Anti-war rant -- "Chicken Hawk!"

Larry Elder

9/7/2006 12:01:00 AM - Larry Elder

Chicken hawks: "cowards" who support the Iraq war, but never served in the military.

An e-mail going around the Internet purports to list "chicken hawks," including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Vice President Dick Cheney and others. It includes people like myself, who applied for and received student deferments during the Vietnam War.

Many oppose the Iraq war in good faith, believing the war ill-advised, while questioning its prosecution. But the anti-war critics' sudden respect for military service simply astonishes. Call them born-again GI Joes. When did military experience become so important?

Former President Bill Clinton remains rabidly popular among Democrats. The former president continuously offers his opinions about world affairs, including the war in Iraq. But where were the chicken hawk accusers when Clinton ran for president? Recall that Clinton campaigned -- not once, but twice -- against two opponents who not only served, but served heroically and with distinction.

Clinton first, in 1992, defeated George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush-41 enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, and after completing 10 months of training, he became the youngest naval aviator in the war. On a mission to attack Japanese installations in the Pacific, Bush's plane was shot and the engines caught fire. Bush completed his attack -- releasing his bombs scoring several damaging hits -- then flew several miles out to sea where he bailed out, and rescuers fished him from the water hours later. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the USS San Jacinto.

Clinton, running for re-election in 1996, defeated Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. Fighting the Nazis in the hills of Italy in April of 1945, Dole's platoon came under attack. His radioman hit, Dole crawled out of his foxhole to assist the downed man. Nazi machine gun fire tore into his upper right back and arm. His right arm was so badly damaged it was unrecognizable. He was not expected to live. The extensive therapy for his rebuilt arm took about three years and nine operations. Dole, twice decorated for heroic achievement, received two Purple Hearts for his injuries and the Bronze Star Medal for his attempt to assist the downed radioman.

As for Clinton's own record, his student deferment ended in 1968 following his final undergraduate year at Georgetown. A prominent Arkansas lawyer and former judge interceded, persuading the county draft board chairman to put Clinton's draft notice in a "back drawer" for a while. But in his first year at Oxford, Clinton received a draft notice. Influential friends helped Clinton get into the ROTC -- even though he already had an induction notice -- and Clinton managed to get accepted to the Arkansas ROTC program 11 days before his scheduled induction. The military expected him to attend Arkansas Law School in the fall and begin ROTC after his basic training.

Clinton, instead, returned to Oxford for the next school year. After the first draft lottery, Clinton's number was so high it was not likely to be chosen. Clinton then changed his ROTC reserve status -- which he had never fulfilled -- back to "ready to serve." In his letter to the Arkansas ROTC, explaining why he reneged on his agreement, he stated that he "loathed" the military.

Clinton, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, hailed the military record of the party's standard-bearer, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass. In endorsing Kerry, Clinton stirred up the convention with the refrain "Send me" -- contrasting Clinton's own non-service with Kerry's willingness to serve.

And yes, Kerry did serve honorably. But, according to the Harvard Crimson, Kerry first received four student deferments before graduating from Yale. He then applied for a fifth deferment so he could study in Paris, but the military turned him down. Shortly before he was to be drafted into the Army, Kerry joined the Naval Reserves.

Filmmaker Michael Moore, former President Jimmy Carter's seating companion at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, once called President George W. Bush "a deserter." How, one wonders, does the filmmaker feel about the service record of the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean?

Dean, during a military physical, carried with him X-rays and a letter from an orthopedist noting a back condition called spondylolisthesis. U.S. military doctors classified Dean 1Y -- a medical deferment. Yet Dean spent the next year pouring concrete and enjoying skiing in Aspen.

Do those who call non-military war supporters "chicken hawks" wish to confine the Iraq debate to only current and former members of the military? This excludes over 90 percent of living Americans. But, for the sake of argument, let's confine the Iraq war debate to those who served in the military, active and reserve, current and retired. Polls show 70-80 percent of military personnel supported Bush's re-election.

We are at war against Islamo-fascism. Reasonable people can debate the validity and prosecution of the war in Iraq. But reasoned debate and cheap shots are two different things.