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Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain Has POW Skeletons in His Closet

Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has been reporting on foreign affairs about as long as I've been alive and wrote the book (The Death and Life of Dith Pran) on which the 1984 movie The Killing Fields was based, has written a huge investigative piece about John McCain and McCain's alleged role in a coverup about American prisoners of war in Vietnam. McCain the Vietnam war hero has POW skeletons in his closet that need to come out before some people try to elect the man.

A big chunk of Schanberg's piece has been posted to the online version of The Nation; the print version is scheduled to carry the piece in the October 6 issue. Here are snippets from the online portion:
John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW ... hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books. ...

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a Special Forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington and even sworn testimony by two defense secretaries that "men were left behind." This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number—probably hundreds—of the US prisoners held in Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain. ...

McCain has hardly been alone in this hide-the-scandal campaign. The Arizona senator has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon's and thus of every CIA director, Pentagon chief and National Security Adviser, among many others (including Dick Cheney, who was George H.W. Bush's defense secretary). ...

And the full piece, with illustrating documents, is online at the Nation Institute, whose Investigative Fund provided research support for the story. A snippet from that longer piece:
... [Staff members of the] Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs ... made the following finding, using intelligence reports marked "credible" that covered POW sightings through 1989: "There can be no doubt that POWs were alive ... as late as 1989." That finding was never released. Eventually, much of the staff was in rebellion. ...
Schanberg's belief is that McCain made a deal with his captors to get him out of Hanoi and that McCain's helping keep secret records showing that POWs were purposely left behind is part of that deal. He implies too that the pressure of keeping all of this inside for decades is what makes McCain such an angry, bitter man.

McCain is a very frightening story in so many ways. Why is the mainstream media so in love with him that it never checks very far into his past?



5 comments:

Songbird said...

I think the bloom is off his rose, and Palin's, too. (I hope.)

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

I want to see the Vietnam POW records opened up to the public, so that we know just how many American POWs were sacrificed at the end of the war. I'd like the full truth to come out, especially for all of the family members of those POWs. And I'd like those government officials who are still living to face justice for what they've done.

libhom said...

Everything about "Keating Five" McCain is corrupt and repugnant.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a McCain supporter, but I have a hard time figuring out motivations here. Why woudl prisoners be left behind? What advantage woudl Viet Nam have in keeping prisoners? What motivation would either the US or Viet Name have in covering up the situation? It doesn't make any sense in any human, politcal or geopolitcal scenario.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anon.

Prisoners were left behind because it became imperative to get out of Vietnam quickly. A drawn-out process would not have been tolerated by the U.S. public. Get in, get out, get done. Except that that didn't get everyone who should've come home.

Schanberg's piece, like documentation that I've read over the years, says that the Vietnamese wanted ransom for the remaining POWs. The U.S. wouldn't give it and didn't let that information out because either way that the situation would have been handled, there would have been a huge public outcry.

The U.S. wasn't about to give ransom in exchange for prisoners, Schanberg writes, because it did not want to be seen on the world stage as a big country being pushed around by a little country.

The public was generally kept in the dark about this over the years, so imagine how with each passing year, the pressure to keep it quiet increased. What happens to politicians when it comes out that they've been hiding something huge? It's the end of their career. So McCain et al have every reason to keep the missing POWs in the past.

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