Less than a month into his tour of duty off the coast of Vietnam, Lieutenant John McCain was shot down about 3,500 feet above Hanoi on a bombing run. He spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war; he was held in solitary confinement, tortured, beaten until he could not stand. An admiral’s son and a Navy pilot, he came to believe, like many pilots, that the war had been winnable, if only it had been fought right. Which he still believes about Iraq.
McCain never had a chance to deal with the reality of it all. As a fighter jock sleeping on an aircraft carrier every night, he was unlikely to grasp the big picture in a full one-year tour but there was no way he *got* it in his first month.
Any one of us aviators who had been shot down so early and tested so rigorously would never have been able to perceive the absurdity of it all. Now that I know that John McCain was such a neophyte upon capture, I cannot take his views on Vietnam—or Iraq—seriously. I respect his experience: one that I may not have met as well. Interestingly, US Vet Dispatch, a rabid pro-war site supporting veterans, says that the Admiral’s son was not particularly skilled at being a pilot or being a prisoner of war, at least according to their report, which reads like something in Rolling Stone.
[In 1965-66,] McCain was in flight training and having different troubles. Surviving a crash unscathed in Corpus Christi Bay, he managed to later collide another training plane into power lines in Spain.
Despite the crashes, he was allowed to continue flying as a Navy aviator. Luck, or maybe it was the admiral, had smiled on him…
On Oct. 26, 1967, the admiral’s son while flying his 23rd mission over North Vietnam, once again fell from the sky, this time landing in the hands of a brutal enemy. He was beaten and bayoneted. His shoulder was smashed and his right calf was nearly perpendicular to his knee.
The severely wounded McCain was finally thrown on the back of a truck and hauled to the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp. Immediately, his captors began to interrogate him using sadistic methods they had perfected on hundreds of captured U.S. servicemen before him.
His interrogators demanded military information. When he refused, his guards kicked and pounded him mercilessly.
McCain admits that three to four days after he was captured, he promised the Vietnamese, “I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.”
McCain also admits that the Vietnamese rushed him to a hospital, but denies he was given “special medical treatment” because of his promise.
He claims he was given medical care normally unavailable to captured Americans only because the Vietnamese learned he was the son of Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., the soon-to-be commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific including those fighting in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese figured that because POW McCain’s father was of such high military rank that he was of royalty or the governing circle in the United States. Thereafter the communists bragged that they had captured “the crown prince”and treated him as a “special prisoner.”
Less than two weeks after McCain was taken to a hospital, Hanoi’s press began quoting him giving specific military information, including the name of the aircraft carrier on which he was based, numbers of U.S. pilots that had been lost, the number of aircraft in his flight, information about location of rescue ships and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place.
There is also evidence that McCain received “special” medical treatment from a Soviet physician.
After he was out of the hospital, McCain continued cooperating with the North Vietnamese for a period of three years. He made radio broadcasts for the communists and met with foreign delegations, including the Cubans. He was interviewed by at least two North Vietnamese generals one of whom was Vietnam’s national hero, General Vo Nguyen Giap.
On June 4, 1969, a U.S. wire service story headlined “PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral,” reported one of McCain’s radio broadcasts: “Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of the United States commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since being taken prisoner.
“The broadcast was beamed to American servicemen in South Vietnam as a part of a propaganda series attempting to counter charges by U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird that American prisoners are being mistreated in North Vietnam.”
McCain says he violated the Code of Conduct only when the North Vietnamese brutally tortured him. He further claims that he was so distraught afterwards that he tried to commit suicide. He has never explained why his “aid to the enemy” continued for more than three years.
Even though there are no reports in the public record from other POWs who witnessed McCain’s claims of torture and heroics or his attempted suicide, the American media has accepted his version of events word for word, no questions asked.
John McCain is an expert on what it’s like to be captured after a few weeks of a cameo role as a Navy fighter pilot. but he’s no expert on the Vietnam experience. Though I never experienced a fraction of the pain imposed on Senator McCain, I am, relatively speaking, an expert on the reality of the South Vietnamese experience which was, I assert, the point of the entire sordid exercise.
And that’s the point of all this. We haven’t lost in Iraq. Like Vietnam, we’ve simply taken on a project that we never could have won. That truth brings on board a more important truth: If you’ve never experienced combat, yet you still embrace the undefined Victory-in-Iraq notion, you are a fool.
There are a lot of heroes pecking at keyboards.