Sunday, July 22, 2007

Politics: My ass = officially chapped.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you...

-from "Tommy", by Rudyard Kipling

The most recent steaming pile of "Anonymous Tell-All From Iraq" proffered by The New Republic (and already ripped by the The Weekly Standard, among others,) is going to be lapped up by its echo-chamber audience because it caters to one of two mutually-contradictory myths that they hold near and dear to their hearts; two myths that positively grind me to a halt.

The first myth, and the one not played up to by this latest laugher, is the Young Republican Chickenhawk Myth. Simply stated, it runs that the U.S. military should be brought home out of pity because it is populated by the dregs of society, uneducated dropouts from the wrong side of the track with room temperature IQ's and fewer prospects for a rosy future than the Washington Nationals, and who deserve our sympathy for being forced to fight a war to benefit the wealthy and educated children of privilege. The other myth, the one catered to here, is that of Soldier-As-Barbarian; a psychotic killer who has finally found in the U.S. military and its immoral war a family of peers and a stage for his depravity.

Compelling myths, especially if you don't know any actual soldiers. Any tales that bolster these myths are going to be believable to the echo-chamber denizen, accustomed as he or she is to being fed The Truth from Reliable Sources. For people who love their "Question Authority" tee shirts so much, they don't seem to actually do an awful lot of it; witness how little Questioning Jesse Macbeth initially got on claiming to be an Authority on Iraq.

These distorted views piss me off so badly because they spurn the reality of the soldiers and airmen I know, the ones I call my friends. An infantry mortarman working on his Master's in history; a man who gave up the pay of a nuclear physicist to go back into the army as an E-5 in the infantry after 9/11; an MP NCO college student whose father-in-law is a district attorney: are these the disenfranchised, uneducated proles dragooned into fighting for The Man? A career senior NCO with a degree in Theater and a love for the poetry of Khalil Gibran; an infantryman trained as a gourmet chef: These are the vulgar barbarians I'm to scorn?

Before trying to concoct myths, you should spend some time in the company of actual soldiers. Actually knowing a soldier other than the ones you saw on the screen in Platoon or Jarhead would make your myths so much more believable. Of course, actually knowing a soldier might make you pause before concocting your myths in the first place.


J.R.Shirley said...

There you have it. I know a lot of not-brilliant soldiers, but I'd hardly call them the dregs of society.

Nancy Reyes said...

jrshirley "knows" lots of "not brilliant soldiers"?
well, considering most soldiers have an IQ higher than the average American, that's funny.

Tam said...

jrshirley is fresh back from Afghanistan.

I'm sure he'll grant that there is a vasty gulf between "not-brilliant" and "stupid".

Anonymous said...

Right on...

phlegmfatale said...

I have been angry about this for so long that I haven't been able to boil it down into words fit for polite society. Yeah, I'm tacky like that. Thanks for verbalizing this so brilliantly, sans potty language.

Chris said...

I'll just dive right into the potty mouth:

Both of these myth's are planted in so much fucking bullshit something green will grow no matter how much sunshine they get.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan we ran into, and had to work around, a whole wall of regular Army fucktards, but this in no way accounts for the state of the Army, the Air Force, Navy, or the beloved corp in any way.

Most of the fucktards we had to deal with were perfectly intelligent people, they were just trained that stupidity and obstinance were ingredients for success. Every one of the soldiers were reasonable and intelligent when we dealt with them on a personal and professional basis. The worst of the lot to deal with were soldiers that stayed in the military because they did not have the interpersonal skills to survive in the "real" world.

I can vividly recall a fellow contractor relating the tale of how they had been subjected to "hostile workplace (sexual harassment)" remedial training [and you have to put a beer in my hand to hear the entire tale]. The contractor vividly explained that a "hostile workplace" involved getting fucking shot at, mortars, random rockets, and co-workers bleeding out while you are administering first aid. The real fucktards in that situation are people more worried about hurt feelings than bullet holes.

Sure, in the end, we had to deal with soldiers that were dumber than a box of rocks, but they were few and far between. Every soldier that was brighter than your average firefly damn well missed their family, but they knew why they were there and they appreciated an opportunity to help other people in the world understand freedom's kiss.

Anonymous said...

The number of people that KNOW so much about the military that they have never been, remind me of why I confess to knowing nothing about women, I have never been one, but love to admire them in their best and when they are the best.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on the Urban Legend of Chickenhawks:


Anonymous said...

Try again with HTML,

My thoughts on the Urban Legend of Chickenhawks

Check out Bill Whittle at

This is some fine writing.


MadRocketScientist said...

Oh how I wish the Chickenhawk was a myth.

Many of the men and women I knew while I served were far from stupid, but a lot of them were like me, people from poor backgrounds who were proud to serve and who were using their service as a way to escape the povery of their youth, or to create opportunities that may not have existed before.

After I was retired, I went back to school and worked for a time in the Business School at my University. I met a lot of students (from all over campus, but a lot were in the Business School) who were all for the war but who were all to happy to let another do the fighting.

These people were disgusting. If you are so gun-ho for the fight, join up and serve. Don't give me weak excuses.

"Oh, the Air Force didn't want me because I had some things on my Juve record." - Guess what, the Army is not so picky these days.

"I want to be a Marine, but I need to get in better shape first." - Son, you must not know many Marines, they would be MORE than happy to help you with your weight loss program, they got this great fat camp down near sunny San Diego.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but this is a straw man version of the chickenhawk argument. The argument isn't that soldiers are all a bunch of poor, ignorant fools. It's that gung ho College Republicans won't join the patriotic and intelligent men and women in uniform. Most soldiers' politics reflect the nation as whole - some conservative, some liberal, some moderate and some apolitical. Today's high-tech military both lures intelligent people and helps train citizens for high-tech jobs once out of the service. The folks in the military are not the dregs of society. But neither are they trust fund kids in daddy's Hummer with a W sticker.

There are two arguments here. One, long debunked, that soldiers are soldiers because they are outcasts in society. The other, not debunked at all, identifies hyper-partisan Young Republicans who chastise other people's patriotism but who won't back up their words with action.

Now, as to the argument that if supporters of war must serve in the military, then supporters of health care must become doctors, etc., that's an absurd parallel. As any soldier will tell you, his or her service is not just another job. He potentially sacrifices his or her life for the sake of the country. It isn't required that a war supporter serve, but it's a testament to a war supporter's honor that he or she put his or her life on the line for that belief. Surely the volunteers who lined up to join at the beginning of the Civil War, WWI and WWII felt that service in the military was necessary to uphold their sense of honor and duty at the time. Many who joined up after 9/11 felt the same urge.

There is and should be no requirement that people serve in the military to hold a certain political view. But there is a question of honor; how can one look oneself in the mirror and sacrifice nothing for a cause one believes in so fervently?

Gewehr98 said...

How about a pre-med student who joined the Air Force in 1986, and went for 20 years and 2 months?

(I'd do it again, too)

LissaKay said...

Elrod ... you lose the argument against the war the very second you launch the "chickenhawk" meme. Please stop, it is so very, very tiresome. You attack the messenger, not the message. Argumentum ad hominem, and the only thing you accomplish is to display your own simple mind and limited critical thinking skills.

However, should you desire to take the "chickenhawk" argument to the next level, by asserting that only those that actually serve in the military should be allowed to voice an opinion on military matters and national defense, then by all means ... let's take away civilian oversight and control from the military and let them run themselves. Call the Pentagon ... I am sure they would love to entertain your ideas.

Lastly, if only the those bearing the uniform are allowed to have an opinion and say-so in the matter ... well, fine, since the overwhelming majority of the men and women currently serving in the military are solidly behind the effort to secure and stabilize Iraq and the Middle East, I guess we can go along with that.

1charlie2 said...

ANYONE, who, for whatever reason, supports the use of the word "chickenhawk," loses this vet's respect. Instantly. Permanently.

It is nothing, nothing but a morally-bankrupt attempt to diminish or shut down debate.

An attempt that none of the troops I know, nor any of the vets I have ever spoken to about it, will ever support.

I appreciated, and still appreciate, folks who supported my missions. Whether or not they, themselves, served.

Oh, occasionally, I have been amused by their enthusiasm, as I would be at an FNG's gung-ho attitude, but it never bothered me. It certainly never made me angry.

What did bother me, especially later at college, was (there's really no other accurate way to put this) the elite, PhD-toting liberal nitwits who were so godawful prejudiced and bigoted they actually said things to me like "You were in the military ? Wow, I never would have guessed, you're so smart. Whatever made you join the military ?"

(Truthfully, it was only three of the PhD's across the whole time, but it made a real impression on me)

And I agree with lissakay that, logically, if only vets or active-duty can "morally" speak in support of a war, then only they can speak in opposition to it.

And that plays hell with the Commander-in-Chief role, doesn't it ?

MadRocketScientist said...

People who support the war, or support the troops, don't need to serve in the military, but they should do more than run their mouths and put a magnetic yellow ribbon on the back of their car.

I never asked those students at my college why they didn't sign up for the military, I asked them if they were serving their country. I got weak excuses as to why they could not join the military.

No one ever said:

"I am also a volunteer deputy/fireman/EMS"

"I raise money for the Fisher House"

"I gather items for troop 'care packages' and send them to Iraq/Afghanistan"

"I volunteer at the local VA/VFW/American Legion"

The military is not the only way to serve.

Draven said...

Most of these fools don't even realize that most felons can't join the military anymore.

Draven said...

Btw, I served as a commo tech in the Army. Very VERY above average intelligence. Messed up my legs and got discharged. Finally just now graduated with a BA in Film with a 3.98 GPA.

Anonymous said...

I have somewhat lost patience with those who advance the chickenhawk card. This is about their self-loathing for wanting to surrender. I support the troops, I pay my taxes. I expect the Armed Forces to protect this nation. I am not picky how they do it.

It is a volunteer army. You don't want to volunteer, then don't. But don't bring this crap which is about your own vanity and remorse.

No one ask you to serve. Those of us that want to see the people who attacked, enabled, collaborated, and financed the attack on New York be forced to surrender unconditionally don't care what you think. Please read the part above about enabling. Read it again for good measure.

This is about a way for cowards to be able to live with themselves for wanting this country to retreat. WMD, blah, blah, Bush lied people died, blah, blah, Al-Qaeda and their allies have been killing people for twenty years.

They deserve the response the Germans and the Japanese begged for. Two words, unconditional surrender.

Them, not us.

10-4, Elrod? Soothe your conscience some other way.