So I began looking through some old newspaper clippings on the Gulf War for some research I have been doing, and you just wouldn't believe what I happened across. Featured prominently in one article from August of 1990, was a senator named John McCain, the "maverick" or "straight talker" if you will, who tells it like he sees it and sees it like he imagines Teddy Roosevelt would have. But has our hero once again flip flopped on his supposedly ironclad views (see evolution, gay rights, Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, his feelings about Jerry Falwell, etc.)?
First let's get back to today's version of Mr. Mccain. You may now know him as just about the most belligerent war hawk, a truly insane warmonger among a group of Brawny Paper men named Jon Kyl, Joe Lieberman and Mitch McConnell. Also known as the only lunatics openly supporting Bush's De-Iraqification via more troops from American families he would never stoop to meet with or probably run into in daddy's country club in Kennebunkport.
But let's get back to McCain. Mr. Consistency himself has been a stalwart supporter of our foray into the Middle East. And of course of escalating our troop presence, which just so happens not to find among their ranks any member of his immediate family.
He was an honorary co-chair (with who else but Joe Lieberman?) on the Committee on the Liberation of Iraq, whose mission in 2002 is kind of evident if you reread that name. Since then, you could call him one of the war's biggest cheerleaders. According to Dean Broder:
...there is nothing nuanced about his position on the Iraq war. In speeches on and off the Senate floor and in countless television interviews, McCain has argued that it was right to remove Saddam Hussein and that the United States and its allies must remain in Iraq until conditions are created for a stable, secure Iraqi government...When I interviewed him in his office the other day, he even used the pejorative phrase "cut and run" to describe those now calling for a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.
His view on Bush's escalation in his own words is "I believe that together these moves will give the Iraqis and Americans the best chance of success." He's echoed this point many times, as an AlterNet piece pointed out, "McCain yelled at Baker and Hamilton [of the Iraq Study Group] last week because they didn't like his proposal to increase troop strength in Iraq by a number somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand."
He understands more Americans will die in Iraq because of his support for escalation, as he pointed out in a FoxNews interview in September, when he said "It's very serious. The situation is deteriorating. There's certain to be more casualties. It's for a noble cause. It's tough going between now and the election. We have the will and ability to prevail."
Finally, McCain's willing to stand up to the American people, even if they don't support his war, to do what's right. "I understand the polls show only 18 percent of the American people support my position. But I have to do what's right... In war, my dear friends, there's no such thing as compromise. You either win or you lose."
So where am I going with all this? Well, get out your flux capacitor and go back to 1990. Here is what John McCain had to say then, regarding using U.S. troops in the Gulf War. You could call it startling.
If you get involved in a major ground war in the Saudi desert, I think support will erode significantly. Nor should it be supported. We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood. [New York Times Aug 19, 1990]
Ahh, there's nothing so refeshing as the sweet melody of straight talk.
Ok, so let's break this down. The Gulf War was far from perfect in many respects, but we had allies from around the world sending troops (including Syria and Egypt)and it was largely bankrolled by Japan and Saudi Arabia. There was an actual response to Iraqi aggression and we had an American leader not stupid enough to go into Baghdad. Yet, under these circumstances, Sir McCain thought that American casualties in Iraq were not acceptable and that support at home among members of Congress and the people would erode (and he actually cared about what people thought) and, therefore, US ground troops should simply not be a part of the equation (he still, of course, eventually supported the Gulf War Resolution).
Quite an amazing transformation, isn't it (especially for a man who was also in favor of pulling out of Beirut in 1983 and skeptical of using force in Somalia and Bosnia initially)? It couldn't have anything to do with electoral politics, could it?
To further bring home this point, Moveon.org will be releasing television ads in New Hampshire and Iowa, also known as McCain's two paths to paradise, pointing out his many flip flops on war and his weak case for escalation.
But in the meantime, just read this quote one more time, and tell me this man has not become a pathetic political shill, willing to sell his soul and the lives of the people who have supported him for his white whale, the presidency:
We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood.
Kinda says it all, doesn't it?