Thursday, April 24, 2008

John McCain and the POWs

Some of the strongest criticism of John McCain comes from Vietnam-era POWS and their families. They damn him as betraying the cause of POWs left behind after the war ended.

Journalist Sydney Schanberg gives an interest account in The War Secrets John McCain Hides

But there was one subject that was off-limits, a subject the Arizona senator almost never brings up and has never been open about -- his long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam and the missing in action who have still not been accounted for. Since McCain himself, a downed Navy pilot, was a prisoner in Hanoi for 5 1/2 years, his staunch resistance to laying open the POW/MIA records has baffled colleagues and others who have followed his career. Critics say his anti-disclosure campaign, in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the intelligence community, has been successful. Literally thousands of documents that would otherwise have been declassified long ago have been legislated into secrecy.
Beyond covering up the evidence, and enacting laws to cover up the evidence, as Schanberg shows, McCain also abused witnesses before the committee investigating the POW issue, including Dolores Apodaca Alfond sister of MIA pilot Capt. Victor J. Apodaca.

Other than the panel's second co-chairman, Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., not a single committee member attended this public hearing. But McCain, having been advised of Alfond's testimony, suddenly rushed into the room to confront her. His face angry and his voice very loud, he accused her of making "allegations ... that are patently and totally false and deceptive." Making a fist, he shook his index finger at her and said she had insulted an emissary to Vietnam sent by President Bush. He said she had insulted other MIA families with her remarks. And then he said, through clenched teeth: "And I am sick and tired of you insulting mine and other people's [patriotism] who happen to have different views than yours."

By this time, tears were running down Alfond's cheeks. She reached into her handbag for a handkerchief. She tried to speak: "The family members have been waiting for years -- years! And now you're shutting down." He kept interrupting her. She tried to say, through tears, that she had issued no insults. He kept talking over her words. He said she was accusing him and others of "some conspiracy without proof, and some cover-up." She said she was merely seeking "some answers. That is what I am asking." He ripped into her for using the word "fiasco." She replied: "The fiasco was the people that stepped out and said we have written the end, the final chapter to Vietnam." "No one said that," he shouted. "No one said what you are saying they said, Ms. Alfond." And then, his face flaming pink, he stalked out of the room, to shouts of disfavor from members of the audience.
I have reported on Army Colonel Earl Hopper previously. To see see an interview with him or to read the transcript, take a look at John McCain: Privileged 'War Hero', Liar, Colloborator, Traitor


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