Friday, October 17, 2008

America Needs A Hero

Then one evening in late August, several guards came and announced that the camp commander, the rough customer we called Slopehead, wanted to see me. They took me to a large room, a theater that had been used for Christmas services the year before.

Speaking through an interpreter, Slopehead accused me of committing "black crimes against the people" and violating all of the camp's regulations. He told me the time had come for me to show gratitude to the Vietnamese people and sorrow for my war crimes. Knowing that I was in serious trouble and that nothing I did or said would make matters any worse, I replied:

"F*** you."

"Why do you treat your guards disrespectfully?"

"Because they treat me like an animal."

Hearing this, Slopehead gave an order, and the guards lit into me. Shouting and laughing, they bashed me around the room, slamming their fists into my face and body, kicking and stomping me when I fell. Lying on the floor, bleeding, I heard Slopehead speak to the interpreter.

"Are you ready to confess your crimes?"

"No." With that, the guards hauled me up and set me on the stool. They cinched rope around my biceps, anchored it behind my back, and then left the room. The rope hurt and restricted my circulation, but, again, they had not tied it as tightly as they had on others, and I knew I could tolerate it. I remained there for the rest of the night.

In the morning, three guards came in, removed the rope, and took me to an interrogation room, where the deputy camp commander, a dull-witted man we called "Frankenstein" for his bulging forehead and numerous facial warts, waited for me. When I refused his order to confess, I was dragged to the room behind my cell where some time later Ernie Brace would be held.

The room was empty of any furnishings save a waste bucket. I had no bedding or personal belongings. The room didn't have a door, only a louvered window large enough to pass through. I was kept there for four days.

At two-to-three hour intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings. The intensity of the punishment varied from visit to visit depending on the enthusiasm and energy of the guards. Still, I felt they were being careful not to kill or permanently injure me. One guard would hold me while the others pounded away. Most blows were directed at my shoulders, chest, and stomach. Occasionally, when I had fallen to the floor, they kicked me in the head. They cracked several of my ribs and broke a couple of teeth. My bad right leg was swollen and hurt the most of any of my injuries. Weakened by beatings and dysentery, and with my right leg again nearly useless, I found it almost impossible to stand.

On the third night, I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move. The Prick came in with two other guards, lifted me to my feet, and gave me the worst beating I had yet experienced. At one point he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room toward the waste bucket. I fell on the bucket, hitting it with my left arm, and breaking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.

Despairing of any relief from pain and further torture, and fearing the close approach of my moment of dishonor, I tried to take my life. I doubt I really intended to kill myself. But I couldn't fight anymore, and I remember deciding that the last thing I could do to make them believe I was still resisting, that I wouldn't break, was to attempt suicide. Obviously, it wasn't an ideal plan, but it struck me at the time as reasonable.

Slowly, after several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to stand. I removed my shirt, upended the waste bucket, and stepped onto it, bracing myself against the wall with my good arm. With my right arm, I pushed my shirt through one of the upper shutters and back through a bottom shutter. As I looped it around my neck, the Prick saw the shirt through the window. He pulled me off the bucket and beat me. He called for an officer, who instructed the guards to post a constant watch on me. Later I made a second, even feebler attempt, but a guard saw me fumbling with the shutter, hauled me down, and beat me again.

On the fourth day, I gave up.

"I'm a black criminal," the interrogator wrote, "and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate. I almost died and the Vietnamese people saved my life. The doctors gave me an operation that I did not deserve."

I had been taken back to the theater after telling my guards I was ready to confess. For twelve hours I had written out many drafts of the confession. I used words that I hoped would discredit its authenticity, and I tried to keep it in stilted generalities and Communist jargon so that it would be apparent that I had signed it under duress.

An interrogator had edited my last draft and decided to rewrite most of it himself. He then handed it to me and told me to copy it out in my own hand. I started to print it in block letters, and he ordered me to write in script. He demanded that I add an admission that I had bombed a school. I refused, and we argued back and forth about the confession's contents for a time before I gave in to his demand. Finally, they had me sign the document.

They took me back to my room and let me sleep through the night. The next morning, they brought me back to the theater and ordered me to record my confession on tape. I refused, and was beaten until I consented.

I was returned to my cell and left alone for the next two weeks.

They were the worst two weeks of my life. I couldn't rationalize away my confession. I was ashamed. I felt faithless, and couldn't control my despair. I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever. I kept imagining that they would release my confession to embarrass my father. All my pride was lost, and I doubted I would ever stand up to any man again. Nothing could save me. No one would ever look upon me again with anything but pity or contempt.

Bob Craner tried to reassure me that I had resisted all that I was expected to resist. But I couldn't shake it off. One night I either heard or dreamed I heard myself confessing over the loudspeakers, thanking the Vietnamese for receiving medical treatment I did not deserve.

Many guys broke at one time or another. I doubt anyone ever gets over it entirely. There is never enough time and distance between the past and the present to allow one to forget his shame. I am recovered now from that period of intense despair. But I can summon up its feeling in an instant whenever I let myself remember the day. And I still wince when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace. The Vietnamese had broken the prisoner they called the "Crown Prince," and I knew they had done it to hurt the man they believed to be a king.

I served in the United States Army for eight years. The above is an account from Senator John McCain's book Faith of My Fathers. The picture is of the Vietnamese pulling him out of the lake after his plane was shot down over Hanoi.

It has been reported by some, including the most liberal, disillusioned podcaster I have ever heard, that Senator McCain violated the Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War. I include the full Code of Conduct here, followed by my explanation why this accusation against Senator McCain is an outright lie.


I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.


I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.


If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.


If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.


When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.


I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in God and in the United States of America.
Say what you will, but I would venture a bet that there are very, very few people in America who can claim to have been subjected to such torture. Senator McCain was, and he bears the scars today to prove it. And this Great American was true to the Code.

First, he refused early release when offered to him by his captors, saying that prisoners were to be released in their order of capture. He was beaten for refusing early release. Severely beaten.

He made every attempt during interrogations to withhold information from his captors, or to give them misleading information that would throw them off track. When asked for the names of people in his Squadron, the Senator gave the names of sports figures. When asked to draw a diagram of a ship, he included a pool and several other embellishments to resist the enemy. He was severely beaten for both.

When he had reached his breaking point, rather than dishonor himself, his father, and his country, Senator McCain attempted to commit suicide -- twice. He was again severely beaten -- twice.

After finally agreeing, he attempted to word the confession in such a way as to render it ungenuine. He attempted to print it in block letters rather than his own true handwriting. And when ordered to record his confession, he refused, and was again beaten.

Clearly, I think Senator McCain resisted to the utmost of his ability. I would venture a wager that his resistance was far beyond the capability of most who will read this.

During my time serving in the Army, I had a run in with the Polizei -- German Police. It was a case of mistaken identity. I was picked up in Nuremberg and taken to the station. I was placed into a holding cell with bars. I spent several hours there, held captive by armed officials who did not speak any English to me. My German was limited to basic conversational use. I was in nowhere near the situation that Senator McCain endured, but I was terrified! Twelve of the Sixteen German states have a shoot-to-kill policy that allows them the freedom to arbitrarily determine when deadly force is required.

My experience was nothing. I consider myself a die-hard patriot. I served my country, willing to give my life for what my country (and I) stands for. I am not sure if I could have endured the torture that Senator McCain did. Even after four solid days of physical abuse and torture, resulting in several broken bones and a broken spirit, Senator McCain describes the two weeks after his confession as the worst two weeks of his life. It was harder on him to deal with his own shame than it was to be beaten within inches of his life.

Throughout this campaign, we see people on television every day defending the character of the Democrat candidate. No one has had to stand up in defense of Senator McCain's character, because Senator McCain's character defends itself! This man is one of the greatest heroes in our country today. I can't imagine a person more qualified -- in every way -- to lead this country into the next decade.

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