John McCain has every right to play the POW card. Five and a half years in various North Vietnamese POW camps is a major part of John’s life, and if he chooses now to bring it up on the campaign trail, and to highlight it in his convention speech, who can deny him the right?
Lately, the media has been getting on him over this. Back in the 2000 campaign he would never discuss his Vietnam years. Now, since Steve Schmidt, a former Karl Rove deputy, has taken over, suddenly both the campaign and McCain himself invoke his POW past in virtually every setting — from fielding questions from Jay Leno to answering questions about how many houses he owns.
Clearly, Schmidt knows that McCain’s distinguished military record is an invaluable asset, especially in a campaign during wartime against someone who never wore the uniform.
The GOP’s use of McCain’s fellow former POWs in St. Paul was masterfully done. They were a part of each speech and added much to flesh out the inspirational story of McCain’s imprisonment. But McCain has opened the door to something he may not want to brag about: the U.S. Senate dealing with the issue of living U.S. POWs left behind at the end of the Vietnam War.
On this issue McCain and his campaign spokesmen remain silent.
And for good reason. As detailed in "An Enormous Crime: The Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia," by former U.S. Rep. Bill Hendon and Elizabeth Stewart (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins Press), a 2007 New York Times best seller, many U.S. government officials, Republican and Democrat, have ignored this emotional issue.
To keep it simple: McCain and others on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on POWs in 1991-1992 failed to acknowledge evidence brought to them from the DIA, the CIA, and other USG intelligence agencies. This evidence showed that U.S. POWs in 1992, 19 years after McCain and his group of POWs came home, were still laying down their names and "cape and evsion" codes in rice paddies and trails and fields adjacent to their prisons.
These authenticator codes, unique to each U.S. airman shot down (similar to a bank PIN code), featured a combination of letters and numbers.
McCain was shown aerial and satellite images of these signals, which basically mean, “I am alive! Please come and get me!”
In his convention speech last night Sen. McCain was repeatedly interrupted with shouts of “USA! USA! USA!” Well, one of the most startling escape and evasion codes captured by an American satellite in 1988 was a gigantic USA with a letter K (known as a "walking K") underneath it, placed by a downed American pilot in Laos 15 years after the end of the Vietnam War. This photograph is on the cover of "An Enormous Crime."
McCain was also shown transcripts of intercepted Laotian military radio transmissions in which communist Pathet Lao soldiers discuss the movement of “American prisoners.”
And he was shown over 900 first-hand, live-sighting reports of U.S. POWs held against their will in both Laos and Vietnam.
Did McCain, a decorated and heroic former POW, jump up and use his clout and status to demand that everything possible be done to rescue these men?
Instead he played politics to help an embattled President George H.W. Bush try to defeat Ross Perot, a strong POW advocate, and Bill Clinton.
In effect, McCain the so-called “man of integrity, honor and character” who says he always puts country first, abandoned these men to a cruel fate. Their cries for help went unanswered.
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