The term ‘chicken hawks’ was one given to those who actively avoided their responsibilities in doing their share during the Vietnam War, leaving it up to others to do it for them. Many of the long-haired, grubbily-dressed shirkers, vocal in their anti-government stance during the 1960’s, were later to emerge as mature graduates and ‘pillars of society’ in pin-striped suits, occupying the halls of power in politics, medicine and law. Some later became (hypocritically) advocates for a new generation of young men to ‘do the right thing’ and go off and fight in some foreign land (Iraq).
“Other young men feigned homosexuality or mental illness. Others came along to their medicals armed with letters from sympathetic doctors outlining contrived maladies. Some starved themselves, others stuffed themselves into obesity. Others cut off fingers … [or] … introduced alien substances such as amphetamines into their systems. When graduation deferments were terminated in 1968, some chose alternative divinity school enrolment. One such student later became Reagan’s budget director attempting to cut back veteran pensions. Others endorsed a confrontational stance with the Soviets, aid to the Contras, ventures into Grenada, Lebanon and the Persian Gulf. They became known as the ‘chicken hawks’, men whose testosterone gland became active after [cut off] age 26.”
- Robert Timberg in The Nightingale’s Song, 1996.
A notice of call-up by mail,
Ignored, so a few went to gaol,
Whilst others made dubious claims;
With some pathetic excuse,
Others indulged in abuse,
Dishonouring a long list of names.
‘Chicken hawks’ were those ‘men’,
All those who lived way back when,
They asked others to raise up their hand;
Paid university fees,
Or went ‘shirking’ overseas,
Waiting war’s end, in some foreign land.
Conscription you see,
Was meant for suckers like me,
Not a requirement for all to be shared;
Claimed they couldn’t belong,
To such a cause that was wrong!
A weak excuse for their running scared!
Couldn’t remain here to face,
All the public disgrace,
Of cowardice attached to their name;
Conspiring parents with clout,
Financed their plans to get out,
So they too share some of the shame!
Returning home with their peers,
Embarked on high paying careers,
Like in politics, medicine and law;
Potential recruits in their prime,
By-passing that crucial time,
Then too old to be called up for war.
In the news of today,
You’ll hear ‘pollies’ who say,
That ‘terrorists’ must be stopped in their tracks!
“We’ll send in the troops!”
And now require support from all groups;
Ignoring times, when they’d turned their backs.
Testosterone now injected,
With false values ‘erected’,
All stood up in their new pin-striped suits;
And sent fresh ‘boys’ off to war,
Like their fathers before,
Sacrificed young lives in ambitious pursuits.
And these so called ‘leaders’ who cause,
All these heart-breaking wars,
And who ‘shirked’ their own duty back then,
Did they then stand up next time?
Let their sons join the line?
Or enrol them, as ‘chicken hawk’ men?