ACRU

The Tillman Hearing: You Guys Are Heroes and Everything, But Please Surrender by Next Year.

In the name of the robust debate the ACRU hopes to foster, I want to respond to a comment posted by “Repack Rider,” who disagrees with my assessment of the Tillman hearing. His remarks are set out in full in the comment section to my original Tillman blog.

My view of the hearing is that it was mostly a charade, designed ostensibly to laud Tillman and his comrades, but actually to smear our armed services as corrupt — and thus indirectly, but significantly, undermine support for the war we have asked them to fight.

The principal thrust of Repack Rider’s criticism is that Democrats sincerely praised Tillman and the military generally, while Republicans sought to “muddle” these things (although no quotations illustrating Republican “muddling” are provided). Repack Rider also states, again without quoting Tillman or suggesting where supporting evidence might be found, that “it is not a secret” that Tillman viewed the invasion of Iraq as “illegal and a war crime.” Repack’s final observation is this: “You think it’s a good war? Why aren’t you in uniform? Manners prevent me from telling you what I think of people who like wars as long as they can send others out to fight them. Oh, screw manners. You are a chickenhawk, a coward hiding behind a blog.”

Several points deserve mention.

First, the ACRU welcomes debate and dissenting voices. Liberals may want to impose more costs and risks on debate by such things as a revival of the “Fairness Doctrine” and the snarling intimidation of speech codes and mandatory political correctness. If that is in fact their choice, it is unwholesome and I do not agree with it. It will not be the ACRU’s choice.

Second, I am happy nonetheless that we have been joined by a self-identified member of the ACLU. (Repack invites readers to his web page, which bears as its most prominent feature an ACLU logo). To my knowledge, Repack is not a designated representative of the ACLU, which therefore cannot fairly be tagged with responsibility for what I believe its more moderate members would view as overheated language. Still, I welcome the ACLU, in whatever form, to the debate.

Third, at no point in my Tillman blog did I refer to Republicans doing this or Democrats doing that; indeed I made no partisan references whatever. It’s hardly a secret that most Republicans in Congress support the war and most Democrats oppose it. But it is not strictly a partisan issue, and there was no attempt to portray it as such. Prominent Democrats like Sen. Lieberman and former Sen. Zell Miller support the war, and prominent Republicans like Sen. Hagel and former Sen. Chafee do not.

As to the core of Repack’s criticism: It is true that I stated my views in a blog — this after all being a blog site. Whether I (or anyone else who writes or comments here) is a “coward hiding behind a blog” is a different matter. In fact, I do everything this medium permits NOT to hide. I post under my own name, and my picture and professional biography are available on the site for anyone to see.

Repack directly implies that those not in the military have no business stating an opinion on the war, or at least no business stating a FAVORABLE opinion of it. One might detect here an attempt to skew the “debate-eligible” population for less than analytical purposes. But the more important point is that, for a card-carrying member of the ACLU, Repack takes an astonishing stance. It would disqualify millions of our citizens (disproportionately women, I might add) from participating in the discussion of Iraq, which is at the moment our most important national debate. ACLU members may have forgotten a great deal of what they used to know about the value of free speech, but surely they have not forgotten THAT much.

Substantively, Repack’s desire to limit discussion of the war to those in uniform (or veterans) is simply foolish. No demographic group more strongly supports the war than the military and those who have served in it. Not for nothing were numerous representatives of veterans groups standing at the President’s side when he announced that he would veto the surrender-date war funding bill. And General Petraeus will appear before Congress this week to present the military’s perspective on whether our security interests are better served by (1) continuing what has admittedly become a protracted conflict to bring freedom and the rule of law to Iraq, or (2) announcing a surrender date to an enemy that murders at random and videotapes decapitations for the fun of it.

Finally, Repack’s “chickenhawk” complaint warrants a short rejoinder. The complaint is, of course, strictly ad hominem. It has nothing to do with the merit of the arguments for or against the war and does not pretend to. To whatever microscopic extent it may be thought to have analytic content, however, it’s nonsense. FDR did not merely SUPPORT sending other people to fight a war he backed; he actually SENT them. But he had never been in uniform. (The same is true, to a much lesser extent, of Bill Clinton when he sent troops to Somalia). Under Repack’s definition, this makes FDR a “chickenhawk” and a “coward.” If that is what Repack and other war critics think of FDR, they are of course free to say so. To my knowledge — and for good reason — they haven’t.