A SLOG SPECIAL INVESTIGATING:
*The many faces and forked tongue of Senator John McCain
*How the Muslim Brotherhood became the Syrian rebels who begat ISIS
*How McCain dealt directly with the ISIS leader, and feted his colleagues as ‘brave freedom fighters’
*The unexplained need for McCain to have big but discreet money
*The direct link between his sponsors and his Middle East policies
* The obvious involvement of the US in renaming their allies, and demonising those allies when they need another bogeyman
For the American élite, Islamic militancy is merely a question of branding. The Slog digs into the reality that makes a mockery of the ISIS story
If you go to this site and scroll straight down to the interview video, you will see and hear John McCain (the failed Republican Presidential candidate who wanted a mad Polar Bear huntress to be his Vice-President) blithely referring to ISIS as “the largest, wealthiest, most powerful terrorist enclave in history”. You will also hear him complain that Barack Obama “has done nothing to help the Syrian army” fight ISIS.
What I am about to prove beyond reasonable doubt is that Senator McCain shifts the focus of his support for one fighting force or another in the Middle East the way most of us discard our soiled underwear. Indeed, you may soil your underwear after reading what follows.
McCain has always styled himself as “a maverick who doesn’t being in the Washington set”. Well, this depends on which set one’s talking about.
McCain Stage I: in 2011 Senator McCain began by making what seemed to me a brave but grown-up statement: about how the Muslim Brotherhood should be sidelined from any participation in Egypt’s ‘transition to democracy’. He said to give the Brotherhood access to governing power “would be a mistake of historic proportions”.
Expanding on his theme, McCain told Der Spiegel,
“The process that I would like to see and I think a lot of other people would like to see is Hosni Mubarak stepping down and the army taking charge along with other democratic organizations within Egypt — not the Muslim Brotherhood. A transition government should then launch a campaign for fair, open and democratic elections…I am deeply, deeply concerned that this whole movement could be hijacked by radical Islamic extremists.”
But then the Clinton State Department decided that its best friends against the Shiite Iranian regime would be the solidly Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. So when the Army clamped down in Egypt, the US took the ‘liberal’ view of condemning the military’s action as dictatorship, and began to peddle the usual crap handed out by the MB about how their children were being eaten alive as snacks by the wicked army regime. (Predictably, The Guardian came out full on against the Military).
With the full support of State and the CIA – and the approval of the White House – MB members were now encouraged to take a crack at other people both they and the US didn’t like….most notably Gaddafi in Libya, and Assad in Syria.
McCain Stage II: Suddenly now, McCain pops up all over the place supporting the very extremists he wanted outside the stockade in Egypt. In April 2011, he described the Al Q’aida affiliated rebels in Libya as “these brave fighters, and they are not Al-Qaeda. To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it.”
One of these brave fighters was Abdel Hakim Belhaj (left) a major player in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – a terrorist organization high on both the UN Security Council and the US State Department lists, and long-time affiliate of Al Q’aida.
McCain dismissed allegations about who the rebel leaders were, asserting that their histories were clear and “none of them has any record of supporting radical Islam”. The same folks McCain urged America to back went on to murder US Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens in the Benghazi Compound incident…himself an agent helping create such groups. Contrary to John McCain’s assertions, many of them were Sunnis affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The US is covertly arming these folks, but McCain plays Congressional politics by saying that it isn’t enough from that Muslim I don’t trust in the White House.
McCain Stage III: here is John McCain photographed in friendly discussion with the Syrian anti-Assad rebels in May 2013. It’s from a Daily Telegraph piece sub-headed ‘John McCain slipped into Syria to meet with rebel leaders and listen to their calls for US airstrikes against the Assad regime and its Hizbollah allies’.
The young gentleman arrowed there is Mr Al-Baghdadi…the leader of ISIS, “the largest, wealthiest, most powerful terrorist enclave in history”. After the meeting, McCain strongly criticised Barack Obama for not engaging in Syria. He also recorded the meeting on Twitter:
But in the interview I linked to earlier, you will hear the same Senator McCain strongly criticising Obama for underestimating the threat from, um, ISIS.
Here’s another family snapshot of McCain with brave Syrian freedom-fighters:
The arrowed gentleman this time is Mohamed Nour – a major suspect in the kidnapping of all three hostages shown in the ISIS ‘beheading’ videos. But McCain is unrepentant: only last Wednesday night on CNN he had a go at former White House press secretary Jay Carney, saying at one point, ” I was there in Syria. We knew them, come on, it’s your boss [Obama] is the one that when the entire national security team wanted to arm and train them, he turned them down”.
Thus far, you may have reached the conclusion that John McCain is, to use the technical term here, A Piece of Work. This would be my view too, but there are several hypotheses that can be extended as to what the Senator’s real role is.
The questions I pose are these: is John McCain simply too dumb to make the photographically proven connection between his bungling interference and the hastily rebranded Syrian rebels who morphed into ISIS? Or is he complicit in a rogue organisation trying to whip up enough hatred in the US to further the interests of those with more extreme ends and beliefs? Or is he merely another Congressional whore in the pay of those who dictate US foreign policy to the American governing class?
McCain isn’t dumb. He was a highly skilled pilot and graduate of Naval College; he survived a traumatic POW experience for five years at the hands of the Vietcong; and he became a naval captain valued by his superiors. He may be a narrow-headed redneck, but he isn’t thick: a bestselling author and screenwriter, he has a net worth estimated in 2012 at $21.6million.
So then we must ask, if he isn’t a butthead, how did he make that much money? Let’s keep digging
I posted at the end of The Slog’s recent beheadings trilogy about the disturbing links all three ‘victims’ had with fundamentalist Christian and Jewish religious organisations rabidly opposed to Islam. John McCain is an evangelical Baptist who chose a religious fundamentalist as his running mate in 2008. He is far from religiously extreme himself – he called out Pat Robertson as “a bigot” – but has gone out of his way over the years to make himself attractive to the Christian Right: and he is as hardline as they come on America’s foreign policy enemies. In particular, he has said that he finds the idea of “a Muslim in the White House” uncomfortable. But this is not a man close to the far Right of the Republican Party….amazingly, they censure him on a regular basis for being too liberal. Is he, therefore, a front for religious nuts?
I’m not so sure. He seems to me to be a street-wise bloke who has set out to court the religious Right, but not necessarily be one of them. It’s hard to tell. Perhaps some of them fund him: you’d be hard pushed to find a Congressman who wasn’t beholden to somebody with an obese bank account. And there remains that nagging tendency for McCain to switch sides in favour of American interests.
So how has he made that much money? Well, one very big factor needs to be taken into account: His wife Cindy McCain is extremely wealthy, having inherited the business and fortune of America’s largest Annheuser-Busch beer distributor.
Senator John McCain is personally rich through his wife. He doesn’t need to raise that much money. Or indeed, any money at any time. Atlantic Magazine writes this week to confirm that this year, the Senator from Arizona will ‘draw more than 94 percent of his wealth from spouse-owned assets’.
But things look different when it comes to his political money.
Here’s an interesting chart showing a massive spike in McCain’s campaign contributions in 2010 – two years after he ran for President:
As you can see, in that year he raised 4.5 times as much as he’d ever done before, and five times that of the average US Senator. But for that year, 62% of the total of $18.2m donated is lumped into an anonymous group called ‘Other’.
McCain was standing for reelection in Arizona that year. But he faced no serious opposition, and in fact leading Senate Democrat Jorge Luis Garcia desperately announced at one point that “The Democratic Party would be willing to lend support to a candidate against Senator McCain. It would be very expensive—very, very, very expensive.” There were no takers until pretty much the last minute: John McCain was a cast-iron cert…as the result shows:
To sum up, in terms of his social life and domestic political campaigns, McCain has plenty of walking-around money. But still he keeps on fundraising: in April this year he began to work the plate-circuit again ready for the 2016 Senatorial elections and he hasn’t even decided whether to run or not.
Why does McCain need all this money? Who was the A N Other who gave him 62% of that huge 2010 donation? Why, given he already kops for 94% of his income from her, doesn’t John just tap Cindy the Beermaid for some more?
These are valid questions, and they don’t always have satisfactory answers. Applying for his senatorial reelection grant in 2010, for instance, Senator McCain first of all accepted the grant, and then decided he needed more than the legal cap for his total fund – so he opted out of it. Apart from the questionable legality of opting out in this manner, why would McCain worry about a cap given he was a walkover for the seat?
Here’s a man who doesn’t want his money-raising to be limited – even though he has more than enough anyway – and draws nearly all his personal money from his wife….but doesn’t want her money anywhere near his political money. It does feel, does it not, as if either Cindy has declared his funny-business off limits, or McCain himself doesn’t want questions asked by shareholders in her business empire. Perhaps.
There are clues as to the ‘real’ McCain within Arizona itself. It is not a sure-thing Republican stronghold per se: it was Barry Goldwater’s base for many years, but it has swapped sides on many occasions. McCain has always enjoyed strong ‘hero’ support from natural Democrats in the State: censures or not, he’s astute enough to know that too many balls-ups and body-bags resulting from a nutcase foreign policy could change that in short order. (His majority fell by 17.5% in 2010 alone). In other words, whatever his real Middle East/Ukraine agenda is, the Senator has to steer a careful course between patriot and rabid imperialist.
The bottom line for me begins to look more and more like John McCain being a promoter of classic right-wing Cold War US foreign policy – quite possibly up to being an agent provocateur. He has the military background, the connections and the status to be disguising cynical energy-based US Middle East policy as a continuum…and dump on Obama as soft on terrorism. By doing so, he is keeping most Republicans, State, the Pentagon, weapons suppliers and Big Business very happy indeed. He’s not a maverick, he’s an opportunistic Cold Warrior serving his paymasters. And to help him do that, the paymasters give the Senator from Arizona a lot of money. Discreet money.
Discreet money from folks whose bidding you do is, nevertheless, traceable. And McCain has some serious form on that dimension.
At the start of 2008, almost all of his presidential campaign bigwigs were Washington lobbyists. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., was chairman of one of Washington’s lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.
Throughout 2008, a co-chairman of McCain’s presidential campaign and other top campaign advisers and supporters were lobbyists for the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, part of a group that won a $35 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. In the same year, federal records show, his national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy. It made McCain, effectively, a paid advocate for the banking industry.
During 2013, evidence emerged suggesting that his Syria jaunt was bankrolled and set up by Israeli lobbyist Mouaz Moustafa. This man’s non-profit organsiation sounds Syrian, but he himself is one of the Washington Institute’s roving Israel-promoters. Intriguingly, one of the web addresses for Moustafa’s nonprofit is “syriantaskforce.torahacademybr.org.” The “torahacademybr.org” URL belongs to the Torah Academy of Boca Raton, Florida whose academic goals centre around ‘inspiring a love and commitment to Eretz Yisroel’. In short, Spin Doctors For Israel Inc.
Of course, if you’re after permanent war to fulfil your aims, then any self-respecting defence contractor would be involved somewhere. The people on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting an authorisation of military attacks on Syria by 10-7 last week were being given 83% more defence-supplier cash than the average Senator. Of the ten Ayes, John McCain received more defense lobby cash than any other senator who cast a vote.