McCain's treatment of the MIA issue
At Thursday's memorial service for John McCain, former vice president Joe Biden delivered a lengthy eulogy, one that is being praised for its heartfelt emotion and (like McCain himself) for its non-partisanship.
I'm sorry, but just about anything uttered by Joe Biden sends the needle on my Bravo Sierra meter edging toward the red zone. I find the man a study in disingenuousness. In this case, the needle swung widely on this particular sentence:
He loved basic values, fairness, honesty, dignity, respect, giving hate no safe harbor, leaving no one behind and understanding Americans were part of something much bigger than ourselves.
The phrase that really made my ears perk up, and pegged the needle on the BS meter, was the one about "leaving no one behind."
Really? That struck me as a brazen non sequitur when speaking of John McCain, when a strong case can be made that, over many years, McCain was instrumental in blocking or suppressing information about Americans who were very much left behind – perhaps hundreds of American servicemen who were Missing in Action in Vietnam and who are believed to have been kept alive by Hanoi after the war's end, perhaps to be used as "leverage" for reparations.
Sydney Schanberg (on whose book The Death and Life of Dith Pran the movie The Killing Fields was based) wrote about this in The American Conservative back in 2010. He told how:
... TAC publisher Ron Unz had discovered an astonishing account of the role the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, had played in suppressing information about what happened to American soldiers missing in action in Vietnam.
John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.
Schanberg's article is far too lengthy to quote here in anything close to its entirety. But it appears quite well documented and can be accessed here.
Those who attempted to put McCain on the spot regarding Americans left behind in Vietnam were met with a dose of McCain's famous defensive bristling posture. Schamberg writes:
Many stories have been written about McCain's explosive temper, so volcanic that colleagues are loath to speak openly about it. One veteran congressman who has observed him over the years asked for confidentiality and made this brief comment: "This is a man not at peace with himself."
He was certainly far from calm on the Senate POW committee. He browbeat expert witnesses who came with information about unreturned POWs. Family members who have personally faced McCain and pressed him to end the secrecy also have been treated to his legendary temper. He has screamed at them, insulted them, brought women to tears. Mostly his responses to them have been versions of: How dare you question my patriotism? In 1996, he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.
Then, as now (amid the current gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over his passing), the mainstream press was cooperative if not complicit in making sure that the truth about McCain's efforts to keep MIA families (and the rest of us) in the dark wasn't allowed to intrude on the narrative of McCain as a hero. But perhaps now the truth will (begin to) out.
Hat Tip to Lt. Col. Damian Housman, USAF (Retired)