The late senator from Arizona leaves behind a legacy as one of the Senate’s last prominent proponents of US interventionism.
Sen. John McCain walks with Abdul Hafiz Ghoqa (L), spokesman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, during a tour of rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, April 22, 2011.
When President Donald Trump added Iraq to his travel ban list targeting several Muslim-majority countries last year, Gen. Talib Kinani, the head of Iraq’s counterterrorism service, made a cold call to the office of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“Within minutes, the senator agreed to see us, surprising even our seasoned lobbyist,” said Fareed Yasseen, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States. “Then ensued one of the most heartwarming and genuine meetings I have attended in my almost two years as Iraq’s ambassador to Washington.”
Trump, frequently at loggerheads with the senator, who died of brain cancer last month, eventually removed Iraq from the list.
Many interpreted McCain’s Sept. 1 funeral as a bipartisan rebuke of Trump. But this meant pitting McCain’s ardor for the long US history of foreign military intervention against Trump’s “America First” agenda.
“It seems to me when we look at the enormous outpouring of sorrow and regret that his passing triggered, in some sense it was a posthumous celebration of American exceptionalism,” Andrew Bacevich, an international relations historian at Boston University, told Al-Monitor. “McCain was an ideologue and the essence of his ideology in that regard was his belief in American exceptionalism.”
Former President George W. Bush made the same connection in his eulogy Sept. 1.
“It’s this combination of courage and decency that makes the American military something new in history, an unrivaled power for good,” Bush said.
Ironically, McCain, who had fervently championed Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq on the false evidence that Saddam Hussein had an active program for weapons of mass destruction, eventually called the war “a very serious” mistake in a memoir published earlier this year. In the book, McCain wrote, “I have to accept my share of the blame.”
Nevertheless, McCain still remains beloved by many Iraqis precisely because he advocated Saddam’s removal from power. Zuhair Humadi, an Iraqi-American and former secretary-general of Iraq’s Council of Ministers, even went so far as to set up a McCain for President committee in Baghdad during the senator’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.
The Iraqi Kurds are also mourning a longtime champion.
“He stood by us when the Peshmerga needed weapons [against the Islamic State] and he spoke out against the escalation of tensions between Kurdistan and the federal government of Iraq after [the] Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017,” the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to Washington, Sami Abdul Rahman, said in a statement.
But 17 years of prolonged US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have deprived the American public of its appetite for extensive US military adventures overseas. While a Pew Research Center survey said 72% Americans supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, a Real Clear Politics poll last year found that 50% of Americans are “weary” of US military intervention.
“To the extent that today there appears to be not much of a popular appetite for further intervention abroad, I think that what we really see is a tradition that is almost certain to manifest when the circumstances are a little bit different than they are today and when the memories of Iraq and Afghanistan begin to fade,” said Bacevich.
Indeed, many of McCain’s interventionist colleagues are clamoring for the United States to do more in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad, bolstered by his Iranian and Russian patrons, threatens a bloody offensive to retake the last rebel stronghold in the province of Idlib.
“Trump should not repeat the mistakes of [President Barack Obama] by leaving Syria,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., McCain’s closest friend in Congress, told Al-Monitor. “The Middle East has been turned upside down. The Iranian regime was enriched badly by the nuclear deal. When we left Iraq, we paid a price. [McCain] told Bush you don’t have enough troops, he was right. He told Obama if you withdraw the troops at the same time you introduce them into Afghanistan, it won’t work. He was telling Trump you should engage Iran in Syria, or you’ll regret it.”
Trump argued for less military intervention in the 2016 campaign as part of his “America First” approach, frequently lambasting his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her vote in favor of the Iraq war when she represented New York in the Senate. But Trump’s “America First” impulse is often at odds with his policy of advancing a tougher US posture on Iran, a posture McCain fiercely believed in.
McCain infamously chanted “bomb, bomb, bomb” Iran in 2007 during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination; this reiterated a parody that emerged during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis of a song the Beach Boys had made famous. He also maintained that Iranwas the “real problem” in the region, pointing to its support for Shiite proxies throughout the Middle East, including Assad.
In 2013 McCain crossed into Syria and took a photo with a group of Sunni rebels as part of a bid to convince the Obama administration to provide weapons and support to the Syrian opposition, which it eventually did. But the trip caused an international uproar when family members of kidnapped Lebanese Shiite pilgrims accused two of the rebels of being involved in their abduction.
Prior to that, McCain visited Libyan forces fighting dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi, urging the United States to do more to support the rebels after the United States and its NATO allies instated a no-fly zone over the war-torn country.
“I would say [McCain] has a great responsibility for the adverse results in Libya and Syria even more than he does Iraq,” Ted Carpenter, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Al-Monitor. “He had consistently been one of the most enthusiastic lobbyists about US support for rebel forces in Syria despite growing evidence about the extremist nature of many of the rebels.”
Even now, as Assad moves to crush the last of Syria’s Islamist and non-Islamist opposition alike, Graham said it’s not too late for Trump to act in Syria. However, he added that right now Trump “has no plan other than we shouldn’t go into Idlib.”
And yet Graham — and McCain, posthumously — may get their wish.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump has agreed to keep some 2,000 troops in Syria indefinitely to counter Iran despite previously pushing for their withdrawal by the end of the year — a withdrawal vociferously opposed by McCain.
At the same time, Russia has threatened to attack al-Tanf, a strategic base with US troops situated near the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian borders. In turn, US forces stationed at the garrison began military drills Friday.
We all know that the midterm elections are different this time around. They are usually like “all politics,” namely local. But this time around they’re different. They are all presidential, all about Trump, as most everything is. And for the anti-Trump crowd — I’m talking about the political commentators and “analysts” — any and all things bad are held to be Trump’s fault. This is presumably because they believe that their condemnations of Trump will result in a Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.
A new book explores how graffiti artists in Beirut skirt limitations on expression to share political criticism in the streets.
A photograph of the book “Drawing Lines” by Tamara Zantout, taken at the launch of the book at Beit Beirut cultural center, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 25, 2018.
BEIRUT — Beirut’s alleyways and streets are peppered in bright, detailed and provocative graffiti. Street artists use the medium, which exists in a legal grey area, to express their identity and give voice to political frustrations.
On Tuesday, San Francisco will become the largest city in the nation to allow noncitizens to vote, and the city has spent $310,000 on a “new registration system” specifically aimed at illegals. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the plan is the first in the state and follows Proposition N, a 2016 ballot measure allowing votes by noncitizens over the age of 18, reside in the city, and have children under age 19.
By the count of the Chronicle, only 49 noncitizens have signed up to vote on Tuesday, which works out to $6,326 for every illegal voter, but there’s more to the story. City officials are worried that voting could expose illegals to ICE, who might come looking and possibly deport somebody. So supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a backer of Proposition N, urged the city to spend $500,000 to warn the illegals.
At first Sabbath service after massacre, shooting survivors are blessed; rabbi says to those who condemned Trump’s visit: ‘No one tells me how to welcome a guest in my own home’
On November 3, 2018, a joint communal Shabbat prayer service at Pittsburgh’s Beth Shalom Conservative synagogue following the massacre a week prior which saw 11 Jewish community members killed. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — A week after an anti-Semitic shooter massacred 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the community embraced each other in prayer on Saturday.
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.” He sees this trend creating a surge in “xenophobic populism.” Writing in Politico, Katy O’Donnell agrees: “Nationalist parties now have a toehold everywhere from Italy to Finland, raising fears the continent is backpedaling toward the kinds of policies that led to catastrophe in the first half of the 20th century.” Jewish leaders like Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, sense “a very real threat from populist movements across Europe.”
IS EUROPE RETURNING to the horrors of the 1930s? In an assessment typical of the moment, Max Holleran writes in the New Republic that “in the past ten years, new right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies that in the past rightly caused alarm.”
We’ve been told for a long time that the ceasefire is on the way. It had many names in the past, such as tahdiah, hudna, and most recently—”an arrangement.” On Friday, once again, reports started emerging that an agreement has been reached. Several hours later, southern Israel was hit with a barrage of rockets. What happened?
And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for No Human Being shall see Me and live.” — Shemot 33:20
Faith is deeper than knowledge. While scientific data is absorbed only in the brain, faith permeates all parts of the human personality. Nothing is untouched, all spiritual limbs quiver, and everything is transformed. It is thus more difficult to acquire faith than knowledge, and faith has a more radical effect on the human being.
A Catholic archbishop recently touched on an unspoken but highly subversive phenomenon: How anti-Christian forces exploit Christian teachings to empower those who seek to dismantle Christian civilization, Muslims being chief among them.
In an interview published last summer by the Italian outlet IlGionarle.it, Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said:
The King of Jordan, not some lowly clerk, announced that Jordan will not extend the currently existing leases renting two parcels of land to Israel. One is the so-called Island of Peace in the northern Naharayim area and the other located in the southern Arava, near Tzofar, an agricultural cooperative village (moshav). Jordan was entirely within its rights to decide not to renew the leases