Saturday, October 11, 2008
Telegraph Hill Blogging
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any doubt that Barack Obama shares your sense of patriotism?
SENATOR MCCAIN: I'm sure he's very patriotic, but his relationship with Mr. Ayers is open to question...how can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people?
-Interview with ABC News, April 2008
It's Fleet Week in San Francisco, and the Blue Angels are in town. Otherwise perfect afternoons have been punctuated by the heart-rending shriek of F/A-18 Hornets flying fast and low over the City, making Baghdad-by-the-Bay seem more like Baghdad.
Putting up messages for jet pilots is a lot like freewayblogging only you've got to make the signs bigger and put them higher up. Given that your target audience is moving at hundreds of miles per hour, it's best to keep it short.
Although plenty of attention's been paid to John McCain's years as a POW and its effect on his psyche, I'm more concerned with the possible damage done during the minutes he spent over Hanoi than the years he spent inside it. Obviously this is guesswork, but I think I'd rather live through torture than the knowledge I'd killed a bunch of innocent people. I know for a fact which I'd rather look back on.
A friend of mine flew A-10 Warthogs for the Air National Guard in the first Gulf War. This is how he described the last three days of battle: "We'd load up with everything we had, fly for about twelve minutes and then just unload it on them. Everything. Then we'd fly back, load up and do it again. Over and over. Those poor fucks didn't stand a chance."
When I asked him how many people he thinks he killed he said "Hundreds." And he said it in a way that didn't mean two or three hundred, but some number in the unthinkable beyond.
My friend is, and always was a good guy. He joined with the Air National Guard because he wanted to fly. He knew that it might require him to kill, but he had no idea he'd end up killing so many. The result, as he put it, was "I'll never be happy again. Not like you, or other people... not like I used to be. I'll have good days, better days, good things can happen. But happiness... no. That's never really gonna happen again."
Although they were in retreat, at least the people killed by my friend were men: soldiers in uniform. He doesn't have to live knowing he'd killed a bunch of women and children too, at least as far as I know. I wonder how John McCain feels about it - those few minutes over Hanoi - and what it feels like to push a button knowing it's probably going to blow a whole bunch of people to pieces. Defenseless people: men, women and children. After all, the people who determine what is and isn't a legitimate military target aren't the ones who have to push the buttons.
I think it's a fair question, and its honest answer would tell us a lot about John McCain as a President and Commander-in-Chief. Trust me though, it'll be a cold day in hell before anyone in the media ever asks it.
(Signs placed in San Francisco Thursday and Friday.)