Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Fri, May 20th, 2016

The Catastrophe of John McCain

Eight years ago Senator John McCain lost his iconic image as a maverick politician willing to step outside the narrow confines of party upmanship when he chose the hockey-puck-brained Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.


Following his steadfast refusal to see what everyone else finds quite obvious, that Sarah Palin was a drag on his bid to become president, McCain has now jumped aboard the GOP Titanic-bound ship of the Donald Trump campaign. It is rather sad that a genuine war hero who survived torture in Vietnam but was once dismissed by Trump as a loser because he was captured could possibly swallow the politically poisoned Kool Aid of Trumpism, especially when two previous Republican presidents have refused to endorse the bully of Manhattan.

While the entire election campaign on the Republican side is a catastrophe for what David Hume labeled “reason” and Thomas Paine called “common sense,” McCain has now compounded his selling out to a faddish wave of military-hardware thinking by praising Saudi Arabia and stating that “had it not been for Saudi Arabia, Yemen would have reached a catastrophic situation,” as reported by the Saudi-backed al-Arabiyya network. This comes from the current chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I suppose such Edward Learish nonsense should not come as a surprise since Republican head of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee James Inhofe writes in his The Greatest Hoax that humans are not responsible for climate change because God is in control. “God’s still up there,” Inhofe wrote, lambasting the “arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate…” The current Republican silliness turns Monty Python into a reality show.

But let’s return to the latest quip by McCain, who in theory should know something about the Middle East more than the mantra that Israel is our friend, right or wrong. Defending Saudi Arabia as preventing a catastrophe in Yemen is akin to praising Hitler for preventing a holocaust in the Jewish ghettos. A bunch of Huthi-backed tribesmen on the backs of pick-up trucks joined up with the well-trained (by the United States, as it happens) soldiers still loyal to Ali Abdullah Salih (left in Yemen by the GCC with immunity) and were quite literally welcomed into Sanaa as a relief from the inept and corrupt interim regime of al-Mansur Hadi. When this happened there was no humanitarian crisis, no butchering of civilians, no massive fleeing of ordinary citizens. Indeed some of the elite rivals that had plagued the transition process were sent packing. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the Huthi/Salih alliance had taken over Yemen, following a history of military coups in Yemen. Would there be the current humanitarian disaster in which thousands of civilians have been killed by aerial bombs, much of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed including hospitals, schools, factories, even mosques and heritage sites?

I am not defending the Huthis or Salih, who have their share of human rights violations, but the major damage that has escalated the fighting in Yemen is the billion dollared aerial bombing campaign, alongside an almost total blockade of Yemen’s ports and borders, that has wreaked havoc in the major cities and allowed radical al-Qaida elements to gain control in major parts of Yemen’s south. The catastrophe we see right now was created and nurtured by the Saudis, who have long intervened in Yemen’s politics, whether supporting the Zaydis (as they did in the 1960s in a proxy war against Nasser) or attacking the Zaydis (as they are now in a proxy war with Iran). McCain descends deeper into wonderland by saying that the Saudis are our friends in the battle against Islamic terrorists. Ignoring the fact that ISIS is a close relative of Saudi Wahhabism, he praises the Saudi support for rebels fighting Assad, as though they would support any kind of secular or democratic state following the removal of Assad. As the smoldering missing pages from the 9/11 commission report have forced even a do-nothing congress to call for investigating the role of Saudi Arabia in support, whether direct or indirect, of the 9/11 bombers, McCain seems at odds with his own senate colleagues. Unfortunately, the catastrophe that has enveloped Yemen is far from over due to a journalistic catastrophe, ignoring the extent of the problem in Yemen by much of the Western media.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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