Anti-war protesters were mostly roasted and sometimes toasted in a recent sampling of the opinions of Evening Sun readers.
In the newspaper's regular "It's Your Call" feature Monday, readers were asked if they considered protesters unpatriotic and detrimental to the morale of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.
Of 609 callers, 60 percent called the protesters unpatriotic. Seventy-six percent said the anti-war movement hurts troop morale. But 69 percent said some protests of government policy can be viewed as patriotic.
A number of callers left "voice mail" messages. Most of them were male and opposed to the protesters.
"Whether you agree or not with the war, you have to support the troops to the bitter end," said one man. "If you don't agree and you take it upon yourself to protest, then just get out of the country."
"I think it's totally unpatriotic in a time of war to protest anything the government is doing," said another man. "Protesting is doing nothing but hurting the morale of the troops. Instead of protesting the U.S., they should be protesting against Iraq."
"The people who protest against the war are very unpatriotic," said another male caller. "They give aid and comfort to the enemy. I believe in free speech, but not when it comes to U.S. foreign policy."
Some callers were more accepting of the protest movement.
"While I agree with the president's policy and I support the troops, I believe people have the right to protest and demonstrate for what they believe in," said a caller who identified himself as a Vietnam War veteran. "That's what we were fighting for in our previous wars, and it's what we're fighting for now -- the right to have another view."
"Just because we elect people to office does not mean we must agree with everything they do," said a woman. "When we elect a president, we're not electing a dictator. You can stand up and say, 'Mr. President, I don't agree with you, and here's why.' If you don't have freedom to protest, you don't have any freedom. In Iraq, nobody protests, do they?"
"The British have a good expression -- 'the loyal opposition,' " said one man. "The key is loyalty. I think one can oppose the nation and still be loyal to it. One should not think that that kind of opposition is disloyal, as long as people do it for what's best for the country."
A few callers bashed the news media for supposedly giving excessive coverage to the anti-war movement.
"I really blame the liberal press for adding fuel to the fire of these idiotic protesters," said one man. "This liberal media has to be controlled. You give more coverage to the protesters than to the people standing behind [the war effort]."
(A report this week in the Village Voice said the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has found that the peace movement has received little coverage since last August, when U.S. troops first were sent to the gulf.)