In truth, Americans repeatedly endorsed forceful action in Vietnam. When President Nixon bombed Hanoi and Haiphong, his approval ratings for handling the war went up. At no time did a majority of the country favor withdrawal from Vietnam until the Nixon Administration made withdrawal and "Vietnamization" official policy.
Polling did show dissatisfaction, however, with Presidents Johnson and Nixon when the public sensed that Americans were not fighting to win but were merely being fed into the swamps by the thousands to fight and die for a stalemate.
Which brings us to the coffins at Dover Air Force Base. The Bush Administration is overreaching by claiming that it wishes to forbid photos out of respect for the families of fallen soldiers. By sticking with this policy, they suggest that there is something to hide. There isn't.
At the same time, some members of the press cover every death in combat as if it represents a defeat for the nation. They suggest that if men are dying, there must be a problem with the policy. And they summon pity instead of respect in their reporting. That is probably what the Pentagon and the families of the dead are most eager to avoid. It is a deeply moving and grieving sight to see coffins lined up and to know that young men have been cut down for our sake. But the proper emotional response is sadness, honor and gratitude -- not pity or despair. Show the photographs -- but salute.
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