James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Spitting on military service, especially by women

Posted by James McPherson on June 13, 2012

As is typical of election season, Mitt Romney’s military record (or, more accurately, his lack of one) became a news item for a few days. The issue may pop up again, though of course as a Republican Romney will never be punished for his record to the degree that actual servicemen John Kerry and Max Cleland were denigrated for their honorable service.

We pretend to honor those who serve in the military, but mostly we ignore them — or even go so far as punishing those with the guts to actually serve. The latest example comes with the news that Congressional Republicans will likely continue to prevent a female soldier who is raped by a serviceman from getting the same medical care that she would get if she were a secretary for one of those members of Congress. That inaction will come despite the fact that a woman is more likely to be raped by one of her countrymen while serving in the military than she is to be harmed in any way by an “enemy,” and more likely to be raped as a soldier than she would be if she didn’t serve.

Romney probably won’t be asked for his perspective on the issue, though he should have little credibility on anything related to the military, anyway. He is a chickenhawk, someone who supports war despite doing whatever is necessary to actually avoid service. So is Obama, the drone warrior — though he and his wife likely have done more for those who serve than Romney ever would, perhaps making the fact that military veterans tend to favor Romney a good example of how little attention people actually pay to issues (and military support for Republicans may be waning, anyway). Besides, don’t conservatives like unchecked presidential power when it comes to war?

Other notable chickenhawks include Roger Ailes, George Allen, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, William Bennett, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, John Bolton, Jeb Bush, Saxby Chambliss, Dick Cheney, Tom Coburn, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, Denny Hastert, Laura Ingraham, Alan Keyes, Charles Koch, David Koch, Bill Kristol, Jon Kyl, Rush Limbaugh, Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell, Thaddeus McCotter, Grover Norquist, Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, Michael Reagan, Karl Rove, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Michael Savage, Ben Stein, Tom Tancredo, George Will, all five of Romney’s sons and, for that matter, most members of Congress. See the “Chickenhawk Hall of Fame” for others.

In fact, America is full of chickenhawks, as Rachel Maddow points out in her new book. Americans love to get behind a war, dispite the fact that few of us consider the long-term ramifications or actually choose to serve in the military. I’m one of those, by the way, who chose not to serve — and am one of a relatively small number of American men who has never actually registered for the draft. I have no idea how I’d have reacted had I been old enough to be drafted for the Vietnam War.

Unlike the chickenhawks named above, however, I’m opposed to most wars (and opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, wearing a black armband as a sign of protest and mourning from the day the war began through Memorial Day of that year). That’s why I can appreciate the sadly ironic story in the Onion today, headlined, “Few Years In Military Would Have Really Straightened Out Troubled Teen Killed On First Tour Of Afghanistan.”

June 21 follow-up: This post has been reprinted by a conservative blog (which unfortunately sometimes relies on Fox News-style sexism to draw readers, though this particular writer is a woman who regularly contributes to the sometimes-thoughtful interactions there), so if you want to read more discussion of the issue besides the comments below, you can go here. (Note: The previous sentence has been edited for clarification, because it apparently confused another regular at that site–thanks, Joe, for pointing out the poor wording.)

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37 Responses to “Spitting on military service, especially by women”

  1. I would love to repost your article at RNL…..Yes, I’m a bit of a sh** stirrer……

  2. James McPherson said

    Feel free to repost it anywhere–I’m willing to stand behind what I write. Thanks.

  3. I shall wait for your return. You must be able to defend yourself…..it’s only fair.

  4. Sorry. Happy Father’s Day!

  5. Reuel said

    I was a Vietnam era vet, never in theater due to we were getting out as fast as we could those days. So I would like to also see a list of Democrats that were also Chicken Hawks as you refer to them as being. Yes there were some the most recent was President Clinton and his Bosnia, Iraq, Africa and Afghanistan drop and run bombing. Black Hawk down and no real back up plan. I must also reminded you that John F. Kerry spent three months in Vietnam, as all politically inspired people at that time did to get there JFK Patch he and all the other three month wonders would curiously have a whole chest full of medals after three months. I had three brother drafted and sent in and one that had two purple hearts. They all returned and I will not say luckily, because no one sent in was lucky. They all survived physically. That was the “Not War” that saw the most despicable Democratic President in History to start something that was the worst planned operation in the history of this country. You write of Republicans as if they really want to start a war as instinct, but leave out the Democrats in History that have ordered us to war as President or Voted for it in the House or Senate. I felt you were implying that this was a automatic response to a conflict only if the person was a Republican. Dude, war sucks and I was not so lucky for Desert storm one. But the rest of the world is just like that playground we all played in when we were children, the weak are bullied and that is what would happen to us if we all dodged the draft or refused to serve our country. War has always been a part of history and will always be a part of history no matter what political party you support. It seems one thing you cleverly left out was that Both Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be most civil middle east countries on the map these days. Both will turn out better than Libya, Egypt and all the others that we seem to only drop bombs on there heads with drones, yeah that just stirs the hornet nest. Great plan there by the biggest Chicken hawk in History President Obama.

  6. James McPherson said

    You can go to the site I linked to see more chickenhawks on both sides–the key point, of course, is that they are people who push war, killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, despite finding any excuse to avoid service themselves. And yes, many Dems have been equally to blame (and of course I specifically called Obama a chickenhawk above and elsewhere, though it’s too early to call him the greatest in history).

  7. Reuel said

    And to clarify my remarks, The Democrats always favor the less messy approach of dropping bombs from above. Colin after returning from his presentation at the Useless Narcissist’s (UN) told George “It is like a pottery barn, if you break it you bought it.” We beat the military in weeks and became nation builders for a decade. That is when the numbers went up for civilian casualties.Oh and Barack is building up military presents in the Gulf the as I write this. AP and others are reporting this today. I still think Hillary 2008 or 2012 would of been a much more logical choice. Just to be fair. I did read the links as I always do when reading your posts, most are pretty left leaning and less research is done on their own as to with the right leaning sites and sources. In theater most of the causality you quote were by insurgents that place civilian as shields because they know most of American don’t have the stomach for that.Believe me we on the ground and above avoid this at our peril sometimes. Vietnam was the same story, they used woman a children to distract a lot. The only reason I as may Vietnam Vets despise John F Kerry was his appearance at congress and his exaggeration of the facts on the ground. He only was there 3 months to get his card punched. What ever happen to that comfortable middle we all know will work? A world without war would be nice, but it just never going to happen, now that we have crossed the 7 billion population number, it quite possibly will increase as resources are stretched. No not doom and gloom, fact.

  8. James McPherson said

    “The Democrats always favor the less messy approach of dropping bombs from above.”

    So did Nixon, as I recall. And Bush bombed the hell out of Iraq, killing more civilians than all of Obama’s drones combined, before any troops went in.

    “A world without war would be nice, but it just never going to happen”

    Probably true. That doesn’t mean we should engage in feel-good political wars such as Grenada, Panama and Iraq. If we tried to avoid war when we could, we’d have more credibility when we couldn’t.

  9. Reuel said

    I think the G-20 showed how credibility is today. If we look weak, we get picked on. Just like playground rules. Tough but true. Putin is one tough cookie and would fully support our dismantling of our military. This country was founded by some very brave people and yes some where Chicken Hawks and the, rest were Hawks.

  10. James McPherson said

    I respect hawks who know what war is about, such as John McCain (though of course I have other complaints about him). I’m referring in this post to the chickenhawks who have no problem sending men to die in senseless wars.

    And I agree with your comment about the founders being brave people–which does nothing to diminish my claim that if we tried to avoid war when we could, we’d have more credibility when we couldn’t. Thanks.

  11. Reuel said

    Yes agreed avoid war when we could. Iraq could of been avoid and a attempt was made the hours before to take Saddam out with one hit. It missed. If it would of been a hit the plan was to wait and see if more rational people surfaced to lead that country. We could of been discussing this in a whole different perspective.Also if the UN was what it was intended to be and all countries would support sanctions, instead of the usual split. Then a lot of military actions would be not be needed. I would also like to add one “group” to your chicken-hawk list. The country of Saudi Arabia. All they would of had to do was position their military equipment on their border and in Kuwait. The American Military equipment they had at the time was far better than what Saddam had left after it Iran/Iraq war. No country wants war except the ones that make most of there profits from the selling of that equipment, IE Russia and North Korea. I do understand your point, I just think it is just a to simple of explanation to say after all that was done to avoid the war in Iraq by three different President, all three making mistakes along the way. To put full Blame on President Bush whom was put into a different world situation after 911. Many People from both parties and many of the best intelligent agencies around the world believe he still had the capability and materials to make WMD. They did find equipment and some old muster gas warhead buried in the sand. To put the blame on just President Bush 43 alone is in my view is incomplete. It is much more complected that Bush Lied and People died, He did not lie and he did what he said he was going to do before he did it. That is a rare thing in politics, agree with it or not.

  12. James McPherson said

    Yes, I’d put Saudi Arabia high on the list of countries at blame — for one thing, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. And the government may have been even more involved: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/us/graham-and-kerrey-see-possible-saudi-9-11-link.html

    And I don’t put the whole blame on Bush; in fact, I think Cheney may have been more at fault, and many others shared blame. But Bush was the man at the top, and so therefore ultimately responsible. And until further evidence turns up, I guess we’ll just have to disagree on whether Bush lied.

    I also agree that UN sanctions are largely meaningless, while pointing out that Israel has violated more such sanctions than Iraq ever did.

    Finally, about your first point–of course it’s illegal to put a state-sanctioned hit on a foreign leader. I don’t necessarily agree with that; I’ve never understood why it was more OK to kill thousands of civilians than to target their leader with assassination.

  13. William Gates said

    I think I like this site a little better than the Rio Norte Line.

  14. James McPherson said

    Thanks, William, and welcome.

  15. Wills! I can’t believe you’re leaving me for James!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKwwcCpa2Ag
    I see I must now take you down, James! (Then again, you would probably enjoy it too much….)

  16. William Gates said

    What’s up Kells?

    I think I’ll hang out over here where everything I post won’t be considered either: fallacy, illogical, ad hominem, strawman, or just plain out wrong. Sometimes a person wants to post an opinion and not be engaged in some long drawn out debate. If you do that there, you tend to get beaten up, called names, and told that you don’t think. It’s just a far-right wing echo chamber there and I’m more of an independent. There’s no variety because everyone runs off after being ganged up on.

    Thanks, James.

  17. James McPherson said

    Both of you–and diverging opinions–are welcome here. You may have noticed the comments from Reuel. He and I started communicating on another site (one that was often nasty) before he came over here, and while we frequently disagree we respect each other’s honest attempts to express opinions.

    I think we should all expose ourselves to a variety of opinions, which is why I have both liberal and conservative sites in my links. Thanks to you both.

  18. James McPherson said

    One added note: Nowadays I don’t post nearly as frequently as I once did, or as those folks over there–though of course you’re welcome to drop in anytime. Thanks again.

  19. Reuel said

    If only Washington could be so civil. I will be off to attend my daughter wedding and then some R & R in the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Bad lands area. I’ll Pick out a spot on the rock for President Obama mug. LOL. Enjoy your 4th of July.

  20. James McPherson said

    Have a safe trip, Reuel. My only visit to Mount Rushmore was one Christmas, and it was 30 below zero. Not surprisingly, we were the only ones there. When you’re scouting for the Obama spot, be sure to allow extra room for the ears. 🙂

    Congrats to you and your daughter. I’m off to see mine (and the grandson) next week.

  21. Utah said

    Mr. McPherson: You have every right to your opinion and believe it or not, I appreciate and understand your position: you hate war. I get it. However, your argument that a thing cannot be understood or executed by people who have not directly experienced it or that there are people who pushed for war for personal reasons or gains in Iraq and Afghanistan simply cannot be supported.

    I would wager that your first proposition would eliminate you from speaking about, supporting or opposing any number of issues because you have not personally experienced them.

    I think the better question is this: Is war necessary?

    This is why, in spite of your doctorate, I find your line of thought childish and naive. One thing is necessary in a world governed by laws and that is the same degree of respect of the law from all parties involved in a conflict – when one does not, force becomes the method of correcting that situation. America goes to great lengths to assure that we have used every tool available before getting to that point and in the cased of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, we pursued every avenue for decades before resorting to defending our people and our interests. This is in stark contrast to Obama’s unilateral “kinetic military action” in Libya.

    America doesn’t seek war, it gets brought to us. We are not imperialists, we do not keep what we kill.

    What I also find repugnant about your position is your easy and capricious indictment of Republicans and conservatives as the “chicken hawks”. The true chicken hawks are the weak willed and spineless civilian and elected leadership, most of who are Democrats, and who vote for actions in public and then proceed to 1) work against them behinds the scenes or 2) openly lose their nerve when things get difficult. These are your so called “chicken hawks”, the men and women who vote to do something and then say “well, I didn’t know you really meant it.” If you will look at the vote tallies for the three conflicts that I spoke of you will find that we actually did have votes and authorizations in Congress and then you can see that the true cowards are people like Reid, Pelosi, Dick Durban, Kerry, the late John Murtha, etc – Democrat liberals, all.

    They supported actions that were clearly going to lead to armed conflict and then bailed on supporting aggressive prosecution of the mission when it was politically advantageous. Just like in Veitnam with the Tet Offensive, these political opportunists have turned victory into something else and thereby guaranteed that the conflicts will be far more prolonged and painful than necessary, to borrow your phrase, effectively “spitting on the military”.

    Feel free to read about this in a post here (http://therionorteline.com/2012/01/14/pissed-off-or-pissed-on), of which this is the denouement:

    “I abhor the very savagery that I propose but we simply can’t be stuck in the middle here. War does not favor the moderate. I do not want another soldier to die when we have the power to prevent it so in the event we decide to go to war, we owe our troops the political will to commit enough destruction so that both our enemies and the societies that they live among know that they are defeated. They need to know exactly what price they will pay if they decide to continue. It is distasteful, it is harsh and it is inhuman but to do less creates a prolonged, protracted event that never will be resolved to an endpoint.

    I’m sorry but I say piss on them…and those on our “side” who would condemn our Marines.

    Semper Fi, Marines…”

    As far as using “unfortunately sometimes relies on Fox News-style sexism” to draw hits, out of 1641 posts to date, generating a little over 1.1 million hits, there are a total of 96 “Rule 5’s” – about 6% of the total posts. We’re hardly the porn site that you make us out to be.

    As I stated, you have every right to your opinion and your work will be gladly posted at our site – but you also have the right to be wrong, which, in my opinion, you are on this subject.

  22. […] at James McPherson’s site in the comments as a response to his post here. Mr. McPherson: You have every right to your opinion and believe it or not, I appreciate and […]

  23. Utah said

    One more little thing:

    Just in case you are curious, the vote tallies for “Bush’s War” were as follows:

    October 2002 – HJRes 114, the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 passed the House 296 to 133 and the Senate 77 to 23. Who voted and how is here: http://usiraq.procon.org/view.additional-resource.php?resourceID=001987

    The vote on the Authorization For Use Of Military Force in Afghanistan was 420 to 1 in the House and 98 to 0 in the Senate. Find that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Terrorists

    All of this was after 9/11 and the Iraq vote was after 16 toothless UN resolutions over 22 years finally led to Resolution 1441(unanimously passed by the UN Security Council). 1441 was the international legal basis for the war…but the assumption with “progressives” was that nobody would ever actually enforce it – until President Bush led a coalition that actually did.

    There was also a time when Democrats thought Afghanistan was a “good war”: http://spectator.org/archives/2009/12/04/democrat-wars and http://www.noozhawk.com/article/072010_michael_barone_democrats_sour_on_good_war_in_afghanistan/ – at least until they saw it as a wedge against Bush and Republicans. It is hard to argue that they weren’t all in and then changed like the kid who killed his parents and then claimed leniency because he was an orphan.

    If you want to make a valid argument, you should focus on your own “progressive” thinkers, they are the ones that are getting our soldiers killed.

  24. melfamy said

    William, i didn’t feel ganged up on, it was more like the irritating buzzing of gnats was driving me to distraction.

  25. Wills, I will protect you! My name means warrior. That or blarney….Reckon I’ve got a wee bit o both.

    James, M. (Utah) said he could not post here. Do you censor, then?

  26. James McPherson said

    Kells, no I don’t censor except in rare cases of profanity or one commenter being overly nasty to another (they can be as nasty as they want to me). I have it set so that the first comment from someone always has to be approved–it blocks a lot of spam that way.

    Utah and Melfamy, my apologies for not getting your comments on earlier. They weren’t there when I went to bed last night, and this is the first time today I’ve been close to a computer. I’ll answer some of your comments in more detail later, and you shouldn’t have any problem getting comments through now. Thanks for taking the time to read and write.

  27. Well, G., I hope you’re not referring to me as a gnat! You know, you’re all very silly boys, but I shall come over here to play with you…

  28. James McPherson said

    To Utah:

    “your argument that a thing cannot be understood or executed by people who have not directly experienced it or that there are people who pushed for war for personal reasons or gains in Iraq and Afghanistan simply cannot be supported.”

    If I had made such an argument, you might be correct. I didn’t say they couldn’t understand it–I said they have less credibility (or in the case of Romney, none), because they are hypocrits and perhaps cowards. They may have good arguments that overcome those shortcomings, of course–but their history means that the arguments should perhaps be questioned more strenuously. Just as we give more credibility to those willing to put their own names and photos behind their arguments than we do to the arguments of folks who hide behind pseudonyms.

    “I would wager that your first proposition would eliminate you from speaking about, supporting or opposing any number of issues because you have not personally experienced them.”

    Again, you’re basing it on a proposition I didn’t make. But I am glad to admit that I should have less automatic credibility on the issue than those who served in the military.

    “in spite of your doctorate, I find your line of thought childish and naive”

    A doctorate, I’ve found, does little to prevent either problem. Whether those characteristics happen to fit me, of course, is a matter of opinion. I’ve argued about issues of war at length on my own site, so won’t take the time or space to do so here.

    “What I also find repugnant about your position is your easy and capricious indictment of Republicans and conservatives as the ‘chicken hawks.’”

    I really wish people would read links (and of course in the post itself I referred to Obama as a chickenhawk). I highlighted the conservatives partly because they tend to be the ones who most strenuously favored military action in Iraq, but mostly because on other conservative blogs (not here, until now), people so often tell me that my opinion doesn’t matter because I’ve never been in the military.

    “We’re hardly the porn site that you make us out to be.”

    I think that claim is a bit strong. I wrote that the site “unfortunately sometimes relies on Fox News-style sexism to draw readers,” and considering that “Rule 5″ is your third tab above I think the characterization is fair. I also noted your site’s “sometimes-thoughtful interactions”–which doesn’t mean I’m making you out to be a collection of geniuses. 🙂

    Finally, about your “scorecard”: Yes, Democrats have been wrong about war, too. So?

    Sorry for the long response, and thanks for your patience. I was greeted by several things to answer this morning–some even related to my real job. 🙂

  29. William Gates said

    Well Greg, as you saw with James, if they don’t agree with you then you’re wrong and ganged up on. There’s no in the middle. You’re just plain wrong. I’ve had my words twisted, lied on, lied about and truly just ganged up on so much that I just lost interest. Utah is cool and he’s the reasonable one. You know my feelings on the rest.

    It’s just reminds me of politics today. No one willing to budge an inch. If so, you’re the weak one. If they like someone, they’re always right and anyone that questions them has to be wrong. If I posted anything, certain people were on the opposite of it just to be on it whether they were right or wrong. Then the sheep would follow.

    Sorry, for anyone that feels the SAG was not a union. You are wrong. Sorry, anyone that feels like Reagan was against the Brady Bill. You are also wrong. Sorry for anyone that things that blacks favor the Democratic Party for what they promise them. It’s so much more than that. It probably had something to do with how Teddy Roosevelt turned his back on Booker T Washington is when blacks started to move away from the republican party.

    So why not just acknowledge when someone has a point and move on? Why can some look the truth right in the face but still dismiss it? Was Obama’s immigration policy change a purely political move? Of course it was. If you don’t believe that it’s only because you don’t want to. Just looking at the age group tells you that since he capture that age group by far in 2008. He’s no fool. That’s the truth. Some may think differently though.

    Anyone that has a blog has the right to do whatever they want with it. Utah always made me feel welcome there, even when we didn’t agree.The others, not so much. Except dear Kelly, of course.

  30. James McPherson said

    Some excellent points, William — thanks for making them. I’ve started and stopped responding to several blogs because of the willful ignorance of their hosts or regular commenters. But sometimes the thoughtfulness outweighs the ignorance or meanness. All that’s true of both conservative and liberal blogs, of course.

    I haven’t seen enough of RNL yet to decide whether I’ll be a regular reader, though of course I’m honored that they devoted two full posts to me. 🙂 Thanks again for your comments.

  31. Well, I wish all of you boys would return because I’m an incorrigible flirt! Do you know, Wills, that I shall post a vlog of me singing at the other site? This should be fun! It’s not quite the fare for RNL or here…. Unfortunately, Mr. Kells must do all that for me….

    James, you do not like regular commenters? I’m quite amused by very many “regular” commenters at a few different sites. Have you been to RSM? (The Other McCain) He’s very entertaining as are his commenters. I wish I could figure out how to comment there. (Everyone needs a little silly now and again, and I happily provide it.) Yes, I am the village idiot. Personally, I just like to refer to this quote: “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – Shakespeare. 😆

  32. James McPherson said

    “James, you do not like regular commenters?”

    Au contraire, kells. I like regular commenters. I just don’t like the kind who say the same thing over and over, or who show up just to attack those they disagree with. I especially appreciate those who contribute thoughtfully and/or humorously–sometimes comments are better than the original posts. Thanks.

  33. Hey James! Nice Digs. I think i found a much more reasonable and accomodating home! The lighting here is so much more inviting. The RNL place reminds me of a nazi death camp.

  34. James McPherson said

    Thanks, crawfish. It is funny that folks spend so much time writing very long posts that demonstrate the very things they complain most about.

    I once described them as most resembling a group of dope-smoking college sophomore philosopher majors obsessed with girls they can’t work up the nerve to talk to (you’ve seen “Rule 5,” no doubt). Two of them spend a lot of time trying to impress each other; the others spend their time alternately trying to impress the other two and being so happy that they’re allowed to hang out with the “cooler” guys that they buy most of the dope.

  35. […] between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. In fact, they are both neoconservative pro-business chickenhawks. Neither has been acting particularly presidential in this campaign, with both using record amounts […]

  36. […] who said it.) Thinking more about it though, it occurred to me that since I am all for gender equality, I should look at some evidence. I then posted my findings on Facebook, but thought I’d […]

  37. […] here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Examples relevant to gender here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and […]

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