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Antiwar sentiment gets champion

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Within the military, some senior commanders have talked about a timeframe for starting to bring home troops. But late last week, Bush tamped down any expectations of a quick withdrawal, saying it was too soon to say when the number of troops might be reduced.

This is no Vietnam era

Still, for all the concern about Iraq, the antiwar movement today isn't likely to reach the levels of Vietnam. For one thing, there are fundamental reasons why this war is distinctly different: the lack of military conscription, a relatively low level of American casualties (at least compared to Vietnam, where more than 30 times as many US soldiers were killed), and the absence of a self-conscious youth culture.

"What made the antiwar movement so powerful during the Vietnam War was its close connection to the movement of millions of baby-boomers through college," says national security analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "Away from home for the first time and insulated from military service by student deferments, many of these adolescents were acutely aware of their susceptibility to the draft once they completed college. Opposition to the war became part of a generational identity, particularly among middle-class students in universities."

Today, some of the not-so-silent minority worried about the war includes military veterans and their families. Jan Barry, a founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, says that when his group posted a statement of opposition to the Iraq war on a website shortly before the conflict started, it was signed by some 4,000 vets and family members, many of whom were retired. What surprised him, though, was the number of second and third generation military who signed up - including many World War II vets.

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