George McGovern, 1922-2012. A war hero and an anti-war hero

  • Published on October 22nd, 2012

foreign policy debate - McGovern for president 72

George McGovern, the staunch liberal Democrat who challenged Nixon in 1972 and lost in a landslide, has died. He was a warrior and a George McGovern: The difference between Democrats and Republicans on war and peace and foreign policychampion of peace, a bomber pilot who laid the groundwork for a movement known as Food not Bombs, and a liberal environmentalist who won over conservative farmers to the fight against world hunger.

In light of tonight’s foreign policy debate, it’s useful to consider McGovern’s nuanced attitude as we look at the difference between George McGovern: The difference between Democrats and Republicans on war and peace and foreign policyDemocrats and Republicans on war and peace.

How does a true warrior feel about war? Unlike the neoconservatives who crafted Bush’s Iraq war, and are now crafting Romney’s Iran war policy, McGovern volunteered for the US military, fought bravely – and thought about the real human cost of war.

McGovern knew that bombing is not the answer to every problem.

McGovern volunteered for World War II, and at the age of 21 piloted a B-24 liberator bomber for 35 George McGovern: The difference between Democrats and Republicans on war and peace and foreign policymissions over German occupied Europe. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  But it was as an anti-war candidate that he made his mark on the nation, and though he lost to Nixon in a landslide, he was vindicated by the US withdrawal from Vietnam – and by Nixon’s impeachment and resignation in 1974.

He served as the first director of John F. Kennedy’s Food For Peace program, and fought world hunger from the US Senate and the George McGovern on war and peace: Food, not bombsUnited Nations.

McGovern also gave us our current presidential nominating process – it was the McGovern-Fraser commission that took the decision-making out  the hands of the party bosses and put it in the hands of the people, through an expanded schedule of caucuses and primaries. Although the system remains imperfect, it is far more Democratic and participatory than it was for most of America’s history.

On the next page, read an brief excerpt from Stephen Ambrose’s The Wild Blue about McGovern’s squadron, a tale of bravery and sadness and – after many years – reassurance.

Because sometimes war is necessary, but it should always be understood for what it is.

>>> Next page: The bomb doesn’t drop


About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • Thanks Jeremy,
    I had never connected McGovern to having any influence in the founding of Food Not Bombs. Interesting idea. Those of us that started Food Not Bombs were really more influenced by people like Emma Goldman and other anarchists. I remember feeling that McGovern was too conservative but better than most in politics. I also really disliked Carter as being too pro war. After 32 years they both look a ton better. Thanks Keith