By Tyler Bauer
On Saturday night, John McCain - the Vietnam veteran who served in the United States Senate - passed away from brain cancer at the age of 81.
Almost immediately, news channels and social media were flooded with people expressing their sadness and thoughts for his family after McCain’s death. People almost unanimously called McCain a war hero - but was he?
War Hero or War Criminal?
I'm sure we all know John McCain's war story by now. He served as a pilot in the Vietnam War, and was shot down and taken prisoner by North Vietnamese forces. McCain spent the next six years in a prisoner of war camp known as the "Hanoi Hilton," where he endured torture, solitary confinement, and other brutal treatment.
There's no doubt that what McCain endured was terrible, but few people ever talk about why he was shot down.
As a pilot, McCain took part in Operation Rolling Thunder. Operation Rolling Thunder was an aerial bombing campaign carried out by the US to weaken North Vietnam's morale and destroy its supply lines. While it had some strategic value, Operation Rolling Thunder included a number of war crimes. The people who supplied the North Vietnamese - whether they be rice farmers, transporters, or anything else - were civilians. They were noncombatants. To deliberately attack and injure or kill noncombatants is a war crime. So, McCain was at least complicit in (and at most a perpetrator of) war crimes. The fact that McCain was just following orders is irrelevant - he was a war criminal. (The article I linked to is mainly about McCain on healthcare, but Operation Rolling Thunder is discussed within).
McCain as a Senator
McCain served in the United States Senate for over three decades. McCain was hailed as a "maverick" in the Senate since he refused to toe party lines on many occasions.
Senator McCain was perhaps the biggest warmonger of all politicians. Only fellow Senator Lindsey Graham could challenge McCain for that title. There was never a war Senator McCain was unwilling to send someone else to die in.
At one point or another, McCain called for US military intervention - if not outright war - in the following countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, a number of African countries, Iran, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Russia, North Korea, and China. For someone who experienced the worst sides of war, he sure didn't have trouble forcing suffering upon others.
John McCain's legacy can be described in just a few words. Those words are "war criminal" and "warmonger." Whether you liked McCain or not is irrelevant. I will always remember him for who he truly was - a war criminal turned career politician who advocated for every war imaginable.
I don't mean to celebrate McCain's death, but I believe the world is a safer place with one fewer warmonger in the Senate. Seeing as McCain joked about wanting to kill millions of innocent people, I feel no shame in criticizing him after his death.