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S Ross: McCain & Self-Defense Vs War Of Aggression

McCain Can't Tell Self-Defense Apart From War of Aggression

By Sherwood Ross

When he said the U.S. might stay in Iraq for 100 years, Senator John McCain(R-Ariz.) explained he was referring to the kind of military presence the U.S. has had in Japan, Germany, and South Korea since the mid-20th century.

Does this mean McCain fails to grasp the very different circumstances that caused the U.S. to occupy those countries as opposed to the war on Iraq? The Axis nations had made aggressive war on America and the U.S. had every right to occupy them after it conquered them. It also had a U.N. mandate to defend South Korea from the aggression of the Communist North. It was America's business to be in those countries. America was defending itself or, as in the case of South Korea, a nation that had been the victim of aggression.

But the U.S. is the aggressor against Iraq. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the war "illegal." The preponderant majority of Iraqis, surveys report, want the U.S. to get out now. McCain's remark also fails to consider that, unlike Germany and Japan, resistance is continuing in Iraq to the U.S. military occupation. Every year the U.S. remains in Iraq is a year that, if past is prologue, will be stained with blood.

By contrast, after Japan surrendered, U.S. forces arrived on Japanese soil within a few days and encountered no resistance. The same was true of occupied Germany. Their war-weary populations welcomed an end to the horrific British and American bombings of civilians and the restoration of peace brought by the Allied occupation.

By supporting President Bush's aggression in Iraq, McCain is already accomplice to a needless slaughter that made Iraq the most dangerous hell on the planet. Now McCain says he is ready to continue this occupation for a century if need be. But the occupation of Iraq has not been peaceful, just the opposite.

According to a report in the February 25 "The New Yorker" magazine, McCain criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) "for saying the war is lost." Such comments, like the pleadings of Democrats to withdraw from Iraq, McCain counts as "surrender," reporter Ryan Lizza wrote. But withdrawal from Iraq would not be "surrender." Surrender is what happens when the enemy defeats your troops or your country, as when Lee surrendered to Grant. The charge that withdrawal is surrender is bizarre nonsense. The Iraqis have no more intention of occupying America than they had of attacking it.

What McCain is trying to do is tar the Democrats with the charge that they are "losers." This, of course, implies the Iraqis would be the "winners" if the U.S. gets out. However, there are no "winners" in Iraq. All parties engaged in the fighting are losers, as they are in every war. President Bush, with Senator McCain's backing, has cost America 4,000 killed, 30,000 wounded, a trillion dollars of debt, untold billions in lost trade and commerce, and a ruined global reputation. And when you are responsible for the needless deaths of your troops, that's not "supporting our boys." That's killing them.

McCain told CNN's Larry King, "It's not a matter of how long we're in Iraq. It's if we succeed or not." Note the word "we," which is all about America. Does McCain think for a moment the Iraqi people his president invaded to "save" think they are better off? Referring to Iraqis, McCain told King, "If they don't want to and we don't feel a need to do so, obviously, the whole thing is keyed to Americans being able to withdraw and come home with honor, not in defeat."

This observation indicates McCain is divorced from reality. When an aggressor nation attacks a peaceful country it cannot withdraw with "honor." If Hitler had pulled out of Poland in 1940 would that have made Hitler an honorable man? Did it make the British Crown "honorable" when it was compelled to quit its occupation of India? Did the French become "honorable" when driven out of Algeria and "French Indo-China"?

So it is with Iraq. President Bush, with Senator McCain's backing, has cost the Iraqi people approximately 1-million dead, perhaps half of them children, perhaps another million wounded, forced over a million people to flee their country (the UN calls it a "humanitarian crisis"), two million to flee their homes, ruined the infrastructure, and precipitated a religious civil war in a nation where people had formerly gotten along. After you've inflicted that kind of misery on human beings, only a perpetrator divorced from reality can salve his conscience blathering about "honor."

Apart from the oil companies that have doubled their prices at the expense of the motoring publics the world over and military-industrial complex war profiteers like Halliburton, where are the winners? Hear tell, the oil companies would love it if the U.S. stayed in Iraq a hundred years to ensure their sweetheart contacts which, of course, is what the war is all about, as we suspect the two former oil firm executives in the White House know. Indeed, as The New York Times reported on its front page February 25, "Even as it enriches Arab rulers, the recent oil-price boom is helping to fuel an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region's middle class and setting off strikes, demonstrations and occasional riots from Morocco to the Persian Gulf." Of course, by holding down the production of Iraqi oil, supplies are kept tight, driving up the price. By one account, Exxon's underground reserves since the start of the war have risen in value by $666-billion!

Senator McCain's definition of patriotism is to fight in a wrong war such as Viet Nam and vote for a wrong war such as Iraq. That this conduct likely would have nauseated the Founders of America who decried foreign intervention is of no consequence to him. He is a blind war-maker who does not even grasp that he is conscience-bound to restore the damage he has inflicted upon Iraq. But you don't hear a word about that from his Straight Talk Express. It's all about American "honor," as if this war was some kind of medieval jousting tournament, not about Iraqi suffering.

Senator McCain hasn't yet learned wars of aggression are doomed to fail. Apparently, the man who would be president doesn't know the difference between a war of self defense and a war of aggression or, like President Bush, he just doesn't give a damn. But the American people must.


(Sherwood Ross writes for newspapers and magazines. Reach him at

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