"Hell No, They Won't Go -- Yet"

By Janelle Brown and King Kaufman

By Salon Staff

Published September 19, 2001 7:36PM (EDT)

Read the story.

I cannot conceive of what sort of college students your writers chose to interview that they received the responses in this article, but I represent a group of students whose opinions you seem to have (intentionally?) missed. Your portrayal of the, apparently, few students who were in support of decisive military action indicated that such students were both unwilling to fight themselves, and unable to articulate the purpose of such military action.

I am a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Were I interviewed I would have been able to tell you that America needs to respond to these terrorist actions as exactly what they are, a threat to our ability to practice those freedoms set forth in the Declaration of Independence. The threat to our freedom is equally as much a threat to our lives, and deserves to be treated as no less. We must defend ourselves, and unlike your supposedly representative college students, I am perfectly willing to do whatever!

It is necessary to see that I and all future generations of Americans can enjoy the freedoms we have now. Even at the expense of my life, because like Patrick Henry I say, "Give me liberty or give me death." What would we be now if the founding fathers of our country had retreated in cowardice, had fled their duty? I pose that question to your liberal college students. Where would they be and how might they expect to be free to practice their brand of cowardice? As for Noam Chomsky, he can rot in hell.

--Nathan Hoskinson

It disgusts me to see how weak the youth of America have become. Those people want to flee the very country that affords them the freedom to make that choice in the first place. Do you know why Saddam's soldiers surrendered to CNN? I'm sure if those soldiers had been given half the freedoms we have as Americans, they would have fought to the bitter end. I am 28 years old, and I work for the FAA. Believe me, if those college students could comprehend the scope and magnitude of Tuesday's attacks, they would understand that our only option is to defeat the enemy that attacked our homeland. I am too old to be drafted, but if I were facing that possibility, a familiar quote would come to mind: I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country. God bless America.


There's nothing surprising about the fact that young adults don't want to go to war. First of all, war isn't especially fun. Second, it's dangerous. Third, being a veteran earns you no respect in many quarters of our society. Add to that the fact that our military mission and goals are still being crafted.

Beyond all of that, when a generation is raised to believe that they live in the most immoral society in human history, that patriotism is for suckers and that peace is the logical consequence of happy thoughts, of course that's what they'll say.

Still, despite everything, one can observe nascent patriotic tendencies. It's amusing to watch young adults looking nervously over to the VFW seniors in order to figure out how to treat the flag and how to sing old patriotic standards. Many of them sense that there really is a need to think of something bigger than themselves, but their education has given them precious little preparation for that realization.

--Michael Booker

I just read Janelle Brown and King Kaufman's article "Hell No, They Won't Go -- Yet" in utter disbelief.

I am shocked that these children fail to appreciate or comprehend the fact that if it weren't for war they wouldn't have the freedom to even express their hateful sentiments about the U.S. and its government. Had it not been for the Revolutionary War there would be no United States of America. Had it not been for the American Civil War, African-Americans and other people of color would not know the freedom they now enjoy. Had America not entered World Wars I and II, Europe, everyone's favorite bastion of socialism, would not exist in its current state -- nor would the United States.

This isn't the Cold War. We're not chasing the ghosts of communism. It really can't even be compared to World War II where the closest our enemies came to American soil was a military base in a territory thousands of miles away. Innocent Americans, Britons, Australians and citizens of numerous other nations -- who were just like you, me and the kids interviewed for this article -- were murdered. Roughly 5,000 of them. Murdered not in order to control oil supplies or to gain land. No, these people were murdered simply because of hate. And if we let this act of hate go unpunished, it simply encourages further acts of hate-filled violence.

One of the young men quoted in the article stated that he would only be willing to fight for America if the terrorists showed up, knocked on his door and began killing people. How is it that he fails to see that such an event already happened on Sept. 11, 2001? I don't consider myself a war-monger and certainly don't believe in rushing in without clearly identifying and locating our enemies, but the failure of these children to comprehend the significance and root causes of the act of terrorism and war that occurred last week frightens me.

I am especially dismayed that the children of immigrants view the U.S. government with such disdain. Do they not enjoy greater political and personal freedom and share in broader economic stability and wealth than they would in their own country? Is that not worth fighting and/or dying for? If not, then why not return to the Middle East or Latin America?

I am not some flag-waving, right-wing patriot, but I simply find the statements made by these youth so disheartening that I hope they do go to Canada. We don't need to be ripped apart during this war the way our nation was during Vietnam. And when they go, we need to make sure they are never again welcomed home to the land of the free.

--Dawn Sloan Downes

As a service member in my 20s, never have I been more nauseated by my own generation.

Salon, please interview someone from the heartland -- the bastions of liberal education in the Bay Area are not representative of my generation as a whole.

Just think of the impassioned speech of Colonel Jessup in the movie "A Few Good Men." Someone needs to pick up a weapon to ensure that these young, idealistic men and women can continue to speak out at will. I only am allowed another 20 years of service at most -- if my generation and the one that follows hate America so much, then there won't be one to protect.

--Name withheld on request

First, I'm appalled at how completely clueless most of them are about this entire incident. The biggest misconception being that we are just fighting against a few "bad" people. They seem to be missing the point that we are at war against an entire culture and region of the world that wants the U.S. and the entire Western world dead. If they don't think so, then why not drop them off in any Middle Eastern nation and see how long they survive. I'd give you about five seconds before some 10-year-old with an AK-47 guns you down.

Second, for those who said they would flee before doing service, you are cowards and if I could do anything about it, I'd kick you out of my country right now. You make me sick. You grow up in the richest planet on earth only to take your freedoms and rights for granted. Millions of people had to die so that you can walk around free on this earth. I'd like to think that these children will grow up, but I have little hope for most of them.

Third, the terrorists did come here and they did kill people. And, they will continue to try to kill people in the U.S. They will not stop until we are all dead. In a war, you do whatever it takes to defeat your enemy. Anything!!! As far as I'm concerned, I'd sooner exterminate an entire mass of people before one single American got hurt.

I ask only one thing -- for those that don't see why we must go to war or would flee the country: Please do not ever vote. I don't want myself, my loved ones or any of my fellow Americans to get killed because you are too foolish, ignorant and cowardly to do what's necessary to protect this nation.


I think there is one major reason Gen-Xers are not signing up in droves for the military right now. The military doesn't need us, yet. As you said, recruitment goals have all been met, and they certainly have plenty of reserves. Watching Desert Storm from our living rooms as children, war has always looked a bit antiseptic to us. We tend to think that high technology has rendered the idea of massive ground forces being slaughtered in some jungle somewhat obsolete, so we don't see any need to go down to the recruitment offices just yet. This idea may be proven wrong, but I would say by the lack of Uncle Sam posters in WalMart windows, Uncle Sam doesn't yet want me to sign up. But if he did, I would be willing and I bet most of my generation would be willing to protect our fellow Americans from terrorism.

--Kevin Rogers

I really enjoyed your story on college students. It's nice to know that they're even more wimpy than I was 10 years ago when I was in college. Let me get this straight: You're only willing to fight if "they" attack face to face? Otherwise, I don't get it. I thought crashing a couple of airliners into the world's largest office complex while 20,000 or 30,000 people were working there was a pretty clear act of aggression. Maybe I'm wrong.

Or maybe this guy will only fight to protect himself. Nice attitude, really. Does he understand that he's part of a society?

--Mac Thomason

Thanks for the story on the college prima donnas who lack the guts to fight and the brains to realize how important this war is.

If we really go after the supporters of terrorism -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and the PLO -- we will end up needing a draft.

With the exception of Vietnam, Americans have always embraced their call to duty. I have no doubt that these punks will be in a minority by showing their cowardice and running away.

--Dan Gainor

Speaking as someone who may be drafted, I find far too many parallels between this proposed war and Vietnam. For example, while I hear a lot of talk about war from Dubya, I've yet to hear that Congress has declared war. Prince George should remember that he doesn't have the authority to make this decision, and if he doesn't remember, then he needs to take a remedial government course. Furthermore, in Vietnam, we went to a jungle that was difficult to invade by foreign infantry, to accomplish vague and uncertain goals. Ultimately, we killed thousands of civilians and inspired them to hate us. Here, we would presumably be going to Afghanistan, a mountainous region that has been difficult for foreign infanty to invade, to accomplish vague and uncertain goals. Ultimately, we will kill thousands of civilians and inspire them to hate us. Now, how does it go ... Oh, Canada ...

--Aaron Petry

Hmmm. Why were the terrorists able to cow a planeload of people with knives less than 3 inches long? If the majority of the people interviewed here are any indication, it's because we have "educated" the spine out of the American people. If, in fact, we are relying on them to defend our freedoms, it's time to give up and cave in to the demands of anyone with a pointed stick, anywhere in the world.

--Grant Fritchey

Blissful naiveté is a wonderful quality for a college student. It's just a shame that it is totally incompatible with the real world that exists outside their schools. Anyone who watched the attacks take place on the WTC knows why we now have to fight. From my office window I saw in excess of 5,000 people die. It was not an accident. It was an attack, planned for years and executed perfectly by people who hate us for a wide variety of reasons.

The remarks quoted in this story are not frightening to me, simply indicative of how poorly educated and self-absorbed the average American college student is today. If someone has to ask what they are fighting about or says that they would only fight if directly attacked then they are living with their head in the sand.

--Doug Olenick

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------