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John McCain: “War Hero” in an Immoral War

The polarized nature of the articles about, and responses to, Senator John McCain’s death are breathtaking! The sheer amount of militarized tributes are too many to mention. I followed articles about McCain in the New York Times-Reuters and the Guardian, in addition to the left press, Facebook, and read an occasional tweet. I also subscribe to a Facebook page called Blue Revolution, and that site was so full of gushing superpatriotic tributes that I gave up following the threads after a few dozen comments. It was as if the messiah had come down to Earth as a fighter pilot. This was the stuff of Orwell’s 1984… touting both the glory of war and the warriors! We could have been be at war with Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia… it really didn’t matter since it was all about the beauty of war-making. From the comments about McCain, readers might think that war was full of glory without any of its gore!

Even those comments about McCain’s death that did not agree with his policy positions and votes in the Senate were followed up with remarkably similar tributes using words such as “great American,” “patriot,” “man of superior character,” … ad nauseam. The adulation went on for pages. At least both Medea Benjamin and Caitlin Johnstone were consistent in their condemnation of the bellicosity of the late senator. Even the Bone-Spur-In-Chief  belatedly climbed up on the bandwagon of so-called “respect” and had the flag over the White House lowered. The press decried Trump’s insufficient show of patriotism

I think that celebrating the death of anyone is a huge mistake, even those with whom we have nothing in common save the planet on which we live. If I were going to choose one issue upon which I could agree with the late senator, it would be his rejection of torture. But even that position existed with his love of war and all of the preparations and profit that go into making war. I don’t think that he ever found a war that he didn’t like and therein lies the rub. He was opposed to attacking Yemen by way of a special navy operation, but not turning Yemen into an ash heap as a way of sending a message to Iran. Remember “Bomb, bomb, Iran,” sung to the tune of the Beach Boys “Barbara Ann?” In essence, McCain was an authentic and dyed-in-the-wool warmonger. No doubt he suffered tremendously, and that is a real human issue that merits intense scrutiny, but he was gung-ho about bombing the holy hell out of the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War, and that fact alone hardly makes him a hero, or great statesman, or superpatriot, or someone worthy of emulation. But neither was the torture of McCain something that needs to be overlooked and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible way. 

Missing from all of this, however, is the utter wrongheaded Cold War anticommunism that ended with the deaths of millions of innocent people, led to massacres such as My Lai, allowed for the use of napalm and Agent Orange, offered up free-fire zones and strategic hamlets rather than a reasoned assessment of what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam in the first place. More tonnage of bombs were dropped in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War than in all of World War II and the U.S. didn’t offer one cent in reparations for all of that damage. Also missing is the emerging bullying power of a superpower against an opponent with a largely agrarian economy. The late senator took part in the murderous Operation Rolling Thunder as a fighter pilot.

McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008, a Know Nothing if ever one existed, is probably also one of the lowest points of his political career. Remember how she told the American people that she knew about Russia because she could see Russia off of the shore of Alaska. By the same logic, I could anoint myself a nuclear physicist by watching the footage of a nuclear blast.

All of the hyperbole about John McCain came as I accepted an offer from a reader of CounterPunch to help me put my memoir Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Era War Resister into a readable Kindle format. I was amazed at the offer for help since that sort of thing does not often come from members of the political left and the person who offered, an author in her own right, completed the book from soup to nuts, so to speak, and it is now on the Internet.

As I finished the review of the completed book, I thought about how John McCain and I were at 180 degree opposite poles on a continuum about the issues of war and peace. I doubt that those who read my memoir will find words like superpatriot and the like applicable, but they certainly will take a trip on the roller coaster of what it meant to oppose the same war in which John McCain killed people he would never see or meet.

As school begins and the accolades flood the stratosphere for John McCain, remembering the slain students and the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and the connections between violence and war and profit are hard to miss.

Howard Lisnoff is freelance writer.

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