Merged McCain threads

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by KevinB, Apr 15, 2008.

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  1. What does it mean to call McCain a 'war hero' candidate?
    McCain is running as one, but those who oppose dishonorable wars are also heroes.
    By Charles Derber and Yale Magrass

    Chestnut Hill, Mass. - "624787." In his first national campaign ad for president, John McCain is shown reciting his rank and serial number as he lies in a Vietnamese hospital bed as a prisoner of war. The ad describes him as "a real hero."

    Let's be clear; Senator McCain is running for president as a war hero who plans to win the campaign based on character and honor. On the surface, it seems churlish to critique the idea of a war hero. And criticizing a tribute to courageous and self-sacrificing soldiers would be disrespectful.

    But inextricably tied to the idea of the war hero for president is a discussion that goes beyond individual soldiers or prisoners of war, such as McCain, to the wars they fight and what their role in the war says about their moral merits as national leaders. This turns out to be surprisingly problematic.

    We need to distinguish the war hero from the war. Fixed ideas about war heroes get into what we call "morality wars," crucial struggles about which values should prevail, who should be admired and for what qualities.

    When we call McCain a war hero, we engage in moral discourse about the Vietnam War and now Iraq. We also give McCain – currently the country's most celebrated war hero – the ultimate political weapon: power by virtue of heroism and the ability to discredit opponents as weak or unpatriotic.

    The public has treated McCain's record in Vietnam and his status as a war hero as something unchangeable. But placing his sacrifice beyond the pale of criticism also implicitly places the cause he served beyond the pale, and that hushes important dialogue.

    McCain's heroism stems entirely from Vietnam. McCain was brave in captivity, but he and his fellow pilots dropped more bombs on Vietnam than all those dropped in World War II, leading to the conclusion that "we had to destroy Vietnam in order to save it." But he did not acknowledge the war itself as immoral. Had he engaged in such "straight talk" about the war itself, or if we had a more enlightened concept of heroism, he might not be getting so close to becoming the next president.

    This language of war heroism is used unfairly to confuse unjust wars and their architects with the honor of brave soldiers. By promoting the idea that Vietnam was an honorable war and denigrating antiwar Democrats as too weak to "stay the course," Richard Nixon won the election in 1968. He then kept the war going for another five futile years, sustained by that myth.

    Playing the war hero card has long been a political strategy to elect Republicans; legitimize imperial wars; and portray Democrats and peace activists as weak, cowardly, or traitorous. John Kerry, also a courageous soldier, was swift-boated as a traitor because he became a peace activist in Vietnam.

    Republicans even did the same to Daniel Ellsberg, a real hero of the Vietnam era. Ellsberg was a war planner who turned against the war and in 1971, at great personal risk, released to The New York Times the "Pentagon Papers," the military's internal and damning history of the war. But as there are no peace heroes, only war heroes in the American moral discourse, President Nixon tried to indict him and many still brand him as a traitor.

    Ten out of 11 presidents after the Civil War were Republicans, the majority of whom were generals who ran as war heroes. In the 20th century, Republicans continued to serve up war-hero candidates like Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, a strategy that has worked for tens of decades. And now we have John McCain.

    If the Democrats are to win elections in the 21st century, the key is to finally engage in straight talk about war and war heroes.

    First, they must renounce the morality of militarism.

    Second, they must be clear that the architects of unjust wars are not honorable or heroic but immoral moralists, those who wage evil in the name of good.

    Third, they must create a new language of heroism. Brave soldiers in just and unjust wars may be heroes, if we refer purely to personal courage and sacrifice in battle. But it is critical that we recognize that those who oppose dishonorable wars are also heroes. Surely, their courage should also qualify as a character virtue for the highest office in the land.

    The peace hero – even more than the war hero – should be the ultimate moral force in the world we now inhabit.

    • Charles Derber and Yale Magrass are coauthors of "Morality Wars: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good."
  2. The commentary piece in the Christian Science Monitor is a bit odd. It is written on the assumption that to acknowledge that Senator McCain was a hero for his resistance under torture is to support all the US policies involved in the Vietnam War. It also says that Daniel Ellsberg was the "real hero" of the Vietnam Era. Ellsberg was a Defense Department employee who knowingly made public classified Defense Department documents during a war. The commentary piece you cite is a bit weird even for the Christian Science Monitor..

    One thing about John McCain is that he is a man of honor and integrity who despite torture refused parole from the Vietnamese. Honor, integrity and honesty are important character qualities. John McCain is honest and open to a fault. This does not always gain him support but he is a decent man who never has pretended to be anything he is not. I admire that in a man.

    I certainly disagree with McCain on many issues. I feel his criticism of General Casey at the confirmation hearings was unwarranted. I also feel that he is a bit soft on immigration issues. There are many decent people who want to immigrate to the US. Why keep them out while given amnesty to illegal immigrants or people who falsify their background to get a green card. I would support throwing out the cheats and liars and making room for decent people who want to come here. ICE should crack down on people who lie to get a green card and make room for honest immigrants. This may seem harsh to you but it is my opinion.
  3. At first, I thought it an odd piece too, because, despite the fact that McCain could very well be worse than Bush as president of US, no one could deny the man is a war hero and put his men's lives above his own. But I think the point they were trying to make was that many wars are immoral to start with, (though this is certainly not the soldiers' fault) - the Vietnam War was, as is this current mess in Iraq. So those who protest them are also 'heroic', as they often pay a heavy price for it.

    He is 'soft' on illegal immigration because that is the US Republican party stance. They are backed by big business who want cheap labour and workers who have no rights.
  4. I think a lot of People in the UK would agree with the latter part

    I also feel that he is a bit soft on immigration issues. There are many decent people who want to immigrate to the US. Why keep them out while given amnesty to illegal immigrants or people who falsify their background to get a green card. I would support throwing out the cheats and liars and making room for decent people who want to come here. ICE should crack down on people who lie to get a green card and make room for honest immigrants. This may seem harsh to you but it is my opinion.
  5. I also liked how the piece basically ignored the Democratic Presidential nominees who have been "war heroes" like JF Kennedy (PT boat skipper) Harry S Truman (artillery officer WWI) which don’t fit their preconceived notions of the different parties. They basically skipped the uncomfortable fact that to be elected in the US up until a few years ago you had to have served in the military. Now that is unfashionable to some of the liberal elites (who wouldn’t be caught dead volunteering to actually serve their country) and they are trying to turn it around.
  6. the democrats brought the US into vietnam, no?
  7. Technically, you could say was Dwight Eisenhauer, a Republican, who planted the seeds for this war by using US power to defeat the election of Ho Chi Minh who would have easily won. He also sent a limited number of military advisors there, but was against full US involvement. But was Kennedy, a Democrat, who began sending more advisors and troops to Vietnam, though he was warned by the French, whose colony it had been, not to get involved. But it is thought, that had he not been murdered, JFK was planning to pull out of Vietnam by 64.
  8. I'd say John McCain was / is a "war hero" , he could have avoided the draft having the right connnections ( a la George W ) or gone to Canada. but he served and went through hell ( from what I've read ) as a POW.

    I'd say that makes him a war hero alright.
  9. Political agenda could be part of this column, but is it so that most presidents of US were in military? Also remember that WWI and II, where as you say, Truman and Kennedy served, were considered by most to be legitimate wars.

    Kerry, a Democrat, was a Vietnam hero, but also, afterwards, a war protestor, and he is mentioned in this article. Their point seems to be that those who oppose war can be as heroic as those who fight them. Agree or no, it is an interesting perspective.
  10. I don't know if the column is saying he is not, anyone who went through what he did in Vietnam would have to have strong character - at one point I believe he could have been released but would not leave his men behind. More of what they are saying may be that those who are peace activists and oppose war can also be heroes, in a different way of course.
  11. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    If one wishes to critique a war, critique the politicians, not the soldier who volunteers to fight.

    If one wishes to critique the soldier, look up his service record. Did McCain get the Congressional Medal of Honour, or was a he soldier who did his duty by the leaders his fellow countrymen elected?

    Whether McCain was drafted or volunteered, he took up arms and put his life on the line in defence of his country's system and geopolitical place in the world. This qualifies him as a patriotic citizen, and thus, he is able to question the patriotism of others. His morals cannot be questioned IMHO - all the world over, humanity is able to and prepared to fight wars, from Mogadishu and Ethiopia through to the USA and its people.

    You might question the morality of leaders who start wars, but not the soldier who fights them, for he/she is doing what is intrinsic in human nature, as the thousands of battles and wars fought to date will show.
  12. I thought the article was saying that he uses his heroism in order to discount views of political opponents, especially when they disagree with a war. Disagreeing with a war does not make a person unpatriotic, however this is how McCain treats it.

    Surely he of all people should be last person wanting to send his fellow countrymen and soldiers out to wars they should not be in and/or cannot win.

  13. I disagree a hero puts his life on the line for others not himself, were any of the war protesters in danger of getting shot / bombed/ bayoneted ? , welll apart from what happened at Kent State University by the National Guard

    The anti protestors have nothing to fear except a baton from a over zealous policeman ........not heros ,not even close.
  14. I see what they're saying. My problem with many peace activists is that their actions do nothing to resolve the conflicts they oppose. From my perspective, the question of should we / shouldn't we go to war ceases to matter once you cross the start line. Then, the only question is how you conclude it in the best possible way.

    You can either pull out and abandon the country to whatever happens, or you can strengthen the military to do their work most effectively.

    We should respect those who recognise that war is happening, and chose to serve in it and influence its outcome. We should respect those non-military who take meaningful actions to bring about its resolution.

    But shouting 'Not in My Name' in Hyde Park (or whatever the Vietnam equivalent was) is the laziest form of moralising, and doesn't take the issue fowards.
  15. I agree with you however much of the USA does not (from my experience of holidays, and friends and colleagues who actually live there.)

    Maybe he just disagrees with you on "should not be in" and "cannot win" with regards to our two current burning issues?
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