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Mark Halperin, former ABC News Political Director and now Time magazine correspondent, explains that liberals “hate the military.” David Broder, the “dean” of Washington conventional wisdom, used a Democratic gathering in Washington to attack a 2007 speech by Gen. Wesley Clark because the general “repeatedly invoked the
Halperin and Broder give more polite voice to the same prejudices expressed by Rush Limbaugh, who insists that, by definition, a liberal: “hates the military, hates
Yet the Halperin/Broder/Limbaugh axis notwithstanding, the conservatives’ devotion to the American military seems to primarily consist of two aspects: rhetorically trumpeting one’s love rhetorically while specifically avoiding service oneself, and refusing to offer appropriate funding or support either for soldiers fighting abroad or wounded veterans returning home. As with patriotism, conservatives do like to trumpet their devotion to the military with greater enthusiasm than liberals, but while so many in the media may fall for this, it’s clearly one case where it’s far more important to watch what people do, apart from what they say.
No, I’m not writing about the chickenhawk issue today, though I could. I’m speaking about those in favor of the war who argue that defunding the war would hurt the troops and the military itself. They miss the facts: the Army is pushed to the breaking point. But owing to the misguided anti-liberal bias in the media, the argument that defunding the war would hurt the troops carries the day.
Glenn Greenwald caught this meme in a blog post over the weekend where he critiqued a recent article by Newsweek’s Jonathon Alter. Even though defunding the war wouldn’t strip the troops of the equipment they need, he argues, the American people have been convinced that they have:
“Both of the premises which Alter sets forth here are correct: (a) de-funding does not even arguably constitute ‘endangerment or abandonment of the troops,’ but (b) ‘Americans have been convinced that it does.’ And therein one finds what is the most extraordinary and telling fact of our political landscape. Namely, our
In fact, in addition to all the damage that Bush’s administration’s war has done to the people it has killed and maimed, to the reputation of the nation it has destroyed, to the budget it has busted, and to the constitution it is sworn to defend, one of its most lasting legacies has been to undermine the military institutions the president professes to admire so much. (Though to be honest, he does not admire them enough to actually give a speech suggesting that Americans enlist to fight in them, much less encourage his own daughters or other relatives to join up.)
Here are the facts: The month has been the deadliest of the year for American troops in
CAP’s own Lawrence Korb and Max Bergmann published an op-ed in the L.A. Times last week making this very point and calling the president’s bluff. While Bush wants to win in
“Although the president and his administration have insisted that operations in
New York Rep. Charlie Rangel has taken this directive literally and been proposing a re-instatement of the draft since 2003. He caused notable controversy by reaffirming his proposal after last year’s Congressional elections. House leadership has squashed his bills, but his argument is solid: “There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.”
This is not to argue that we now need a draft to defend the country. The point is that the administration is happy to push the self-sacrificing volunteers in our military today past their breaking point to reinforce their failed policy. The Bush administration conservatives who are ultimately responsible for this inexcusable abuse of our soldiers’ and our families’ trust have done so without any sense whatsoever of personal accountability—allegedly the bedrock of conservative philosophy.
“Those in highest authority,” a New Yorker editorial noted, “have been kept in office (Dick Cheney), promoted (Gonzales, Condoleezza Rice), honored with medals (Tenet, General Tommy Franks, Paul Bremer), or sent off with encomiums (Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld).” An Army lieutenant colonel and
And yet as the situation in
“There’s never been anything close to this much demand on the all-volunteer military in its 30-year history,” observed Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon even before the additional forced rotations into
Naturally, as word got out about all of the above, recruitment numbers fell precipitously. Facing its worst enlistment crisis since the all-volunteer army began in 1973, the military’s manpower shortfall grew so acute that, beginning in 2005, its leaders felt forced to accept significant numbers of new recruits with criminal records and pending criminal charges—and to offer them enlistment bonuses ranging from $14,400 to $20,000, plus $70,000 in college loans. To retain the elite enlisted soldiers in the oft-deployed Special Forces, the Army has felt compelled to come up with as much as $150,000 per soldier. The Pentagon also asked Congress to lift the age of military recruits to 42, a full six years older than it had been three years earlier.
And yet, despite all of these inducements, all three services continued to miss their recruiting missions. In 2004, the Army lost more young officers, particularly graduates of
It may be true that the troops themselves remain optimistic, as Spencer Ackerman argues in a thoughtful essay in The Washington Monthly. But, the facts demonstrate that their mission has already been betrayed beyond repair by those behind it. The vast majority of the country accepts this.
And yet the majority of the main stream media continue to treat liberals as less pro-military than conservatives because they seek to protect the troops not only from the Iraqi insurgents who seek to kill them, but Bush administration strategists who continue to allow it to happen—all because they lack the courage to admit the enormity of their error.
Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress. His weblog, “Altercation,” appears at www.mediamtters.org/altercation, and his seventh book, Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush
Research assistance: Tim Fernholz
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