Still an Ex-McCainiac

Kevin Kamberg

John McCain = agent of change? I used to think so.

When McCain ran in 2000 I didn't just stick my toes in the water to test how comfy it was, I jumped into the deep end of the pool. In fact, my very first website - a previous version of The Independent Voter - was dedicated to rallying Independents to John McCain's candidacy. I still have several "McCain 2000" bumper stickers that I got from the guy who headed up his Oregon campaign after McCain conceded the race to George W. Bush, whose record impressed me as someone unqualified to run either the country or a business.

I remember well the moral outrage I felt when Tucker Eskew and pals led a bunch of fellow "Christians" in South Carolina in suggesting, on behalf of George W. Bush, that McCain's adopted Bengali daughter was really the lovechild from an illicit affair he'd supposedly had with a black woman, and how he ought to be ashamed of her.

I cheered inside when McCain said in a 2000 interview that "I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like (Tucker Eskew)".

An "agent of change" wouldn't have just hired Tucker Eskew for any role. Not even to help his running mate Sarah Palin, which is what Eskew was hired to do.

That's not action of an "agent of change." That's more of the same... literally.

But that's not where he lost me. This is where he lost me:

Johnmccaingeorgewbushhuglead


After the slime and mud heaped on McCain by Bush I just couldn't stomach such an abject display of... groveling. It appeared then and still does that McCain wanted another shot at power more than he wanted to take a principled stand. And as a father of two daughters I can guarantee that if you slimed them like Bush's surrogates slimed McCain's adopted daughter there would be hell to pay, not a pathetic tucked-tail display with someone who clearly cared more about waving to the crowd than in aknowledging such an intimate embrace. The body language of the two men speaks volumes about their motivations and desires at that moment in time.

On the two most important issues right now in America - the economy and the Iraq War - John McCain represents more of the same rather than change.

After adamently opposing the Bush tax cuts when they were first proposed McCain now promises more of the same.

John McCain supported and voted for the fiscally and morally disasterous Iraq War. He continues to this day to support it. But of more relevance to this election, McCain has continually echoed President Bush's rhetoric in rejecting and ridiculing any sort of timetable for getting our brave soldiers out of that ongoing mess even though Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has expressed agreement with Barack Obama's 16-month timeframe for withdrawel - which McCain then turned around and agreed with.

That my friends is more of the same obstinate adherence to preexisting beliefs rather than anything resembling either independent thinking or change.

Ultimately, John McCain has himself made the case for why he represents more of the same,

"No. No. I--the fact is that I'm different but the fact is that I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush."

There you have it - more of the same failed policies and inept leadership. His highly honorable actions and choices during the Vietnam War no more qualify him to be President now than he considered John Kerry's to qualify him to be President in 2004.

John McCain = agent of change? His own record of flip-flops screams otherwise.

Comments

  • Chris #12 (unverified)
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    Hate to hijack the thread, but can someone explain why there has not been a BO column or story on the repression at the RNC? Should I submit a guest column, or is there a reason this is not getting covered?

    From an ACLU press release: The ACLU specifically called for an investigation into possible violations of the First and Fourth Amendments, including:

    * the arrest of reporters trying to gather the news;
    
    * the mass arrest of hundreds of peaceful protestors;
    
    * the surveillance and subsequent raids on several activist groups and private homes; and
    
    * the confiscation by law enforcement agents of constitutionally-protected private property.
    
  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Re: "His highly honorable actions and choices during the Vietnam War": He was attempting to bomb innocent people in an illegal and immoral war. That you Democrats should continue to deceive about this is disgusting. Shame on you.

    Furthermore, that McCain was the first choice of Kerry for his running mate just four years ago, and that Gore's choice four years before that was probably worse, has escaped down the Orwellian memory hole for Democrats. Is there any evidence more powerful than that of the overlap between the corporate-dominated parties?

    The claim that McCain, now that he has shown that he is unwilling to run on a Democrat ticket, is the anti-Christ, is just another indication of the foundation of bullshit on which our political system is built. The true difference between the DP and the RP has nothing to do with foreign policy, medical policy, or any of the other issues on which Nader is clearly superior, but rather the party colors, like it's some football game in which only the score matters.

    The two sets of candidates are right-of-center corporatists who are running on militarist platforms. Obama/Biden is a gift to the right-wing from their Democrat cousins, and the fact that the Reich is too greedy to accept that gift without measuring the donkey's teeth does not make it less so.

    None of these hacks represent change from the brutal, thuggish foreign policy, or the insane economic and environmental policies that threaten our very existence.

    Chris #12's attempt to inject some reality into the discussion will fall on deaf ears because the majority of DP elites agree with the RP's willingness to assert authoritarian dominance. After all, how can the party that accepted the loss of Fourth Amendment principles now complain about it?

  • (Show?)

    Harry,

    I don't know what rock you've been living under since shortly before the 2000 Presidential campaign but I suspect that everyone but you understands that was a reference to his experiences as a POW, not to the mission's he flew or the morality thereof.

    If you can so glibly get that so wrong then just imagine how the rest of your "points" routinely come across.

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    Quite frankly, Kevin, I don't think there is a more painful political trial for an activist than to see one of your heroes betray the trust you gave them.

    Though I was never a fan of his, I do see that - even today - John McCain is the best the Republican party has to offer. Too bad he's so overwhelmingly weak that he couldn't even pick the VP candidate he really wanted, and had to go for this Alaskan Anne Coulter wannabe.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    "I don't know what rock you've been living under since shortly before the 2000 Presidential campaign but I suspect that everyone but you understands that was a reference to his experiences as a POW, not to the mission's he flew or the morality thereof."

    So, Kevin, does that mean we should also honor the terrorists in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib simply because of their experience of torture as POWs, regardless of the immorality of their acts?

    Of course not! This is why we should be known for the "power of our example" rather than the "example of our power" Other wise we are engaging our nation in moral relativism.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Kevin:

    Why are McCain's experiences as a war criminal in Viet Nam "honorable actions and choices"? And why would anyone conclude that your comment referred only to McCain's imprisonment?

    Your failure to understand much of anything I have written is amazing, even for a (possibly) former Republican, but your failure to understand even what you yourself have written is beyond belief.

    The rock I've crawled out from under is called "the truth", something you and your right-of-center colleagues who can't make up your minds whether guys like McCain are the anti-Christ or heroes need to familiarize yourselves with.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I'm going to guess than Kevin was attracted to John McCain in 2000 for the same reason that close to 20% of the electorate was attracted to Ross Perot in 1992: by getting suckered by the hype about "independence", "mavericks", yadda yadda yadda. Geez Louise, Perot got rich thanks to federal-government contracts, for crying out loud: that's evidence of independence and willingness to challenge the status quo? I think not.

    Mr Kershner: obviously McCain's de facto platform--"I was a POW, vote for me"--is insulting, and I personally don't understand the whole line of thinking that military service somehow makes one especially qualified for ANYTHING other than...well...more military service..perhaps. But do you somehow imagine that you're bravely speaking truth to power by denouncing McCain for doing what thousands of other pilots did in Vietnam? (I do applaud you, however, for flagging Kevin's use of "honorable actions and choices" in describing McCain. I have always wondered what in the world "honor" and "honorable" are supposed to mean. These words get planted like landmines, waiting to trip up and destroy the rhetorically careless.)

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    How many of those guys at Gitmo have deferred being released until those captured before them were released first?

    In any case... I'm sorry if I wasn't sufficiently strident in my post. But it wasn't written for the strident left. It was written for those who McCain is hoping to convince to vote for him. Having been there myself, I get where they're coming from and what pushes their buttons.

    If constructively pushing back against McCain's propaganda machine bothers you then feel free to ignore my posts.

  • Gregor (unverified)
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    Kevin, I agree with you. There was a time when McCain was a maverick, but when he put his eyes on the prize, he lost his principles. There he is hugging Bush, and then he went to kowtow at Liberty University.

    Now THAT's the quote some politico ought to raise for Palin, whether she agrees with the remarks McCain made about the Revered Falwell before he went grobveling there. [I hesitate to call him Reverend, but with such a huge fan base, I can go with Revered.] I suspect McCain found the religious rather then religion, and in typical Republican fashion he will incite the Clingers to vote for him to save the fetus.

    These blind believers will do it again, too, even though the Reich had everything they wanted during this Administration and did NOT deliver. All they delivered were defense contracts to their friends. Can thieves be expected to do the Lord's work? When did he God have to resort to thieves?

    Now how is it that people can still

  • (Show?)

    I'm going to guess than Kevin was attracted to John McCain in 2000 for the same reason that close to 20% of the electorate was attracted to Ross Perot in 1992: by getting suckered by the hype about "independence", "mavericks", yadda yadda yadda.

    Very insightful of you, Joel. I was an early Perot supporter too. But that ended rather abruptly when I figured out that he was the fries, cheesburger, drink and toy short of a Happy Meal.

    At the time my reasoning was consciously understood by me to be more or less along the lines you've described. But in hindsight I can say with certainty that the appeal was really about both men's penchant for speaking bluntly... or at least appearing to. Which is precisely why Biden always appealed to me even back when I was still a Republican.

    Huge numbers of Americans are sick and tired of mealy-mouthed politicians and their lies. We want to be addressed with honesty and that's how many of us get suckered into confusing bluntness with honesty.

    This goes to the root of why there was zero chance that I was going to vote for Al Gore in 2000, BTW. Now if the Gore who rhetorically showed up a few years ago with fire in his belly had been on the ticket in 2000...? I'm pretty sure that I'd have voted for him unless McCain had won his Primary - in which case I'd have been left with a quandry. Today? No, as I think my post makes clear. But back then that's likely how it would have panned out had things turned out differently.

    Oddly, even though I didn't pay close enough attention to politics to know who the hell Dubya was before 2000, he never had even the slightest appeal to me. I say it's odd only because the popular myth back then was that he was blunt-spoken. But for whatever reason I saw through that charade from the very start. Whereas I didn't when it came to McCain and Perot before him. Which I guess goes back to my hindsight - I never confused what Dubya was saying with honesty, and thus never bought into his rhetoric.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    "How many of those guys at Gitmo have deferred being released until those captured before them were released first?"

    I have no idea and also have no idea why this is relevant. I could respond by asking how many Americans would commit suicide by flying planes into enemy targets?

    My point is that heroism is more than just an action, it is an action that is just.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Mr. Walls asked: "But do you somehow imagine that you're bravely speaking truth to power by denouncing McCain for doing what thousands of other pilots did in Vietnam?"

    I suspect that you, Mr. Walls, like most Americans, lack an appreciation for those of us who did speak truth not only to power during the Indo-Chinese wars, but, more importantly (since power already knew the truth), to those without power.

    I did the right thing during those wars, and most of the vets I know from that time agree with me.

    McCain is not solely responsible for his crimes against humanity. All Americans of the time, including me, deserve condemnation for not having done enough to end the slaughter. But that doesn't make McCain a hero, and, as you said, his actions do not deserve the label of "honorable".

    By the way, there is a huge difference between McCain and the Gitmo detainees: We know that McCain was responsible for his crimes, while we have no such knowledge about those imprisoned during the Bush Administration.

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    My point is that heroism is more than just an action, it is an action that is just.

    I understood your point. I just don't agree that it adds up the way you think it does.

    McCain's heroism was in refusing to accept an early release from torture because of who his daddy and grandfather were. The other guys being tortured alongside him didn't have powerful relatives.

    He refused special treatment that he hadn't personally earned through his own achievments in life. I see that as honorable and, given the circumstances, exceptionally courageous.

    It's not about how he came to be a POW. It's about what he did once he was a POW.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    "He refused special treatment that he hadn't personally earned through his own achievments in life. I see that as honorable and, given the circumstances, exceptionally courageous."

    Yes that was courageous and I will even concede that it was honorable... for "our side".

  • raider99 (unverified)
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    Yesterday, John McCain gave his acceptance speech. It was, predictably, a yawner and policy wise, a rehash of what we have grown to detest about the previous administration. No surprise there, as the man has no new ideas or directions for the country or the world.

    However, what struck me most was how this smear filled, dishonest display of partisanship and outright hatred that they called the Republican Convention, topped off byMrs. Palin's badly read teleprompter rendition of the anti-Obama, anti Democratic Party rhetoric could reasonably have led to McCain's feeble attempt to convince undecided voters (not of the choir) that he was interested in changing the bipartisan nature of the politics of Washington.

    Now, here's the thing. Political conventions are carefully crafted. Each day has a theme, and each speaker a purpose. It was not an accident or a matter of individual decision that the whole convention was such an outright partisan and dishonest affair. It was by design. So if McCain really believed in this message of bipartisanship and reaching across aisles and changing the way our political discourse is pursued, then it would have had to start from Day One. Not as his final word.

    As a coda to anotherwise disgusting and distorted display, McCain's little speech rings as hollow as do his claims to be different from Bush, when all his policies are essentially the same, or his claim to be a maverick when he voted more than 90% with Bush and the very Republican Congress that he now derides.

    Message to McCain: If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem. You have been part of the problem all along.

    So, this latest little stunt shouldn't fool anyone.

    Now I would have been mightily impressed if the whole convention had been about unity and bipartisanship and had taken the high road from Day One. I would have had a hard time reconciling this Republican Party with that (imaginary) one. But such is not the case. They came through as venal and vindictive (and inaccurate and ugly) as they possibly could. They offered nothing useful, and did not address the issues that concern the citizens of this country and the world, other than to lie and distort and attack Obama.

    So, John McCain, I cry "Bullshit!" If you meant what you said, you would have had a civil and issues oriented convention. You did not, so you do not mean a word of it.

    Remember eight years ago, the man who said "I'm a uniter, not a divider," and then proceeded to do everything possible to further divide the nation culturally and economically?

    Fool me once, John Bush, shame on you. Fool me twice... uh... well, we won't be fooled again.

  • RW (unverified)
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    Yes, as my 19 year old son and I watched the ENDLESS fucking convention despite ourselves, he wondered aloud why he should bother to vote given the evidence of rigging in recent memory and the lowbrow stagecraft evidenced on the tube. Balloons bouncing, spotlights dashing and chasing across the mobs in the arena. Booming music, cameo moments. We were sickened by the atmospheres and spending represented in these conventions, the emptiness.

    He laughed at me lovingly for having to watch myself -- everytime one of these fops engages a competent speechwriter and then delivers it with some craft, my heart flips over from sheer NEED for the mere seeming of any statecraft beyond stagecraft; thought product beyond manufacture(these past eight years have been drear). My son knows this man is not speaking his own mind, he is speaking the minds of the managers. That he'd chosen another in his mind and gave in to the management of the compaign. He sees clearly every ounce of relentless manipulation, emptiness in the entire process end to end.

    And the distaste he feels for manipulation keeps him disengaged.

    I worry for the true next generation of thinkers and doers, the ones who see through it so early - not as mere rebellion, but with clear sight. They are alienated by all of this. It is despite their jaundice that they engage.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Oh, geez louise, Kevin, you've gone all mushy again over Sen. Straight Talk Express and his heroic decision to stay in a POW camp. Lest we forget, McCain got into the Naval Academy in the first place as what would be called a "legacy" nowadays: his admiral father and grandfather pulled strings. John Sidney McCain didn't get into the Naval Academy on his own merits.

    Mr. Kershner, I was a young kid while our country was trying to bomb Vietnam into the Stone Age. I make no judgments whatsoever about whatever you may have done in that era. I would simply say that I have known older men--your age, perhaps?--who saw combat in Vietnam and have related their experiences to me. I like to think I am not easily suckered by jingoistic rhetoric about honor and heroism, but quite frankly, those combat veterans of my acquaintance have never struck me as villains, either.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)
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    In short: The John Sidney McCain III of 2000, would not recognize, approve of, or vote for the John Sidney McCain III of 2008 for all the reasons stated in prior posts.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Mr. Walls said, "quite frankly, those combat veterans of my acquaintance have never struck me as villains, either."

    Perhaps you need to read about the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Tribunal. When war crimes are committed, those who committed them are guilty, even if those who ordered them should be held to a higher standard. Aggressive war (which is the appropriate label for our crimes in Indo-China and Iraq) is, according to the findings at Nuremberg, "the supreme crime" from which all other war crimes are derived.

    It's the attitude of "American Exceptionalism", the belief that our crimes are justified because of our obvious moral and political superiority, that others in the world find most reprehensible about us.

    Furthermore, the vets I respect (VVAW) have brought honor on themselves by refusing the "hero" labels in favor of political activism dedicated to exposing the lies and crimes of the past and to preventing the crimes of the future. If you've been paying attention, you already know that the offspring of VVAW (IVAW and Veterans Against the War) have been demonstrating at the conventions and around the country. These are the heroes, not John McCain. They are the "troops" you should be supporting.

  • (Show?)
    Furthermore, the vets I respect (VVAW) have brought honor on themselves by refusing the "hero" labels in favor of political activism dedicated to exposing the lies and crimes of the past and to preventing the crimes of the future.

    I respect and admire their making that choice. Absolutely! But it's not the only choice by Vietnam vets that I can respect and admire. Nor, as the record reflects, is it the only choice that like-minded vets (like John Kerry) respect and admire.

    The difference here is that you stridently insist that your view - and ONLY your view - is legit, honorable or worthy of respect and that everyone else is somehow an ammoral sell-out who doesn't march lock-step to the beat you drum out.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Yeah, I don't think there's much room for discussing the Vietnam War with Mr Kershner. As Kershner and his reading of the Geneva Conventions would have it, ANY U.S. soldier who served in Vietnam was a war criminal.

    Again, I don't think there's much scope for denouncing the combat vets I've known (including coworkers and neighbors) as war criminals. We're talking about grunts on jungle patrol who came under fire and returned fire, not Lieutenant Calley flying in to wipe out a village.

    I don't care for what you call American Exceptionalism any more than you do, Mr. Kershner. I also recognize this attitude as a home-grown version of the British empire's "white man's burden", the "mission civilisatrice" that the French called upon to rationalize their colonial empire, the excuses that Russia used as it gobbled up eastern Europe and central Asia, and so on. American ARROGANCE and INSULARITY, perhaps, but "exceptionalism"? I think not.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Mr. Walls said, "As Kershner and his reading of the Geneva Conventions would have it, ANY U.S. soldier who served in Vietnam was a war criminal."

    They were "only following orders" to wage a war of aggression, the supreme international crime.

    However, the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal specifically stated that the "Nuremberg Defense", i.e., that a soldier was "only following orders", was not a valid defense against charges of war crimes. The US military therefore adjusted the Uniform Code of Military Justice after World War II, including a rule nullifying this defense.

    Here are the Nuremberg Principles that I believe are germane to this discussion:

    Principle I

    Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.

    Principle IV The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

    Principle VI The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

    (a) Crimes against peace: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). (b) War Crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. (c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

    Furthermore, the US War Crimes Act of 1996 states:

    18 U.S.C. § 2441. War crimes

    (a) Offense.--Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death. (b) Circumstances.--The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such breach or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act). (c) Definition.--As used in this section the term ‘war crime’ means any conduct-- (1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party; (2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907; (3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non- international armed conflict; or (4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

    So, contrary to Kevin's crazy rant that I "stridently insist that [my] view - and ONLY [my] view - is legit, honorable or worthy of respect and that everyone else is somehow an ammoral sell-out who doesn't march lock-step to the beat [I] drum out", I think any reasonable person would conclude that my interpretation of both US and international law is the correct one.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    John McCain was not just a POW, he is THE POW. Of all the returned POWs how many have milked their experience as much him? Its sad really. He and a select few were chosen as hero icons to further the righteousness of the VN War.

    While McCain and the other "heroes" were celebrated and given a welcoming ceremony, the average VN vet was ostracized not by the "left" but by many in the mainstream. Did you know the Veterans of Foreign Wars refused VN vets membership? Many wounded VN vets were left to rot in VA medical centers. How many of these vets have died or committed suicide? Tens of thousands and not one of their names is on the "WALL". Yet John McCain got to be "The POW", getting accolades and honors while the rest of us struggled to come to grips with the lies that lead us into the hell of war.

    While many NV vets have come to the realization that they have PTSD and have sought treatment, John McCain, from what I understand has never admitted it, and I am sure he has a full blown case of it. That is not a person I want making decisions on my behalf.

    John McCain is just a sad little man.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    OK, Mr. Kershner has now told us that everyone who served in the US military in Vietnam was a war criminal. Presumably he would make the identical argument about US military personnel in Iraq. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to argue about how to interpret the Geneva Conventions and the precedents of the Nuremburg trials. I just have this question for Mr. Kershner: Where do we go from here? I also have one comment: After years of talking to people about how disgusted I was with US meddling in the affairs of other nations, I finally realized that exceedingly few people are receptive to an argument that basically states "the US government is evil." Plenty of people are ready to hear that their government is run by fools and bumblers, but by evil men and women? Not much of an audience for that. If Mr. Kershner wants to push for the "evil" interpretation, that's his prerogative, but I think he'll be lonely outside the confines of places like Portland Indymedia and whatever hall Noam Chomsky happens to be lecturing in.

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    After years of talking to people about how disgusted I was with US meddling in the affairs of other nations, I finally realized that exceedingly few people are receptive to an argument that basically states "the US government is evil." Plenty of people are ready to hear that their government is run by fools and bumblers, but by evil men and women? Not much of an audience for that.

    Ditto. That's been my experience too.

    For better or worse, the point of this post is real politik, not the world the way I'd like it to be.

    You have to meet people where they're at or they'll never listen to you.

  • edison (unverified)
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    BOHICA nails it: "While many NV vets have come to the realization that they have PTSD and have sought treatment, John McCain, from what I understand has never admitted it, and I am sure he has a full blown case of it. That is not a person I want making decisions on my behalf. John McCain is just a sad little man."

    And, am I the only one who thinks he's not well? I mean seriously, he doesn't look at all healthy despite the makeup, lighting, etc.

    Chris#12: Exactly right. The police tactics in St Paul were draconian and, from all reports (with few exceptions: Democracy Now!), completely tolerated by the trad- media. Shameful.

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    edison, You got a typo in there. I said "VN" not "NV", although there are many vets from Nevada that have PTSD, as well as those who served in Nevada during the above ground Atomic bomb testing period. Probably a lot of North Vietnamese too.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Mr. Walls: I'm honored that you compare me to Noam Chomsky. I think that you need to read some Chomsky, however. Neither Chomsky nor I have ever argued that "the US government is evil".

    All nation states, including the US, seek to concentrate power in the hands of those groups that are most dominant. The US does this militarily because that is our strongest suit, but all nation states will resort to violence to maintain the structure of power.

    You're correct in assuming that I believe that Iraq military personnel are just as culpable as Indochina vets. The reason for international standards such as the Geneva Conventions is to preclude people from waging criminal wars. All who allow themselves to be used by hegemonists for criminal purposes are guilty, regardless of what country they come from. So, the Germans who fought in WWII were all guilty of war crimes, and the Americans who slaughtered Vietnamese and Iraqis were all guilty of war crimes.

    I'm not a lawyer either, but I know that rape, torture and murder are illegal and immoral. I also know, because I can read, that aggressive war is considered the supreme international war crime, and that all who would go to war need to first consider whether their participation might make them war criminals.

    So, "where we go from here", in my unhumble opinion, is convincing people not that their government is "evil", but rather that they must make moral choices for themselves, regardless of what politicians, Democrat or Republican, may tell them.

    Our default choice must be peace if we are to be honorable men and women. We must choose violence only as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted, and only in a context in which we are sure that our goal is honorable.

    None of the wars in which we have engaged in my lifetime have met these standards. We have caused immeasurable suffering throughout the world, and, like the soldiers who did our killing for us, we are all guilty for our failure to prevent it.

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    Chris #12, a) yes, you should write a guest column.

    b) Why hasn't "BlueOregon" covered the repression? Because despite the illusions apparently entertained by many, there is no organized editorial direction at BO. Harry K. and others may not be wrong to judge that what does and doesn't appear as the result of the concatenation of choices of topic by contributors says something about the range of contributors chosen, & our strengths and weaknesses, so you could blame that if you want. But NO ONE organizes what gets posted here.

    c) More specifically, there hasn't been anything because I haven't managed to write something I've meant to write, for reasons having both to do with my personal life and with trying to accomplish certain anti-war activities that also have suffered due to the same personal reasons. Sorry for falling down on the job.

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    Harry, a couple of thoughts. First, even at Nuremberg the whole German military was not put on trial. While the principle you argue can be adduced logically in the manner you state, in practice trials of crimes against humanity and war crimes have been much more limited. Moreover, often when lower level people have been prosecuted it has been quite specifically as a means to higher level impunity. See e.g. General Taguba on the travesty of the handling of Abu Ghraib. (As an aside, this morning on Democracy Now! there was a rebroadcast of some Winter Soldier-type testimonies at the RNC by an Iraq vet who was part of the "normal" part of the center at Abu Ghraib who was, in tears, talking about how the general conditions there led to large numbers of prisoner deaths and injuries among the thousands swept up in that period, because the U.S. military did not protect them from insurgent attacks on the base -- he argued that this was worse even than the abuses that got all the attention at least because of scale).

    The main occasion in which I can think of any kind of effort at mass trials was in post-genocide Rwanda, where at one point upwards of 50,000 people were detained for trial. That was highly problematic due to the limits of the Rwanda judicial system and also issues of ethnic revenge and personal animosities in some accusations (tens or hundreds of thousands of genocidaires had fled into exile in the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

    The problems with the Rwandan situation bring me to a second point, which is that among the outcomes of efforts to respond to the Nazi genocides and other crimes against humanity and war crimes was rejection under international law of the principles used by the Nazis of collective guilt and collective punishment. As you know, this is one of the key reasons why Israeli policy in Gaza violates international law and is unacceptable. Some of the ways that the U.S. military has detained thousands of Iraqis at certain stages of the occupation might also be argued to be collective punishment; the "strategic hamlets"/"free fire zones" in Vietnam likewise had that character.

    It seems to me that carried to their logical conclusion, your arguments about the Nuremberg principles and descendant laws are going to bring the individual level "obeying orders is no defense" and "participation in war crimes is a war crime" principles into conflict with the "no collective guilt" principle. I'm not saying this to argue that you are wrong in any simple sense, but I do wonder how international law actually handles the tension.

    In practice it appears that the Nuremberg principles and the passages you cite are written as broadly as possible to ensure that no one who is brought to trial for heinous crimes is able to escape facing the charge, but that in application, they have not been used on the mass basis that your argument seems to imply.

    Possibly I am misunderstanding.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris: I don't want to prosecute all soldiers who wage aggressive. I said, "When war crimes are committed, those who committed them are guilty, even if those who ordered them should be held to a higher standard." By that, I meant that those civilians and high military personnel who ultimately are responsible for policy should be the ones who are prosecuted (although I probably wasn't as clear about that as I should have been).

    Most soldiers are victims, as are their prey. However, the Nuremberg standards are clear, as I reproduced them. Technically, all soldiers waging aggressive war are guilty of war crimes, and I will stand by that.

    Your argument about the "no collective guilt" principle seems weak to me. The point of requiring soldiers to know the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice is to alert them to the possibility that they will be judged to be war criminals if they ignore the law, even if their military superiors tell them to slaughter and torture.

    I also saw the Democracy Now piece that you mentioned. It is more evidence that those who are considering a "career" in the military should think twice. Our military is not and has never in my lifetime been a defensive force, so joining the military is likely to turn any person into a war criminal.

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    Dennis Perrin, "Fricked in the Head":

    You could start by asking all those liberals now appalled by McCain's politics why they gave him a free pass and enthusiastic praise for so many years. Like Joe Lieberman, McCain hasn't changed all that much. He's simply become inconvenient. Back in the '90s, when liberal McCain love was strong, libs yelled at me for not showing this war hero the proper respect. Couldn't I see that McCain wasn't like the other Repubs? The man not only slaughtered Vietnamese so we could enjoy faster drive-through service at Wendy's, he had conviction, morals, and personified patriotism. Well, that's all down the memory hole; now it's the media's fault for pushing this war-crazy old man and his gun-toting MILF on the rest of us.

    What was it? Fifteen years after MLK's death that McCain was still voting against honoring him with a holiday? And that was more than fifteen years before Kevin was supporting him for President. Sounds like the same conservative jerk to me.

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    Thanks for the clarification Harry. The rest is fair comment. I'm not making my collective responsibility/guilt point as something I consider a strong argument, rather it is a preliminary observation of an apparent tension. I'm not drawing any conclusions from it.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Thanks for the link to Dennis Perrin, Darrel. I also liked this part:

    "McKay presumes that his fellow Dems are somehow wired for anti-corporate activism and agitation. That they not only support a corporate party, but actually give it money, either doesn't concern him or flies right over his head. Hell, these are people who not long ago were defending CIA 'patriots.' You expect them to suddenly become Nader's Raiders?"

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