War Protesters Exercise a Crucial Right

Re "Protesters With Bloody Hands," Commentary, Feb. 27:

Max Boot's warped view of democratic protest springs in part from his misreading of history. Protest against the Spanish-American War in 1898 (the loudest and brashest of which came from Andrew Carnegie) went unheeded. Moreover, the victory over Spain, and not any peace movements, launched two decades of imperialistic and bloody counterrevolutionary warfare in Latin America.

Boot's problems do not end there. In a callous exercise of counterfactual argument, he asserts that if the U.S. had entered World War I earlier it would have ended earlier. There is no evidence of this. One can imagine a more horrible scenario: The U.S. entering earlier, becoming embroiled in trench warfare and suffering what industrial Europe did, an entire generation dead and rotting in the trenches. This forces us to wonder at the alternative: If the European working class had protested and refused to mobilize for war in 1914, then perhaps that entire war could have been averted.

Boot is right that inter-war protests strengthened Hitler's position, but it is laughable to blame the rise of fascism on the exercise of democratic protest.

Boot's inaccuracies become appalling when he tries to blame the slaughter in post-colonial Southeast Asia partly on the effects of protest movements back home. More disturbing is his crooked perspective. The thought of an active citizenry questioning politicians and forcing them to discuss policy in an open forum frightens Boot. His enthusiasm for war and the hawks who take us there is chilling.

Rob Baker

Lecturer in History

UC Irvine


I thought it appropriate that Boot's misguided and febrile attack on the antiwar movement ended with a quote from Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell, you may remember, led the English army in the slaughter of the citizens of Ireland. Perhaps Boot would maintain that war protesters were responsible for that carnage as well.

Richard Casey

Santa Monica


Mr. Boot, consider the consequences of any government, including our own, already awash in its own certitude, unchecked by protest. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Cromwell's brilliant admonition, "consider it possible you may be mistaken," is well heeded by any who undertake the perilous projects of either war or peace.

Loren Woodson

Santa Monica


The essence of democracy is the right of its citizens to freely express opposition to their government's policies. If our purpose in Iraq is to establish a democracy, then the implication that the protesters are treasonous in exercising those rights undermines it. Perhaps Voltaire expressed it best: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." But then, he was just another bullheaded Frenchman.

Larry Mason

Santa Barbara


Boot's opinion piece leaves open the question of who was the most important man of the 20th century, Gandhi or Hitler.

Chris Protopapas

New York City


Innocence is the flaw of the antiwar movement, those who are just following. Not the leaders, who have their own agendas. But to the followers: I also desire to live in a world without ruthless psychotics that we must deal with at a great cost, but we don't. That's not the world we live in. That's the sad and unfortunate reality. And allowing Saddam Hussein to remain in power and keep or gain the weapons to blackmail the planet isn't going to get us there. And he's just the beginning.

A task has been handed us and, should we fail, civilization may fail. There are uncivilizing forces about. For anyone who doubts that, look at the 9/11 tapes again. Forcible removal of Hussein, now, is necessary.

Bob McCarter

Aliso Viejo


The blitz by the liberal media to oppose war doesn't make sense. History teaches that one can't negotiate with mad dictators. So there must be another reason for the media to discredit the Bush administration. How about the 2004 election? Many liberals have never accepted George W. Bush as president. What a wonderful opportunity Iraq presents to them. They have used every propaganda ploy in the book, from body bags coming home to the cost of war.

One thing that they have not told the public is that they propose passing the buck to our children, who would then be saddled with fighting terror, if we do not succeed now. A day will come when the U.S. is not strong anymore. I would rather fight terror today, while we can prevail. Mad dictators have not changed over the years.

Sion Colvin

Woodland Hills


Re "Iraq War Cost Could Soar, Pentagon Says," Feb. 26: Dubya is on a mission from God and wants a $100-billion Bluesmobile. The worry is that Jake (Bush) and Elwood (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) are going to end up like Thelma and Louise, driving America right off a cliff.

Ernest Blakey

Canyon Country

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