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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eagles vs Ducks: Promoting War from the Safety of Home

Eagles vs Ducks: Promoting War from the Safety of Home
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster: National Archives
Click for full-sized Image

Evidently, last weekend there was a "Gathering of Eagles" in Washington, D.C. Organizers claimed that there was a "threat" against the Vietnam Veterans' memorial, though they had no actual evidence of any such threat from anyone; but a friend of a friend of a friend assured someone reliable that vile leftists would do something awful. Of course the half dozen or so people who still support the GOP occupation of Iraq simply had to get together to defend the memorial, right?

Indeed, the actual numbers of those who showed up is a matter of more than a little debate. Michelle Malkin originally claimed that the National Park Service reported an official estimate of 30,000 “Eagles,“ but there's just one problem with that: the NPS doesn't give official estimates anymore. The Bush administration forbids them from doing this now. The text was changed to say that it's an "unofficial estimate" from the NPS, but they denied issuing any numbers.

Sadly, No, has all the details about this little, uh, detail. They also report that a mere 1,826 people pledged to attend — far fewer than the 30,000 they insist were there. Even if each of those who pledged to attend brought 5 friends, and picked up 5 more hitchhikers along the way, they'd still be far short of their claimed numbers.

More important than the numbers, though, is the self-righteous and militaristic manner in which this event has been promoted. These so-called "Eagles" are patting themselves on the back for supporting and defending a war when few if any of them are willing to actually fight in this war. For a long time now liberal critics of the GOP war have noticed the curious fact that so many young Republicans of military-serving age may be very loud and vociferous in their support of the war, but they don't back up that support by actually serving in the military.

Why is that, especially given the fact that the military is falling short of recruiting goals and more people are needed in Iraq for Bush's much-lauded escalation of hostilities? Max Blumenthal attended the College Republican National Convention in 2005 and found out what young Republicans thought about the idea of supporting the war in Iraq in deeds rather than merely words and propaganda:

By [David] Horowitz’s logic, College Republicans fight terrorism when they respond to professors who compare conservatives to Nazis by staging sit-ins in their offices, which he advised conventiongoers to do. And they are beating back the Iraqi insurgency when they demand that their university budget more money toward bringing conservative speakers (like Horowitz) to campus, which he also advised them to do. This equation holds a special appeal among College Republicans who are loath to risk their lives on the battlefield but don’t want to feel that they are missing the action either.

In interviews, more than a dozen conventiongoers explained why it is important that they stay on campus while other, less fortunate people their age wage a bloody war in Iraq. They strongly support the war, they told me, but they also want to enjoy college life and pursue interesting careers. Being a College Republican allows them to do both. It is warfare by other, much safer means.

I chatted for a while with Collin Kelley, a senior at Washington State with a vague resemblance to the studly actor Orlando Bloom. Kelley told me he’s “sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain” and added, “This isn’t an invasion of Iraq, it’s a liberation--as David Horowitz said.” When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn’t want him to go. “They’re old hippies,” Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. “Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality,” Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, “I support our country. I support our troops.” So why isn’t he there? “I know that I’m going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we’re there [in Iraq],” Hauser explained, pausing in thought. “I’m a fighter, but with words.” [The Nation]

These sad, pathetic statements were even be found in the mouths of people attending my alma mater:

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. “The people opposed to the war aren’t putting their asses on the line,” Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn’t he putting his ass on the line? “I’m not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country,” he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, “and I wasn’t going to pass that up.”

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. “We’re the big guys,” he said. “We’re the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit.”

So, college Republicans have more important things to do back home — more important than helping ensure the success of the war they support so much when it comes to other people serving and risking their lives. It’s not odd that critics of the war don’t join the military in order to help fight it; it is odd, however, when supporters of the war spend more time worrying about their own lives rather than working to help the war succeed.

It’s true that not everyone joins every cause that they believe in — most people support the police and hospitals without becoming a police officer or a doctor. That, however, is a different type of situation because it represents a career and life-long commitment. No one expects war supporters to make the military their career. Enlisting for a single tour of duty is another thing entirely, though. This is especially true given how the numbers of those who allegedly attended the "Gathering of Eagles" would be sufficient to meet the needs of Bush's escalation the war in Iraq — an escalation which I'm sure they all support.

The failure of these people to enlist suggests that their support of the war doesn’t extend to any sort of real, personal commitment that would place themselves in harm’s way. Perhaps there are other, more reasonable explanations, but the ones described above don’t qualify in my opinion. Cory Bray, for example, doesn’t have a good excuse for not enlisting — he’s just concerned with his own life and his own future career; supporting the war appears to be something he does because there is no risk to him or his plans.

Are people like this really cowards who are just posturing for the sake of politics? Well, if it walks like a duck...

This poster was originally a recruiting tool for the Navy during World War II. It read "Join the Navy: The Service for Fighting Men."

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