Monday, July 21, 2008

I Know How to Win Wars

Not content with crowing about his macho credentials once, Republican presidential candidate John McCain, on July 18 in Albuquerque, blared out his assertion twice:

“ I know how to win wars. I know how to win wars.”

If this were not so alarming, it would be funny. I mean this is the guy who got shot down over North Vietnam on one of his first combat missions, spent the rest of the war as a POW, and may well have provided information to the enemy about American strategy and tactics. Worse, this was not McCain’s only mishap: before he got to Vietnam, he crashed his airplanes no less than 4 times. One, on the deck of the aircraft carrier Forrestal, occurred when he “wet-started” his A4E Skyhawk while awaiting takeoff and “caused a jet of flame to strike the Phantom F4 immediately behind him. That caused a Zuni rocket to ignite and launch, starting a chain of events that killed at least 164 men” (from George Giacoppe,, June 30, 2008).

So here we have a “hot-dog” Navy pilot, who seems to have escaped several courts-martial for reckless behavior while flying because of his father’s position in the Navy, who then becomes a “hero” because he is shot down over North Vietnam. It is presumably this “heroic” status as a POW (he would have had a great deal of time to think), and all those crashes which taught McCain “how to win wars.” Of course, the United States cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim a win in Vietnam, but that’s another matter.

But let’s look at the war McCain claims in his win column—the war in Iraq, now going so swimmingly because of the surge which McCain backed. To begin with, this is not and never has been a “war.” No war was ever declared. The United States simply imposed an arbitrary deadline for the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to get out of his country. When he did not, the U.S. invaded, first with a rain of bombs and missiles, then with a ground invasion. It is now accepted by almost everyone that the justification for invading Iraq—the famous WMD Saddam supposedly had—was a blatant lie. So this aggression, which McCain claims as a war he knows how to “win,” was illegal from the beginning. According to international law, such aggression is a crime against humanity, the supreme crime of all the crimes a nation can commit.

The occupation which followed the U.S. invasion was also a crime. It has resulted in an estimated 1 million Iraqi deaths, the destruction of an entire country including its infrastructure, the exile of more than 2,000,000 Iraqis (out of a population of 26,000,000) who could not survive the civil war the invasion and occupation unleashed, and the displacement of at least 2,000,000 more within the country. The entire nation has gone from the richest Arab nation in the Middle East with an almost universally educated populace to a third-world basket case: spotty electricity, polluted water, hospitals and schools hardly functional. Its oil production, once second only to that of Saudi Arabia, has been since the invasion in a state of almost complete disrepair. Recent agreements, signed with U.S. and European oil companies, guarantee that most of the revenue from Iraqi oil will be stolen by the West rather than supporting the Iraqi people themselves. As to the surge, its most visible sign is the ethnic segregation of a population which used to live in totally mixed neighborhoods. Huge blast walls, similar to those in Israel, line most of Baghdad’s streets. And the real success of the “surge” has been the paying off of the Sunni population which comprised most of the insurgency. Sunni leaders and their soldiers now get weekly salaries courtesy of the U.S. Government, a payoff which is apparently cheaper than financing the fight against them.

This is the war McCain “knows how to win.” It will “only” cost the United States, when it is done, something in the area of 2 trillion dollars, a military crippled by the strain, a reputation as a decent nation in tatters, and the lifeblood of more than 4,000 men and women (not to mention the thousands crippled in various physical and mental ways for the rest of their lives.) It will also make the world, and America itself a more dangerous place for all Americans.

And all this for a lie.

In the face of all this, one can only work and pray and organize to prevent “Hot Dog” McCain and his ilk from ever ever getting the chance to teach us “how to win” more such lovely wars.

Lawrence DiStasi

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