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Wallis writes: "John McCain angrily insisted on 'right' and 'wrong' answers to his questions of Chuck Hagel yesterday. As a theologian and a religious leader, I want to say that John McCain is 'wrong.'"

Senator John McCain (R-AZ). (photo: Getty Images)
Senator John McCain (R-AZ). (photo: Getty Images)

John McCain's Theology of War Is Wrong

By Jim Wallis, Sojourners

02 February 13


ohn McCain angrily insisted on "right" and "wrong" answers to his questions of Chuck Hagel yesterday. As a theologian and a religious leader, I want to say that John McCain is "wrong."

I watched the hostile questions that Sen. McCain asked Hagel in the hearings on his nomination for Secretary of Defense. The angry attacks from McCain were about the Iraq War, for which McCain was one of America's leading advocates. Hagel had previously called the war in Iraq the biggest American foreign policy mistake since Vietnam. Obviously furious, McCain tried to force Hagel to say the last "surge" in Iraq, which McCain had made his cause, was right after all. Despite the aggressive and disrespectful questioning from his former "friend," Hagel wouldn't submit to McCain's demands and said these questions would be subject to history - and to theological morality, to which John McCain has never submitted his views. In fact, his repeated desire to invade other people's countries is offensive moral hubris.

Let me state some clear convictions from many of us in faith community. The war in Vietnam was morally wrong. The war in Iraq was morally wrong. And John McCain has been morally wrong on both of them. Christian judgments of war should always run a narrow spectrum - from the peacemaking ethic of Jesus which rejects war to the just war theology of Augustine and Aquinas. But even in the just war tradition, conflicts have to pass a number of moral tests and be the option of "last resort." The burden of proof is always on those who support war to justify the taking of life.

Both Vietnam and Iraq failed those tests and were unnecessary wars of choice. Those wars were unnecessary, the terrible deaths from those wars were unnecessary, the enormous casualties were unnecessary, the painful family losses were unnecessary, and all the horrible costs were unnecessary.

And yesterday, we saw a politician who has based his entire political career on war furiously trying to force a potential Secretary of Defense to say that he has been right all along.

But McCain hasn't been right in his endless promotion of war as the primary solution to our national conflicts. He has been consistently wrong and America has paid a very high price because of the ideological zealots of war that McCain represents.

After yesterday, I wished that the coming vote on confirmation could be the other way around; that America could somehow vote John McCain out of office and off the American political stage. The cost of McCain's theology of war has been far too high.

The important discussions yesterday should have been about other critical issues: like how quickly and responsibly we can leave the endless war in Afghanistan, how we can address the real threats of terrorism in better ways than failed wars of occupation, what we should do about the real problem of Iran, and a very serious strategic and moral examination of our growing reliance on drones as a primary instrument of our foreign policy.

Instead, we saw old men defending their old wars. That was both very sad and morally objectionable. In the future, I would suggest the Senate Armed Service Committee call some religious leaders to their hearings to raise the questions that they need to hear. your social media marketing partner


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+76 # 2013-02-02 18:28
John McCain's behavior clearly shows there are worse places for one to have his head than in the sand.
+55 # ER444 2013-02-03 03:12
John McCain has been celebrated as a hero, something I never have understood. As a war pilot he was one of many responsible for causing devistation from the safety of his flying killing machine. In the end he turned out to be a rotten pilot at that and got shot out of the skies, was captured and held prisoner for years. No one denies that he suffered as a POW, but that doesn't give him special insight into the rights and wrongs of war. Vietnam was a horrible mistake, Iraq was an even worse blunder, and it is time to get our sorry asses out of Afghanistan!! Mr. McCain was a lousy pilot and not a little better as a politician. At least Mr. Hagel seems to be able to learn a little bit from his own mistakes and from history. A propos history...there we go again!!! "Oh when will they ever learn?"
+12 # cwbystache 2013-02-03 07:53
Seen the Goddess Dietrich sing her version of that Pete Seeger song that asked, "oh when will they ever learn?" When I found it recently on youtube and listened, and watched her face, I thought, "Goddess is coming ... and boy, is she pissed!"

Not just a Senate committee, but all members of all three branches of federal government should be called into a theater, sat down, and told to watch this.
+8 # CuttySark 2013-02-03 11:17
Apropos the Goddess, Mr. Bystache, have you seen or heard the tear-duct-empty ing tapes or videos of the night Dietrich broke Israel's ban on public use of German by begging her Israeli audience to let her sing that same song in Deutsch? She got a round of applause signifying their strong approval, then proceeded to sing the German version, "Sag Mir Wo de Blumen Sind" as it was surely never sung before or since, to applause that roared. Just the sort of sentimentality Mr. Netanyahu would never knowingly permit, and besides, where are all those German & Yiddish-speakin g Israelis today? Gone, gone, just like all the flowers, just like the Goddess herself.
+6 # Muzzi 2013-02-03 16:20
Yes, didn't he wreck 7 airplanes? He was at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. He was one of those who was always trying to climb the fence to get back into the Academy after they locked the gates to maintain curfew. He was always partying.
The only reason he was allowed to remain in the Navy was because of his father and grandfather being Navy veterans.
+7 # Art947 2013-02-03 16:47
Thank you, ER444, for bringing up McCain's record as a flyer. If my memory is correct, the fact is that he destroyed 3 U.S. fighter jets before the mission when he crashed and was captured. These previous events should have ended his service as a pilot. It was only his connections that kept him in flight. Note that I don't believe that being a prisoner of war makes one a hero or fit for a Senatorial seat either.

What has been made clear during the past 12 years or more, is that McCain is a "darling" of the Beltway press. No matter what ignorant views he holds and states, he is given a major public forum on mainstream TV. What a travesty of the airwaves!
-1 # Nominae 2013-02-04 03:50
Quoting Art947:
...... Note that I don't believe that being a prisoner of war makes one a hero ....

And you yourself have logged in exactly HOW MANY Combat Flight hours in Viet Nam ? Surely SUCH an expert opinion would require at least one or two.

Now I hate to breakup a perfectly good hate-fest with actual facts here, but somebody has to be the wet blanket.

I am no apologist for McCain, the man has obviously been seriously "off the reservation" for a LONG time now.

But that does not negate the achievements of his youth.
McCain did indeed crash three planes total. That he was the son of a Naval Admiral and the grandson of a Naval Admiral goes a *long* way toward explaining why he didn't lose his flight wings after dumping the second bird.

I was a Naval Aviator from '67 to '71, so allow me to clear the record a bit relative to your "knowledgable" comment concerning POWs.

McCain is NOT lauded for dumping three aircraft. McCain, along with Admiral Stockdale and other "guests" at the "Hanoi Hilton" are JUSTIFIABLY commended for having endured FIVE YEARS of confinement including almost daily TORTURE, and they NEVER, EVER broke.

Before you offer your sniffy juvenile dismissal of such an achievement, I challenge YOU to just TRY IT for a WEEK, much less 5 yrs.

It's easy to sit on your soft sofa with a full belly, and just bitch. Substitue experience for bloviation, and then get right back to us with your "informed" opinion !
+5 # MainStreetMentor 2013-02-04 19:15
... and to think: At one time there was the possibility he could have been elected to the Office of the President! We had that happen to us before - and the mans' name was George W. Bush ... we all know how that turned out!
+11 # Muzzi 2013-02-03 16:16
My father had an expression that fits McCain perfectly...he suffers from a
"little man complex". He tries to make up for what he lacks in stature by bullying and trying to bring others down to his level.
+6 # nice2blucky 2013-02-02 19:08
From Robert Parry
+41 # ganymede 2013-02-03 00:01
John McCain, rather than being a 'war hero' turns out to be one of the our most dispicable warmongers. He's truly an immoral character and deserved the harsh treament he received from the North Vietnamese. I wonder how many innocent people he killed from the cockpit of his jet. On the other hand, it's always a pleasure to hear what Jim Wallis has to say. He is one of the few genuine Evangelicals who actually preaches the teachings of Jesus, unlike the hypocritical Southern Baptist Evangelicals.Th e more info we get it's clear that the foreign policy of the US since WWII has almost been on a par with the Nazi policies from 1933-1945, and much of Soviet Russian history. All our wars since World War II have been useless, destructive episodes and our support of everything from ousting Mossedegh in Iran to the bloodbaths in Vietnam, Central America and the shameless destruction of Iraq defy all logic and morality, and yet it goes on and on even under our esteemed President Obama. Talk about bad karma!
+15 # Doubter 2013-02-03 13:06
And even WWII (my war) wouldn't have happened without the Capitalists engineering it for profit.
Funny how an unbeliever like myself can be in complete agreement with a believer like Wallis when he talks sense. (specially about McCain - can't stand the guy)
+7 # glyde 2013-02-03 14:23
We were causing blood baths in Central America way before WWII, "protecting" U.S. companies there in the '30's.
+17 # BobbyLip 2013-02-03 00:16
And did McCranky ever pay for that jet airplane he lost in North Vietnam?
+41 # X Dane 2013-02-03 01:06
Jim Wallis. Thank you so much for putting it bluntly, and correctly. I have great respect for you, for you are an honest man. I remember when you were invited by Bush to one of the religious gatherings.

I wonder if it made him feel better to have a group of religious leaders fawn over him. I remember you went and spoiled it all by suggesting that poor people needed help. WOOOOOOOW You were uninvited from then on. A man who wanted to talk to republicans about poor people?? NO NO NO

From then on you were a hero to me....and I do not use that word often. But you REALLY spoke truth to power. So I always pay attention when you have something to say. Thank you again.
+35 # Ralph Averill 2013-02-03 04:03
The author is correct; Republicans are obsessed and desperate to justify their existence.
Hagel should have stood up to McCain the way Hillary stood up to whatshisname on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
McCain is a non-entity who got into, and didn't flunk out of, the Naval Academy because his father was an admiral. He married the money that got him into politics.
+42 # zornorff 2013-02-03 06:26
McCain, who barely graduated from the Naval Academy(maybe with the help of his father?) is not qualified to ask questions that require anything more complicated than yes or no.
+35 # lobdillj 2013-02-03 07:09
I agree 100% with Jim Wallis. I would add that we will never get to the proper attitude toward war without tackling the cause of the current prevailing attitude--the indisputable fact that greed rules this nation today. We see it in everything the US government does.
+29 # Artemis 2013-02-03 07:32
McCain was insulting. Like an bullying schoolmaster dressing down a schoolboy. Power went to McCain's head a long time ago.
The problem was, it didn't matter what Chuck Hagel said, it was damned if you do and damned if you don't.
McCain should have gone a long time ago. The very fact that he was prepared to run with a moral incompetent like Sarah Palin disqualified him, one of the many bad decisions throughout his career.
The question is, even though Hagel made some peeps that alarmed the neocons, how was it ever possible for him to support McCain? That alarms me.
+12 # Merschrod 2013-02-03 08:28
Were Hagel's responses really as bad as the press alludes too? I hear this on the news, but no examples. Is the media biased?
+9 # X Dane 2013-02-03 12:21
No they were NOT, but he seemed a little shaky....I did see the whole hearing...and I think almost anybody who was as viciously attacked and battered, would have been rattled.

There was almost No letup, only when the democrats were QUESTIONING. What the republicans did was an inquisition.
+25 # labman57 2013-02-03 10:20
Grumpy old man McCain demands that Hagel insert a square peg into a round hole. Chuck refuses to play along, and Republican heads explode.

"Is military intervention in foreign nations appropriate or not, Mr. Hagel?"

"It depends on the situation."

"Is it right or wrong? Answer the question! It's a simple question -- answer the question! Yes or no?"

"Sorry, I'm not gonna give you a banal sound bite. Next question?"
+7 # CuttySark 2013-02-03 10:56
John, Execrable behavior is a description that can't live up to those displays of yours described by Mr. Wallis. Say, you couldn't be the same John McCain who four years ago refused at a campaign stop to endorse the hatred of Barack Obama expressed by an anxious supporter, could you? And I'm sure you aren't John McCain, war hero, whose limp body you are so earnestly trying to drown, apparently just to see how many good people and causes you can take down with him
+13 # Beverly 2013-02-03 11:38
McCain is showing his true deep-seated priorities FINALLY..... and he thinks he's getting away with it!!!! Well, all his previous responses have clearly exposed the real McCain, so let us be clear and swift, and get rid of this grand-stander, who ALWAYS rushes toward the spotlight in every instance. (As I recall one of his rapid rushes to Washington in the past, when he sat silently by, with nothing to say-- .)
Beverly Smith
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-02-03 11:55
Mr McCain in my 'umble opinion, suffers from severe PTSD got during his capture and imprisonment in the stupid Vietnam war (which I was jailed for protesting in the UK) and has never dealt with it. Apparently he tends to suffer from unpredictable and explosive bursts of uncontrollable rage. Imagine THAT having access to the nuclear button, with an airhead, arrogant, ignorant opportunist at his elbow!
But at least he did serve, unlike most of the other cowards in suits who are attacking Hagel.
+12 # chrisconnolly 2013-02-03 12:33
Who is John McCain really. He did admirably not sign on to the Obama hatred scam during the campaign, but then seems to have spiraled into a silliness and now idiotic hypocrisy about Hagel and his war ideals. McCain is dangerous precisely because of his partisan pandering. It is time we had somebody in a position of power who looks beyond the greed need for military cost-plus contracts and denies the pushes for war for posturing and plundering reasons only.
+4 # Nick Reynolds 2013-02-03 13:37
People who call themselves Christian and think any war the US has waged in the last 60 years is morally good or right are not following the teachings of Jesus. I think people should be reminded of this over and over because they won't hear it on propaganda TV and probably in their churches.

It's good that McCain opposed torture. He at least realized that, or maybe he just wanted to remind people that he supposedly had been tortured. Even one third of the Tea Party folks say torture under any circumstance is wrong.
+6 # roger paul 2013-02-03 14:24
Riverpacific is correct, John McCain does indeed suffer from PTSD and as such should not be allowed to have a gun, he is mentally unstable and in need therapy like any vet with a similar diagnosis. As much as I dislike the man's politics, he has my empathy. My hope is that he gets the help he needs.
+5 # born1929 2013-02-03 14:52
Mr. Wallis ...
Allow me to be the first atheist and veteran of the Korean conflict to cyber-shake your hand sir!
+13 # teineitalia 2013-02-03 15:14
An excellent article, Mr. Wallis. I agree with every word. John McCain is an angry old man who loves nothing more than sabre-rattling in the name of patriotism. Just because he wore a uniform doesn't give him the right to demand endless war.

And I will never forgive him for loosing Caribou Barbie on us. The fact that he could choose such a person as his running mate spoke volumes about his sanity, and his integrity.

He shouldn't be allowed in the halls of power; his character is too deeply flawed, and his thirst for power too unquenchable.
+1 # Shanti 2013-02-03 19:56
If one believes that an action can only be ethical if applied to everyone, where does the US stand on these wars?
+1 # Jaycie 2013-02-05 17:44
McCain is one of the founders of an organization, Project for a New American Century,(PNAC) which believes that we have to be kicking butt somewhere around the world at ALL times in order to maintain our "superiority". The foundation documents for PNAC can be found on Wikipedia and are very worthwhile reading and knowing about as it explains a LOT about warmongering from the Republicans.

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