August 10, 2016
Is there anyone who hasn’t heard about the Trump-Khan fracas? To recap: on Thursday, Aug. 28, during the waning hours of the Democratic Party Convention, Khizr Khan, an attorney and the father of Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, a 27-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq in 2004, strode to the podium at the Democrat Convention and castigated the GOP presidential candidate for his views on immigration and the Khan family’s religion of Islam. Transcript of remarks HERE.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he [Capt. Humayun Khan] never would have been in America,” Khizr Khan exclaimed. “Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership.
“He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you're asking Americans to trust you with their future.”
Khan’s remarks were brief and included a demand that Trump read the U.S. Constitution and a pitch to the convention goers that they vote for Hillary in November.
Upon learning of this, Trump, who is not noted for shyness, tweeted: “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over TV doing the same – Nice!”
In a later statement Saturday night, Trump acknowledged that Capt. Khan is a “hero” but added “the real problems here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm.”
Pretty innocuous stuff, but the twitter-verse went wild. Here was a “gotcha” situation which I suspect the GOP elite were hoping would happen. Wasting no time, a bunch of Republican lawmakers on Monday, Aug. 1, joined Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to denounce Trump and accuse him of “defaming” Khizr Khan, his wife and family.
McCain declared in a statement that Trump does not represent the GOP.
“While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” he said.
“In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States—to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”
I don’t want to rehash the Trump-Khan fracas. My gripe is not with either of those gentlemen – it’s with Sen. McCain and his actions in another matter altogether: the betrayal of the American soldiers who were left behind in Vietnam and their families, and his behavior towards those who sought his help.
Vietnam. Do you remember? In 1973 we were told that the Vietnamese government had agreed to release all the prisoners they held. No one knew exactly how many but sources indicated it was close to 2,000. Less than 600 men were flown home, and President Nixon assured America that none had been left behind. But there were always nagging doubts and questions. After all, 591 returnees is a small number, and hundreds more had been expected. Over the years evidence that contradicted the official story leaked out, including reports of sightings of Americans. It became apparent that Nixon had been less than truthful, and people demanded that Congress conduct serious investigations. The Pentagon and other factions in government opposed such efforts. Aiding and abetting the ongoing cover-up was Sen. John McCain.
When I read the statement slamming Trump, my immediate reaction was: how does Sen. McCain have the gall to criticize Trump for supposedly disparaging grieving family members? Of all the senators and congressmen who joined the pile-on, he is the least morally qualified to do so, let alone be the leader of the pack.
The fact is that when it comes to insulting grieving parents and siblings who have lost loved ones in combat, nobody comes close to McCain or is less deserving of the esteem in which he is held. He was insufferably rude to expert witnesses and family members who testified at hearings, and although he had been a POW himself, as a senator he backed government efforts to close the books and shut down further investigation into the fate of solders that were likely, at that time, to be held in captivity by the Vietnamese.
Here’s a video of the Arizona senator at a committee hearing, bullying a witness who is begging for information about a particular classified program and a continuation of the committee investigation which McCain wanted to close down.
And here are a few paragraphs describing the witness and her testimony from an article by Sydney Schanberg, one of America’s most noted Vietnam War journalists and arguably the world’s foremost authority on the POW/MIA issue. Schanberg’s reporting “at great risk” won him a Pulitzer Prize, and his book on Cambodia was made into “The Killing Fields,” an Oscar-winning movie.
“On November 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, 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 primarily motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. But they 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, which were regularly collected electronically by US planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge from 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 US pilots had been trained to do–"no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 US POW/MIAs who were lost in Laos." Alfond added, says the transcript: "This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE."
“McCain, whose POW status made him the committee’s most powerful member, attended that 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. (Emphasis added)
“After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don’t know anything about those 20 POWs.
“The committee’s final report, issued in January 1993, began with a forty-three-page executive summary–the only section that drew the mainstream press’s attention. It said that only "a small number" of POWs could have been left behind in 1973. But the document’s remaining 1,180 pages were quite different. Sprinkled throughout are findings that contradict and disprove the conclusions of the whitewashed summary. This insertion of critical evidence that committee leaders had downplayed and dismissed was the work of a committee staff that had opposed and finally rebelled against the cover-up.”
What can we make of this? Why would McCain behave like this? That’s part of what Sydney Schanberg wanted to know and why he devoted over 40 years to research and reporting.
From the same article, which he wrote in 2008:
“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.
”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 the Republican Party has made McCain’s military service the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War 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. 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—the documents indicate probably hundreds—of the U.S. prisoners held by 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 cover-up is strange, and Schanberg and other critics wonder at the mainstream press and its refusal to explore the POW issue. I agree, but I also wonder at the fact that despite an overbearing personality, a vile temper and insulting characterization of opponents, plus callous indifference to the fate of soldiers left behind, McCain is returned to Senate over and over again. Yes, I know the reporters and commentators of the Main Stream Media are in the tank for McCain and refuse to report on the POW/MIA issue or demand release of files.
And yes he has unlimited piles of money with which to buy TV ads and flyers. I get it. I get it. But for years I’ve been hearing predictions about how the Internet and Alternative Media are going to make this huge difference in the public’s control of government. With the Internet we’ll not be dependent on TV for information and we’ll be alert and quick to vote guys like McCain out. I’ve not seen any really serious upsets. Have you? Guys like McCain keep getting returned to Washington. After 33 years he is considered the quintessential Republic insider. And that’s not good.
Maybe it will be different this year. Sen. McCain is facing a serious challenge in the Arizona primary from Dr. Kelli Ward, an emergency room physician and former state senator. Will Arizona Republicans finally vote someone other than McCain to be the party standard bearer?
The Arizona primary is Aug. 30, but absentee voting began Aug. 3. We’ll know in less than a month whether it will be in with the new or business as usual in Arizona.
Websites and Key Articles
Men Our Media Forgot. PDF (15 pages) of the July 2010 issue of The
American Conservative, then-published by Ron Unz, with introduction
by Unz, asking “Was Rambo Right?”, and two in-depth articles
by Sydney Schanberg: ”Silent Treatment” and “McCain
and the POW Cover-Up.”
2. Beyond the Killing Fields. Sydney Schanberg’s official website; includes numerous articles and research on POWs and MIAs. A treasure trove of information.
3. The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection. Click tab for Sydney Schanberg. Ron Unz has posted many of Schanberg’s articles, including those from The American Conservative.
4. Wikipedia: Vietnam War--POW/MIA Issue
5. Summary: Report of the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. U.S. Senate. Jan. 13, 1999.
© 2016 Sarah Foster - All Rights Reserved
Sarah Foster is a political researcher and freelance writer in Sacramento, Calif. She holds a BA in anthropology from UC Berkeley and a MA in folklore-mythology from UCLA. A contributor to NewsWithViews.com, her writings have appeared in WND, Reason Magazine, The New American, and other libertarian/conservative publications.
Sarah can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org