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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
21 Feb 2015
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Correcting the Record


An incorrect statement left uncorrected leads often to deception, disillusion and dishonesty. Take this hypothetical: I've agreed to speak at a local event, and the emcee, in her introduction, says something like, "Mark Shields went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played basketball." It's true that Notre Dame is my alma mater and that I regularly played pickup games of basketball while there. But the misimpression would be created that I'd played for my school on the men's basketball team. Before long, another imaginative emcee embellishes the intro to read, "Shields was a star college basketball player." And error would take wing.

Recently, Jay Nordlinger (whom I do not know) of National Review wrote: "The term 'chickenhawk' was coined by Mark Shields, a Democratic operative, columnist, and pundit. He used it to tar Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney (et al.) ... The rule was this: If you did not serve in combat, you could not advocate American military action. ... Only combat veterans had the right to support military action."

Nordlinger is wrong on virtually every count. Forget that I did not coin "chicken hawk," which was used as early as 1967 by Rep. Mo Udall, D-Ariz., in a speech opposing the Vietnam War, some 12 years before I ever worked for a newspaper. Forget that I have not worked in politics for 36 years.

More importantly, he incorrectly defined terms. For the record, the disparaging term "chicken hawk" was reserved for those American men who during the Vietnam War, when all males 18 or older were subject to the military draft, employed a student deferment, a family contact, a contrived medical malady or even a calling to divinity school to avoid serving and who then later, as wounded and decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam Robert Timberg unforgettably wrote in the 1996 book "The Nightingale's Song," would reappear "loudly endorsing a confrontational stance with the Soviet Union, aid to the Nicaraguan guerillas, and military ventures into Lebanon, Grenada, and the Persian Gulf." Chicken hawks, Timberg continued, were "men whose testosterone gland abruptly began pumping after age twenty-six, when they were no longer vulnerable to the draft."

Yes, former Vice President Dick Cheney — with his five student deferments and with his under-oath explanation "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service" (when 58,303 Americans of his generation were giving their lives in Vietnam) — who appears since never to have seen a world trouble spot where he would not want to send American soldiers and Marines, qualifies as a chicken hawk.

The chicken hawk can be counted on to endorse a national policy of military escalation, as long as it involves no personal participation.


Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, after his successful leadership in the Gulf War, dispatched all the fawning flatterers this way: "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle." It would be irrational to say — and nobody I know has ever said it — that only Americans who have served in combat can advocate American military action. By that absurd standard, of the past 11 U.S. presidents since Harry Truman, only John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush would have been qualified to serve as commander in chief.

In the last analysis, character is destiny. Just as we would spurn the self-proclaimed tax reformer who turned out to be a tax evader, we refuse to honor the call to battle from those who, when summoned to defend their nation, went AWOL. The record is corrected.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




4 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... I do not believe there is such a thing as a testosterone gland. In male mammals, testosterone is secreted by the testes, and to a lesser extent, by the female overies. What some one may have meant to say is that republican chicken hawks never grow their nads until it becomes convenient, and that means politically convenient. One might argue that those who have the sense to avoid war also have the sense to manipulate the sentiments of people who are rasised on love of country and do love a good fight.

Perhaps true; but in the larger scheme of thing I would consider war as republican birth control. If they find they have enough money and enough surplus non republicans, they can start a war they will not fight, and need not pay for. All they need is the seed money to get the thing going, and the profit potential as well as the pay off down line of dead people who will never demand their share of their commonwealth- is enormous. And republican who gets caught in the death machine of war they create deserves to die because primarily it is designed to destroy working people and their children. As I said: War is republican birth control. They make themselves the judge of those who must die to keep the wheels of their machine turning, and here is a hint: It will never be them. Just as little people pay taxes, little people die in war. That is the rule, and no one is going to chance it.

Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:55 PM
The echo maching is working again.
The echo machine is working again.
What's wrong with this damned computer?
What's wrong with this damned computer?
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:00 PM
Geez, Mark!

I have nothing but the highest regard for you even though I don't know you.
You have corrected the record.
To see you have to stoop to such a level in response to such milquetoast criticism is blood curdling.
One can not ignore a gnat.
One must splatter it, hopefully, before it bites.
This what-ever-he-is-computer-screen-gazing,
probably ivy-league-degree-holding
bit first,
but has been smashed.

Be Well,

Comment: #3
Posted by: James Kossick
Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:54 AM
I used to read "National Review" regularly when captained by William F. Buckley for its good humor and to gain a firmer grasp of what the "other side" was thinking. Likewise, Fox News provided many hours of enjoyment and insight in its earliest years. Even while I was watching you and Novak duke it out (sometimes almost literally) on "Capital Gang," I picked up great bits of understanding from your former foe, friend, and colleague. I have never hated hearing the side of corporate America when it was spelled out with reason. Today, however, your Nordlinger is far more representative of the right's writing and broadcasting. They have become totally overwhelmed with hate and purpose that it is impossible to carry on a decent conversation even with a friend without hearing echoes of the "party of hate" reverberate throughout the conversation. I got tired of arguing with people about Vietnam (I was a soldier, but never a warrior), but today I'm made tired by just having a normal conversation about everyday life.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Mike Ohr
Sun Mar 1, 2015 7:18 AM
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