Saturday, June 24, 2006

Who's This 'We,' Non-Soldier Boy?


REPRESENTATIVE Patrick McHenry, a 30-year-old Republican from North Carolina, rose during the recent debate over Iraq in Congress and declared that the struggle against "Islamic extremists" was his generation's great challenge. Unlike the "white flag" crowd on the left, he vowed, he would not shrink from the fight.

That was a little too much for Representative John Murtha, the senior Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, an ex-marine and Vietnam vet and also — in the current debate — a leading advocate of a speedy withdrawal of the troops.

"It is easy to stay in an air-conditioned office and say, 'I am going to stay the course,' " he said, angrily, after Mr. McHenry, who never served in the military, was finished. "It is the troops that are doing the fighting, not the members of Congress that are doing the fighting."

Behind that exchange was a demographic reality: The debate, which has consumed the House and the Senate for the last two weeks, was largely conducted by men and women who have not served. Twenty-five percent of the House, and 31 percent of the Senate, are veterans, the lowest proportions since World War II, according to the Military Officers Association of America. ......

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