Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Birdbrained Accusations

I just finished reading the ridiculous column by Douglas Kern that Tech Central Station deemed fit to print. It's called "The Problem of Chickendoves", and the central idea of the piece is that anti-war people, or doves, are contemptible chickens if they have not served in the military themselves, much like those who are branded with the "chickenhawk" label. Not only is Kern's accusation and the reasoning behind it absurd, but his apparent ignorance of the recent history of US interventionism abroad makes him look all the more foolish for making such an accusation.

The following excerpt is his initial description of the problem:
The problem is stateside armchair philosophers who oppose military action and military policy, even though they never served in the military. The problem is anti-war punditry from intellectuals who think that an IED is a contraceptive and couldn't tell the difference between bounding overwatch and watching Baywatch. The problem is intellectuals who think their education and politically-correct ideology lets them know what the military needs -- better than the military knows it.

When your firm opposition to war is based on a number of things, including an awareness of the real motivations of both the enemy and the military and political agents in Washington, along with the inherent dangers that aggressive and imperialistic wars pose to liberty, then having knowledge of things such as "IEDs" and "bounding overwatch" become irrelevant. I also can't think of the last time an anti-war commentator made suggestions as to what "the military needs", other than for the need to return home ASAP. Kern's appeal to authority here is as irrelevant as it is fallacious.

He later quips that:
Heck, what do soldiers know? They're only battle-hardened professionals with unusually high educational achievements and hands-on experience with the occupation of Iraq. That the chickenhawks are on the same side as the real hawks is just a curious accident, one that will not prevent the chickendoves from "defending" the soldiers whose opinions they casually dismiss.

Unusually high educational achievements? While I don't aim to question the validity of that, I find it puzzling that Kern appeals to the educational achievements of the soldiers while completely dismissing the educational achievements of the anti-war crowd earlier in the column. Is Kern contradicting his earlier position, or is he just implying that only certain people's educational achievements are worth noting?

And what about the hands-on experience with Iraqi occupation that these soldiers have? How does this experience possibly influence one's position on the legitimacy of the war, and how does having such experience make one's opinions more valid? These soldiers by and large only know what their military superiors tell them, which isn't much aside from what these superiors feel they need to know. There is also the fact that most of what the soldiers are doing over there have nothing to do with "protecting freedom", "liberating Iraqis", or whatever the Orwellian newspeak line of the day happens to be.

The column then takes a turn for the worse, displaying the types of absurdities and ignorance that I mentioned at the beginning:
"But shouldn't the burden of proof rest upon those who call for war, instead of peace? Don't the inherent dangers of war compel us to demand that its advocates walk the talk?" In brief: no and no. War is extraordinarily bad. But a bad peace can be worse. The graveyards of the world are filled with the bodies of those who died from a hateful "peace." Given the hideous acts of oppression and injustice that spring from the lack of war, why shouldn't we hold peaceniks to the higher standard of sincerity?

When peace goes awry, soldiers are often the first ones to pay the price. When America appeared irresolute in the early eighties, who suffered: the pampered professors in their cozy collegiate nooks? Or the Marines in their barracks in Lebanon? When Islamic extremists tested America's resolve, did they explode a bomb at Harvard -- or the USS Cole? When peacemongers guess wrong, soldiers die -- not peacemongers. So when will the anti-warriors put their own necks on the line for their beliefs?

His talk of "bad" and "hateful" peace rings hollow to me, since he seems to be blissfuly unaware of our government's role in disturbing peace in years past. The fact that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11 does not serve as an indictment of some sort of peace agenda, but rather as an indictment of our government's role in preventing peace by means of interventionism throughout most of the 20th century.

His subsequent description of the bloody horrors resulting from lack of war are absolutely repugnant. To imply that the US military is attempting to prevent such bloody horrors is not only an example of specious speculation, but also outlandish when you consider the bloody horror that has occured as a result of military intervention. His reasoning implies that the 9/11 attacks resulted from some sort of vacuum, and that the only reaction worth taking is an aggressive one. He thus supports the types of actions that helped to foster anti-Americanism abroad in the first place.

His ignorance of US interventionism abroad is especially evident in his remarks concerning Lebanon and the USS Cole. If it were up to the "peacemongers", then American troops would have never been over there in the first place and would never have been the targets of extremist aggression that they ended up being. Rather than promoting peace, the troops were promoting instability and violence. William Blum, in his pertinent 2003 essay "Myth and Denial in the War on Terrorism", quotes a 1997 Department of Defense study that made the following conclusion concerning terrorism:
"Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States."

He then quotes Jimmy Carter who stated in an interview that:
"We sent Marines into Lebanon and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers -- women and children and farmers and housewives -- in those villages around Beirut. ... As a result of that ... we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful. That is what precipitated the taking of our hostages and that is what has precipitated some of the terrorist attacks."

The next person to be quoted is Colin Powell, who noted in his 1995 memoir that:
The USS New Jersey started hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would.

The subesquent attacks upon American soldiers can not honestly be labeled as a result of promoting peace, but rather can accurately be labeled as a result of aggression rooted in the types of imperial interests that have driven US foreign policy in the Middle East for decades. What Blum doesn't mention is that when Arab terrorists hijacked a TWA jet to Beirut in 1985, they kept chanting "New Jersey! New Jersey!". I happen to doubt that said hijackers were chanting "New Jersey" because they were fans of the New Jersey Devils. More plausible is that they were invoking the name of the battleship that wrecked havoc on the Lebanese back in '83, and the people who they viewed as being devils serving the agenda of Satan. So it wasn't the faulty guesses of "peacemongers" that led to such bloodshed, it was clearly the work of warmongers who were obstructing peace.

The ignorance of history shows up again near the end of Kern's column with these following claims:
Military service is also an excellent sincerity check for peaceniks who have belatedly discovered the joys of protecting innocent Muslims. Many of us suspicious-minded pro-war types can't help but notice that many war protestors didn't lose much sleep over the lives of Iraqis and Iranians when Saddam Hussein was slaughtering both. And back when the kum-ba-yah set admitted to resenting our action in Afghanistan, they fretted over the fate of Afghanis whom they were more than happy to entrust to the tender ministrations of the Taliban before 9/11. And what about our defense of Muslims during our Bosnian action? If, chickendove, you've developed a strange new concern for the fate of Muslims worldwide, take notice: the one military in the entire world that has taken up arms in the last fifty years to defend Muslim life is the American military. Feel like enlisting yet? Or is your Ph.D. proof enough of how gosh darn much you care?

Well, I didn't speak out against Saddam's atrocities against Iranians and Iraqis during the 1980s since I was just a little tyke back then. What I do know though is that there are people who have always been critical of Saddam, and those people happen to be the same people who are within the anti-war camp. The US government played a large role in the slaughtering that Kern brings up, and people like Donald Rumsfeld were right in the thick of it. Most of the people who support Bush's foreign policy also happened to support Reagan's foreign policy, which means that Kern better think twice before conjuring up memories of bloodshed committed during the '80s.

He also makes the false accusation that war critics were pro-Taliban, and mentions "our defense of Muslims during our Bosnian action" without specifying who the "our" he twice mentioned is. Please don't use words like "our" to describe the US military and it's actions. I'm not part of the US government, let alone military, and don't wish to be linked with such institutions. To assume that I and the other anti-war people approved of Clinton's "peacekeeping" is simply fallacious.

What's even more fallacious is his claim that "...the one military in the entire world that has taken up arms in the last fifty years to defend Muslim life is the American military." It is so clearly apparent that Kern's entire grasp of history has come from government-sanctioned sources, sources that have whitewashed history to remove the numerous interventions that have disrupted and devastated Muslim life in the last fifty years, going back to the days of the CIA sponsored coup of Iran's democratically elected leader in the early '50s, leading to the Shah's placement into power. When people are so uninformed on the history of US interventionism abroad, it becomes clear why such people were shocked that our country was attacked on 9/11, as well as why they support the continuation of the very cycle of intervention that makes peace a pipe dream.

Kern then proceeds to offer his advice to the anti-war crowd:
Military service would give peace-lovers a chance to prove their pacifistic mettle. You want to stop the fighting in Iraq? Want to prevent American soldiers from executing their imperialistic policies of building schools and sewers and hospitals? Stow the goofy signs, soulpatch. Forget that petition. Don't send that whiny e-mail to Fox News. I have a better way: snip off your ponytail, drop thirty pounds, and enlist.

Before I go into the utter absurdity of his advice and general position here, I just want to note that his description of "imperialistic policies" again shows not only his ignorance (willful perhaps?) concerning this issue, but also his apparent reliance on his audience's similar ignorance on the issue in order to make his statements seem credible.

Speaking of ignorance, why in the world would either a pacifist or a critic of war and/or militarism ever choose to enlist in the military? How could enlisting possibly serve the goals of those who oppose war? Not only is serving in the military not a prerequisite for valid criticism of militarism and war, but it is an option that is at fundamental odds with the principles of many in the anti-war crowd. If I am opposed to the gang warfare that plagues our nation's inner cities, do I have to be a member of one of those gangs in order to have a valid criticism of gang warfare? According to Kern's logic, I suppose I do. He then states that:
When the moment is right, and the bullets start to fly, you can order your men to stand down and Give Peace a Chance. For that brief, shining moment, you will have brought peace to the Middle East and halted the genocidal policies of George W. McHitler. Admittedly, your platoon sergeant will buttstroke you to the head at the first opportunity. After a quick court-martial, you'll spend the remainder of your adult life making big rocks into little rocks in beautiful, scenic Leavenworth, Kansas. But so what? You gotta walk the talk. If you're willing to send chickenhawks off to die in order to earn the right to support war, surely you're willing to send yourself off to incarceration and dishonor in order to earn the right to support peace.

Hmmm... the thing is, I'm not willing to send chickenhawks off to die abroad. While I am critical of those who send others off to die abroad while intentionally avoiding military service in their past, I'm not willing to send anyone abroad to die for an unjust mission. Kern must assume that all war critics are the same (they are not), and it seems that his reasoning certainly doesn't apply to very many people.

It also seems as if his understanding of the term "chickenhawk" is not exactly accurate, or at least not the same as mine. Wikipedia defines the term as "Someone who refuses to fight in war not because of conscious, like the conscientious and selective objectors but out of cowardice who have no objection to sending other people to die even though they themselves refuse to serve militarily. Chickenhawks are hypocritical cowards." The term was initially used to criticize politicians who had an active role in promoting military action, not necessarily anyone who supports such action. These politicians would fall into the "chickenhawk" category if they happened to be draft dodgers during the Vietnam war, or went AWOL, or whatever. I never considered the term to mean that war supporters had to have military experience for their opinions to be valid, which is what Kern seems to think the term is all about. No wonder he tries to flip that logic around and apply it to war critics.

So, in order to create this absurd "chickendove" claim, we've learned that Kern has had to rely upon a slew of inaccuracies and a version of history that resembles Swiss cheese. A critic of war joining the war effort? That's even more ridiculous than the notion that Tech Central Station, the seemingly neocon corporatist site that published this Kern column, promotes free markets!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good job, Freeman! Nothin' left but tatters.

9:20 AM  

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