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Does McCain Owe a Mea Culpa to POWs & MIAs?
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“It’s the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.” “It disqualifies him as a presidential candidate.” “This is the end of his run.” So crowed the political operatives looking to take down Mr. Trump, and by so doing, protect the political status quo and ease themselves into positions of greater power. The egos in the anchor’s chair and the pundits opposite chimed in: “He’ll make the more serious candidates look more serious,” predicted the next Michael Oakeshott and favorite imbecile, S. E. Cupp.

The Donald is in the dock for desecrating one of the political establishment’s most sacred cows: Sen. John McCain. Speaking at a forum in Iowa, the popular presidential hopeful said these sagacious things about the Republican from Arizona:

“[McCain’s] not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” (On the same occasion, Trump ventured that he was not particularly for the Vietnam War, a position that should endear him to principled libertarians.)

Not only does Donald Trump not owe Sen. McCain an apology; McCain likely owes mea culpa to Trump—and to the very many Vietnam veterans and their families whom he is alleged to have betrayed.

Yes, the heroic prisoner-of-war pedigree upon which McCain has established his career and credibility is probably a myth.

For our purposes, the story begins with Sydney Schanberg, back in the days before American journalism became a circle jerk of power brokers.

Mr. Schanberg is one of “America’s most eminent journalists.” “For his accounts of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge in 1975,” Schanberg “was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting ‘at great risk.’ He is also the recipient of many other awards–including two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.” Schanberg’s byline at The Nation magazine further reveals that:

The 1984 movie, The Killing Fields [watch it!], which won several Academy Awards, was based on his book ‘The Death and Life of Dith Pran’–a memoir of his experiences covering the war in Cambodia for the New York Times and of his relationship with his Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran.

Schanberg is also the author of a “remarkable 8,000-word exposé”: “McCain and the POW Cover-Up.” Here follow the opening paragraphs. They provide a précis of the forensic evidence collected by Schanberg against McCain as ally of Vietnam War POWs and men missing inaction:

John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war 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.

The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What’s more, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of “debunking” POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible. The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally produced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate “Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.” The chair was John Kerry, but McCain, as a POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine. …

The tale that has more twists than a serpent’s tail would be incomplete without mentioning another newsman, Ron Unz. First in his capacity as publisher of The American Conservative (July 1, 2010 cover story), and currently as editor-in-chief of The Unz Review—Mr. Unz has kept Schanberg’s voluminously sourced and criminally underexposed exposé alive in the alternative (intelligent) media.

Schanberg’s own journalistic and military man’s instincts were first piqued when “military officers [he] knew from that conflict began coming to [him] with maps and POW sightings and depositions by Vietnamese witnesses.”

Having served “in the Army in Germany during the Cold War and witnessing combat firsthand as a reporter in India and Indochina,” Schanberg had “great respect for those who fight for their country.” To my mind,” he explained, “we dishonored U.S. troops when our government failed to bring them home from Vietnam after the 591 others were released—and then claimed they didn’t exist. And politicians dishonor themselves when they pay lip service to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers only to leave untold numbers behind, rationalizing to themselves that it’s merely one of the unfortunate costs of war.”

The man is clearly not an intemperate sort. Some would say that to knowingly leave servicemen behind in the service of political ambition is treason.


Despite his position “as one of the highest-ranking editors at the New York Times,” Schanberg was forced to unmask Hanoi John, on September 18, 2008, in The Nation magazine. He recounts: “I took the data to the appropriate desks [at the New York Times] and suggested it was material worth pursuing. There were no takers.”

In the war-hero department, McCain is manifestly more beloved by the bien pensant elites than his “Democratic counterpart,” Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Democrat Bob Kerrey. While not a “single mention of McCain’s role in burying information about POWs” is to be found in the annals of the NYT; the paper of record—“a compliment [rightly] used these days as a cudgel”—took upon itself to expose (in its magazine) Bob Kerrey for having “ordered his men to massacre over a dozen innocent Vietnamese civilians—women, children, and infants,” in February of 1969.

McMussolini’s more recent record of devastation is an organic extension of his mythologized past:

“John McCain the politician,” wrote Trump in a USA Today editorial, “has made America less safe, sent our brave soldiers into wrong-headed foreign adventures, covered up for President Obama with the VA scandal and has spent most of his time in the Senate pushing amnesty. He would rather protect the Iraqi border than Arizona’s.”

Were Donald to dig deeper, he’d discover that McCain as champion of prisoners-of-war and men missing-in-action is as dubious as “John McCain the politician.”

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  1. tbraton says:

    “Yes, the heroic prisoner-of-war pedigree upon which McCain has established his career and credibility is probably a myth.”

    With all due respect to Mr. Schanberg, who deserves our great respect for his journalistic accomplishments, I believe a distinction should be drawn between two separate issues: (1) the myth (as you correctly put it) of John McCain as “war hero” for getting shot down and serving 5-1/2 years as a POW and (2) McCain’s later efforts to suppress the search for POWs left behind.

    I believe Mr. Schanberg would be the first to admit that he was not the first to expose the first fact, the myth of McCain as a “war hero.” Most of that credit must go to the late, decorated war veteran Col. David Hackworth who posted a piece back in early 2000, when McCain first sought the Republican nomination for President, exposing the contradiction between McCain’s first person account in a 1973 U.S. News article and his Silver Star citation, which are contradictory. [ If I read Hackworth 's contention back in 2000, I must have read a second hand account in the NYTimes or WSJournal because my computer was only capable of using dial-up internet and, as a result, I was doing little searching on the internet. It was a year or two later when I bought a new, more powerful computer which allowed me to subscribe to broadband, and that permitted me to scroll the internet with much greater ease and to post on message boards, starting with Yahoo Finance. By 2008, when McCain was running for President, I rediscovered Hackworth's 2000 piece and first read Schanberg's 2008 article and read for the first time the reposted 1973 U.S. News account, all online.]

    Now, there might have been others who raised the same issue before Hackworth, but I am not aware of any. Long before my 2008 discoveries, I held the opinion that McCain’s “hero status” was exaggerated, but I had no hard facts on which to base my opinion. (Based upon his accusations, Trump appears to be in the same position as I before 2008. He has simply questioned whether merely serving as a POW entitles you to “war hero” status without something else, as in the case of Adm. James Stockdale.) Reading Hackworth’s 2000 account in 2008 and reading the 1973 U.S. News account in 2008 for the first time gave me plenty of facts to substantiate my earlier opinion. (Schanberg’s 2008 article contains several paragraphs raising questions about McCain’s “unheroic” behavior as a POW, which undercut completely McCain’s Silver Star citation, but I am not in a position to say whether he was revealing anything new at that time.)

    Mr. Schanberg’s revelation in 2008 was completely different. He revealed that, while pretending to be working on behalf of POW families, McCain was actually working behind the scenes to suppress and keep hidden the undeniable fact that we knowingly left behind POWs in North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The only connection between fact #1 and fact #2 is that fact #2 offers an explanation or motivation for McCain’s deliberate attempt to suppress the release of information re retained POWs which was McCain’s fear that any such release would also result in release of records pertaining to McCain and would endanger his long cultivated status as a “war hero.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I think fact #1 and fact #2 are both important, but each can stand alone without the other to paint John McCain as a contemptible man and a complete phony.

    • Replies: @tbraton
  2. I had a neighbor from Vietnam. This person mentioned that their relatives said that they have seen these POW. They were described as “thin.” Perhaps being a compromised person is why McCain is such a sellout on every issue. I think Donald Trump should use his vast resources and find out the truth. It can be a rallying cry, “bring our boys home!”

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  3. You forgot a few small items; not least Donald Trump being a social moron. That said, it’s nice to see McCain exposed for the fraud and liar he is, not to mention recalling his photo ops with known neo-nazis and al qaida:


    So, why does ‘the donald’ ‘duck’ these stellar McCain moments? Because he has no problem with McCain’s nazi allies in Ukraine considering Trumps hard-on for Putin?

    Or, in the case of the senile war-monger McCain’s dentu-creme smiles with al-Qaida affiliated kidnappers in Syria … where’s ‘the donald’ on that bs?

    But what’s most amazing is, it would require America’s most egotistical chauvinist to finally call serious attention to America’s most senile war-monger on his phony hero status -

    Will the real Trump please stand up? Oh, I think he just did:


    • Replies: @Sam Shama
    , @CK
  4. War for Blair Mountain [AKA "Great Battle for Blair Mountain"] says:

    On the other hand, Sydney Schamberg is an apologist for the complete destruction of Vietnam by the US Government, and the McCain MIA cover up conspiracy retroactively justifies the complete destruction of Vietnam by the US Government.

    Perhaps Sydney Schamberg should be denounced as a WAR CRIMINAL!!!

    The US Military destroyed Cambadia. Not a word out of Schamberg about this.

    There is a direct line from WAR CRIMINAL Sydney Schamberg to WAR CRIMINAL Samantha Powers.

    • Replies: @Ace
  5. Boy howdy, but articles about McCain sure do bring out the wackadoodles in the Comments section.

    • Replies: @iffen
  6. Sam Shama says:
    @Ronald Thomas West

    RTW I like your equal opp bashing a great deal (LOL). You must agree though, that all souls are flawed, in one way or the other. The key probably, is to search for a small set of really important values the candidate must have. In that regard, the Donald very likely, fits the bill.

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  7. This so far uncluttered thread may be the place to ask Ron Unz to follow up on his exposures of MSM inadequacy through his own work snd that of others by analysing the causes of the decline over the last few decades. And what might be done about it.

    I recently rang the principal environment reporter of a big city broadsheet-turned-tabloid with a story of self interested wrongdoing that would have been leapt upon and given a splash not many years ago. Nothing doing this time and the reason seems obvious. Newspapers have been shedding staff in large numbers and simply can’t or won’t afford serious journalism.

    The Wall Street Journal and Murdoch’s “Australian” broadsheet (the only one left in Australia) are not restricted by pennypinching and the same is probably true of the Guardian in the UK because it is supported by a charitable trust.

    Is there scope perhaps for crowd sourcing the funds to keep a subidised serious newspaper going?

  8. CK says:
    @Ronald Thomas West

    Trump’s remarks re McCain were nuanced enough and accurate enough to get noticed and reinforced by the MSM without being so complete re McCain’s preferred military associates as to be seen as “punching down, picking on an old and decrepit man, etc..”
    As nice a vivisection of a fraud as I have witnessed in many years. Well at least since Rudy Giuliani vivisected himself in the republican debates a few years back.
    Somehow that “misogynist” keeps getting the 10s of the world to schtup with. The non 10s at Jezebel suffer the envy pangs of the lonely cat ladies to be.
    Cher was beautiful, she might want to have her lawyers talk to the skin butcher who has been working her over.

  9. Art says:

    Has any solder gotten more positive acclaim from being a prisoner of war then John McCain? He almost rode it to the pinnacle of power.

    What is most disconcerting is that he has a flawed character – he is not a good guy – as a young man he was a hot dog spoiled brat – an admiral’s privileged son. His grandfather and father where both very high ranking admirals. He quit the Navy only because they were not going to make him an admiral. The Navy knew him.

    So we got him – how screwed up is that? Because he supports Israel – we can thank the Zionist Jew controlled media for the none disclosure of his bad character. If you have power and support Israel, you can get away with almost anything. They will not report or make a story of your bad side or actions.

    • Replies: @tbraton
  10. tbraton says:

    “I believe Mr. Schanberg would be the first to admit that he was not the first to expose the first fact, the myth of McCain as a “war hero.” Most of that credit must go to the late, decorated war veteran Col. David Hackworth who posted a piece back in early 2000. . . .”

    Apparently, Col. Hackworth was not the first to question McCain’s “hero status.” I came across a lengthy article in the Phoenix New Times dated March 25, 1999, which predates Col. Hackworth’s 2000 piece by nearly a year.

    It must be kept in mind that McCain’s first person account in U.S. News appeared back in 1973, just as the country was becoming consumed by the Watergate scandal. I didn’t get around to reading McCain’s account until 2008 (25 years later), but apparently others, especially Vietnam veterans and families of Vietnam POWs, read the article with great interest and concluded that McCain’s account didn’t add up to hero status. There must have been an underground railroad of sorts that must of us were unaware of, exchanging information among themselves dealing with McCain’s POW experience, much like the samzidats in the Soviet Union before its collapse. Also keep in mind that then the internet had not exploded as a means of communication, as it would do starting in the early 2000′s. Most of this remained under most people’s radar until the 2000 Presidential contest loomed and McCain was a contender. That would explain the timing of the 1999 Phoenix New Times piece. I know there are numerous “New Times” alternative papers (now mostly online) around the country. We have a couple in South Florida where I live, and I have often read their pieces, which cover subjects of local or regional interest not covered in depth by the MSM newspapers. I don’t know how much coverage the Phoenix New Times article received beyond Phoenix and Arizona, but I am certain it was brought to Col. Hackworth’s attention. Col. Hackworth occupied a much different place than the New Times. Because of his reputation, he commanded a national platform, and that was the importance of his 2000 piece on McCain: not that he was the first to address the issue but that he brought the matter out from the shadows and to the attention of a national audience about to choose a new President. (His piece also had the great advantage of being more concise and much better written, boiling the case against McCain’s “hero status” down to its essence.)

  11. tbraton says:

    “What is most disconcerting is that he has a flawed character – he is not a good guy – as a young man he was a hot dog spoiled brat – an admiral’s privileged son. His grandfather and father where both very high ranking admirals. He quit the Navy only because they were not going to make him an admiral. The Navy knew him.”

    Art, in the Phoenix New Times piece I posted above, there is a part which confirms how spoiled and even delusional McCane is. Keep in mind that McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his 800+ member class at the Naval Academy, and, despite that, he received a coveted posting flying planes for the Navy, an honor usually reserved for those graduating much higher than McCain, and, during his career in the Navy, he lost five planes (including the one shot down over North Vietnam), mostly due to his own carelessness. (I just wonder how many other Navy officers were allowed to continue flying after losing four planes.)

    While being held as a POW, McCain met a number of visitors, including the following:

    “McCain was asked to meet with a “visitor” who turned out to be Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist living in Cuba. The interview took place at the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in Hanoi. Barral describes the setting, which included a spread of oranges, cakes, coffee and cigarettes. An account of Barral’s interview with McCain was published in the Cuban periodical Granma on January 24, 1970.

    Barral and McCain talked about a variety of subjects, according to Granma. McCain praised his treatment by the North Vietnamese, spoke of his wife and of his family: “One of my forebears was a colonel in Washington’s independent forces. Another was a general in the war of secession. Thus it was natural for me to follow a military career. Of course my father was not always an admiral; during World War II he was commander of a submarine. He [referring to his father] has been in the navy since 1927 and has been an admiral since 1965. He holds the highest rank in the navy. If I had not been downed, I would have become an admiral at an earlier age than my father.” ”

    I find it astounding that someone with his mediocre record as a student and a pilot could even dream he was going to become an admiral. Talk about a sense of entitlement.

    • Replies: @Biff
    , @Art
  12. Biff says:

    Sang like bird to get the comfy pillows.

    Real heros are usually never heard from.

  13. @Sam Shama

    RTW I like your equal opp bashing a great deal (LOL)

    You should see the one I left at Fred Reed’s most recent (talk about flawed souls!)

    If nothing else, Trump isn’t afraid to shoot from the hip. Last time around he had too thin a skin and dropped out (could dish it out but not take it) .. we’ll see how he does this time, maybe he’s been to therapy.

    I like picking on the right, it’s more entertaining, the left is like dipping into a fungal ooze -

  14. Art says:

    Ten years ago I read a different account of the USS Forrestal incident. I do not know if it is true or not.

    McCain was in line to take off from the Forrestal with other planes behind him. There is something you can do to the engines that cause them to backfire, scarring the guy behind you. The story is that McCain did that and as a result the guy behind him inadvertently dropped a bomb on the carrier deck. Seventy people died as a result. The story also said, that night McCain was transferred to another ship because his crew members wanted to kill him.

    • Replies: @tbraton
  15. MarkinLA says:
    @Johnny F. Ive

    I think Donald Trump should use his vast resources and find out the truth.

    Not if he is serious about running for President. There is no way to score points on this. There are already too many people that don’t like Trump over this, don’t add to the list. Attack McCain on the fact that he is so in love with his “maverick” persona that he will tell any lie to stay in power like when he told people in Arizona that he “would build the damn fence already” and immediately became an amnesty monger when he was sworn in.

  16. tbraton says:

    I really am in no position to say anything about the Forrestal incident, but your story is very disturbing if true. Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt on the Forrestal incident, the other three plane incidents are disturbing enough to make you wonder about this guy’s judgment, especially the incident in Spain where it seems to be indisputable that he was attempting a stunt of flying under the electrical power lines in order to show off and lacked the flying ability to pull it off. Had he pulled it off and you were aware of the incident, you would still have to question his judgment for even daring such a maneuver. Had his father not been such a high ranking admiral, I am sure he would have been kicked out of the Navy. Long before I became aware of his dreadful flying record, I had serious reservations about his foreign policy record, especially after he became a Senator, and his record on certain domestic issues.

  17. @tbraton


    FactCheck (dot) org and LA Times have good write-ups on McCain’s mishaps.
    Google McCain flying career.

  18. iffen says:
    @John Jeremiah Smith

    sure do bring out the wackadoodles in the

    Not all of them are in the comments section.

  19. Slightly off topic, but – let’s suppose there is for example, American POWs still being held in Vietnam – (I’m not saying there isn’t but for the sake of my question) These guys would be fairly old now. Of what use would they be to the Vietnamese? What strategic interest (if any?) does the current Vietnamese government have by still holding them prisoner? Why not just release them? I don’t know for sure, but I remember hearing years ago that French prisoners of year were later released by the Vietnamese, if they wanted to, they were permitted to stay in Vietnam and even marry…don’t know the accuracy of this, what do others think?

    • Replies: @tbraton
  20. tbraton says:
    @The Albino Sasquatch

    I believe I read somewhere (earlier in this thread or another thread) that the Vietnamese held on to those POWs as security for the promised U.S. “reparations.” Those Nixon and Kissinger promises met a cold reception in Congress, and, once they realized no reparations would be forthcoming, the Vietnamese killed the remaining POWs since there was nothing to trade them for.

    Another thought that suddenly occurred to me involved McCain’s admissions in U.S. News back in 1973, two months after being released as a POW, that he offered his captors military intelligence in order to get needed hospital care. (Something I might have done myself under the circumstances. I am not faulting McCain for his action, even though it was in violation of the military code at the time, but his elevation to “hero status” following his release.) Admissions against interest are presumed to be honest. I just found it odd that he would be so forthcoming in an interview in a publication with a fairly wide circulation. I don’t know why the light bulb didn’t go off sooner, but it suddenly occurred to me that the reason he could be so forthcoming with U.S. News is that his interview tracked with what he had already told the Navy in his debriefing. His story initially was the same both to the Navy and U.S. News. So someone must have made the subsequent decision to alter the story line and invent the torture for the first two months of his captivity to justify the Silver Star, which is contrary to his account in U.S. News that he was in the hospital at the time being treated for his injuries, without any mention of torture.

    • Replies: @tbraton
  21. tbraton says:

    Camile Paglia has a three-part interview over at Salon this week and has a lot of interesting things to say. You may not agree with her politics, but she is clearly a very intelligent person with a great knowledge of world history.

    This is a relevant segment from Part 2 of the interview pertaining to The Donald and his controversial opinion of McCain:

    “So far this year, I’m happy with what Trump has done, because he’s totally blown up the media! All of a sudden, “BOOM!” That lack of caution and shooting from the hip. He’s not a president, of course. He’s not remotely a president. He has no political skills of any kind. He’s simply an American citizen who is creating his own bully pulpit. He speaks in the great populist way, in the slangy vernacular. He takes hits like a comedian–and to me he’s more of a comedian than Jon Stewart is! Like claiming John McCain isn’t a war hero, because his kind of war hero doesn’t get captured–that’s hilarious! That’s like something crass that Lenny Bruce might have said! It’s so startling and entertaining.” [Note: I wish she had added "and true."]

    She’s a liberal who criticizes liberals for their closed-mindedness, a proclaimed atheist who expresses respect for religion, a feminist who shows great understanding and respect for men. A very interesting woman imho who feels free to tell it like it is as she sees it.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  22. tbraton says:

    ” but it suddenly occurred to me that the reason he could be so forthcoming with U.S. News is that his interview tracked with what he had already told the Navy in his debriefing. ”

    I should have added the word “probably” before “tracked” to make it clear that I am speculating about what he told the Navy. We are all forced to speculate since that debriefing report has not been made public and McCain has done his best to suppress the release of that document and most other relevant documents pertaining to his years as a POW. Sort of like Tom Brady junking his cellphone to destroy evidence of his emails pertaining to “Deflategate.” I believe some prominent Republican back in the 70′s suggested that Nixon should have had a bonfire on the White House lawn to destroy his collection of secret Oval Office recordings. Had he done so, he might have survived in office because it was the release of those recordings which guaranteed his exit.

  23. MarkinLA says:

    Paglia said that some of her favorite listening is sports talk radio because of the way men talk to other men when they are having a conversation. She likes the way they can rag on each other without starting to cry every time somebody doesn’t agree with them.

    • Replies: @tbraton
  24. Ace says:
    @War for Blair Mountain

    The reason Mr. Schanberg didn’t mention the destruction of Cambodia by our military is that it wasn’t destroyed.

  25. tbraton says:

    I have never been a regular reader of Paglia. I gather she was a regular blogger with Salon and was fired because of her controversial positions, but I have never been a regular reader of Salon either. Even though she admits she is a liberal Democrat, I found reading her interview to be a totally refreshing experience. The woman is certainly unrestrained by modern P.C. and speaks her mind freely on all subjects. She also has a very colorful way of expressing herself, which deepens the impression of her thoughts on your mind. I get the definite impression that she would not be the type who started to cry if you didn’t agree with her at some sports bar. ;)

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