The publicity surrounding John McCain’s recent funeral was excessive to say the least, with wall-to-wall coverage in the United States and Britain, as well as other countries around the world. We were relentlessly informed in a slew of whitewashed obituaries, cringe-worthy plaudits and declarations of love from the bourgeoisie on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a week, in newspapers, online and on television, what a heroic champion of freedom, democracy, civil rights and free speech this man was; as well as being above all a great patriot.
And we don’t doubt that McCain was a great patriot. He was most definitely a loyal servant of US imperialism as he proved many times during his bloody career. His funeral was attended by other great US patriots such as; Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, George W Bush and Barack Obama. It was held in a room filled to the brim with unconvicted war criminals shaking hands across the aisle and speaking in hushed tones. Indeed, somebody could have locked the doors at McCain's funeral and started a war crimes tribunal! These are men who have sent American workers to fight and die in foreign wars, in order to line the pockets of weapons manufacturers, and pursue US imperial interests.
The funeral itself was a quite nauseating exercise in whitewashing the career of this imperialist gangster and murderer. His daughter slapped on the biggest dollop of white paint when Meghan McCain in her hour of grief, cast him as a hero among men. A daughter might be forgiven for saying some kind words about a deceased father, however undeserving; but this was an attempt to rewrite and whitewash the United States’ conduct of the Vietnam War and her father’s role in it — and that is exactly what she attempted to do at her father’s funeral.
In an odious piece of historical revisionism, she described the Vietnam War as a just fight for the "life and liberty of other peoples in other lands." As Meghan McCain spoke, even the most willing sycophants must have been discreetly raising their eyebrows and shifting uncomfortably in their pews. Standing before a cathedral packed to the rafters with politicians and high-ranking military figures, she recast Vietnam, the United States’ most brutal and barbaric war (and there have been many), as a noble fight “for the life and liberty of other peoples in other lands”.
In her tribute to her father’s military service, she reminded her audience, with a noticeable hint of venom in her voice that Vietnam was a “most distant and hostile corner of the world” in which to fight. Perhaps, she too shares her father’s well-known distaste for the Vietnamese, about whom he once wrote: "I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”
McCain himself insisted his use of the term was only ever in reference to his captors during his time as a prisoner of war, but the jury is out on that one. When McCain’s plane was shot down over Vietnam, securing his legacy as an American “war hero,” he was on his way to bomb a civilian light bulb factory — one of 23 bombing missions he flew as part of Operation Rolling Thunder, during which the US dropped 643,000 tons of bombs on the country.
Later, McCain would lament the “frustratingly limited bombing targets” which mostly restricted him to bombing military installations and things like factories and roads — and argued that if they had made “full, consistent use of air power” (in other words, if they had committed even greater genocide) then the US would ultimately have prevailed.
The most horrendous details of the Vietnam War are well known and we won’t list them here, but there is a paragraph in a recent New York Magazine piece which captures the war succinctly: “There are Vietnamese children walking the Earth today who will die by stumbling on the landmines we planted, or unexploded ordnance we left behind. There are as-yet unborn Vietnamese babies who will enter the world with misshapen heads and giant tumors as a result of the defoliants (Agent Orange) we showered on their country 50 years ago.”
But it is not just those close to the late senator who are attempting to rewrite history. The media, too, is working overtime to convince Americans and the wider world that John McCain leaves behind an untarnished legacy of greatness and services to “democracy”. Indeed, journalists have led the charge in arbitrarily imposing an unspecified period of public mourning for McCain, berating as ‘insensitive’ or ‘heartless’ anyone who has had the audacity to bring up the many unpalatable aspects of his life and legacy. McCain’s history of war mongering, his laundry list of regime change fantasies, his cavorting with neo-Nazis in Ukraine and jihadist terrorists in Syria, as well as his anti-science idiocy at home, have all mysteriously been dropped from the official record of the late senator’s life.
Perhaps we should have expected nothing else? After all, the bourgeoisie not only control material production but also the daily production of ideas. They feed us on a daily basis a diet of lies, obfuscations and irrelevant nonsense. A tweet about the now fully-rehabilitated George W. Bush passing Michelle Obama a piece of candy during McCain’s funeral was retweeted 93,000 times and covered by CNN, the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Daily Mail and CBS as some kind of heartwarming moment. This is the quality and depth of news reporting that predominates in capitalist society today.