer a debate about how many civilian casualties are too many.

Martin Luther King Jr. would not be pleased.

In his time, the debate between violent and non-violent methods of political action was much more profound and mainstream. Just 40 years ago, King popularly practiced non-violent protests concerning civil rights abuses and the Vietnam War.

When organizing marches and protests in the '60s, the key for King was to be peaceful. This allowed him the moral high ground in conflicts with racist and violent police forces. His non-violent route was enough to overcome plots by the FBI to sabotage him, and an effort by the Kennedys to soften his message.

The bigger idea in King's non-violent method was that he forced people to critically debate pressing issues and rationally determine the ethical and just path. His protests pushed civil rights and the Vietnam War to the forefront, without any planned violence, and they were without parallel in success.

For his tactics, King has been named a saint by the world; a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he has his own holiday and is still looked upon in this country as the champion of civil rights.

To the world's collective bewilderment, Bush was nominated for that very same Nobel Peace Prize. Of course he didn't receive it, nor did he earn it. His policies are the contrary to peace. Yet Bush still talks about King and his dream like he is a true believer.

On Monday, Bush said: "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary American and a dedicated leader who believed deeply in liberty and dignity for every person." All of that is true, but Bush doesn't follow the path set by King. He only spins King's message for his own political good.

King would never have supported Bush's wars and discriminatory and invasive practices - and his presence will be sorely missed again when the war machine resumes (this time, Iran; see Seymour Hersch's article in The New Yorker, and Bush's comments about it).

If Bush practiced politics the way King did, maybe he would have won the Nobel Prize. Then at least King wouldn't be rolling in his grave, and at least the world would be a better and more compassionate place to live.

© The Arizona Wildcat

Dan Post is an anthropology and ecology senior. He can be reached at

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