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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chickenhawks Crow for War

"A chickenhawk [describes] public persons -- generally male -- who (1) tend to advocate, or are fervent supporters of those who advocate, military solutions to political problems, and who have personally (2) declined to take advantage of a significant opportunity to serve in uniform during wartime."
--The New Hampshire Gazette

WASHINGTON -- We are being dragged toward war with Iraq by such chickenhawks. The loudest voices demanding war are those of men who once upon a time quietly skipped out on the fun in Vietnam.

Men like Dick Cheney, who famously explained, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

Cheney received draft deferments as a college student until he got married in 1964; marriage removed him from the draft. But the next year, the government announced married men would be drafted, unless they were also fathers. Nine months and two days after that announcement, the Cheneys had their first child.

A list of chickenhawks -- including many who are eager for war with Iraq, yet who had "other priorities" when Vietnam came a-calling -- has been compiled by Steven Fowle, a Vietnam veteran who edits The New Hampshire Gazette. (It's at

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It starts with the president himself. George W. Bush waited out the war from a post with light duties in the Texas Air National Guard. And, apparently, even that cushy deal was too onerous: There's an unexplained one-year gap, from May 1972 to May 1973, in Bush's service record. That year he was supposed to have reported for duty at the Alabama Air National Guard, but apparently never showed. Bush's reply is that he was honorably discharged and is proud of his service -- but also that he can't recall the specifics.

Specifics are also in short supply for Defense Department Iraq hawks like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle; for White House adviser Karl Rove; for professional blabbers George Will, William Kristol, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan; for Republican congressional leaders Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay; and for many others -- right down to Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone.

Some of the explanations offered by those who avoided Vietnam sound hilarious today. Pundit and politician Buchanan got out for "bad knees," but went on to become an avid jogger. DeLay, who was working as a pest exterminator during Vietnam, is reported to have complained that he would have served but all the places were taken up by black people. (Blacks in the 1960s had no "other priorities?")

And then there's rabid radio personality Limbaugh's excuse: "Anal cysts." As Matthew Engel noted in the Guardian, "It is not my custom to mock others' ailments, but anyone who has listened to Limbaugh's program can imagine the dripping scorn he would bring to the revelation that a prominent Democrat had skipped a war over something like that."

The poster boy for draft-dodging, to hear the media tell it, has long been Bill Clinton. But Clinton also organized anti-war protests in the late 1960s, and years later, while running for office, was thoroughly grilled by the media and the public for his Vietnam-era conduct.

By contrast, the chickenhawks weaseled out of Vietnam while loudly proclaiming their support for it; they've never once been called to account for doing so; and now, they want to send a new generation of Americans into a Middle Eastern ground war.

Matt Bivens, a former editor of The Moscow Times, is a Washington-based fellow of The Nation Institute [].