Butler: Yes, this is pretty much true. It appears that the Iraqi soldiers on the other side are reluctant to keep American POWs. Some have been killed in brutal ways, shot and tortured and what have you, and we don’t have any there. The first Iraq war, there were POWs. There were, I believe, 20 or so, and they were brought home. This is back in 1991. So those folks are also part of our continuing prisoner of war medical evaluation studies that are going on in Pensacola, Florida.
Kall: Do you think that the fact that there are no prisoners of war -- that our troops who are captured are tortured and then killed -- has to do with the USA’s, George Bush’s policy of torturing prisoners of war that the U.S. captures?
Butler: Well, George Bush’s illegal and immoral policies of torture certainly don’t help, and they certainly don’t make us out who we try to tell people that we are throughout the world. It certainly hasn’t helped, and it certainly does put our troops and even people who are vacationing in other countries in harm’s way. But I have a suspicion that those folks in Iraq who are killing the few guys who have been captured have done it on their own hook. They probably didn’t need Abu Gahraib to do it, but that certainly helped fuel the fire, definitely.
Kall: Now, you talk in your article that “being a POW is no special qualification for being president of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.” Is it something that you would hold against him? -- or could it actually be a liability?
Butler: I wouldn’t hold it against him. But I think what you need to do, to measure the man, is I think you need to measure who that man is today and how he has internalized his experiences as a naval officer, as a prisoner of war, and as a veteran of Vietnam.
Kall: You mentioned that earlier --
Butler: How has he internalized those experiences? And you can see from the policies that he advocates that, to me, he’s turned those experiences on their head.
Kall: Could you explain that?
Butler: Well, we learned from Vietnam, you know, after 15 years of being in a Vietnam quagmire, that you cannot autocratically force another culture to see the world the way you do and to be just like you, and that they can fight guerilla warfare that you can never defeat, no matter what you have in the way of sophisticated arms and machinery and war making power -- that the power of the individual who lives in the country and is part of the culture is supreme.
And we’ve run into the same thing in Iraq, and John should have learned that lesson, but he supported the invasion of Iraq, the peremptory invasion of Iraq, the unilateral invasion of Iraq with no help from anybody else and no approval through the United Nations. We just did the same exact thing, we did the same thing in Vietnam. In 1964 we had the Tonkin Gulf incident, which was a trumped-up lie to get the American people -- to scare the American people, to get Congress to approve us to attack Vietnam. And in Iraq we had the trumped-up lie of weapons of mass destruction and all that stuff to scare the American people once again and to get Congress to give President Bush all the authority he needed, and more, to attack Iraq. And here we are, stuck, once more.
Kall: Anything else? I mean, that certainly makes sense. You’ve talked about what a person has taken from the experience of having been a prisoner, having fought in that war, having gone through that. Any other ways that he’s not met the mark of having learned from the experience?
Butler: Yeah. I think the summary for me is -- you know, don’t paint me as a guy who’s after cutting John McCain apart; far be it from me to do that. I respect him totally, I admire his accomplishments and his achievements, both before and during and after the Vietnam War. But on the other hand, I think the job of president of the United States requires somebody who is a considered thinker, somebody who listens to other people, somebody who judges carefully after gathering lots of information and evidence before making rash decisions, and somebody that we can be proud of with respect to all the other brother and sister nations around the world. And to me, I’m sorry to say that’s not John, despite the fact that I like him as a guy and respect him as a fellow POW who returned with honor.
Kall: You say in here that “John has an infamous reputation for being a hothead. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced firsthand. This is not the finger I want next to that red button.” So you’ve observed his temper?
Butler: Oh yeah, oh yeah, living across the hall from him for a year. He was very explosive. There was always a lot of loud noise and arguments and crashing and banging over in his room and splitting with his roommate and yelling and screaming in the hallway. But that was then. And after that, in the Senate, you know, the stories are legion from his fellow Senators and other people who have contact with him of how he can burst into a rage with profanity. If you disagree with him, he takes it straight to his ego. And he has a hair-trigger temper, which is just not good for a president of the United States.
Kall: Sounds like it would not make it easy for somebody, an advisor, to come to him with the truth and give straight counsel.
Butler: That’s right.