PRESIDENT GEORGE Bush's decision to engage U.S. troops in war against Iraq has not pleased everyone. People who don't think we should be in a war are voicing their feelings by holding demonstrations in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and many other cities.
The protesters are against war for a number of reasons. Some people say the war is being fought to defend the foreign oil that Americans depend on for energy, and they do not think that is a good reason for war.
Some think that the Gulf conflict should be settled among Arab nations or an international negotiating team without American involvement.
Still others, who are called pacifists, say wars should never be fought because nobody has a right to hurt or kill another person.
For whatever reason they protest, it is important to remember that anti-war activists are against the president's decision to engage in war. Protesters are not against the troops; in fact, they want the soldiers to be safe and return home.
War protesters can voice their beliefs because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees people the right to freedom of speech.
In fact, protesting war is a strong, American tradition, says Jean Baker, professor of history at Goucher College.
If you look at American history, virtually ever war this country has fought had citizens who argued against it. During the American Revolution, many plantation farmers who lived in the South did not want to go to war against England because they felt loyalty to that country where their families originally came from. Other colonial people thought that more demonstrations such as the Boston Tea Party would lead to American independence. Those demonstrations are known as non-violent civil disobedience. It means that people get together and peacefully refuse to obey a law (like paying taxes on tea in Boston).
During the Civil War, young men on both the Confederate and Union sides did not want to fight because their conscience told them war was wrong. Conscientious objectors were placed in camps during the war.
The Quakers, a religious group objecting to war, wanted to solve the North-South conflict without bloodshed. They helped runaway slaves from the South escape by building the Underground Railroad. To this day, the Quakers suggest ways to solve conflicts peacefully and are active in the anti-war movement.
World War I was one that many Americans did not want to fight because they thought the power struggle in Europe -- it was basically Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey against England, France and Russia -- would not affect the United States. In 1939, when World War II started in Europe, many Americans also did not want to be involved for similar reasons. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, America united in the war effort.
The best-known anti-war movement arose when young people rallied against the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In that war, American and South Vietnamese troops battled the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong for political control of the country. Students staged sit-ins and demonstrations on their school campuses and at government buildings in Washington, D.C. Some young men, drafted to fight as soldiers in the war, refused to serve and left the country or were sent to prison.
To come to a decision about whether you support the Persian Gulf war, talk with your parents, friends, teachers and religious .. leaders about this war and all wars. Also spend time considering your own feelings about war, and how you can share them. Send letters to the troops and also send letters to the editors of newspapers and managers at television stations letting them know what you think.