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 Prisoners of Hope:  Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America. By Susan Katz Keating. 

This book details the saddest aspect of the issue of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War:  How families of missing men are victimized by unscrupulous people and how government actions have contributed to making some families prisoners of false hopes.

During the Vietnam War, as in every war, men were lost and were not recovered.  These men are, in general, referred to as "missing in action"  -- MIA.  MIA has a specific, legal meaning.  No one from Vietnam is MIA.  In every case, a review of the records of men who did not return has resulted in a presumptive finding of death -- the over 2,000 men who did not return from Vietnam are dead -- factually and officially.

 Surrounding the MIA issue is a number of individuals and groups who claim that the US government knowingly abandoned men who were known to be held by the Vietnamese (or the Laotians, or the Cambodians, or others).  These people further claim that the government has conducted a monstrous cover-up of these abandoned POWs.  In spite of a mountain of evidence that such cover-up-and-conspiracy theories are groundless, the tales persist.

At the core of the cover-up-and-conspiracy theory is a small number of people who generate phony stories, pass along phony stories, attack government officials, con families, publish newsletters, publish worldwide web pages, hound members of Congress, and do everything else they can to promote their theories.  Some of their antics are laughable but, for the most part, these people are shameless and their antics are despicable, preying on the emotions of families of missing men and promoting themselves.  Some -- former POW "Red" McDaniels, former Congressman Billy Hendon, and Ted Sampley -- have made nice livings from their phony stories.  Others have made themselves into minor heroes with their nonsense -- former Army Major Mark Smith, former Army Lieutenant Colonel James "Bo"  Gritz.

Susan Katz Keating was a reporter for the Washington Times newspaper.  She was a believer in the cover-up theory. She started collecting information for articles -- interviewing families, interviewing the people who spread the claims, and interviewing government officials.  She came to realize that those spreading these stories, claiming to be working for the families, were charlatans and frauds.  In this book, Ms. Keating details the antics and the phony stories that continue to haunt the MIA issue.

Ms. Keating is a frequent target of activist attacks claiming that she did not conduct the interviews that she reports in the book. In fact, the refrain that she made it up is a matter of holy writ in the MIA cult.   I have publicly challenged folks who spout this claim to simply put their money and their lawyer on spot.  Just sue her for libel and let the court decide.  No on has taken me up on the offer.  Why not?  Could it be that they know she has the tapes of the interviews?  And, why so much dislike of her?  Obvious: she was once one of them, then, she saw the light. That's the way cults treat their members who escape.

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