Many Registerletter writers have complained about anti-war protesters, calling them un-American and seditious (as if they knew what that meant). On May 2, Francis Petty wrote to the paper, "I've never talked to anyone, parent or serviceman, who felt protesters did any good. They hurt the morale of our own servicemen."
Apparently, Petty doesn't get out much. With nearly 1.4 million men and women on active duty, another 1.3 million in reserve or Guard units, and millions more family members, it's a sure bet many are not hurt by words, but by sticks, stones, AK-47s and improvised explosive devices. Most understand—even if Petty does not—that democratic principles ensure freedom of expression for all Americans, including the likes of Iraqi Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out who, as their names suggest, are hardly anti-military. On the contrary, they oppose the fiasco in Iraq because they do care about our service men and women—far more than the stay-at-home hawks that let others do the dirty work.
They also understand that America has a long tradition of dissent; there has been opposition to nearly every war, conflict and police action in American history. The War of 1812 was widely opposed and, if it had persisted, might have resulted in civil war. Strong opposition to the Mexican-American War of 1846 led Illinois Representative Abraham Lincoln—perhaps 150 years too soon—to criticize the administration for fabricating incidents to "justify" hostilities and call President James K. Polk a "bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man."
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As for what might improve the morale of our servicemen and women—how about proper equipment, shorter deployments and a commander in chief a little less bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed?