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"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government.... There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark,' but will curse and damn you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!' There is something wrong with that press....
This speech was first delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered
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In 1954 a conference was called at Geneva. An agreement was reached because France had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu. Even after that and even after the Geneva Accord, we did not stop. We must face the sad fact that our government sought in a real sense to sabotage the geneva accord.
Well after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through this geneva agreement, but instead the United States came and started supporting a man named Diem, who turned out to be one of the most ruthless dictators in the history of the world. He set out to silence all opposition. People were brutally murdered merely because they raised their voices against the brutal policies of Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It's a man by the name of General Kee, who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occassion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we are supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government and press generally won't tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support and all the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, their real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically, we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps, where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women, children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops.