It’s the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.” “It disqualifies him as a presidential candidate.” “This is the end of his run.” So crowed the political operatives looking to take down Mr. Trump, and by so doing, protect the political status quo and ease themselves into positions of greater power. The egos in the anchor’s chair and the pundits opposite chimed in: “He’ll make the more serious candidates look more serious,” predicted the next Michael Oakeshott and favorite imbecile, S. E. Cupp.
The Donald is in the dock for desecrating one of the political establishment’s most sacred cows: Sen. John McCain. Speaking at a forum in Iowa, the popular presidential hopeful said these sagacious things about the Republican from Arizona:
“[McCain’s] not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” (On the same occasion, Trump ventured that he was not particularly for the Vietnam War, a position that should endear him to principled libertarians.)
Not only does Donald Trump not owe Sen. McCain an apology; McCain likely owes mea culpa to Trump—and to the very many Vietnam veterans and their families whom he is alleged to have betrayed.
Yes, the heroic prisoner-of-war pedigree upon which McCain has established his career and credibility is probably a myth.
For our purposes, the story begins with Sydney Schanberg, back in the days before American journalism became a circle jerk of power brokers.
Mr. Schanberg is one of “America’s most eminent journalists.” “For his accounts of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge in 1975,” Schanberg “was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting ‘at great risk.’ He is also the recipient of many other awards–including two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism.” Schanberg’s byline at The Nation magazine further reveals that:
The 1984 movie, The Killing Fields [watch it!], which won several Academy Awards, was based on his book ‘The Death and Life of Dith Pran’–a memoir of his experiences covering the war in Cambodia for the New York Times and of his relationship with his Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran.
Schanberg is also the author of a “remarkable 8,000-word exposé”: “McCain and the POW Cover-Up.” Here follow the opening paragraphs. They provide a précis of the forensic evidence collected by Schanberg against McCain as ally of Vietnam War POWs and men missing inaction:
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. …
… The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a Special Forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington and even sworn testimony by two defense secretaries that “men were left behind.” This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number–probably hundreds–of the US prisoners held in Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.
The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What’s more, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of “debunking” POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible. The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally produced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate “Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.” The chair was John Kerry, but McCain, as a POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine. …
The tale that has more twists than a serpent’s tail would be incomplete without mentioning another newsman, Ron Unz. First in his capacity as publisher of The American Conservative (July 1, 2010 cover story), and currently as editor-in-chief of The Unz Review—Mr. Unz has kept Schanberg’s voluminously sourced and criminally underexposed exposé alive in the alternative (intelligent) media.
Schanberg’s own journalistic and military man’s instincts were first piqued when “military officers [he] knew from that conflict began coming to [him] with maps and POW sightings and depositions by Vietnamese witnesses.”
Having served “in the Army in Germany during the Cold War and witnessing combat firsthand as a reporter in India and Indochina,” Schanberg had “great respect for those who fight for their country.” To my mind,” he explained, “we dishonored U.S. troops when our government failed to bring them home from Vietnam after the 591 others were released—and then claimed they didn’t exist. And politicians dishonor themselves when they pay lip service to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers only to leave untold numbers behind, rationalizing to themselves that it’s merely one of the unfortunate costs of war.”
The man is clearly not an intemperate sort. Some would say that to knowingly leave servicemen behind in the service of political ambition is treason.
Despite his position “as one of the highest-ranking editors at the New York Times,” Schanberg was forced to unmask Hanoi John, on September 18, 2008, in The Nation magazine. He recounts: “I took the data to the appropriate desks [at the New York Times] and suggested it was material worth pursuing. There were no takers.”
In the war-hero department, McCain is manifestly more beloved by the bien pensant elites than his “Democratic counterpart,” Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Democrat Bob Kerrey. While not a “single mention of McCain’s role in burying information about POWs” is to be found in the annals of the NYT; the paper of record—“a compliment [rightly] used these days as a cudgel”—took upon itself to expose (in its magazine) Bob Kerrey for having “ordered his men to massacre over a dozen innocent Vietnamese civilians—women, children, and infants,” in February of 1969.
McMussolini’s more recent record of devastation is an organic extension of his mythologized past:
“John McCain the politician,” wrote Trump in a USA Today editorial, “has made America less safe, sent our brave soldiers into wrong-headed foreign adventures, covered up for President Obama with the VA scandal and has spent most of his time in the Senate pushing amnesty. He would rather protect the Iraqi border than Arizona’s.”
Were Donald to dig deeper, he’d discover that McCain as champion of prisoners-of-war and men missing-in-action is as dubious as “John McCain the politician.”