Years before Airman McCain began his 23 bombing runs, Ike had admitted Ho Chi Minh was a hero to his countrymen and would have easily won an all-Vietnam election had it not been blocked. Well before McCain’s 1st bombing mission, Rev. King Jr. had angrily condemned the genocide, and Muhammad Ali had refused to go. Was McCain taken in then, and now as well, by war propaganda? McCain, anti-hero or heartless dumbbell?
President Eisenhower confessed that “in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation”, had he (Ike) permitted the all-Vietnam elections promised in the Geneva Agreement after the defeat of the French – an agreement the U.S. had refused to sign. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, 1963, p. 337)
Four Years after Ike admitted this, Navy Pilot John McCain began his celebrated 23 bombing runs over Vietnam.
And weeks before Pilot John McCain made his first bombing run in Vietnam, bold headlines in newspapers all over the world had screamed, ‘KING CALLS U.S. "GREATEST PURVEYOR OF VIOLENCE TODAY” – condemns war in Vietnam, gives detailed history of U.S. betrayals, atrocities and murderously brutal policies.’
Did Pilot McCain read newspapers? Listen to the news on radio? Had he heard of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.' blistering Beyond Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, which had rocked America? King had thundered,
“The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation... They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs.
After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North…
Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them.”
Did McCain know that Eisenhower conceded Ho Chi Minh would have been elected, had an election been allowed. Did he know of MLK Jr.' furious condemnation of the war. Did he know that champion Muhammad Ali had denounced the war and had had his heavyweight crown taken away and was threatened with prison? Did McCain know that Noam Chomsky of MIT, historian Howard Zinn, Philosopher Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre and other Nobel Prize laureates, intellectuals and clergy all over the world were protesting the Nazi-like American military use of napalm, high altitude bombing and free fire zones.
Presidential candidate McCain comes across as a sincere, if not intelligent, politician, as he speaks of his country maybe continuing its occupation of Iraq for a hundred years! Would McCain have preferred America to have gone on killing in Vietnam rather than enjoy today’s profitable commerce, even the recommending of Vietnam for World Trade Membership? Probably not. In congress he has helped restore good relations with the Vietnam communist government. Did McCain's bombings serve any purpose? Did McCain ever try to find out how many Vietnamese were killed, maimed or orphaned by his bombs, express feeling sorry, want to apologize, help out survivors? If he did, the public remains ignorant of such regret.
McCain had a good college education, which must have included a history of colonialism, and the special brutal injustices of the French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. He would have known that Ho Chi Minh was decorated by the American OSS as a dedicated ally against the Japanese and Vichy French, and that Truman, against Roosevelt's promise, had brought the French army back in US ships to fight an 9-year war against its former allies, the Vietnamese.
Senator McCain’s countenance on TV as he campaigns for the presidency is one of kindness, neighborly and respectful. Viewers notice his crippled hand and other injuries suffered when he was first rescued, pulled from the lake he had parachuted into, but then beaten by an angry mob. Everyone feels sympathy for McCain - at the same time one can figure that the bombs he dropped must have taken their human toll of innocents and one is curious to know if his plane crashed without causing further casualties. The whole story awakens sadness, but also some understanding, if one imagines how the reaction on the ground would be in New York City upon the capture of a bombing pilot - especially if the bomber happened to parachute down into one of the city’s tougher neighborhoods.
He reported having been tortured during years as a POW. No one would like to have gone through such years of imprisonment. At the same time, the bereavements of families of those slain during his bombings is more heartbreakingly permanent, final and absolute.
On 60 Minutes in 1997, there was an uncomfortable, sorrowful and somewhat disturbing moment: (from the text transcript)
Sen. McCain: I m--made serious, serious mistakes and did things wrong when I was in prison, OK?
Mike Wallace: What did you do wrong in prison?
Sen. McCain: I wrote a confession. I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children.
Wallace: And you did it because you were being tortured...