Monday, August 25, 2008

McCain, POWs, & the Stab in the Back

I have never been tortured. But I have worked clinically with those who have, including U.S. POWs. I can tell you it breaks the mind and the body, the soul and the spirit, in a way that can never be forgotten.

Now John McCain cites his experience as a POW and torture victim as an anodyne to every mildly injurious political attack. While his painful experience as a POW matters in the history of the man, in our nation's history, what matters now is that McCain has betrayed that experience, and the lives of thousands he could both know and not know. In doing so, he also betrayed the ideals of American fair-play and justice, going back to George Washington (who forbid his revolutionary army to engage in torture, even if the British did). As everyone should know, those ideals were not realized fully, and we are still fighting for them today. But McCain has trampled them in the mud.

This is about how John McCain, a victim of years of incarceration and of torture during the Vietnam War, helped pass the Military Commissions Act, working to leave prisoners, including prisoners he knew were innocent, in solitary confinement as "enemy combatants", and subjected to CIA torture, which was the diabolical program of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Only a few months ago, one could find McCain railing against a Supreme Court decision that gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. For McCain, who languished for years in prison, it is okay if America's prisoners rot in jail forever.

McCain betrayed the rights of prisoners established by the Geneva conventions, maybe rights he did not enjoy fully as a POW himself, so all the more awful when he betrayed them and turned captives of American military power into long-term prisoners and victims of torture.

One can honor the suffering of an individual, any individual, for no man is an island, and every person's suffering diminishes me. Therefore, one can honor John McCain's suffering and the hell he endured -- as we would any human being who experienced what he did.

But no one can honor the machinations of a shameless politician who prostitutes his own suffering, turns the moral lessons of his own torture on its head, and sells out all those who would endure what he endured... for the modern equivalent of thirty pieces of silver -- electoral office.

McCain stabbed his fellow POWs in the back. This isn't about whether he confessed under torture, or whether he funded veterans issues, or not. This is about how he took the lessons it was his sad destiny to suffer, and turned them into their opposite.

In pushing and voting for the MCA, with its provisions against habeas corpus, and its endorsement of so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, McCain has committed a great moral sin. He has done this in the name of pride and power.

His defeat, his fall should be a lesson to all who would cynically pander their own hard suffering, and abandon those brothers and sisters in pain and loss, his fellow prisoners, captured in war or during civil conflict, held captive in nation after nation, by guerrilla or terrorist group, by the West or the East, by believer or infidel, prisoners both male and female, of all religions, creeds, and nationalities.

In the end it all comes down to this. When all eyes were upon him, McCain supported torture. And in doing so, he stabbed all prisoners in the back.

Also posted at Daily Kos

1 comment:

N=1 said...

It strikes me that McCain might be articulating some manifestation of Stockholm syndrome - not vilifying his captors - using the story of the cross, whether or not it's based in reality - to express affiliation with his captors, minimizing his distress and powerlessness and the like. Otherwise, I can't make sense of why he's articulating his captivity in this manner. Whatever the reason, I believe that he's damaged, and that he would benefit by professional support and therapy.

That he's attempting to achieve the presidency where his faulty thinking and judgment would bring to bear a whole host of problems on others who have been and are being mistreated is frightening.

On an unrelated note - are there self-help things for people who have been abused but who cannot access help, such as what you provide?

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