October 1, 2008

Didn’t John McCain or Sarah Palin Learn Anything from The Vietnam Experience?

By In Essays

Patriotism is the last refuge
of the scoundrel.
— Samuel Johnson

Well, my friends, no one will ever accuse John McCain of downplaying his prisoner of war experience in Vietnam to prove that he is a hero and patriot. And no one will ever accuse Barack Obama or any other high-profile Democrat of not paying the proper homage to McCain’s military service at the beginning of their speeches.

But let’s put this in perspective. John McCain came from a military family and was expected to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Nothing wrong with that except for the fact that Vietnam was not World War I or World War II. And at the time, any veteran of either war with an ounce of sense knew it.

My own father, a decorated veteran of World War II, looked at me incredulously when I told him I was thinking of enlisting in the military after high school so that I could fight in Vietnam. After all, I had been raised on his war stories– and the war stories of my uncles– and it all sounded rather glamorous.

Fortunately, my father sat me down, told me the truth about the horrors of war and ended by saying: “This war in Vietnam is different than World War II. It’s not being fought for the right reasons. So stay out of it and go to college.” It was probably the best advice he ever gave me.

By the time I graduated from college, I had put aside my puerile fascination with war and was committed to putting an end to the Vietnam War and promoting peace.

Of course, I was not alone. By that time most thoughtful individuals, including many Vietnam vets who had returned from the war, including John Kerry, had joined the ranks of those of us who were protesting against the war.

Unfortunately, John McCain was not one of them. “Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, I believed and still believe that the war was winnable,” McCain has told audiences over the years. In other words, he has never seemed to grasp the reality of his own experience– that Vietnam was a tragic mistake, that we should have never been there to begin with, and that wars of imperialism don’t work and end up costing hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. No wonder he believes we should stay in Iraq for “a hundred years” if necessary, and no wonder he still thinks we can “win the war in Iraq” rather than end an unnecessary and costly occupation.

The truth is, John McCain is not that much different from George W. Bush when it comes to brain power and critical thinking. He graduated fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy, he admitted that he wasn’t well versed in economics, and he still doesn’t know how to use a computer.

He’s also very similar to Bush in that he is not averse to lying about his positions or changing them whenever it suits him, and his campaign ads have consistently lied about Obama’s record and have been so vitriolic and unfair that even as Promethean a prevaricator as Karl Rove has admitted– McCain ads “have gone too far.”

And on top of all this, he chooses Sarah Palin, an inexperienced evangelical Christian who believes in the Rapture and the End of Days, to be his vice president, a choice that is not only cynical and politically motivated but downright dangerous. Imagine, for example, if McCain dies in his first year or two in office, and we have President Palin steering the ship of State in a future confrontation with the Russians: “Onward Christian soldiers!” I can hear her proclaim to a dumbfounded American public. “Let’s nuke those godless commie bastards and bring on the Apocalypse!”

To be fair to Palin, at least she “walks the walk” of a Ted Nugent-style, redneck conservative. She thinks it’s a kick to hunt and slaughter defenseless animals with high-powered rifles and has no problem with her daughter getting knocked up before getting married. She also believes in the righteousness of prolonging the occupation in Iraq. In fact, she has bragged about the fact that her own son is in the military and soon will be shipped to Iraq.

She has said that it was “his decision,” but I haven’t read anything about her trying to talk him out of it. In other words, she is so committed and blind to Bush administration propaganda– even in light of all the evidence that has come out about the lack of connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and the failure to find WMD– that she still believes that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, a mandate imposed by the word of God. And she is willing to risk her own son’s life to prove it!

Is this anyone’s idea of a smart or compassionate mother? In this sense, she and McCain are like two peas (make that two pea brains) in a pod, since McCain also has a son in the military who is serving in Iraq and one more who may be going there in the near future. So like Palin, McCain is also “walking the walk” regarding military service, which at least is more than Bush or Cheney can say about themselves or their own kids.

If this were the beginning of the war in Iraq, when most people were still ignorant of the facts, perhaps one could make a case for encouraging one’s son or daughter to serve. But at this point, after all the public discussion and reams of evidence about the lies and deceptions Bush and Cheney foisted on the American people to sell their disastrous war in Iraq, only a dumbass or a fanatic would not do everything possible to stop his or her own son or daughter from joining the military and going to Iraq.

Then again, perhaps it’s not an either/or proposition. Perhaps the person could be both a dumbass and a fanatic– just like our current president. And look how swell he worked out!

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