On yesterday's anti-war protest in DC. The date was chosen because it was the 40th anniversary of the march on the Pentagon during the Viet Nam war, and almost the 4th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Our friend Mimus Pauly at A Mockingbird's Medley joined me yesterday for the experience.
First, and in many ways foremost, we froze our tushies off. After a balmy week in the 60s and 70s, a coastal low brought rain, sleet, freezing rain and finally snow to the Washington, DC area Friday night. Saturday's high was in the upper 30s with a lovely brisk wind blowing from the Northwest. We had had almost two inches of rain on Friday, so there was a lot of mud! There is no question in my mind that this helped suppress turnout a bit, as the crowd was noticably smaller than the marches in September 2005 and in January of this year. So, organizers are saying 35,000, and park police saying informally 20,000. I guess I'm no good at crowd estimation, I thought it was a bit bigger than that. Still, as Mimus and I stood at the end of the march route and watched the remainder of the crowd come through, it looked impressive. Seeing a crowd like that united behind one concept is always exhilirating.
Second, there was a significant anti-peace crowd who came to make their presence known, and a surprisingly high number were veterans. At the prior marches, the pro-war contingent had been pitifully small (and by pitifully small I mean maybe a couple dozen). I will readily admit I was wrong to think the anti-peace crowd this time would be roughly the same. I estimate between 2,000 and 3,000 "uber-patriots" showed up on this occasion, suitably wrapped in the American flag, as if they and they alone own it. They were a pretty foul bunch, widely profane and abusive. One thing that struck us as we walked past them was that they were almost universally white men: very few women; very few people of color. Interesting that there were no African-American or Latino vets among their ranks, given the disproportionate numbers of these who served in Viet Nam. Still, I learned a few things from them that I didn't know before. Along with the usual "I'm not fonda Jane" signs, I was informed that I am a parasite, and that Nancy Pelosi is owned by al-Queda. Hmmm, learn something new every day.
Third, some who visit here may recall that at the march in January, there was a bit of a kerfuffle on the steps of the US Capitol, with the MSM reporting that the steps had been "defaced" with some spray paint by some young punk anarchists. Now, the part about the spray paint may or may not have been true (and I only have my own lying eyes to believe that it was not), but as a consequence, rumors apparently abounded that the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial was going to be defaced. So the Gathering of Beagles, as the anti-peace crowd called themselves (okay, not really, they called themselves the Gathering of Eagles, but I couldn't resist because they sounded like so many hound dogs baying at the fox to me), were there to "protect" the memorial from us Godless, filthy, hippie-lovin', librul scum. I'm going to state this as succintly as possible: Bullshit. I have a 99.9999% confidence level that no threats of that nature came from the anti-war protesters. To the extent such a threat actually happened, I'd be willing to make a significant wager that it was someone from the pro-war group who actually manufactured the threat in order to rally the vets to protect their hallowed ground. And to get coverage from the MSM regarding their "noble" cause. (Naturally, it worked.) In any event, access to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial was tightly controlled, with each person being hand-searched before being allowed to visit the wall.
Fourth, as DBK has mentioned previously and this march reinforced, the left need to come up with better chants. ("What do we want? An immediate cessation of hostilities." Heh.) Mimus suggested that before the next one is held, someone needs to write some protest songs and we need to practice them in advance. (The more creative of you out there should get right on that.) The only time the marchers really got going was when we went by the afore-mentioned Beagles. To drown out the profanities, the marchers chanted out "Where was Bush in Viet Nam?" Indeed, what an excellent question.
Finally, a closing thought about the real reason yesterday was important, and why today is important, and why tomorrow is important. Our young men and women in Iraq are dying every day, and we need to bring them home. Now. In the course of the day, Mimus and I had walked to and through Arlington National Cemetery and had visited the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. It takes your breath away to stand in Arlington Cemetery and see tombstones streching into the distance all around you. It breaks your heart to see name after name after name engraved upon the granite walls of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. So many, and many so young. Shall we wait until there are another 59,000 names to be engraved on another wall before we bring this illegal and misbegotten war to an end?