What Was John McCain Hiding? Part I

Cancer is a merciless unrelenting killer and leaves no one untouched by it. His family has my sympathy because no one deserves to die from cancer – not even John McCain.  We‘ve all been taught not to speak ill of the dead, but what if that talk is the truth? Are we to deny it and pretend the dead are indeed the hero they’re made to be upon death? For days we’ve heard McCain’s virtues extolled by every notable voice there is and it will continue for days to come until the man is laid to rest. People have a tendency to sanctify a person who has passed from this life, but it’s also important to look at the truth and balance the two.

All this talk of his past has brought up many controversial points in his history. There’s the story of him being at fault for the explosion on the USS Forestall, of which I know very little, so we’ll refrain from addressing that.  

Then there’s the talk of him being a songbird during his time spent as a POW in Vietnam. Some folks deny it, while others, including veterans who were there, say it’s true. We’ll touch on that, but the main theme of these pieces is to focus on his life in Congress after the war. 

 Some readers may not know, or recall, just how fierce McCain’s efforts were to lock away information on the men left behind after the prisoner release in 1973. He wanted all those records buried forever, never to be seen by the public and put much effort toward making that happen, with no regard to the families of servicemen looking for answers. Why?


The War Secrets Sen. John McCain Hides

by Sydney Schanberg 

A note about the author – Sydney Schanberg(January 17, 1934 – July 9, 2016) was an American journalist who was best known for his coverage of the war in Cambodia. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism. Schanberg was played by Sam Waterston in the 1984 film The Killing Fields based on the experiences of Schanberg and Cambodian journalist Dith Parm.


  Prisoners left behind

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.

In 1973 the prisoner return saw 591 Americans repatriated by North Vietnam. The State Department stated publicly that intelligence data showed the prisoner list to be starkly incomplete. The U.S. intelligence list of men believed to be alive at that time in captivity — in Vietnam, Laos and possibly across the border in southern China and in the Soviet Union — was much larger. 

Only nine of the 591 returnees came out of Laos, though experts in U.S. military intelligence listed 311 men as missing in that Hanoi-run country alone, and their field reports indicated that many of those men were probably still alive. Hanoi said it was returning all the prisoners it had. President Nixon, on March 29, 1973, seconded that claim, telling the nation on television: “All of our American POWs are on their way home.”  

This discrepancy has never been acknowledged or explained by official Washington. Over the years in Washington, McCain, at times almost single-handedly, has pushed through Pentagon-desired legislation to make it impossible for the public to acquire POW/MIA information and much easier for the defense bureaucracy to keep it hidden. 

All the Pentagon debriefings of the prisoners who returned from Vietnam are now closed to the public under a statute enacted in the 1990s with McCain’s backing. He says this is to protect the privacy of former POWs and gave it as his reason for not making public his own debriefing. 

Many Vietnam veterans and former POWs have fumed at McCain for keeping these and other wartime files sealed up. A number of former POWs, MIA families and veterans have suggested there is something especially damning about McCain that the senator wants to keep hidden. The main reason for seeking these files is to find out if there is any information in the debriefings, or in other MIA documents that McCain and the Pentagon have kept sealed, about how many prisoners were held back by North Vietnam after the Paris peace treaty was signed in January 1973. The defense and intelligence establishment has long resisted the declassification of critical records on this subject. McCain has been the main congressional force behind this effort.


Part II, The Truth Bill and the McCain Bill, will shed light on the legislation regarding the forbidden records and the lengths McCain went to in order to ensure they never saw the light of day.

John McCain’s family will see their loved one honored and kind words said about him as he’s laid to rest. The families of the MIA in Vietnam will never have that experience.


Categories: Political

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11 replies

  1. McCain was my least favorite Republican in my lifetime. That is as complimentary as I can be, and that tarnishes the GOP brand.

    I don’t consider him heroic in any way, other than brave enough to strap into a jet and fly it.


  2. I concur with the other voices here regarding McCain. I’m not going to be hypocritical and laud him now that he’s gone. I didn’t like him when he was healthy and he didn’t do anything to win me over since he became ill. He will be missed by family and friends, but not by me. He seemed to be in his glory when he intentionally found a way to derail any conservative measure – and thereby ensuring his value to the media as a “spoiler.”


    • Spoiler – there’s another good word that describes him quite well. He loved that role and seldom missed a chance to be just that.

      Upon learning of a brain tumor being an issue, anyone else would have quietly retired and gone home to focus on family, but not McCain. Instead, he exploited it to command extra attention, with the usual kid gloves, of course.


  3. Stories may always surround well known personalities. I’ve read all of those except the one about him not wanting information out on the men left behind. I didn’t like him though I worked for him during his presidential election. But he turns on people like a vicious dog. And I’ve had a general rule about men. Not all, but a majority of men who are kind of short are vicious. This guy isn’t tall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the time of his running, he was another one of those ‘lesser of two evils’ that we had to choose from, so a lot of people supported him, even though nobody liked him.

      I had to chuckle a little on your comment about short men – who knew we’d think alike on such a topic? I’ve had a similar theory in my head for years, that I dubbed short man syndrome. Many of them I’ve come across, either in a working environment or married to friends, etc. seem to have a caustic attitude. That holds true for McCain.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am told he was not responsible for the carrier fire. Chrawfish would have more on that – he was an airdale.

    I was in Vietnam for 4 tours. McCain was not well liked in the Navy by any who worked for him. He had a foul mouth and worse temper.

    As a Republican senator, he made a grand Democrat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • VM, from what I’ve read, I don’t think that was his fault either, but it surely did add flavor to the highly circulated songbird story, didn’t it? That piece of the story is also controversial, but according to sources, the North Vietnamese dubbed him with that because he sang so easily and so often, for which he was well compensated.

      You’re spot on about him being a grand democrat, and the foul mouth and temper didn’t change much in all these years.


  5. This is the first I’ve heard of this story, Kathy, and it certainly is puzzling that a former POW would want to prevent people from learning as much as possible about other POWs and MIAs. I’ll be interested to read Part II, and though I’ll wait to see what unfolds it would not surprise me to learn that there was some self-serving purpose to John McCain’s actions with respect to these records because IMO he was a very self-serving man. As evidence of that I would first and foremost point to the way that he camped out in the congress for 36 years, including running for a final term at the age of 80 when it was not unlikely that health issues would arise and interfere with his “public service.” John McCain – again IMO – was addicted to the limelight and reveled in the attention he got for being a “maverick” at the expense the conservative agenda. Involving himself with the fake Steele dossier for the attention and for petty revenge was the final straw, but he certainly would be happy with the way it endeared him to the Left.


    • Other than bits and pieces over the years, I’d not heard much of it either. You made some great points and your use of self-serving to describe what drives his actions is perfect. What’s hard to get your head around is the duration of it, partly due to the kid-glove-treatment he got for being a war hero.

      In addition to putting himself in the spotlight on the fake dossier, who could forget him dragging himself out of a recovery bed and showing up with a bandage on his forehead to vote no on repealing O’care? Maverick’s not exactly the word I’d use to describe him, but it will have to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • >>”…who could forget him dragging himself out of a recovery bed and showing up with a bandage on his forehead to vote no on repealing O’care?”

        Apparently……me! Perfect example of McCain choosing personal grand-standing over doing the right thing but with less attention. I’d be lying if I said I was going to miss him.

        Liked by 1 person


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