This wasn’t just about the allocation of resources. Martin Luther King was deeply concerned about how the war in Vietnam was numbing the moral conscience of America. In an interview with NBC’s Sander Vanocur, King explained, “we are involved in a war on Asian soil, which if not checked and stopped, can poison the very soul of our nation.”
He went on to give an example that looks all too familiar even today in 2018.
“A negro was shot down in Chicago and it was a clear case of police brutality. That was on page 30 of the paper, but on page 1 at the top was ‘780 Viet Cong killed’.”
The unjust distribution of resources and the growing disregard for human life that results from quagmire wars like Vietnam were inseparable to Dr. King. President Eisenhower, a friend, and ally of Dr. King’s in the 1950s had already seen this to some extent. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Ike did not, however, draw the connection between the two evils of war and materialism, and evil of racism. This may be because, as a WWII General, Eisenhower had taken several steps towards racial justice, by experimenting with racially integrated regiments. While Eisenhower “hated war”, in his own words, his own experience with war had actually brought Americans of different races closer together.