Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A chickenhawk squawks

Several months ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote a masterful explication of the expression "chickenhawk." The term has been used by opponents of the invasion and occupation of Iraq to criticize many of the debacle's most vocal proponents. I say "vocal proponents," because that is all they are. They talk and write about the necessity and glory of this grand adventure, yet cannot seem to locate the courage to actually lend a hand. By "lend a hand," I mean putting on a uniform and joining the brave men and women who are actually fighting Bush's war, as opposed to sitting at their computers, eating Sour Cream & Onion Doritos and drinking Pepsi.

Vocal proponents of the Iraq war take great offense over being labeled "chickenhawks." They say war opponents are the real hypocrites. They don't have to become firefighters to support the fire department, they say. They don't have to become cops to support the police.

Too true.

But, as Greenwald pointed out, it isn't merely vocal support of the war, combined with an unwillingness to enlist, which makes one a chickenhawk. A chickenhawk is a war proponent who fails to join the fight, yet who takes onto himself the attributes of courage being exhibited by those who are actually fighting the war.

A "chicken hawk" is one who strikes the pose of a warrior, who imputes the personal courage of a soldier in combat to themselves by virtue of the fact that they are in favor of sending that soldier off to war, or who parades around with the pretense of personal courage and resolve while assuming none of the risks. And a "chicken hawk" will, conversely, attempt to depict those who oppose such wars as being weak, spineless and cowardly even though the war opponents are not seeking to avoid any personal risk to themselves, but instead, are arguing against subjecting their fellow citizens to what they perceive are unnecessary dangers.
It is as though Greenwald, writing last July, psychically anticipated this nonsense, at the Confederate Yankee blog, from just two days ago:

Dear President Bush,

"These are the times that try men’s souls."

So Thomas Paine began a series of pamphlets in late 1776 called The American Crisis, and in which he continued, "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot may, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

All around you lies a nation demoralized, yet not yet defeated, waiting upon your steadying hand to find a solution to the problems of modern-day Mesopotamia.

Shia, Sunni, and Kurd slaughter each other along with our soldiers in what seems to be an unending campaign of bloodshed. This war is meant to sap the spirit and soul of not just one country, but legions of the faithful of many languages and creeds, across national and international borders.

Indeed, many in this land have lost hope in the noble ideas that founded this nation, and now clamor for a retreat to our own shores from those who would strike at us here as they have in the past. These well-meaning but misguided souls seek for no more blood to be spilled, for no more lives to be lost in a brutal, grinding war that sees our national will and our thirst for peace and justice challenged.

But we are made of sterner stuff, and what they do not understand is what you must know in your heart to be true, and that is simply this; there can be no peace in this war or this world without victory.

We live in a time where cynicism lords over self-sacrifice, where absent a call to rise above the mundane, the backbenchers and the critics are given voice by the simple absence of dedicated call to duty.

Early on in this great campaign you spoke to and for all of us when you said, "Great tragedy has come to us, and we are meeting it with the best that is in our country, with courage and concern for others because this is America. This is who we are."

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have heard your call, and answered to it magnificently.

Yet it seems in this dark hour that many Americans have forgotten who we are and what God set us upon this Earth to do. I firmly believe that you, a man of great Christian faith and conviction, were elected not to serve just the United States, but God’s will in spreading to the dark corners of the world both hope and freedom. It is for these two things that American and Iraqi soldiers rise every morning in a struggle that sometimes seems insurmountable, against a foe both wicked and depraved.

We must succeed, Mr. President.

It is my heartfelt conviction that God put us upon this Earth to strike out against those who would subjugate, oppress and terrorize those who should be free into an uneasy silence. This silence that will only be broken by further explosions and cries from the wounded and dying if we chose this time and this date to retreat. A retreat from Iraq, however it is phrased, is a victory for the forces of Islamic terrorism.

We must draw that "line in the sand, " here, and now, from which will not retreat.

I ask you to do what only you can, and that is to commit American totally to victory in Iraq. History has shown us that wars are not won with half measures, but with an overwhelming commitment of both manpower and conviction.

I beseech you to commit our reserves to the fight in Iraq, as many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of soldiers that the mission requires, in order to break the will and the bodies of those who fight for chaos and tyranny.

There have been many who have called Iraq "another Vietnam," but what they do not realize is that Iraq can be a Vietnam for the forces of terrorism for which they cannot withdraw without a resounding defeat. They have committed their all—their ideology, their material, and their manpower—to driving our alliance with the common man and woman in Iraq asunder. We must not fail them, or else, we will fail ourselves.

Should those who fight for freedom yield to those who fight for chaos, oppression, and tyranny? I say, emphatically, that the answer to all terrorists of every stripe must be "No."

Mr. President, I ask that you rededicate yourself and our nation to winning the war against terrorism currently being waged in Iraq. We fight not just for their freedoms, but our own.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Bob Owens
One is almost embarrassed for him.

From the safety of his chair, this Bob Owens urges President Bush to send as many tens of thousands or hundreds (!) of thousands of American reservists as it takes to achieve victory in Iraq, whatever that would be.

We fight, he writes from the safety of his chair, for freedom. One wonders if it has occurred to Mr. Owens that, were he to enlist in the regular armed services, that would be one fewer reservist who would have to be yanked away from his family and sent into the Iraqi meat grinder.

Mr. Owens writes that we, meaning himself and President Bush presumably, are made of "sterner stuff" than the defeatists who desire an end to the occupation. One wonders if his stuff is stern enough to get his Cheeto-chomping butt down to the nearest recruiting station and test his mettle under fire.

But, why should he? He is already convinced that he has been tested and vindicated against the legions of weaklings who are willing to accept defeat in the Great Clash of Civilizations. To hear him tell it, he and President Bush are fighting this war, shoulder-to-shoulder with the men and women who currently sit in the cross hairs of the enemy in Iraq. They have demonstrated the courage to call people who disagree with them "cowards."

The most embarrassing thing about this rant is that this Bob Owens actually seems to believe every word. He is indistinguishable from a mental patient who is convinced that he is Napoleon, or the Lindburgh baby. He is oblivious to how deeply into self-parody he has descended.

I have always believed that the main attribute of a chickenhawk was hypocrisy. I am beginning to think that I was wrong. The main attribute of this chickenhawk, at least, is not hypocrisy, but delusion.