MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

The Courage of Protest During War
by Cindy Atchison, MAP webmaster
originally published 3-28-03, Star Tribune

Here are three things I think about protest in the United States during war:

• We are a democracy. Protest is like the canary in the coal mine. Democracy is our oxygen. If we stop hearing protest, we will know we are all in big trouble.

• During war, democracy and debate need to keep working hard to hold leaders to a higher standard of ethical decisionmaking. It is a betrayal to the courageous soldier who is subjected to the horror and death of war on the battlefield, when those in genuine disagreement who have not been fully heard and may be able to influence better decisions, decisions that may spare that soldier, allow themselves to be intimidated into silence.

• If our leaders refuse to have an honest, good-faith debate about starting a war, are deeply entrenched in "group think" because they refuse to consult with or listen to anyone who doesn't already agree with them, and then they manage to get all opposition, even the citizen protesters, to "shut up" as soon as a war starts, we are encouraging the use of our military as a political weapon.

While some would try to convince us that protest during war is bad because it may cause troops in the field to become demoralized, I am far more worried that the fear and lack of protest during war will cause our troops to be used imprudently, carelessly and for political power rather than national defense.

Cynthia Atchison, Minneapolis

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