Friday, June 17, 2016

Senator McCain’s batshit crazy account of historical and political causation (hence, responsibility)

In the news: 
“Republican Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama is ‘directly responsible’ for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, because of the rise of the Islamic State group on the president’s watch. But he later issued a statement saying that he ‘misspoke.’

‘I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself,’ McCain said in his statement, issued as his initial comments were drawing heated criticism from Democrats. [….]

‘Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,’ a visibly angry McCain said as the Senate debated a spending bill.” 

Senator McCain here displays an appalling measure of historical amnesia in his construction of a compact and fanciful chain of causation and responsibility. Setting aside for now events intrinsic in the first instance to Syria, he’s implausibly forgotten or deliberately ignored the U.S.—dominated coalition’s invasion of Iraq, which of course preceded and eventually led to the need for withdrawal of troops from the country, a withdrawal that had the endorsement of the American electorate. Congress initiated calls for withdrawal of troops, which then began under President Bush, while it was President Obama who, rightly or wrongly, later saw fit to extend the date of withdrawal! As C.A.J. (‘Tony’) Coady reminds us in his book Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Clarendon Press, 2008), it was this invasion that brought Iraq close to civil war, as well as “unleashed the religious and tribal enmities that had been subdued by the brutal Hussein regime. It has also given opportunities for hitherto non-existent sub-state terrorism in the country as well as the depredations of criminal gangs, and created resentments and rage against the invaders amongst many in the population at large by the arrogant and often racist treatment meted out to Iraqis by troops made edgy and wary by the constant pressure of insurgent war that shows little sign of abating. Abu Ghraib and reported raping and killing by occupying troops are only the tip of the iceberg of this aspect of the disaster.”

Coady further notes that “It is indeed a good thing that the murderous tyrant Saddam is gone, and that he has no further opportunity to kill and despoil on the massive scale that he did [on occasion, with the assistance and blessings of the U.S., as during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)]. The evil acts of his regime must be acknowledged, and they legitimately had weight in thinking about an international response to Iraq. But the destabilizing of the Middle East, the greatly increased impetus to terrorism, the benefits of power to Iran, and the descent of Iraq into civic chaos are colossal prices to pay. Indeed, according to one reputable estimate, published in 2006, there has been an increase of 655,000 Iraqi deaths directly attributable to the invasion of 2003 and its aftermath. In addition, there has been a massive exodus of Iraqi people to other countries, although recently some refugees have returned.”

In short, McCain’s self-righteous anger is misplaced because misdirected, as it is President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who should be held primarily responsible for the chain of consequences and “utter failures” he invokes, all of which began under the duplicitous ideological guise of a quest “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” In addition to the arrogance, condescension, and impudent moralism of the messianic complex (or militant humanitarianism’), recall that no such weapons ever existed, nor was there compelling evidence that Hussein consistently or reliably aided or supported terrorism outside Iraq. [Lest the wrong inference be made from the foregoing, I should note that I do not believe ISIS had anything whatsoever to do with the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, save for the subsidiary and fantasized role it played in the severely disturbed mind of Omar Mateen.]


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