I’m not sure what finally drove them there, but treading water in the far, deep end of the pool are some very desperate characters.

There’s the group that pulled up to Cindy Sheehan’s encampment and unloaded a ready-made counter-protest with signs that read “We Don’t Care.” There’s Limbaugh, who loathes her and called her story nothing but forged documents, as if her son’s death certificate was just another left-wing phantasm. And there are all those tire tracks over all those crosses–the perfect metaphor for the crowd that holds nothing sacred but their own hubris.

We are now told by the president that we are fighting this war in order to honor all those who died fighting this war. And the democracy in Iraq they won–soon to be trumpeted, no doubt–promises to be tentative, fragile and unreceptive to the concept of equal rights for women.

Question it all, though, and you’re meat for the right-wing grinder–even though two-thirds of the country now says the war is being handled poorly and more than half think it was a mistake in the first place.

Two years ago, when we sat down to discuss the invasion of Iraq and this paper’s views, we were cautious about making parallels to Vietnam. Now, it is hard not to find someone, even Henry Kissinger, making the connection. But where are we in the timeline of that tragedy?

While this country lost more than 50,000 young people in that war, the dead by the middle of 1966–when veterans and their families were among those offering some of the most vocal anti-war sentiments–numbered around 4,000. We are now halfway toward that grim mark, and just as in the mid-’60s, a polarized country is bound up in debates over whether we’re making things better or worse as our soldiers continue to die.

Then and now, there is a president so certain that he and his advisers are right and the dissenters wrong that the opposition means nothing. With safe majorities in Congress, W, like LBJ, has a thick firewall between him and the will of the people.

That leaves the streets–the dusty back roads of central Texas and the ones that lead to seats of power. In a few weeks, there will be a major anti-war demonstration in D.C. (go to www.unitedforpeace.org and www.ANSWERcoalition.org for info). When it happens, expect the attack media to be there. Let’s hope they are far outnumbered by those determined to show what America really thinks.

Tens of thousands of young men died in Vietnam between those first anti-war marches and the peace accord of 1973. Pray that this time we ignore the shouts from the deep end and end this nightmare before many more die in a war that was a mistake from the very outset.