The Moment of Truth — April 12, 2008

Free McCain’s Mind and His Ass Will Follow

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the natural enzyme that gets the cat-pee stains of mainstream politics out of the fabric of our social upholstery.

You know something? All this talk of making progress in Iraq has got me convinced. Why would so many people who’ve been supporting the war all along suddenly begin to continue to support it now if we weren’t making the progress those same people say we are?

Yet, even as I typed those words, I could tell I was just being a smartass.

Still, it’s important for the US military to remain in Iraq. I heard John McCain say this. I’ve heard it a few dozen times, so I’m really trying hard to figure out how to believe it. The way McCain explains it, if US troops pull out before… something happens, either something in particular or something vague—winning, I think… then the sacrifice of those troops already sacrificed will have been for naught. Or in vain. I forget how he put it, exactly.

The way I understand McCain, he’s saying if we don’t win, the deaths of over 4000 US soldiers are meaningless. But I must have that wrong. Because that would mean McCain thinks the 50,000 US soldiers killed in Vietnam died meaningless deaths. I know McCain has a problematic relationship with the Vietnam War, having spent so much of it as a prisoner of the side that won, but I just can’t believe he means it, about the meaningless deaths. I don’t think even Jane Fonda on her most pro-Ho Chi Minh day would have asserted such a thing. Sounds more like something Fidel Castro would say, and even then only in private. Or at least in Spanish, and with a Cuban accent, which is certainly private enough for me; what little understanding I’m able to muster of spoken Spanish requires all consonants be clearly audible. It also helps if it’s spoken slowly, in present tense, preferably third-person singular, limited to a vocabulary of about 28 particular words or, if not, at least to cognates.

But perhaps, being a self-styled “citizen of the world” (i.e. smartass), I’m not patriotic enough to understand the principle of “if you die in a war and your side loses you died in vain.” It just seems kind of harsh. Granted, in addition to being unpatriotic I’m also a pussy, so many things I might describe as harsh are, to a real man, probably rather dainty.

And yet, here are young men and women—kids, really, the ones I’ve met—who have any number of reasons for fighting in Iraq: they believed in the mission of helping democratize Iraq, they joined the army because of promised college tuition, they may even have believed Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9-11 massacres. Some of them have since decided their service is meaningless. But it’s really for them to decide.

We’re often told every life is meaningful. So it’s probably true. Because we’re told it often.

As for a meaningless death, is there such a thing? Can one really die in vain? If every life has significance, then the loss of every life does, too. Seems like a revolutionary idea to say a death can be meaningless. It could make suicide a victimless crime. If the death of a soldier, even in a war based on lies, can be in vain, those of us who whine all the time about how miserable we are can surely justify a little suicide. Hey, it’s meaningless! And how about junkies, drunks, and deadbeat dads? The mentally ill? Anyone for a round of meaningless euthanasia? Come on, have two, they’re in vain!

Even by McCain’s logic, I still don’t see why we shouldn’t bring the troops home. Is there any sense in causing more senseless deaths in the hope of making sense of a senseless war?

I wonder if McCain is overcompensating. He did spend six years as a POW. Thanks to his clumsy inability to evade the enemy, he was unable to help the US army fight the Viet Minh and the Viet Cong and all those other Viets. Maybe, with bittersweet megalomania, he feels it’s because of his incompetence the war was lost and all those men died senseless deaths. Maybe he feels guilty about it, so he wants to keep this war going, in the desperate belief it can be won and somehow redeem him, or perhaps even give meaning to those deaths whose meaninglessness he blames on himself.

On winning a war: Back in the good old days, a war was like a football game. American football, not the one the rest of the world plays. You would battle for turf. If you captured the turf, the battle was won, and if you succeeded in getting all the turf you were after, the war was won. That was the ideal, anyway.

But who would play football the way this war is being fought? It would be like: You have eleven guys on one side and say 100,000 guys on the other. And some of those guys are playing against each other, some were just watching and got pulled in from the stands, and nobody will tell you where the ball is. You don’t even know if the ball exists. Sometimes there seems to be a multitude of balls. Sometimes you can see the ball but some of the hundred thousand tell you it’s not there or it’s the wrong ball. The goal posts are nowhere in sight, you’re not sure there ever were any. And your team’s owner, who lied about why you were playing the game in the first place and what the rules would be, won’t let the game end.

You would think someone who spent six years as a prisoner of Ho Chi Minh would be a little choosier about where to send US soldiers. But who knows what happened to McCain there? He may have been driven crazy. Or he may have simply determined that, dammit, if I have to spend six years in this hellhole I’ll be damned if I won’t be President someday, no matter what crazy BS I’m required to spout.

Maybe he developed a case of Stockholm syndrome whereby he came to identify with the cause and creed of those who kept him a POW for so long: General Westmoreland, Robert McNamara, LBJ, the whole rogues’ gallery of hawkish douchebags. The ones who held all of Indochina and the entire USA hostage to their mindless death project. If so, it makes sense for him to adopt the creed of the same types who are holding US foreign policy hostage today.

But the most frightening question has yet to be asked, perhaps because it’s too terrible to contemplate:

What if John McCain is the Manchurian Candidate? What if, during those six years of confinement, he was renditioned over to China where they used their sick, cruel, devious, cunning, spooky, lit-from-below brainwashing techniques to turn him into a ticking time bomb? What if he’s elected President, and the Chinese Communist Party leaders activate him and use him to take over the world? Like they’ve done with Henry Kissinger?

We must push such questions aside, however. In this country a person running for public office is considered innocent until proven guilty. And even then they can usually get away without doing much time.

John McCain believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It turned out they were all in his mind. So we know where the WMD are: in John McCain’s mind. Doesn’t that justify a pre-emptive invasion? Maybe slap him upside the head first, to soften up the target, then a surgical strike on his frontal lobe.

I think we would be welcomed as liberators.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!