Monday, August 18, 2008

When your only tool is a hammer...

...everything looks like a nail.

Within minutes of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, John McCain was on the warpath...literally. He told his office staff "This is war" and he was all over the airwaves within hours, agitating for massive retaliation far beyond Afghanistan to other countries that have been accused of supporting terrorism. Of course his shortlist included Iran, Syria...and Iraq.

By sundown on September 11, 2001, the most dangerous place to be was between McCain and a media microphone.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

None of those countries were involved in the attacks against us, but the country was too shocked, too wounded, to apply the brakes to the NeoCon war machine.

In the simplistic NeoCon worldview, personified by McCain, the attacks were not so much a tragedy as they were an opportunity. To impose American hegemony, to settle old scores, to tell the Middle East to "suck on this."

“Just as Sept. 11 revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand our freedom,” Mr. McCain told a NATO conference in Munich in early 2002, urging the Europeans to join what he portrayed as an all but certain assault on Saddam Hussein. “A better world is already emerging from the rubble.”

The emotion of the events overwhelmed him, and his caution about using American military force without a clearly defined mission, a specifically defined national interest...and an exit strategy.

McCain immediately became a willing tool of the Bu$h administration as it pushed for war to remake the region to conform to their vision of how things ought to be.

In fact, McCain was out in front of the administration in advocating for war on Iraq, making the case to the public fully six months before the administration started pitching the sale.

He would probably prefer that we forget that he stood four-square behind Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney back then - and that he was a supporter of the oft-discredited conman Ahmad Chalabi that conned this country into the war. McCain pushed Chalabi's suspect accusations all over the media.

He also promulgated the lies about Hussein's mythical WMDs and terrorist ties, including al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11.

Later, he blamed Iraq for his propensity to glibly assert facts not in evidence. Saddam ran an opaque show, you see, so it was his fault that McCain was out there lying his NeoCon ass off in an effort to gin up the war machine.

He isn't very good at absorbing lessons learned. He still stubbornly insists that Iraq was a danger, insisting just last week that “his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously.” Even though Iraq (nor Iran) were involved in the events of that horrible day, McCain last week repeated that the attacks were still a reminder of the importance of international action “to prevent outlaw states — like Iran today — from developing weapons of mass destruction.”

He has made the principle that the exercise of military power sets the bargaining table for international relations a consistent theme of his career ever since, and in his 2002 memoir he wrote that one of his lifelong convictions was “the imperative that American power never retreat in response to an inferior adversary’s provocation.”

Yes, indeed. When the only tool you have in your kit is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.