John McCain’s been getting kid-glove treatment from the press for years, ever since he wriggled free of the Keating scandal and his profitable association – another collaboration, you might say — with the nation’s top bank swindler in the 1980s. But nothing equals the astounding tact with which his claque on the press bus avoids the topic of McCain’s collaborating with his Vietnamese captors after he’d been shot down.
How McCain behaved when he was a prisoner is key. McCain is probably the most unstable man ever to have got this close to the White House. He’s one election away from it. Republican senator Thad Cochrane has openly said he trembles at the thought of an unstable McCain in the Oval Office with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
What if a private memory of years of collaboration in his prison camp gnaws at McCain, and bursts out in his paroxysms of uncontrollable fury, his rantings about “gooks” and his terrifying commitment to a hundred years of war in Iraq. What if “the hero” knows he’s a phony?
Doug Valentine has written the definitive history of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. He knows about the POW experience. His dad, an Army man, was captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp in the Philippines for forced labor. Many of his mates died. Doug wrote a marvelous book about it, The Hotel Tacloban.
Now Valentine has picked up the unexploded bomb lying on McCain’s campaign trail this year. As he points out, he’s not the first. Rumors and charges have long swirled around McCain’s conduct as a prisoner. Fellow prisoners have given the lie to McCain’s claims. But Valentine has assembled the dossier. It’s devastating. We’re running it in our current CounterPunch newsletter and we strongly urge you to subscribe.
Some excerpts from Valentine’s indictment.
“War is one thing, collaborating with the enemy is another; it is a legitimate campaign issue that strikes at the heart of McCain’s character. . .or lack thereof. In occupied countries like Iraq, or France in World War II, collaboration to that extent spells an automatic death sentence.. . .The question is: What kind of collaborator was John McCain, the admitted war criminal who will hate the Vietnamese for the rest of his life?
“Put it another way: how psychologically twisted is McCain? And what actually happened to him in his POW camp that twisted him? Was it abuse, as he claims, or was it the fact that he collaborated and has to cover up? Covering-up can take a lot of energy. The truth is lurking there in his subconscious, waiting to explode. ”
“McCain had a unique POW experience. Initially, he was taken to the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp, where he was interrogated. By McCain’s own account, after three or four days he cracked. He promised his Vietnamese captors, “I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital …
“His Vietnamese captors soon realized their POW, John Sidney McCain III, came from a well-bred line in the American military elite. . .The Vietnamese realized, this poor stooge has propaganda value. The admiral’s boy was used to special treatment, and his captors knew that. They were working him.”
“. . .two weeks into his stay at the Vietnamese hospital, the Hanoi press began quoting him. It was not ‘name rank and serial number, or kill me’. as specified by the military code of conduct. McCain divulged specific military information: he gave the name of the aircraft carrier on which he was based, the number of U.S. pilots that had been lost, the number of aircraft in his flight formation, as well as information about the location of rescue ships.”
“…McCain was held for five and half years. The first two weeks’ behavior might have been pragmatism, but McCain soon became North Vietnam’s go-to collaborator…..McCain cooperated with the North Vietnamese for a period of three years. His situation isn’t as innocuous as that of the French barber who cuts the hair of the German occupier. McCain was repaying his captors for their kindness and mercy.
“This is the lesson of McCain’s experience as a POW: a true politician, a hollow man, his only allegiance is to power. The Vietnamese, like McCain’s campaign contributors today, protected and promoted him, and, in return, he danced to their tune. . .”
Making Polite “Conversation”
Suddenly everyone is having a “conversation”. The word has come of age. I see it bowing and scraping on the opinion pages and tv talk shows three or four times a day. Its formulaic sidekick is the equally irksome “if you will”, beloved of Wolf Blitzer, John King and the other tv anchors and correspondents. “If you will” is something between a sheep-like cough and a verbal tailwag, a signifier of decorum, itself a prime ingredient of the “national conversation”.
National conversations” are clubby affairs. Their prime purpose is to exclude the unconversational, meaning intellectual or verbal excess; above all, unseemly questioning of the essential functionality of the existing system. Indeed, I began to keep an eye out for the term a few years ago when I read a column in which some rabble-rouser was haughtily black-balled as most definitely not being part of the national conversation.
It’s possible that the “national conversation” got its start as an effort to dignify the interactions of the “chattering classes”, a phrase which had its origin as a right-wing snarl, in the Thatcher years. Real men and real women didn’t chatter. They moved briskly forward with the business of “governance”, yet another irksome locution.
Ayers and the Weather Undergound
Dave Lindorff said some nice things about Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground last week. CounterPuncher Dan Cassidy, author of How the Irish Invented Slang (CounterPunch Books, winner of an American Book Award last year) fired off this letter to Dave, with a cc to us.
Dear Mr. Lindorff,
I think your remarks on the Weather Underground’s positive effect on the old new left, and SDS in particular, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s are misguided and off the mark. I am sure Ayers has become a progressive force in Chicago and applaud him for his transformation.
But my personal experience of the WU and Ms. Dohrn at Colombia and Cornell found them to be a mostly upper- and upper-middle class, immature, narcissistic group of misguided ultra-leftists who had no understanding of the working class or the need to build a mass base. They were, in fact, an impediment to efforts to build a broader based anti-war movement. They engaged in divisive sectarian tactics in scores of meetings I attended, and further divided an already divided student left. Unlike the Panthers, or the IRA, for instance, they had absolutely no base within the working classes. For a guerrilla army, even a small one, to have an effect on the struggle against imperialism it must be rooted in working-class and poor communities. The Panthers came out of the streets of Oakland. They were born there The IRA were all products of the historic nationalist communities in the north of Ireland, both rural and urban. The IRA had only 500 ASU [operational volunteers] in the field at any given time, yet fought the Brit imperialists to a standstill. The ANC’s armed wing was also rooted in the same types of working-class and rural communities. The Weather Underground was rooted in the middle and upper-middle classes of the US and had no base whatsoever in working-class and poor communities. They were a farce.
I was there. I knew many of them. They were legends in their own mind. That said, I have no doubt Ayers has transformed himself into a decent man who works for a progressive agenda. We all grow up. The WU was an immature, narcissistic bunch of mostly rich kids, who played at revolution and whose only base was in the townhouses of their rich parents.
Michael Moore’s Oscar Speech
A while back Jeff Gibbs sent us this note about John Ross’s piece on the dark side of the Oscars. It fell between the cracks but here it is. Jeff, you’re on at last:
“A very enlightening and well written article. I must take issue with one thing though, your assertion that Michael Moore went on a “self-promoting tirade after winning an Oscar for “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The Oscar was for “Bowling for Columbine.’ I was there. I don’t think saying ‘shame on you Mr. Bush’ is self-promoting. It was a very, very painful thing to do then, and remains so. Our entire production team decided to give up having our names mentioned or being thanked before millions in order that Michael might take a stance against the war. His reward for speaking out is that he has endured unrelenting and brutal personal attacks including several threats to his physical safety put forth on both FOX and Clear Channel since then.
“Alas, everything he has said in our next film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ has proven to be all too true. I for one am tired of potshots at one of the few well-off Americans who risked his own personal and artistic well-being to so effectively speak out against the war. If more of his peers in Hollywood and the media had the same courage ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’ might never had to have been made, and Michael would not have to endure relentless attacks from both the right who hates him for speaking against the war and even more so for reaching hundreds of millions of people, and the left, who seem determined to bring down anyone who actually rises above incompetence to threaten the other side.
Co-producer, ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’
Field Producer, ‘Bowling for Columbine’
I’ll Really Miss George Bush
Miss him? Alexander, how can you say such a thing? But I do. He’s done the Empire all the harm he can. Who needs Barack Obama to polish up Uncle Sam’s image with some fancy talk? Besides, Bush was in top form during the Pope’s White House visit. What other president would have shambled up to his Holiness, made as if to give him a hug, and said to the Vicar of Christ, “Awesome speech.”
I should add that I’d been saddened by the First Lady’s appearance in recent months, albeit the decline is predictable, given the hell that must be the poor lamb’s personal circumstance, shackled to that dunderhead. But in the Pope’s visit Laura was spectacular in her beauty and aplomb. Her and Pope Benedict’s white ensembles were the talk of the vestry. I imagine the couple will soon drift apart after quitting the White House. There’s been gossip of angry exchanges, and Crawford would be very constricting.