McCain’s Mangled Metaphor

Never mind Hillary’s plants or that guitar-strumming singing wannabe pundit, the real news out of the Youtube/CNN GOP slugfest is that John McCain‘s failing, cash-strapped campaign was dealt another heavy blow in his embarrassing tiff with antiwar Republican Ron Paul. As Paul accurately pointed out that we could ameliorate a lot of suffering – including the pain of tax hikes and a decaying infrastructure – right here in our own country with the $1 trillion we’re spending on the Iraq war, McCain grimaced: the truth hurts. Unable to contain himself – not a very presidential trait, but essential to any demagogue – McCain replied:

“I just want to also say that Congressman Paul, I’ve heard him now in many debates talk about bringing our troops home, and about the war in Iraq and how it’s failed.


"And I want to tell you that that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II. We allowed…


We allowed …

(Audience booing)

Cooper: Allow him his answer. Allow him his answer, please.

McCain: We allowed – we allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.

(Audience booing)

And I want to tell you something, sir. I just finished having Thanksgiving with the troops, and their message to you is – the message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is, ‘Let us win. Let us…’"

If you oppose the war, says McCain, you’re – pro-Hitler. It was inevitable – the return of Hitler, that is. The third-rate painter and homicidal maniac always turns up when the War Party gets desperate. After five years of war, and nothing but a reinvigorated al Qaeda and thousands of dead and grievously wounded to show for it, there’s just one way to stanch the loss of support for our Iraqi adventure, and that is the return of Hitler to the international scene. In John McCain’s world, it doesn’t matter that we were lied into war: it doesn’t matter that there were no Iraqi links to al Qaeda; we only have to know that Saddam was a Middle Eastern Hitler, who has now been replaced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and everything falls neatly into place.

It’s all nonsense, to be sure. To compare the ramshackle fourth-rate Iraqi military – and bin Laden’s ragged insurgents – with the military might of the German Army at the height of the Third Reich’s power is worse than absurd: it involves a major misperception of what we are up against, and the very real threat posed by the worldwide Islamist insurgency whose spearhead is al Qaeda. Hitler had overrun most of Europe and a good chunk of the Russian, French, and British empires before hubris and the weight of his own evil brought him down: the rag-tag legions of Iraq’s Sunni rebels and Shi’ite militias are not exactly the Wehrmacht. And yet the Iraq war has now gone on longer than World War II, and still dead-enders like McCain are telling us "victory" is right around the next corner.

The misuses of historical analogies in politics are legion, and this one in particular is extremely problematic for the War Party. To begin with, McCain has his facts wrong: Hitler came to power not due to any "appeasement" by the Western powers, but because of World War I. He was elected by the German people – isn’t democracy wonderful? Isn’t it really the solution to all the world’s problems? – due to resentment of the Treaty of Versailles, and the heavy burden of reparations which unleashed inflation such as the world had never seen on the German economy. This created the conditions under which German national socialism flourished – and when Hitler was installed in the German Chancellory, it was long past the time when anyone in Europe’s capitals or in Washington could do anything about it.

The rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party was "blowback" from the Great War – just as the wars of the future will be visited upon us and our children as a direct consequence of the Iraq war and the growing conflict in the Middle East.

"Let us win," brayed McCain – just like we could’ve won in Vietnam. So if the bellicose Senator had his way, we’d still be fighting the Vietnam war, as he clearly is: talk about not learning the lessons of history! Oh, but Vietnam is different, he avers, because the Vietnamese just wanted to build their "workers paradise" in their own country, but the Iraqis we’re fighting will come after us – so there’s no safety in withdrawal. This only encourages them. But is this really true? Will the Shi’ite militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, for example, come looking for Americans to kill in, say, Baltimore, if we don’t fight them in Basra? Don’t bet on it. As for al Qaeda: they’re winning recruits, not only in Iraq, but throughout the Muslim world, on account of our campaign to "transform" the Middle East at gunpoint. As Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s al Qaeda unit, put it: we’re bin Laden’s best friend and "indispensable ally," since our policies couldn’t benefit him more if they had been designed for that purpose.

McCain is rivaled only by Rudy Giuliani in the absolute looniness of his foreign policy prescriptions, all of which involve war, and preparations for war, unto eternity. He has never been capable of restraint, neither in his personal demeanor nor in his pronouncements on international affairs. Whether we are talking about the Middle East, Russia, China, Serbia, or whatever, McCain has one and only one solution to the problem: force, i.e. "boots on the ground."

The War Party hates Ron Paul because he takes them on without euphemism or hesitation: it is worth it having Ron up there if only to bask in the uneasiness he causes, which is all too visible on the faces of the other contenders, who would rather not have to deal with his iconoclasm. That’s why the Stuart Rothenbergs and the Sean Hannitys would much prefer to exclude him from participating in the debates, but it’s too late for that now: the Ron Paul Revolution is shaking up the GOP Establishment, and it sure is fun to watch. McCain staked his campaign on the war, and his political fortunes are sinking as fast as support for the war in the polls – yes, even in the formerly solid ranks of the GOP. Over half the Republican voters in Iowa want us out of Iraq within a year. A full third of GOP voters nationwide are war-weary to the point of supporting a rapid withdrawal. Paul owns this vote, and – thanks to the fundraising prowess of his spontaneously self-organized supporters – now has the resources to pursue it. McCain’s star is sinking, as Ron’s is rising – and that, my friends, is good news for opponents of this rotten war, and the dangerous foreign policy that made it possible.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].