The two faces of John McCain
The biased and racist news media has turned the late Senator John McCain into a modern day God, not because they loved him and really respected him but because of their shameless politics: they love that he as a senior Republican challenged and criticized President Donald Trump. McCain had a good side and a bad side and both sides should be remembered.
By Ray Hanania
John McCain was a complicated American politician. A celebrated war hero, McCain put a “Happy Face” on the drive to destroy Palestinian rights and wrapped his defense of Israel using warped reason and populist logic. But, he was smart enough to avoid open displays of racism and bigotry knowing it wouldn’t attract votes.
Americans have a love and hate relationship with McCain. He was ridiculed when he ran against Barack Obama in 2008 but was deified by the same critics when he became the Republican Party’s most virulent critic of Donald Trump and in death.
How could McCain not hate Trump, the “outsider” who easily won election as president while McCain, a 31-year Senator in Washington D.C.’s with political power and beltway prestige, never could?
McCain died on August 25 of brain cancer and is being memorialized for the positive achievements in America and around the world. But is that enough?
McCain had two sides, one of an heroic soldier who was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War. And the other, as a member of America’s political elite defending Israel at the expense of principle, morality and the international rights of Palestinian Christian and Muslim civilians.
As an Arab American, I see both. I had hoped McCain would have made amends for his many misjudgments. He didn’t. Just bringing it up has drawn the ire of other Americans who, because of ignorance or racism, feel criticism of McCain is wrong, immoral and a contemptible.
But I don’t care. I can sympathize with his suffering as a human being but I can’t forgive McCain for actions which enabled Israel’s continued abuses against the Palestinians. His history is replete with facts that most Americans either don’t know or have chosen to ignore.
There are many events in McCain’s life spotlighted in the endless remembrances and memorials this week. The most notable was his service as a Navy pilot who flew bombing missions over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down and he spend five and one-half years as a POW.
His capture came at the same time that his father, John McCain II, was promoted as Commander over all U.S. Forces in Vietnam. A Vietnam era veteran myself, honorably discharged in 1975, I served my country with pride, too. But I have always been disgusted by the hundreds of stories the media and military tried to squelch about the intentional killing of civilians, women and children during the war. Vietnamese women and children were shot in their heads for sport, as they are today, killed by Israeli sniper fire across the Gaza-Israel border.
It didn’t help that I was reading Seymour Hersh’s new book “Reporter” in which he details both the hypocrisies of the mainstream American news media and the many atrocities committed by American soldiers, like McCain, during the Vietnam war. As many as 90 percent of the bombs dropped by U.S. Navy fighter pilots over Hanoi, Hersh documented, hit civilian sites rather than their intended military targets.
McCain is hailed for surviving Vietcong torture as a POW. Yet, the same people cheering him have closed their eyes to worse torture or embraced it when used against Arabs after Sept. 11, 2001.
McCain is also remembered by many Americans and Arabs for his defense of President Obama during the 2008 presidential election that McCain lost in a landslide.
During a McCain Town Hall Meeting at the Toyota Arena in Pennsylvania on August 12, 2008, an elderly woman was given a microphone to express her concerns and query McCain. The woman began with a typical statement, declaring, “I can’t trust Obama.”
McCain responded by smiling and nodding in agreement. But then, her comments turned to open racism, blurting out, “I have read about him … he’s an Arab.”
Before she could elaborate, McCain grabbed the mic and denied the notion held by many Americans of Obama whose Kenyan government father is Muslim and whose middle name is “Hussein.”
For me, McCain was a hypocrite. How could he on the one hand defend President Obama against the racist stereotype that he was “Arab,” but on the other refuse to defend the rights of real “Arabs” in Palestine?
During the same 2008 presidential campaign, the news media also ignored concerns expressed by Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader, who is an “Arab.” Nader detailed how Israel intentionally attacked the U.S.S. Liberty on June 8, 1967 killing 34 American soldiers and wounding 171 more and he slammed McCain for his silence.
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When a pro-Israel activist and former Navy pilot during the Korean war, A. Jay Cristol, penned a defense of Israel’s actions 36 years later, McCain wrote a testimonial lauding Cristol’s conclusions defending McCain’s father.
McCain shamefully chose to stand with Israel instead of standing with American veterans who served on the Liberty who till this day are demanding that Israel be held accountable, such as by the highly decorated American veteran Lt. Commander James M. Ennes, an officer on the Liberty and eyewitness to the Israeli assault.
Arabs do not celebrate in the death of others, including those with whom we disagree or battle. We are generous offering prayers for the deceased, expressing in Arabic “Allah Yarhamu” (God Grant Him Rest).
As we remember John McCain’s life, let’s remember everything. Respectfully, but honestly.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
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