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American Pravda: Relying Upon Maoist Professors of Cultural Studies
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Last week America suffered the loss of Sydney Schanberg, widely regarded as one of the greatest journalists of his generation. Yet as I’d previously noted, when I read his long and glowing obituary in the New York Times, I was shocked to see that it included not a single word concerning the biggest story of his career, which had been the primary focus of the last quarter century of his research and writing.

The cynical abandonment of hundreds of American POWs at the end of the Vietnam War must surely rank as one of the most monumental scandals of modern times, and the determined effort of the mainstream media to maintain this enormous governmental cover-up for over four decades raises serious doubts about whether we can believe what our newspapers report about anything else.

A couple of mainstream academics, one liberal and one conservative, whose names would be recognized as those of prominent public intellectuals, dropped me notes strongly applauding my effort to reopen the POW controversy and help get the truth out at last.

But the vast majority of my readers, perhaps being of a younger generation, were quite surprised to read my presentation, presumably having always vaguely assumed that talk of the “abandoned POWs” was just some Hollywood-inspired myth of the 1980s, generated by the success of the Rambo movies of the Reagan Era and continued by the populist paranoia of Ross Perot, before gradually fading away with the passage of time. I can’t really blame them because until just a few years ago that was exactly my own impression.

As someone who was just a child during the Vietnam War and had no familial connection to the conflict, I’d paid little attention to the history. During the late 1970s and afterward, the newspapers had gradually informed me of the POW activists, with their wild talk of Americans still held for years after the war in secret prisons of Communist Vietnam and the dark accusations they made of government conspiracies working to suppress that truth.

Naturally, I’d discounted such claims as the most obvious lunacy, on a par with UFO abductions, and never doubted that the advocates were exactly the sort of rightwing crackpots the media had always suggested. Every now and then lengthy cover stories had appeared in The New Republic or The Atlantic Monthly, among my favorite publications, strongly reinforcing that established verdict, and I always read those, nodded my head, and thought no more of the topic. For thirty-five years I never once considered the possibility that the POWs might have actually existed.

But perhaps it is exactly that past ignorance and disinterest in the Vietnam War and the ensuing POW controversy that affords me some reasonable objectivity on the issue, allowing me to analyze the facts much as I would a historical puzzle from Ancient Greece. And once I finally encountered both sides of the story in late 2008, the evidence in favor of the reality of the POWs seemed absolutely overwhelming.


When I discovered Schanberg’s stunning 8,000 word expose online, an article rejected by nearly every significant publication in America, my first step was to locate copies of the conflicting articles that had once seemed so persuasive to me, and reread them much more carefully. Once I did that I realized that the factual argumentation they had provided had been extremely thin. Their contents heavily focused on the cultural and ideological aspects of the POW movement, with the possible reality of any POWs casually dismissed upon rather scanty evidence. What I had been reading was cultural criticism rather than investigative journalism.

To a considerable extent, the rightwing POW activists played into the hands of their critics by presenting the facts of the case upside down, framing their arguments in a way sure to attract the scorn of most reporters. Activist rhetoric was heavy with denunciations of the “treacherous” Communists in Hanoi, who cruelly kept our American POWs still imprisoned despite the peace agreement that ended the war. To any objective journalist, this surely sounded paranoid and ridiculous. Why would the Communists want to keep the American POWs? Out of pure evilness or something?

But the reality was exactly the opposite. It was the American government that had been treacherous, by refusing to pay the Vietnamese the \$3.25 billion in reparations that they had demanded at the Paris Peace Talks as a price for ending the war and returning the POWs. If you buy a car and you refuse to pay, is it “treacherous” if the car dealer never delivers your vehicle?

The problem had been that for domestic political reasons the Nixon Administration chose to pretend that the promised payment of the money was unconnected with the prisoner return, instead labelling it “humanitarian assistance.” Unsurprisingly, Congress balked at providing billions in foreign aid to a hated Communist adversary, and Nixon, weakened by the growing Watergate Scandal, couldn’t admit that unless the money were delivered, Hanoi would refuse to return the remaining POWs.

This very simple and plausible reconstruction seems to have been completely ignored by the prestigious magazines that covered the controversy. For example, the July 1985 TNR cover story by James Rosenthal, a television journalist, ran nearly 3,000 words, but never raised this possibility, instead being overwhelmingly devoted to ridiculing the POW activists and their celebrity enablers, while questioning their motives. The supposed non-existence of the POWs was established by quoting a few government reports and official declarations. Rosenthal particularly emphasized that the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) discounted any evidence of surviving POWs, apparently being unaware that, as Schanberg notes, his immediate DIA predecessor had long held exactly the opposite position, believing that the data indicated the existence of live POWs; after a bitter bureaucratic struggles, he had been forced into retirement over that very issue. Missing that sort of important detail represents the difference between publishing a solidly researched article and just a bit of casual beltway opinion journalism.


Even more drastic was my reappraisal of the December 1991 Atlantic Monthly cover story by H. Bruce Franklin. Entitled “The POW/MIA Myth” and running a remarkable 15,000 words, this lengthy debunking had appeared in one of America’s most prestigious outlets for longform journalism at the very start of the Senate POW Hearings and must have heavily influenced the perceptions and tone of the daily print journalists who covered the hearings, while reporting the public statements of the various witnesses and the positions taken by Senators John McCain, John Kerry, and the other Committee members.

The very first sentence of Franklin’s article noted that 69% of the American public then believed that live POWs were still being held in Southeast Asia, but he not unreasonably attributed much of this belief to the various popular Hollywood movies of the 1980s. Franklin was a cultural historian rather than an investigative journalist and he seemed to draw on few sources of information beyond the regular newspapers, yet casually ridiculed a 60 Minutes producer whose five year investigation had concluded that the POWs definitely existed. Given his own expertise and background, it was hardly surprising that Franklin devoted as much as 90% of the piece to the “cultural” aspects of the POW phenomenon—the rightwing activists who believed it, the hucksters who profited from it, the unrealistic plots of the Hollywood action movies that glorified it.

In a particularly ironic turn, he mocked anyone who might believe in an “enormous conspiracy” by the various arms of the U.S government to suppress the truth about the POWs. Ironic, because Franklin himself was an unrepentant radical Maoist who been one of the very few tenured professors fired during the campus turmoil of the 1960s when he incited riots at Stanford and organized attacks on university buildings. Apparently, he firmly believed that government officials all lied about Vietnam during the war itself, but became scrupulously honest once it had ended.

Franklin’s naivete was almost charming. In 1985 President Reagan’s National Security Advisor was secretly caught on tape admitting that POWs were probably still alive, a statement exactly contrary to his official public position. But Franklin attributed this stunning gaffe to the distorting psychological influence of the Rambo movies then playing in the theaters.

He also persuasively argued that Reagan himself firmly believed in the reality of the POWs and during his term of office made various secret attempts to rescue them, but used these facts merely to portray the Gipper as ignorant and delusional, never apparently considering the possibility that the president of the United States might have access to better intelligence sources than those of a Maoist professor of cultural studies.

Meanwhile, Schanberg noted sworn testimony by Reagan’s National Security Advisor, revealing that early in the administration an offer had been received via a third country suggesting Hanoi would return the surviving POWs in exchange for a payment of \$4 billion (the difference from the original \$3.25 billion presumably representing nearly a decade of accrued interest). Perhaps this development, rather than Hollywood action movies, helped explain the president’s beliefs.

Indeed, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Franklin’s piece is that although he devoted 21 pages of magazine text to exhaustively exploring almost every cultural aspect of the so-called “POW Myth,” including detailed plot summaries of several Hollywood action movies, he never once even mentioned the \$3.25 billion in reparations that America had promised Vietnam and then never paid, which likely constituted the key to the entire political mystery. I find that omission highly suspicious and wonder whether he (or his editor) feared that providing such a telling clue might lead his readers to reconsider the entire logical framework being presented to them.

As mentioned, Franklin was an especially fervent opponent of the Vietnam War and he surely must have retained a burning political hatred for Henry Kissinger and the other Nixon Administration alumni whom he blamed for the disaster. But these individuals were obviously also the central figures behind the POW cover-up, and by applying a thick whitewash of cultural critique to the massive scandal, he helped ensure that none of them were ever called to account for their misdeeds by the American people. The term “useful idiot” surely comes to mind.

Over the years it has become quite apparent that major media outlets are sometimes enlisted as weapons in a subterranean propaganda war, and one must wonder whether publication of the massive Franklin cover story, timed to precisely coincide with the launch of the Senate POW Hearings, might have been an instance of this. Certainly there were powerful political figures very eager to bury the scandal once and for all, and what better way to do so than by providing a prestigious national platform for a cultural critic whose greatest personal specialty was the literary interpretation of science fiction, having him produce an article focusing so heavily upon the cultural and ideological shortcomings of the POW advocates while rather casually dismissing the possible factual basis of their case. Surely there must have been numerous investigative journalists available who might have used the same venue to provide the magazine’s elite national readership with a much more realistic and balanced assessment of the facts. But perhaps that’s exactly the point.

For Further Reading:

The American Pravda Series
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  1. the silence is a given since the msm takes it’s cue from the govt. has been like this for at least 20 years. I am willing to bet it started right after vietnam war. why would the govt tolerated a independent media that would meddle in it’s policies or wars? why would the vested, moneyed interests behind the govt allow it? the vietnam war coverage showed them how dangerous a free media is.

    • Replies: @Epaminondas
  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:


    The question I have is what happened to those POW’s?

    Are they still alive? Isn’t that still a possibility?

    Or were they executed? Why would Vietnam want to keep feeding POW’S for 40 plus years if they served no purpose.

    If they were executed how did that go down? Was there a last second attempt to barter again?

    Thank you for covering this shameful period of American history. Hope the truth is finally revealed.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    I wonder if CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER was inspired by the Vietnam POW thing.
    Takes place in Latin America, but same idea. Men left behind and sacrificed for politics.

    In some ways, the media have been grossly negligent, even criminal, on this matter.

    But maybe it’s the scale of the event. A single US bomb dropped on Vietnam killed scores of people. Over 50,000 Americans died, and over 2 million Vietnamese died.

    The scale of tragedy dwarfs what happened to the POWS, so the media think.

    And if the price of US and Vietnam coming to some kind of peace is sweeping this ‘minor’ issue under the rug, the media are willing to go along for the Greater Good.

    But ignoring the truth for the Greater Good is part and parcel of what the media have been about. Look how long it took for Western media to come clean about the true nature of Katyn. During WWII, USSR was too valuable an ally.

    ‘Small’ truths must stand aside the Greater Good.

    • Replies: @Mr. ANon
  4. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    Schanberg was a leftist journalist who cherry-picked news of events in Vietnam and Cambodia to aid the communists and the anti-war movement.
    Like so many journalists, like Jon Lee Anderson(who wrote the classic bio of Che Guevara), Schanberg was partisan. He had no use for the total truth. He favored the truth that favored the leftist anti-war slant on US involvement in Southeast Asia.
    To be fair, it’s impossible to cover the whole truth as Truth is a big big thing with a million faces.

    In THE KILLING FIELDS, we see him stick with the conventional leftist view of the war that blames everything on Nixon and US bombing campaigns. While US conduct of the war had something to do with paving the way for Khmer Rouge victory, the viciousness of Maoist Khmer Rouge was beyond anything anyone had imagined.

    Maybe the idea of rescuing those who’d been left behind became dear to Schanberg because he felt responsible for Dith Pran who was left behind.

    As for Franklin the Maoist professor, maybe he didn’t care if there really were POWs. After all, he would have seen them as imperialist ‘baby killers’. So, if they are rotting away in communist prisons, why would he care? It’s like many people didn’t care about the treatment of German prisoners after WWII. They were seen as murderers(as indeed many were).

    I think there were similar controversies with the Korean War. China agreed to return US POW’s if US handed over Chinese-American nuclear physicists or something.

    War’s just a bitch. Think of the German and Japanese prisoners of war who ended up dying in Gulag. And the Allies turned over many POWs to the Soviets to meet certain death.

    Be that as it may, given all the media lies about Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, and etc. this Vietnam POW stuff is irrelevant. Media are now shamelessly into the business of lies. In a world where the media tell us Russia is the aggressor in Ukraine, anything goes.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  5. Max Payne says:

    There has to be a law where media outlets must represent both sides of a story (or however many sides). It seems like media now, and in the US especially, are just mouthpieces for major corporations and governments.

    People are already confused as is. They pick up an opinion piece about an issue and believe that its all factual because it reads so smoothly (four letter words, one-liner quotes, published in a major paper, etc.)

    Hollywood seems to confuse the matter even more. I wonder if the movie Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t just another Rambo 2, an attempt to confuse the public by dictating (or skewing) the narrative of an important issue or event. Maybe in 20-30 years we’ll really know what happened there too.

    • Replies: @James N. Kennett
    , @coyote
  6. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    Still no truth from government and media about USS Liberty.

    The media narrative is still McCarthy was totally evil and his ‘victims’ were saints.
    In fact, McCarthy was as often right as wrong. There were tons of commies.

    Media let Reagan slip on by with Iran Contra mess when it was more serious than Watergate.

    There is a blackout on extent of black crime and thuggery.

    Media have been so pro-homo that Americans think 25% of Americans are homo.

    Media are nuttier about Russia threat now than during Cold War.

    Clinton, Bush II, and Obama got away with murder after murder.

    Wall Street crooks and bailout allowed to happen and get away with total crookery.

    Besides, the media would only prove itself complicit in the Lie if they touched this topic.

    Media concoct terms like ‘undocumented immigrants’ and ‘youths’ and ‘teens’.

    A Gordon Gekko world. A world of lies.

    With status and privilege being so important for the insiders in the globalized world, what matters most for people in media is making it and being in the game than being honest.

    Also, with the ‘left’ having been totally co-opted by the elites, the maverick journos are a thing of the past.

    Also all journos today are kids of privilege. We don’t see many from humble or tough backgrounds.

    And with media profession so shaky now with fall of print media, no one takes chances.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    H. Bruce Franklin is correct: it’s a bogus issue.

  8. During the late 1970s and afterward, the newspapers had gradually informed me of the POW activists, with their wild talk of Americans still held for years after the war in secret prisons of Communist Vietnam and the dark accusations they made of government conspiracies working to suppress that truth.

    Naturally, I’d discounted such claims as the most obvious lunacy, on a par with UFO abductions, and never doubted that the advocates were exactly the sort of rightwing crackpots the media had always suggested

    So in the “70s and afterward” you and Revusky would have had long exchanges about POW and UOFs, just like about the 11/9 now 😀

    very now and then lengthy cover stories had appeared in The New Republic or The Atlantic Monthly, among my favorite publications, strongly reinforcing that established verdict, and I always read those, nodded my head, and thought no more of the topic. For thirty-five years I never once considered the possibility that the POWs might have actually existed.

    You mean you weren’t aware of human nature yet.
    What you can be sure about, dear Unz, is at most what your own senses behold.

    • Replies: @pink_point
  9. @pink_point

    As for “Maoism” — Maoism in the West! —, it reminisces of what happens to the most beautiful of fruit after a certain time.

    “Maoism” as a product of liberty.

  10. Rehmat says:

    Nearly 30,000 American POWs were abandoned because it’s not American war against Vietnam people who never posed a threat to America. It was a war against the so-called “Communist Enemy” (currently replaced by the so-called “Islamist Enemy”) by the Military and Jewish lobby groups.

    As the US occupation army was defeated – they abandoned half-a-million bastard children and POWs to the custody of Vietnam communist rulers.

  11. Rehmat says:

    No political aware person would be surprised by the censor of news on these POWs by The Jew York Times, The New Republic or The Atlantic Monthly because they’re mouthpieces of American “War Establishment”, and takes their GAG Order from Israel’s ministry of propaganda.

    In April 2014, the NYT aka ‘The Jew York Times’ admitted that it obeys Israel’s GAG orders concerning publication of Israeli news and editorials.

    In February 2016, the NYT management and Jewish Lobby was shocked to find thousands of copies of NYT ‘special edition’ with anti-Israel articles, editorial and confessions in Manhattan and online version via social media.

    On February 3, 2016, the ‘Jewish Week’ claimed the anti-Semites were responsible for exposing NYT’s lies about Hamas, Iran, Syria and the rest of Muslim world for the benefit of Israel was New York-based ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ and not some Jew-hating Muslim group, such as, the Nation of Islam.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  12. @Astuteobservor II

    Sorry, but the media is running the government now. They own the Democrat party and it marches to their tune. Any politician who opposes the media’s political and social agenda will end up in its crosshairs. This is how they have been purging politicians of both parties, but especially the Democrats. The media class is perverted and very wealthy. They have an aggressive agenda and are ruthless in pursuing it. Across the board – news, entertainment, sports, fashion – everyone dances to the same neo-Marxist, PC drumbeat.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  13. As another commenter has noted the fste of the missing POWs remains to be discovered. Presumably there weren’t mass executions. That would have risked lurid stories coming out one day. Perhaps malnutrition and disease have been relied on whether or not the last of them are dead.

    But there is another question that needs to be asked. What were the Vietnamese selection criteria for those they kept and those they released? Did they segregate the remainers for a considerable time before their last releases and use as criterion the fact that no one seemed to know that those that they chose to keep had ever been prisoners – and the absence of any correspondence? If they didn’t take such care there would have been large numbers of American family members saying X was alive and in your custody on such and such a date so what happened to him? Or have I missed just that? Not just right wing activists?

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Ron Unz
  14. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “raises serious doubts about whether we can believe what our newspapers report about anything else”

    Who continues to have serious doubts? Luegenpresse dominates all information outside a few outposts here and there.

  15. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    No, the media and politicians are controlled by the same GLOB.

  16. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website
    @Wizard of Oz

    Money for prisoners.

    I guess the difference is Iran did it publicly. The whole world saw the taking of hostages and Iran put conditions on their release. And Carter’s Rambo rescue plan unraveled.

    Bay of Pigs POW issue was also a bigger issue.

    In contrast, both sides played footsie with the POW. It was like a card game with the hidden hand. Game of bluff where both sides wanted something but were loathe to admit what hand they were holding.

    The recent movie BRIDGE OS SPIES shows some of the politics of swapping prisoners. Protocols and gamesmanship where delicate politics and saving of face for both sides trumps all other considerations.

    Well, at least we got that guy back from Afghanistan. I think it was meant to be like Saving Private Ryan, but he might have been a deserter.

  17. Fred Reed says: • Website

    Proving nothing but perhaps of interest, during the MIA furor I was writing my military column, Soldiering, for the Washington Times and was frequently at the Pentagon. The prominent MIA people were camera hogs and conspiracy theorists, which did not make them wrong but greatly reduced their credibility with working journalists who didn’t have the time to undertake Schanberg’s detailed reporting. A lot of what they said made little sense—how do prisoners in labor camps manage to make very large signs on the ground without being noticed by their captors?

    The whole thing has the feel of the half-dozen theories of what really happened on 9/11. Which proves nothing but colored the reporting.

    Other things increased the fog surrounding the affair. For example, the Bo Gritz business. By odd coincidence a high-school buddy of mine was on his team that was going to slip onto Laos and rescue POWs (“Operation Velvet Hammer”). Bo was a loon but legitimately a Special Forces vet of Viet Nam and taken seriously by many. He looked like a heroic maverick determined to do what the military refused to do, but in fact the whole thing was a running comedy.

    In short, the MIA question was not swathed in clarity.

    Around that time I went back to Cambodia for the Times (or maybe by then h had moved over to Universal Press Syndicate) and interviewed the Air Force major at the Embassy who was handling MIA matters. What he told me was entirely consistent with what anyone with experience in Asia would expect. It proves nothing but might be worth thought:

    A steady stream, he said, of Cambodians came in reporting live sightings of Gis in Viet Nam and would go in and get photos if the embassy would give them ten thousand dollars, or some such sum, and cameras. Others produced phony dog tags and for a sum of money would…etc. As far as I could tell, the MIA folk accepted any report of a live sighting as a live sighting, which didn’t help the believability.

    Schanberg mentions Pave Spike, which he describes as consisting of sensors dropped along VC supply trails. If memory serves, Pave Spike is a laser-designator pod, not a droppable sensor, IGLOO WHITE being the sensor program. He says, “Alfond stated, without any challenge or contradiction by the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors—as U.S. pilots had been trained to do—no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POWs who were lost in Laos. “

    Fine, but the sensors had a battery life of about a month. No signals could have been received more than a month after the last sensors were dropped. Unless I am misreading him, in which case apologies in advance, he has in common with almost all reporters no grasp of technology, and the reports supposedly received are impossible.

    The writing is poor–no POWs were lost in Laos, but pilots whom he is classifying as having become POWs without saying so. If a downed pilot entered data into a sensor, if the sensors had data-entry facility which I doubt, this would tell nothing about whether he was shot on discovery, died in captivity, or remained a POW. And of course the moment a signal from a downed pilot was received, helos and close-air support would instantly have headed for the scene, this being on the record.

    Which leads me to view with caution the rest of the piece–though he was a good non-tech reporter.

    (Again, I have never heard that the sensors had a manual data-entry facility, and would appreciate a cite if anyone can provide one. I’d like to know.)

    • Agree: edNels
  18. Ron Unz says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    As another commenter has noted the fste of the missing POWs remains to be discovered. Presumably there weren’t mass executions. That would have risked lurid stories coming out one day.

    Actually, I think it’s quite likely that the Vietnamese eventually just executed any POWs who were still alive. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of the very powerful Republicans worried about their possible return eventually sent quiet word to Hanoi that they’d never get any of their money, but diplomatic relations would be reestablished if they ensured that all the remaining POWs permanently “disappeared.”

    Obviously, the POWs who were returned had been kept in different camps from those who weren’t. In particular, almost none of the likely Laos POWs were returned.

    • Replies: @iffen
  19. mtn cur says:

    I am annoyed with you for reminding me that there are STILL? Maoists, other than sender luminoso survivors, drooling and gibbering in Andean caves.

  20. Darin says:

    Sorry, but this all makes no sense. If Vietnamese wanted ransom for the POW’s, why were they treating them so brutally and killing so many of them? And when they saw they will get no money from US govt, why hadn’t they asked the prisoner’s families and American public?

    From US govt side, this makes even less sense. The politicians responsible just handed the Vietnamese a loaded gun pointed at them personally – imagine what would happen if Vietnamese, say in 1980 or 1985, displayed the prisoners and told the world about the deal. And for what – to save few billions of gov’t money (not their own).

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  21. iffen says:
    @Ron Unz

    one of the very powerful Republicans worried about their possible return eventually sent quiet word to Hanoi

    What would have happened if the recipient had made it public? Do you think that the sender might have considered this possibility?

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  22. edNels [AKA "geoshmoe"] says:
    @Fred Reed

    The POW issue was hard to take one way or another, because while any Red Blooded American regardless of Leftist or Flag Waver had to be concerned to see the POW’s brought home by their gadamned government when and if possible.

    But that there were really many POW’s wasn’t a sure thing. There would have had to be many lost in actions, unknowns and even some defectors (who would have been an embarrassment to disclose in any case.) Which wouldn’t have been of use to the ones pushing the media issue.

    Bo Gritz seemed a good guy and made sense on the issue, but sometimes he didn’t.

    To me, the whole war was a sea of misinformation on steroids, from it Purpose, on.
    One week in 1963-4 just when we were reeling from the presidential assassination, or maybe prior to it, McNamera was in the headlines saying: ”We are now winning the war”, followed days later with: ”We now stopped loosing the war”!

    Now as a guy soon to be in the draft pool, that kind of loose rhetoric from the top gun of the war, wasn’t too reassuring.

    There was so much suffering all around, and the families and loved ones who lost somebody, and those who didn’t get the remains shipped home, that was a group that was not served well by this media circus. They would have held out for miracle that theirs would turn up alive.

    And all of us would hope that the POW’s would come home.

    The bastards that cynically took us to that thing, would continue to mine it. Or some snakes that find any nish no matter who it hurts. Lairs, in big media, they can say anything to get a big response of anykind, they just look for ”hot button” issues, go with it. “If it bleeds, it leeds”, and this is was in that vein.

    Now, I don’t really think the Vietnamese would have much reason to keep POW’s around for too long, if there was a money deal for a ransom, that didn’t materialize, They still could have turned into good publicity by voluntarily shipping the POW’s, maybe by some Eastern block airlines, back home.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  23. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    Maybe all the forgotten POWs were white.

    If some were black, it might be more of an issue.

    It’s funny how US says we must take in all these refugees from Somalia and Syria, but POWs are a side issue.

    Still, I find it difficult to believe US would have left behind POWs out of stinginess for a few billion dollars.

    Well, at least Jonathan Pollard is a free man. Justice lives!

  24. Even during their frequent soporific phases, the Vietnam peace talks were an important part of what colleague and radio stringer Ed Bradley (not yet a TV news superstar) called his “bread and butter” when we worked at the CBS News bureau in Paris. The dickering over details seemed endless. By the time I left CBS later in the year that the Paris Peace Agreement was signed, US troops had withdrawn in accordance with Article 5 but violent confrontations between the Vietnamese sides had continued. I was under no illusions about the prevalence of “journalistic objectivity” then and am much less so now, or about the sincerity of all signatories to abide by the letter and spirit of the accords.

    But Article 8 stipulated that the “parties shall exchange complete lists of the … captured military personnel… on the day of the signing of this Agreement.” That signing (January 27, 1973) was days before Nixon’s so-called February 1st “secret” letter to Hanoi outlining “the principles which will govern United States participation in the postwar reconstruction” in accordance with Article 21’s stipulation that “…the United States will contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”

    The required list of prisoners therefore was unambiguously part of the January 27th deal. The vagueness of Article 21 and the Nixon letter days later may have made the Article 5 commitment to release all prisoners within 60 days a tad ambiguous. But given the collapse of nearly everything else tied to the Agreement, including South Vietnam itself in 1975, and the State Department’s public release of the Nixon message in May 1977, it’s hard to see failure to abide by the “reparations” part of the deal as motive for Washington to deny that Hanoi was still holding US POWs.

    I agree with Ron’s point about the way the entire POW issue was presented in the media during the following years. The coverage probably influenced my own skepticism about the claims fellow Vietnam veterans were making about POWs still in captivity. I occasionally had talks with some of them in the mid-1980s during lunch hours from my job at the State Department, just up the street from where they maintained a mini-camp near the Vietnam memorial wall. They were obviously sincere, as was a friend and mid-level colleague at State who worked on the issue and who had made multiple trips to Vietnam and Cambodia connected with identifying suspected graves of MIAs. I have absolute faith in his integrity and his sincerity in believing that US POWs were not being held by the Hanoi government. I tended to attribute the sincere conspiracy beliefs of fellow vets who believed otherwise to an emotional unwillingness to “let go.” But I’m not so sure anymore.

    My immense distrust for John McCain and other war hawks had made it easy for me to appear on an election night TV panel on Austrian state TV as a “Republican” (generally) who was voting for Obama. I would no longer be surprised at all now if the tragedy of POWs being held long after the war was confirmed. Vietnam’s motive for keeping some POWs as “insurance” that it be paid the \$3.25 billion reconstruction assistance makes sense. But given Hanoi’s own breach of the earlier Peace Agreement, particularly after it captured Saigon, I don’t see that as a reason for Washington refusing to admit the continued existence of POWs or its refusal to use other leverage to get them all back.

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  25. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    The POW’s might have ended like these men.

  26. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    “Now, I don’t really think the Vietnamese would have much reason to keep POW’s around for too long, if there was a money deal for a ransom, that didn’t materialize, They still could have turned into good publicity by voluntarily shipping the POW’s, maybe by some Eastern block airlines, back home.”

    No, it wouldn’t have been seen as goodwill. It will only be taken as Vietnamese perfidy and mendacity because, after all, the Vietnamese had insisted there were no POW’s.

    Given such pronouncements, it would have been difficult for Vietnam to openly trade them for money.

    Maybe it could only be done secretly. Or maybe the POWs were brought back in exchange for money, but it was never made public because it would have been embarrassing for both sides.
    Embarrassing for Vietnam to admit they really did have POWs, who were exchanged for money.
    Maybe those POWS were secretly brought back and put on something like the Witness Protection Program. Maybe they were told that they have to keep it secret and in exchange would be given lots of money and benefits. I dunno.

    Also, keep in mind that US-Vietnam relations were pretty bad until fall of USSR.

    US and China grew closer during Cold War with USSR as the big baddy, and Vietnam was allied with USSR against US and China(with which it fought in the late 70s). Also, Vietnam was embroiled in its own ‘vietnam’ in Cambodia, a war in which it ironically lost around 55,000, about the number US lost in Vietnam.
    Cambodian rebels(even Khmer Rouge remnants) were aided by China and CIA.

    It was really with the fall of USSR and rise of China that US and Vietnam decided to patch things up. They had to make nice… but they both had lots of skeletons in the closet. They’d been bitter enemies through war and peace all through the Cold War.

    Like US had to give a positive spin to Japan once Cold War got started, US had to change its policy on Vietnam. The peace with Vietnam had to be sold to the American Public. But who stood in its path? The POW community in the US, just like the Cuban community in Florida always stood between rapprochement between US and Castro’s Cuba.

    So, the POW angle had to be snuffed out. Maybe the POW community was infiltrated by conspiracy theory peddlers who led it astray into UFO-ish things.

    Anyway, if indeed all the POWs had been killed, the story had to be disappeared. The idea of US making peace with Vietnam, a nation that murdered US POWs, would have been too much.

    Or, maybe the POWs were returned but it was kept secret with huge monetary compensations for POWs to remain shhhhhhh, at least for a certain time period.

    Another tragedy in this is Vietnam is now turning into a vassal of the US, even putting on massive homo parades to win American dollars.
    Did millions of Viets die to end up this way? Just like Philipines and SK?
    I guess money never sleeps. It’s too busy fuc*ing.

  27. Whoever says:
    @Fred Reed

    Thanks for reiterating the remarks I made in this comment:

    Your statement that “The prominent MIA people were camera hogs and conspiracy theorists, which did not make them wrong but greatly reduced their credibility” certainly rings true, as does your observation that “he has in common with almost all reporters no grasp of technology, and the reports supposedly received are impossible.” I would only modify that to say not merely reporters, but most people.

    A good example is Item 20 from this comment:

    20) People who flew with McCain said he was a lousy pilot and during missions if Migs showed up, McCain always headed into the clouds to hide from them until his fuel level necessitated his return to the carrier.

    Although I’m sure the poster is sincere, the depth of ignorance is astounding. One word springs to mind immediately: radar. We’re talking about things that happened in 1967, not 1917. And departing your formation and wandering off alone. Really? I imagine just about everybody has seen that old movie “Battle of Britain” and can recall the scene where the green pea is told by his element leader as they enter combat, “Stick to me like glue!” It’s a great scene and the advice holds today.
    But in any case, the North Vietnamese followed Soviet air defense doctrine, which meant pilots were locked into ground control at all times. The most dangerous enemy aircraft, the MiG-21, was a point-defense interceptor with a typical mission duration of 18 minutes, brake release to touch down. It didn’t even take off until its target was located and designated. You weren’t going to escape it by haring off into the clouds all by yourself. You were going to have to fight it or die.
    A quote from a 1970s-era National Foreign Assessment Center paper:
    “Soviet interceptors are under ground control at all times, and Soviet ground-controlled intercept (GCI) sites conduct intercepts only when both the interceptor and target aircraft remain in the field of view of the GCI site’s local radars.”
    Here’s the document, once Top Secret, now declassified:

    Well, I digress. As far as our MIAs, I think it’s reasonable to believe that some were held back because we know that the North Vietnamese held back French POWs, releasing some 16 years after the Indochina war was over. That would be the equivalent of additional American POWs being released in 1989. I can see the North retaining POWs as hostages to ensure they got the money promised them, and since the USG betrayed the South Vietnamese, betraying the North would have been no problem. But even had they gotten their money, the North might have kept some POWs. Why? I don’t know. Why did they keep French POWs for so long, and why did guards tell American POWs as late as 1973 that they still had French prisoners? What good were French prisoners to them two decades after the Indochina war?
    In any case, the war began in lies and ended in lies, and the lies probably persist.

    • Replies: @iffen
  28. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    If POWs were secretly brought back in exchange for money, maybe we should cut the media some slack.

    Maybe part of the deal was that the media would remain mum about the whole thing.

    If you control the media and are told by the government….

    “the gooksters will give us POWs for money IF we — state and media — don’t say anything about it”,

    what would you do?

    On the one hand, it is your duty to tell the truth.
    On the other hand, if you want American POWs to return home, you can’t blow the whistle on the matter. Doing so will jeopardize the whole operation.

    Nah, it probably didn’t happen that way…

    but if I were part of a media conglomeration and if all of us were called into a secret government meeting where an official told us…

    “Look, we can get our boys back home from the gooksters in exchange for cash, but part of the deal is we must all be shhhhhh about it”,

    I would be tempted to come to an understanding with other media moguls that, yeah, we should be mum about it to bring the boys back home.
    And there would be an element of moral blackmail to any media mogul who didn’t comply since he would be jeopardizing the return of American boys.

    It’s not fair, but sometimes truth must be sacrifice for a kind of justice.

    Such ‘understanding’ is not uncommon. There have been cases where someone was wrongly imprisoned and interrogated. It ends up being a huge embarrassment to those who tormented the innocent captive.
    The innocent is then offered freedom on terms that he will never disclose what happened. Though innocent and desirous of justice, the man craves freedom so much that he is willing to sign the agreement. He is a broken man but he’s a free man.

    Could returned POWs — if they were returned — come home on such terms?

  29. iffen says:

    As far as our MIAs,

    Have you seen any report that looked at what the POWS that were taken in Laos had to say about how long they were kept in Laos before being turned over to North Viet Nam?

  30. Art says:

    The worst of the worst parts of government are the CIA types – they do more harm than even the generals.

    The CIA breaks all the rules of national sovereignty – they start more wars then the generals.

    Their covert activities in other countries MUST end – Period.

  31. The article poses a simple (perhaps too simple) rationale for the existence of “POW problem”. It’s a start that amounts to the formulation of a reasonable question.

    However, the comment thread quickly devolves, snowballing the “POW problem” into a gigantic conspiracy that recruits untold numbers of foes and affects every aspect of our lives. This is not helping at all.

  32. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    Based on many events in US, Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine, and Russia, I think the Western media are hopelessly corrupt, cynical, oligarchic, whore-ish, etc.

    But even if one were an honest reporter, truth is never going to be easy.

    For one thing, every reporter has his moral agenda, and to push that agenda, he will have to favor certain truths over others.

    Also, reporting a certain truth can really change events and do great harm.

    I think US media felt sort of schizo about the Vietnam War.

    On the one hand, they felt they did their job to cover it honesty and expose all the lies told by government and etc.
    On the other hand, they felt they played a role in undermining the US military. And they felt especially bad since communist victory in Vietnam led to gulags and boat people disaster. Also the Khmer Rouge victory in Cambodia was hellish.
    Also, the fall of communism in the 80s and China’s change showed that, gee, maybe US was on the right side of history.

    One of the big changes in the Gulf War of 1990 was how much the media had changed its tune. It was essentially a pro-war media.
    Clinton was allowed to get away with anything.
    And in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the media just played along. Of course, 9/11 added pressure on media to be ‘patriotic’.

    The Iraq debacle should have sobered up the media, but Obama presidency(so historic!!!) meant that the media felt pressure to go easy on him… so we had disasters in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine.

    Also, most young reporters are products of pampered PC factories than hard-boiled journos with working class backgrounds or tough ethnic backgrounds. They worship this magical fairy called Diversity and their spiritual truth consists of Homomania.
    They can easily be goaded to support a new cold war if it means forcing Russia to have ‘gay pride’ marches. Ridiculous as it may seem, that is the reigning mentality among younger journos.

    Someone like Mike Royko could not break into media today.

  33. Ron Unz says:
    @Gene Tuttle

    The required list of prisoners therefore was unambiguously part of the January 27th deal.

    Well, as I mentioned, I was just a young child at the time and my expertise on the Vietnam War is close to zilch…

    But Schanberg’s argument is that the U.S. was totally shocked at the low official number of POWs that Hanoi claimed to have, and that caused great consternation on the American side. Among other things, he cites a Page One NYT story to that effect, regarding the near total absence of as many as 300 POWs captured in Laos, and I checked the NYT archives and confirmed his claim. However, Schanberg suggests that since Nixon desperately needed peace, he had no alternative but to agree to the deal. Apparently, the \$3.25 billion in cash had been settled upon in the earlier negotiations, and the private letter merely formulized it.

    The reconstruction is that if America had actually paid the money, the Vietnamese would then have “found” the remaining POWs, including the ones held in Laos, and released them as well.

    • Replies: @Gene Tuttle
  34. @Fred Reed

    The whole thing has the feel of the half-dozen theories of what really happened on 9/11. Which proves nothing but colored the reporting.

    I read the above throwaway reference to 9/11 several times and cannot quite make sense of it. Could you clarify your position on this?

    I basically see three possibilities:

    (A) You studied the question and decided that the official U.S. government story is correct.

    (B) You studied the question and decided the U.S. government is lying but you can’t decide which of the “half dozen alternative theories” is true.

    (C) You never really studied the question so you don’t really know WTF you’re talking about.

    So, please, is it A, B, or C? Or if there is a D, by all means outline it.

    Thanks in advance…

    • Replies: @iffen
    , @Rurik
  35. Ron Unz says:

    What would have happened if the recipient had made it public? Do you think that the sender might have considered this possibility?

    Well, probably nothing. Anyway, it would presumably have been provided personally and phrased in a very cautious fashion.

    Here’s an interesting, somewhat parallel case. Elmo Zumwalt had been a top-ranking Nixon Administration military official and later ended up in a very bitter political conflict with Henry Kissinger. His files included a suggestion that Kissinger may have contacted Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin and suggested that “an accident” should be arranged for Zumwalt.

    Naturally, this is an *utterly* outrageous, even insane “conspiracy theory,” and I have no particular claim that it’s true. But Zumwalt apparently found it rather credible, it was described in an influential book favorably discussed in the NYT, and here’s an account of the details by the author in WIRED magazine, a perfectly mainstream publication:

  36. Fred Reed says:

    The number of reported live sightings strikes me as preposterous. The North wanted to keep their existence secret, if they existed, which means few would have had a chance to see them, especially in the Vietnam of the time. The numbers suggest that they must have been kept on parade.

    The notion that the military, at least below the level of political generals, wanted to leave soldiers in remote prisons runs contrary to the ethos of the military. While McCain is in my view an explosive war-loving nut job, leaving his fellow GIs in prison on purpose is enough of a stretch that it bers better reporting than it seems to have received. But I don’t know.

    FWIW, in Saigon just before the evacuation I knew a couple of blacks who had gotten tired of the war and just drifted away, easy in a Saigon full of soldiers. At least one I knew came out of hiding–it didn’t take much hiding–and wanted to leave with the accentuation. I don’t know whether he did. Notoriously a few soldiers went over the the VC during the war. When I arrived in Danang as a Marine, there were posters up about “Black Loc,” a deserter who the poster said rode around on a motorbike with a VC driver, collecting information.

    Whether any of these might have been free and reported as live sightings is pure speculation, but not impossible.

    • Replies: @iffen
  37. iffen says:
    @Fred Reed

    Whether any of these might have been free and reported as live sightings is pure speculation, but not impossible.

    This fits well with everything else so keep it coming.

  38. iffen says:
    @Jonathan Revusky

    D. You are an ignorant dickhead.

  39. It was the American government that had been treacherous, by refusing to pay the Vietnamese the \$3.25 billion in reparations…

    Treacherous is much too kind. In fact, the whole thing was worse than treachery from the time Woodrow Wilson ignored Ho Chi Minh’s appeals for aid in the 1920s , to turning on him after he’d been an ally in WW2 til now. In fact, there is no doubt that many Americans were killed by arms given to the Vietnamese freedom fighters by the US.

    I was a young, ignorant punk who volunteered and joined the army “to fight for my country,”but it took all of 2 weeks to see that we had no business there and that the whole thing was a disgusting pile of crimes.

    I’ve been a skeptic ever since, and to this day I consistently learn that every bit of it is warranted. Every day I learn new facts that show what a disgusting bunch of swine we have at the helm. It’s enraging.

    Question everything and trust no man in power.

  40. Rurik says:
    @Jonathan Revusky

    of the half-dozen theories of what really happened on 9/11.

    Hey JR,

    Yea, I saw that reference to 911 and it rubbed my rhubarb too

    Viet Nam was a lied-about war that ended the lives of tens of thousands of young American men and boys and destroyed exponentially more than that back home. Not to mention the hundreds of thousand or more Vietnamese lives and others that also died tragically and horrifically or worse. Like those POWs, some of which I’m sure are not disputed, but rather the scope

    and all started with a rotten lie about a false flag attack

    and now it’s deja vu all over again. Only this time it The Eternal WarⓊ – that has murdered and displaced millions, and now with our very own torture camp!

    yet few have the huevos (a word Fred is familiar with) to even question the (obvious) lies and false flag attack that brought us these civilization-ending wars.

    And yea, I put it down to nads, because Fred has the cognitive horsepower to see what’s what. Fred’s no dummy. So it isn’t for lack of dendrites and synapses that gift Fred his glib reticence, but rather I suspect something more akin to something I read from another gifted writer…

    If I’d written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people – including me – would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.

    ~ Hunter S. Thompson

    so yea, just for the record Fred, if you’re reading..

    there aren’t really ‘a half-dozen theories of what really happened on 9/11’, but basically two:

    one is written for all to read in the 911 Commission Report

    the other is that a group of Zionists and MIC scumfucks got together with some NYC real estate boyz and some dicks in some so=called think tanks- like the PNAC and CFR and others- and together with charming fellows like Dov Zakheim and Philip Zelikow and Ehud Barak and Lucky Larry and others.. decided to use their control of the CIA and Mossad and Western governments and media to commit the most egregious act of Jewish lightning that has ever been conceived, (and that’s saying a lot!)

    The details of which are just as murky as who killed JFK or Michael Hastings.

    But just as with the Viet Nam war, we know these bastards don’t give a flying fuck about human life or anything else other than their bottom line\$ and their petty and vain ‘will to power’.

    just sayin ..

  41. @Max Payne

    In Britain, the BBC is legally required to provide “balanced” reporting, which includes reporting both sides of any story; but they fell straight into the same trap as the other media.

    I remember an old BBC documentary on the MIA (Missing in Action) issue, that portrayed the MIA believers as deluded – much like the articles that Ron Unz describes here. The programme did some investigation of its own, and found the Vietnamese authorities to be helpful, but they didn’t locate any MIAs. They gave a figure for the American MIAs, which was in the hundreds; and another figure for Vietnamese MIAs, which was over 100,000. This gives the issue an illusory perspective. They also mentioned that one of the Americans counted as MIA was lost overboard from a ship that was over 100 miles from land.

    I guess that they weren’t looking in the right place. “MIA” – a term that was widely used to describe the missing men – immediately gives the search a different focus from “POW”. Did the BBC researchers read the peace agreement? Did they check with organisations such as the Red Cross for numbers of POWs, and whether arrangements for their return were honoured? Whatever the reason, they failed to discover the truth.

  42. I have no doubt that the POW coverup as Ron Unz describes is true and hope the truth is revealed to the public. The government has a long history of hiding inconvenient facts. The truth about the premeditated attack on the USS Liberty, the recall of jets sent to protect them by LBJ and the whitewash investigation. And most recently, the truth that the Saudis were behind the hijackers of the planes, the government kept it secret for 14 years and now states there is no smoking gun. One wonders then why was it kept secret for so long if the 28 pages did not constitute a smoking gun. And, of course, the greatest coverup was the controlled demolition (the inside job) of three building (one was never hit by a plane) on 9/11 when no steel structured high-rise has ever collapsed by fires that burned longer, hotter or more extensively than on the twin towers and building 7. And we are to believe that there was not enough evidence to convict the 2008 banksters or that Hillary was “careless” and didn’t purposely go against State Dept. regulations and lie about her activity.

    If we don’t hold politicians accountable (actual jail time or hanging for treason) they will lead us into a world war (Hillary and Nuland) or a economic disaster worse than the great depression.

  43. @Ron Unz

    I’m not aware of any indication that Americans who overwhelmingly reelected Nixon less than three months before the January 27th Agreement had held it against him for offering to “contribute to … postwar reconstruction” as was stipulated in the Agreement immediately available to the public. They were desperate for peace, as Schanberg suggested. The amount of \$3.25 billion mentioned in Nixon’s follow-up letter to Hanoi, though couched in caveats and wiggle room, might have involved more money than many thought reasonable at the time. But even if the “secret” follow-up letter had been made public immediately, instead of over four years later, the price for the return of POWs and US extrication from the war probably would have been accepted.

    Hanoi’s forces were allowed to remain in about 25% of South Vietnam under the Agreement. The US had given the Saigon side a massive arms increase prior to the Agreement. Immediately after the signing, Hanoi embarked on a huge logistical offensive to strengthen its own area of control, still reeling from its disastrous 1972 Easter offensive. It was no surprise that neither Vietnamese side intended to honor the Agreement. It would have been a surprise, however, if the US rushed to “reconstruct” the North given that the US reconstruction funds were to be disbursed “over five years,” and given that the North was in the process of “reconstructing” its part of the South to launch the ultimate offensive that conquered all of the country just over two years after the Agreement.

    I don’t doubt the “shock” Schanberg refers to about the low numbers of released POWs. I just doubt that fear of a public reproach to Washington for the price it agreed to in order to get all POWs home would have induced it to silence about the unaccounted for numbers that Hanoi allegedly held on to, in Laos or wherever.

    Still, he seems to have raised valid doubts about continued existence of POWs, transparency and motives that deserved more serious media attention.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  44. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    As PT Barnum has been quoted as saying….

    1) “There’s a sucker born every minute” (he actually said “every second”)

    2) “No one will ever go broke under-estimating the intelligence of the American public”

    These are the 2 bedrock principles which have guided our “Republic” for almost all of its existence.

    Did I just write “almost all” ? When will I ever learn ?

    • Replies: @travel lyte
  45. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Priss Factor

    I agree. The first casualty of war is truth. We are usually led to believe that every American life is to be treasured. War is always a dirty business; there is no such thing as a just war, no matter what. Everybody has their own agenda, whatever the occasion. I never believe when a comment is prefaced ‘being done for the benefit of all’; never so. War always lands every side into a quagmire of injustice. Problems are resolvable by Time, who waits for no man or woman. Iraq and Libya were ripe for change peacefully; Time had caught up with Hussein and Ghadaffi. Any instability post H/G would have been short with far less loss of life than what has transpired.

  46. utu says:

    How many? How many MIA are we talking about? Is there an official list?

  47. Mr. ANon says:
    @Priss Factor

    “I wonder if CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER was inspired by the Vietnam POW thing.”

    More likely “Clear and Present Danger” was inspired by Tom Clancy’s desire to build an addition to his mansion, or buy a surplus F-16, or something.

    • Replies: @Ivy
  48. American POW’s left in Vietnam??? Would it surprise anyone that N. Vietnam would do this in order to maintain some sort of leverage over the U.S. on the payment of \$3.25B in reparations, as they had done so to France previously? Especially since Nixon and Kissinger had killed any chance of their payment in the treaty itself by placing the approval in the hands of congress who they knew would never approve it. And then Nixon announces to the world that all the POW’s had been returned in spite of much evidence and motive to the contrary. Did Nixon know any of this? Or was he misinformed and played by the powers to be? This would explain Nixon’s famed paranoia, and perhaps Watergate. Who in power in the dysfunctional U.S. government would have the political courage to walk that one back after the 10+ years of the highly unpopular hell of Vietnam? Clearly, if N. Vietnam did hold back some POW’s, they clearly did not understand that western culture of France is not the same as western culture in the U.S….and that the sense of individual honor had long since been replaced by the personal desire for fame, fortune, power and profit. A huge miscalculation that likewise could not be walked back. So the political powers to be on both sides were strongly motivated to dump the POW issue down the memory hole. Who would have been more motivated to serve as the establishment’s hammer on this than McCain? In true Shakespearean fashion, his Tokyo Rose weakness in captivity put him in position to make a deal with the devil. Not only were his political aspirations tied to his success in keeping the POW issue stuffed down deep in the memory hole, but the public shame he clearly felt because of his weakness would get shoved right down the memory hole with it, and would even get redefined as bravery over time. This leads us to the POW agitators, who were clearly cut adrift by the U.S. government into a sea of darkness and ignorance. Is it so hard to imagine that many of these wou

  49. In an “in memory of” piece I go into why and how Sydney Schanberg “lost” his NYT column, based on interviews with him and on an article at the time it happened bt Pete Hamill in the Village Voice. The NYT obit skipped over this , as well as his MIAs research and publication, as well.


    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  50. Ivy says:
    @Mr. ANon

    On the subject of spy books, and nature imitating art, look at Debt of Honor (also by Tom Clancy) to read about a plane being flown into the Capitol. Did the 9/11 guys read that book?

    Then look at The Tailor of Panama (by John le Carré) to see the parallels to the Curveball source in the Iraq war.

  51. @Darin

    “If Vietnamese wanted ransom for the POW’s, why were they treating them so brutally and killing so many of them? ”

    Maybe the million or so dead Vietnamese colored their view of Americans?

    • Replies: @utu
  52. Ron Unz says:

    In an “in memory of” piece I go into why and how Sydney Schanberg “lost” his NYT column

    Interesting. The story I’d heard in 2010 from my late friend Alex Cockburn was that he’d discovered there was some sort of corrupt bargain going on, whereby the NYT agreed to support the Westside Highway in exchange for special privileges for NYT delivery vans or something like that, and his attempt to publish the story cost him his column.

    I’d been thinking of mentioning of it in my own piece, but decided it was too thinly sourced to include.

    • Replies: @zweigsgrischa
  53. Ron,

    The Boston Globe had a piece by Thomas Farragher on Schanberg.

    Farragher was a neighbor of the Schanbergs and had close connections to Sydney. I emailed him links to your article and suggested he read both yours and Sydney’s POW expose. Haven’t heard back from him. I would think that someone that close in the media may provide a glimmer of possibility that that story breaks through.

    Perhaps you could contact him?

  54. @Ron Unz

    Schanberg never mentioned anything about that when the highway stuff came up. He emphasized that Rosenthal was incensed by his criticism of the way New York’s newspapers dealt with the financial shenanigans and the suppression of the environmental damage involved driving the construction. The papers ignored or played both down. Rosenthal also adored” the beautiful and rich New Yorkers who stood to benefit most from the highway and knew that they belonged to his publisher’s social set. But, a deal about NYT vans may have been part of all that.

  55. utu says:
    @The Alarmist

    How did US or rather South Vietnam Regime treat North Vietnam POW’s? Have you heard about any who survived?

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  56. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This is a bizarre article, since the US has never been “honest” about Vietnam to begin with. If anything, the US will only fight “to stop communism” when it didn’t have a better lie on hand. Soldiers, many of them, were abandoned long before they were MIA in Vietnam. Not paying for a car isn’t equivalent to not paying for freedom, but when it comes to money and an opinion piece, those details don’t matter, unless you’re reading closely. The cult of MIA is a branded, commercial enterprise – their goal may have been honorable, but that’s long become a lesser priority.

  57. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website
    @Gene Tuttle

    If North Vietnam or commie Vietnam really wanted the money, they could have made the POW issue public.

    Then, public pressure would have forced US to pay the money to get the POWs back.

    \$3 billion for hostages seem reasonable, even by 70s money.

    Did Vietnam fear international pressure if it made it public?

  58. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says: • Website

    More interesting would be Viet Cong who were not officially soldiers.

  59. coyote says:
    @Max Payne

    The only Law is the law of the jungle. Absolute power has corrupted absolutely. The traitor, McCain, will probably never receive the punishment he deserves. Nor the others. To abandon our brothers-in-arms is the despicable act of cowards and traitors: they should all hang.

  60. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Feeling better?

  61. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Many of the comments seem to wander far afield, though they’re useful as food for thought.

    Here are two of my own, which might also seem off-topic:

    1) It’s my understandting that, after WWII, the Russians held a number of U.S. soldiers prisoner, who were not returned, ever. Supposedly, Boris Yeltsen confirmed this, yet nothing came of it.

    2) Related to this: think of how the U.S. government denied that there were any diseases, birth defects, etc., associated with the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam—and later, how the government denied there was any such thing as what came to be known as “Gulf War Syndrome” afflictions after the 1991 Gulf War. (Or, for that matter, think of the woeful treatment by the VA of veterans. Despite massive publicity in recent years, still nothing has changed.)

    Troops, sailors, and airmen are always regarded as expendable. Although we give lip service to the contrary, we in fact have shown little regard for these people. The “little people” in uniform never count, expect in politicians’ “patriotic” speeches on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and so forth.

    P.S. – If it’s true that U.S. soldiers were held by the Russians after WWII, they’ve long since died or been disposed of—as is surely also the case with the POWs held by Vietnam.

    Thanks for a great article, and for the links to other articles. And I liked nearly all the comments.

  62. Randal says:

    As a Brit the Vietnam prisoner issue itself is not particularly emotive or interesting for me in itself, but as an exemplar of US government behaviour and of US sphere mainstream media credibility it is, so thanks for an interesting piece.

    the \$3.25 billion in reparations that America had promised Vietnam and then never paid

    Worth considering that in conjunction with current US regime behaviour over the Iran agreement (and by “regime” I mean the bipartisan political elite viewed collectively, executive and legislature).

    Apparently, he firmly believed that government officials all lied about Vietnam during the war itself, but became scrupulously honest once it had ended.

    A bit like the people who expect us to believe that the British and US regimes suddenly started lying to us about foreign policy in around 2000 and magically stopped in 2008. And with the same kind of establishment media collaboration as well.

  63. Bill Corr says:

    Some French POWs were retained because of their skills as a Mr Fixit of some kind or other

  64. Bill Corr says:

    During the Vietnam War, the cosmetics heiress Cora Weiss occupied herself by acting as a conduit for

    communications between US POWs and their families – much to the impotent fury of the US


    My guess is that she would have much to say about this issue –

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