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Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Taking after Andrew Sullivan, I have decided to create an award for conservatives who inappropriately question the patriotism of war opponents. We name the award after David Frum, who is a serial offender at labeling anyone who disagrees with the war anti-American (see here and here). (One of the delicious ironies of Frum's baiting tactics is that he's Canadian himself.)

In order to be eligible for this award, the commentator must be (1) a prominent conservative hawk, who (2) labels an opponent or opponents of the war as anti-American, (3) where such a label is egregiously inappropriate. Point (3) is important-- obviously, there are some people out there who really do want to see the US go to hell in a handbasket; the sin of the Frums of the world is to assume that a central or even the main motivation of people who take anti-war positions is that they hate America.

Our first nominee comes to us from TAPPED. It is none other than Bill Kristol, one of the neoconservative prime movers behind W's Iraq policy. He viciously attacked Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), saying that Rangel's anti-war position had led him to desire to "see American setbacks in the war to vindicate [his] position". As TAPPED points out, Congressman Rangel is not only a Korean war veteran, but was seriously wounded in battle. Rangel is a black man who risked his life for his country, and suffered great pain and physical anguish in doing so, and, I might add, did this at a time when his country still imposed horrible racial segregation and discrimination against people with his skin color. Kristol, on the other hand, sat out the Vietnam War.

I am not one to buy, in toto, the "Chicken Hawk" argument (i.e., that a person has no business being a hawk if he or she ducked military service). I don't think that those who did not serve in the military are automatically disqualified from taking positions on matters of war and peace. Our system demands that all citizens participate in the process of determining whether we should go to war, whether they have served or not.

But this is not a matter of Kristol simply being a Chicken Hawk. This is the matter of someone who had a privileged upbringing as the son of Irving Kristol and who, like many others of his generation, had better things to do than risk his neck in a war that he nonetheless supported, gracelessly questioning the patriotism of a man took enemy fire for his country at a time when that country considered him to be a second-class citizen. What a warped mind Mr. Kristol has. Being patriotic is not a matter of agreeing with this or that political position. It is not merely an intellectual exercise. It is a matter of being willing to put your butt on the line when your country needs you. Charlie Rangel did so. He deserves better than to have his bona fides attacked by someone who has never had to leave the comfortable confines of the Washington establishment, where Mr. Kristol can safely sit around passing judgment on what everyone else's motives are.

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