Things certainly have changed.
Three years ago, as the Bush administration was preparing to send American troops into combat in Iraq, the president and his mission had broad public support. The president's approval rating was hovering in the 60-70 percent range, while polls pegged American support at about the same level.
Now, however, support for the war has plummeted to 39 percent (according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday), while the president's approval rating — depending on which poll you read — is anywhere from 31 percent to about 34 percent.
It's hard not to see why, when newspapers are forced to run headlines like these on what seems like an almost daily basis:
"Bombings, shootings kill at least 30 in Iraq" (The Washington Post, Tuesday)
"At least 14 are killed by car bombs in Baghdad and Karbala" (The New York Times, Monday)
"Clashes roil Basra after deadly British copter crash" (The New York Times, Sunday)
"3 G.I.'s killed by bomb south of Baghdad" (The New York Times, Saturday)
It is headlines like these that have people like Kendall Park resident Bill Yost and Monroe resident Ellen Norman so concerned — and working in different ways to put an end to the fighting.
Mr. Yost, a Vietnam veteran and a member of Somerset Voices for Peace and Justice, has been making his opposition to the Iraq war known since the buildup first began in 2002.
"Only now I'm in the majority and not the minority," he says.
He's been attending vigils in Somerville in front of the Army recruiting station there (the building used to house the peace group's coffeehouse), as well as in other communities.
"If there's a vigil, I've been there," he says. "We've all got to do our piece."
Ms. Norman is trying to do just that. She's been opposed to the war from its inception, but had not been particularly active until recently — after she attended a meeting "on peace" in Morristown with her friend and fellow Concordia resident, Betty Kletter.
"We decided that complaining about things was not enough," the Monroe resident said Tuesday. "So we called the Rev. Bob Moore (of the Coalition for Peace Action in Princeton) and he said, 'why not start a chapter?'"
And so the Monroe chapter of the Coalition for Peace Action was born. The chapter has held two meetings — including one featuring Daniel Ellsberg of "Pentagon Papers" fame that was attended by more than a hundred people.
Ms. Norman, who like Mr. Yost attended the April 29 antiwar rally in New York, says she was "very active during the anti-Vietnam War movement" and is "opposed to American boys fighting" overseas in situations like Vietnam and Iraq — wars fought for political reasons and not out of necessity.
"I fully believe that you accomplish things by sitting down at a table and talking to people," she said. "As a teacher, I used to tell students you don't gain anything by fighting. You gain by sitting down and talking things out and coming to terms with each other. Fighting only creates more anger."
The New York rally — in particular, a line of marchers holding photos of dead servicemen — "had a tremendous impact on me," Ms. Norman said.
"It furthered my determination that we have to do something in this country to get out of this war," she said. "We have to put pressure on our government to end it and bring our boys home."
Mr. Yost agrees. He says the war in Iraq is "a war that can't possibly be won — if any war can be said to be won."
"I don't want a timetable," he said. "I want out now. What are we going to leave behind in 10 years but dead bodies."
That's not something most in Washington want to hear. While U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat who represents Cranbury, Jamesburg, Monroe and South Brunswick, has long been critical of the war and the war effort, other Democrats — in particular, those with high profiles like Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama — have remained silent or have tried to split the difference.
As for the GOP, it was a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress that drove us off this cliff in the first place. And few within the GOP seem willing, even now, to acknowledge that the car is in free fall and fast approaching the rocks below.
If there is hope it lies with people like Mr. Yost and Ms. Norman and organizations like Somerset Voices for Peace and Justice and the Coalition for Peace Action. Perhaps if they shout loud enough, someone in a position to do something will listen.
Hank Kalet is managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press. E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.