by GARY LEUPP
For days we have been informed—indeed, relentlessly reminded, instructed, lectured, preached to, told matter-of-factly (as though the whole universe knows it), bestowed with the transcendent wisdom—that the late Sen. John McCain was a true American hero.
Wow. What a man. Suddenly, we learn that he was one of the Greatest Americans of All Time. “How to hold him in reverence?” asks an African-American Democratic congressman on CNN. It is (at least on cable news) an unchallenged truth. On CNN Sunday morning “America pays tribute to a hero”—-as his old Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman do so.
McCain served his country, we are taught. He was shot down over North Vietnam—just one of those sad things that happens to some people sometimes. So sad he had to parachute into a lake where the people he’d been bombing rescued him. Of course he was imprisoned, as any bomber captured over any country would be imprisoned.
We are told (by his huge unpaid unthinking posthumous groupie corporate media staff) that this person (McCain), was tortured but never broke (except that one time).
And he refused early release out of loyalty to his fellow POWs.
He (for some reason less noticeable in other people) loved his family (although he divorced his long-suffering first wife, who’d been injured in an accident during his captivity, to marry a wealthy heiress). That is impressive.
Of course (we are told) he loved God, and served as unit chaplain in Hanoi. He was an unquestioned paragon of virtue, even as his quirks and temper tantrums are mentioned in passing as endearing minor flaws. He’s described as “hawkish” and often, as a responsible advocate for a powerful military and defender of U.S. “national interests” (versus Russia and Iran in particular).
The Establishment consensus on McCain is truly impressive. Everyone has queued up for the gangbang on humanity, intelligence and morality.
The public funeral featuring eulogies by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was designed to reflect the bipartisan celebration of a legacy—which, unconscionably—the “Democratic Socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweets “represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.”
Bernie Sanders adds to the adulation. Lieberman, teary-eyed, calls him a “national treasure.” The CNN anchor has to add, “Well said,” as though we all surely agree on this, right?
The McCain funeral, like Caesar’s, became a political statement against the new political leadership. Mark Anthony praised the dead, while targeting the living Brutus. Meghan McCain praised her father, while targeting President Trump. “America has always been great” is her—and the whole system’s—response to Trump’s hollow pledge to “make America great again.”
Questioning the timeless greatness of America is heretical—as heretical as questioning the heroism of John McCain. Among Trump’s more “controversial” remarks are his statement, “I like people who weren’t captured” and his declaration, “He’s not a war hero. He was a hero because he was captured.” Of all the comments Trump has made—racist, stupid, bigoted comments about women, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—these on McCain constitute his greatest sin. At least, it has been seized on as such by his vast range of political enemies who want him down.
Dead McCain carefully planned his final rites. Or those around him did. (My father died of the same glioblastoma brain cancer that killed Edward Kennedy and John McCain; I know how rapidly it progresses and how little the human mind functions in the final few months. I find it hard to believe the senator composed some of the statement attributed to him towards the end.) The point was shame Trump, so that the media coverage would focus on the contrast between two men, one recklessly straying off course, the other a rock of integrity.
However moving this spectacle is, it is fundamentally sick. That this particular man, with his particular history, gets suddenly thrust into the public face and promoted as national icon even by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez is a virtual declaration of national moral bankruptcy.
John McCain, son of an admiral, was a poor student at the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to bomb Vietnam during that war in the 1960s and 70s that (some of us recall) was a horrific, vicious ongoing atrocity that killed two million people.
I ask my amazing son, born 23 years after the end of the Vietnam War, if he understands how horrible that war was. (He knows the military family history, my dad’s involvement in Southeast Asia, my opposition from my teens). Both my son and my daughter a few years older know this history and of course naturally revile this person.
McCain was shot down over Hanoi for the same reason you or me might shoot someone down: he was bombing people in their country for no good reason and with utterly no concern for “gook” lives. (This human actually stated in 2000, “I hate the gooks” responding to criticism by repeating the slur.) A Spanish psychiatrist, Fernando Barral, who met him in Hanoi in 1970, reported:
“He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth,who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.”
That’s your hero, CNN. That’s your hero, MSNBC. And Fox. All of you following your talking points assigned by your news editors.
The fact that Vietnam (specifically, bombing North Vietnam over 23 times, for over 10 hours) is never an issue—that it is indeed a positive, an instance of heroic “service” in which the future politician showed moral strength—should shock the people. The fact that volunteering to bomb Vietnamese in an illegal, immoral war is being praised—-while Trump’s draft deferments are mocked as reflecting lack of courage or patriotism—-should disturb conscious humans. (Shall we not honor the Luftwaffe pilots shot down on the Eastern Front in World War II? All they were doing was bombing Soviets, to conquer Russia, while serving their country, their German Fatherland, their Homeland.)McCain never saw a war he didn’t like. He regretted not winning the war in Vietnam—like some Nazi pilots no doubt regretted their failure to destroy Stalingrad in their 30,000 (heroic?) sorties over the city in 1942. He advocated U.S. intervention in any number of conflicts as a matter of imperialist entitlement; he shameless articulated American Exceptionalism—but then so did Obama and all this unified cohort rallying to glorify this thug.
After the U.S. engineered regime change in Georgia (in 2003) it sought to bring Georgia into NATO a few years later, emboldening the pathetic puppet president to provoke Russia by attaching South Ossetia, Russia briefly invaded Georgia. McCain was prepared to go to war with Russia over that. When neofascists plotted a coup in Ukraine in 2014 [with abundant American coddling], he had his photo taken with them. He advocated the bombing of Iran. (Remember how he with his famed sense of humor so charmingly recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” altering the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb Iran”? So delightful. So charming.)
This person supported and enthused about the bombings of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Libya…and advocated it elsewhere (Nigeria?). Remember, this person’s early career was in bombing.
The adulation of this mass-murdering unrepentant dead man is voiced by those who, just as they contrast the hero to the villain, ask whether the Vietnam War was a “noble cause” (as McCain believes)—or a “mistake” (as friend John Kerry believes)?
It’s easy to gather together those who agree to forgive and forget (due to a “mistake”). Gosh we all make mistakes.
But the whole point of the cult of St. John of Arizona (whom could I suppose be beatified if two miracles can be proved) is to say: He is the man, the responsible adult, the anti-Putin stalwart, the unapologetic warrior, the guy who has the balls to tell his colleagues “Give Netanyahu everything he wants.”
This is to counter-pose him to the unmanly, childlike, Putin-dupe, wimp (who also gives Netanyahu everything he wants, because that is standard practice for the U.S. polity, but whose allegiance to Israel in itself does not insure his continued presidency).
The contradictions within the polity are obviously mounting; the mourning rituals for this praised monster show the division. The question posed is: Which do you prefer? McCain’s beautiful patriotic blood-smeared legacy? Or Trump’s continued status as the un-impeached U.S. president surrounded by semi-autonomous generals itching to bomb Iran?
My 32-year-old daughter, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Socialist Party and conditional Bernie supporter, responded to Ocasio-Cortez’s tribute to the happy bomber with an emphatic “Ugh.” May all her comrades confront Alexandria on this issue!
An idiot on CNN just now concludes his program: “As John McCain always reminded us, freedom is worth fighting for.” The day remains devoted at McCain, and his wonderful legacy, and to a new (tendentiously presented) poll showing Trump’s support declining. No mention of the heroic reconquest of more and more Syrian territory by the Syrian national forces, or apparent U.S. plans to support a false-flag operation in Idlib province involving chemical weapons that might justify another U.S. strike.
A strike that should not be supported by anybody in this country with any moral sense and critical reasoning capacity. But one that would be supported by Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb St. John, surely. Where, as a people—-if in fact we are a people—heading?