Donald Trump is in trouble again, this time for his comments on John McCain not being the “hero” that many people think he is simply because he was a prisoner of war and supposedly tortured during the Vietnam War. There are good reasons to ask, Has anyone actually seen those “more scars than Frankenstein” that McCain allegedly has from being tortured? It actually might not be true.
Former American Conservative magazine publisher Ron Unz has this article on John McCain’s alleged role as a disseminator of communist propaganda while a POW in the Vietnam War, and notes that McCain may have lied about being tortured in order to cover up his alleged propagandizing on behalf of the North Vietnamese. Unz links to this article from Counterpunch which goes into detail about it. The article in Counterpunch refers to two Vietnam War vets who were also POWs and who are extremely skeptical of McCain’s claims, referring to this article from the Phoenix New Times. Unz also refers to the lengthy article by Sydney Schanberg who in 2010 wrote about the other scandal that most people don’t know about, that of McCain along with John Kerry as U.S. Senators engaging in official cover-up of the many American Vietnam War POWs who were left behind in Vietnam. If you are interested in all this, check out those articles.
So, Donald Trump may actually be right that McCain is no hero.
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.
I must reemphasize that I am not an expert on the Vietnam War and my cursory investigation is nothing like the sort of exhaustive research that would be necessary to establish a firm conclusion on this troubling case. I have merely tried to provide a plausible account of McCain’s war record and highlight some of the important pieces of evidence that a more thorough researcher should consider. Unlike the documentation of the POW cover up accumulated by Schanberg and others, which I regard as overwhelmingly conclusive, I think the best that may be said about my reconstruction of McCain’s wartime history is that it seems more likely correct than not. However, I should mention that when I discussed some of these items with Schanberg in 2010 and suggested that John McCain had been the Tokyo Rose of the Vietnam War, he considered it a very apt description.