As the late Senator John McCain is mourned and eulogized since his weekend passing, and with many pundits on the cable shows quick to canonize him a great "warrior politician" worthy of emulation as a secular civic saint of sorts, his legacy will chiefly remain as the foremost pro-intervention hawk in recent American history.
Sen. McCain's “secret” Syria visit in May 2013 wherein he famously posed with known al-Qaeda operatives who had previously kidnapped Lebanese Shia pilgrims. The men were part of an al-Qaeda linked group, "Northern Storm Brigade" which had at various times cooperated directly with ISIS, such as during the Battle of Menagh Airbase near Aleppo throughout the summer following McCain's visit. John Stewart's The Daily Show subsequently featured and confirmed the incident during a segment.
Though now being widely hailed as a "truth-teller" and promoter of democratic principles around the world, one might reasonably ask if his broadly recognized history of knee-jerk jingoism advocating for war and greater US military involvement from Kosovo to Iraq to Libya to Ukraine to North Korea to Syria has actually made the world a better, more peaceful, and stable place for much of the globe's inhabitants.
And closer to home, US citizens might question whether the "last lion of the Senate" has actually made American less safe, based on the well-known principle of "blowback" — the tendency for destabilizing foreign policy adventurism abroad to actually create more terrorism or other security threats to US citizenry.
This term, long an acknowledged part of the lexicon of US intelligence agencies, was best illustrated in a 2015 essay by David Stockman, titled Blowback — The Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home To Roost:
The gates of hell have been opened by Washington’s senseless destruction of regimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that refused to do its bidding. Yet not one of these backwaters of tyranny and economic and military insignificance posed any threat whatsoever to the safety and security of American citizens in Lincoln NE or Manchester NH.
Given that the American public is about to be subject to a week's worth of discussion of McCain's legacy, it is worth revisiting a previously viral map published in 2013 by the far-left magazine Mother Jones.
The map is appropriately called Battlefield: Earth — Countries where McCain has called for U.S. military intervention, and is again making the rounds on social media after news of McCain's death.
The countries are:
- North Korea
Of course, we could also add Ukraine, where McCain personally went to Kiev in support of Western-backed pro-coup forces, and Yemen, where he voted against an effort 6 months ago to end the Saudi slaughter there, which has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths.
And now a quote trip down memory lane... Here's a brief, very partial list of statements from the late senator calling for some form of military intervention and in some instances full-on invasion of these countries, per Mother Jones.
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“Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power.”
Iraq War 2
“Leaders always have choices, and history teaches that hard choices deferred—appeasing Hitler, choosing not to deter Saddam Hussein in 1990, failing to act sooner against Al Qaeda—often bring about the very circumstances we wished to avoid by deferring action, requiring us to react in freedom’s defense. America’s leaders today have a choice. It will determine whether our people live in fear behind walls that have already been breached, as our enemies plan our defeat in time we have given them to do it.”
Above: Religious and ethnic minorities throughout Iraq and Syria have widely faulted John McCain's US military interventionist policies for bringing their communities to brink of extinction.
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“We should make an immediate statement of our resolve that we no longer intend to tolerate sanction given to our enemies by any nation…Should the Taliban refuse our demand, then they must know that they will be treated as allies of our enemy, and, thus, are themselves our enemies, and will suffer much for their allegiance.”
“I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments” (2000). “[I]t does take time, as it did during the period of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. But we were able to provide them with some weapons and wherewithal to cause the Russians to leave Afghanistan. So we can do it” (2012).
2014 photo op in Libya with a "rebel" who later emerged head of ISIS in Libya. Left to Right - CT Senator Richard Blumenthal, Al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Commander Abdelhakim Belhadj, AZ Senator John McCain, SC Senator Lindsey Graham.
“The best course for us, NATO, Kosovo, Russia and even Serbia is to begin fighting this war as if it were a war, with huge stakes involved, instead of some strange interlude between peace initiatives…To that end, we should commence today to mobilize infantry and armored divisions for a possible ground war in Kosovo.”
Iraq War I
“It is clear to me that if we fail to act there will be inevitably a succession of dictators, of Saddam Husseins, of which around the globe there is an abundance.”
“If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country. I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.”
“If [Bosnians] were equipped,especially with TOW missiles, some heavy armor, some tanks, then I think that we could foresee a stable situation.”
“I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments.”
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“It’s that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’? Bomb bomb bomb…”
“Today, we are all Georgians.”
“Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions…We should push for the completion of all phases of our missile defense programs in Europe, and move expeditiously on another round of NATO expansion.”
“NATO should immediately establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to ensure that Khartoum ends its offensive military flights and bombing raids, as the Security Council has already demanded…[T]he United States should intensify efforts to persuade UN members to commit troops and funds for the UN force in Darfur, and it should develop plans for US logistical support.”
“We need to have DOD assistance as much as feasible and necessary to prevent Mali from deteriorating further into a chaotic situation.”
“The Arab Spring is coming to China.”
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Meanwhile at Lockheed...