Waving oversized Chinese-made American flags, wearing T-shirts with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld, and holding banners proclaiming, "Destroy Iraq, Save Civilization," they demand that America accept the "augmentation" of troops in Iraq.
"How can you call for continued war?" I asked one of their leaders.
"Because if we leave Iraq," said Thelma Lou Hodgkins of Whelping Falls, Mo., "we'll have stood down and the terrorists will win because we can't stand the Iraqis, so they'll either stand up or down. Or maybe sit. Or maybe they'd be lying down on the streets." Mercifully, I cut her off.
"Most Americans now say they were lied to by the Administration, that the war was wrong, that it has been poorly planned and abysmally executed."
"That's only the ones who have never been in Iraq. Or went to Iraq. Or knew someone who went to Iraq. The rest of us know better."
"More than 3,000 Americans and as many as 100,000 Iraqis, most of them innocent civilians, have died in this war. At least 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded, some crippled for life."
"So what's your point?" she asked. "Besides, we just can't cut and run like the defeatists want. There's still a war to win, and money to be taken by Halliburton and Exxon."
"The war profiteers have indeed gotten richer because of this war," I said, hoping she'd see my point.
"And that's how we keep the economy as good as it's been. More profit means more jobs and the right of every family to be able to shop at Wal-Mart."
"It also means more deaths."
"There you go with that death thing again," she said. "At least 5,000 soldiers haven't yet had any opportunity to win a medal?"
"Even if the medals are Purple Hearts?"
"Wounded. Dead. Helps their career. They get promoted. Makes for better survivor benefits."
"You're aware that only about 28 percent of all Americans even believe in this war?"
"That makes us a minority, and we have rights!"
"A year ago, you were in the majority, and you said the minority were unpatriotic traitors. Said they should be shot for treason."
"And we were right then, too." She paused a moment, reflecting upon what had happened in the past year. "Besides, we'd still be in the majority if all those cowardly politicians who supported us didn't turn tail and try to get re-elected. At least Thomas Jefferson is on our side."
"I doubt Jefferson would have said that supporting war is the best course of action in any dispute."
"Maybe it was Washington. Or Cornwallis. I get all them Founding Fathers mixed up. But, someone said that no one has the right to protest the government. That's downright unAmerican!"
"None of our Founding Fathers said that silencing opposition was acceptable. That's why they gave us the First Amendment."
"Don't you ever watch FOX News?" she demanded. "Our glorious leader, Bill O'Reilly, has declared that in order for Americans to be safe from camels overtaking taxis in New York, we must outshout all opposing views and suspend the Constitution. Except for the Second Amendment, of course. No one messes with the right to lock and load!"
"How long do you intend to stay on the streets?" I asked.
"Until the last soldier is killed dying for this country. That's when we'll know the war is over."
"Don't you feel any shame?" I asked.
"All we're asking," she said, "is give war a chance."
When last I saw the protestors, they were holding hands and singing, "Okie from Muskogee."