U.S. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who ran unsuccessfully for president as a Republican in 2008 and has been criticized for his support of U.S. war and intervention policies over the past few decades, died on Saturday, his office said. He was 81.
McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona for over three decades, had been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, discovered by his doctors in July 2017, and had not been at the U.S. Capitol in 2018. He also had surgery for an intestinal infection in April of this year. His family had announced on Friday that McCain was discontinuing further cancer treatment.
A statement from his office said: "Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018. With the senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years." No further details were immediately provided.
McCain had been in the public eye since the 1960s, when as a naval aviator he was shot down during the Vietnam War and held by the North Vietnamese communist forces for 5-1/2 years as a prisoner.
His critics point out that despite the horrific results of the Vietnam war, McCain went on to become a big supporter of U.S. wars and interventions as he was a staunch advocate for the 1990s Gulf War against Iraq, as well as the U.S. invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was also a key conservative ally for Israel and its colonial and oppressive policies against the Palestinians.
In one incident when anti-war protesters stormed a Senate hearing where former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was speaking, McCain ordered that they be escorted out of the hall by police and condemned the activists as "low-life scum".
Anti-war activist and CodePink's Medea Benjamin was one of those protesters. She wrote on Twitter following the news of his death that he “called me a low life scum. I took it as a compliment coming from a man who bombed Vietnamese, pushed for war in Iraq, called for bombing of Iran and supported the Saudi destruction of yemen. RIP."
It’s easy to feel great respect and admiration for John McCain as long as you believe that Vietnamese, Iraqis, Yemenis, etc., etc. aren't human— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) August 25, 2018
While he became known for his open criticism of his fellow Republican President, McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supported Trump's decision when it came to Israel and the Jerusalem embassy move. "I have long believed that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel," he wrote in a statement on his website after the announcement.
At home, McCain promoted predominantly conservative values during his time in Congress, including opposing abortion and gay marriage and supporting increased military spending but he also at times challenged party lines on issues such as immigration and climate change.
He was edged out by George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, but became his party's White House candidate eight years later. After gambling on political neophyte Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, McCain lost in 2008 to Democrat Barack Obama, who became the first Black U.S. president.