Category Archives: Guns

John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Guns, Human Rights, Iran, Militarism, Military, Palestine, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S., U.S. Politics

Guns, Violence and the United States

Let us all take a quick look at the news:

  • The White House is in chaos.
  • The investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia drags on.
  • The U.S. won some Olympic medals.

Is there anything else? Oh yes:

  • Seventeen people were killed in a school shooting, the eighth such shooting in the U.S. this year (and it is only mid-February), making it hardly newsworthy.

One might think that politicians in the U.S. would take note of this last item. This is not a ‘one-of’, but an ongoing pattern in schools across the country. This latest shooting happened in Parkland, Florida, named ‘Florida’s Safest City’ in 2017.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio offered his thoughts and prayers for the victims; very nice, indeed, but he is one of 50 people who could make changes that might have prevented this, and the seven other such shootings that have occurred this year. Yet he has consistently opposed any kind of gun control. Perhaps the fact that he’s accepted over $3,000,000.00 in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA) over the course of his career may have something to do with his opposition to sensible gun laws. Following this latest tragedy, he said that it was too early to discuss gun control, “…because people don’t know how this happened.”

This writer is puzzled by Rubio’s pearls of wisdom. ‘How this happened’ seems quite clear; he will explicate it for the good senator: A man with a semi-automatic weapon, designed to shoot many bullets quickly, thus enabling the person operating it to kill many people quickly if he so chooses, walked into a school, activated the fire alarm so students would come running out of their classrooms, and began doing with his gun exactly what it was built do to. As a result, seventeen people are dead, and dozens more are injured. Seventeen families now must bear unimaginable grief. Thousands of students are now at risk of post -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); whether or not they will return to that school, or if they will need to be relocated is yet to be determined. School administrators now face a situation they should never have had to experience. But Rubio doesn’t know how this happened.

A year and a half earlier, in June of 2016, Florida had another massacre, this one at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Fifty people, including the assailant, were killed and 58 wounded by an assassin using the same kind of gun that was used in Parkland. Republican Governor Rick Scott, another darling of the NRA, said at that time that “…the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.” He implied that that shooting was somehow related to ISIS and terrorism, although the perpetrator was U.S. born. And in Florida, it’s easier to purchase an AR-15 than it is to buy a pistol. But the governor, like Rubio, sees no point in doing anything more than offering ‘thoughts and prayers.’

Just this year, there have been at least 31 mass shootings, causing 58 deaths and 124 injuries. These have occurred in high-crime areas and well-to-do neighborhoods. No one is exempt, even people living in the ‘safest city’ in the country.

Also this year, 123 people have been killed by the police, another group for whom guns and gun violence are a way of life.

As of this writing, we are 46 days into the new year. That means that there is a mass shooting in the U.S. every day and a half. It means that more than one person per day dies as a result of a mass shooting. It means that the police in the U.S. kill nearly 3 people every day.

This does not occur in any other nation on the planet. Rich or poor, democratic, socialist, or any other form of government, the U.S. leads in gun deaths.

It is simplistic to say that the availability of guns is the cause; that is merely one of many, and reasonable, sensible gun laws would certainly reduce this tragic number of deaths. But there is an acceptance of violence that permeates U.S. society, and is glorified within it.

In the media and through the words and actions of government officials, soldiers, who are trained to kill, are revered. The more they kill, the greater their respect. A soldier named Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in U.S. history, was the subject of a movie showing his ‘heroics’ in killing people. It is ironic that, in 2013, he was shot to death by a fellow soldier suffering from PTSD, who used a gun Kyle owned.

This attitude of reverence for killers is nothing new in the U.S. After Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of murdering hundreds of people in My Lai, Vietnam, he was sentenced to life in prison. Surveys in the U.S. indicated that 79% of the U.S. public thought the verdict was too harsh. He wound up serving for less than four years under house arrest.

Parents, when speaking of their grown children in the military, speak proudly of their ‘service’. Veterans, those who do not regret their time in the military, talk about how they helped ‘keep America free’. Police officers appear to have little concern about their countless victims, or the suffering and grief of the loved ones of those victims. That they act as judge, jury and executioner cannot be denied. Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014 described his victim as a demon. He testified thusly: “I looked at his face. It was just, like, intense; was very aggravated, aggressive, hostile.” This is a significant amount of information to be gleaned from a look on a person’s face. He further stated: “You could tell he was looking through you. There was nothing he was seeing.” What this means is anyone’s guess, but it was sufficient for Wilson to determine that Brown had sufficiently bad intentions to warrant his immediate death.

The U.S. movie industry differs from that of many European nations in how it rates films. In the U.S., movies with explicit sex scenes receive R and X ratings, but explicit violence tends to garner a PG-13 or R rating. In many other nations, the reverse is true; younger audience are permitted to see movies with some sex, but are prevented, at least according to the ratings systems, from seeing those with excessive violence.

For these nearly constant acts of violence to end, the U.S. must recognize that killing is not beneficial; U.S. wars only increase hatred towards the U.S., glorifying soldiers only begets violence, and granting impunity to the police for their murders only intensifies hostility towards all police officers.

This mindset will not be easy to change, and will be impossible under the current government. Republicans and Democrats alike share the blame, and as long as it is legal for them to be bribed by ‘campaign contributions’, nothing will change.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Guns, Political Musings, U.S. Politics, Violence