USA Today founder Al Neuharth's New Year's Resolution that we should support the troops in Iraq by bringing them home has stirred up a hornet's nest, according to Editor & Publisher Magazine which, after describing Neuharth's Dec. 22 Christmas column, was inundated with hate mail.

The E&P staff wrote that Neuharth said if he were eligible to serve in Iraq, "I would do all I could to avoid it."  Neuharth also wrote in his weekly column for the paper that America's New Year's Resolution should be to bring the troops home "sooner rather than later."

Neuharth, who is 80, recalled his duty as an infantryman in France, Germany and the Phillipines during World War II as "highly moral." But he said that troops floundering around in the bloody Iraqi mess today were, like those in Vietnam, thrust into an "ill-advised adventure by an unwise commander-in-chief," and should be brought home post-haste.

The vitriolic response was immediate, and got the attention of editor Greg Mitchell, who said E&P's little four-paragraph article "drew more letters than virtually any story we have ever posted."

Mitchell made the strange conclusion that the vicious responses to Neuharth's commentary (opinion) were mostly a result of Americans increasingly hating or distrusting the press.

Although "hate" is a bit strong, it is true that as more Americans rouse from their stupor and begin to compare what the mainstream US media says is happening both here and abroad with what is actually happening -- it's easy to see that they have ample reason to distrust the entire Fourth Estate.

Mitchell did say, however, "Apparently, it is now an act of treason to offer an editorial opinion on the Iraq war that goes against the conventional wisdom."

I agree that this uproar is primarily about stifling any sound of criticism or dissent. And, it's frightening that, for some Americans, the "conventional wisdom" is for the rest of us to just shut the hell up and allow our uniformed citizens to make the ultimate sacrifice in peace -- and honor.

Our duty is to be there, waving our flags, when they are shuttled back to the US under cover of darkness, boxed up and ready to be buried. For those Americans, that seems to be the only definition of "patriotism."

To give you an idea of this particular mindset, here are just a few extracts from some of the letters published in E&P on Dec. 29:

Frank Butash, West Hartford, CT.: “Apparently it's easier to run with jackals than to stand up for your country when it needs support.”

Kenneth Genest: “They had two of these in World War 2. One was called Tokyo Rose and the other Axis Sally. Their job was to discourage the American soldiers. I see they have one now at USA Today.”

Jerry Martin, San Francisco, CA.: “Yet another self-defeating fool with a large bank account shoots himself in the foot. Their dissent equals treason. The terrorists got him just like all the other rich liberals who side against our victory. They forget that wars end, and then the country takes stock of who was where. I encourage the fool to keep mouthing against our victory over the Muslim jihad, he'll pay the social price in the end.”

Peter Kessler: “And as for the good war, WW II, the lefties were four-square for that one. Yes sir, they were saving the USSR, Stalin and Communism. It's sad we didn't join Hitler until he wiped out the USSR. Alger Hiss and the Uptown Daily Worker (The New York Times) be damned. I see you've joined the club. Well, you're probably a founding member.”

Joe McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa: “Mr. Neuharth, thanks to you and your ignorance the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now! If we pull out of Iraq with the job unfinished the terrorists will be bombing McDonalds, and blowing up malls and schools here, killing our innocent men, women and children.”

Craig Wood, Waianae, Hawaii: “Today's press undermines our troops and supports our enemies. They convince parents that supporting your President is dangerous. They concentrate their ire on any fight that involves the United States and ignore all others. Like the sex scandal in the Congo with United Nations forces…. But, let some Army private put panties on an Iraqi's head and all hell brakes (sic) loose.”

Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: “Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers.“

Mel Gibbs: “The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.”

Ah, yes. Good ol' Mel Gibbs -- giving Neuharth and Mitchell a choice of Lone Star punishment for exercising their right of free speech. For daring to criticize the commander-in-chief, they and their families can either go to prison and then move on out to the Middle East -- or they and their friends can walk the long, green mile on death row -- er, after a fair trial, of course.

One man who knows full well how this could play out is Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. Tutu was interviewed by Arlene Getz for Newsweek's Dec. 30 issue from his home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

When Getz asked him about Iraq, Tutu said, "Any normal human being ought to be feeling considerable outrage and deep, deep, deep hurt for so-called ordinary [Iraqi] people. We hardly ever hear about what the casualties have been on that side. How I wish that politicians could have the courage and the humility to admit that they have made mistakes. President Bush and Prime Minister [Tony] Blair and whoever supported the invasion ought to at least have the decency to say [they] went into this war because [they] were given the wrong reasons for going to war."

Tutu also commented that most Americans didn't seem to worry too much about the number of American soldiers who have died since Bush claimed the war had ended.

He recalled that during the recent election campaign he was teaching in Jacksonville, Fla., and was "shocked, because I had naively believed all these many years that Americans genuinely believed in freedom of speech. [But I] discovered there (in Fla) that when you made an utterance that was remotely contrary to what the White House was saying, then they attacked you."

Think about that. Those who dare criticize the commander-in-chief will be attacked. This is, in my opinion, the most important -- the most critical -- reason we must not be silenced. We must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Al Neuharth, and proclaim that our 2005 New Year's Resolution is -- Bring Them Home.

Sooner rather than later.

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a columnist/regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at © 2004 Sheila Samples