Waar John McCain’s reputatie voor een groot deel berust op zijn heldhaftigheid tijdens zijn gevangenschap onder de Noord-Vietnamezen, is het merkwaardig dat hij gedurende zijn senatorschap stelselmatig het zoeken naar eventueel achtergehouden andere Amerikaanse Prisoners of War heeft tegengewerkt. Dit, hieronder goed onderbouwde, verwijt, zal hem geen goed doen in het verkiezingsproces.
Dat zijn voortdurend refereren aan die heldhaftigheid kritische reacties zou uitlokken – te vergelijken met de kritiek van tijdgenoten op John Kerry’s war record – was voorzienbaar. Enkel reacties staan helemaal onderaan. Een jaargenoot praat ook over McCain’s ‘bellicose’ temperament die hem ongeschikt maak voor het presidentschap. Verder hebben Vietnam Veterans Against McCain zich georganiseerd en tonen hun grieven op Youtube
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 people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.
Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it, even as McCain has made his military service and POW history the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War have also turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn’t talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.
The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small..
McCain has insisted again and again that all the evidence has been woven together by unscrupulous deceivers to create an insidious and unpatriotic myth. He calls it the work of the "bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists." He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as "hoaxers," "charlatans," "conspiracy theorists" and "dime-store Rambos." Family members who have personally pressed McCain to end the secrecy have been treated to his legendary temper. 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.
The only explanation McCain has ever offered for his leadership on legislation that seals POW information is that he believes the release of such information would only stir up fresh grief for the families of those who were never accounted for in Vietnam. Of the scores of POW families I’ve met over the years, only a few have said they want the books closed without knowing what happened to their men. All the rest say that not knowing is exactly what grieves them.
It’s not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior. That confession was played endlessly over the prison loudspeaker system at Hoa Lo–to try to break down other prisoners–and was broadcast over Hanoi’s state radio. Reportedly, he confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed a school and other civilian targets. The Pentagon has copies of the confessions but will not release them. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen a nonredacted copy of McCain’s debriefing when he returned from captivity, which is classified but can be made public by McCain…