by Philip Giraldi
May 30, 2013
Two time Medal of Honor recipient Marine Major General Smedley Butler once said “war is a racket.” He might have added that while enriching the few it victimizes and degrades everyone else who is caught up in the meat grinder, soldiers as well as civilians.
Consider how accounts of soldiers who are captured and subsequently turn on their own country are as old as warfare. American soldiers taken prisoner are only supposed to provide their names, ranks, and serial numbers to their captors though in practice many find themselves agreeing with their interrogators or even signing confessions to avoid abuse or obtain better conditions in their prisons. A number of American prisoners were described as having been “brainwashed” during the Korean War, the expression initially suggesting that they had been subject to psychological conditioning and indoctrination that made them question their loyalties and which subsequently produced episodes of aberrant behavior. In some cases the psychological conditioning was combined with physical torture, but in most cases not. In nearly all cases the victims later recanted the confessions they provided to their captors, were despondent over what they had done and said while under North Korean and Chinese control, and sometimes had difficulty in readjusting to life in the United States.
Vietnam also produced its own crop of American prisoners of war, numbering perhaps as many as 2,000 when the Paris peace talks started in 1973. One of them was John McCain, now a reliably hawkish Senator from Arizona who has recently visited Syria in an attempt to jump start a new war in the Middle East. While it is well known that McCain was a captive of the North Vietnamese for more than five years after his plane was shot down while bombing a power plant, considerably less well known is his behavior while a prisoner of war in Hanoi which has long been the object of some speculation due to allegations of possible cooperation with his captors. McCain, who was saved from drowning by a Vietnamese civilian and was treated at a Hanoi hospital for his wounds, was the son of the Admiral commanding the Pacific Fleet, so he was what might be referred to as a high value captive for the North Vietnamese regime. As such he received considerable attention from his captors, was referred to by his fellow prisoners as the “Crown Prince,” and was, by some accounts, handled with kid gloves. And his connections may have ensured that he would receive additional high value treatment from the Pentagon upon his return to the U.S., he being awarded an astonishing Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his 22 missions spent bombing mostly civilian targets in North Vietnam.