"[This resolution] will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon."
- Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives
"[W]e can only describe this week's House debate on a vote of no-confidence in the mission in Iraq as one of the most shameful moments in the institution's history."
- Wall Street Journal
I've seen this before.
I believe that the war in Iraq has more differences than similarities to the war in Viet Nam. The pro-war and anti-war debate playing out in the country right now has not approached the virulence of the debate over Viet Nam, but there are signs that we are heading down that road.
In 1971, as a freshman member of ROTC at the University of Florida, I avoided wearing my uniform around campus because of the hostile stares that I received. In the Spring of 1972 President Nixon mined the harbors of Hanoi and Haiphong and unleashed a wave of Air Force and Navy bombers carrying new "smart" bombs on North Viet Nam. Those True Believer students at the University of Florida, as well as at other universities around the country, took to the streets seeking the opportunity to show there displeasure for the President's actions by getting tear gassed and arrested. Police from five counties showed up in Gainesville to oblige them.
No student's rioted in the streets when President Bush announced his change in policy in Iraq but one result of his decision was to cause many more people around the country to harden their positions about the war on one side or the other. For many the debate on the war is not a political issue but a moral one, and this can be said for both sides of the issue.
Hardened opinions and moral indignation provide very poor lubrication for a rational discussion on any subject. The debate on Viet Nam disintegrated into people believing the opposing side was immoral merely because of the position on the war. The stares that I received when I wore my uniform on campus were strained with moral indignation. The mere fact that I as a 17 year old boy would wear a U.S. Army uniform demonstrated to them that I was morally suspect.
We don't need to be going down that road. I am saddened by the fact that I see some already treading down that old path again.
What makes me even sadder is that the primary purpose of the suicide bombs that have afflicted Iraq the last four years was to divide this country. I am afraid that they have succeeded all too well.