[Re-edited for spelling, grammar, emphasis and clarity. Readers are welcome to point out any other deficiencies in these areas or others.]
I’ve never talked about MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann here before but, of course, when others have feature clips from his evening news show, I’ve watched. People on the Right make fun of the guy and they should. From my amateur shrink perspective, the episode of Countdown with Keith Olbermann in which that guy could have a full-on meltdown may happen at anytime. Listen to the tenor of his voice, the oscillation. The barely suppressed hysteria is almost palpable and each time I watch a clip of Olbermann I keep expecting to hear the Son-of-Dean-Scream--one so startling that it would even make the DNC Chairman say "dang, that fool is crazy!"
So when Olbermann stupidly suggests that President Bush should go to Iraq and fight the war himself, who could get angry at it? Even the Nazi references are laughable; it's just Keith tuning up for a primal bellow. However, the 'chickenhawk' meme isn't only used by Olbermann. Though its usage seemed to have fallen out of favor for a short time, as public opinion moves toward favoring the end of the US presence in Iraq, it is again becoming fashionable for anti-warriors to wield the word as a rhetorical weapon.
For this reason, I think we need to understand what the actual purpose of using "chickenhawk" is. Some think that the usage is intended to shame silence into supporters of the troops --and supporters of their mission--who have never served in the military. That's one of the goals, but it's only a secondary one; a means to an end.
People who wield the 'chickenhawk' epithet have but one primary objective. This objective is identical to that of journalists like Joel Stein and William Arkin (who openly express contempt for the troops); identical to that of the exploiters of Jesse MacBeth and of Amorita Randall (two emotionally-disturbed individuals who were used to feed the idea of large-scale brutality perpetrated by the US military); and that objective is identical to that of the "shapers of the narrative." CBS (Rathergate) and The New Republic (see below) are but two of the more well-known “shapers.”
This is the main objective: to demoralize the troops so grievously that the war will end.
It's like this. Troops thrive on support from those who they defend--whether those defended have served or not. When U.S. soldiers/marines/airmen/sailors volunteer to go to a hot, sandy, alien place, to help people very different from Americans build a democratic nation-state, they want to know that we back home ‘have their backs.' It isn’t such a difficult concept to grasp.
However, those who want non-military supporters of the troops to shut up say that if pro-war persons really believed in victory, they would join the military themselves or would “make” their adult offspring join the military (however that’s supposed to work). And if neither of these has occurred, the anti-warrior says that he/she is justified in calling the pro-war person a ‘chickenhawk’--that is, a hypocrite. This bit of reasoning is a feel-good ploy for those who think that feeling good about themselves is the most important thing in the world. And that’s where the US military comes in.
What the anti-warriors really want is for military members to feel bad about themselves; to feel unloved and unappreciated. Anti-warriors want GIs to beg to come home in disgrace; and the anti-warriors calculate that if the folks back home stop expressing their support for the troops, these goals will be reached that much faster.
Anti-warriors who wield the chickenhawk IED want to emotionally castrate the troops.
As many others have observed, the anti-warriors have used all manner of pinhead-conceived, insulting methods designed to either cajole the “stupid-brutal” GIs out of Iraq or shame them out of there--methods using condescension coupled with factual and historical inaccuracies (Reggie Rivers); methods using laughably counterfeit facsimiles of military life (Rathergate, Macbeth, TNR); methods displaying an insensitivity so outrageous--and depraved--that we observers can scarcely believe that those methods have been going on for two years (CODEPINK’s weekly “protests” before the gates of Walter Reed Army Medical Center). Using these tactics has no different purpose than does using the 'chickenhawk' label.
And they do this because the anti-warriors are unable to comprehend other mindsets, other values, other priorities, other fundamental beliefs. The anti-warriors can never understand why any person would volunteer to serve in the military during a war (as Steve Lopez demonstrated). That this same deficiency coexists with the inability to understand that the Jihadists cannot be talked out of their ultimate desire--making the world over in Islam’s image--makes sense.
And because the anti-warriors can't this get this about Jihadists, they aren’t able to understand that whichever road we had taken back in 2003, we’d still be fighting Jihadis today--or tomorrow. So it is that anti-warriors like Olbermann will continue to spout of all kinds of crazy ahistorical nuttiness.
But, don’t worry, anti-warriors. When the Jihadists bring the “struggle” to America (again), we “stupid-brutal” GIs--present and retired--will still have your backs.
UPDATE: Lots of people are wondering what "undisclosed location" Howlin' Howie is
tied up holed up in. None of his foot-in-mouth musings have been ridiculed by the Right side of the blogosphere for some time. Come back, Howard Dean! We miss you.
UPDATE: There are some Dean missives here.