Arizona Senator and apparent Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been riding his so-called ‘Straight Talk Express’ for some time now, carting his frail, aging carcass about the countryside as he smilingly promises Americans four more years of misery. Yet his happy train was derailed this week, when he lapsed into fairy tales that no toddler would accept. Surely, after this speech, any child would long for the realism of Cinderella or Harry Potter. The following are some of the more noteworthy excerpts from Mr. McCain’s ‘happily ever after’ view of the conclusion of his first potential administration.
The Iraq War has been won, Iraq is a functioning democracy, violence is much reduced, and America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure.
This puzzling statement leads the parade. What ‘winning’ the Iraq War means has been changed and altered so many times that what Mr. McCain now means is unclear. The world was once told that it meant the end of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Then we were told that, oh, by the way, they never existed. But the war would be won when Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Yes, ‘Mission Accomplished,’ said President George Bush, only he neglected to notify the Iraqi freedom fighters. Five years later, the ‘mission,’ whatever that is, continues. Perhaps Mr. McCain will enlighten us on his idea of ‘winning’ in Iraq.
Next we are told that Iraq, in four short years, will be a functioning democracy. Yes, they had a vote, but it doesn’t seem to have accomplished all that much, regardless of how Mr. Bush celebrated it. In order for Iraq to have a ‘functioning democracy,’ that nation’s citizens, who closely associate government with religion due to widely held religious beliefs, will have to convert to some other belief system, as they shun in four years centuries of deeply held traditions. Perhaps Mr. McCain intends to start ‘democracy proselytizing’ on Inauguration Day.
“Violence,” we are told by Mr. McCain, “is much reduced.” One wonders how that will be accomplished. Possibly with an escalation of violence until such point that enough Iraqis are dead that the freedom movement is completely crushed by the U.S. military.
Mr. McCain saved his most bizarre point of that one statement for last: “America,” he promises, will have “welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure.”
Why is it that a U.S. senator, and one who aspires to be president, either cannot or simply refuses to accept the reality that Iraq posed no threat to the U.S., and that the only thing this immoral and obscene war was meant to secure was oil? U.S. service men and women have sacrificed with the best of intentions for the worst of reasons.
Mr. McCain continued.
The threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.
One looks in vain to determine what it is Mr. McCain has done thus far to reduce whatever threat he seems to see from a resurgent Taliban. Is there particular legislation he has sponsored, or is his mindless agreement to every costly war funding proposal enough? We won’t even bother to ask here what the threat is. One does not want to hear whatever excuse covers up the U.S.’s need to use Afghanistan as a corridor for oil exportation.
“I know from experience, you set a day for surrender – which is basically what you do when you say you are withdrawing – and you will pay a much a heavier price later on.”
Could Mr. McCain possibly expand on this statement? What experience is he talking about? Please do not tell us that he is trotting out once again his story as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He has beaten that dead horse long enough, especially since more recent information seems to indicate that, while being a prisoner of war is certainly an horrific experience (just look at the way the U.S. treats its prisoners of war), Mr. McCain’s experience was not among the most difficult; certainly it seems almost benign next to that of those held by the U.S.
So how, one longs to learn, does Mr. McCain know ‘from experience’ that if a withdrawal date is set, ‘a much heavier price’ is paid later on? Perhaps he believes that all he has to do is make a war-related statement, tie it to his prisoner-of-war experience, and it will be accepted by the general populace.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. McCain “envisioned an era of bipartisanship driven by weekly news conferences and British-style question periods with joint meetings of Congress.” As we all join hands and sing Kumbaya. Mr. McCain would have us believe that after eight years of a president who lost the popular vote and was appointed to office by the Supreme Court; after the rule of a man who disdained bipartisanship and rode roughshod over all opponents; who called massive opposition to his wars the words of a ‘focus group;’ who has condoned the rendition and torture of prisoners captured and held by the U.S., that he, as a knight in shining armor, will come to the rescue of the nation, and unite a bitterly divided populace in four short years. And he proposed to accomplish this without Harry Potter’s magic wand!
Mr. McCain continued his fairy tale.
“The increase in actionable intelligence that the counterinsurgency produced led to the capture or death of Osama bin Laden, and his chief lieutenants. … There still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”
Perhaps now is not the time to discuss U.S. intelligence; you know, the kind that enabled Mr. Bush, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney to look the world in its doubting eye and state categorically that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction aimed at the U.S. and was only awaiting word from Mr. Hussein to pull the trigger. Based on this ‘intelligence’ (a one-word oxymoron when used in this particular context), Mr. Bush started a war that has killed a million innocent Iraqis and over 4,000 U.S. soldiers; has caused international hatred of the United States and destabilized an already volatile part of the world. In the fairy-tale world of Mr. McCain, this same ‘intelligence’ will lead to the ‘capture or death of Osama bin Laden,’ who somehow has been able to elude capture for nearly seven years, despite the fact that two wars have been launched in his name since the attacks on the U.S. which he is accused of masterminding.
Mr. McCain’s fairy tale continued: expanded health care, worker retraining programs, a robust economy. All this will be in his sack as Santa McCain climbs down America’s chimney on November 4, 2008. Perhaps he can use some of his wife’s fortune to finance it all.
So there we have it: the world in 2013 after the first term of a President John McCain in the view of candidate John McCain. We must be forgiven if we ask how and why Mr. McCain overlooked the fact that, should he be victorious in November, he will in all likelihood face a Congress controlled by the Democrats. And while the members of the current Congress have inexplicably been cowed by Mr. Bush, they may be less willing to give Mr. McCain the same free pass.
And does Mr. McCain believe that Iraq’s neighbors will simply sit passively by as he escalates the war? Does he believe that a 100-year occupation of Iraq will be acceptable to Iran, Syria and other nations in the area?
Does Mr. McCain believe that, once he is elected (one shudders to even consider the possibility), Americans will rally around him, forgetting the hard-fought election campaign and simply decide to buy whatever it is he happens to be selling? Does he take no thought to how endorsing and continuing the policies of a president with a 30% approval rating might dissuade 70% of American’s from falling in line behind him?
When hijacked airliners were slamming into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Mr. Bush was busy reading ‘My Pet Goat’ to a class of elementary school children. One must wonder if Mr. McCain’s reading material is on the same level; he seems to have little grasp of the international realities or domestic challenges that will face the next U.S. president. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t care about them; perhaps he is content to continue Mr. Bush’s policies, disdaining the poor while pampering the rich and ignoring the resulting consequences both at home and abroad.
Senator Barrack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, cannot be seen by those opposed to Mr. McCain as America’s savior, descending from his lofty throne in Illinois to rescue the poor and destitute from the clutches of the Republican nominee. Rather, he must be viewed as the most reasonable choice in an election that threatens four more years of the disasters Mr. Bush has rendered. Mr. Obama at least promises a change from eight years of war-mongering and pampering of the rich to the neglect of everyone else. What little a President Obama might be able to accomplish will at least be far better than the disasters of a President McCain.
It’s time for the ‘Straight Talk Express’ to retire, along with its engineer, to a place where they can do far less damage than can be done from the White House. Let’s hope the U.S. voters are listening carefully to Mr. McCain’s words, and send him back to Arizona in November.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.