Is it possible to be both against the war in Iraq and an American patriot? And if so, how do you register your opposition to the war, while not giving aid and comfort to the enemy?
I hadn't thought much about these issues until the other night when I saw a television news story about a couple in Colorado who decided to hang an American flag alongside an anti-war banner on their front porch. When interviewed, they said it was important for them to show that they loved their country but opposed the war.
One anti-war group, United for Peace, has apparently adopted the same tactic, raising money to put up billboards across the country with a huge flag and the slogan "Peace Is Patriotic." The first sign went up near the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
I didn't see that particular billboard when I was in San Francisco last week, but I saw lots of others. Anti-war sentiment runs high in northern California. For every American flag I saw displayed on front lawns or cars, I must have seen a 100 anti-war posters, bumper stickers or graffiti. Some were like the Colorado couple's banner -- a simple "No War in Iraq" statement that didn't necessarily indicate an anti-American bias. But many more expressed ugly, vicious sentiments.
The worst was painted on a curb at Mission and Market Streets. "Kill Bush," it said, an exhortation that, I believe, crosses the line from protected speech to clear and present danger. Unfortunately, such hatred of the president -- and the United States -- is rampant in the anti-war movement.
Anti-war protestors around the country have carried signs saying, "Bush is the Disease, Death is the Cure," "We Support Our Troops When They Shoot Their Officers," "We live in a country founded by cheats, murderers, rapists and thiefs (sic)," in addition to the ubiquitous "No Blood for Oil" slogan that was revived from the first Gulf War. (Photos of these signs appear at various Web sites, including frontpagemag.com.)
The tactics of some of the demonstrators have been no less objectionable than their words. Their aim has been to grind cities to a halt -- and they've nearly succeeded in some places. In San Francisco, police found a dozen Molotov cocktails hidden in a downtown alley, ready for use had they not been intercepted. Protestors tied up the financial section of the city for days and blocked the Bay Bridge, snarling traffic throughout the metropolitan region. Even San Francisco's notoriously liberal mayor, Willie Brown, complained that the demonstrators had turned political dissent into a riot by "anarchists and opportunists."
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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