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John McCain: the bits the unctuous obits leave out

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison may well be a churchy neoliberal with uncritical regard for US imperial cruelty. It is perhaps appropriate that such an Australian pay tribute to dead “pro-liferacist, John McCain. It is otherwise a sign of some local infection. 
The symptoms are everywhere, and I urge you to stay indoors lest you too be afflicted with a case of the Van Badhams. You don’t want to get the fever Bill Shorten did and remember McCain as “a defender of liberty around the world”. McCain is no defender of liberty, but an advocate for worldwide violence. The bloke was a vocal critic of Code Pink, an antiwar group whose courageous protest of butcher Henry Kissinger, he described as the act of “ low-life scum”.
Perhaps it was opportunism and not fever that led Julia Gillard to farewell this firmly antifeminist shitter as a “hero”. Now that our former PM has commenced the crap liberal work of “inspiring” all the world’s women, she has something to gain from telling the DC-approved lie that McCain was brave and honest. But, just what ABC reporter Louise Milligan has to win in declaring McCain “fearless” is a mystery to moi. Milligan says that the guy told “uncomfortable truths”. It is possible, I suppose, that she does not include his assertion that US wildfires in 2011 were the likely work of migrants. A claim of such racist stupidity, US emergency services were moved to dispute. 

Local obits do not openly valorise McCain, but they sure as heck leave a lot of his political life right out.

Still. McCain is remembered by many as an antiracist. This is despite his well-documented use of racial slurs, choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate and long enthusiasm for bombing brown persons to bits. This misapprehension is largely based on a campaign performance in 2008 in which he countered the claim of a GOP supporter that Barack Obama was an “Arab”. He replied, to a vast audience, that au contraire, Obama was a “decent family man”, presumably, a role an “Arab” is unable to fulfil.  This is, I guess, what passes for a manly stand against bigotry in the present.  “No. He’s not an Arab. He’s got a family.”
McCain may be remembered by the amnesic and unwell for this Act of American Leadership, but the racialized tactics of his presidential campaign in 2008 are a matter of record. McCain approved robocalls in swing states to make the case that Obama was a friend to “terrorists”. Television spots did the same. In a 2008 speech, he prompted a crowd to ask, “Who is the real Barack Obama?”

This is a man who out-and-out called for the invasion of Iraq, and said that “illegal immigrants” were lighting fires in the US.

Even an inattentive hearing of the 2008 assault by McCain on Obama should make the memory of his racist dog-whistling clear. Still, this is inaudible at the Sydney Morning Herald where the man is today remembered as a prisoner of war, a champion of the middle ground etc. Even as a guy who opposed Australia’s brutal refugee policies. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think you get to have your worldwide devastation cake and eat up the diaspora, too. This man. This man who out-and-out called for the invasion of Iraq, who said that “illegal immigrants” were lighting fires in the US? Remind me when I too acquire a late life cancer to make a few well-placed legacy-preserving calls. Maybe the Herald can remember us all as noble humanitarians. 
Local obits do not openly valorise McCain, but they sure as heck leave a lot of his political life right out. This from Our ABC remembers McCain’s moving, bipartisan etc stance on healthcare. Jeez. Get off the prawns. McCain voted to repeal Obamacare even if he did make a disdainful song-and-dance. The image of McCain voting after surgery for the rights of all Americans is that with which the ABC is comfortable. The truth is that this “maverick” voted with his party to keep the healthcare he was able to afford in his final days from everyday Americans. 

McCain was a silvertail racist warmonger whose “maverick” reputation is not the consequence of brave policy stances but a lifetime of arrogant belief that he would one day be President.

McCain was a silvertail racist warmonger whose “maverick” reputation is not the consequence of brave policy stances but a lifetime of arrogant belief that he would one day be President. Then again, he was the child of born-to-rule naval colonists, so at least the prick had an excuse. Craven Australian pundits, politicians and reporters not only have no excuse for this monumental suck-up to their powerful, centrist heroes in DC, but no actual rationale. Who among us in this nation actually gives a shit about the imagined legacy of a dead non-president?
Surely among those notable Australians currently remembering McCain as the great and generous soul of American liberalism and not some sort of Clash of Civilisations motherfucker, some have read Milan Kundera. Aren’t these the sort of people who like to boast of reading foreign novels? I find that I have no patience for fiction in an age where fiction has become the norm, but I do remember bits of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. He writes, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, right? But in this interval, so many make such great effort not to remember.

McCain is one of many now recast for a forgetful age as an example of how things once were done, but, of course, never were.

I am sorry, of course, that the senator suffered the trauma of imprisonment and the pain of cancer. This should go without saying. But it must be said in an age where the deluded guardians of our purported morality seem to believe there are those who would wish such ill. Only a bona fide demon would wish such torture on another human. Only a self-appointed angel would choose to forget that McCain advocated for hostile military interventions that guaranteed just that.
Only a time like this could permit us to forget the deaths of the many to falsely remember the integrity of a few. McCain is one of many now recast for a forgetful age as an example of how things once were done, but, of course, never were.
This is the best political imagination of the present, apparently. This forgetful struggle to exonerate decades of barbaric US foreign policy, to uphold war as beauty, to see racism not as an ongoing convenience of US power, but as something that occurred for the very first time when those Russians “hacked” the US election.
Look. We can let those US crazies pretend that everything was fine before the overtly vile Trump continued the covertly vile policies of previous administrations. We can let them forget the lessons of the twentieth century. We can marvel at that great US capacity to believe in itself as exceptional at its root and feel pity for them as they miss the fact that its hateful, punitive, warmongering disposition has created precisely the conditions necessary to fascism. 
We can’t forget ourselves, though. We have no reason to forget. But in this time, we have no reason.  



32 responses to “John McCain: the bits the unctuous obits leave out

  1. Is The Book of Laughter and Forgetting worth reading? You’ve stated well why my friends and I don’t read much fiction.

    1. Honestly, I’ve not read novels for years. Understanding the present is demanding enough. But I remember enjoying it at 17 or so.

    1. Yeah, I also. Thanks H for takin a slashing razor to all that mawkish lionising. I suspect it was only because McCain put the boot into No. 45

  2. Thank you, Helen. I came across a headline saying something like “McCain Wasn’t That Bad” somewhere, but I refused to read it. Still reeling too much at being told Typhoid Morrison’s a moderate. I couldn’t take a McCain rewrite on top that right now.

  3. I do miss that body wrenching sound and smell of the F-4’s with full afterburner…… and the thwack thwack thwack of the Hueys on a night run chopping off small branches with those glued honeycomb blades……….Ahhhh what Bill Clinton missed up there in Canada smoking pot, and ‘Agent Orange’ (Donald Trump) forswore with those heel spurs all fitted up and no horse to mount.
    I’m sure both gents would have been great in ‘Nam cos McCain (according to Helen Razer) was not that great…….Mark Twain had an apt description of Helen’s opinion….. ’bout worth as much as a pitcher of warm spit’…

  4. Spot on, Helen. McCain was no hero in the US Senate; his party has done more damage to this country than one can even articulate (and that’s not letting the other lot off the hook at all).
    It is worth a reminder that after he voted FOR Obamacare (after voting against it), he voted FOR the Republican tax bill that gutted much of it, and that will send us into deficits for decades, all in the name of tax cuts for the rich.
    And let’s not forget his vote for the worst Supreme Court judge, after obstructing Obama’s nomination (and everything else) at every step of the way.
    The amnesia is frightening, especially when it comes from the self-identified left.

  5. Well done Helen, both for the piece and the two word response to the troll who was really a bit too excited about the big boys toys aspect of war. Sure it’s brave to risk your life in a plane, and also brave to withstand torture. However it was also brave to openly dissent to war like many of his generation did. We need to get past bravery always being associated with violence. There are countless more brave things than just poor, uninformed young people slaughtering poor foreigners to serve the interests of people they will never meet. P.S I really liked The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

  6. Lovely. Thanks. I’ll read more Helen Razer on the strength of this.
    But what’s really required is not simply more of the same, preaching to the converted such as I, keen to lap up more and more, but some text describing what we can perhaps do about it all, or attempt to do about it all.
    For isn’t the situation overall the most laughably ludicrous horribly disastrous and shockingly terrible that we could possibly imagine?
    How could it be worse? Short of an all out nuclear war I can’t see any way. And most of the U.S. seems keen on fomenting just that.
    My naive opinion is that we need a global movement of the people by the people to take control into their own hands starting with control over whether or not they’ll make war upon one another.
    We need a mechanism to promote this and enable thing. The internet, modern technology, makes it feasible.
    Seems to me the current situation makes it life or death mandatory.
    And the Helen Razers of the world need to be directing our attention that way.. and reporting on how it goes, etc….

  7. Hi Helen,
    I suspect like almost every person in politics (and every person for that matter), McCain demonstrated convenient behaviour when circumstances called for it. I’m not familiar with the detail of his voting record, so can’t comment on his role as in the senate. But I do believe that McCain played a significant role in the ‘normalisation’ of relations with Vietnam as well as in the removal of the landmines and UXBs that continued to plague the people of Vietnam for decades (and still do in some areas. So while he may have made some bad calls (understatement), Iraq/Palin, I can’t help believing McCain had some praiseworthy virtues.

    1. His voting record is easy to look up. From memory, it is 93% compatible with Trump’s.
      And it may be “convenient” to urge for war for decades and play a significant role in the devastation of lives throughout the world. This cannot be excused on the basis of politics. If we can forgive mass death for the sake of appearances, we can forgive anything.
      The point of a politician’s legacy is, surely, their policy. McCain was a war hawk. And no semi anti-racist gibberish makes up for that.

      1. I have to admit to having swallowed a lot of the hagiography that has been hastily written around McCain myself (like a spoonful of sugar to medicine, the railing against the Trumpian times had blinded me. (Maybe the disliked stemmed, in some part, from the Trump’s despoiling of the party to which McCain had devoted his life). In any event, simply taking a moment to let the reality of the “mass death”that has resulted from urging war for decades is more than enough to make me gag and upchuck all of it. There is no excuse for urging such. Thank you Helen .

        1. Hey, no problem.
          I have provided links to reputable news sources in the piece.
          McCain was a hawk. He advocated for military spending and the brutal (and unlawful) invasion of Iraq. You can’t be expected, really, to know of the war crimes of the US, because they’re continually glossed over. Read your Guardian, Fairfax, WashPo etc and always ask yourself, “How much do these guys approve of war?”
          I’m a bit against it, myself. And I’m a bit sick of a few antiracist statements (along with the racist ones McCain made) being proof of antiracism. If he truly was an antiracist, he would not have been one of the neocons who believed absolutely in the doctrine contained in a book called The Clash of Civilizations; basically a cultural (racial) rationale for bombing brown babies.
          You don’t get to come across (in my view) all We Are All Equal in public while cheering on death and devastation. Although, Obama made a pretty good job of this.

          1. Can you/anyone else recommend sources discussing Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations with regards to McCain and his ilk?

  8. And all in the same week as Morrison the Moderate and Bishop the Feminist Hero/Best Foreign Minister Ever. Spare me.

  9. As much as it must have been an ordeal stuck in a prisoner-of-war camp, had he not been there in the first place (remembering that the Yanks never actually declared war on Vietnam) the bloke would never have been subjected to whatever deprivations he suffered. Don’t really have much sympathy for the bloke.

    1. And how many bombing “missions” (interesting word – that) had he flown over the northern parts of Viet-nam – how many Viet-namese had he killed exactly? And can someone please explain the torture he apparently endured – was it of the order sanctioned by the US on-ground in VN – My Lai, for one – then later at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo – in which folk died? Though he didn’t! It’s good to read these correctives such as yours Helen and by Caitlin Johnstone and from other journalists in the US, too – as opposed to the fawning me-too but dishonest praise presently being heaped upon him.

  10. Thank you, Helen Razor. Finally, someone said it. And let’s not forget his enthusiasm for bombing Serbian civilians

  11. Thanks again for using your words so well Helen ..that sounds like sarcasm but it ain’t .. politics contain a chunky chunk of current times relativism. Of course mccain has been a champion of rotten and slimy GOPness for many years, of course he has been a standard bearer for the rascist silvertails, and the warmongers , and the “USA USAIfvbn

  12. I know we aren’t meant to speak ill of the dead. But, I think in late Senator John McCain’s case it’s important to acknowledge his achievements and his weaknesses. McCain, was responsible for launching Sarah Palin as his vice-president running mate onto the world stage and indirectly the tin-foil hat wearing TEA-Party lunatics.
    I will admit to liking John McCain, and I must admit for over-missing his racist inappropriate comments on immigrants, which pail into insignificance after the comments of President Trump. But, either way I can’t defend McCain’s racist comments, which were unnecessary and just red-meat for the Republican voter base . Razer doesn’t pull her punches in this, something of an Obituary to the late Senator John McCain. Helen Razer is spot on with her comments and I can’t criticise her for that.
    Good work Helen. This is way I love your writing.

  13. Thank you, Helen. You are a breath of sanity in a deluded world.
    I’ve been gagging on the “tributes” to this odious fellow, but, at least, some honest souls have told the truth.
    By the way, as I understand it, McCain was not tortured by the North Vietnamese. He was a high value prisoner, because his father was an admiral. As such, he had value as a potential bargaining chip, and was kept in good health. Apart from that, he collaborated with his captors, which some of his fellow POW’s have testified to. They despise him, by the way, but their fathers were not high-ranking officers, so no-one cared. All of this information is freely available on the interwebs, at least for now.
    So, one down, many more to go, and they can’t go quickly enough.

    1. Well,he was captured in 1967 and his captors learnt that his father was a US Admiral in 1968. So, yes, media “reports” -including some from the ABC and SBS – that he was tortured for years are just nonsense. Reports that he had committed treason for good treatment after 1968 are also just nonsense, since he was treated well for his refusal of release, which his captors were prepared to grant him, when they realised what his father was. So, yes, his refusal of release WAS brave but not as brave as reports of years of torture might suggest. On the other hand, McCain supported US imperialism in Vietnam and Iraq. So, it is reasonable to condemn him for that.

      1. Here lies the problem with modern day media..they need their heroes to have less human attributes…this also unfortunately is where not only the racism becomes obvious…but with the need to keep their readership on side the main stream media have a tendency towards gilding the lily (to say the least) …. also what would be referred to as creative writing….the thing is that there are so many people that have little understanding as to what McCain’s life really was like, hence the tendency to believe the nonsense that has been writen…so they are more inclined to listen to the ”press’,’ believing in what they hear/read than actually doing some proper research for themselves & finding out the real truth..

  14. Wasnt there also very strong rumours and even a 60 minutes/CBS/CNN special that whilst he was a POW, he was treated a lot better than other prisoners due to his family connection which his captors were made aware of. I seem to recall that many said he was well fed and far from emaciated like his fellow POWs, some of who accused McCain of even treason to ensure he was looked after. Funny how many of that side of politics now treat McCain as their hero simply because of his dislike for Trump? Hmmmm, then again, these same media made Willie Mandela as a saint also.

    1. Yeah, sure the North Vietnamese wanted to curry favour with McCain’s dad because he was a very senior US Navy Officer…..just like they wanted to suck up to the US Imperialist dogs trying to destroy their country with B-52’s.
      Wake up to yourself Trashman….time to take out the trash.

  15. Well written.
    The reification of St McCain is a testament to how all pervasive the spectacle has become. Perhaps our knowledge class journalists so embody the narrative myths that they are paid to churn out that they see themselves as the brave and heroic freedom fighters like the characters in the deluded fairy floss histories they write..

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