These days, it is harder to sell a war based on untruths or doubts, as the Obama administration is finding out.
Two weeks ago, Barack Obama led a huge gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington when Dr Martin Luther King Jr made his rousing “I Have a Dream” speech for peace, equality and justice.
The US president said King, the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was one of two leaders he admired most, the other being Abraham Lincoln.
Obama won the same award in 2009, after assuming office even when there wasn’t much to show over what he had done for global peace.
Last week, a Swedish reporter asked him to describe the dilemma to being a Noble Peace Prize winner and getting ready to attack Syria.
He must have been stumped but kept his composure, saying that even in his acceptance speech, he had admitted being undeserving compared with other recipients.
Obama said he had also mentioned the challenge of believing in peace in a world full of violence, adding that he had tried hard to end the war in Iraq, wind down the fighting in Afghanistan, strengthen commitment to multilateral action and promote diplomacy as a solution.
“The question that all of us face as political leaders is: At what point do we need to confront actions that are violating our common humanity?”
How about solid evidence? Going by the rabid fervour to bomb Syria over its government’s alleged but yet unproven use of chemical weapons, it is apparently unnecessary.
One wonders how King would have responded to such justification for violence.
A less famous speech to the American Psychological Association in 1967, seven months before he was assassinated, offers some insights.
“There are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will.