The Young Chickenhawks

They’ll support the war, but they sure as hell won’t serve in it


The cheeky website recently posted a petition calling for Jenna and Barbara Bush to serve in Iraq. But the famously private Bush twins have never disclosed their views on the war; they may even be opposed. So calling for them to serve might not be fair. But there are young and prominent Bush-backers who deserve to be targets of such a petition: The assorted leaders of the College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) are cheerleaders for a war they are unwilling to fight.

Both YAF and College Republicans have staged prowar demonstrations on college campuses across the country. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the College Republican National Committee released a statement proclaiming, "As our troops prepare for battle, the College Republican National Committee and its 100,000 members are prepared to show the world that the majority of students support the efforts of the president and our troops to liberate the people of Iraq and to rid the world of this murderous dictator and his weapons of mass destruction." The CRNC's website praises George W. Bush for "defending the peace by taking the fight to the terrorists."

The even more zealous YAFers have made it clear that they not only support the war but are openly hostile to those who oppose it. Their rowdy prowar rallies have attracted plenty of press. In March 2003, CBS news reported on a YAF event held in Minnesota at which the chapter's executive director Chris Hill had strong words for antiwar activists: "The top of the antiwar movement is led by communists, and I will call them that," he said. "Unlike these communists, we have truth on our side.... We say to those who oppose this war, Go to France." Hill's YAF chapter has also publicly denigrated antiwar demonstrators as "cowards." All of this raises the question: If opponents of the war should go to France, shouldn't Hill--and other members of YAF and College Republicans--go to Iraq? In response to a query by The Nation about whether any leaders have volunteered to fight the war in Iraq, Shauna Moser, the chairman of Penn State YAF, said only that information on YAF officials could be found with a simple "search in a search engine."

Indeed, YAF chairman Erik Johnson, vice chairman Darren Marks and fourteen other national officials have posted brief autobiographies on YAF's website. According to these bios, not one of them has served in the military or has any intention to do so in the future. YAF official Chris Hill told The Nation that he had been a member of his university's Navy ROTC program and the moderator of a blog where he offered advice to aspiring soldiers on how to obtain a military commission. But he chose to seek a master's degree rather than join the armed forces. Asked about this decision, he said, "But I know people over there, and that's a fact." Does it undermine his group's prowar position if all the YAF higher-ups are unwilling to participate directly in the war? "I don't think so," Hill replied. "You don't have to be involved in something to believe in it."

And that appears to be the sentiment of the College Republicans' board members as well. None of them--the controversial chairman Paul Gourley and officers Jess Beeson, Nathaniel Harding, Britton Alexander, Dan Schuberth and Tom Robins--boast any military experience. Their posted bios do not refer to any past, present or future military service, though they do describe in detail the postgraduate work and political aspirations of these young right-wingers.

Conservative campus groups like YAF and College Republicans are growing in strength and numbers. And since the start of the Iraq War, these outfits have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush to support the war, but they have not stood alongside the soldiers doing the actual fighting and dying. They want someone else to do the hard work.

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