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“Fortunate Son” Is Antiwar, and Pro-Military

DoD News photo by EJ Hersom

When Dave Grohl and Zac Brown joined Bruce Springsteen for a rousing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic “Fortunate Son” at the Concert for Valor in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, The Weekly Standard’s Ethan Epstein complained:

The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Epstein wasn’t alone. Other conservatives also took offense, believing the song was somehow “anti-military.”

This is completely backward.

Fortunate Son is not “anti-military.” It is anti-elite. It is anti-politician. It is anti-Washington.

And yes, it is antiwar.

War is bad. This should not be a controversial statement. Most people of any ideology should be able to agree that even when war is necessary, it is a necessary evil. In 1946, General Dwight Eisenhower delivered an antiwar screed of his own: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Was Ike antimilitary? He was certainly antiwar.

War is brutal, futile, and stupid. Eisenhower saw battle firsthand. In “Fortunate Son,” John Fogerty asks why middle- and lower-class Americans are forced to see war up close while the political elite gets to keep a safe distance.

“Fortunate Son” is antiwar precisely because it is pro-military. It advocates for regular Americans who fight wars and against elites who make them.

This is a distinction conservative hawks find hard to make, or simply don’t want to make. If your ideology consists largely of pushing for every war Barack Obama or John McCain thinks is a good idea, “supporting the troops” inevitably means supporting the wars themselves. The wisdom or results of those wars become secondary to the emotional insistence that we must fight them. “What if we do nothing!”

Just like Cold War conservatives who defended the Vietnam War until the bitter end, you rarely find right-wing hawks today that will admit that the Iraq War was a mistake.

Yet, most Americans think it was a mistake, including the men and women who had to fight. You will not find many hawks that think we’ve been in Afghanistan too long. Yet, most of our soldiers now say that war was a mistake too.

Of course most Americans, including veterans, think Vietnam was a tragic disaster.

There is a disconnect between the people who actually fight America’s wars and the political class that dictates U.S. foreign policy. The conservative critics of Bruce Springsteen singing “Fortunate Son” in honor of America’s veterans Tuesday are part of the same political class Fogerty skewered in the 1960s—those who wave the “red, white and blue” in support of war first and, unintentionally, soldiers second. Sang Fogerty “And when you ask ’em, ‘How much should we give?’ Ooh, they only answer ‘More! More! More!”

The Weekly Standard’s Ethan Epstein thought “Fortunate Son” was offensive at an event to “honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

One has to wonder if Epstein thought the Concert for Valor was just as much about honoring the wars themselves.

Jack Hunter is the editor of Rare.us and the former new media director for Sen. Rand Paul.

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