There are some prisoners of the Vietnam War who have never come home and one of them is John McCain.
If you’ve met many Vietnam vets then you know what I’m talking about: always a little edgy, eager for a fight, forever still trying to win some war that really isn’t their business in the first place. Once upon a time they were loyal, committed American men, now they are ghosts of who they might’ve been. Men whose country told them to fight, but not to win, whose country the war was righteous and just, as it lied through its teeth.
For as was long suspected and has finally been admitted, Johnson’s Gulf of Tolkin Resolution was no more based on reality than Bush’s WMD jive. But, still loving their country and not knowing its lie, millions risked all to show their patriotism. Then their country taught them to kill, pointed them at a brown skinned people and said go ahead, but only kill the bad guys. And by the way, you won’t be able to tell who the players are because there is no scorecard. But go ahead and kill a bunch anyway.
And so they did. As many as a half a million at a time of honest America-loving young men went west, half way around the world to fight and, while there, killed or caused the deaths of as many as three million people, permanently scarring any who survived, including themselves. Fifty-eight thousand never made it back. But the survivors have had to live with the aftermath every since.
Despite sacrificing all they had to give, the dominoes still fell and Vietnam wound up being only the first of a series of countries in the region to fall communist or worse when we flew away to toss our helicopters into the sea, on nationwide TV. It was an image we’d never forget.
And every since then there are Americans, loyal Americans, doing their best for their vision of god and country who are still trying to win a fight that was never ours. Each new international conflict is another chance to get it right and ease our conscience of the big one we got wrong. Men who take the mere suggestion that America might not always be absolutely right in everything we do as “fighting’ words.” And now the Republicans want to elect one of these to president.
But like so many, John McCain is still a prisoner of that forty year old war. Sure McCain is the war hero of a story so extraordinary we’d call unbelievable if we saw it on a made for TV movie. John McCain may be an American we can be proud of, but that in itself does not make him the best choice for president. It’s true. McCain is justifiably proud of his record, but it is a life lived at war.
Lately the recurring tendency of some to note that McCain is a “warmonger” had returned to the news. It’s a characterization that’s been made so many times in so many ways it’s almost accepted as cliché; though two notable recent turns include a campaign quip by Clinton surrogate Ed Schultz and in Robert Dreyfuss’ recent feature article in The Nation entitled “Hothead McCain” have some crying foul. But when Pat Buchanan, who purportedly likes McCain, goes so far as to quip that if he gets in the Whitehouse McCain’ll “make Cheney look like Gandhi” then maybe this “warmonger” label isn’t smack against his character, but just truth in advertising.
Perhaps McCain’s recent only half kidding choice to burst into singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” has something to do with the whole warmonger thing, but he is not unusual in his impulse to bomb ‘em all and let god sort it out. There are millions of people who view killing other people as a viable solution to life’s problems. Usually we call them criminals, not heroes.
You see, as a Christian I find the decision to vote is fairly straight forward as regards the whole “thou shall not kill” thing. I simply look for whoever seems to be the least likely to want to have people killed while he’s president. Oddly enough, McCain is currently making a big deal out of courting the so-called Religious Right, but given their propensity to support murderous wars of aggression, one has to wonder how right they can be, religiously?
--Mikel Weisser writes from the left coast of Arizona