Verb, Noun, POW

John McCain has decides that his time in a POW camp can be used to explain anything at all. He recently sought to deflect criticism for being unable to keep track of how many houses he owns because “I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair, and I know what it’s like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation. ? So the fact is that we have homes, and I’m grateful for it.”

In speeches, he’s told a tale about how when his captors asked for the names of his shipmates, he listed off the names of <insert local sports franchise>, varying the team to maximize the political benefit from a given speech. Asked for his favorite song, he explained that he’s a fan of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” because his musical taste was fixed before he spent five years in a POW camp. “Dancing Queen” came out several years after his return to America.

He has been able to brush off everything from his callous, adulterous mistreatment of his first wife to the Keating Five scandal with references to his time in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

This is all well and good, and the traditional media are finally realizing how silly this is, and how it devalues McCain’s legitimate service to his country. More interestingly, Matt Yglesias notes that McCain knew in 2004 that such talk could open dangerous doors:

McCain said that he urged Kerry sometime ago not to talk about Vietnam during his campaign. “I did advise John. I said, ‘Look, you shouldn’t talk about Vietnam because everybody else will. Let everybody else do it.’ His advisers figured that was probably not enough, that he had to emphasize that in his campaign. In my campaign, as you know, I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t need to.”

While McCain did decry some of the worst Swiftboat ads, McCain wasn’t uniform in that denunciation, and seems here to suggest that Kerry brought these attacks on himself.

Which means that, by any fair standard, McCain should have no problem with my bringing up important questions that other veterans have raised about his time in that camp. Hugh Scott explains:

Being a lifelong registered Republican, Ronald Reagan fan and Vietnam veteran who disliked the Bush family intensely, I supported John’s 2000 run for the White House. I praised him in my 2004 book, George Dub-ya Bush, THE PHONY FIGHTER PILOT, created a pro-McCain Web site to help boost his 2008 candidacy and attended a fundraising dinner for the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, not far from my home, because he was the keynote speaker.

My admiration for McCain ended in May 2008, when I began investigating rumors about his so-called heroic POW record. ?

In 1964, while a pilot in the Strategic Air Command, I went through SAC?s infamous Combat Crew Survival School at Stead AFB near Reno, Nevada. ? POW training ?

In one exercise while being held ?prisoner? in a mock Russian POW camp, I was taken to a small office for questioning, seated and left alone. Displayed on the table before me were three items: a cigarette, Zippo lighter and Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate. I knew the drill. I could drink the hot chocolate but not smoke the cig.

Accepting favors such as cigarettes while in captivity is a blatant violation of the Code of Conduct for prisoners of war. Food is different; a POW is obligated to eat all he can, when he can, and then share the information with fellow POWs so his rations can be divided among the other men based on the estimated calories consumed. This was especially important during WWII to fight starvation in German and Japanese internment camps. Conversely, cigarettes have no food value and are considered enemy gifts with a price tag attached — such as revealing classified information.

Section III of the Code of Conduct states, ?I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.? Alone in the mock POW interrogation room, by lighting up with the Zippo, I would have been accepting a ?special favor.? I also would?ve signaled weakness on my part, which is typical of persons addicted to one of the most powerful stimulants known to man: nicotine. ?

In McCain?s 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, he admitted to smoking cigarettes provided him by his captors. It?s reasonable to assume the North Vietnamese weren?t aware he was addicted to nicotine. Thus, if McCain, a two packs a day smoker, had initially refused the tobacco favor, nothing would?ve been said or inferred.

On the other hand, when he took that first puff, his captors knew instantly McCain had a weakness that could make him more vulnerable to disclosing military secrets during interrogations, which he did.

i-f96f8a9fd2c86f3cfd8aa3e319b47f39-200808251852.jpgMcCain on civilian hospital bed smoking an enemy cigarette

In return for medical treatment at a civilian hospital, a privilege never granted to other injured POWs, McCain reportedly told NVA interrogators the name of his aircraft carrier, how many Navy pilots had been lost, the number of planes in his flight formation, tactics used during bomb runs and the location of rescue ships in the Tonkin Gulf.

Because of the revelations which McCain repeated in propaganda radio broadcasts, the North Vietnamese contemptuously nicknamed him ?Songbird.?

On June 4, 1969, a U.S. wire service story headlined, ?PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral,? described one of McCain?s radio recordings: ?Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of the United States commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since being taken prisoner.?

During his six-week hospital stay and for months afterwards, McCain continued to cooperate with NVA interrogators. He made more radio broadcasts for the enemy and met with foreign dignitaries, enjoying hot tea, coffee and cigarettes in posh settings while back at the Hanoi Hilton and other internment camps, his fellow POWs struggled to stay alive.

I’m not, obviously, suggesting that John McCain is a Manchurian Candidate, one who collaborated with the Vietcong by giving them information which helped them shoot down other pilots. Nor do I join the conspiracy nuts who think McCain is covering up evidence that American POWs remain in Vietnamese prison camps. I certainly am not suggesting that McCain’s complicity in hiding evidence of such camps is a result of the degree of mental control his former captors continue to exert over McCain.

I am merely reporting on the allegations that are out there, and which, by McCain’s own standard, are fair game now that he’s brought his POW experience into the mix.

So what do you think? Did McCain really sell out his fellow airmen?

Comments

  1. #1 Orac
    August 26, 2008

    I’m not, obviously, suggesting that John McCain is a Manchurian Candidate, one who collaborated with the Vietcong by giving them information which helped them shoot down other pilots. Nor do I join the conspiracy nuts who think McCain is covering up evidence that American POWs remain in Vietnamese prison camps. I certainly am not suggesting that McCain’s complicity in hiding evidence of such camps is a result of the degree of mental control his former captors continue to exert over McCain.

    I am merely reporting on the allegations that are out there, and which, by McCain’s own standard, are fair game now that he’s brought his POW experience into the mix.

    Nicely done! I especially like that nice disingenuous last touch. Very slick! In fact! Karl Rove, if he were a Democrat, would be proud. Sir, I doff my hat to you and say again, well done, sir!

    You do realize, of course, that there are ways to expose the ridiculousness of some of McCain’s behavior vis-a-vis his POW experience without repeating “Swift Boat”-style smears that others have leveled. I also disagree with your interpretation of McCain’s statement as indicating that he was saying that Kerry brought the “swift boat” attacks on himself somehow.

    By the way, that Hugh Scott isn’t by any chance related to the Hugh Scott who’s a retired Rear Admiral who signed a letter endorsing McCain, is he?

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    August 26, 2008

    The formatting here doesn’t make it clear that the paragraphs from “In return for medical treatment…” to “… his fellow POWs struggled to stay alive.”, as well as the photo & caption, are from Hugh Scott’s unfitmccain.com website. (Lurkers pls note: there is significantly more material there than is re-posted here.)

    And if McCain did reveal “tactics used during bomb runs”, then the only way to deny this suggests he “collaborated with the Vietcong by giving them information which helped them shoot down other pilots” is to point out that he was interacting with the North Vietnamese military, a separate organization from the National Liberation Front (the “Vietcong”, who didn’t do much anti-aircraft defense in the first place).

  3. #3 MRW
    August 26, 2008

    Well, I liked the first few paragraphs a lot, but I don’t think the smear was necessary to make your point

  4. #4 bipolar2
    August 26, 2008

    ** John McBush mentally unfit for command **

    John, the Navy declared you mentally fit in 1999, but PTSD wasn’t a big deal to them then, or now.

    Twenty percent of service members returning from Iraq suffer PTSD. None has endured what you endured. Five years in a North Vietnamese prison cell subjected to disabling tortures, it also must have created still festering psychological wounds.

    Little yellow men in black pajamas. Those “gooks” haunt you don’t they John? An interview with Tim Russert becomes a Hanoi Hilton interrogation. Beach Boys’ tunes pop up in your head singing ‘Barbara Ann’ as ‘Bomb Iran.’ No one can presume to question your authority on military issues. Can they John? You know-it-all. Your hair-trigger smart ass replies, your well-documented temper tantrums, your mood swings.

    Perpetual war. Viet Nam never ends does it, John? Kill the gooks! Bomb Hanoi! Never surrender! There’s light at the end of the tunnel. America love it, or leave it. Cambodia’s next. Forty years drop away like napalm, don’t they John? For you, it’s still 1968.

    But it’s 2008. And, blind militarism is all you know. Iran’s next, right Sideshow John? We’re forced to share your disgusting atavistic delusions for 70+ days.

    John, on the tube you exhibit a befogged glaze of incomprehension, just like Ronnie when robotic charm failed him.

    Your presbyopic memory, your non-rational irritability, and unwavering bellicosity amount to a mental health disqualification for high executive office.

    bipolar2
    � 2008

  5. #5 Matt Hussein Platte
    August 26, 2008

    Mmmm, smells like Rush Limbaugh in here.

    I think it’s time for a Johnny Horton tune.

    “Old Hick’ry said we could take ‘em by surprise
    if we didn’t fire our muskets ’til we looked ‘em in the eye.
    We held our fire ’til we seed their faces well,
    then we opened up our squirrel guns and really gave ‘em …

    I reckon Democrats in particular and rational people in general have been behaving in an orderly, predictable and polite manner – much like the Redcoats of yore. Frontier fighting is an ugly business.

  6. #6 llewelly
    August 26, 2008

    If you’re going to bring up the ‘manchuring cannidate’ BS some people are spreading about McCain, you should do a post debunking it, since it’s largely nonsense. The rest of your post seems accurate, but it troubles me that McCain’s senate votes (especially over the past 8 years) and speeches, and proposed policies are not considered sufficient grounds for declaring him an undesirable president.

  7. #7 llewelly
    August 26, 2008

    I intended ‘Manchurian candidate’ in my previous post.

  8. #8 Oldfart
    August 27, 2008

    McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was among the first to condemn the veterans group for challenging Kerry’s combat record and spoke out against the ad throughout his 90-minute luncheon interview. But he also said Kerry had invited scrutiny of his record by putting so much emphasis on Vietnam at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month.

    “His critics are saying, ‘Look, you made it fair game,’ ” McCain said. “I mean, that’s very legitimate, and I think there’s a risk that he took when he made it such a centerpiece. He may be paying a very heavy price.”

    That’s a more complete quote from the same article, Orac. To me, that indicates that McSame is blaming Kerry for “making it fair game.” Apparently, you didn’t follow the links and read the whole thing. Which makes your whole diatribe a little suspect. Perhaps you are accusing Josh of being a “McCain denier”??? without actually doing any research? After going through the links there seem to be many reports of McCain collaborating with the North Vietnamese to a greater or lesser extent. As one person said, “Those who didn’t collaborate didn’t return at all.” And there seem to be some indication that there were never any witnesses to McCain’s beatings except McCain and his captors, none of whom, that I know of, have corroborated his stories. There is no doubt that he was shot down and held captive and that he was terribly injured when shot down. The rest of his story is, it seems, mostly publicity and speculation. And, of course, media love.

  9. #9 Chas
    August 27, 2008

    You ask “did McCain really sell out his fellow airmen?”. I say it doesn’t matter because more recently he did sell out his fellow Americans by supporting the Administration’s war on the following: our civil liberties, Iraq, our economy, and his own principles. Eight years ago I would have voted for McCain but today there’s now way I would.

  10. #10 PhysioProf
    August 27, 2008

    Fuck it. Smear the motherfucking right-wing shitbag all you want. The hypocritical scumbag Republicans pull that shit all day every fucking day. Give it back to ‘em. We gotta get rid of those motherfucking traitors and keep ‘em away from the levers of power for a LONG FUCKING TIME.

  11. #11 Josh Rosenau
    August 28, 2008

    Thanks to Pierce for pointing out the formatting error. It’s fixed.

    Orac: When John McCain stops letting Karl Rove call the shots, I’ll be happy to stop amplifying wackadoo Rovian smears. Until then, let the gander enjoy the goose’s sauce.

    llewelly: I see no reason to believe John McCain is a Manchurian candidate. There is absolutely no evidence that there are any POWs in Vietnam, and while I hate to dash the hopes of families who have loved ones they regard as “missing,” I’m fairly sure that they died honorably long ago.

    As Chas points out, it falls to the veterans to honor the memory of those fallen soldiers, and live their life with dignity. I see no reason to treat McCain’s service with more respect than he is doing. When John McCain starts living up to the sacrifice of his brothers in arms, I’ll start treating his service differently.

    And Orac, yes, this is the very same Hugh Scott who endorsed McCain in 2000. The hint were the first two quoted paragraphs (emphasis added):

    Being a lifelong registered Republican, Ronald Reagan fan and Vietnam veteran who disliked the Bush family intensely, I supported John’s 2000 run for the White House. I praised him in my 2004 book, George Dub-ya Bush, THE PHONY FIGHTER PILOT, created a pro-McCain Web site to help boost his 2008 candidacy and attended a fundraising dinner for the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, not far from my home, because he was the keynote speaker.

    My admiration for McCain ended in May 2008, when I began investigating rumors about his so-called heroic POW record.

    We can only hope other people start seeing the real McCain.

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