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The Rhetoric of John McCain

by ROBERT FANTINA

The Republican Party’s choice for president, the elderly senator from Arizona, John McCain, has been busy backtracking, ‘clarifying’ and generally attempting to make sense in his speeches but, unfortunately for him, having little success. This was evident this week when he spoke about the Iraq war, one of his very favorite topics, and oil. While speaking at a town-hall style gather in Denver he said the following: “My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”

This statement seems clear; Mr. McCain was echoing the pronouncement of former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan who, in his published memoirs, said that the Iraq War was “largely about oil.” It would appear to any reasonable listener of Mr. McCain’s speech that the U.S. felt it had to send ‘our young men and women’ to war in the Middle East because of U.S. dependence on oil.

Not so, Mr. McCain soon ‘clarified.’ He wasn’t referring to the Iraqi War, now in its sixth year, and one of the major concerns of the voters in the upcoming presidential election. He wasn’t referring to the war that has thus far claimed over 4,000 American lives, and from which the majority of American want a quick U.S. exit. He was not speaking of the war which has sent home thousands of injured soldiers, and that continues to decimate the U.S. economy. No, he was simply giving a history lesson, and referring to the Gulf War. “No, no,” he responded to reporters a short time later, when asked about his statement. “I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons.” He then continued his ‘clarification:’ “We didn’t want him (Saddam Hussein) to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it’s more important than any other part of the world.”

Can any potential voter now be in any doubt? It makes sense, at least to Mr. McCain, apparently, that when a presidential candidate is discussing important issues with potential voters, he would suddenly mention a past war, ignoring a present one. This might be the familiar ‘bait and switch’ tactic, but for audience members that did not have the advantage of reading his ‘clarification’ statements, his words remained clear: the U.S. invaded Iraq for oil.

Regardless of this peculiar attempt at wordsmithing, Mr. McCain at least made his imperial designs on Iraq clear. In criticizing an advertisement placed by MoveOn.org that mentions his comment about U.S. troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years, Mr. McCain characterized it as “a direct falsification.”

The statement in question dates all the way back to January of this year, ancient history for a political candidate trying hard to pander to every conceivable voting bloc that might possibly look his way. At that time he was asked to comment on a remark made by President Bush, the author of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr. Bush had theorized that U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for 50 years. Although Mr. McCain said that Americans might remain in Iraq for 100 years, he called their continued, long-term presence a ‘security arrangement,’ perhaps similar to the ‘kind of thing’ the U.S. has had in Korea since the end of that war. More military bases and thousands of soldiers just waiting for the uppity citizens of Korea to make a false move. And Korea doesn’t even have oil; how much more necessary is it, therefore, for the U.S. to have that ‘kind of thing’ in Iraq?

During his infamous ‘100 years’ response, he went on to make matters worse for himself. He called Iraq a “very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

Mr. McCain seems to conveniently forget (not unusual for people his age) that there was no terrorist threat in Iraq when it had a stable, albeit oppressive, government. Only since the U.S. brought destruction and civil war to that nation has the boundless hatred of its citizens been directed toward the U.S. Iraq indeed is a volatile part of the world, but it has only been made so by U.S. interference.

The Republican nominee also went off the boards when commenting about Senator Barack Obama’s economic policies. Mr. McCain needs to tread carefully in economic waters, since by his own admission he finds them somewhat muddy. He has recently proposed suspending the gas tax over the summer months, to give “low-income Americans…a little bit of relief so they can travel a little further and a little longer, and maybe have a little bit of money left over to enjoy some other things in their lives.”

The senator from Arizona does not seem to realize that low-income Americans are not looking to take longer road trips. Rather, they are striving to hold onto their homes, put food on their tables, and provide health care for their families. Many such Americans live in cities and rely on public transportation, and either don’t have, or seldom use, cars. Many of the middle-class suburban families who would normally take road trips are busy watching each penny as they cling to their middle-class status and strive not to join the ranks of the working (or unemployed) poor. But Mr. McCain, flying about the country on his wife’s corporate jet, dispensing his good will to the crowds he addresses as ‘my friends,’ seems unaware of their plight. But his concern for corporate profits is not so unclear; he would make permanent Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for them and the wealthy.

The Democrats continue to bicker, as two monstrous egos battle it out, state after state. One of them must soon be chosen, if for no other reason than to prevent the travesty of a McCain presidency. Mr. Bush did his best to usher the U.S. into third world status; President McCain would complete the task.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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