BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
December 8, 2002
BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
Classic Rush is Limbaugh's response to a caller who got through the screeners and ambushed him on the air with details of the Limbaugh Chickenhawk Legacy. "The message," Rush says, amid plenty of whining about the personal nature of the attack, "is that unless you've been a member of the military, you have no right to support it."
(See Article on Caller Who Nailed Rush as a Draft Dodger)
How perfectly Limbaugh -- how absolutely Rush -- to restate the caller's argument in more convenient terms and then discredit it.
Of course, that isn't the message at all. A chickenhawk doesn't qualify himself by any combination of "supporting" the military and "not having served" in the military -- a chickenhawk qualifies himself by clamoring for war (the possible expenditure of other people's lives) when he himself has studiously avoided participating in war -- the possible expenditure of his own life. He polishes his chickenhawk status to a high gloss not by having his own opinions about a prospective war, but by questioning the patriotism, courage, and common decency of those who disagree with him about that war.
The terms are not interchangeable here. "Supporting the military" means -- or damned well ought to mean -- praying that our military personnel are well cared for and well led; insisting as citizens that our military personnel are asked to expend their lives only when no other options remain, and only when the values involved are worth the expenditure of human life because human life isn't worth living without them; and understanding that in a constitutional democracy, the whole purpose of having a powerful military in the first place is to avoid having to use it.
Only when all those conditions have been satisfied and the military is actively engaged against an enemy -- only then -- does rooting for the conduct of a particular war equate to "supporting the military." Clamoring for the regular use of the military -- the expenditure of other people's lives, that is -- as the personal policy tool of an unaccountable executive is not "supporting the military."
"Not having served" in the military is neither here nor there in one's patriotic portfolio -- there are all kinds of reasons for "not having served" at various times in American history, including long periods during which no particular service was called for. But "not having served" isn't the same thing as avoiding service when it is called for -- it's not the same thing, say, as having the family doctor get you out of your physical by sending the draft board a letter claiming you have a "pilonidal cyst." Showing up for your draft physical and having the medicoes find that you're unable to serve because of this disabling condition is "not having served"; having a friendly doctor pre-empt your physical with this dubious claim when you have been called is "avoiding service."
And as for the claim that pointing out Rush's chickenhawk status is a personal attack -- in formal logic, the ad hominem attack is only invalid when an attack on the person is used to avoid the issue. It's perfectly valid when the issue itself is character -- and Rush makes it valid in this case, regularly, by questioing the character of people who disagree with him. Having and voicing your own opinion of a particular military situation -- regardless of your own military background -- ought to be your absolute right; but if you're going to question the courage, patriotism, and common decency of people who disagree with you about that military situation, you're assuming a personal moral ground that's subject to challenge on a personal moral level.
There are other quibbles to be aired with Rush's notion that he "supports the military," of course. Surely part of "supporting the military" would be honoring the service of those who have heeded the nation's call -- and surely Rush would claim that he does so. But military people being "supported" by Rush today would do well to consider how Rush honors the service of others who have gone before -- they'd do well to heed his sneering dismissals of Al Gore's Vietnam hitch (Al was there, Rush -- you weren't), or his contemptuous questioning of decorated veteran John Kerry's war record, or his regular smearing of POW John McCain. Military people being "supported" by Rush today ought to see clearly that the support is conditional, and that no amount of sacrifice today will justify disagreeing with Rush in the future.
Again, this is all classic Rush Limbaugh -- gutlessness personified. After an abortive appearance or two on talk shows, early in his celebrity, Rush has since avoided confrontation under any but the most carefully controlled circumstances -- he won't debate with anyone unless he's got his finger on the "mute" button, and he won't confront any idea unless (as is the case here) he has the opportunity to restate it first. He refuses to talk responsibility even for his own mouth, retreating behind the facade of "entertainer" whenever he actually gets cornered on some lie or other abuse of the public trust. He regularly assails others for things he himself does as a matter of routine -- the "personal attack" complaint spilling out of this particular mouth, for example, is wonderfully ironic.
I don't know whether Rush Limbaugh is a physical coward or not. Who other than the sufferer can really know what crippling agonies are entailed in having a pilonidal cyst? And in the final analysis, I suppose that anyone willing to beg himself out of military service on the basis of having a pilonidal cyst ought to be taken at his word, for the good of the military itself.
But physical coward or no -- it's abundantly clear that Rush is an intellectual coward.
R. E. Crawford
BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
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The call exposing Rush as a ChickenHawk can be found at: Caller Exposes Rush as a ChickenHawk: See Bottom of Rush Limbaugh Page.
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