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Color me confused...and finding no fault with the Senate Minority Leader in this manufactured controversy

December 12, 2007

As an aside before beginning, I have to say this: I really don't see how this issue speaks to a single moderate or conservative -- nor, in fact, to anybody who doesn't already hold the fringe-left view that all (American) war (carried out under a Republican president) is evil, and that (volunteer) soldiers are helpless and hapless victims (of being asked to actually do their jobs) who deserve support (but only when they shoot their officers).

That being said, it appears that an effort is being made to paint Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a heartless chickenhawk Republican who thinks that soldiers' lives are not only expendable, but that, since they are volunteers, the lives of American servicemembers are worth less than if they were conscripts. This controversy (such as it is -- in my opinion, it's quite the manufactured bit of nothingness) stems from the following statement by McConnell:
"Our brave soldiers have protected us for six years successfully. If we brought all of them home today (terrorists) they would be back here, so we need to stay the course. It's gotten better and there is a dramatic decrease in causalities and we have begun to withdraw troops." said McConnell. "The polls are reflecting that there is a 15% increase in optimism in American's views about the war.

"I won't tell you everything is great in Iraq; it is not. But we want to keep a steady flow of funds so that we don't disrupt the military," said McConnell. "Unfortunately, most of our friends on the other isle are having a hard time admitting things are getting better; some days I almost think the critics of this war don't want us to win. Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.

That last line (emphasis added by me), grabbed by ultralib organization ThinkProgress, has made it into the mainstream media in the context of a callous, revealing comment by a Republican leader that the Left desperately wants to take down in 2008. The Louisville Courier-Journal picked it up, and then featured a page dedicated only to "reader outrage over the McConnell comments" (complete with planted letter-writers -- see Dan Reihl for more on that).

There are two problems with this (well, two that I will actually take the time to address here). First, the comments McConnell made -- as you can see from the unedited passage above the fold -- came in the context of supporting the heck out of the soldiers fighting in Iraq, whose actions he said "have protected us for six years successfully," and of excoriating the opposition, who he rightly says "don't want us to win." There's no ambiguity in his statements -- that's what he said, and that's what he meant. The fact that the anti-troop left can't handle being called exactly what they are is their problem, though they are doing their absolute best to make it into a big, big election year problem for McConnell as well (perhaps as revenge for Daschle's inglorious exit from the Senate after his own failed stint in leadership?)

The second issue is this: what McConnell said in that supposedly controversial clause was absolutely true. Every single one of America's servicemen and -women in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Korea, Africa, and elsewhere are, in fact, volunteers. None are conscripts; none enlisted in or were commissioned into the military against their will.

As I said this past spring, while eulogizing SPC Robert Dixon, a soldier killed by an EFP in Iraq just after I left my embed with his unit:
Dixon simply did what was asked of him, and what he wanted to do. That task happened to be living on the edge, putting his life on the line for an ideal (and for the people at home), and operating under conditions so dangerous, and so intense, that to function as he and his comrades have, one must have an inner heroism which 99% of the population will never have nor understand.


It is of the utmost importance that we at home remember Robert Dixon, and the sacrifice of men like him, and that we constantly reflect on the fact that America’s uniformed services are full of men and women who would willingly give their lives for their comrades, as well as for every man, woman, and child at home.

America’s armed forces are made up entirely of volunteers who knew the risks of service when they joined, and who willingly embrace those risks and their accompanying responsibilities every day, both to protect their homeland and to protect each other while working for the greater good of accomplishing their various missions throughout the world.
Not one of them is a victim. While there is not -- and never will be -- unanimity among the soldiers (or any other population) with regard to opinion and feeling on the war, on their specific mission, or on anything else, these young men and women have voluntarily put aside their personal comforts and desires to take on a job and to perform a mission which is dangerous (deadly, in fact) and, all too often, beyond thankless.

It is the height of disrespect (and I use that word purposefully, knowing that it could be replaced with a far stronger, and less appropriate, term) for any person or group of people to insinuate that the people who volunteer to take on the unimaginably dangerous job of standing guard on freedom's frontier are helpless victims of a machine that the leftist fringe here at home hates so much. Conversely, what Senator McConnell said in his speech (which many are trying so desperately to use against him), rather than denigrating those serving and insinuating that, because they are volunteers rather than conscripts, their lives are somehow worth less than they would be were the latter true, actually served to honor the men and women who make such a sacrifice by acknowledging that they have gone above and beyond that required of ordinary Americans, and have volunteered to do such a dangerous, controversial, and thankless job.

The manufactured controversy surrounding Senator McConnell's remarks is bogus to say the least. What the Minority Leader said was perfectly clear and requires no apology or clarification -- and I believe that the majority of the American and Kentuckian population that isn't blinded by their hatred of all things American military (and their dedication to a view of these brave men and women as pathetic victims of the Bush Machine) will recognize the truly positive meaning of his words for themselves, without needing any prompting from McConnell or from his defenders.

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