During the September 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh called service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq “phony soldiers.” He made the comment while discussing with a caller a conversation he had with a previous caller, “Mike from Chicago,” who said he “used to be military,” and “believe[s] that we should pull out of Iraq.” Limbaugh told the second caller, whom he identified as “Mike, this one from Olympia, Washington,” that "[t]here's a lot" that people who favor U.S. withdrawal “don't understand” and that when asked why the United States should pull out, their only answer is, " 'Well, we just gotta bring the troops home.' ... 'Save the -- keeps the troops safe' or whatever," adding, "[I]t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people." “Mike” from Olympia replied, “No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.” Limbaugh interjected, “The phony soldiers.” The caller, who had earlier said, “I am a serving American military, in the Army,” agreed, replying, “The phony soldiers.”
On August 19, The New York Times published an op-ed by seven members of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. They ended their assessment of the situation in Iraq with the following passage:
In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
On September 12, The New York Times noted: “Two of the soldiers who wrote of their pessimism about the war in an Op-Ed article that appeared in The New York Times on Aug. 19 were killed in Baghdad on Monday.”
As Media Matters for America has documented, Limbaugh denounced as “contemptible” and “indecent” MoveOn.org's much-discussed advertisement -- titled “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” -- critical of Gen. David Petraeus, but has repeatedly attacked the patriotism of those with whom he disagrees. For instance, on the January 25 broadcast of his radio show, he told his audience that he had a new name for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a Vietnam veteran: “Senator Betrayus.” A day earlier, Hagel had sided with Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in voting to approve a nonbinding resolution declaring that President Bush's escalation in Iraq was against “the national interest.” Additionally, on August 21, 2006, Limbaugh said: “I want to respectfully disagree with the president on the last part of what he said. I am going to challenge the patriotism of people who disagree with him because the people that disagree with him want to lose.”
As Media Matters has also documented, on the August 2, 2005, program, Limbaugh repeatedly referred to Iraq war veteran and then-Democratic congressional candidate Paul Hackett as “another liberal Democrat trying to hide behind a military uniform” and accused him of going to Iraq “to pad the resumé.” On the day of Limbaugh's comments, Hackett narrowly lost a special election to Republican Jean Schmidt for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District seat.
From the September 26 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Mike in Chicago, welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.
CALLER 1: Hi Rush, how you doing today?
LIMBAUGH: I'm fine sir, thank you.
CALLER 1: Good. Why is it that you always just accuse the Democrats of being against the war and suggest that there are absolutely no Republicans that could possibly be against the war?
LIMBAUGH: Well, who are these Republicans? I can think of Chuck Hagel, and I can think of Gordon Smith, two Republican senators, but they don't want to lose the war like the Democrats do. I can't think of -- who are the Republicans in the anti-war movement?
CALLER 1: I'm just -- I'm not talking about the senators. I'm talking about the general public -- like you accuse the public of all the Democrats of being, you know, wanting to lose, but --
LIMBAUGH: Oh, come on! Here we go again. I uttered a truth, and you can't handle it, so you gotta call here and change the subject. How come I'm not also hitting Republicans? I don't know a single Republican or conservative, Mike, who wants to pull out of Iraq in defeat. The Democrats have made the last four years about that specifically.
CALLER 1: Well, I am a Republican, and I've listened to you for a long time, and you're right on a lot of things, but I do believe that we should pull out of Iraq. I don't think it's winnable. And I'm not a Democrat, but I just -- sometimes you've got to cut the losses.
LIMBAUGH: Well, you -- you --
CALLER 1: I mean, sometimes you really gotta know when you're wrong.
LIMBAUGH: Well, yeah, you do. I'm not wrong on this. The worst thing that can happen is losing this, flying out of there, waving the white flag. Do you have --
CALLER 1: Oh, I'm not saying that. I'm not saying anything like that, but, you know --
LIMBAUGH: Well, of course you are.
CALLER 1: No, I'm not.
LIMBAUGH: Bill, the truth is -- the truth is the truth, Mike.
CALLER 1: We did what we were supposed to do, OK. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. We got rid of a lot of the terrorists. Let them run their country --
LIMBAUGH: Oh, good lord! Good lord.
CALLER 1: How long is it gonna -- how long do you think we're going to have to be there for them to take care of that?
LIMBAUGH: Mike --
CALLER 1: How long -- you know -- what is it?
LIMBAUGH: Mike --
CALLER 1: What is it?
LIMBAUGH: Mike, you can't possibly be a Republican.
CALLER 1: I am.
LIMBAUGH: You are -- you are --
CALLER 1: I am definitely a Republican.
LIMBAUGH: You can't be a Republican. You are --
CALLER 1: Oh, I am definitely a Republican.
LIMBAUGH: You are tarnishing the reputation, 'cause you sound just like a Democrat.
CALLER 1: No, but --
LIMBAUGH: The answer to your question --
CALLER 1: -- seriously, how long do we have to stay there --
LIMBAUGH: As long as it takes!
CALLER 1: -- to win it? How long?
LIMBAUGH: As long as it takes! It is very serious.
CALLER 1: And that is what?
LIMBAUGH: This is the United States of America at war with Islamofascists. We stay as long -- just like your job. You do everything you have to do, whatever it takes to get it done, if you take it seriously.
CALLER 1: So then you say we need to stay there forever --
LIMBAUGH: I -- it won't --
CALLER 1: -- because that's what it'll take.
LIMBAUGH: No, Bill, or Mike -- I'm sorry. I'm confusing you with the guy from Texas.
CALLER 1: See, I -- I've used to be military, OK? And I am a Republican.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah. Yeah.
CALLER 1: And I do live [inaudible] but --
LIMBAUGH: Right. Right. Right, I know.
CALLER 1: -- you know, really -- I want you to be saying how long it's gonna take.
LIMBAUGH: And I, by the way, used to walk on the moon!
CALLER 1: How long do we have to stay there?
LIMBAUGH: You're not listening to what I say. You can't possibly be a Republican. I'm answering every question. That's not what you want to hear, so it's not even penetrating your little wall of armor you've got built up.
LIMBAUGH: Another Mike, this one in Olympia, Washington. Welcome to the EIB Network. Hello.
CALLER 2: Hi Rush, thanks for taking my call.
LIMBAUGH: You bet.
CALLER 2: I have a retort to Mike in Chicago, because I am a serving American military, in the Army. I've been serving for 14 years, very proudly.
LIMBAUGH: Thank you, sir.
CALLER 2: And, you know, I'm one of the few that joined the Army to serve my country, I'm proud to say, not for the money or anything like that. What I would like to retort to is that, if we pull -- what these people don't understand is if we pull out of Iraq right now, which is about impossible because of all the stuff that's over there, it'd take us at least a year to pull everything back out of Iraq, then Iraq itself would collapse, and we'd have to go right back over there within a year or so. And --
LIMBAUGH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. They can't even -- if -- the next guy that calls here, I'm gonna ask him: Why should we pull -- what is the imperative for pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't -- I don't think they have an answer for that other than, “Well, we just gotta bring the troops home.”
CALLER 2: Yeah, and, you know what --
LIMBAUGH: “Save the -- keep the troops safe” or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.
CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.
LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --
CALLER 2: A lot of them -- the new kids, yeah.
LIMBAUGH: Well, you know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you signed up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan or somewhere.
CALLER 2: Exactly, sir.
A.J. Walzer is an intern at Media Matters for America.