Are wartime protests appropriate?


April 10, 2003, midnight | By Edward Chan Rachel Yood | 19 years, 1 month ago


Pro

An estimated 2,400 Blair students walked out of class on Mar 20 to draw attention to their opposition to war in Iraq, according to Assistant Principal Linda Wanner. This kind of demonstration is not only acceptable but absolutely necessary for the functioning of representative democracy, especially in a time of war.

Many Americans feel a strong surge of patriotism during war. This patriotism is a positive emotion, and it ought to be a constructive rather than limiting experience. Our love of country should teach us to celebrate America's potential to do right and inspire us to seek to improve the nation, not encourage us to accept all of our government's actions on faith alone.

According to a Mar 17 Gallup poll, about one-third of Americans who support war in Iraq do so simply because they trust the president's ability to make tough decisions, not because they are certain his decision is right. Theirs is a dangerous attitude. No human institution, not even the U.S. government, is without fault; we would be foolish to pretend otherwise.

In our rapidly evolving world, circumstances change much more frequently than do our leaders. Citizens often lack the opportunity to change specific policy by referendum voting, so we must seek to influence elected officials by other means.

Protest—whether through mass demonstrations, letters, petitions or symbolic acts of noncooperation such as Blair's walkout—is often an American's only recourse to influence policy. Corporations and special interests lobby the government directly. Citizens must be able to express their views and make political gains.

Our patriotic desire to have a voice in public policy and create a more just nation is most important during times of war, when policy decisions can mean the difference between life and death for foreigners and Americans alike. Unity behind our actions must come second to our desire to protect human lives.

Those who oppose protesting fear that such divisive actions will demoralize our soldiers fighting overseas.

But this conflict will amount to scores of needless deaths in an unnecessary war, protestors say. Our troops have committed their lives to the protection of the American people. The sacrifice these men and women are willing to make is worthy of our greatest respect, and we should never dishonor this sacrifice by allowing them to be sent into an immoral war.

Mass protests were vital to ending the Vietnam War early. Although unlikely to end war directly, current protests are far from frivolous. Citizens must make principled stands to preserve the sanctity of human life out of respect for themselves, their country and their troops. If every dissenter were remained silent, we would have no hope of ever addressing our flaws and shortcomings as a nation.

Certainly, many Americans believe war in Iraq is just. But no matter what our beliefs are, we must have enough respect for our nation and our founding principles to be open to debate.

Con

The U.S. has sent to Iraq hundreds of thousands of troops to fight against Saddam Hussein and his oppressive regime. These troops cannot afford to fight on another front—that of the public opinion of their fellow countrymen.

Though American troops are risking their lives overseas, protesters continue to rally against America's military involvement in Iraq. At a time when our nation needs the support of its people most, such actions only undermine the morale of our troops, increasing the likelihood of high casualties, both American and Iraqi.

Healthy morale and a sense of purpose among the troops are integral to military success. For U.S. soldiers risking their lives in Iraq, images of patriotism and American solidarity on the homefront reinforce their confidence and boost their spirit.

Conversely, images of massive anti-war protests make soldiers question themselves and their purpose. Such uncertainty will hurt their performance, resulting in a longer, messier war.

Though not intentionally, mass protests can appear disrespectful to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. Senior Rebeccah Bernard, whose cousin is in the Marines and will soon be deployed to Iraq, feels that protesting distresses the soldiers overseas who are already in harm's way. "For them to hear all the protesting going on in our country, it has to upset them," she says. "They're risking their lives for our country."

Of course, Americans have a legal right to protest the war. But even so, when improperly managed, anti-war protesting can easily lose focus. A prime example is the Blair walkout that occurred on Mar 20. In sanctioning the walkout by excusing student absences, Blair's administration essentially promoted a political agenda and encouraged students to attend.

And although teachers were allowed only to supervise the walkout, their mere presence could have influenced some students' political views. The administration's inappropriate handling of the walkout ultimately tainted the image of the event and the message of the protestors.

Many protestors argue that Operation Iraqi Freedom is analogous to the Vietnam War, when massive protests occurred. But the protests demoralized our troops, who returned to a nation full of scorn and hatred even though they had nothing to do with the policies that kept us at war.

Regardless of one's opinions on the war, the fact is that U.S. soldiers are engaged in battle and President George W. Bush has already committed to military action. Some war opponents claim such a decision is undemocratic because it does not represent the views of Americans. In reality, however, most Americans back Bush's actions; according to a Mar 17 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 71 percent of Americans support the war in Iraq.

With the majority of America resolved to fight Hussein, now is the time for all of us to show solidarity for the sake of our troops.



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Edward Chan. Edward Chan is a senior in the Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School. He is excited about his first year on the much-celebrated Silver Chips staff. At Blair, Edward participates in the Chinese Club (as co-Vice President) and Math Team. Outside of school, he … More »

Rachel Yood. Rachel Yood is a junior in the Communication Arts Program at Blair. She is excited to join Silver Chips as a page editor, but suspicious of the time the newspaper seems to take from her primary activity: sleeping. When not working or curled up in … More »

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