I haven’t been particularly impressed by France & Germany’s opposition to the U.S. position on Iraq (cooperate or we’ll invade), and I haven’t had an easy time explaining exactly why that was.
Then, over my morning cup of Morning Thunder, I read this column by Jack Kemp – of all people – in my local paper, the Daily Breeze:
I’ve just returned from an extraordinary pilgrimage to Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala., celebrating and commemorating the struggle for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other vital civil rights legislation for America.
We re-enacted the historic march from Selma to Montgomery led by John Lewis, a young Freedom Rider and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who is now a U.S. congressman from Georgia. The march, 38 years ago on March 7, 1965, never got past the Edmund Pettus Bridge spanning the Alabama River because Sheriff Jim Clark stopped it with Alabama state troopers on horseback and armed with billy clubs and tear gas.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called in to galvanize a nonviolent march to Montgomery in protest of the killing of a young black boy and the attack on the Lewis-led marchers. Believe it or not, only 2.5 percent of Alabama blacks were allowed to register and only after paying a poll tax and answering stupid questions such as how many bubbles are in a bar of soap.
As I joined Lewis, Williams, Ruby Sales, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson, Republican and Democratic members of Congress, and Mayor James Perkins of Selma to march in solidarity with that noble cause across the bridge last Sunday, I asked myself why I wasn’t there back in 1965. Where was the party of Lincoln when called to live up to its founding principles as a party of civil rights and emancipation? Where were the white churches of America, North and South, when our brothers and sisters and fellow Americans were getting clubbed and beaten as they demonstrated for their rights?
Damn right. In fact, the moral credibility the GOP lost that week is a debt they are still paying off.
The GOP had failed to do the right thing for a ninety years up until 1965, and then lost a chance to do the right thing at a critical moment in our history, and that failure taints their positions on issues of race and federal power even today. This is a subject I’ll revisit, and one that I believe is critically important in understanding current politics.
But better, it serves as a springboard in talking about my disinterest in hearing what the French and Germans have to say about Iraq and the Middle East.
They have had forty years to step up and lead the world toward a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. They have had ten years to lead the world toward a resolution of the issues around Iraq. And they haven’t done a damn thing.
And now, when the moment to act is at hand, when if they can’t stand with the U.S., they should be coming up with some realistic third way they hide behind a fig leaf of proceduralism and bless a reluctant sham of compliance that was only granted – grudgingly – by Iraq as U.S. tanks and carriers moved into position over the objection of the French and Germans.
There may be actors who have the moral authority to lecture the U.S. on this issue, but I don’t think they live in Berlin or Paris.
[Update: C’mon folks, I’m perfectly aware of the ‘Dixiecrats’. The Democratic Party, under the leadership of Southerner – Texan LBJ – made a conscious decision to break with them, which is why George Wallace wound up running for President and, as I recall, Richard Nixon got elected.]