Fashion should be fun and with my photography I love to create those fun moments.
Michael Moore asks the question mainstream media has not even thought of.
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
Posted on August 21, 2008, Printed on August 26, 2008
This post originally appeared in PEEK's blog.
Confession: I have not yet read all six (short, illustrated, large type) chapters of Mike's Election Guide 2008, Michael Moore's, latest work of jaunty political opinion. Am I supposed to discuss it with him on "Meet the Bloggers" tomorrow? Yes. But I'm not worried. It's a breezy read, has already made me laugh out loud, and besides, I may have already found the best part in Chapter One.
The title is "Ask Mike!" and, in it, ordinary voters, old and young, pose questions about politics and current events. Some are more serious than others ("If Iran has weapons of mass destruction, we should invade, right?"), which does not make Moore's answers any more subtle. ("Excuuuuuse me? Did you say the words, 'weapons of mass destruction?' Take it back. I SAID TAKE IT BACK!") Of course, the "questions" are really satirical jabs at the media -- "When a Republican wears a little American flag lapel pin, what is he trying to say?" "If Obama can't bowl, can he govern?" -- but there's one in particular that is worth paying attention to -- especially if you happen to be a member of the press and have been utterly unwilling to take McCain's supporters and opponents alike to task for perpetuating a narrative that would be central to a McCain victory, and which has already become a dominant theme in this election: The McCain as War Hero canard.
The "question" is posted thusly:
"Why did the Vietnamese shoot down John McCain and put him in prison for five years? He seems like such a nice guy."
ANSWER: I'm guessing, in spite of his anger management issues, he is a nice guy. He has devoted his life to this country. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our nation. And for that, he was tortured and then imprisoned in a North Vietnamese POW camp for nearly five-and-a-half years.
That's the set-up. It gets better. Moore proceeds, not to question, as Wesley Clark recently did to so many shrieks of criticism, whether McCain's capture really makes him qualified to be president of the United States -- the answer, any thinking person realizes, is "no" -- but whether the Vietnam war was a conflict that can really be said to have produced the breed of "American hero" McCain is so often celebrated as.
"Sadly," he writes, "McCain's sacrifice had nothing to do with protecting the United States. He was sent to Vietnam along with hundreds of thousands of others in an attempt to prop up what was essentially an American colony, South Vietnam, which was being run by a dictator whom we installed."
Lest we forget, the Vietnam War represented a mass slaughter by the United States government on a scale that sought to rival our genocide of the Native Americans. The U.S. Armed Forces killed more than two million civilians in Vietnam (and perhaps another million in Laos and Cambodia). The Vietnamese had done nothing to us. They had not bombed or invaded or even sought to murder a single American. President Johnson and the Pentagon lied to Congress in order to get a vote passed to put the war in full gear. Only two senators had the guts to vote "no."
But the parallel between Iraq and Vietnam is not the only point Moore is making. He makes it personal.
John McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. During this bombing campaign, which lasted for almost 44 months, U.S. forces flew 307,000 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam (roughly the same tonnage dropped in the Pacific during all of World War II). Though the stated targets were factories, bridges, and power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes, schools, and hospitals. In the midst of the campaign, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That's more than one 9/11 every single month -- for 44 months.
What's not heroic about that? Is it any wonder all politicians speaking in public about John McCain are required to preface their remarks with a fawning admiration for his war service?
Alas, McCain does have some regrets about Vietnam. As Moore points out, in his memoir Faith of Our Fathers, McCain called it "illogical" and "senseless" that he was limited to bombing only military targets.
"I do believe," McCain wrote, "that had we taken the war to the North and made full, consistent use of air power in the North, we ultimately would have prevailed."
In other words, McCain believes we could have won the Vietnam War had he been able to drop even more bombs.
When McCain was shot down, on October 26, 1967, he was busy bombing what he would describe as a "heavily populated part of Hanoi."
What follows is a a rather entertaining passage in which Moore then asks what you would do to a man who "fell out of the sky" after dropping bombs on you or your children. But the most important question comes at the end:
John McCain is already using the Vietnam War in his political ads. In doing so, it makes not just what happened to him in Vietnam fair game for discussion, but also what he did to the Vietnamese I would like to see one brave reporter during the election season ask this simple question of John McCain: "Is it morally right to drop bombs and missiles in a 'heavily populated' area where hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians will perish?"
Of course, no member of the "mainstream" media is going to ask John McCain that question. (And given his famous quips on "Bomb-bomb-bomb-ing Iran" or, when asked to comment on the U.S. exporting cigarettes to the country, on the speculation that "Maybe that's a way of killing them,", the answer may be too disturbing to bear.) Regardless, this is the same press that obligingly calls McCain a "maverick" and McCain's campaign bus the "Straight-talk Express." Going after his war hero credentials? Why, that would be ... un-American.
Luckily, in the absence of an effective media -- or one that takes its cues from Michael Moore -- there are some people who are uniquely qualified to ask tough questions about the war hero John McCain, and they can't all be considered "surrogates" for Barack Obama. One of them is a man named Phillip Butler, who, on AlterNet today, has an article whose point, really, is laid out in the title:
Originally published on Military.com, it's a scathing, point-by-point indictment of McCain that punctures the war hero mythology he has so successfully insulated himself in.
It is part fact-check ("Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969"), part much-needed perspective ("Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda"). But perhaps its most compelling characteristic is that it is written by a former POW of a misbegotten war, who has seen the death and destruction firsthand, and who is fearful of what McCain would do as commander in chief. "I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that
Now that's a quote. Maybe it's time for a new 3 AM ad.
Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and War on Iraq Special Coverage.
I Spent Years as a POW with John McCain, and His Finger Should Not Be Near the Red Button
By Phillip Butler, Military.com
Posted on August 21, 2008, Printed on August 26, 2008
John McCain is a long-time acquaintance of mine that goes way back to our time together at the U.S. Naval Academy and as Prisoners of War in Vietnam. He is a man I respect and admire in some ways. But there are a number of reasons why I will not vote for him for President of the United States.
When I was a Plebe (4th classman, or freshman) at the Naval Academy in 1957-58, I was assigned to the 17th Company for my four years there. In those days we had about 3,600 midshipmen spread among 24 companies, thus about 150 midshipmen to a company. As fortune would have it, John, a First Classman (senior) and his room mate lived directly across the hall from me and my two room mates. Believe me when I say that back then I would never in a million or more years have dreamed that the crazy guy across the hall would someday be a Senator and candidate for President!
John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. And I believe he must have come as close to his goal as any midshipman who ever attended the Academy. John had me "coming around" to his room frequently during my plebe year. And on one occasion he took me with him to escape "over the wall" in the dead of night. He had a taxi cab waiting for us that took us to a bar some 7 miles away. John had a few beers, but forbid me to drink (watching out for me I guess) and made me drink cokes. I could tell many other midshipman stories about John that year and he unbelievably managed to graduate though he spent the majority of his first class year on restriction for the stuff he did get caught doing. In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates.
People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always "No - John McCain was a POW with me." The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 1/2 years later, so he was a POW for 5 1/2 years. And we have our own seniority system, based on time as a POW.
John's treatment as a POW:
1) Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care. Several hundred of us were captured much earlier. I got there April 20, 1965 so my bad treatment period lasted 4 1/2 years. President Ho Chi Minh died on September 9, 1969, and the new regime that replaced him and his policies was more pragmatic. They realized we were worth a lot as bargaining chips if we were alive. And they were right because eventually Americans gave up on the war and agreed to trade our POW's for their country. A damn good trade in my opinion! But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.
2) John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection. Unfortunately this was often the case -- new POW's arriving with broken bones and serious combat injuries. Many died from their wounds. Medical care was non-existent to rudimentary. Relief from pain was almost never given and often the wounds were used as an available way to torture the POW. Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.
3) John was offered, and refused, "early release." Many of us were given this offer. It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to "admit" that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was "lenient and humane." So I, like numerous others, refused the offer. This was obviously something none of us could accept. Besides, we were bound by our service regulations, Geneva Conventions and loyalties to refuse early release until all the POW's were released, with the sick and wounded going first.
4) John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor -- 8, Service Crosses -- 42, Silver Stars -- 590, Bronze Stars -- 958 and Purple Hearts -- 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many -- not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.
John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same. After our repatriation a census showed that 95% of us had been tortured at least once. The Vietnamese were quite democratic about it. There were many heroes in North Vietnam. I saw heroism every day there. And we motivated each other to endure and succeed far beyond what any of us thought we had in ourselves. Succeeding as a POW is a group sport, not an individual one. We all supported and encouraged each other to survive and succeed. John knows that. He was not an individual POW hero. He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did.
I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.
Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.
I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.
It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual. The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.
I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right. I fear for his nominations to our Supreme Court, and the consequent continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues. John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately. I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man. He disingenuously and famously put his arm around the guy, even after Bush had intensely disrespected him with lies and slander. So on these and many other instances, I don't see that John is the "straight talk express" he markets himself to be.
Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor." That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.
AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.
Doctor Phillip Butler is a 1961 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a former light-attack carrier pilot. In 1965 he was shot down over North Vietnam where he spent eight years as a prisoner of war. He is a highly decorated combat veteran who was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merits, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Heart medals. After his repatriation in 1973 he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at San Diego and became a Navy Organizational Effectiveness consultant. He completed his Navy career in 1981 as a professor of management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is now a peace and justice activist with Veterans for Peace.