War Hero or War Criminal?

“The date was Oct. 26, 1967. I was on my 23rd mission, flying right over the heart of Hanoi in a dive at about 4,500 feet, when a Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber.”

~ John McCain

Over and over again it has been said or inferred that one of the reasons John McCain deserves to be president is because he is a war hero. Even Barack Obama has called McCain “a genuine American hero.” Make that an American war criminal. John McCain graduated (near the bottom of his class) from the Annapolis Naval Academy in 1958. After flight training in my city of residence, Pensacola, Florida (where he admits he frequented strip clubs), to “become an aviator and an instrument of war for my country,” McCain spent some time on aircraft carriers in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas before volunteering for combat duty. In 1967 Lieutenant Commander McCain began bombing runs over North Vietnam from the deck of the USS Forrestal. After a bad fire that put the ship out of commission, McCain switched to bombing North Vietnam from the deck of the USS Oriskany (which was recently sunk off the coast of Pensacola to make an artificial reef). McCain was shot down on his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam and then held as a prisoner of war for five years. After his release in 1973, McCain resumed his naval service until his retirement as a captain with a disability pension in 1981. All wars are not created equal. An unjust war is criminal, and soldiers who participate in it are murderers. No North Vietnamese gook (McCain referred to them as gooks in a U.S. News & World Report interview in 1973) had ever posed a threat to the United States or harmed an American until the United States intervened with military advisors, military aid, the CIA, intelligence missions, puppet governments, and finally, U.S. troops — thousands and thousands of U.S. troops. How could John McCain possibly be considered a war hero? He was not captured, imprisoned, and tortured because he was defending U.S. soil against invading enemy forces. Had this been the case, I would be the first one to congratulate him as a war hero. McCain is a war criminal because he rained down death and destruction on the people of Vietnam during twenty-three bombing missions. It doesn’t matter if the “incident” in the Gulf of Tonkin really happened — U.S. ships had no business being within a thousand miles of North or South Vietnam. There can be no heroism in the performance of evil. If McCain had been executed by the Vietnamese after being shot down, would he not have deserved it? What would you do to the pilot who just ejected and landed in your backyard after bombing your house? Why is it that war criminals are always foreigners? If McCain is a war hero then so are the September 11th hijackers. At least they had a reason to attack the United States. The real American heroes are the men who refused to go to Vietnam and participate in an immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust war. U.S. soldiers who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan because it is another immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust war (not just because they don’t want to get killed) are real heroes as well. In an interview with 60 Minutes in 1997, McCain mentioned the confession his North Vietnamese captors forced him to write: “I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children.” The truth, of course, is that what McCain wrote under duress is actually an accurate statement. Although while in the Navy McCain earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross, there is one designation he earned that he doesn’t wear on his chest: WAR CRIMINAL.