Jul. 20, 2015

John McCain - a/k/a Toyko Rose

From the Desk of Harold Poole

John McCain: When “Tokyo Rose” Ran for President

July 20, 2015

Ron Unz

7/20/2015

[The recent remarks of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have triggered a political media firestorm regarding the Vietnam War record of Sen. John McCain, resulting in a surge of renewed traffic to my “Tokyo Rose” piece, which I am now republishing below.

An even greater flood of attention has gone to Sydney Schanberg’s original 8,000 word article, which I had published as a cover story for The American Conservative several years ago. I urge people to read that remarkable expose.

As a Pulitzer Prize winning former top editor at The New York Times, there are few living Americans who can match Schanberg’s journalistic authority in this subject, and the fact that our entire American media has spent years entirely ignoring the explosive and massively-documented charges of one of its most distinguished members demonstrates to all of us that we are indeed living in the world of “American Pravda.” I also include a link to my own discussion of Schanberg’s remarkable findings]...

My earliest recollections of John McCain are vague. I think he first came to my attention during the mid-1980s, perhaps after 1982 when he won an open Congressional seat in Arizona or more likely once he was elected in 1986 to the U.S. Senate seat of retiring conservative icon Barry Goldwater. All media accounts about him seemed strongly favorable, describing his steadfastness as a POW during more than five grim years of torture by his Vietnamese jailers, with the extent of his wartime physical suffering indicated by the famous photo showing him still on crutches as he was greeted by President Nixon many months after his return from enemy captivity. I never had the slightest doubts about this story or his war-hero status.

McCain’s public image took a beating at the end of the 1980s when he became one of the senators caught up in the Keating Five financial scandal, but he managed to survive that controversy unlike most of the others…I feared his notoriously hot temper might easily get us into additional disastrous wars.

Everything suddenly changed in June 2008 when I read a long article by an unfamiliar writer on the leftist Counterpunch website. Shocking claims were made that McCain may never have been tortured and that he instead spent his wartime captivity collaborating with his captors and broadcasting Communist propaganda, a possibility that seemed almost incomprehensible to me given all the thousands of contrary articles that I had absorbed over the decades from the mainstream media. How could this one article on a small website be the truth about McCain’s war record and everything else be total falsehood?...However, those new doubts about McCain were still in my mind a few months later when I stumbled upon Sidney Schanberg’s massively documented expose about McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up, a vastly greater scandal. This time I was presented with a mountain of hard evidence gathered by one of America’s greatest wartime journalists, a Pulitzer Prize winning former top editor at The New York Times. In the years since then, other leading journalists have praised Schanberg’s remarkable research, now giving his conclusions the combined backing of four New York Times Pulitzer Prizes, while two former Republican Congressmen who had served on the Intelligence Committee have also strongly corroborated his account.

In 1993 the front page of the New York Times broke the story that a Politburo transcript found in the Kremlin archives fully confirmed the existence of the additional POWs, and when interviewed on the PBS Newshour former National Security Advisors Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that the document was very likely correct and that hundreds of America’s Vietnam POWs had indeed been left behind. In my opinion, the reality of Schanberg’s POW story is now about as solidly established as anything can be that has not yet received an official blessing from the American mainstream media. And the total dishonesty of that media regarding both the POW story and McCain’s leading role in the later cover up soon made me very suspicious of all those other claims regarding John McCain’s supposedly heroic war record. Our American Pravda is simply not to be trusted on any “touchy” topics.

I have no personal knowledge of the Vietnam War myself nor do I possess expertise in that area of history. But after encountering Schanberg’s expose in 2008, I soon got in touch with someone having exactly those strengths, a Vietnam veteran who later became a professor at one of our military service academies. At first, he was quite cagey regarding the questions I raised, but once he had read through Schanberg’s lengthy article, he felt he could respond more freely and he largely confirmed the claims, partly based on certain information he personally possessed. He said he found it astonishing that in these days of the Internet the POW scandal had not attracted vastly more attention, and couldn’t understand why the media was so uniformly unwilling to touch the topic.

He also had some very interesting things to say about John McCain’s wartime record. According to him, it was hardly a secret in veterans’ circles that McCain had spent much of the war producing Communist propaganda broadcasts since these had regularly been played in the prisoner camps as a means of breaking the spirits of those American POWs who resisted collaboration. Indeed, he and some of his friends had speculated about who currently possessed copies of McCain’s damning audio and video tapes and wondered whether they might come out during the course of the presidential campaign. Over the years, other Vietnam veterans have publicly leveled similar charges, and Schanberg had speculated that McCain’s leading role in the POW cover up might have been connected with the pressure he faced due to his notorious wartime broadcasts.

In late September 2008 another fascinating story appeared in my morning New York Times. An intrepid reporter decided to visit Vietnam and see what McCain’s former jailers thought of the possibility that their onetime captive might soon reach the White House, that the man they had spent years brutally torturing could become the next president of the United States. To the journalist’s apparent amazement, the former jailers seemed enthusiastic about the prospects of a McCain victory, saying that they hoped he would win since they had become such good friends during the war and had worked so closely together; if they lived in America, they would certainly all vote for him. When asked about McCain’s claims of “cruel and sadistic” torture, the head of the guard unit dismissed those stories as being just the sort of total nonsense that politicians, whether in America or in Vietnam, must often spout in order to win popularity. A BBC correspondent reported the same statements.

Let us consider the implications of this story. Throughout his entire life John McCain has been notable for having a very violent temper and also for holding deep grudges. How plausible does it seem that the men who allegedly spent years torturing him would be so eager to see him reach a position of supreme world power?

But what about the famous photo, showing McCain still on crutches even months after his release from captivity? In early September 2008, someone discovered archival footage from a Swedish news crew which had filmed the return of the POWs, and uploaded it to YouTube. We see a healthy-looking John McCain walking off the plane from Vietnam, having a noticeable limp but certainly without any need of crutches. After returning home he had eventually entered Bethesda Naval Hospital for corrective surgery on some of his wartime injuries, and that recent American surgery was what explained his crutches in the photo with Nixon.

It is certainly acknowledged that considerable numbers of American POWs were indeed tortured in Vietnam, but it is far from clear that McCain was ever one of them. As the original Counterpunch article pointed out, throughout almost the entire war McCain was held at a special section for the best-behaving prisoners, which was where he allegedly produced his Communist propaganda broadcasts and perhaps became such good friends with his guards as they later claimed. Top-ranking former POWs held at the same prison, such as Colonels Ted Guy and Gordon “Swede” Larson, have gone on the record saying they are very skeptical regarding McCain’s claims of torture.

I have taken the trouble to read through John McCain’s earliest claims of his harsh imprisonment, a highly detailed 12,000 word first person account published under his name in U.S. News & World Report in May 1973, just a few weeks after his release from imprisonment. The editorial introduction notes the “almost total recall” seemingly demonstrated by the young pilot just out of captivity, and portions of the story strike me as doubtful, perhaps drawn from the long history of popular imprisonment fiction stretching back to Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. Would a young navy pilot so easily develop and remember a “tap code” to extensively communicate with others across thick prison walls? And McCain describes himself as having a “philosophical bent,” spending his years of solitary confinement reviewing in his head all the many history books he had read, trying to make sense of human history, a degree of intellectualizing never apparent in his life either before or after.

One factual detail, routinely emphasized by his supporters, is his repeated claim that except for signing a single written statement very early in his captivity and also answering some questions by a visiting French newsman, he had staunchly refused any hint of collaboration with his captors, despite torture, solitary confinement, endless threats and beatings, and offers of rewards. Perhaps. But that original Counterpunch article provided the link to the purported text of one of McCain’s pro-Hanoi propaganda broadcasts as summarized in a 1969 UPI wire service story, and I have confirmed its authenticity by locating the resulting article that ran in Stars & Stripes at the same time. So if crucial portions of McCain’s account of his imprisonment are seemingly revealed to be self-serving fiction, how much of the rest can we believe? If his pro-Communist propaganda broadcasts were so notable that they even reached the news pages of one of America’s leading military publications, it seems quite plausible that they were as numerous, substantial, and frequent as his critics allege

When I later discussed these troubling matters with an eminent political scientist who has something of a military background, he emphasized that McCain’s history can only be understood in the context of his father, a top-ranking admiral who then served as commander of all American forces in the Pacific Theater, including our troops in Vietnam. Indeed, the alleged headline of the UPI wire story had been “PW [Prisoner of War] Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral,” highlighting that connection. Obviously, for reasons both of family loyalty and personal standing it would have been imperative for John McCain’s father and namesake to hush up the terrible scandal of having had his son serve as a leading collaborator and Communist propagandist during the war and his exalted rank gave him the power to do so. Furthermore, just a few years earlier the elder McCain had himself performed an extremely valuable service for America’s political elites, organizing the official board of inquiry that whitewashed the potentially devastating “Liberty Incident,” with its hundreds of dead and wounded American servicemen, so he certainly had some powerful political chits he could call in.

Placed in this context, John McCain’s tales of torture make perfect sense. If he had indeed spent almost the entire war eagerly broadcasting Communist propaganda in exchange for favored treatment, there would have been stories about this circulating in private, and fears that these tales might eventually reach the newspaper headlines, perhaps backed by the hard evidence of audio and video tapes. An effective strategy for preempting this danger would be to concoct lurid tales of personal suffering and then promote them in the media, quickly establishing McCain as the highest profile victim of torture among America’s returned POWs, an effort rendered credible by the fact that many American POWs had indeed suffered torture.

Once the public had fully accepted McCain as our foremost Vietnam war-hero and torture-victim, any later release of his propaganda tapes would be dismissed as merely proving that even the bravest of men had their breaking point. Given that McCain’s father was one of America’s highest-ranking military officers and both the Nixon Administration and the media had soon elevated McCain to a national symbol of American heroism, there would have been enormous pressure on the other returning POWs, many of them dazed and injured after long captivity, not to undercut such an important patriotic narrative. Similarly, when McCain ran for Congress and the Senate a decade or so later, stories of his torture became a central theme of his campaigns and once again constituted a powerful defense against any possible rumors of his alleged “disloyalty.”

And so the legend grew over the decades until it completely swallowed the man, and he became America’s greatest patriot and war hero, with almost no one even being aware of the Communist propaganda broadcasts that had motivated the story in the first place….”[http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-when-toyko-rose-ran-for-[president]

******

 

McCain Poses With Alleged Terrorists -- Proof That Involvement in Syria Is a Bad Idea

Posted: 05/30/2013 1:34 pm EDT Updated: 07/30/2013 5:12 am EDT

 

The photo of John McCain posing with terrorists and kidnappers in Syria encapsulates, perfectly, everything wrong with the position of McCain and others that the U.S. ought to insert itself into Syria's civil war.

To recap the past few days, talk of arming the Syrian rebels is heating up. In the Senate, the Committee on Foreign Affairs cast a 15-3 vote to authorize arming and training the rebels -- Senators Tom Udall, Chris Murphy, and Rand Paul being the three courageous dissenters. Then, the Russians announced the shipment of advanced air defense missiles to the government of Bashar al-Assad. The European Union reacted in kind, voting to allow the arming of the opposing rebels.

It was revealed this morning that McCain, during his personal mission to Syria to meet with rebels, appeared in photos with Mohammed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, two members of the Sunni "Northern Storm" brigade, which kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shia pilgrims, who were on their way back to Lebanon, from Iran. The group is still holding nine of the hostages.

This should give everyone pause when it comes to ramping up support for the rebels by arming them.  McCain's office says that the senator didn't know who they were, and doesn't support their terrorist acts. I don't doubt that. But it precisely is the point. If a U.S. senator can unwittingly pose for pictures with terrorists in Syria, how can we guarantee that the arms McCain supports sending there won't also end up in the same place McCain did -- with terrorists? The simple answer is that we can't.

What's worse, the Sunni side of the war, which McCain wants to support with arms, is not just affiliated with these kidnappers and terrorists, but also al Qaeda-affiliated groups, and Iraqi Sunni insurgents -- the very same Iraqi Sunnis who killed American troops, and the Iraqi Army. That would be the Iraqi Army that McCain thought we should spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives to establish. In fact, Syrian rebels affiliated with al Qaeda are responsible for the killing of nine Iraqi troops. We have every reason to expect that they will continue to target the Iraqi Army when they can.

The fact of the matter is, the other side is no better. The government of Bashar al-Assad has material support and manpower lent by Hezbollah and the Iranian government, which also targeted American troops in Iraq, by sending their advanced weaponry over the border. There's one more group supporting Assad -- Iraqi Shia fighters. These would be many of the same Iraqi Shia who also targeted and killed American troops. Two of the most prominent Shia militias, Asaib al-Haq and Kata'ib Hezbollah, have already acknowledged their role in the Syrian war, on the side of Assad. Along with the Mahdi Army (which also has fighters in Syria), these groups were responsible for countless American deaths in Iraq.

So, yes, in many senses, the Assad regime and its supporters are enemies of the United States. They are responsible for targeting and killing Americans. But, in this case, the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. The enemy of our enemy killed American and Iraqi troops, and still seeks to bring down the government in Iraq of Nouri al-Maliki. Giving them arms would greatly advance that cause.

America has no natural ally in this fight. In fact, no matter who America supports, it ends up a net loss for us, just like in the war in Iraq. For that reason, those who stood up against the war, either from the outset or later on, have a duty to stand up against the idea of sending arms or training to Syrian rebels. For just as unleashing the bubbling sectarian conflict in Iraq and inserting ourselves into it was wrong, so is jumping right in to the same sectarian conflict in Syria. At some point, we must learn that we will never, ever successfully maneuver this millennia-old fight, and the best move for our own security is to stay out.

No matter how hard some may say we'll try to make sure that our weapons only end up in the hands of good Syrians who only want freedom for themselves, all they need to do is look at the picture of Senator McCain this morning to know that is just not possible.

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