Whence the Attacks
|I really did not want to insert current politics into this site,
but, in view of the attacks on the POW record of Senator John McCain
-- the presumptive Republican presidential candidate -- I need to
provide the background of what you are about to read.
First, I -- Joe Schlatter, Colonel, US Army (Retired), author of this site -- am a liberal Democrat and will not vote for McCain or any other Republican presidential candidate. However -- as the current presidential campaign builds toward November 2008, McCain's record as a prisoner of war in Hanoi is being attacked by a gang of charlatans, liars, and scam artists. In spite of our political differences, I cannot stand by while John McCain's honor is attacked by a gang of assholes who are not fit to wash out McCain's jock strap.
The charges that these people are levying against McCain include:
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE CLAIMS IS A LIE.
The individuals who are attacking McCain's record are not Democrats. In fact, the attacks on McCain are coming from hard-core right-wing reactionaries. Those who are attacking McCain include:
So -- why are these people attacking McCain's record as a prisoner of war? It's a long and sordid story. The short version is this:
However, to understand fully why these frauds are attacking McCain, you need to read through this page then read all the pages and articles that are linked to this page. Doing this reading will take some time but it's important -- because -- some of these phony charges against McCain are showing up in the legitimate press and the truth needs to be told.
Beginning in early March 2008, a website titled "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" appeared on the WWW. The site contains a collection of attacks on John McCain. As McCain moved to cement the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination, the site added more and more attacks on McCain. Briefly stated, the site is bullshit. The website, "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain" is the creation of Ted Sampley from Kinston, NC. Sampley is assisted by another individual, Jerry Kiley, and the bills are being paid by rightwingnut and former member of Congress, John LeBoutillier. This is a long and twisted tale. To fully understand why Sampley is attacking McCain, you need to start by reading this article after which you need to read the articles linked to this one.
There are three elements to this story:
|Ted Sampley, a MIA "activist" from Kinston, NC who is the major source of attacks on McCain.|
UPDATE: Ted Sampley died 12 May 2009 in the VA hospital, Durham, NC, of complications from heart surgery.
You will also find updates tacked onto the end of this article.
By the time Americans began to arrive in Vietnam in force in the mid-1960s, the Vietnamese nation had been at war for more than a generation. In the early part of this century, the young Ho Chi Minh and other Vietnamese student activists embraced a mixture of Marxism and US representative democracy as a way to escape French colonialism. The struggle against the French -- which was an armed struggle at times -- was replaced in the late 1930's with war against the Japanese, who occupied the rice-rich Mekong Delta and the strategic Vietnamese coast. Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh fought against the French, assisted by US Office of Strategic Services personnel, training, and equipment. With the defeat of the Japanese, the French returned only to be met by experienced Viet Minh troops, supplied by the Soviet Union and China. The defeat at Dien Bien Phu sealed the end of French control of Indochina but soon the Americans were there, supporting the newly-created state of the Republic of Vietnam -- South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese, under Ho's leadership, portrayed themselves as the defenders of the Vietnamese nation against yet another foreign invader.
Meanwhile, the people were tired of war and needed something to lift their morale and to ensure, if not their active support, at least their acquiescence in the war effort by the North. Ho's government built on the propaganda machine they had established in the fights against the French and the Japanese and soon they had a fully-operational propaganda operation aimed at the invading Americans.
The West -- first the British and French and other colonial powers and now the Americans -- had impressed on the Asians how backward and weak they were in the face of Western military might and technology. From the earliest days when British guns destroyed Chinese warlord armies armed with spears, to the attacks by supersonic aircraft on Hanoi, Asian peoples have been reminded of their "backwardness" relative to the West.
The problem faced by Ho's propaganda organizations, then, was to (1) overcome growing war weariness and (2) lift the morale of people faced with a technologically superior enemy who could not be stopped. They did a fine job of it.
North Vietnamese propaganda attacked head-on the problem of waging war against a powerful, superior enemy. One important aim of their propaganda was to cut down to size the mighty Americans and their seemingly endless war machinery. During the war, North Vietnam's public media were filled with stories of glorious heroes -- factory workers or peasant farmers, young women village militia members, old grandmothers and grandfathers wielding WW II rifles -- who shot down US warplanes and captured the six-foot tall giants who came to bomb their peaceful villages.
I recall reading the debriefings of several US pilots, shot down over the North, who told of their role in the propaganda machine. These guys told of being shot down, captured, and held in a rice shed, a tool shed, or some other small structure pressed into service as a jail for the American. Soon, a group of Vietnamese regular soldiers would arrive, accompanied by a photographer, an interpreter, and some sort of VIP who gave the orders. The American would be made to undergo several captures. That is, he would be taken back to his crashed aircraft where he would be forced to pose for the camera while he was "captured" by a couple of young women militia members, then by an old granny wielding a rice knife, etc., etc. In all the photographs, the American was portrayed as cowering in fear of his captor. These episodes were the source of many photographs of captured US personnel that were given a lot of play in the North Vietnamese press and that often appeared in worldwide media.
The whole purpose of this kabuki theater is obvious: What do we have to fear from the Americans when a simple farm girl, with a single shot from an old rifle can bring down this modern aircraft and capture this big guy, who cowers in a ditch, trying to hide from the outrage of these villagers? You get the idea. This was a recurring theme in North Vietnamese propaganda and it was used to convince the people that they really could win this war because the Americans were not ten feet tall and bullet-proof. Propaganda of this sort was not intended to influence American public opinion -- it was aimed at the Vietnamese people and the government propagandists were not constrained by fact.
McCain's capture was just what the Vietnamese propagandists needed. He was a graduate of the US Naval Academy (Annapolis) and was the son and grandson of Navy admirals. McCain's father, Admiral John McCain, Sr., was appointed Commander-in-Chief (CINC), US Pacific Command (USPACOM) -- the CINCPAC -- after Senator McCain -- then LCdr McCain -- was shot down. As such, the older McCain commanded all US forces in the Pacific area -- geographically the largest US military command in the world.
McCain was shot down over Hanoi, ejected, and landed in the middle of a lake in the city. He was injured badly in the ejection and was barely conscious when a group of Vietnamese grabbed a small boat, paddled into the lake, and rolled him onto the bank of the lake. He was stripped and hauled off to the Hanoi Hilton where he was dumped into a cell with not medical treatment, drifting in and out of consciousness. By piecing together McCain's recollections and the reports from other POWs who were aware that another guy had been brought in, it appears that the Vietnamese threw him in the cell, possible believing that he was about to die from his injuries. After a couple of days, they suddenly pulled him out of the cell and, after a day or two of trying to treat his wounds in prison, took him to Ministry of Defense Hospital # 108, the hospital where many US POWs were treated. The supposition has always been that the North Vietnamese suddenly discovered that they had a US admiral's son and they figured that they had a possible propaganda prize in their hands. In fact, some Vietnamese propaganda statements referred to McCain as the "American Crown Prince."
I will not go into the details of McCain's six years of captivity -- if you want the details, read about him in three books:
|Faith of My Fathers, by John McCain and Mark Salter.|
|John McCain: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg.|
|The Nightingale's Song, by Robert Timberg.|
McCain's family lineage was immediately seized upon by the Vietnamese who trumpeted that they had shot down and captured an American "crown prince." Now, you and I find this portrayal of McCain to be laughable but remember -- the purpose of this statement was NOT to influence our thinking. The purpose was to cause the North Vietnamese population to believe that they were winning the war. Capturing McCain -- the son and grandson of admirals and the son of the commander of the US forces who were attacking North Vietnam -- was a grand opportunity for the propaganda machine.
The details of McCain's experiences as a POW can be found in the books cited above. In the main, McCain was treated -- or maybe I should say "mistreated" -- like other US POWs. He was subjected to torture, interrogation, isolation, mind games, food deprivation, and all the other tricks the Vietnamese had to try to make him produce anti-war statements that could be used in their domestic and international propaganda. Because of his family background,however, McCain was singled out from time to time. After all, consider the impact if the son of the commander of US forces in the Pacific denounced the war in general and his own father in particular.
Two incidents in particular need to be pointed out here.
Not long after his capture, the Vietnamese erected two historical markers in honor of the units who shot down and captured McCain.
Elsewhere on the WWW you will find sites attacking McCain and claiming that McCain was the only US POW who has had a "monument" erected to him by his enemy. They use the historical markers as "proof" that McCain was a collaborator. Nonsense -- these markers commemorate the Vietnamese units who shot down McCain and those who captured him while he was floating in the lake, they do not praise McCain. These markers are similar to the historical markers that one sees along highways in the US. Of course, the MIA "activists" have never let a little truth and fact stand in the way.
One falsehood that the MIA activists spread about McCain is the claim that he was given preferential treatment in a Hanoi hospital -- including what one activists describes as "clean sheets, coffee, tea, cigarettes, and orange slices." The facts are quite different. McCain was taken to the hospital, set down on a stretcher in a room with water on the floor and rats and spiders for company. He was given minimal treatment, then eventually encased in a full-body plaster cast and taken into a clean room and placed on a bed with clean sheets. There, he was visited by a French journalist who asked him some questions about his treatment. When McCain refused to say that the was being treated well and given good food, the interview was terminated by the Vietnamese and McCain was tossed back into the filthy, rat-infested room from which he had come. No tea, no coffee, no cigarettes, no orange slices. More activist claptrap.
The Vietnamese had a lot of help from other Communist countries in their propaganda efforts. Consider this article that was published and broadcast by the Cuban Communist news service, Granma. Here is the lead paragraph from the Granma article.
GRANMA PUBLISHES INTERVIEW WITH U.S. POW MCCAIN [Havana GRANMA 24 Jan 70]
Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist residing in Cuba, returned last week
from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam where he was invited; and in his
notebook he brought back some journalistic news: an interview with a North
American pilot captured in the DRV, after bombing Hanoi on 26 October 1967.
The meeting between him and the pilot took place in an office of the Committee
for Foreign Cultural Relations in Hanoi.
The pilot interviewed is LtCmdr. John Sidney McCain, son and grandson of
American Navy admirals.
The article goes on at length to quote from Barral's alleged interview of McCain. In that interview, McCain is quoted as talking rather freely about his background and his family. McCain -- who is not exactly modest -- spoke of his ability as a pilot, passed a message to his wife, and talked about his father and grandfather. In one version of the interview, the Cuban news service claimed that McCain was offered coffee and cigarettes by Barral, which he accepted. There were places in the interview where the interpreter had problems; McCain, who had studied Spanish at the Naval Academy, spoke in Spanish to Barral. Photos published in the commie press showed McCain seated at the end of a table, Barral on one side, and coffee/tea cups, a couple of plates of possibly food, and an ashtray on the table.
If you browse the WWW and search for articles on John McCain, you will find several sites attacking McCain's behavior as a POW and using this interview as "proof" that he collaborated with his captors. There are two problems with this interview.
|First, there is no way to confirm independently that McCain said any of the things
attributed to him by the Communist news media. Remember, the purpose of the
Vietnamese propaganda machine was to make it appear that US POWs were war criminals and
that they admitted to being such. In this case, instead of relying on their own
propagandists, the Vietnamese brought in an outside expert who, they hoped, would give
their position more credibility.|
|Second is the matter of the coffee and cigarettes. One of the more rabid mad dogs who attacks McCain -- Ted Sampley -- has stated that McCain was photographed drinking coffee and smoking cigars with his Cuban interviewer. McCain did exactly what other US POWs did. On a few occasions, US POWs were brought before staged press conferences and, sometimes, there were bowls of fruit or candy on the tables where the POWs were seated -- apparently in an attempt to show the world how well they were being treated. US POWs who underwent this treatment have reported that, if they had the chance, they would eat the fruit or candy. Why? As a supplement to their meager, unsuitable diets. McCain did what any other POW would have done -- he saw an opportunity and he took it. McCain himself relates this incident in his book Faith of My Fathers.|
I have a copy of McCain's book, Faith of My Fathers and I have scanned the pages on which he describes his prison treatment. Click on this link to go to a page with links to the scanned pages from his book. These pages contain big jpeg files and take a long time to load.
If you browse the WWW, you will find -- as I stated earlier -- several sites that attack McCain's behavior as a POW. The more extreme of these claim that McCain is some sort of a Manchurian Candidate. (Let's insert a note here. The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 movie starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury. The movie is an adaptation of Richard Condon's novel by the same name and it was made at the height of the Cold War when fear of communism was at its most fervent in America. The lead characters (Lawrence Harvey and Frank Sinatra) have returned from the Korean war, Harvey to a civilian job and Sinatra to the Intelligence community at the Pentagon. The film rapidly establishes that their platoon in Korea had been brainwashed with the aim of having a political assassin well positioned in American political circles. Click on this link to read a review of the movie. ) The main thrust of the attacks on McCain, then, is that he is a Vietnamese plant in the US political system.
You can find the home page for the Dispatch by doing a search on the WWW. Read the articles for the flavor of the publication. Sampley uses hearsay, innuendo, misinformation, misquotes, and misrepresentation, all of which he presents as fact. As you will see if you access their archives, Sampley has used the Dispatch as a platform to attack McCain.
If you search for Sampley's Veteran Dispatch website, you will find that he has published several attacks on McCain. I will not go into the charges -- find the site and read the articles for yourself. As you read these articles, you will find that Sampley keeps coming back to one theme: John McCain has Communist leanings, he collaborated with his Vietnamese captors, and he cannot be trusted as a Senator or as the President. Sampley even refers to McCain as a Manchurian Candidate. In the movie, the brainwashed American is to be set off when he sees the Queen of Diamonds -- Sampley's first attack on McCain came in an article in the Dispatch that was headlined with a photograph of McCain and a photo of a Queen of Diamonds.
Sampley uses various material against McCain.
|Soviet defector Victor Kalugin hints that one of his sources was a US Naval officer.
Sampley claims that the officer |
was a prisoner in Vietnam where he was recruited and Sampley concludes that McCain is the spy to whom Kalugin
refers. He offers no proof -- he just makes the charge.
|Sampley gives great play to the Barral "interview," even citing McCain's use
of Spanish as "proof" of his |
collaboration with the Commies.
|Sampley has dug around into McCain's childhood, his marriage, his military service, his
involvement with the |
famous "Keating Five" scandal -- anything with McCain's name on it.
Why is Sampley attacking McCain? I believe there are three reasons:
- McCain's support of normal relations with Vietnam;
- McCain's refusal to be drawn into the "live POW" whirlpool; and
- McCain's attempts to expose the questionable fund-raising that surrounds the MIA issue.
In the late 1980's, McCain took the position that the US should move toward normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam in return for their increased cooperation on the MIA issue. Sampley recognized -- as does the rest of the "activist" community -- that such talk in high places can be disastrous to their efforts to recruit and to raise money. Their recruiting and fund raising pitch is the same: US POWs are still being held, alive, in Vietnam and we need just a few more dollars from you to free them.
As US researchers probe into Vietnamese wartime records, and as US search teams recover remains from crashsites and battlefield gravesites, the number of unaccounted for Americans goes down. More importantly, it is clear from the information collected that no American POWs were retained in captivity after Operation Homecoming. The "activists" do not want this information to become known because they depend on folks falling prey to their claims and then donating money or other support -- such as the proliferation of "POW-MIA Remembrance Sites" on the WWW.
McCain refused to be drawn into the live POW battles and he continued to support normal US-Vietnam relations. For a returned POW to take these two positions was more than the "activist" community could stand.
In the closing days of the SSC, a hearing was held that focused on individuals and groups who are raising money on the MIA issue. A friend of mine who was on the SSC staff briefed McCain on the money-raising activities and McCain was incensed that anyone would play on the emotions of families to enrich themselves. McCain wanted to hold a hearing that would expose these activities. There was, however, a problem. McCain's two main targets were former congressman Billy Hendon and Sampley's Homecoming II with its vigil booth on the Mall, selling T-shirts and other paraphernalia. Senator Bob Smith, Vice-chair of the SSC, was godfather and protector to Hendon and Sampley. He intervened with SSC Chair John Kerry and watered down the hearings into questionable fund raising so that Hendon and Sampley were not targets.
As a result of Smith protecting Sampley and Hendon, the hearing was limited. The first panel was a group of professional fund raisers and representatives from state consumer protection offices. They testified that professional fund raisers have guidelines as to how much of the money they raise goes to their operation and how much goes to the client. Generally, 70 percent should go to the client. McCain forced several of the fund raisers working for various MIA activists to admit that they were keeping 70 percent. When the hearing then progressed to the few "activists" who were there, the questioning by the senators forced them to admit that their appeals for funds were based on phony information and that they regularly misrepresented themselves and their activities -- all in the name of trying to recover missing Americans and to aid MIA families.
The Senate Select Committee final report devotes a chapter to"private efforts," including the fact that there are folks who raise a lot of money on the MIA issue. Click here to go to the front page of the Report of the Senate Select Committee . Scroll down that page to the section on Private Efforts. There you will find Parts 1, 2, and 3 -- these sections make interesting reading. Here is a link to Private Efforts, Part 3 where we find the following comments on Sampley's Homecoming II.
"Homecoming II reported to the IRS that it paid Ted Sampley, its founder and the publisher of U.S. Veteran News and Report, more than $300,000, ostensibly for t-shirts sold at Homecoming II's stand at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.Sampley has fought all efforts by the National Park Service to stop merchandising the t-shirts and other merchandising on national park property, and at publication time was involved in a lawsuit over his right to use the picture of the memorial statue without paying the artist. Another lawsuit, against the National League of Families, also is pending. Despite promises of cooperation,Sampley refused to provide financial records to the Committee for his tax-exempt organization."
Mr. Sampley does not appreciate attempts to expose his activities in this area and, as a result, he has turned his cannons on McCain, who led the charge in the fund raising investigations.
In her book Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW/MIA Myth in America, author Susan Katz Keating devotes a full chapter to Ted Sampley. Read it; the entire chapter is quoted on my web site at this link.
John McCain is now a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. In addition to the usual character assassination that we force our candidates to undergo, McCain is now being shadowed by these charges that he is somehow a traitor, maybe even a "Manchurian candidate." The charges are groundless and are a reaction to McCain's position on the issues of US relations with Vietnam and the MIA issue. Vote for him or don't vote for him but do it based on his record as a representative and senator from Arizona, not on misinformation about his tenure as a POW.
Here is an article on McCain written by Admiral James Stockdale, senior US POW in Hanoi, published in the New York Times, November 26, 1999.
February 5, 2000. Ted Sampley has now moved the attacks against John McCain to a higher level. In late January, Sampley began quoting a claim by retired Army colonel David Hackworth that McCain's award of the Silver Star did not comply with Navy regulations in that such regulations require "two eyewitnesses" to such action. Sampley's attack on McCain can be found at this URL: http://www.usvetdsp.com/mcainmdl.htm.
The relevant Navy regulation is quoted below:
Secnav 1650.1F - Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual
Section 2. - ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES
-220. PREPARATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Initiation. A recommendation for an award may be submitted
by any commissioned officer, senior to the individual being recommended,
having knowledge of any act, achievement, or service which may warrant such
award. A recommendation originated by other than the commanding officer of
the individual concerned must be forwarded to the commanding officer for
. . .
"Combat awards must be fully justified.
Eyewitness statement (at least two if practicable)
For Medal of Honor also include a summary of the rec0ommendation in the following format:
Rate or rank at time of action:
Next of kin:
Person who assisted:
Conditions Under Which Act Performed
Narrative Description of Gallant Conduct"
The operative words here -- the words that Sampley omits -- are "if practicable."
Now, in a February 5 article in the Fayetteville, NC, newspaper, we find that "Sampley has formally asked the Pentagon to investigate Hackworth's allegations." (concerning McCain;s Silver Star) ( Note: Before we proceed any further, You should also be aware that Hackworth claimed to have interviewed the wounded US Army Rangers who participated in the rescue attempt of the downed Blackhawk in Somalia. Hackworth claimed that he did so in the hospital where they were recovering - he claimed that the severely injured had suffered amputations. This came as a surprise to those men because no one suffered any amputations as a result of the action.) This, then is the way that Sampley works. He digs and digs until he finds something that he can now blow into a "Pentagon investigation."
This is vintage Sampley. First, he tries to attack McCain through his "Manchurian candidate" theory -- and his attacks gain no national notice. Now, he figures if he can find an alleged violation of regulations, then he can force an official investigation. He knows that the Republican leadership -- many of whom are not exactly McCain fans either will join his call for an investigation or will stand silent on the matter. Sampley knows that the national press will approach him because he was the one who "broke the story" on the Silver Star allegations. This national exposure will give him a platform from which to proclaim his "Manchurian candidate" thesis to the national press.
Do not be surprised to find that Sampley has enlisted -- or been enlisted by -- former
Congressman Billy Hendon. And, do not be surprised to find
that Senator Bob Smith (R, NH; darling of the MIA activists and
bitter enemy of John McCain) is somehow involved -- I expect Smith to make a statement of
some kind, probably calling for an investigation into the Silver Star award.
Readers who are turned off by this should take the opportunity to invite reporters to visit this page.
I have often cautioned people that they should be careful what they pray for as they may get it. Sampley wants to destroy McCain for reasons outlined above. He has now drawn the Department of Defense into this personal vendetta, probably hoping that he can bring national exposure to his claims against McCain. I often warn people to be careful what they pray for -- they may get it. Mr. Sampley has been pushing for national exposure of his attacks on McCain. However, he will find that national exposure is a bright spotlight and national reporters -- unlike the guys in the provincial press -- will come to Sampley with hard questions and real research, not worshipping him as a "prominent Vietnam veteran."
On February 16, 2000, Ted Sampley again demonstrated his methods -- misquote others and make himself appear to be something he is not. At 3:13 a.m., February 16, Sampely posted an article on the newsgroup alt.war.vietnam titled Washington Post -- McCain, A Manchurian Candidate? He went on to quote a February 16 article in the Washington Post that mentioned the "Manchurian candidate" theory. Well, actually, he did not quote the Post article -- he misquoted it. This link will take you to an article that reproduces Sampley's article and the full Post article, with Sampley's misquotes highlighted. Briefly, Sampley tried to make it appear that the Post article was supporting his "Manchurian candidate" attacks on McCain. In fact, the Post article was poking ridicule at the whole thesis and the Post writers described Sampley's web site that attacks McCain as "a tad longer on saliva than facts."
I have received a few e-mail messages from folks who read this and other articles in which I talk about the habit of the MIA "activists" to viciously attack anyone who opposes them or who shed light on their misinformation; these folks question if such attacks really happen. Scroll to the bottom of this page where you will find a link that says "Read the Guest Book." Click on that link and read the comments left by people who disagree with me. And those are mild compared to the things that I have had said to me face-to-face, faxed to my former Pentagon office, written about me in letters to Congress, and the like. These people get rabid when you expose their phony stories or prove to them that their god has failed.
In January 2008 McCain won the Republican primary election in New Hampshire and immediately Sampley's propaganda machine cranked up. Sampley is the sponsor ( with his identity concealed, of course ) of a website named "Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain." On this website he repeats his many lies about McCain and he has added a few, accusing McCain of covering up evidence of US POW's still held in SEAsia long after the end of the Vietnam War.
Because the mainstream press does not check facts as they should, you can expect some of Sampley's crap to be reported as fact. And, because Sampley is closely tied to several far-right-wing Republicans who do not like McCain, you can expect his nonsense to be spread through such outlets as Newsmax and the Sciafe newspapers.
Articles Related to Senator McCain
|Recent Attack on McCain
(Feb. 8, 2000)
|ADM Jim Stockdale on McCain||Chapter on Ted Sampley, McCain's Chief Accuser|
|McCain "Interviewed" While a POW|