Sunday, May 18, 2008



Will anyone dare to bring up the sanity question?

Ask anyone in Washington who the biggest publicity whore is in Congress and you always get the same answer: John McCain. He has cultivated the press like no other member of either house. And today one of his more pathetic sycophants, Matt Bai, authored a mega-puff piece that McCain must have been drooling over-- until the throw away line at the end of the third paragraph:
More recently, McCain has found himself on the opposite side of Webb and Hagel again, this time over their “G.I. bill” that would offer education money to every returning veteran. McCain and others want a more limited bill that would encourage rank-and-file soldiers to re-enlist rather than return to civilian life.

McCain has been shrewd, and largely successful in portraying himself as a friend of the military. A careful examination of his voting record shows that he is a friend to the Pentagon, a friend to the military contractors, mercenary companies, and to the war profiteers but never a friend-- not when moves beyond running his fat mouth-- to the regular fighting men or to the military vets. Currently McCain's credibility with military families has strained to the breaking point because of his vow to sabotage the bipartisan GI Bill introduced by fighting (rather than imprisoned) war heroes Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and passed overwhelmingly in the House last week.

Back to Bai. He misses the entire point of why McCain is the Senate's most unhinged and dangerous war-monger. He almost gets it; I mean he has the facts. He just doesn't have what it takes to put them together.
When it comes to McCain and all the other Vietnam War vets in the Senate, only McCain is an unabashed cheerleader for Bush's disastrous war, one he is eager to make his own... and expand exponentially. "I know war," he blusters to Bai, as he blusters to everyone who has ever interviewed him, "and I know the tragedy of war. And no one hates war more than veterans.”
Among his fellow combat veterans in the Senate, past and present, he is the only one who has continued to champion the war in Iraq; by contrast, Kerry, Webb and Hagel have emerged in the years since the invasion as unsparing critics of American involvement there. (In a new book, Hagel, who voiced deep concerns about Iraq even as he voted for the war resolution in 2002, predicts that the war will turn out to be “the most dangerous and costly foreign-policy debacle in our nation’s history.”) This divide among old allies may be the inevitable result of a protracted war that has cleaved plenty of American households and friendships. But it may also be that the war is revealing underlying fractures among the Senate’s Vietnam coalition.

There is a feeling among some of McCain’s fellow veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain’s comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly. They are wary of seeming to denigrate McCain’s service, marked by his legendary endurance in a Hanoi prison camp, when in fact they remain, to this day, in awe of it. And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.

Not all of McCain’s fellow veterans subscribe to the theory that the singularity of his war experience has anything to do with his intransigence on Iraq. (Bob Kerrey, for one, told me that while he was aware of this argument, he has never believed it.) But some suspect that whatever lesson McCain took away from his time in Vietnam, it was not the one that stayed with his colleagues who were “in country” during those years — that some wars simply can’t be won on the battlefield, no matter how long you fight them, no matter how many soldiers you send there to die.

“McCain is my friend and brother, and I love him dearly,” Max Cleland, Georgia’s former Democratic senator, told me when we talked last month. “But I think you learn something fighting on the ground, like me and John Kerry and Chuck Hagel did in Vietnam. This objective of ‘hearts and minds’? Well, hello! You didn’t know which heart and mind was going to blow you up!

“I have seen this movie before, and I know how it ends,” says Cleland, who lost three of his limbs to an errant grenade during the battle of Khe Sanh. “With thousands dead and tens of thousands more injured, and years later you ask yourself what you were doing there. To the extent my friend John McCain signs on to this, he is endangering America’s long-term interests, and probably his own election in the fall.”

So what is it that Bai is missing? The bitterness and frustration of an ego-obsessed hot dog-- an elderly but tragically immature one-- whose incarceration, something he was once ashamed of but has turned into his calling card, never allowed him to get the blood lust out of his system. And now, as he smells his own mortality, he senses the opportunity. Back in 2000 when he was battling Bush for the GOP presidential nomination, Bush was calling for a more humble foreign policy while McCain's bellicose attitude was all about "rogue-state rollback" and taking hostile action against Iraq, Iran and North Korea. That's when he threw his lot in with the most demented, naive and least trustworthy bunch in U.S. politics, the neocons. McCain was another right-wing pol taken in by Iranian double agent Ahmed Chalabi.

By the time Bai gets into his interview with McCain, it is clear-- although maybe not to Bai-- that McCain is so far gone that he should be wearing a bib and being kept away from sharp objects lest he hurt himself. Out of nowhere he starts carrying on about how wanted war criminal Henry Kissinger is his most trusted foreign policy adviser and how he isn't a hawk. Bai is moved to mention that the campaign could "become a referendum on whether he was stable and rational enough to be trusted with the nation’s nuclear codes." How could it not? He's a confused old man who should be thinking about presiding over birthday parties for his grandchildren, not over the National Security Council. "It’s hard to know who the Janjaweed is," he tells Bai as he contemplates invading Sudan, "who are the killers, who are the victims. It’s all jumbled up." Yes it is... time for a nice nappy... although he insisted, albeit wistfully, on expanding his list of who to invade to include Myanmar.
“It goes back to the Vietnam thing,” McCain told me. “I’m just not sure the American people would support a military engagement in Burma, no matter how justified the cause. And I can’t tell you exactly when it would be over. And I can’t tell you exactly what the reaction of the people there would be.”

Most American politicians, of course, would immediately dismiss the idea of sending the military into Zimbabwe or Myanmar as tangential to American interests and therefore impossible to justify. McCain didn’t make this argument. He seemed to start from a default position that moral reasons alone could justify the use of American force, and from there he considered the reasons it might not be feasible to do so. In other words, to paraphrase Robert Kennedy, while most politicians looked at injustice in a foreign land and asked, “Why intervene?” McCain seemed to look at that same injustice and ask himself, “Why not?”

And one thing he will never ask "why not?" about is ending the occupation of Iraq. In McCainWorld, that war never ends. Bai is sympathetic and forgiving of all of McCain's unattractive traits. "We made a mess in Iraq, he says, but it’s our mess now, and we have to stay on and fix it."


Senator Jim Webb explained it on Meet The Press today. If Bush vetoes the bipartisan GI Bill he will be the first president in the history of our country to veto benefits for military vets. And his two biggest enablers on this-- Mitch McConnell and John McCain.

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At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would The Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang respond to the news of an American solider in Iraq having been discharged (and facing the prospect of court-martial) for using a copy of the Holy Qur'an for gunnery target practice?

(Let alone some of the more vocal specimens of "heathy" and "patriotic" Islamophobia from the Dark Satanic Mills of conservative propaganda, especially so Michael Savage, John Hagee and Rod Parsley. That, an Branson's Muzikschaukultur presenting him as a hero in Disneyland stylee.)

At 4:44 PM, Blogger polderboy said...

Don't you think McCain is driven by pent up anger and rage for what he has endured while being PoW which in the end was all for naught?
That's got to leave a mark.

I shudder to think at the thought that he might have set his eyes on the presidency to get this rage out of his system and to get back at the world, once and for all

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We made a mess in Iraq, he says, but it’s our mess now, and we have to stay on and fix it."

Which should start by not electing another dull-witted whore-whoring neocon stooge that cheerled the invasion and insisted all along that it would be rose petals and candy.

Step two is criminal prosecution of these war criminals as payback for what they've done to Iraq, the US and world, and a severe warning to any bloodlusters who might pull this shit again, that they'll be held accountable for disasters resulting from their propagandistic lying and "one percent solutions". You don't heal the wound without extracting the poison.


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