Republican Senator and GOP presidential nominee John McCain made a startling statement this past week. Said he: “I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description ….”
One is somewhat stunned by this statement from a man who has built his career by exploiting his own tragic experiences during the Vietnam War. It is also puzzling that someone who detests war would so readily vote to involve the U.S. in another imperial military adventure; on October 22, 2002, Mr. McCain voted to authorize the use of military force against Iraq. Much of the world recognized the U.S. invasion as a catastrophic mistake, but the opinions of America’s most trusted allies, and millions of citizens the world over, were meaningless to President Bush and a majority of the members of Congress, including Mr. McCain.
Five years later, with more than 1,000,000 Iraqis dead, 3,000,000 displaced, over 4,000 U.S. soldiers lying in their coffins and tens of thousands more injured, most U.S. citizens have belatedly joined the rest of the world in recognizing the Iraq war as a major mistake; polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans support a quick withdrawal from this disaster. Mr. McCain, however, despite his avowed hatred of war, supports the continued involvement of the U.S. in Iraq, and foresees U.S. military might in that country for years to come. In further demonstrating his complete disassociation with reality, he expressed his belief that most Americans agree with his assessment that the U.S. is winning the war, and are willing to be patient. In January of this year, an Angus-Reid poll indicated that a whopping 32% of Americans believe the war effort has been worth the costs. Mr. McCain is using a very peculiar kind of math if he believes that represents ‘most Americans.’
Mr. McCain continued: “Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.”
Few people can argue with this statement, but it certainly calls into question Mr. McCain’s high opinion of his hero, Mr. Bush. Just last month when discussing the U.S.’s forgotten war, the one in Afghanistan, with the soldiers and civilians fighting it, Mr. Bush said the following:
“I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.” He continued his incredibly callous, thoughtless words: “It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks.”
Few people can forget the controversy that erupted during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. In the former Mr. Bush ran against Vice President Al Gore who enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam despite the fact that an influential friend could have obtained for him a place in the National Guard. In the latter he ran against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who was busy being wounded on the front lines in Vietnam while Mr. Bush was ‘serving’ in some stateside capacity in the Alabama National Guard, and even that service is questionable. During the 2004 campaign, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Lois Romano of the Washington Post reported the following: “Only one person has vivid recollections of serving with Bush at Dannelly field. John B. ‘Bill’ Calhoun, 69 — whose name was provided by a Republican ally of Bush’s — said he saw Bush sign in at the 187th eight to 10 times for about eight hours each from May to October 1972.” Compare this to the many people who attest to the bravery and courage of Mr. Kerry as he served in Vietnam.
Mr. Bush, during his younger days, apparently did not see war as “a fantastic experience,” that was “in some ways romantic.”
One must conclude that Mr. McCain has a variety of conflicted feelings: he detests war, but supports the current two on which the U.S. has tragically and foolishly embarked. He idolizes Mr. Bush who, by his own definition, must be either fool or a fraud (the argument could easily be made for either or both).
While he prattles on, with a fawning press talking about what a ‘straight-shooter’ he is, the potential Democratic candidates are busy sniping at each other about trivia: Senator Obama’s minor associations with a former member of the Weather Underground; misstatements about this or that aspect of Senator Clinton’s tenure as First Lady and other such non-issues that should require no more than a clarification. Instead these worthless topics take stage front and center, as two wars rage and the U.S. economy implodes.
Polls are beginning to show that the upcoming election, in which a Democratic victory should have been assured, is now going to be close; it is possible the Mr. McCain will be elected, thereby advancing the disastrous policies of Mr. Bush for another four years. The wars will continue, with all the carnage and suffering associated with any war and intensified when a world power invades and occupies a third world nation. The U.S. economy will continue to weaken, as more people lose their jobs and their homes.
This, by all accounts, because the U.S. voter is tiring of the endless petty battles between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, and is therefore turning to Mr. McCain. One attempts to think the U.S. voter is more intelligent than that implies, but looking at the results of the 2004 election, one is skeptical.
In 2004 Mr. Kerry learned that a heroic war record and a wealthy wife were insufficient to win the presidency. Mr. McCain may learn that a tragic war experience (he was, of course, a prisoner of war for five years) and a wealthy wife are insufficient four years later to install him in the White House. There may be some degree of a sympathy vote: this elderly man suffered for the U.S. and therefore let’s reward him with the presidency. However, it must be remembered the Mr. McCain was a victim of U.S. imperialism. That that imperialistic attitude is fostered by Mr. McCain himself should be sufficient to disqualify him from the most powerful occupation in the world.
The two Democratic candidates do not represent a panacea; one can expect little change under an Obama or Clinton presidency. But with either of them in the White House one can look for a slow departure from two wars that are killing innocent people by the hundreds of thousands, while those wars decimate the U.S. economy.
One can hope for some relief for U.S. citizens suffering from the current economic downturn, or who continue to try to rebuild their lives years after Hurricane Katrina turn them upside down. A McCain presidency would simply be ‘meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss’ to a terrifying extent.
We are still nearly seven months from the U.S. presidential election; Mr. Bush is hated around the world, and America resented and despised. The choice, though not between two extremes, is still clear: assurance of more of the same of the possibility of change. Should the U.S. voter opt for the former, the tragic consequences will take generations to resolve.
ROBERT FANTINA is the author of Desertion and the American Soldier.