Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The New York Times swings and whiffs again on McCain

In today's New York Times reporter Matt Bai examines "The McCain Doctrines" with regard to his experience dealing with national security matters. Bai swings and strikes out badly in his assessment and hypothesis that John McCain knows little of war because he was a POW in Vietnam:

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. ...

“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.” ...

[I'll correct Bai here on the fact that Cleland didn't lose his limbs on the battlefield. He lost them while no in combat, having beers with his fellow soldiers. It was an accident, and wasn't caused by any action he saw at Khe Sanh.]

If it is true that McCain’s Vietnam experience left him with a different attitude about foreign wars from the one held by those who were on the ground, then it certainly wasn’t apparent earlier in his political career. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, after he arrived in the Senate, McCain was, in fact, an outspoken opponent of American intervention in faraway lands — at least in cases where the country wasn’t willing to lose thousands of lives to achieve its aims. But during the post-cold-war 1990s, as America’s foreign-policy establishment struggled to define the nation’s obligations to the rest of the world, McCain went through his own kind of inner journey, seeking some balance between the legacy of Vietnam and the pull of new crises around the globe — crises born of savagery and rife with human consequence. That journey led him inexorably toward Iraq, where McCain’s resolve hardened to the point that now, as he prepares to run the climactic campaign of his life, he finds himself carrying the weight of another war, one that has divided the country and devastated his party. One way or the other, Iraq will determine this last phase of McCain’s political life, as surely as the war in Vietnam defined its beginning.

The idea that his time in a prison camp somehow sealed him away from the horrors of war is preposterous. His captors regularly tortured him and his mates. Everyone likes to point out he was afforded special treatment because his captors knew who he was. But after trying to send him home, and his blatant refusal to go, things changed. Beatings and other abuses were meted out by the guards. On two occasions McCain tried to hang himself in his cell, only to be cut down by the guards and severely beaten. Point of fact -- this experience showed John McCain exactly what a totalitarian, abusive regime was like.

He didn't need to be on the ground to understand war. In fact, John McCain did something that John Kerry, Jim Webb, and Max Cleland didn't do. After the war was over, he went to the National War College to study up on war and it's effects. Add twenty-plus years service on numerous congressional committees that dealt with veteran's affairs and national security, and you get a man who brings a unique experience to the national security credentials debate.

Basically what Bai is trying to tell readers is that because of his experience, the fact he enlisted freely, and he has a distinguished military history within his family, John McCain can't be trusted. He's a war monger. This is another ludicrous accusation that Bai can't back up. He tries to equate Vietnam to Iraq (oh, where have we heard this meme before?) and fails there, as well. There are very few similarities to Iraq and Vietnam. While critics point to the argument that, like Vietnam, our soldiers had a problem distinguishing friend from foe, soldiers returning from Iraq brush off the insinuation. They knew who the enemy was.

John McCain's national security experience makes him far more qualified to be commander-in-chief. In fact he understands the horrors of war far better than Barack Obama does. Obama was born in 1961, and just missed being able to serve in Vietnam. There were no wars when he was growing up, save Gulf War I, which by then he was already well on his way in his chosen career. The fact that Obama couldn't see the necessity to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein speaks volumes in terms of his critical thinking capabilities. Saddam was funding and giving sanctuary to terrorists all across the region, including al Qaeda. He was a threat to the region because of his ambitions. We can argue over his WMDs, which weren't the primary reason for going into Iraq even though critics always claim they were, but it doesn't change the fact that in deposing him, the region is a bit more stable now with a free, democratic Iraq than it was with a dictator in charge.

The Times really needs to give up these attacks on John McCain. Since endorsing him on 25 January of this year the Times has unleashed hit-piece after hit-piece, and they constantly miss the mark. Whether this is a contrived effort to see if he'll lose his cool is unknown, but what we do know is that every time they draw a bead on him -- despite their thunder and gnashing of teeth -- the charge never sticks. It's embarrassing to see the Times keep this up. And they wonder why their paper is slowly dying on the vine.

Publius II


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home