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More power voting than protesting

Alan Braunholtz

Well, what flag should the invading forces raise, if any? I’m guessing no more Stars and Stripes or Union Jacks. A U.N. flag could be helpful here. Pity there isn’t an old Iraqi flag like the Teutonic cross to replace Hitler’s swastika.

In war, people rally to their country, flag and leader. We expect it here yet are surprised when the Iraqi people start to do it, too. Saddam Hussein is playing this card for all its worth (his life). Hopefully, there are enough Iraqis who hate him to overcome those who are moved by his appeals to patriotism. Samuel Johnson’s famous quote, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” seems particularly appropriate here.

Our politicians aren’t above abusing patriotism for their own ends, either. Witness the coordinated savaging of Tom Daschle for some fairly mild comments about finding this war sad (all wars are) and wishing we’d had the diplomatic skills to avoid it. Apparently, any criticism of the president is not only wrong, it’s bordering on treasonous, since we’re at war. This from the same gentlemen (Lott, DeLay) who led an open revolt against President Clinton and the humanitarian military intervention in Kosovo. But back then, of course, it was unpatriotic NOT to criticize Clinton. Bush is different, he’s … what, Republican? The only difference regarding war, criticism and presidents is which party is doing the criticizing.

Governments like to spread the message that love of country equals love of government, so all dissent must be unpatriotic. It’s popular to dismiss protesters with a “like to see them try and protest in Iraq!” What? So American people shouldn’t use their right to free speech because we’re attacking a regime that doesn’t allow free speech?

Teddy Roosevelt in World War I found this attitude ridiculous, too: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable.”

If protesters think the suffering and political fallout of this war aren’t justified, then to say “well it’s happening anyway so support it or we’ll label you as unpatriotic” is coercing people into rubber stamping approval against their beliefs.

I’m not surprised that people at the Oscars expressed opinions on the war. Any opinion is better than pretending this war isn’t happening. I’d expect Arnold Schwarzenegger to make a statement and respect him for it. He just needs to get in some better movies for a more politically balanced night. Wonder if we’ll see the commercial sale of the Bradley fighting vehicle. Hummers are getting a little outsized by the new Excursions and Suburbans.

I can’t agree with people who feel there’s too much war footage on TV. This is reality TV at its most raw. We should be watching and reading a lot.

Graphic images of suffering seared September 11th into our psyche. This war is in part a response to those images and is being carried out in our name. We owe it to all the people involved – our soldiers, their soldiers, civilians – to understand what they’re going through and what war entails.

Reducing the suffering of this war is ironically an argument for ceasing anti-war protests. A quick victory by the U.S. will result in the least amount of suffering all around.

Iraq’s only imagined hope is to delay the inevitable and hope for public opinion to bring a halt to the war. Their tactics of hiding as civilians, harassing supply lines and moving forces out from Baghdad to conduct a skirmishing retreat are all intended to slow the U.S. advance down.

They’re not stupid. They know a “fair” fight (if such a thing has ever existed in war) would be suicidal. Actually, they are stupid, since a war with the U.S. is idiotic, but emotions get in the way and there is no way out. Anti-war protests may help Saddam’s regime emotionally and encourage them to fight a little longer.

This is a “means” versus “the ends” quandary for the protesters. Does the “end” of a shorter war justify the approval of actions by your government that precipitated it? An “ends” guy would say yes. A “means” man might say nothing ever really ends and you are always living with the means.

Me? I think first support the troops; we sent them there so we’d better be behind them. They impress me to no end. Can you imagine the discipline and compassion needed to still accept and treat surrendering troops well after all the fake surrenders and U.S. POW abuse?

Then pray for a quick end and channel any anger into being a better citizen. I wonder how many people thronging the streets bothered to vote last November.

Find a politician who represents your view of the world, campaign for what you believe in, and vote. Your government is more easily influenced through the ballot box than the street.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.


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