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For the week of March 19 - 25, 2003

Opinion Columns

Don’t mistake protest for being unpatriotic

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Just how off base people can be when the United States contemplates war was illustrated by the dour political opportunist, Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State.

Asked by a CNN interviewer why Russia, France and Germany were opposing the U.S. resolution seeking a go-ahead to attack Iraq, Kissinger responded that "They haven’t known terrorism."


Few countries have known the horrors of war and terrorism as World War II Russia, when German hordes laid siege to Stalingrad and plundered the Soviet people, leaving millions of Russians dead.

Germany as a country was raped by Adolph Hitler—Jews sent to concentration camps, disloyal Germans executed, a whole generation transformed into robotic militarists.

And Hitler’s armies marched across France like a carpet used for wiping muddy boots. French Resistance forces, the pride of the nation, pestered occupation forces with their own courageous counterattacks.

So, although Germany, France and Russia may have different political agendas than President Bush, they surely know more than most Americans of war and reasons for opposing it.

It’s worth noting that many Americans who urged caution on the president and his war counselors know whereof they spoke—veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam who’d known the reality of gunfire, seeing death, even personally experiencing the pain of battle.

Those who’re so eager to rush into war—the rah-rah cheering section that equates patriotism with enthusiasm for battle—do a disservice to those who oppose war based on a pre-emptive attack, rather than defending the homeland against attack.

Surely, if more of U.S. forces were draftees, more families would raise questions. And President Bush invited doubts about motives by changing objectives several times—from disarming Saddam Hussein to regime change to changing regional politics.

My 13 months with the First Cavalry Division in Korea—during gawdawful months rushing up the Korean peninsula, and then the disastrous retreat as Chinese troops pounced—soured me on war. I’m surely no different than other veterans.

The sight of pale, lifeless American youth or other bloody horrors leaves a permanent revulsion. Ducking artillery and small arms fire and living in the field are fast cures for bravado.

God knows, if there’d been less rah-rah when President Lyndon Johnson was sending tens of thousands of American GIs to their certain deaths while privately admitting we couldn’t win in Vietnam, we could’ve spared the nation a nightmare that still afflicts our national conscience.

Today’s all-volunteer military is a far better professional institution. Equipment is unparalleled. Training is superb.

But those who see battle will lose whatever romantic notions they had about combat.

Whether a Hollywood star, an ex-GI or a politician, those who oppose war are not traitors. In fact, a case can be made that opponents to war are patriots hoping to spare their nation and its youth a deadly, costly exercise that surely isn’t a great society’s proudest achievement.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.