Along the Tracks

Monday, October 11, 2004

Confessions from the armchair

From the Saturday Northwest Signal:

As I kick back in my armchair and consider the present state of the war, I must admit to having my confidence shaken.

This is an unusual state of mind for chickenhawks such as yours truly. But as my Zionist masters have provided me no instructions of late and with the Bush administration’s hidden hand making Iraqi Prime Minister Iyaad Allawi seem far more lifelike than Al Gore, I am left to fend for myself.

Such moments of pause encourage introspection, and I find myself wondering where I lost my way. After all, fellow armchair warrior Franklin Delano Roosevelt was resolute despite the sharp words of opposition by military veteran and hero Charles Lindbergh, who called the war a big diversion from FDR’s depressing (literally) economic record.

Indeed, few chickenhawks have been waverers, surprisingly enough. When the chips were down, and the re-election campaign looked to be going nowhere against an internationalist who felt it was time to declare peace and get back to work on the economy, Abraham Lincoln stood firm, vowing to finish the job, whether politically advantageous or not.

Of course, a few wingback wing men have carried things a little overboard, by some estimations. Woodrow Wilson did an about-face and sent troops into the Great War after promising to avoid that “European” conflagration. When antiwar activists stepped forward to question the motives and honesty of that commander-in-chief, he fought back from the safety of his cushy Oval Office big chair - and threw the critics in prison.

Fortunately for the few who deem themselves, and only themselves, qualified to speak on the subject of war - or any other subject, I gather - George W. Bush doesn’t really count as an armchair warrior. He’s more of a behind-the-lines slacker. Or rather, he was, back when he was “young and irresponsible.” He was accepted into the Texas Air National Guard (quite possibly with help from well-placed family friends), performed reasonably well for a couple years, then became enamored by politics and showed up only when he had to, preferring the intricacies of senate campaigns and, later, business school to the hurry-up-and-wait of National Guard service. Anyway, Guard service was sneered at by Bush’s far braver contemporaries, who were out marching for peace through the dangerous streets of San Francisco and spitting on the real soldiers as they returned from the war.

Meanwhile, John Kerry signed up for the Navy Reserves and was sent to Vietnam, where he served honorably, found himself at the wrong end of ordnance three times in four months and came back home. Quickly reading the turning mood - a skill Kerry has sharpened across the years - he sent his band of brothers up the river on a swift boat to nowhere and called them war criminals. To provide an exclamation point, he visited Paris to have tea and crumpets with the enemy, which was at that time torturing some of Kerry’s band of brothers and killing even more. That certainly takes courage.

I must admit to jumping out of my armchair and hiding behind it, with hands over my ears, when the droning echoes of combat play on the television - no, no, not the present war. I mean when John Kerry talks about Vietnam. Actually, the War on Terror is going shockingly well if you consider the wimpy civilians who are running it. Oh, sure, at times you see the steady guidance of military men like, say, Colin Powell, Tommy Franks, Richard Armitage and even papa George H.W. Bush utilized to superb effect, but all the antis say the responsibility belongs solely to the top of the ticket, and there stands - or rather sits, in his armchair - George W. Bush, with Dick Cheney rocking beside him.

And unlike the recent track record of wars, this one is against people who have killed us, are killing us and want to keep killing us. How long? Till we’re all dead or on our knees facing Mecca five times a day. No, Iraq didn’t “attack” us on 9/11, any more than Germany bombed us at Pearl Harbor or Austria sunk the Lusitania. In each case, some guy in an armchair realized the enemy threatening the United States was larger than the few people or single nation which attacked and woke us from our slumber. Recognizing the danger, each armchair warrior realized they could fight the larger enemy over there - or wait and waffle and, in the end, fight them anyway, but over here.

Finally, I must admit we armchair warriors are selfish - and I may be worst of all. I have no desire to send my four children off to battle the Islamist militants we face. Yet the Islamists demand war. So we can fight them now and mourn the loss of thousands of our fellow citizens and our best young men and women. We can pass the “global test” and retreat, wait a few years until the next horrendous attack, then resume the war, mourning tens of thousands. Or we can take the high road of those few I mentioned earlier, who deem only themselves qualified to speak on questions of war. In that case, it will be 10 years before the Islamists are faced, and by then, we’ll be burying hundreds of thousands - if the nukes leave anything to bury.

And by then, my children and their children will be the ones forced to face an enemy far more deadly, and with an American military victory in real doubt. So, from my armchair, I’ll use the only weapon a coward like me has: words. With a little luck - and through the true bravery and skill of America’s all-volunteer military men and women - I’ll sneak my young-ins through so they and their generation can find their place in an armchair, too.

Paul A. Miller is managing editor of the Montpelier Leader Enterprise and Napoleon Northwest Signal.

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