This weekend a battle of war protestors took place, and the pro-war protesters were, ironically, routed by the anti-war protesters.
On Saturday, approximately 100,000 people gathered on the National Mall to speak out against the war in Iraq. The following day, 400 people - or 2% of the number anticipated - assembled for a jingoistic pro-troops, pro-war rally at the same location. This meager turnout comes on the heels of a poll indicating less than four in 10 Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of the war. It’s a sad time to be a flag-waver.
The 400 attendees of the anti-anti-war rally were a spirited bunch who had little to offer to the national dialogue on the war except for clichés and fallacies. The gist of their message was that they support the troops in Iraq, who are fighting for our freedom, which, by the way, isn’t free.
Particularly edifying was keynote speaker and Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, whose comments may have been lifted wholesale from a Rush Limbaugh radio show or Ann Coulter column: "I frankly don't know what they (anti-war protesters) represent, other than to blame America first."
Perhaps I can shed some light on the mystery.
Anti-war protesters in general represent an alternative view to that which says you should always root for the home team without question. Saturday’s protesters were most certainly placing blame, but not on America as a whole. They were blaming those responsible for the war - the Executive Branch and the Department of Defense - who also happen to be American.
Very few people blame the individual soldiers on the ground in Iraq for the war. We’ve not seen the spitting and the shouts of “Baby killer!” directed toward returning vets the way we saw during Vietnam. Indeed, many of the anti-war protesters have or have had loved ones serving in Iraq, so the anti-anti-war side cannot claim a monopoly on that. Nor is their anger more righteous than that of their opponents, who value peace above what passes for patriotism.
The anti-war crowd is driven by personal loss and suffering, the confluence of the failure to find Iraq WMDs or links to al Qaeda and the Downing Street Minutes, and just plain truth. Iraq didn’t attack us on 9/11; people primarily from Saudi Arabia, President Bush’s favorite terrorist state, and recruited to Afghanistan, did. That indisputable fact is inexplicably still in dispute four years on, while Iraq remains the focus of our war on terror.
The anti-anti-war crowd seems to be motivated exclusively by the hackneyed, unenlightened rhetoric of “My country, right or wrong.” While it’s their right to protest the protesters, they should never mistake dissent for treason, or blind obedience to a bad cause for patriotism.