John McCain was released from captivity in Vietnam on March 14, 1973 along with 590 other men. There were still more men missing in action in Vietnam at that time. The Vietnamese were holding back approximately 1,205 other POWs hoping to use their release as a bargaining chip to get President Nixon to provide Hanoi with financial retribution for the war. President Nixon agreed to send the money and the Vietnam government not trusting the arrival of these funds, held onto the prisoners. The money was never sent and the POWs never returned.
The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What’s more, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of “debunking” POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible. The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally produced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate “Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.” The chair was John Kerry, but McCain, as a POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.
Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or tried to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general’s briefing of the Hanoi Politburo, discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar in the 1990s. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords. The general, Tran Van Quang, told the Politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war’s end as leverage to ensure getting reparations from Washington.
Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. Finally, in a February 1, 1973, formal letter to Hanoi’s premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in “postwar reconstruction” aid. The North Vietnamese, though, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored (it never was). Hanoi thus held back prisoners–just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. France later paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.
So what happened to these POWs that have become MIAs? President Reagan was sent a ransom proposal through a third country requesting $4 billion for the return of the remaining captive Americans. Nothing happened. No action was taken by our government.
Furthermore, over the years, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) received more than 1,600 firsthand reports of sightings of live American prisoners and nearly 14,000 secondhand accounts. Many witnesses interrogated by CIA or Pentagon intelligence agents were deemed “credible” in the agents’ reports. Some of the witnesses were given lie-detector tests and passed. Sources provided me with copies of these witness reports. Yet the DIA, after reviewing them all, concluded that they “do not constitute evidence” that men were still alive.
There is also evidence that in the first months of Reagan’s presidency, the White House received a ransom proposal for a number of POWs being held by Hanoi. The offer, which was passed to Washington from an official of a third country, was apparently discussed at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room attended by Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, CIA director William Casey and National Security Adviser Richard Allen. Allen confirmed the offer in sworn testimony to the Senate POW committee on June 23, 1992.
Again, no money was send to Vietnam and no Americans returned from Vietnam. It was during this time that a group of family members got together and formed the National Alliance of Families. The went to Congress to plea for their missing family members.
On November 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee’s public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.
The devices were primarily motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. But they also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground–a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang–could manually enter data into the sensor, which were regularly collected electronically by US planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge from the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors–as US pilots had been trained to do–“no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 US POW/MIAs who were lost in Laos.” Alfond added, says the transcript: “This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE.”
It was during this session before the Senate committee chaired by Senator McCain, that things turned ugly.
What is Senator McCain hiding? Why won’t he release the information about those POWs that were left behind?
And check out how rude Senator McCain is when speaking to Delores Alfond.
In 1992, John McCain wanted to put an end to everything Vietnam. That was until he decided that he wanted to run for President. Suddenly, it’s Vietnam all over again with a POW here and POW there and POW everywhere when John McCain speaks. What about the other 590 POWs? What about the 1,205 Americans left behind? I thought that the military code was to never leave a soldier behind? Well, our government did and John McCain didn’t speak up for them. Instead he has withheld information from the families of MIAs and he continues to vote against extending veterans benefits.
Read the entire article: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081006/schanberg
A little extra reading “Puffing Up John McCain“.
I will end with this quote from The Nation article:
Does this hint at explanations for McCain’s efforts to bury information about prisoners or other disturbing pieces of the Vietnam War? Does he suppress POW information because its surfacing rekindles his feelings of shame? On this subject, all I have are questions. But even without answers to what may be hidden in the recesses of someone’s mind, one thing about the POW story is clear: if American prisoners were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that’s something the American public ought to know about.