The campus pacifists are painting a new caricature these days. Those who support the war, they argue, do not care about the well-being of U.S. soldiers. They are merely interested in war for the spectacle.
However, they continue, the anti-war lobby cares the most about our men in uniform. They want the soldiers to come home. And, of course, flashy rhetoric is not their style.
Anyone who has seen the rallies and protests over the last few weeks should quickly recognize that this portrayal is not merely inaccurate, but damaging to the boys in uniform.
In his recent column, “Is it futile to protest a war in progress?” (3/28), Abe Koobler ’06 wrote the following: “All Americans worried about those dying in the sands of Iraq have two choices. We can treat this bloody invasion like a sporting event. We can wave flags and criticize dissent. Or we can express our deep hope for the safety of civilians and soldiers, while continuing to critique the military policy and diplomatic failure that put them in harm’s way in the first place.”
Koobler claims that those who would rally in the name of the troops do so in an unthinking manner. He sees chants of “USA! USA!” as signs that the war is being treated as a sporting event. Meanwhile, the anti-war protests are presented as refined and more supportive.
In his comparison between a sporting event and a rally for the troops, he is somewhat right. Troops on the battlefield ought to receive cheers from the people they defend. Supporting the Yankees during the World Series does not demean the players, but instead reminds them that fans are proud and excited about what they will achieve.
It’s a lonely life in the middle of the desert — knowing that there are supporters far away is necessary for maintaining morale.
More importantly, it is inaccurate to claim that supporters of the war merely resort to rhetorical flourishes. When professors David Gelernter, Donald Kagan, and Norma Thompson offered moving and intellectually provoking speeches in favor of the troops at last week’s support-the-troops rally, they proved that barbarism is not the way of supporters of this war.
Last week’s rally was not a show of unthinking patriotism. It was attended by people who believed both in the justice of the war at hand and that our soldiers are worthy of praise.
Perhaps that is why so many media outlets, both locally and national, chose to cover the event.
The media has been inundated with images of war protesters marching, screaming and even vomiting to make their point. Their message is directed to the administration as a sign of outrage over the war. Yet the message is seen by the troops themselves. Anyone who cares about the spirit of our soldiers must recognize that these images can only do damage.
However, imagine what soldiers saw at last week’s rally. Students stood together not because they were conservative or liberal, or even because they all agreed with the administration on all points. They stood with flags and yellow ribbons to declare their admiration for the armed forces. Soldiers saw pictures of the thoughtful youth of America.
Their message is as simple as it is profound. We support our armed forces, and we wish them speedy success and a quick homecoming.
Our soldiers are far from home, serving the nation. They have trained long and hard. It is our responsibility to show our support, pride and gratitude.
I believe that the opinion of those who oppose the war is worthy of being heard.
However, when the tactics of the protesters are both violent and crude, such protests stand in the way of true dialogue. Militant protesters should realize that their words will have negative consequences for Marines in Basra.
The sporting events on the streets of San Francisco have been very loud. It is not clear at whom these protesters are screaming.
Justin Zaremby is a senior in Calhoun College. His column appears regularly on alternate Tuesdays.