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POLITICS:

Mad Men: Pathology, Pretense and Power

by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
We don't say too much about John McCain around here, for the same basic reason that we don't talk a lot about Osama bin Laden: a dislike of wasting people's time by belaboring the obvious.

We don't say too much about John McCain around here, for the same basic reason that we don't talk a lot about Osama bin Laden: a dislike of wasting people's time by belaboring the obvious.

Bin Laden is a murderous, pompous rich boy with a third-rate mind -- which, of course, made him excellent front-man fodder first for the CIA and then for the extremists created by the torture factories of American-backed tyrannies. (Those personal qualities would have also made bin Laden an excellent candidate for President of the United States, as we saw in his Texas doppelganger's races in 2000 and 2004.) There seems little point in continually denouncing the self-evident malignity of this wretch and his cronies -- who have been inflated into world-historical figures by the desperate need of the American militarists to justify their own world-encircling agenda of loot and domination.

Similarly, it seems a bit redundant to point out that John McCain is an obviously crazed and dazed third-rater who is quite willing to walk over endless mounds of the innocent dead in order to grasp -- for the briefest time, at the faltering, burnt-out end of his life -- the filthy rag of power. Anyone who hasn't already realized this glaring fact is certainly not going to be convinced otherwise by anything I say. And anyone who already knows it needs no further illumination on this point.

Still, there are times when an examination of the pathology of these malevolent characters can prove enlightenting. Douglas Valentine provides an example of this in his new piece at CounterPunch. In delving into the past of the would-be "warrior President," the "new Teddy Roosevelt" of media myth, Valentine first gives us a bellyful of what war is really like, telling the story of his father, who served in the Pacific theater during the last "good war" -- World War II. He draws a sharp contrast between the experience of the grunts on the ground and the "glory boys" like John McCain who sail high above the fray to "drop bombs on cities, on civilians, maybe on enemy forces, maybe on your own troops." He then explores the still-mysterious record of what really happened to John McCain during the period that is the sine qua non of his entire public life: his years as a POW in Vietnam.

The whole piece is worth reading, but below are some choice excerpts:

From CounterPunch:

A little further toward the front line, my father and Charlie came upon Master Sergeant Harry Blackman, an adult man in his forties, regular army, a grizzled combat veteran. A few days earlier in a fight with the Japanese, a young lieutenant, a “90-Day Wonder,” had curled up in a fetal position when he should have been directing mortar fire. As a result, US mortar rounds landed on several US soldiers. Blackman, in front of everyone, took the lieutenant behind a tree and blew his brains out.

As my father and Charlie waked through the jungle they saw Harry Blackman perched on the lower limb of a huge tropical tree, babbling incoherently among the butterflies and flowering vines, driven stark raving mad by sorrow and jungle war with the Japanese.

Several days later my father was sent on a patrol into Japanese held territory. He was the last man in a formation moving single file through the jungle. Plagued by malaria and exhaustion, he kept falling behind. Around noon, a group of Japanese soldiers sitting high up in trees dropped concussion grenades on the patrol. As he lay on the ground, unable to move, my father watched the Japanese slide down the trees. Starting with the point man on patrol, they pulled down the pants and castrated each man, before clubbing him to death with their rifle butts or running a bayonet into his gut.

War. If you’re a Glory Boy like John Sidney McCain III, you really have no idea what it is. You drop bombs on cities, on civilians, maybe on enemy forces, maybe on your own troops. Glory Boys like John McCain rarely get a taste of the horror they inflict on others. Their suffering rarely extends beyond the high anxiety that they might get shot down and that some bombarded mob on the ground might take its revenge.

Magically, my father was spared that day when his patrol was slaughtered. Against regulations, he had stolen a cross-swords patch and sewn it on his shirt sleeve. At the age of 16, he thought it looked cool. On the morning of the patrol, when the new “90-Day Wonder” told him to take it off, my father said “Sure.” He and the lieutenant stared at each other for a while and then the lieutenant moved away. Insubordination was the least of anyone’s worries. No one expected to survive the patrol, anyway.

When the Japanese who had ambushed the patrol got to my father, they stood poised to mutilate and kill him. Then they saw the cross-swords patch. They apparently felt that dear old dad was an important person with inside information about American forces. Instead of killing him, they took him prisoner. When they realized he was just a stupid kid, the Japanese sent him to a POW camp in the Philippines.

McCain's treatment at the hands of his captors in a later Asian war was somewhat different:

In the fall of 1967, Navy pilot John McCain was routinely bombing Hanoi from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. On October 26, he was trying to level a power plant in a heavily populated area when a surface-to-air missile knocked a wing off his jet. Banged-up John McCain and what was left of plane splashed into Truc Bach Lake.

A compassionate Vietnamese civilian left his air raid shelter and swam out to McCain. McCain’s arm and leg were fractured and he was tangled up in his parachute underwater. He was drowning. The Vietnamese man saved McCain’s sorry ass, and yet McCain has nothing but hatred for “the gooks” who allegedly tortured him. As he told reporters on his campaign bus (The Straight Talk Express) in 2000, “I will hate them as long as I live.”

... The Vietnamese had good reason to hate McCain. On his previous 22 missions, he had dropped God knows how many bombs killing God knows how many innocent civilians. “I am a war criminal,” he confessed on “60 Minutes” in 1997. “I bombed innocent women and children.”

If he is sincere when he says that, why isn’t he being tried for war crimes by the U.S .Government?

...McCain was in pain, but suffering no mortal wounds. He was, however, in enough pain to break down and start collaborating with the Vietnamese after three days in a hospital receiving treatment from qualified doctors – something no other POW ever enjoyed....

In the forced-labor camp where my father was tortured by the Japanese, the POWs killed anyone who collaborated. Indeed, the ranking POW in my father’s camp, an English Major, made a deal with the Japanese guaranteeing that no one would attempt to escape. When four prisoners escaped, the Major reported it. The Japanese sent out a search party, which found the POWs and brought them back to camp, where they were beheaded on Christmas morning 1943.

The POWs held a war council that night. They drew straws, and the three who got short were given a mission. A few hours later, under cover of darkness, they crept to the major’s hut. My father had gotten one of the short straws and kept watch while the other two POWs strangled the Major in his sleep.

That’s how it happens in real life....

McCain had a unique POW experience. Initially, he was taken to the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp, where he was interrogated. By McCain’s own account, after three or four days, he cracked. He promised his Vietnamese captors, "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital."

His Vietnamese capturers soon realized their POW, John Sidney McCain III, came from a well-bred line of American military elites. McCain’s father, John Jr., and grandfather, John Sr., were both full Admirals. A destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, is named after both of them....

However, two weeks into his stay at the Vietnamese hospital, the Hanoi press began quoting him. It was not “name rank and serial number, or kill me,” as specified by the military code of conduct. McCain divulged specific military information: he gave the name of the aircraft carrier on which he was based, the number of US pilots that had been lost, the number of aircraft in his flight formation, as well as information about the location of rescue ships...

Not content with divulging military information, McCain provided his voice in radio broadcasts used by the North Vietnamese to demoralize American soldiers. Vietnamese radio propagandists made good use out of McCain...

[A 1969 wire service story] reported that McCain collaborated in psywar offensives aimed at American servicemen. "The broadcast was beamed to American servicemen in South Vietnam as a part of a propaganda series attempting to counter charges by U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird that American prisoners are being mistreated in North Vietnam."

On one occasion, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the top Vietnamese commander and a nationalist celebrity of the time, personally interviewed McCain. His compliance during this command performance was a moment of affirmation for the Vietnamese. His Vietnamese handlers thereafter used him regularly as prop at meetings with foreign delegations.

...McCain learned his lesson well from the Vietnamese propagandists who used him for their psywar projects. But it’s not the collaboration that makes John McCain unfit for office; it’s the fact that he has managed to rewrite his collaboration into political capital. “He’s a war hero, respect him, or die.”


photo of Chris FloydChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at cfloyd72@gmail.com.

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.



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This story was published on June 18, 2008.