If ever a single article told you everything you need to know about the torch the old anti-War protestors carry for their youth, you have to read this editorial by Andrew Rosenthal, the NY Times’ Assistant Editor (so the editorial also tells you a lot about the NYT). In Rosenthal’s world view, protest is an end unto itself, and he finds repugnant the fact that this generation is (to his mind) unwilling to take to the streets. Here’s just a part of it (and please note that Rumsfeld’s innocuous and apolitical speech has now morphed into Rumsfeld terrorizing anti-War anti-War protestors by calling them Nazis):
This, perhaps, is the ultimate difference between the Vietnam generation and the Iraq generation: When you hear Young and Company sing of “four dead in Ohio,” their Kent State anthem, it’s hard to imagine anyone on today’s campuses willing to face armed troops. Is there anything they care about that much?
Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson — in so many ways a powerful, progressive president — out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush — in so many ways a weak, regressive president — was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.
There was a brief burst of protest when America first invaded Iraq. But if there is a college movement against the war, it’s hiding pretty well. Vietnam never had the moral clarity that the 9/11 attacks provided to this generation’s war. But in Iraq that proved to be a false clarity, and a majority of Americans now say they oppose the war and no longer trust Mr. Bush’s leadership of it.
But because there is no draft — a fact that Graham Nash noted sardonically on Sunday night — no young person has to fear being conscripted into the fight. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Americans find it much easier to stay silent when there is no shared sacrifice.
This war is also largely hidden from American eyes. Unlike Vietnam, when journalists were free to witness and record combat operations, the Pentagon controls access to American troops in Iraq and the images that come with it. The Pentagon banned press coverage of the flag-draped coffins returning home from Iraq. The president refused to attend the funerals of soldiers. Even the cost of this war was tucked from the very start into “supplemental bills” that magically don’t count toward the budget deficit.
The pressure to be silent is great. This week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy to those who appeased Adolf Hitler. And antiwar protesters are told they’re un-American, cowardly and lending aid and comfort to terrorists.