Thursday, December 08, 2005

Murtha, Kerry, and Chickenhawks

It has been argued recently that Representative Murtha and Senator Kerry have first hand experience in a war—therefore their criticisms about the war in Iraq have added weight. They are, of course, much ballyhooed by those who are anti-war because they are two politicians who are vocally against the war. Does their experience give their opinion extra weight? Should we take their advisements more seriously than other politicians? Before answering those questions, perhaps we should actually find out what the other combat veterans in Congress think.

Senator John R. Warner of Virginia was in the Navy during the closing days of WWII and a ground officer with the Marines in the Korean War. He supports the war and the President’s plan, as he outlined in a recent speech:
“I've got this book right here. It's entitled "Victory in Iraq." And let's have at it. I think it's achievable if, again, we, you know, if we made some mistakes in this thing, and I freely admit in my own shortcomings perhaps as chairman not probing more deeply but we're where we are, and we should be forward- looking.

“And look at the accomplishments that the Iraqi people, with our support, have had: Two elections, a third one coming up in a matter of weeks, establishing a new government, writing a constitution. We are making progress.”
Senator John R. McCain of Arizona who was a Navy pilot in Vietnam and was a POW after being shot down. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. He has had some disputes with the administration about Iraq, but he supports the war and feels it is important that we win. Recently on meet the press he said:
“I think the president has done a good job. I think he's tried to--and particularly last week at the Naval Academy--given a very articulate presentation on the challenges that we face. I think it would be wrong for me to sit here and say we've done everything right and, you know, this has been unnatural or--you know, accidents that took place. We've made serious mistakes, and I'm frustrated by them, and most Americans are, too, but most Americans, I think, still appreciate that if we had some kind of premature withdrawal, that the consequences would be very severe. And I'd also suggest--and again, I'll probably--I'm not in any way concerned about saying this--that we will probably see significant progress in the next six months to a year.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was an Army Ranger who served in combat in Vietnam. He supports the war. According to CNN, Hunter, whose son currently serves in the Marines, recently said U.S. troops should leave only when, "in the judgment of the war-fighting commanders, Iraqis are capable of defending their own country."

Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas is a 29-year Air Force veteran and spent nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam—more than half that time in solitary confinement. Recently he had this to say about talk of withdrawal:
“Any talk – even so much as a murmur – of leaving now– just emboldens the enemy and weakens the resolve of our of troops in the field. That’s dangerous! If you don’t believe me – check out Al Jazeera. This story is on the front page. We can’t do that to our fellow Americans over there.”
The list of doesn’t stop there, for there are other, less prominent and less vocal, combat veterans in Congress.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was a pilot in China with the "Flying Tigers" of the Fourteenth Air Force from 1943 to 1946 During World War II. He held the rank of First Lieutenant, and received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals, as well as the Yuan Hai medal of Taiwan. He supports the war.

Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey was a combat veteran of Vietnam. He supports the war.

Rep. John Kline of Minnesota was a Marine who saw combat duty in Vietnam and Somalia. He supports the Iraq war.

Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia served in combat in Vietnam and was awarded the Combat Medical Badge and two Bronze Stars. He supports the war.

Rep. Joseph R. Pitts served three combat tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Air Medal six times. He supports the Iraq war.

Those are just the Republican combat veterans. The list could get longer were we to add the Democratic combat veteran supporters of the Iraq war (who certainly exist, as witnessed by the recent vote on withdrawal), or were we to add to the list the veterans who were not called upon to serve in combat.

In the final analysis, the argument that we should give Murtha and Kerry’s words added weight doesn’t fly when faced with the reality that their experience is not unique, and their opinions are not widely held by other leaders of similar experience. The other glaring problem with adding weight to their words is that it ignores the opinions of the majority of the current military leadership in theater that are better positioned to make such a judgment. It is, in short, a slightly more clever recasting of the chickenhawk argument, only used to prop up a preconceived narrative in the absence of actual supporting evidence—and wrong for many of the same reasons.

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