Today in History

March 15, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Military | 3 Comments

An American Hero Returns

Gateway Pundit has a post reporting on the fact that today is the anniversary of Senator John McCain’s release after 5 years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war on March 15, 1973. The post includes some historical information and a campaign video with comments by others about his time as a POW that I think are worth watching.

His campaign released this video which I also recommend watching (embedded after the jump)

It amazes me how so many people in this country either don’t know that Senator McCain was a POW or have no clue what his treatment was like. I get angry when people talk about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo being equivalent to what the North Koreans did to American POWs during the Vietnam War. If you want to learn more, the article “Honor Bound” from the Air Force Magazine about POWs during the Vietnam War is a great place to start. For more insight into our treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo, I recommend a series of interviews with a US Army nurse who provided care for the detainees that was posted at Patterico’s Pontifications. The first post is here.

I’ve wondered how the political campaigns would treat this issue and thought that even the Democratic candidates for President and their campaign staff would be respectful. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This post at Hot Air has quotes from Wesley Clark and Gloria Steinem that grossly denigrate both his military service and his time as a POW. I am just astounded by the things that they both said. I was going to write about their statements when they first made the news, but I was honestly too angry to do it at the time.

The Hot Air post linked to an article about Ms. Steinem’s positions at the New York Observer which stated:

she claimed that if Clinton’s experience as first lady were taken seriously in relation to her White House bid, people might “finally admit that, say, being a secretary is the best way to learn your boss’s job and take it over.”

I have a lot of problems with this assertion. Yes, as a secretary a person can learn a lot about the general responsibilities of a particular position. However, it is in no way the same type of experience as actually having those responsibilities. Being President of the United States is unique compared to virtually any other “position of power” in this country in that the President is the single individual ultimately held responsible for his or her decisions and actions. There is no one to “pass the buck” to if the outcome isn’t what was intended or desired (although people do try). Secretaries, pundits and political advisers all have the luxury of knowing that they can take a strong position without actually having to put it into action or bear public responsibility for the outcome.

If you think about it, Senator McCain’s time as a POW actually prepared him to be President of the United States in a way that nothing in the backgrounds of Senator Obama or Senator Clinton could have prepared them. Even when he was imprisoned near other American POWs, when he was interrogated and tortured Senator McCain had only himself and his own mental fortitude to draw upon for strength. Like many other POWs, he was able to draw upon this strength to not only survive, but to bedevil his captors. “Honor Bound” has a quote that I think sums this up nicely:

The prisoners believed that, when captured, “their mission had changed, from one of active fighting to one of resistance and survival,” the Pentagon historians said. “They still had a soldierly function to perform-to disrupt, to stymie, to exhaust the enemy, finally to defeat him, in this case on the battlefield of propaganda and psychological warfare.”

When his father (a high-ranking naval officer) was placed in charge of all US forces in Vietnam, the North Vietnames offered Senator McCain an early release. He refused to go unless all of the other prisoners were released with him. He remained a POW for another 4 and 1/2 years. He was given an”easy out” from a truly inhumane and unimaginable situation and would not let himself be used for propoganda purposes. He had to have known what this was going to mean for the rest of his captivity (more beatings), yet he made the decision anyway.

The Gateway Pundit post ends with this statement:

“There is one war hero in this election.”

I agree completely. I do not agree with all of his positions on the issues, but there is one factor which I believe truly differentiates Senator McCain from Senators Obama and Clinton. He has already shown the ability and the willingness to put the needs of others above his own, both by his service and his actions while a POW. I think he acts with a genuine concern for the “greater good” that just isn’t present in the others and this far outweighs the areas where I don’t agree with him politically.



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  1. I agree.

    He is my candidate of choice right now–although like you I didn’t agree with him on all issues, so he wasn’t my first choice.

  2. I’m not sure I would have called anyone running this year my “first choice”. That seems to imply that I think everything about them is “perfect”. None of them are.

    I have a new post about McCain coming out today.

  3. There is something to be said for experience and humility.

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