John Mccain POW/MIA Committee
THE SEPARATION OF MYTH FROM REALITY
Sydney Schanberg is a former New York Times reporter who has written for an untold number of newspapers, magazines and online news sites. When he began to cover a series for Newsday on the POW/MIA situation in Indochina regions in 1991, he saw this as an opportunity to look into the rarely-covered news piece that surrounded if and how many POWs/MIAs were left behind in those areas of the world.
The Nixon administration had gone to painstaking lengths to bring the Vietnam War to an end and, in an effort to do it as quickly and succinctly as possible, developed a talking points narrative that basically surrounded the men who were returned to us by the enemy as the “entire number of POW/MIA soldiers/airmen,” no matter how many or how few were released. IN OTHER WORDS, IF OVER 1,200 WERE BEING HELD AND ONLY 591 WERE RETURNED, THEN 591 WAS THE ENTIRE NUMBER OF MEN THAT WERE BEING HELD BY THE NORTH VIETNAMESE!
And what of the others who were not released by the enemy, but kept behind as bargaining chips for future assurances of reparations? Well, that's the real rub. According to the Pentagon and the Nixon administration's statement at the time that 591 were released (including McCain), that was the total number of men who had been held captive and NO OTHERS REMAINED BEHIND!
Schanberg knew there were holes in this narrative…huge, gaping holes. So, he dug and he dug.
One of the sharpest critics of the Pentagon’s performance was an insider, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eugene Tighe, who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during the 1970s. He openly challenged the Pentagon’s position that no live prisoners existed, saying that the evidence proved otherwise. McCain was a bitter opponent of Tighe, who was eventually pushed into retirement.
Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or sought to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general’s briefing of the Hanoi politburo, discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar in 1993. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords. The general, Tran Van Quang, told the politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war’s end as leverage to ensure getting war reparations from Washington.
So, here is where the mystery starts. An American scholar was doing research in 1993 at the Soviet archives in Moscow when he suddenly stumbled on an obscure record that shockingly claimed that a scant four months before the release of the American POW/MIA prisoners, the North Vietnamese general told Soviet politburo members that they were currently holding over 1,200 prisoners, but “would keep many of them” to ensure Washington was going to play fair.
Nixon was informed that the North Vietnamese, in order to entertain any notion of peace or of releasing any prisoners, would first require a pledge from the US that they would pay reparations for a wrongful war. Nixon's administration attempted to convince them that they would pay reparations, but only AFTER prisoners were released. The North Vietnamese were not playing that game.
Therefore, in a classic Washington double-speak technique, Nixon agreed to the terms, but that in order to make sure that both sides kept up their bargain, the issue of reparations would be left up to a vote in Congress. Either the North Vietnamese didn't get the correct translation, or they fell for the old Washington trick, because Nixon and Kissinger were quite aware that Congress WOULD NEVER PAY A RANSOM. Either way, they released 591 of the 1,205 prisoners and awaited the ransom of $3.5B before they would release the rest of the prisoners.
The ransom, according to CIA officials, never materialized. This lingered between the two nations for years on end until finally, when it became clear that no such payments had ever intended to be made, the North Vietnamese resigned to the fact that these leftover prisoners were no longer of any value or bargaining power and executed them.
Remember that the Pentagon and the administration's official statement was that the 591 prisoners who were returned constituted the entire amount of living POWs/MIAs there in that region; therefore, no entertaining of any other notion was acceptable. The Pentagon stood by the Nixon administration's statement.
And so did newly-minted Senator from Arizona, John McCain.
For many reasons, including the absence of a political constituency for the missing men other than their families and some veterans’ groups, very few Americans are aware of the POW story and of McCain’s role in keeping it out of public view and denying the existence of abandoned POWs. That is because McCain has hardly been alone in his campaign to hide the scandal.
The Arizona senator, now the Republican candidate for president, has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon’s, and thus of every CIA director, Pentagon chief, and national security adviser, not to mention Dick Cheney, who was George H.W. Bush’s Defense secretary. Their biggest accomplice has been an indolent press, particularly in Washington.
An early and critical McCain secrecy move involved 1990 legislation that started in the House of Representatives. A brief and simple document, it was called “the Truth Bill” and would have compelled complete transparency about prisoners and missing men. Its core sentence reads: “[The] head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including live-sighting reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict, shall make available to the public all such records held or received by that department or agency.”
Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon (and thus McCain), the bill went nowhere.
This is a head-scratcher. The Truth Bill, which would have told the entire story of what had actually occurred during the release of the prisoners, was being vociferously opposed by a man who was part of this whole story. But why?
Reintroduced the following year, it again disappeared. But a few months later, a new measure, known as “the McCain Bill,” suddenly appeared. By creating a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the documents could emerge—only records that revealed no POW secrets—it turned the Truth Bill on its head. The McCain bill became law in 1991 and remains so today. So crushing to transparency are its provisions that it actually spells out for the Pentagon and other agencies several rationales, scenarios, and justifications for not releasing any information at all—even about prisoners discovered alive in captivity. Later that year, the Senate Select Committee was created, where Kerry and McCain ultimately worked together to bury evidence.
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 forced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The chairman was John Kerry. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.
This type of bullying on the part of McCain went on for years. Anyone with any evidence, no matter how damning and compelling or how scant (but compelling nonetheless) was dismissed out-of-hand by the committee and McCain. Both McCain and Kerry made every effort to ensure that all attempts to make any information about Hanoi Hilton and the POWs/MIAs release and their actual numbers disappear forever.
Case in point: The sister of a captain in the Air Force who was attempting to find answers and who was speaking with the Select Committee in Washington, asked a simple question about an operation called, Pave Spike. To you or me, this really would not have made an impression. But to pilots specially trained in the use and employment of this pave spike device, this was explosive!
On Nov. 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, the sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee’s public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.
The devices were motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. Shaped on one end like a spike with an electronic pod and antenna on top, they were designed to stick in the ground as they fell. Air Force planes would drop them along the Ho Chi Minh trail and other supply routes. The devices, though primarily sensors, also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground—a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang —could manually enter data into the sensor. All data were regularly collected electronically by U.S. planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge or contradiction by the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors—as U.S. pilots had been trained to do—no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POWs who were lost in Laos. Alfond added, according to the transcript, “This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE.”
McCain attended that committee hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel’s work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face turning anger-pink, he accused her of “denigrating” his “patriotism.” The bullying had its effect—she began to cry.
After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned away and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don’t know anything about those 20 POWs.
This is not the first time that McCain is said to have treated relatives of POWs/MIAs this way. In fact, there are dozens of documented cases where this disrespectful, lying. snake in the grass, Swamp RINO treated families, veterans, fellow service members and POW/MIA groups with the same demeaning practice.
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.
But even without answers to what may be hidden in the recesses of McCain’s mind, one thing about the POW story is clear: if American prisoners were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that’s something the American public ought to know about.
So many things that don't add up have been said about this man and it is no wonder that he is so despised by the GOP voters. If even a quarter of what has been evidenced here is true, it is enough to have this man thrown out of office as a matter of protocol.
It gets worse…so much worse.
Move to the Next Page to learn the truth and McCain's captivity, where he behaved more like a COLLABORATOR and propaganda tool for his North Vietnamese captors than an actual captive: