Just in time for Arizona’s August 30 Senate primary, a crack team of rightwing provocateurs has gotten its hands on a copy of a 1969 recording of John McCain reading a forced “confession” obtained under torture after he was shot down in North Vietnam. This is good news for John McCain hater Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia, who called last year for McCain to be tried for treason for his many crimes against the Constitution and then “hung by the neck until dead,” because that’s what America means to real patriots.
So, here’s your backstory: When McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, McCain ejected from the crashing plane and parachuted into a shallow lake. During the ejection at low altitude, he broke his right leg and both arms, his right arm shattered in three places. Then for good measure, one of the North Vietnamese who pulled him from the lake smashed his right shoulder with a rifle butt. He eventually received medical treatment, but only after four days — it’s unclear whether that had more to do with his finally telling his captors he’d give them military information (he says he agreed only because he feared he would die, and didn’t intend to give useful information) or with the North Vietnamese realizing he was the son of a prominent U.S. Navy admiral. (A 2008 Rolling Stone article says McCain offered that information to the North Vietnamese to save his life.) The son of an admiral made a good propaganda prize, so McCain received treatment, although his right arm never healed correctly.
In August of 1968, after a sustained period of torture, McCain agreed to sign a confession stating, “I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate. I almost died and the Vietnamese people saved my life, thanks to the doctors.” In his memoir, he would later write, “I had learned what we all learned over there … Every man has a breaking point. I had reached mine.” He says he’s never forgiven himself for breaking, and his own experience is one of the reasons he has so strongly opposed the use of torture by the good old USA: information given under torture is often useless, like statements he gave the North Vietnamese, in which he “named” members of his squadron by giving the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers.
It’s not entirely clear when the recording obtained by rightwing website “Trunews” was made — presumably around the same time as the written confession — but it was broadcast by North Vietnamese radio in 1969 and recorded by the “the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a branch of the CIA that monitored international shortwave and foreign radio broadcasts,” according to Trunews. “Award-winning journalist” and all around slimeball Chuck C. Johnson offered a $10,000 “bounty” for a copy of the recording, which some lucky person somehow located in the National Archives and then somehow copied or filched it. Trunews is actually rather vague about how the recording came to be acquired by them, saying only that “The audio recording was found in a misplaced file in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.” — no mention of a FOIA request there, oddly, so the circumstances of its acquisition are open to speculation.
So gosh, what juicy national security secrets did John McCain spill in the statement, in which he clearly betrayed his country and committed treason, for which he must be executed, according to the Oath Keepers morons? Absolutely nothing: it’s bog standard forced-confession propaganda bullshit that would sound like cartoonishly ridiculous Cold War boilerplate if you didn’t know it was extracted under torture:
To the Vietnamese people and the government of the DRVN:
From John Sidney McCain, 624787, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, born 29 August, 1936, Panama, home state Oregon. Shot down 26 October, 1967, A-4E aircraft.
I, as a U.S. airman, am guilty of crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I bombed their cities, towns and villages and caused many injuries, even deaths, for the people of Vietnam.
I was captured in the capital city of Hanoi, while attacking it. After I was captured, I was taken to the hospital in Hanoi, where I received very good medical treatment. I was given an operation on my leg, which allowed me to walk again, and a cast on my right arm, which was badly broken in three places.
The doctors were very good and they knew a great deal about the practice of medicine. I remained in the hospital for some time and regained much of my health and strength. Since I arrived in the camp of detention, I received humane and lenient treatment.
I received this kind treatment and food even though I came here as an aggressor and the people who I injured have much difficulty in their living standards. I wish to express my deep gratitude for my kind treatment and I will never forget this kindness extended to me.
Several years ago, I (Stewart Rhodes) was attacked by the left wing media for calling McCain a traitor who deserved to be tried for treason, and then, once convicted, deserved to suffer the usual punishment for someone convicted of treason, which is to be hung by the neck until dead. Turns out I was right. He IS a traitor, and now there is direct evidence to back that up, in addition to his horrid voting record against the Constitution. Well, now, can we finally try him for treason and then sentence him accordingly? Or will he, like Hillary Clinton, get a pass on his crimes despite direct, smoking gun evidence, because both of them are part of the political elite? You already know the answer to that.
We’re not sure how Rhodes turned May 2015 into “several years ago,” but his inquisition by the left wing media is surely far worse than anything McCain ever experienced. Rhodes also “knows” the fix was in to protect McCain from being tried for treason even at the time of the broadcast:
So, the CIA, our supposed Central Intelligence Agency, knew that he was a traitor. Did they report that bit of intelligence to President Nixon? Did they inform the Joint Chief of Staff? Did they even notify McCain’s command? Again, you already know the answer to that. What they did is sit on it, and no doubt they “misfiled” it in the National Archives, and let McCain know they had it there, somewhere, and that they could have the “misfiling” corrected anytime they wanted, so he would be compliant and do as commanded throughout his career. That is how it is done. They had McCain under their control, as a “Manchurian Candidate” from that moment on, which is why it was kept an internal CIA secret all those years, till now.
Rhodes explains that anyone who defended John McCain from Donald Trump’s attacks on his patriotism is now clearly “on the side of a confirmed Traitor,” and sincerely hopes that Donald Trump will win this fall and get America back on the right track by weeding out the “corrupt GOP Old Guard.”
So: Is giving a statement like McCain’s an act of treason? We are not a JAG lawyer, but from what we have been able to research, it doesn’t look like it — Rhodes says it violates the military’s Code of Conduct, particularly Article V:
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.
Says Rhodes, obviously McCain violated the prohibition against making “oral or written statements disloyal to my country,” which you aren’t even allowed to do under duress — and he even cites an article by alleged floor-shitter Chuck C. Johnson to “prove” McCain was not under duress. (Big surprise — the article proves nothing of the sort.) And even the Code of Conduct includes that “to the best of my ability” clause as an acknowledgement that perfect compliance may not be possible.
What we do know is that however much some wingnuts — and yes, some former POWs — may hate him, the U.S. military knew about McCain’s forced confession when he was released with the other POWS in 1973. It chose at the time not to prosecute him — or as far as we can determine, any other Vietnam POWs — for a Code of Conduct violation, and this recording doesn’t change anything about what’s known about McCain’s time as a prisoner. He did resist giving useful information to the enemy; when asked to identify future targets for air raids, he instead named targets that American aircraft had already hit. As for the forced confession, a 2008 Politifact article had this to say:
court-martialed and convicted of “aiding the enemy.” They were not executed for treason because it was understood that there was no intent to betray the United States. So no, no neck-stretching for John McCain over a tortured confession, no matter how dramatic the audio was. We’d be perfectly happy to see him lose his seat in November’s election.
George “Bud” Day and Orson Swindle, fellow POWs, told PolitiFact that POWs sometimes were forced to talk when they were tortured, but they tried to tell lies to mislead their captors.
“We were all tortured and we wrote confessions under the pressure of torture,” said Swindle, who was a cellmate with McCain and is active in his campaign. “John McCain never collaborated with the enemy. He, like every one of us, submitted to severe torture. John McCain did nothing dishonorable. He was heroic.”
On the other hand, people currently seeking to overthrow the government with their pretend militia buddies, in the name of patriotism? If they actually start shooting people, that’s some serious federal crime. Can’t you just imagine what a paradise of freedom and liberty this country would be if these guys had their way? At least, once they’d executed everyone they consider disloyal.