Senator John McCain is a hero. He endured years of harsh captivity and torture. The least we can do is give him a hearing when he talks about things he experienced, the military, captivity and torture. It’s what he actually says that’s troubling. As we understand his position, anything that even smacks of torture is beneath the American people and should be avoided at all costs. He states it this way, “But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said and will always maintain that this question isn’t about our enemies, it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”
Well who are we and what do we aspire to? Early on we decided not to go naked in the world because there were those who sought to take advantage defenseless good intentions. Dumping the Articles of Confederation that offered no realistic defense of our fledgling nation for our more robust Constitution showed that we were not about to be walked over. The Quasi War with France, The Barbary Wars and the War of 1812 established that our Constitution now allowed us the means to hit back. Demand Tribute, attack our trade or impress our seaman and you’ll pay a price. Our Government will protect us from harm.
General Sherman said it best, “War is Hell”. Civilized countries do try to add humane touches, especially if we think the the other side would reciprocate. Germany ratified the Geneva Convention. Japan signed but didn’t ratify. In World War II, the Germans by and large treated allied POWs O.K. as we did theirs. Though we treated their prisoners reasonably, the Japanese record was abysmal. Our aspirations to be better had for us uneven results. Today would any of our real or potential adversaries treat our prisoners better because we followed the Geneva Convention? ISIS, North Korea, Iran, Russia or anyone else you can think of?
For McCain it doesn’t matter if our enemies treat us well or not. We must in all circumstances treat prisoners well. Need information, become their friend. Don’t be mean and they’ll cough up any information you want. North Vietnamese torture you until you give them what they want, don’t even think of doing the same. We’re better than that.
So how far would he carry this? Would he take his higher aspirations to a point of actually hurting those whose interests he should champion? Consider his position on Harry Reid’s change on the the Senate’s filibuster rules to make it easier to get his party’s appointments through so he could among other things tilt courts to his liking. When the Republicans take over, McCain says they should reinstate the old rule even though this would forever give the Democrats an edge in appointments. When the Democrats control they would need only 50 votes, but Republicans in control would need 60. If this sounds like a form of political unilateral disarmament, it’s because it is. “I think it’s rank hypocrisy if we don’t,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said when asked about reversing the rule change. Even if it puts his own party and those it represents at a permanent disadvantage, we must serve his higher aspirations.
Carry this thinking to a John McCain that might’ve been our President with a not too huge vote swing. What if one of our allies gave President McCain solid intelligence that someone we’re holding had vital info on an impending dirty bomb attack on New York City. Would he hope our interrogators could establish a warm and trusting relationship with the captive in time to prevent disaster? Would he ask our ally how it obtained the information? What if they said they used enhanced interrogation techniques. Was that O.K. so long as his hands weren’t dirty? Given his throwing the CIA and it’s foreign associates under the bus, would they even tell him in the first place. One man’s sense of moral superiority could get a lot of people killed. How would that serve our higher aspirations? More importantly is there anyone else seeking to lead us that shares his views?