McInerney: Torture ‘Worked’ on John McCain

Another data point demonstrating that a distinguished military career doesn't preclude being an awful human being or a crackpot.


Daily Beast (“Fox Military Guest: Torture Is Good, ‘It Worked on John McCain’“)

According to a frequent Fox Business Network military commentator, torture is good because it worked on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

McCain, who was tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has been outspoken in opposing Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pro-torture nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Appearing Thursday morning on the Fox Business Network, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney took an ugly swipe at McCain for his opposition to torture, telling Varney & Co. host Charles Payne: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said,” McInerney continued, in a clip first spotted by Media Matters. “And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

[…]

McInerney, once a top TV pitchman for President George W. Bush’s Iraq War, recently served as a paid analyst on Fox News. He is no longer in that position, but continues to make frequent appearances across both Fox News and Fox Business, and has a penchant for outlandish claims related to military and foreign policy.

The former number-three commander of the Air Force was a frequent source of birther conspiracies about President Obama, often suggesting he was secretly a radical Muslim.

“I feel I have an obligation to the American people to be a part of the discourse and discuss these important national security issues because they are complex, especially on radical Islam,” McInerney told The Daily Beast shortly before appearing at a 2016 Trump rally. “As a nation we have not had it. We have a president that has suppressed it.”

McInerney also infamously claimed on Fox News that missing passenger jet MH370 was actually hijacked by terrorists and flown to Pakistan to be used for jihadist activities.

More recently, in late 2017, while appearing on Fox News star Sean Hannity’s radio show, McInerney dismissed the host’s concerns about how “millions could potentially die” in a U.S. war with North Korea: “Yeah, but they’ll be mostly North Koreans,” the retired lieutenant general said.

McInerney is, alas, but the latest data point demonstrating that a distinguished military career doesn’t preclude being an awful human being or a crackpot.

A Google search of “Songbird John” covering the entirety of his political career but excluding McInerney’s appearance on Varney’s show finds an incredible number of references. They seem to fall entirely into three categories: Fact check sites debunking the smears, nutjob sites repeating the smears, and false positives. (The last are either results having nothing to do with McCain or old pages who have automated sidebar or similar content populating the McInerney smear.)

The 2008 PolitiFact debunking, which is the first result, is rather exhaustive.

FILED UNDER: Media, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Coming at the same time that a White House aide, in response to McCain’s opposition to Haspel being confirmed, responded “He’s dying anyway”.

    These people honestly have no sense of shame.




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  2. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yeah, I was going to tie the two together but they’re not obviously connected other than by grossness. At least the staffer’s comment was made privately.




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  3. Guarneri says:

    Ugh. I’m no fan of, McCain, who in many ways also embodies your observation. But
    McInerneys comment is simply beyond the pale.




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  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure that where she made the comment has any bearing, to be honest about it. The informative bit, for me, is that she made the comment at all. She should have been escorted out of the building.

    But she’s still employed …

    I’ve disagreed with John McCain on innumerable occasions – not the least of which was the selection of that brainless twit as his running mate – but I have an abiding sense of respect for both his personal honor and his service to the nation. This party values nothing other than winning – and it’s clear that they’ll smear anybody, attack anybody, continually find new lows to stoop to – in pursuit of that goal.




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  5. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Oh, I’m with you. But she works for a President who made similarly gross comments about McCain during the campaign.




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  6. MarkedMan says:

    He’s just shown himself to be yet another piece of Trump’s Trash. We will be years scrubbing such debris out of our government and our public spaces.




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  7. Hal_10000 says:

    In the Sadler thread, I noted that her remark was said in a closed-door meeting. This is a good contrast and why I can’t work up a particular outrage over her. What McInerney said was public, was advancing policy and was far far worse.




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  8. Guarner says:

    I hate to harsh your mellow, guys, but anyone who believes in purity and that people in high octane environments don’t make such crude comments needs to grab Toto and go back to Kansas. The public nature was grotesque in the extreme, but don’t fool yourselves.




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  9. Liberal Capitalist says:

    The quotation marks in the headline should have been around the word “worked”, not around John McCain.

    Here is why: https://wonkette.com/633746/fox-news-shitmouth-has-thoughts-about-john-mccain-to-shit-out-his-mouth

    OH JOHN MCCAIN, YOU’VE GONE AND HURT FOX NEWS’S FRAGILE FEELINGS AGAIN! McCain, who is at home fighting brain cancer, took time out of fighting brain cancer in order to state unequivocally and for the record that, after Gina Haspel refused to say she thought torture is immoral, she is not qualified to run the CIA. You know how John McCain is about little things like torture and being a POW for FIVE AND A HALF YEARS, ALAN.

    Fox News could not let this insult to Donald “Bone Spurs” Trump stand! He prefers people who never got captured in the first place! Also, Trump believes torture works, because he is an incredibly stupid man who probably saw some shitmouth on Fox News claim without evidence that it works. (It does not work.)

    So Fox hosted retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who is currently a dumbass Fox News shitmouth, to comment:

    The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’

    DO THEY? Is that really how it is, Mister Big Man? No they do not, and no it isn’t. Because according to the actual record, which is PRETTY FAMOUS if you aren’t an old senile shitmouth, John McCain gave his Vietnamese captors the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line, and said they were the guys in his squadron. There’s no other evidence McCain spilled intel to his captors besides that incident, either. So if “they” call him Songbird John, that is very inaccurate. It should be Songbird John, FULL O’ LIES.




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  10. James Joyner says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: I meant to have the quotes around “Worked on John McCain” but, re-reading the quote, it was just “Worked on John,” which would be a weird way to quote it in a headline.




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  11. CSK says:

    According to CNN, Fox will no longer have McInerney on either Fox News or Fox Business as a guest commentator.




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  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    But she works for a President who made similarly gross comments about McCain during the campaign.

    I’d be perfectly content with him being escorted out of the building as well.

    The fact that these people are how they are should be motivation for a more emphatic denouncement of their tactics. They’re trying to normalize the gutter. I get that politics is a full-contact sport, but there are lines of decorum, indeed of simple human decency, which shouldn’t be crossed. This is one of them; one of those times that we as a nation should be stepping back and loudly saying “you’ve gone too far …”.

    To paraphrase McCain – It’s not about who they are. It’s about who we are.




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  13. Eric Florack says:

    Here again he’s a crackpot or an awful human being for merely speaking the truth.




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  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Speaking of the gutter … 🙄




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  15. Just 'nutha says:

    @Guarner: Umm…. Hate to tell you this Drew, but Kansas is just another Trumpublican shirthole now. Dorothy and Toto don’t got a home anymore.




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  16. Franklin says:

    @Eric Florack: What’s true about it? Please be specific. Torture doesn’t work, and it didn’t work on McCain. That’s historical fact, so come with proof next time Eric.




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  17. Just 'nutha says:

    Wow! A Trump apologist who’s too offensive for Fox News? Didn’t think I’d see the day. @Guarner: Umm…. Hate to tell you this Drew, but Kansas is just another Trumpublican shirthole now. Dorothy and Toto don’t got a home anymore.




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  18. grumpy realist says:

    If you’re trying to get accurate data that you can rely on, torture is much less effective than simply treating the other side humanely, sitting them down, and talking to them.

    The only people who push torture are either closet sadists or authoritarians who want to cause fear.




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  19. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The only people who push torture are either closet sadists or authoritarians who want to cause fear.

    I think also that it’s part of the macho fantasies people get from watching Hollywood movies. For decades Hollywood has pushed the idea that torture, while usually morally questionable, is an effective means of securing information, and that the only reason it can fail is when the victim either happens not to know anything (e.g. Marathon Man) or is tough enough to withstand the torture (e.g. Casino Royale).

    There are loads of misconceptions here. First of all, there are individual examples of when someone being tortured has given up real and useful information to the captor. The problem is that it isn’t reliable, since the incentive of someone being tortured isn’t to tell the truth, it’s to tell the captor what he wants to hear.

    In 2005 I was taking a composition course, and the professor assigned us to read a 1982 article by Michael Levin called “The Case for Torture.” (The professor was a liberal, but he liked having us read provocative material on the left and the right.) What struck me most about the essay was that it didn’t contain a single fact. There were no citations, no references to prior research, not even any anecdotes. It was all an exercise in throwing hypotheticals at the reader (centering around the old ticking-bomb scenario) in an effort to get them to question their moral absolutism on the subject. It had the same quality as those thought exercises about whether you’d kill Hitler as a child: since it’s all pure fantasy you can just safely assume that whatever variables are needed to prove your point apply, without having to worry about it ever being exposed for the flim-flam it is.




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  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    … sigh …

    Remember back when America was a “Shining City on a hill” ?

    Yeah… An aspirational vision.

    If “Make America Great Again” means making America into a back alley strip club with some ugly-assed mobbed up bouncers, then we are THERE !!!

    Thanks Trump!




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  21. Guarneri says:

    Looks like no one here knows their lutemakers…………..




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  22. al Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Here again he’s a crackpot or an awful human being for merely speaking the truth.

    Except for ‘merely speaking the truth’ … he definitely could be one of those two options.

    So Fox hosted retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who is currently a dumbass Fox News shitmouth, to comment:
    The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’

    Who is they? ‘Deep State’ Trumpista in our military ranks?




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