Sunday, September 28, 2008

Swiftboating John McCain

warmonger: (–noun)
a person who advocates, endorses, or tries to precipitate war
John McCain is a Warmonger

And his swiftboating is long overdue. . .

A couple of points or more to frame this column with context to assist any readers who are unfamiliar with my thinking:
  • I do not see presidential election campaigns as some variant of Corinthian sport. They are especially not spectator sports; if they are sport at all, they are participatory sports in the sense that everyone is an involuntary participant as well as a stake-holder. If anyone could imagine an appropriate arena for politics, a suitable image would resemble less a football gridiron or a horse track and resemble more a bullfighting arena - because political contests have consequences in our lives. If politics is sport, it is a blood sport.

  • In politics, as in life, disproportionate response is optimal. I believe in giving back more than I have received. When presented with a gift, I believe it should be reciprocated by a kindness in greater scale than the original gesture. Similarly, when I receive an intentionally painful blow from some quarter, I believe in returning that not only in kind, but in greater measure. That is what liberals do not understand about politics. Democrats are learning. But they are only to the point that they have discovered that instant pay-back is important. They haven't yet realized that it's more beneficial and productive to render pay-back and then some.

  • Which brings up the Swift-Boating of John Kerry. Now, I am not recalling just the original Swift boaters who challenged John F. Kerry's history of heroism on the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. Who I am remembering are the ditto-head, rank and file Republicans at their 2004 national convention who wore band-aids on their sleeves to mock Kerry. Nor am I writing this as a true-believer in Kerry's candidacy; I write merely as one more American who resents the fact that his once-great and still-beloved country was saddled with four more years of occupation by a political cabal alien to her traditions.

  • No, I am not a true-believing supporter of Barack Obama. I am merely an informed voter who singled out Senator Obama in a crowded field after the Iowa primary as this nation's best progressive hope to compensate for the last eight years. (Notice: I deliberately did not say retaliation and revenge.) Immediately, Obama signs sprouted in my front yard. After almost a decade of the worst governance in American history, I had the audacity to hope for four years (maybe stretch it to eight) of the best governance our beleaguered country could produce.

  • After the Republicans have managed to out do themselves by nominating a ticket of even less merit than the outgoing Busheney clique, I raged in dissent against Obama's disinclination to tell the whole truth. He unmistakably sent a harmonious, bipartisan message before the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when he decided not to select a truth-teller like General Wesley Clark to be his running mate. I recalled when Harry Truman heard a voice from one of his crowds in the 1948 campaign yelling, "Give'em hell, Harry!" Truman responded,
I don't give them hell. I give them the truth and they think it's hell.
Instead, Obama makes nice. Trouble is, the GOP doesn't understand nice.

Well, I don't offer up Wesley Clark here as I have in the past. The General has been deprived by Obama of any current cachet in this 2008 campaign. Instead, I offer up Michael Moore who has never needed any protocol, introductions, invitations or cachet. Moore delivers the unvarnished truth, although others may experience it as bloody hell.

Sadly, McCain's sacrifice had nothing to do with protecting the United States. He was sent to Vietnam along with hundreds of thousands of others in an attempt to prop up what was essentially an American colony, South Vietnam, which was run by a dictator which we had installed. Lest we all forget, the Vietnam War represented a mass slaughter by the United States government … The U.S. armed forces killed more than 2,000,000 civilians in Vietnam (and perhaps another million in Laos and Cambodia). The Vietnamese had done nothing to us. They had not bombed or invaded or even sought to murder a single American. President Johnson and the Pentagon lied to Congress in order to get a vote passed to put the war in full gear. Only two senators had the guts to vote "no". Almost 3,000,000 troops ended up serving in Vietnam. The United States dropped more tons of bombs on the Vietnamese people than the Allied powers dropped during all of World War II.

In response, during the nine years of the war, not a single Vietnamese bomb was dropped on U.S. soil, not a single Vietnamese terrorist attack took place in the U.S.A. But we poured 18,000,000 gallons of poisonous chemicals on their villages and rice fields. The number of injured, wounded and severely deformed Vietnamese has never been counted because it's just too huge to for any one to calculate, let alone comprehend.

And yet, with all the death and destruction we visited upon the Vietnamese, we lost the war. They never gave up. Just like I'd like to think we'd never give up should we ever be on the receiving end of such a horrific assault from an invading force.

During Christmas of 1972, though the U.S. was only a month away from calling it quits, President Nixon ordered the carpet-bombing of the civilian population of Hanoi and Haiphong. Two thousand combat sorties dropped 20,000 tons of bombs in a final burst of anger for having been beaten by a nation who didn't possess a single attack helicopter or bomber plane during the entire war.

John McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. During this bombing campaign, which lasted almost 44 months, U.S. forces flew 307 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam (roughly the same dropped in the Pacific during all of World War II). Though the stated targets were factories, bridges and power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes schools and hospitals. In the midst of the campaign, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That's more than one 9/11 every single month - for forty-four months.

In his book, Faith of Our Fathers, McCain wrote that he was upset that he had been limited to bombing military installations, roads and power plants. He said such restrictions were "illogical" and "senseless". McCain wrote,
I do believe that had we taken the war to the North and made full, consistent use of airpower in the North, we would have prevailed.
In other words, McCain believes we could have won the war had he been able to drop even more bombs.

And thus it was on October 26, 1967, that John McCain, flying his A-4 Skyhawk, was hit by a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery shell just as he fired off his missile at - not a military target, not an army unit, not a battle ship - but an electricity generating station that supplied electrical to a number of neighborhoods. The target, according to McCain, was a "heavily populated part of Hanoi. Heavily populated. A plane from the sky raining missiles down on a heavily populated area of the nation's capital.

..... John McCain is already using the Vietnam War in his political ads. In doing so, it makes not just what happened to him in Vietnam fair game for discussion, but also what he did to the Vietnamese. Considering what the Republicans were willing to do to smear John Kerry in the last election, I don't want to hear them now say that John McCain's war record cannot be called into question. I would like to see one brave reporter during the election season ask this simple question of John McCain:
Is it morally right to drop bombs and missiles in a heavily populated area where hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians will perish?
My own answer (different from Moore’s probably) is certainly not: assuredly not in wars begun of our own American volition, choice or caprice. But, with that caveat entered, Moore’s question can certainly spark a valid inquiry.

Another caveat: I am not saying John McCain is a war criminal. That status is arguably reserved for the suits in the White House (and the Pentagon) who have launched or expanded unnecessary wars (LBJ, RMN, & GWB). Men and women, who serve honorably in uniform, following lawful orders, are not criminals. They are heroes; especially those, like John McCain, sustaining severe injuries and enduring long captivity.

Jeff Goldberg convincingly argues in his Why War Is His Answer that it was this captivity in North Vietnam which forged and steeled McCain’s militarism. His captors daily taunted him that, notwithstanding our military victories on the ground, all of our American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines would ‘lose Vietnam’ because of political realities – because Vietnam was for the Vietnamese.

In his obsessive pursuit of the presidency this decade, McCain has shamelessly flip-flopped on a host of issues: tax, health care, immigration, or off-shore oil drilling. For him, these policies are just matters for shifting political calculations. But when it comes to foreign policy, there is no room for ideological plasticity for McCain.

Goldberg writes,
It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor—two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined—that he becomes truly unbending …. .

John McCain has been said to have neoconservative inclinations; to critics, this suggests a commitment to the unilateral deployment of military force to bring about a democratic transformation in once-hostile countries. The question of whether he’s a Neocon, however, is not entirely relevant; McCain has advisers from both the Neocon and realist camps, and he’s too inconsistent to be easily labeled. In one area, though, he has been more or less constant: his belief in the power of war to solve otherwise insoluble problems. This ideology of action has not been undermined by his horrific experience as a tortured POW during the Vietnam War, or by the Bush administration’s disastrous execution of the Iraq War.
I don’t quarrel with the fact that McCain parlayed his military service into a distinguished senatorial career, and I thought his brief presidential candidacy in 2000 had merit. I even voted for him in the California primary that year. I’m just saying that, unlike Al Gore, McCain the man has lost a little a lot in the past eight years. The Arizona Senator’s current sorry-ass campaign adds up to little more than Noun-Verb-POW. And a sense of entitlement can never be a qualification of the highest office in the land.

Furthermore, a life-long obsession for national defense does not imply expertise in statesmanship. More often than not, McCain sees military solutions for political problems. Where, in McCain’s vast history of political experience has he ever spoken up against or voted down committing American forces? I challenge any reader to find such an instance.

All I am saying, is that John McCain is still a prisoner of war.