McCain: Threatening to bomb sovereign countries is "naive"

The 9/11 attacks justify threats of military action against anyone in the world except for the 9/11 attackers themselves.

Published February 21, 2008 11:41AM (EST)

(updated below)

John McCain on Barack Obama, yesterday:

In Ohio, Mr. McCain sharpened his attacks on Mr. Obama, accusing him of wanting to bomb Pakistan and of announcing it ahead of time to the rest of the world.

"That's naïve," Mr. McCain said at a news conference in Columbus. "The first thing that you do is you make your plans and you carry out your operations as necessary for America's national security interests. You don't broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation."

Jackson Diehl, The Washington Post, January 29, 2006:

The debate on Iran is drifting toward the ugly question that the Bush administration would most like to avoid. That is: Is it preferable for the United States to live with the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran, or with those of a unilateral American military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities?

President Bush has never answered that question; instead, he and his State Department have repeatedly called an Iranian bomb "intolerable" while building a diplomatic coalition that won't tolerate a military solution. But two of our more principled senators, Republican John McCain and Democrat Joe Lieberman, have this month faced the Iranian Choice -- and both endorsed military action. McCain was most direct: "There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option," he said on "Face the Nation." "That is a nuclear-armed Iran."

Times Online, January 26, 2006:

[McCain] would make clear to the American people that military action against Iran is an option. Bombing? He nods. . . . .. Military action must always be the last option, but he warns: "There is only one scenario worse than military action in Iran and that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

CNN, April 19, 2007:

At a town hall meeting in South Carolina Wednesday, Arizona Sen. John McCain was asked if there is a plan to attack Iran. McCain began his answer by changing the words to a classic Beach Boys' song.

"You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran?" the Republican presidential candidate said. Then, he sang. "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."

Top McCain ally Joe Lieberman, The Wall St. Journal, August 20, 2007:

The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq--but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda's road to Iraq through Damascus. . . .

When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.

We in the U.S. government should also begin developing a range of options to consider taking against Damascus International, unless the Syrian government takes appropriate action, and soon.

The Very Serious McCain Foreign Policy Advisor Max Boot, September 29, 2005:

If we want to stop Assad's "unacceptable" behavior, we'll have to do it ourselves. That does not mean a full-scale invasion, because U.S. troops are already stretched too thin. But bombing strikes, commando raids and increased support for anti-Assad dissidents may help to concentrate the mind of the world's sole surviving Baathist strongman.

John McCain, Senate floor speech, October 2, 2002:

America is at war with terrorists who murdered our people one year ago. We now contemplate carrying the battle to a new front -- Iraq -- where a tyrant who has the capabilities and the intentions to do us harm is plotting, biding his time until his capabilities give him the means to carry out his ambitions, perhaps through cooperation with terrorists – when confronting him will be much harder and impose a terrible cost.

Among the Serious foreign policy analysts -- as well as in John McCain's uniquely war-loving mind -- it's perfectly permissible for the U.S. to threaten, bomb and invade any Arab or Muslim country that strikes our fancy, except for the one that is actually harboring those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Bombing Iraq, Iran, Syria and whatever other countries having nothing to do with 9/11 that we want to add to the list is serious, responsible, and tough. But to talk about bombing the specific Al Qaeda operatives who planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks is reckless and naive. The 9/11 attacks justify every conceivable American military action except for ones aimed at the people who actually did it.

UPDATE: In Comments, William Timberman adds an important point: McCain is essentially arguing that if a presidential candidate has the intention to bomb new countries, he should keep it to himself, and the American people have no right to know about those intentions when considering whom they want to elect. As Timberman says:

What it does have to do with is what it's always had to do with -- the competition of elites for power, and their abhorrence of being inconvenienced in any way by a debilitating debate about their actions which prevents them from being carried out in a timely fashion.

The central tenet in the Beltway religion is secrecy. That's how political and media operatives feel important and Serious: by having access to information about what our Government is doing that is denied to most Americans. If you want to persuade a Senator or journalist of anything, send a military or intelligence officer to hold a "classified" briefing or to provide a special leak, flatter them with how Super Secret the information is that they alone are hearing, and use the Utmost Serious Tones to make clear to them that these are matters of the highest importance. Feed a Beltway denizen scraps of secret information and they will be deeply grateful and unfailingly loyal.

The masses can content themselves with fun scandals and petty personality attacks. The real decisions -- who we're going to bomb, how we're going to spy on and detain Americans, whose governments we'll overthrow -- are for Beltway elites only. Thus, says McCain, Obama is "naive" because, while running for President, he actually told the voters about his foreign policy views.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------