News

Harvard Law School Makes Online Zero-L Course Free for All U.S. Law Schools Due to Coronavirus

News

For Kennedy School Fellows, Epstein-Linked Donors Present a Moral Dilemma

News

Tenants Grapple with High Rents and Local Turnover at Asana-Owned Properties

News

In April, Theft Surged as Cambridge Residents Stayed at Home

News

The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Creeds, Not Slogans

By Robert S. Rogers

Senator John F. Kerry’s appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews, recorded live before a Harvard audience at the Kennedy School last Monday evening, was generally well-received. Kerry came across as an articulate, forceful, straightforward advocate of a very appealing political message. Kerry’s distinguished record in both fighting in and protesting the policies of American officials in times of war is particularly instructive. Given that many in the Harvard community took this weekend to partake in the ANSWER protests against the Bush administration’s Iraq policy on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and as Harvard’s own vocal antiwar movement held demonstrations this past week, perhaps we all should take note of how Kerry became one of the most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War.

Kerry’s opposition to the war in Vietnam was not based on the premise that our actions in Vietnam were evil or malicious. His primary mode of criticism was not that the government was trying to inflict misery on the Vietnamese population, nor was it that we had alienated ourselves from world opinion. Rather, as a courageous veteran of the war (he was awarded three purple hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star) he criticized the Vietnam War because of the devastating effects it had on our men in uniform—the 58,000 deaths, the thousands of injuries, the conditions of fear and deprivation in which the soldiers lived and the horrible ramifications war had on their families. His most famous and poignant quote concerning his opposition to the Vietnam War was given in Senate testimony in 1971 in which he posed the question, “How can you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” It was not something to the effect of “Hey, hey, many babies did you kill today.”

Fast forward to the present opposition to the war in Iraq. I am against the war in Iraq because of the terrible pain it is inflicting on our servicemen and servicewomen and their families. Sure, there are other valid reasons to be against the war in Iraq, but these concerns, often supported by over-hyped accounts, monopolize public attention to the exclusion of the issue of how it affects our troops. Ask a typical antiwar demonstrator why he or she opposes the war, and you hear things like “We’re killing the Iraqi people,” “We are plundering Iraqi oil,” “It is diverting resources from domestic concerns,” or “We have snubbed world opinion.”

It’s telling that the first thing that comes to mind is not: “Because 345 soldiers have been killed, and the death toll is mounting...,” “Because hundreds more have sustained serious injuries...,” “Because our troops are so stressed that there have been abnormally high rates of suicide in the military...,” or “Because men and women in uniform have been kept away from their friends and family for months on end....”

The fact that this line of opposition to the war is so rarely cited bothers me, because it shows a lack of concern for our brave men and women in the armed forces. It suggests that the antiwar movement is motivated more by intangibles, such as fanciful-sounding “imperialism,” and “unilateralism,” than by concern for actual people—people our own age in our own towns.

The small role that concern for American troops plays in the antiwar movement was quite literally displayed during last week’s protests outside the Science Center. The approximately 60 students participating in the “End the Occupation” rally devoted the vast majority of their time and efforts to chanting things like, “Promise, promise liberation, all we see is occupation,” a criticism that paints our actions in Iraq as evil and malicious. Or they decried the dawn of the “New World Empire,” depicting our actions in Iraq as greedy and self-serving. There was only one protester who chose to emphasize the plight of the American forces in his opposition to the war in Iraq, with a sign that, “Our troops shouldn’t have to die for Bush’s corrupt policies,” but he was noticeably quiet in the otherwise boisterous crowd and his rickety sign, smaller than a piece of computer paper, hardly grabbed the attention of the large banners deriding other negative aspects of the war.

The antiwar movement, while correct in its aim, is misplacing the emphasis in its reasoning. The fact of the matter is that a president should never put our military personnel in harm’s way unless he is sure that more lives will be saved than will be lost. As it becomes increasingly clear that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to American national security, the tragedy of 345 and counting young lives lost becomes greater and greater. And it is that enormous tragedy that we should be focusing on, because the opinion of Jacques Chirac, the profits of Halliburton and the temporary hardship imposed on the Iraqi people—who no doubt will soon enjoy better lives than they ever could have under a brutal dictator—pale in comparison. I hope that future demonstrations keep this concern in mind. After all, if you were President Bush, what would keep you up at night: Knowing that people think awarding reconstruction contracts to Halliburton is a kickback, or having to sign a condolence letter?

Robert S. Rogers ’07 lives in Hollis Hall.

Fast forward to the present opposition to the war in Iraq. I am against the war in Iraq because of the terrible pain it is inflicting on our servicemen and servicewomen and their families. Sure, there are other valid reasons to be against the war in Iraq, but these concerns, often supported by over-hyped accounts, monopolize public attention to the exclusion of the issue of how it affects our troops. Ask a typical antiwar demonstrator why he or she opposes the war, and you hear things like “We’re killing the Iraqi people’ “We are plundering Iraqi oil,” “It is diverting resources from domestic concerns,” or “We have snubbed world opinion.”

Because 345 soldiers have been killed, and the death toll is mounting. Because hundreds more have sustained serious injuries. Because our troops are so stressed that there have been abnormally high rates of suicide in the army. Because men and women in uniform have been kept away from their friends and family for months on end. The fact that this line of opposition to the war is so rarely cited bothers me, because it shows a lack of concern for our brave men and women in the armed forces. It suggests that the antiwar movement is motivated more by grandiose intangibles, such as fanciful-sounding “imperialism,” and “unilateralism,” than by concern for actual people—people our own age in our own towns.

The small role that concern for American troops plays in the antiwar movement was quite literally displayed during last week’s protests outside the Science Center. The approximately 60 students participating in the “End the Occupation” rally devoted the vast majority of their time and efforts to chanting things like, “Promise, promise liberation, all we see is occupation” a criticism that paints our actions in Iraq as evil and malicious. Or they decried the dawn of the “New World Empire,” depicting our actions in Iraq as greedy and self-serving. There was only one protester who chose to emphasize the plight of the American forces in his opposition to the war in Iraq, with a sign that, “Our troops shouldn’t have to die for Bush’s corrupt policies,” but he was noticeably quiet in the otherwise boisterous crowd and his rickety sign, smaller than a piece of computer paper, hardly grabbed the attention of the large banners deriding other negative aspects of the war.

The anti war movement, while correct in its aim, is misplacing the emphasis in its reasoning. The fact of the matter is that a president should never put our military personnel in harm’s way unless he is sure that more lives will be saved than will be lost. As it becomes increasingly clear that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to American national security, the tragedy of 345 and counting young lives lost becomes greater and greater. And it is that enormous tragedy that we should be focusing on, because the opinion of Jacques Chirac, the profits of Halliburton and the temporary hardship imposed on the Iraqi people—who no doubt will soon enjoy better lives than they ever could have under a brutal dictator—pale in comparison. I hope that future demonstrations keep this concern in mind. After all, if you were President Bush, what would keep you up at night: Knowing that people think awarding reconstruction contracts to Halliburton is a kickback, or having to sign a condolence letter?

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags