John McCain: War Hero or Something Less?
..McCain’s own tale of his torture and the confession he recorded for the North Vietnamese comes largely from his book Faith of My Fathers, in which he describes his shame at cooperating with the enemy. But some of McCain’s fellow prisoners, who were tortured and did not collaborate, have challenged his narrative, expressing their belief that McCain was not physically abused at all and that he was well treated. Others who were also in the prison camp dispute that claim. But by McCain’s own account he may have begun cooperating with the North Vietnamese within three days of his capture and was fully on board within two weeks, providing specific intelligence on his aircraft carrier, its aircraft, and the support vessels attached to it, information that was later featured in North Vietnamese radio broadcasts. One account that appeared on a wire service entitled “PW Songbird is Pilot Son of Admiral” reported that McCain may have gone beyond an acceptable level of collaboration in assisting the psychological warfare offensives aimed at American servicemen: “The broadcast was beamed to American servicemen in South Vietnam as a part of a propaganda series attempting to counter charges by U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird that American prisoners are being mistreated in North Vietnam.” …
It has also been claimed by retired Army Colonel Earl Hopper, admittedly without any corroborating evidence apart from what might be contained in inaccessible Pentagon files, that “McCain told his North Vietnamese captors, highly classified information, the most important of which was the package routes, which were routes used to bomb North Vietnam. He gave in detail the altitude they were flying, the direction, if they made a turn… he gave them what primary targets the United States was interested in…the information McCain provided allowed the North Vietnamese to adjust their air-defenses. As result…the US lost sixty percent more aircraft and in 1968 [and] called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them.” …
Schanberg makes two key points: first that a number of American prisoners of war were left behind in Indochina in 1973 with the connivance of top levels in the U.S. government and second that John McCain has worked assiduously to obstruct any efforts to open Pentagon files and follow up on leads to determine the status of the POWs and the “missing in action.” Admittedly, the prisoner of war issue is considerably more complicated than Schanberg represents it to be with many of the sightings and other evidence subject to challenge while his assumption that the Vietnamese were interested in exchanging their remaining prisoners for U.S. financial assistance is also somewhat speculative. But it appears undeniable based on the statements of senior U.S. government officials cited in the article and accompanying commentary that at least some prisoners were left behind with the full knowledge of and even enablement by the White House and Congress. Numerous elected and appointed officials subsequently lied to cover up their mendacity. It was a national disgrace, compounded through the fully documented case Schanberg makes for subsequent obstructionism by McCain and a number of other Senators who followed his lead, including current Secretary of State John Kerry, to impede any serious search for the missing in action and POWs.
One might reasonably infer that McCain’s cover up of Vietnam era POW sightings could well have been driven by fear that some released prisoners might have unpleasant things to say about his activities while at Hoa Lo prison. …
..McCain has consistently and irrationally advocated an undeviating hard line against Russia, the only country with the military capability to confront and destroy much of the United States through its nuclear armed ballistic missile forces. McCain supports untouchable defense budgets, American Exceptionalism, and a proactive “defense” policy that is a holdover from the George W. Bush years. He constantly flouts his patriotism and war record, which have become essential parts of his political persona, and he might well be reasonably described as the leading advocate of militarism in the United States Senate.
Much of McCain’s chauvinistic bluster might indeed be explained by guilt over his long ago confession to the North Vietnamese, a failing for which he might be making atonement through doubling down to demonstrate his unwavering support of the military. And there is also a darker side to him, possibly fed by guilt, evident in his frequently observed volcanic temper, which has been sometimes been directed against families of former prisoners who have raised the POW issue.
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