We May Gain the World, but We'll Lose Our Soul
I want to commend the African American community for its progressive stance on the war in Iraq. I am proud to say that, in this instance, we served as the conscience of America, leading national questioning about the validity of this war.
Perhaps our voices were not represented on the Sunday talk shows or in the newspaper headlines, but many of us believed it was wrong from the beginning, and the rest of the nation has had to experience what we already deeply understand. We know what it means to be ripped from our homes and native lands. We know what it means to see the communities we love swallowed up in the flames of perverse hostility. We know the injustice that can stem from unchecked military might and authoritarian power. And we took a stand based on principle.
I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke out against the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967. They apply today to this war. He said, "The world now demands a maturity of this nation that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure, and that our actions have been detrimental to the people of that nation."
War is messy. War is bloody. It tends to not just hide the truth, but also sacrifice the truth. And the truth is that this was a war of choice, not a war of necessity.
It was ill fated from its inception at the highest levels of government. And persisting in error will not fix a policy that was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning. Thousands of our sons and daughters have been left dead on the battlefield. And tens of thousands are changed forever, wounded physically and spiritually by the brutality of war.
Our soldiers are the best men and women in the world, willing to sacrifice all they have at a moment's notice to protect our freedom. They do not deserve to pay with their lives for the errors of this administration.
The problems we have created in Iraq will not be solved down the barrel of a gun. The lasting solutions to this crisis will emerge from skillful diplomacy, not military might. We must cease military hostilities and begin exploring the answers only regional diplomacy can advance.
Despite President Bush's military surge, June was the most violent month this nation has experienced since the start of the war. More than 330 people were killed in one month. More than 450 unidentified bodies were discovered on the streets of Baghdad last month. And just last weekend, 250 people were killed in two days. Government officials have told Iraqi citizens they have a right to take up arms and defend themselves.
President John F. Kennedy, once said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Our actions have helped push Iraq closer and closer to the bitterness of civil war.
In light of these and other devastating statistics, I find myself asking a question of old: What does it profit a great nation to gain the whole world and lose its soul?
Gandhi would say, "It is either non-violence or non-existence."
And Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, "We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools."
It is better to heal than to kill. It is better to reconcile than to divide. It is better to love than to hate.
As a community who knows all too well the devastation of war, hostility and violence, we must continue to stand up, speak up and speak out. It is our duty; it is our right; it is our moral obligation. We must find a way to get in the way until this nation demonstrates the courage, the leadership, and the strength to bring our young men and women home.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis is a Democrat from Georgia