Many of you will be aware, thanks to comments on this forum or perhaps from your own sources, of the brief suspension of Caitlin Johnstone’s Twitter account, following accusations by that venue that Johnstone was using it to ‘abuse’ John McCain.
Let me state here and now the contempt I have for Twitter as a means of communication. I just don’t get the attraction of it, and although I have a Twitter account myself, I almost never use it. Pretty much only when someone else says something infuriating or stupid – or both – on Twitter, and I can’t address it any other way. Consequently I have only a handful of tweets, and almost no followers. This has led to the smug certainty among my detractors that I am a Kremlin bot and not actually a person, or perhaps one person who manages a ton of accounts, all of which spew Kremlin propaganda the livelong day and try to divert readers from The Spreading Of Truth, as defined by the western supremacists.
A brief diversion here, if you will. The suspension, although temporary, of Ms. Johnstone’s account is coincident with the removal by WordPress of several blogs, which plied a common theme that the shooting deaths of children at Sandy Hook were part of a major hoax by the US government or its corporate backers. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about it and any purported inconsistencies to offer an opinion, although I would lean toward it having actually happened and not being a fake. But that’s not the point. According to Shannon Liao at The Verge, the situation at WordPress reached critical mass because several self-appointed activists persistently called attention to these blogs and WordPress’s stance that they would not be shut down because they did not violate WordPress’s Terms of Service. But the cause was taken up by the New York Times, and WordPress folded and took them down. A great victory for the thought police.
Because further down in that self-righteous piece of garbage was this: “WordPress’ stance is reminiscent of how other social media platforms are currently under fire for arbitrarily determining what policies to enforce and whether to police horrific misinformation or leave it standing. As these issues gain attention, many platforms are putting new measures in place to remove abusive content, but like WordPress, their initial legal groundwork could use more scrutiny.”
Whether to police horrific misinformation. Now, there’s a kristallnachty- sounding phrase if ever I’ve heard one. Because I learned at my mother’s knee that there are two sides to every story, I’ve seen proven examples of the side which now dons the mantle of righteousness caught in blatant lies which it tried to spread by that same unassailable source – the New York Times – and I know that ‘misinformation’ is what the side that doesn’t believe it, or doesn’t want you to believe it, calls everything. It’s not that there is no such thing as misinformation, or disinformation. There is, and plenty of it, perhaps more of it than there is of the genuine article. But people have a right to make up their own mind what to believe, and it’s never ‘misinformation’ if you can make a convincing case, using verifiable facts and historical performance, that something happened the way you say it did. If the conspiracy theorists can make a convincing case that Sandy Hook was a hoax brought about by cynical manipulators with a sinister agenda, it would be a crime for that information to be arbitrarily removed from public discourse. The ridiculous justification that it misuses images of children without permission is beyond absurd; half the newspapers in the country went with photos of the children on the front page.
Look at the Skripal affair. The British government’s account of what happened is hilariously unconvincing, and the Foreign Minister himself was caught red-handed in a lie of such monstrous proportions that he was hopelessly compromised and his remaining audience of five true believers could no longer take anything he said as factual. Far from the only example of his instinctive lying, I might add. But the British government demands you take them at their word: they can’t show anyone any evidence – ‘coz it’s National Security, innit? – but any alternate narrative other than the official account of what happened is fake news. Horrific misinformation. Any western authority granted the mandate to rule on what is misinformation is going to abuse that power to ensure only its side of a story (which always has at least two) is the one that is heard. Period. You would like to believe they’re above that, but they’re not.
Well, that was a longer diversion than I planned; let’s get back to Caitlin Johnstone. Here’s what she said, in one of those dozy tweets I dislike so much. “Friendly public service reminder that John McCain has devoted his entire political career to slaughtering as many human beings as possible at every opportunity, and the world will be improved when he finally dies”.
I’m sure it was that last bit that sent the ‘fake news’ crowd over the precipice, because we are conditioned as western citizens to never speak ill of the dead, and the prohibition plainly extends to the almost-dead. The Undead, if you prefer. That’s not the first time Ms. Johnstone, who is nothing if not plain-spoken, has expressed the conviction that the expiration of John McCain is an event which is long overdue. It may well be regarded as insensitive, although I honestly cannot disagree with it, as his continued persistence on this mortal coil means a continued manifestation of his malign influence, and he continues to exercise his privilege to speak on behalf of his constituents to vote for the most destructive course every time it is offered as an option.
If I may be allowed one more tiny diversion, one I have certainly advanced before on the unaccountable American fascination with free speech, I believe it bears directly on Ms. Johnstone’s legal right to say insensitive things, according to established legal precedent. On October 18th, 1998, the Westboro Baptist Church – aka Lunatic Space-Cadets Anonymous – picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten unconscious, tied to a fence and left for dead by a couple of homophobic assailants, and who died of his injuries. The congregation carried signs which bore such inflammatory slogans as “No Tears for Queers”, “Fag Matt Burns in Hell”, and the more perennial but generalized “God Hates Fags”. No action was taken against the church. The family of a decorated US Marine who died in Iraq later took Westboro Baptist Church to court for their provocative baiting at solemn occasions like their son’s funeral, and lost. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Westboro’s right to free speech did not infringe on the family’s right to conduct a funeral without interference.
So any prohibition on publicly wishing John McCain would cease his irritating evasion of the Grim Reaper is imaginary, faith-based and entirely without legal merit.
Getting back to the issue, Ms. Johnstone’s initial antagonist – Patrick – tweeted in response; “What a miserable, despicable person. You are the definition of deplorable. I may frequently disagree with Senator John McCain and Meghan McCain with all due criticism, but they should sue you for libel. This is disgusting.”
What is libel? Libel is “to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie.“
Hey, I know – let’s play lawyer, wanna? No costly law degree required; I already said we were playing. But since we’ve already demonstrated that Ms. Johnstone can’t be (successfully) sued for libel for expressing the opinion that the world will be a better place once John McCain has popped his pricey tasseled clogs, then the point of libelous contention must be the allegation that John McCain has availed himself of every opportunity to vote for policies or undertakings which contributed to the slaughter of human beings. A customary and absolute defense against the charge of libel is establishment that the allegedly libelous statement is, in fact, true. Can we do that? I’ll bet we can.
Although he was very much a part of the Vietnam War, John McCain was not a politician at that time, and Ms. Johnstone specified that he had used his political career to press for military action which resulted in many casualties. I don’t think the modification of ‘as many as possible’ would be enforceable under libel laws, as it would be too difficult to prove. Could there have been even more casualties, on both sides, in any military action in which Senator McCain had a vote? Probably, but there is no realistic way to determine if they were either limited or aggravated by his direct participation in the vote. By the same token, the contribution of his vote to any casualties which did take place is, I think, inarguable.
So let’s start with America’s next big war – the Gulf War against Iraq, Take One. John McCain voted for war. Were there casualties? You could say that; 294 Americans died in the Gulf War. The UK lost 47. It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Syria was a US ally in the Gulf War, and had 2 of its soldiers killed. How about Iraqis? Well, nobody seems to have kept a very accurate count – they were, after all, the enemy, and killing them was encouraged – and the official American count is established from Iraqi prisoner-of-war records, and was featured in a report commissioned by the US Air Force. It estimates 20,000-22,000 combat deaths overall, in both the air and ground campaigns. Was that a slaughter? You tell me. And before we move on from the Gulf War, John McCain voted (after the war was over) against providing automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments for certain veterans’ benefits. Four years later, McCain supported an appropriations bill that underfunded the Departments of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies by $8.9 billion. The following year, McCain voted against an amendment to increase spending on veterans programs by $13 billion. As of the year 2000, 183,000 U.S. veterans of the Gulf War, more than a quarter of the U.S. troops who participated, had been declared permanently disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. You may only be ‘slaughtered’ if you are dead, but the irrevocable changes for the worse in the quality of life for thousands of Americans who were only doing what their country ordered them to do should count for something, what do you say?
This from the American senator who famously could not remember how many houses he and his wife owned. For the record, the number of homes, ranches, condos, and lofts, together worth a combined estimated $13,823,269.00, was ten.
Gee; I’m starting to get a little mad at McCain. Well, let’s move on.
In 2003, the US government of the day decided that Saddam Hussein had not learned his lesson the first time, and so this time he had to go. Accordingly, the USA polled its allies for military forces who were not otherwise occupied, and had another go at it. John McCain said hell yes, let’s get it on. American military casualties, 4,287 killed, 30,187 wounded. A bit more of a slaughter than the first attempt. The advent of ceramic-plate body armor protected the soldier’s body core, so that many more survived injuries that would have been so horrific they would surely have killed them. The downside is that many lived who lost limbs too badly damaged to save, and were crippled for whatever life remained to them. The Iraqi casualty figures were again an estimate, although better documented; by the most reliable count, somewhere between 182,000 and 204,000 Iraqis were killed. Needlessly and pointlessly slaughtered, many of them; American troops grew so fearful as a result of the steady drip of casualties among their own that they frequently opened fire on families in cars with children simply because they did not obey instructions in a language they did not speak or understand. At Mahmudiya, in March 2006, Private Steven Green and his co-conspirators raped and killed 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza, killed her family and set her body afire to blur the details of the crime. When Iraqi soldiers arrived on the scene, Green and his fellow murderers blamed it on Sunni insurgents.
The following year, President Bush approved a ‘surge’ of 20,000 additional troops, which John McCain so energetically agitated for that it became known informally as ‘the McCain doctrine’. That’s after he claimed in 2004 that if an elected government in Iraq asked that US forces leave, they would have to go even if they were not happy with the security situation. He also recognized, the following year, that Iraqis resented the American military presence, and the sooner and more dramatically it could be reduced, the better it would be for everyone. I guess if you lay claim to both sides of the argument, you’re bound to convince someone that you know what you’re doing.
That same year, 2007, John McCain voted against a requirement for specifying minimum time periods between deployments for soldiers deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. When they need you back in the meat-grinder, you go, never mind how many times you’ve already been there. Let’s just keep in mind, before we leave Iraq, that the entire case for war the second time around was fabricated with wild tales of awful weapons Saddam supposedly had which could kill Americans while they were still in America, and so he had to be dealt with. When it was suggested to the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, that America should concentrate on Afghanistan, since that is where the backers of the 9-11 strike against America had fled, he mused that there were ‘no good targets in Afghanistan’, although there were ‘lots of good targets in Iraq’. Some researchers suggest he was after a ‘teachable moment’ for America’s enemies which would convince them of America’s irresistible power. While John McCain assessed that Donald Rumsfeld was the worst Secretary of Defense ever, his complaint was not that Rumsfeld was not killing enough people, but that he showed insufficient commitment to winning the war.
Libya. Hoo, boy. In 2009, John McCain – together with fellow die-faster-please senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham – visited Tripoli, to discuss Libya’s acquisition of American military equipment. John McCain assured Gadaffi (his son, actually) that America was eager to provide Libya with the equipment it needed. Hardly more than a year later, he espoused the position that Gadaffi must be removed from power because he had American blood on his hands from the Lockerbie bombing. In 2011, he visited the Libyan ‘rebels’, and publicly urged Washington to consider a ground attack to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power. Just a friendly public service reminder; the Lockerbie bombing was most likely carried out by Syria, was – according to pretty reliable testimony – rigged by the American intelligence services to finger Libya, and probably the stupidest thing Gaddafi ever did was to admit to it anyway and pay compensation, in an effort to move on.
Anyway, more war. What the fuck is it with this guy?
Well, even something so grim as war has its comic moments. What else would you call it when NATO claims, with a straight face, that the enemy is hiding his tanks and artillery from its watchful eye inside the water pipes of the Great Man-Made River? What they actually wanted was an excuse to bomb it – which they did, as well as the pumping stations which brought abundant fresh water to the coastal region, in the certain knowledge that it would create a crisis for the civilian population. Which, by the bye, is against just about every convention on the subject ever written.
Here are some of the pipe sections, when they were being trucked to the assembly point. As the article suggests, these sections are 4 meters across; but remember, that’s at their widest point. They are only 4 meters for about a foot, because a water pipe is a circle.
Libya mostly used the T-72 Main Battle Tank, and those would be the ones NATO wanted to eliminate, since the others were considerably older. A T-72, width-wise, would just fit in a 4-meter water pipe, as it is 3.6 meters wide. However, it’s also over 45 tons in weight. The concrete rings were designed to carry free-flowing water, not a 45-ton tank. Would they take that kind of weight, distributed only over a 7-meter length? Where is there an entry point to the water-pipe that is the same width as the widest diameter of the pipe? As discussed, the water pipe is 4 meters wide at its widest point. But the T-72 is 2.3 meters high. The tank would only fit if it was as high as a lunchbox, because the 4-meter width narrows dramatically from the widest point; it’s a circle. Even where it did fit, it would be supported only on the outer edges of its tracks, and you have to cut the 4-meter measurement approximately in half, because the upper portion of the tank would have to be above the point where the tracks touched on each side. The idea was preposterous from the outset, and it speaks to what fucking simpletons western government believes make up its populations that they would dare to put such nutjobbery in print. A T-72 could not fit in a 4-meter water pipe. The notion was demonstrably foolish. But NATO wanted to destroy the water system, so it made up a reason that would allow it to be a well-meaning potential victim of deadly violence.
According to The Guardian – the same source that told you Gadaffi was hiding his tanks in the plumbing – the death toll in the Libyan civil war prior to the NATO intervention was about 1000-2000. According to the National Transitional Council, the outfit the west engineered to rule post-Gaddafi Libya, the final butcher’s bill was about 30,000 dead. The very day after NATO folded its tents – figuratively speaking, as the western role was entirely air support for the flip-flop-wearing rebels – and went home, al Qaeda raised its black flag over the Benghazi courthouse.
Caitlin Johnstone claimed John McCain used his political career to advocate for military interventions which resulted in the slaughter of large numbers of human beings. Is that accurate? What say you, members of the jury? In each of the cases above, John McCain used his political influence, over and above his vote, to argue, advocate, hector and plead for military intervention by the armed forces of the United States of America and such coalition partners as could be rounded up. In each of the cases above, the necessity of toppling the evildoing dictator was exaggerated out of all proportion, portrayed as an instant and refreshing liberation for his people, and as only the first phase of a progressive plan which would turn the subject country into a prosperous, western-oriented market democracy. In each of the cases above the country is now a divided and ruined failed state whose pre-war situation was significantly better than its miserable present. And in each of the cases above, a lot of people were killed who could otherwise have reasonably expected to be alive today.
Also, each of the cases above is chronologically separated from the others by a sufficient span for it to be quite evident what a cluster-fuck the previous operation was, so that anyone disposed to learn from his mistakes might have approached the situation differently as it gained momentum, argued for caution based on previously-recorded clusterfuckery, pleaded for reason to prevail and for improved dialogue to be a priority. Not John McCain. He learned precisely the square root of nothing from previous catastrophes, and plunged into the next catastrophe with the enthusiasm most remarked among those who are not all there, as the vernacular describes it. He not only voted for war every time, he expended considerable effort in cajoling and persuading the reluctant to go along.
Perhaps the introduction here of the definition for ‘warmonger’ would be helpful to the jury. To wit; “One who advocates or attempts to stir up war. A person who fosters warlike ideas or advocates war.” Synonyms: hawk, aggressor, belligerent, militarist, jingoist, sabre-rattler. There, John; I just saved you the trouble of writing an epitaph.
Will the world be a better place once John McCain is gone? Difficult to say, really, and the present state of affairs in the world argues strongly that it will not. But it will certainly be no poorer for his passing, and if he were to be replaced politically by an individual who took the trouble to do a little research, muse on previous experience, and review all the available options before voting to send in the Marines…why, that would be a victory for everyone in a world where victory is increasingly not even a possibility.
Was Caitlin Johnstone right? Broadly speaking, and going on the information available at the time her statement was made, yes; she was.