One of the primary reasons that this nation finds itself in the dire condition that we currently face, is that we’re extremely sloppy and less than precise in our political rhetoric. One example of that is how we fall all over ourselves in an attempt to honor John McCain as a military hero.
The fact is, while there is no doubt that Sen. McCain paid a heavy price during his service in the military, that doesn’t make him a hero, it simply makes him one among millions of military personnel over the years that have placed themselves in harms way in defense of this country. The only difference between McCain and any other person that’s ever raised his hand in defense of this country is that he was unlucky enough to be captured-and that in itself does not make you a hero—it simply makes you a victim of war.
A hero is one who acts with nobility of purpose, and selflessly sacrifices his life, or places his life in imminent danger to promote the interests of the nation or his comrades. That doesn’t define McCain, and by that honor being hoisted upon him by his political supporters, it diminishes the sacrifice of the true hero, who with little forethought, threw his body on a live grenade to protect the lives of those he’d grown to love.
The essence of such a man, a true hero, involves character—selflessness, courage, a love of country and his fellow man. I’m sorry, but I don’t see those qualities in McCain. When I look at McCain I see a man immersed in his own self-interest—a man who lacked the character to stand by his first wife when she needed him most, even though she stood by him during his five years of imprisonment; a man who publicly disrespected his current wife; a man who has been willing to exploit the sacrifices of true heroes for personal gain; and a man who’s willing to do or say whatever has to be done or said to promote his own interests. That’s not a hero, that’s an opportunist.
Take, for example, his lack of loyalty to fellow veterans. The Wall Street Journal reported that “Sen. John McCain used Memorial day to defend his opposition to a Senate bill that vastly expands education benefits for veterans. The bill passed the Senate last week 75-22 over the objections of Sen. McCain, and President Bush, both of whom argued the benefits were too generous and likely to discourage reenlistment.”
In response to his opposition to the bill, McCain said, “At a time when the United States military is fighting in two wars, and as we’re finally, finally are beginning the long overdue and very urgent necessity of increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, one study estimates that Senator Webb’s bill will reduce retention rates by 16 percent.” The Washington Wire reports that he went on to say that “he was particularly concerned that educational benefits would reduce the number of noncommissioned officers, which he called the “backbone of the all the services.”
Thus, McCain is essentially saying that it’s imprudent to enhance the educational benefits of our troops because if we provide our poor and middle class troops with the opportunity for better lives, we wouldn’t have anyone to fight our wars. So the obvious question is this-why not ask the upper class relatives of Bush, Cheney, and yourself to pitch in and give the nation a hand? You say this is a national emergency. Aren’t the children of upper class and privileged individuals a part of this nation as well? Due to the risk of creeping senility, I won’t wait for an answer.
Then there’s the issue of protecting our troops from the excesses of grievous war profiteering.
According to an article by HalliburtonWatch.org, a website dedicated to monitoring the performance of the Halliburton Corp., a corporation headed by Dick Cheney prior to becoming Vice President, and the largest recipient of no-bid government contracts in Iraq, during a hearing, held on June 27, 2005 by the Democratic Policy Committee, “Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a previously-secret military audit criticizing an extra $1.4 billion in ‘questioned’ and ‘unsupported’ expenditures by Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary in Iraq. The audit was conducted by the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). It determined that KBR had $1 billion in ‘questioned’ expenses in Iraq (I.e. Expenses which military auditors consider “unreasonable”) and $442 million in ‘unsupported’ expenses (I.e. Expenses which military auditors have determined contain no receipt or any explanation on how the expenses were disbursed).”
Then in a September 20, 2005 article, the group reported that “Outrage overflowed on Capitol Hill this summer when members of Congress learned that Halliburton’s dining halls in Iraq had repeatedly served spoiled food to unsuspecting troops. ‘This happened quite a bit,’ testified Rory Mayberry, a former food manager with Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary.”
In addition, Former KBR employees and water quality specialists, Ben Carter and Ken May, told HalliburtonWatch that “KBR knowingly exposes troops and civilians to contaminated water from Iraq’s Euphrates River. One internal KBR email provided to HalliburtonWatch says that, for ‘possibly a year,’ the level of contamination at one camp was two times the normal level for untreated water.”
One would think that a war hero and comrade in arms would go ballistic in response to such allegations, but Senate Republicans killed an amendment that would have established a special investigation into war profiteering by Halliburton and other companies by a vote of 53 to 44, while Sen. John McCain sat second in seniority, and silently, on the Armed Services committee.
So John McCain, a hero? I think not. Just as I don’t want to diminish Sen. McCain’s suffering on behalf of this country, neither do I want to diminish the sacrifices of this nation’s true heroes in the furtherance of a cheap political gimmick that will only serve to send more of their number to an early grave.
I realize I’m going to get a lot of flack for this-for actually saying out loud what many fellow vets are whispering in their hearts-but bring it on. It’s bad enough that we’ve allowed a bunch of draft dodgers to destroy our families and send loyal Americans to early, and undeserved graves, but now, to allow one of their accomplices to stand among these national heroes for profit while their families suffer, and they lie in eternal repose, that’s a little to much for this former Marine to take.
An old grunt once told me there was no such thing as a former Marine. I see now that he was right, because I feel a churning in my gut that says I’m honor bound to prepare for one last battle— shaky joints and all.
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.