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Why McCann is wrong on Martin Luther King

Eamonn McCann (Comment, August 30) correctly identifies Martin Luther King jnr's opposition to the Vietnam War.

But, like many who appeal to the wisdom of history's greats, McCann mistakenly attempts to fit another man's message and purpose to his own ideological inclination and then displays frustration when others do not share his understanding of King's legacy. It is true that King came, reluctantly but resolutely, to oppose America's war in Vietnam.

But King's message was one rooted in his Christian faith and in a belief in America's greatness rather than in ideologies such as socialist internationalism or black nationalism and separatism.

Although King was advised by men of wide-ranging ideological backgrounds, it is futile to characterise his intellectual and political legacy as radical, or revolutionary.

His record on campaigning for the inclusion of black Americans in American democracy is incontestable, but his opposition to America's fight against communism in south-east Asia is not.

King was a man and thus inevitably flawed. If he had suggested that America ought to 'lay down its weapons and leave its people vulnerable to terrorist attack', a far-fetched suggestion only arrived at by conjecture, he would have been wrong. And in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, President Obama was correct to identify the distinct duties and responsibilities shouldered by a commander-in-chief.


Bangor, Co Down


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