The Young Chickenhawks
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that graduate student and YAF member Chris Hill had no plans for a military career. The Nation regrets the error. This story has been updated with the correct information.
The cheeky website buzzflash.com 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."
YAF members have made it clear that they not only support the war but are openly hostile to those who oppose it. In March 2003, CBS News reported on a YAF event held in Minnesota at which chapter 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."
But if opponents of the war should go to France, shouldn't leaders of the pro-war movement serve in Iraq? In response to a query from 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."
YAF chairman Erik Johnson, vice chairman Darren Marks and fourteen other national officials have posted brief autobiographies on YAF's website. None of these bios indicate that the organization's national leaders have served in the military or plan to in the future.
For his part, Chris Hill has served in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and has contibuted to a web log in which he offered advice to aspiring soldiers on how to obtain a military commission. Currently attending graduate school, he holds an officer's commission and intends to pursue a career in naval aviation.
[Editor's Note: The Nation erroneously reported Oct. 12 that Chris Hill had chosen to attend graduate school rather than pursue a military career, based an Oct. 6 interview in which Hill did not disclose his naval commission or his plans to pursue a career in naval aviation. This story has been updated to include the correct information.]
College Republicans also appear to be lacking in military aspirations. None of their board members--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.