Aside from even one word about poverty, minorities, or the underclass in last night’s VP debate, I was most waiting to hear Sarah Palin questioned about her “maverick” boss’s role in making sure that America neither knew, nor cared, about the fate of its Viet Nam era POWs. If there’s ever a better time to delve into exactly how the “party of patriotism” feels about inconvenient soldiers (they were slowing up the peace process), I hope I don’t live to see it.
Like most Americans, I existed in a pre-war, pre-Gitmo state of annoyed disbelief whenever some bug-eyed Pinko insisted we’d left soldiers behind when we left Viet Nam. This is America: we don’t, we’d never, do such a thing. But since we started extraordinarily rendering folks to places like Egypt and Syria so they could be tortured, since we continue a war aimed largely at enriching companies like KBR and Halliburton, when it’s clear that Wall Street will be allowed to do absolutely anything it likes to Main Street (let alone MLK Blvd, as SNL so aptly put it) I no longer roll my eyes when presented with such evidence. Instead, I have to fight bitter tears when my kindergartener comes home proudly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance she’s just learned. “With truth and justice for all?” Gets me every time. It makes me so angry and ashamed, I have to look away as I hypocritically applaud her recitation of those increasingly hollow words.
Fearful as I am of what we’re becoming, I still don’t accept hideous allegations at face value. But I definitely listen, where before I would have been blasé and patronizing. I just don’t know anymore what we are, what we’ve always been capable of, world weary as a formerly working class black chick thought she was. After eight years of Bush and the unbelievable damage he’s done to the very meaning of America, I’m like the idiot, half-dressed, half-drunk teenager who just has to go down to the basement and find out what that fiend-from-hell sound is. Now, I study claims I’d have been too “busy” for before, desperately hoping to find no there there. Sadly, I’m all too primed to find yet another horror in every formerly bright corner of my American psyche.
Lately, I’m reading and re-reading Sydney Schanberg’s extremely disturbing Nation expose on exactly what role John McCain may have played in not only burying info on our MIAs, but going so far as to abuse and terrorize the families desperate to have their questions answered on a subject which McCain (you may have heard he’s a maverick and former POW by now) might well be expected to focus some attention. If he’s going to keep mentioning his combat role and POW experience (and I certainly would), then he damn well needs to mention everything else that went with it. The party which so embraced Swift Boating a bona fide hero needs to have its script flipped. Palin claims she wants to speak directly to the American people? OK, let’s take that at face value (and not as she really meant it, i.e. that she considers her inability to answer a direct question a virtue): Tell us exactly what role McCain played in settling the question of our MIAs.
According to Schanberg, whose war/defense reporting is impeccable, McCain has used his POW credentials to bury what could be one of America’s greatest willful tragedies. Schanberg writes:
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 people would logically imagine to be 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 McCain has made his military service and POW history the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War have also 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—probably hundreds—of the US prisoners held in 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.
Read the report. It’s explicit and very specific in its well reported charges. I’d like to learn that we didn’t bury those men alive for political expediency. I really would. Because by the time my daughter is singing “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” I’m going to be in a strait jacket. So, say it ain’t so, John. Tell me you didn’t do this. Answer Sidney.