One of the reasons I think there is so little meaningful opposition to war in this country is because it lacks an ancestral memory of it, and is ruled by a class that's never had any experience in war.
It is Veterans Day here in the US, and apart from a few official activities, I can't really see any evidence that anyone cares, apart from Veterans' Day sales at the mall. This in marked contrast to the Commonwealth.
To Americans, war is something theoretical. War has not touched American soil this century. The American memory of war is one of Victory--the saviours of the World in the Second and First World Wars (forget they stood on the side for years while the youth of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain died). Viet Nam is an exception, but I would suggest that the cultural impact of it sweeps away the military memory.
Yet as a kid in Canada, I was always aware of the War. I can remember being a kid in a mall and the PA announcing that there would be two minutes' silence. Every day at the great doors of my high school, I walked past two plaques with the names of the dead from my high school in the two Wars. We had a long Remembrance Day ceremony every year, and in my last year I played The Last Post and Reville. When I got to Cambridge, in my college boathouse was a plaque commemorating the hundreds who died in the war. The same with our college chapel.
And I think the ancestral memory for Canadians, and far more for the English, French, Germans, etc., is that war is cataclysm. War is massive personal loss on a titanic, universal scale. War is sacrifice. Canada sent 1 million soldiers to the First World War, out of a population of 7 million. England, France, and Germany saw their cities destroyed. The little countries of Europe can remember occupation. The city of Halifax was destroyed.
The United States exited the Second War as the greatest power on earth. France, Britain, the Empire were bankrupt. German was in ruins.
This, to the war-cheering classes here in the United States, seems to be forgotten. It is easy for Cheney or Bush to send other peoples' kids to die. It plays into Americans' self-confidence, their self-assuredness, and their memory of war--the US coming to save the day.
That crowd might do better to read Wilfred Owen's poem, Dulce et Decorum Est:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.