by Mary Shaw
Senator John McCain has become notorious for playing the POW card in his campaign for the presidency, as if that somehow qualifies him for the job. But, in McCain's case, I think his status as a former POW would actually detract from his ability to lead this nation effectively.
You see, he doesn't seem to have recovered from his POW experience, or the Vietnam war in general. He seems to be lacking closure. And this appears to be affecting his foreign policy.
What else could so clearly explain his desire to remain in Iraq for 100 years or more, if that's what it takes to "win" an unwinnable occupation? He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. He needs to win Vietnam, even if it's in Iraq.
What else could so clearly explain his eagerness to "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"? He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. He is still in a cage and he needs to lash out. He needs to keep fighting.
What else could so clearly explain his recent claim of "I know how to win wars"? After all, we did not win the Vietnam war. But maybe he hasn't gotten there yet. He needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. To McCain, the Vietnam war is not over. He needs to win it -- even if it is a proxy war -- or else be a failure in his own mind.
What else could so clearly explain why he recently addressed an audience not as "my friends", as usual, or "my fellow citizens", but rather as "my fellow prisoners"? He has a way to go to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. On some level, he is still at the Hanoi Hilton. And we're all there with him.
And what else could so clearly explain why McCain -- himself a torture survivor -- would vote earlier this year against a bill that would ban the CIA from using torture, even though he had previously spoken out against torture? Fight it as he may have for so long, ultimately he needs to take care of the unfinished business in his psyche. An eye for an eye -- no matter whose eye.
Deep down inside, he needs to get even. He needs to win that war in Vietnam, however symbolically, and whatever the cost to our troops, this nation, the world, and his soul.
And, in doing so, he can also appease the conscienceless, selfish, and bloodthirsty base -- the same base that has controlled George W. Bush for the past eight years.
Neither motivation is a very good excuse.
Neither motivation is healthy for this nation.
And neither motivation will bring the kind of change that we all want and need so desperately.
We need a president who can learn from the past, not dwell on it -- or in it.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated.
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