Veteran US Senator John McCain loses battle with cancer

Veteran US Senator John McCain loses battle with cancer
Controversial US politician John McCain, loved and loathed by both left and right, has passed away after a battle with brain cancer.
3 min read
26 August, 2018
McCain's long battle with cancer has come to an end [Getty]
Veteran US Senator John McCain lost his battle with brain cancer on Saturday, with condolences pouring in from across the world.

His death ends a 35-year political career, where the Republican managed to pursue an independent path on many key issues, often going against the party line.

McCain attracted respect from many people across the world, taking up issues such as the Syrian revolution and Kurdish independence, while remaining a stalwart opponent of dictatorship and torture.

"If John McCain had won the US presidency, Syria's mass graves would be empty; a million of its citizens mass-murdered by Assad would be alive, and their tyrant would be ugly history," tweeted Syrian political commentator, Rana Kabbani.

His hawkish views on many foreign policy issues saw him dismissed as a warmonger by many on the left.

On the hard-right, many some saw him as pre-occupied with overseas adventures and too soft on domestic security issues, due to his strong opposition to water-boarding and other torture techniques used by the CIA and US allies.

This was in part shaped by the hardships he suffered during the five years spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

He also faced criticism for supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and supporting military action against Iran, North Korea and others, something likely shaped by his strong opposition to autocracy.

Despite his often divisive career, tributes to the war hero poured in from across to political spectrum.

"We are all in his debt," said former President Barack Obama, who fought a campaign for the presidency in 2008.

"We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher - the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed."

Democrat and former President Jimmy Carter said McCain "was a man of honour, a true patriot in the best sense of the word... Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service & his steadfast integrity".
Bill Clinton said McCain "frequently put partisanship aside".

This was true of his refusal to toe party line on key issues, such as his crucial thumbs down that scuppered fellow Republican President Donald Trump's attempts to repeal Obama's affordable health care act.

Trump was a fierce opponent of McCain, even when the Arizona senator announced he had cancer.

He refused to offer sympathy or support for McCain during his final year, often publically striking out at the veteran on personal issues.

One comment that those close to McCain believe was particularly hurtful was when Trump said he prefers war heroes "who weren't captured", referring to the former airman's harrowing time as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

McCain, in turn, accused Trump of "naiveté", "egotism" and of sympathising with autocrats.

Even when McCain's family announced on Friday he had stopped treatment for brain cancer, the president refused to show sympathy with the senator.

After his death, Trump finally voiced his "deepest sympathies and respect", which many saw as too little too late.

His final moments at his Arizona home were spent with his wife Cindy and other family members.

"He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth," said Meghan.

McCain was proud of his achievements and remained a dogged fighter on the issues that mattered to him to the end.

"It's been quite a ride," McCain wrote in his memoir, published earlier this year.

"I've known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war and helped make peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times."

Agencies contributed to this story.