Tom Cotton’s ‘Chickenhawk’ Taunt at Iran FM Demeans Jeb Bush, GOP Field

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | –

So freshman senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) got into a Twitter slamming match with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif this week. Zarif spoke at New York University on Wednesday and asserted that if there were a UNSC deal on Iran’s nuclear energy program, international sanctions would be lifted whether Tom Cotton liked it or not.

Cotton fired back on Twitter, saying he had heard that Zarif called him out. He added (read from bottom):

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Zarif replied graciously to Cotton’s unbearable boorishness:

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But by bringing up the issue of chickenhawks, Cotton is doing the Republican Party no favors. George W. Bush avoided serving in Vietnam by taking cover with the Texas Air National Guard, and he appears at some point to have gone AWOL. Bush could at any time have volunteered to go serve in Vietnam (it didn’t have to be as a pilot), but did not. His vice president, Dick Cheney, had five student deferments even as his peers were being drafted and sent off to die in the jungle. He said, when asked, that he had had other things to do. Bush and Cheney sent over 4000 US military personnel to die in an illegal war of aggression in Iraq, but had never seen a battlefield themselves.

Jeb Bush also did not volunteer to serve in Vietnam when he turned eligible in 1971. He registered for the draft but was not called up. Over 58,000 US military personnel died in Vietnam, but the Bush boys, despite never having met a war they didn’t adore, never set foot there. The Bushes of Connecticut in this generation no more fight their own wars than they do their own shopping. Is Cotton calling Jeb Bush a coward?

Scott Walker dropped out of Marquette in spring of 1990 and could have joined up then. He sat out the Gulf War. While at Marquette he had run for student office and was found guilty of cheating by starting his campaign a week earlier than the rules allowed.

Lindsey Graham and Kerry Bowers seem to me on quick inspection to be the only GOP candidates for president with military experience. Graham was in the Air Force in the 1980s and later was a reserve colonel with USAF JAG. He was recalled during the Gulf War though not sent to the front. He joined the Air Force reserves in the late 1990s and in the mid-2000s served briefly in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Air Force attorney.

Kerry Bowers was a 30-year man in the US military and was deployed to Bahrain during the Gulf War.

The tone of Cotton’s taunt of Zarif, however, would not even spare politicians who had been active duty military. Apparently they would have had to volunteer for the front during a shooting war to avoid being cowards.

So I’m pretty sure Cotton just called most of the Republican candidates for president cowards, and he certainly called the president and vice president in the last GOP presidential administration cowards.

Having been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, I obviously don’t agree that not volunteering for the front makes a person a coward.

I don’t doubt Cotton’s personal bravery or that of any Vet. But it would also have been brave to refuse to serve in an illegal war in which the US killed a lot of peasants. The unprovoked Iraq war in which Cotton fought set off events that left hundreds of thousands dead and left Iraq a long-term basket case. The world would have been better off with regard to character had Cotton declined to participate in that carnage.

As for Zarif, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. By 1982 the war was a draw and Saddam was suing for peace. Ayatollah Khomeini refused, having the Iranian army fight on until 1988. Those six years were lost years for Iran and Iraq, war years that did not have to be, during which hundreds of thousands died. On the other hand, the onus for causing the war must remain on Saddam. I don’t think Zarif missed anything, morally.

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Related video:

Wochit News: “Iran’s Zarif Fires Back at Tom Cotton’s Tweets”

33 Responses

    • Legos can be sharp. Don’t need this “tough guy” getting hurt. Better to give him some Nerf toys.

  1. K

    GOP and Bush don’t need help. they do a fine job demeaning themselves.

  2. JEB was in the draft lottery for those born in 1953. His number was 26. Usually those that low got called for induction. Was JEB?

    • The lottery for men born in 53 was held on 2-2-72. It was conducted for men who would have been called in 1973. But no one was drafted in 1973. No one born in 53 was drafted. Jeb, like me, got lucky.

  3. Bravely is rarely defined by “volunteering for the front”, especially when on the side of “overwhelming” force.

    Mr. Cotton is a brash, incontinent fool, a child.

  4. But it would also have been brave to refuse to serve in an illegal war in which the US killed a lot of peasants.

    To put this another way: But it would also have required knowing right from wrong and moral courage to refuse to serve in an illegal war in which the US killed a lot of peasants.

    • Case in point: Lt. Ehren Watada:

      “Lt. Watada’s War Against the War: First Lt. Ehren Watada has refused orders to go to Iraq. He says the war and the occupation violate the Constitution, international law and Army regulations.” By Jeremy Brecher, Brendan Smith – link to alternet.org

      Watada’s defense team wanted to debate the illegality of the Iraq War. Not surprisingly, the Army declined to allow that.

      End of Watada’s saga:

      “Ehren Watada: Free at Last: After three years of trying to convict Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq, the Army has allowed him to resign.” By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith – link to thenation.com

  5. Tom Cotton, being all Harvard, is obviously smarter than 99.999 % of Americans. But that does not make him the smartest person in the world. More importantly, it does not endow him as omniscient.
    Cotton obviously approves of the regimen of torture used by America, which disgusts me. I would like to hear Cotton debate why he believes it was a grand thing for America to invade Iraq (which I assume is his belief). I think it would also be interesting to hear him match his knowledge and understanding of Iran with an Iranian intellectual.
    Did Cotton pledge in his campaign that he would advocate for America to expand its wars?

    • … being all Harvard, is obviously smarter …

      That is eminently debatable. To make matters worse, any education (kindergarten to Ivy League) lacking moral and ethical imperatives is cause for concern in civilized society but, apparently, not in Wall Street or in the higher echelons of Washington, DC.

    • Harvard must be cringing. Cotton’s the antithesis of a good advertisement for Harvard.

    • Is there any evidence that simply being accepted to the Ivies makes one smarter than “99.999 %” of the US population ?!

      There’re probably lots of factors – social class, economic circumstances, choice of major, one’s constituent demographic & so on that determine admission to Harvard and the Ivies. Not just “raw smarts” – whatever one defines that as.

    • If I did the math correctly (getting the decimal point in the right place can be tricky for me), those above the 99.999 % profile are 10 in a million. With, let us say, 300 million Americans, this would place someone at the top 3000 in America. So, this number may be a little over the top. Of course Harvard accepts people from outside of America too. I of 3000 is indeed way up there. Of course, not all of the brightest go to Harvard (or the Ivies) either. Some brilliant people don’t go to college at all.
      In any case, for the sake of assumption, if Cotton is in the top 3000 of the brightest in America, this still leaves 2,999 who are as smart as or smarter than he is—in America. There would be people in Iran as smart or smarter than him. Not to mention the rest of the world! Of course, a person can be smart and not know much as well. I don’t know much about quarks, but that means either I am too dimwitted to learn, and/or I have never studied them.
      Cotton apparently views his knowledge of Iran as brilliant. I don’t think so.

  6. Guy has the gall to mention the Iraq Iran war and disregard the US tyranny, treachery and terror behind a certain monster that helped kill peasants and kids.

  7. Cotton supported and volunteered to fight in the Iraq war because he believed in it then and believes in it now. He probably would take the same course of action if the U.S. regime changed Iran. Tom Cotton is like Darth Cheney on crack with a gun. He might feel the same way about Iraqi peasants as Phil Sheridan did about Indians. Ditto for Iranian peasants.

    The goods ones are all dead.

    Do you really think Darth Cheney worries about moral courage or doing the right thing? Or Bibi Netanyahu? These people want war, they want to win and they do not care in the least how many people they have to kill in order to get the job done. Like Cheney said right after 9/11…

    “SWEEP IT ALL UP.”

    To neoconservatives, moral courage and doing the right thing is ONLY for the weak. That is their philosophy.

  8. “The world would have been better off with regard to character had Cotton declined to participate in that carnage.”

    Ouch! And all the more cutting for being so obviously true.

    Cotton is revealing himself more and more as being all brawn and no brain. Certainly he wasn’t smart enough to realise just how wrong the 2003 invasion of Iraq was, and he shows absolutely no sign of any introspection even to this very day.

    I suppose he would also consider it to be “a badge of courage” to step into a boxing ring to beat up an invalid who has been dragged into that ring against his will and over his strident objections.

    Because that’s pretty much what Cotton did.

    And, somehow, he seems to think that what he did took “courage”.

    No, dude, I can think of many words that would describe the brutalization of a country that did not threaten you, but “courageous” is not one of ’em.

    • “No, dude, I can think of many words that would describe the brutalization of a country that did not threaten you, but “courageous” is not one of ’em.”

      Would one of those words be “thug”?

  9. Cotton: “meet in DC, @JZarif, time of your choosing to debate Iran’s record of tyranny, treachery, & terror.”

    Hmmm, so I take it that Tom Cotton doesn’t know who overthrew Iran’s democratic government and installed the Shah of Iran in its place?

    Perhaps the Good Senator would show real courage and participate in a debate in Tehran regarding who was responsible for that little act of “tyranny, treachery, & terror”.

    The topic could be: “Stop your bellyaching, we always knew that the Shah would be good for you, and history shows that we were right” and Tom Cotton could lead the team for the affirmative.

    I’m sure he’d make a cracking job of it.

    • And maybe Mr. Zarif can point out that (a) Saddam Hussein was forcing Iran to fight a war to survive because he was getting help from the US, and (b) the US is a greater threat to the survival of Iran than Iraq ever was, based on their historical aims.

  10. They say these pencil-necked geeks are a dime-a-dozen.

    I’m looking for the guy supplying the dimes……

    Thanks Arkansas for unleashing more stupidity on the world.

  11. The last president with significant military experience was Jimmy Carter who was a Naval officer, commander of a submarine, and nuclear engineer serving under Hymen Rickover who oversaw the conversion to nuclear power propulsion.

    Because he concentrated his presidency on peacemaking and the establishment of treaty regimes, his considerable military experience and military expertise is frequently overlooked, or not even known at all, nor factored in when analyzing many of his presidential decisions.

  12. The last president with significant military experience was Jimmy Carter who was a Naval officer, commander of a submarine, and nuclear engineer serving under Hymen Rickover who oversaw the conversion to nuclear power propulsion.
    Because he concentrated his presidency on peacemaking and the establishment of treaty regimes, his considerable military experience and military expertise is frequently overlooked, or not even known at all, nor factored in when analyzing many of his presidential decisions.

  13. Calling Cotton and other military personnel heroes for their service in Iraq is another example of how Orwellian language has become in the US. The US-UK invasion of Iraq was illegal and thus a crime. Heroes don’t commit crimes. There were, no doubt, individual acts of heroism that occurred, but they would have been more the exception than the rule.

  14. It took a great deal of courage for the American troops in Iraq to face death or mutilation because of IEDs. Not many things could be more stressful. Thousands were killed and tens of thousands suffered permanent traumatic brain injuries.

    Tom Cotton showed real courage, IMO. He’s got brains too, but he’s a neoconservative. He insults and taunts Zarif for only one reason: Cotton wanted him to overreact. Zarif saw that coming and gave Cotton a high five on the birth of his son instead.

    Game and set to Zarif but the match is not over by a long shot. Neos NEVER give up.

  15. Talking of Harvard:

    “You see, the Russians have already experienced what it is like to comply with U.S. economic edicts. That was tried during the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union when experts from Harvard University descended on Moscow with “shock therapy” for the post-communist society. What happened was that a handful of well-connected thieves plundered the nation’s resources, making themselves into billionaire oligarchs while President Boris Yeltsin stayed drunk much of the time and many average Russians faced starvation.” . – link to consortiumnews.com

    “Why do Harvard kids head to Wall Street?” By James Kwak – link to baselinescenario.com

    “As Defense Minister in the Guatemalan army, Gramajo played an integral role in the genocide against the country’s indigenous Mayan population. Not only was he given free entry, but Harvard University granted him a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.” – link to counterpunch.org

    But it isn’t just Harvard. It’s a good bet if you check the culprits who gave us the Wall Street debacle of 2008 and the war on Iraq you’ll find a large number of graduates of other Ivy League schools and other so-called top universities such as the University of Chicago were involved.

  16. His childish outbursts are inevitably the results of his repeated failures to torpedo the negotiations. Zarif, if he wanted, could have made plenty of jokes about in-breeding in Arkansas and the unfortunate monstrosities which result from this practice, but thankfully he did not.

  17. What office does Mr. Cotton think he was elected to? This guy is way out of control.

  18. As a native of Connecticut I’m sorry to see Dr Cole use “Bushes of Connecticut” as a slur against that state. Both Jeb and George Bush were born and raised in Texas, as he should know. Connecticut probably generates fewer chickenhawks per capita than does that great state.

    • I cringe each time George is called a Texan. The “Bushes of Connecticut” are New England bluebloods much like John Kerry. The “Bushes of Connecticut” moved to Texas after WWII which makes them CARPETBAGGERS. Hearing George speak with a Texas drawl is like hearing Mr. Ed the talking horse for the first time. “That isn’t possible.”

  19. Cotton is your typical dumbshit grunt. Like many of those who were in Vietnam and proudly display their service to an imperialistic clusterfuck who refuse to seriously analyze the reasons they were sent to that fucking criminal act, believes what we did with regard to W’s two clusterfucks was just peachy keen. He is a goddamn dolt of the first order.

    • Basically, you’ve just said that he possesses all the qualifications to guarantee him the fast-track to be a future Republican candidate for POTUS.

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