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John McCain Breaks Bread with some Generals, Now He Speaks for the Troops

By       Message Ricardo McHanahaughn       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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McCain Breaks Bread with Some Generals, Now He Speaks for the Troops

John McCain attacked Ron Paul at the CNN/Youtube Republican debate last Wednesday by citing his own Thanksgiving with the troops. According to McCain, “the troops” knighted him their spokesman and sent a message to Ron Paul: “Let us win”. Paul countered by explaining that he gets more donations from the troops than McCain or anyone else, but it was lost in delivery.

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Of course it is disingenuous for McCain to speak for the unified voice of the military when that voice supports his war agenda. But even astute observers may miss a subtlety that is painfully obvious to the military’s enlisted personnel; when the enlisted ranks have a holiday, the last thing they want is a gaggle of senators and generals showing up.

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Enlisted personnel are different from officers, and especially different from generals. They are the blue-collar workers in the military, but they comprise the majority of the total forces (the ratio on my ship was 13:1). For them, the military is more of a trade than a profession. Given their poorer, risk-adverse demographics and their non-transferable combat skills, they are more likely to see a military career through. They don't become politicians like McCain. They're unlikely to attend college at all. They’re not the characters on JAG or the doctors on M*A*S*H; they’re the soldiers in the gunfights and the patients in the stretchers.

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They certainly didn’t want to dote on Senators on Thanksgiving. Some probably planned to call home. Some planned to get some sleep in between long scouting missions and sentry duties. Some had to pack their friends into caskets. Most just wanted a break from work. Instead, they gave John McCain the regal treatment.

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McCain didn’t need to ask; he knew that’s the military way. He knew they would hold inspections to see that their dress uniforms were pressed and their boots shined to mirror-like perfection. He knew they marched in ranks to give him a grand spectacle. He knew they would spend days waxing the floors, building a stage, and setting porcelain bowls so that the Senators could eat cranberry sauce in pomp. Throughout dinner, at least one of them stood at attention in the Officer’s Mess ready to supply McCain with a fresh napkin. None of them wanted to be there and afterward they all worked to catch up on the chores that McCain’s visit displaced.

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None of this is a stretch. Everyone loathed these ‘dog-and-pony’ shows on my ship. We privately referred every dignitary as the “Undersecretary’s Cousin” to underscore that, whatever their title, they weren’t worth the production. Admittedly, McCain has some star-appeal, but that doesn’t matter when you’re commanded to attend, especially on Thanksgiving.

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Imagine being that soldier in the Officer’s Mess when the supposed conversation took place between John McCain and “the troops” about Ron Paul. You are standing perfectly erect in a dress uniform while you daydream about your wife and child or you lament the loss of a friend. You think about the war and how none of your superiors can explain how it ends. You think about how badly you want to be home.

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-Former Air Force fighter pilot

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