The Emperor’s Old Clothes: The 3 Fatal Flaws of the McCain Doctrine
Rather than undertake too ambitious of a project (e.g. laying out the evidence that McCain, an adherent to the Yosemite Sam school of diplomacy, suffers from ‘angry little man’ complex, his worldview shaped by the perpetual chip he carries around on his shoulder, or making a case for the similarities between being a role player of violent video games vs. being a fighter pilot dropping bombs on women and children, en masse, from the relative detachment of a cockpit), we’ve narrowed our focus to 3 real-life examples of what John McCain brings to the foreign policy table, all of which share a common thread: a sore lack of objectivity in the man who would be president. That is, to the extent that the world exists and functions independently of John’s McCain’s narrow field of vision, the man is oblivious. The emperor is naked.
FATAL FLAW #1: Much ado has been made over McCain’s recent interview, in which he juxtaposed his confusion over Spain’s geography with an odd, pre-emptive refusal to meet, under a McCain presidency, with Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain. The key ingredient of this exchange has been overlooked — namely, the reason for John McCain’s appearance of confusion. Go ahead and try: Listen to the exchange as many times as you like, you’ll never make sense of it, because it makes no sense. Only by listening between the lines can you hear what was really being said.
John McCain wasn’t confused. Even if he mistook Zapatero for Zapatista, he wasn’t confused. He simply wasn’t listening. He already knew the answer, his mind was made up. This is why, no matter how many times the interviewer re-phrased the question, his answer remained the same. In this seemingly innocuous scenario lies the first of John McCain’s 3 fatal flaws: he doesn’t listen, and he rarely does, because he already owns the answers. And should reality corner him like a rat, he’ll charge back, teeth bared, attacking those who would disparage his wrongness. He’s just as likely to simply change his answer — without apology, and sans introspection — even if it means telling a straight-faced lie. Just like that.
We’ve seen this same tack replay in recent days during the Wall Street crisis. No need to puzzle over McCain’s fist-flailing and wild contradictions from one day to the next. This is simply what he does. He’s not so concerned about the facts and inner workings of the situation at hand, as he is about preserving the appearance of being right. The question then becomes: on what does John McCain base his pre-conceived answers? Like anyone else, he likely bases his original answers on information. Problems arise when (1) the information changes, as is wont to happen in real life, or (2) his original conclusion proves to be wrong. This is the real McCain. The only reason we’re seeing him so clearly, is because he’s standing under a bigger microscope. It’s historically in keeping with his character to attack those who challenge him, to erratically say and do things that make absolutely no sense, and to lie. Quit calling McCain’s Spanish Inquisition a “gaffe,” folks. It’s a character flaw. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this flaw could play out in various foreign policy exchanges.
Repeat after me, Professor Higgins: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, and in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen”
FATAL FLAW #2:John McCain — himself a former victim of torture — drafted and endorsed legislation to legalize torture. You may hear words to the contrary, but scratch below the surface, and you’ll find only impassioned rhetoric. The truth resides in McCain’s actual record, whereby he extended and approved Bush’s existing liberties with justice — the sort of liberties that allowed the U.S. to send an innocent man to a prison in Syria, where he would spend the next year being tortured to extract confessions. Sound implausible? Just ask Maher Arar. (Never heard of Maher Arar? Check out the videos below, plus the links at the end of this post, which tell his story, including the Congressional hearings in the wake of his release from that Syrian prison). Here, it should be stressed that, while torture has proven a useful tool in extracting confessions, it has proven useless in extracting the truth. John McCain should know this. He sung like a canary when he reached his own breaking point during torture sessions, saying he’d have confessed to anything, just to make them stop.
Regarding McCain’s role in torture legislation, there is an excellent April 2008 piece in Salon, by Glen Greenwald, titled “John McCain and Bush’s Torture Policies” which gives a brief, factual history on McCain’s role in legislating torture and granting the Bush Administration discretionary powers to by-pass the Geneva Convention. I suggest reading Greenwald’s article in entirety, bearing in mind, as you read, that John McCain’s role in this legislation literally changed the laws of our country, so that Bush “could” (as opposed to “would” or “will” in legal terms**) legally extract information from terrorists by any means necessary, including torturing their children, burying suspects alive, or by subcontracting their torture to other countries (most often Egypt, Syria or Afghanistan). In Maher Arar’s case, he was flown to Syria, where he spent the following year living in a grave-like 3′ x 6′ cell, being tortured into making false confessions, a fate eerily similar to the one John McCain, himself, suffered at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors.
Sending Maher Arar “to be confined in a gravelike cell and tortured did nothing to make America safer.” —Senator Patrick Leahy, 2007
That our policies toward torture define our moral compass, as a nation, goes without saying. It also goes without saying, that our flagrant disregard of international law in our treatment of suspects, detainees and prisoners-of-war is an open invatation for others to revisit the same onto American troops. But what John McCain needs to hear, if only he’d listen, is that lawlessness begets lawlessness. We’ve seen this over the past decade or so, with America’s “chickens coming home to roost” in one way or another. An ugly truth — no one wants to believe it — but someone had to say it. John McCain suffers from the delusion that America owns the right to make exceptions to the established tenets of constitutional and international law, the ends always somehow justifying the means. Those other countries or individuals who behave in kind are simply evil: they’re terrorists, they’re rogue nations. By endorsing torture and lawlessness, John McCain has shown that, not only does he lack the ability to learn from history’s painful lessons, but that his approach to the law operates independently of a moral compass.
Next up: Baghdad! — John McCain, January 2, 2002
I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddaam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. — John McCain, September 12, 2002
About that surge….
FATAL FLAW #3: The feather in the emperor’s cap is, of course, the surge. The surge, the surge, the surge…. How many times has the phrase, “The success of the surge” been bandied about on the news, withnary a word of truth breathed on the topic? How many times has McCain berated Obama for not supporting the surge? How many times has he ridiculed Obama for not sharing McCain’s prescient vision on the surge? The canarypapers ranted a bit on this topic in our July 24th post, “The Surge: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks,” wherein we offered a corrected version of history.
In a nutshell, for those interested in such things, the surge “worked” only if you consider it a success to purchase 90,000 Sunni soldiers in an effort to “awaken” them to stop killing U.S. soldiers. You’ll never hear this on the evening news, because it’s contrary to the fairy tale we’ve been fed by the Bush Administration. The truth is simply this: the reason the death toll in Iraq dropped is NOT because of, but is merely incidental tothe additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq. This is but one of four truths about the surge, which you’ll never hear on the evening news: (1) we bought the oppositions’ armies (90,000 Sunnis added to the 450,000 Shiites already in our employ) and made them into our “friends,” and (2) we sent an additionalU.S. 30,000 troops over to train our new Sunni “friends” and, (3) we armed both armies of “friends” to engage in civil war to kill and maim one another, with Sunnis slaughtering and ethnically cleansed Shiites and vice-versa — which created and intensified divisions where none existed before, ultimately undermining and killing the possibility of reconciliation or compromise between the two (tho the good news is, U.S. deaths went down!) and, lastly, (4) Muqtada alSadr — the guy we really, really, really hate in Iraq (because he’s a bloodthirsty crazy Shitte with zero scruples, and may be a terrorist, to boot) — called a ceasefire in the summer of 2007, which he has since honored.
It’s really no more complicated than that, unless you’re the sort who wants to know about the nuts and bolts of the U.S. strategy to keep the Iraqi citizens under our control, by the above-mentioned ethnic cleansing, plus torture, illegal detainment and myriad other war crimes, richly studded with no-bid U.S. contracts for oil. This is, in great part, how and why the U.S. maintains the lie that the Iraqis stubbornly refuse to “take control of their government.” We don’t want them to take control. We want them to surrender their oil right to us. Capisce? Using the word “success” in the same sentence with “surge” is a vulgar contradiction of terms. But fear not, it’ll probably be another 30 years before the history books catch up with the truth.
For his part, John McCain has gotten a free ride, clinging to the coattails of the Bush’s fairy tale of the surge. But this is not the point. The point is that John McCain is no maverick. And if there’s one thing this country has needed over the past 8 years, while suffering under the rule of a broken and corrupt war machine, it’s been a maverick. What we got, instead, was John McCain — a yes-man to the Bush Administration whose worldview is shaped by a persistent neglect of the facts — even as these facts are freely available to anyone with access to “the Google” and C-SPAN.
Now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment.Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that, even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge.— John McCain, July 27, 2008 (Editor’s note: Could it be that Obama knows something about the surge that McCain has overlooked — namely, the facts?)
Through the Bush Administration’s unholy war on terror, we’ve seen up-close John McCain’s tack on foreign policy, which could only be called maverick in the sense that it’s erratic: he carries a perpetual chip on his shoulder; he is morally detached from the on-the-ground reality of war; he doesn’t listen; his belief-system operates independently of the facts; he maintains a bull-headed insistence that he’s right, no matter what the facts, but will freely change his answers to suit reality; he ruthlessly attacks anyone who disagrees with him; his approach to law & order lacks a moral compass; he’s not above lying.
In the case of the Iraq war, all of the above are true. But the tragedy lies in the fact that John McCain has had before him the same intelligence we’ve all owned: America was taken to war in Iraq — and has been duped into staying the course — on the basis of false pretense and cooked intelligence. A real maverick would have demanded that the broken war machine be set right. A real maverick would not cling to the principles of wrong, and boastfully call it right. John McCain has had 7-years of opportunities to do the right thing, and has consistently failed to act on them.
In the coming days, this country will likely be tested (A stupendously devious Rovesque lie or series of lies about Obama? A September surprise? October attack? Here? Elsewhere? Who knows? ) to see how well we’ve learned our lessons over the past 8 years. One thing is for certain: John McCain is continuing, unabated, down the very path laid by George Bush. The emperor is naked. Shall we follow? Or shall we take Obama’s lead and take this country in a better direction?
by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers
** re: paragraph 2 from fatal flaw #2, above
“Could” the Bush Administration Order the Torture of Children and Burying Alive of Prisoners?
A simple yes or no would have sufficed. In this House Judiciary Hearing, White House attorneys John Yoo and David Addington are asked this very question, to determine the administration’s torture policies regarding children and burying prisoners alive. Yoo and Addington are the two leading architects of the Bush administration’s policies on torture. Their testimony revealed few answers (none, actually), as even the simplest questions yielded evasive sleights-of-hand maneuvers, such as the sort of ‘legal speak’ lawyers are known to employ when evading answering a question. Here, with a 5-minute time limit on the testimony, we see the Judiciary committee members grow increasingly frustrated and, at turns, outraged (accusing Yoo, at one point, of playing “Beat the Clock”) as each attempt to get a straight answer is stonewalled by Yoo and Addington. Longer versions of this testimony are available on YouTube.
Pertinent articles & videos for more info:
ABOVE: Former POW speaks: “John McCain is not the perso I’d like to see with his finger near the red button….John McCain’s temprement makes it clear that he’s not cut out to be president of the United States.”
ABOVE: John McCain’s heroism as a POW in the Vietnam conflict; this is making some waves in the news due to McCain’s presidential candidacy. The documentary “Missing, Presumed Dead the Search for America’s POWs” however focuses more on Senator John McCain successfully blocking the release of classified POW/MIA documents. Here is a DVD extra from that documentary. A DVD of the documentary may be purchased at www.MissingPresumedDead.com
Vietnam too far back? Here are some more recent veterans — our brave soldiers who served in Iraq — speaking on McCain in a short film, “Why Won’t McCain Sign the GI Bill?”. Here, we can see that McCain is at least consistent when it comes to supporing (NOT) veterans.
ABOVE (2) : Greenwald Films: The Real McCain, Parts 1 & 2: In reality, McCain seems as clueless on foreign policy as he is on the economy, on domestic policy, on the lives of ordinary Americans, and on what he, himself, states with utter conviction from one day to the next.
The McCain Doctrine = The Bush Doctrine, in case you were wondering
Huffington Post: Not a Gaffe? McCain campaign willing to destroy relationship with Spain, Europe to conceal confusion
canarypapers: Monkeys with Molotovs: The gutter politics of McCain, Palin, Rove & Co.
canarypapers: On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of September 11th, a call for truth.
canarypapers: The Surge in Iraq: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks (This post contains many, many, many links to back up these two facts: (1) the war in Iraq is an illegal war, waged on false pretense and cooked intelligence, and (2) the surge is a farce, from start to finish. Many Americans already own these truths. McCain ignores these truths in favor of the fairy tale version of the Iraq war, spun by the Bush-Cheney Administration. McCain’s motives for this are myriad, not the least of which is his perpetual refusal to listen to the facts, or to admit when he’s wrong, or to change his mind, unless the truth corners him like a rat. His mind is made up, and, as the Spain interview showed, McCain doesn’t listen to anyone, once his mind is made up. Too, the fact is — and despite his protests to the contrary — the man rather likes a good war, the same way some people are drawn toward toward the tenets of peace, love, dipomacy and understanding.)
The New Yorker: Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program
Harper’s Magazine: The Missing IG Report on Maher Arar
Harper’s Magazine: More on Maher Arar
CBC News: Maher Arar: Statement
CBS News: His Year in Hell: Maher Arar’s story, told to Vicki Mabrey
World Socialist Website: McCain-Bush “anti-torture” measure gives legal coverage for continued abuse
TalkLeft: the politics of crime: McCain torture policy undercut by amendment
ThinkProgress: McCain says he is ‘obviously’ against torture, forgets his vote to allow waterboarding
New York Times: Veto of Bill on CIA Tactics Affirms Bush’s Legacy
ProjectVote: McCain’s vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006
Washington Post: McCain on Torture – Vote Against Waterboarding Bill Called Consistent
These two are filed under the “and the lies keep on coming” category. Read them in tandem, for context.
Washington Post: McCain Suggests Bush Has Approved Torture
ThinkProgress: McCain Sides with Bush on Torture Again — Supports Veto of Anti-Waterboarding Bill