Tag Archives: North Vietnam

Torture returns to the political debate arena

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It’s back. Torture has made its return as an issue being discussed by presidential candidates.

Donald J. Trump has dredged it from the has-been issue pile, saying something about how he would order the waterboarding of bad guys in order to get information from them.

Don’t do it, says someone who knows a thing or three about torture.

I prefer to stand with the expert on these things. That would be U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who lost the presidency in the 2008 campaign to fellow Sen. Barack Obama.

What’s a bit ironic, of course, is that McCain and Trump would be at loggerheads over this issue. Why the irony? You’ll recall that one of Trump’s initial insults was tossed in McCain’s direction when he said that the senator is a war hero only because he got captured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and that he (Trump) preferred people “who weren’t captured, OK?”

Here they are again. McCain has long opposed the use of waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation” technique. He calls it torture, which he believes breaks faith with American principles.

What does McCain now about torture? More than most Americans ever will know, and certainly far more than Donald Trump knows about it.

McCain’s five-plus years as a captive after being shot down during the Vietnam War included many years of torture: beatings, solitary confinement and the communists’ various versions of “enhanced interrogation.”

When the senior senator from Arizona calls a particular act a form of torture, well, I am inclined to believe him.

I am doing so in this particular exchange.

He’s right as well to suggest that the information gleaned from waterboarding has been sketchy at best and has not provided nearly as much actionable intelligence as has been suggested.

Sen. McCain isn’t speaking as some soft-pedaling, squishy, politically correct liberal. He speaks as someone who’s been straight to hell and back.

 

Trump is driving the media crazy

Donald Trump is confounding everyone who observes politics for a living … or for a hobby.

The most profound impact might be on the media and how they seek to cover this guy.

The New York Times has published an interesting analysis of the media coverage of this individual’s amazing rise to the top of the political heap.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/donald-trump%e2%80%99s-wealth-and-poll-numbers-complicate-news-media%e2%80%99s-coverage/ar-AAdtnhP

It notes that his wealth and poll numbers are giving the media fits as they try to make sense of what this person means to the 2016 race for the presidency. Is he for real? Is he a showman who is seeking to elevate his real brand, which is as a reality-TV huckster? Or is this guy really in it for the long haul, seeking to change the course of American history?

Trump recently filed the financial disclosure forms needed to cement his run for the Republican presidential nomination. Some folks — me, included — thought that perhaps he wouldn’t file those forms, and that his campaign would go away after a suitable amount of fanfare and rhetorical fireworks.

So, he’s taken the next step.

Trump is getting a lot of ink and air time. Some pundits on the right think the media hate this guy. I disagree.

I believe the media love him, not because he’s Donald Trump and he’s going to single-handedly “make America great again,” as he proclaims. They love him because he sells newspapers and brings viewers to TV screens.

And yes, there’s a certain entertainment value associated with this Trump’s pronouncements, not to mention the angry response he evokes from his fellow Republican presidential candidates — and from those who’ve run for the office previously; Democratic candidates and “strategists,” of course, are loving every minute of this traveling carnival.

I’m going to keep believing, though, that Trump is a flash in the pan. His comments about Sen. John McCain’s war record, I believe, were too much for many serious Americans and I’ll keep insisting that his statement making light of McCain’s five-year captivity in a North Vietnamese prison cell will become the single event that dooms his candidacy for the White House.

However, until he exits the arena, the media will keep covering him — and will keep struggling with trying to decide just how to do so.

Good luck.

Sen. Franken’s ‘joke’ gets a fresh look

Fifteen years ago, before he was a United States senator, Al Franken was a comedian.

And a pretty funny one at that.

He also hosted a radio talk show on the progressive Air America network.

In 2000, he wrote an essay in which he said this about Sen. John McCain: “I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war.”

The statement is getting some added attention these days in light of what Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said of his fellow Republican’s service record.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/al-franken-criticize-jon-mccain-captured-donald-trump-120359.html?cmpid=sf#ixzz3gS3qJiW9

Franken was elected to the Senate in 2008 in a razor-thin margin. He has become a leading progressive Democrat in that body. According to his spokesman, he made the statement about McCain as a joke. He told McCain that very thing when McCain was a guest on Franken’s Air America radio show.

Well, whatever Franken’s motives were in his pre-Senate days, I don’t find a single thing funny about what John McCain endured for five-plus years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Yes, he’s saluted his Senate colleague since then. I’m sure the tributes have been sincere.

But here’s an example of how one’s words never disappear.

Fonda feels the heat once again

Jane Fonda is likely going to take the burden of a “huge mistake” with her to the grave.

She’s now 77 years of age, an acclaimed actress, a one-time fitness guru and she remains more or less active in certain political causes, although age and life experience seem to have taught her to pick her battles carefully.

She showed up recently in Frederick, Md., for a speaking engagement and — guess what — she drew protestors who are still angry over a single act she committed back in 1972.

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Jane-Fonda-Draws-Protesters-in-Maryland-288958811.html

The Vietnam War was still raging and Fonda decided to show some sort of solidarity with the North Vietnamese government. How did she demonstrate that loyalty? By posing in an anti-aircraft battery, where she was photographed smiling and laughing with enemy soldiers who either had fired their weapon at U.S. aircraft or were to do so later, putting U.S. aviators in mortal danger.

The protest in Frederick involved a number of Vietnam veterans. Some of whom were carrying signs that read, “Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never.”

Fonda said the other day her posing with that piece of enemy artillery — and acting as if she didn’t have a care in the world — was a “huge mistake.”

I agree with the language of the forgive-but-not-forget signage. I’ve forgiven Fonda for that terrible demonstration, but I cannot forget it. I played a tiny part in that war three years before Fonda’s infamous photo op. Indeed, I formed my own anti-war feelings based partly on what I drew from my brief exposure to what was happening there.

She told the audience in Frederick that the episode left many with the impression she was against U.S. service personnel participating in that war. Fonda contends she supported them. Well, you could have fooled a lot of us, which she managed to do.

I’ve never bought into the Hanoi Jane description that others have hung on her. But oh, man, it’s tough to forget the insult she laid on those who merely were doing their duty.

 

McCain vs. Cheney on torture

An interesting face-off is occurring within the Republican Party over the definition of torture.

In one corner is Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war and a serious expert on torture.

In the other corner is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who’s never been subjected to torture but who supports the use of what’s called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

McCain says the United States shouldn’t use those “EITs” on suspected terrorists because they aren’t in keeping with American values.

Cheney says he’d do all it all over again if given the chance and says the EITs do not constitute torture.

Let’s see. Who’s more credible? I think I’ll go with McCain.

http://news.yahoo.com/video/gop-heavyweights-mccain-cheney-opposing-203948345.html

I’ll be clear. I didn’t vote for McCain when he ran for president in 2008. Nor did I vote for the George W. Bush/Cheney ticket in either 2000 or 2004. Politics isn’t part of my leaning.

What informs me here is McCain’s stature as a war hero and a POW who endured torture at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors from 1967 to 1973. The man knows torture. He says without hesitation that waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and stress positions constitute torture.

Cheney’s first-hand knowledge of torture? He doesn’t have any. However, he speaks with an equal lack of hesitation that we gained knowledge from the bad guys by using the EITs.

McCain disputes that assertion, saying that captives will “say anything” to avoid further pain and suffering.

How does McCain know that? Again, he speaks from brutal and intense personal experience.

Yep. I’m siding with McCain on this one.

 

No troops to Iraq? Good news

Imagine for a moment a situation in the White House, around April 1975.

North Vietnam is sending thousands of troops into South Vietnam. The United States has ended its role in that country by pulling its troops out. The South Vietnamese are left to defend themselves. They’re doing a lousy job of it.

NVA forces are storming toward Saigon and other key cities in the south. Gerald Ford’s national security team comes to him and says, “Mr. President, we have to send our troops back into South Vietnam to save that country from being conquered by the North. What’s your call, sir?”

Do you think the president ever would have given a moment of serious thought to such an idea? Hardly. President Ford didn’t do any of that. Heck, I seriously doubt that option ever was on the table.

It shouldn’t be now as Iraq fights to preserve its hard-won transition from ham-handed dictatorship to some form of democratic rule.

And that is why President Obama is correct to assert that our future involvement will not involve sending troops back to the battlefield.

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/iraq-turmoil/obama-we-will-do-our-part-iraq-wont-send-troops-n130536

The president today laid down an important marker for Iraq. “Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices,” he said. “Any actions that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces have to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq.

The chaos “should be a wakeup call to Iraq’s leaders,” he said, and “could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.”

Are there some military options available? Perhaps, but they should involve air power only and perhaps only in the form of unmanned aircraft, drones, that could be deployed to fire heavy ordnance at the bad guys who are seeking to take control of the country.

Americans’ “extraordinary sacrifices” included thousands of dead and wounded. The country has no appetite for more war. However, we must do “our part,” as the president said, in trying to secure a country that may be headed for the brink.

War hero departs

A hero has just left this world. I want to call attention briefly to what this man did during a terrible time of duress.

Jeremiah Denton was captured by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He was a Navy aviator who was shot down over Hanoi in 1965. In 1966, the North Vietnamese put him on television supposedly to tell the world of his “war crimes.” They sought to use him as a propaganda tool.

But Denton instead blinked out the word “torture” in Morse code, informing the world of what his captors were doing to him and his fellow prisoners of war. Denton would spend several years in solitary confinement at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” encampment.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeremiah-denton-ex-senator-and-vietnam-pow-who-blinked-torture-in-morse-code-dies-at-89/

I wonder how it is that some individuals have the presence of mind under such terrible circumstances to do something creative and meaningful.

Young Jeremiah Denton showed the world how a hero can resist his foes and inform his allies far away of the terrible circumstances of a captivity that should have been conducted under the rules of war.

Denton served more than seven years as a war prisoner. He came out in 1973 along with many other young men. He went on to serve Alabama as a Republican U.S. senator.

Denton, who died today at age 89, spoke with simple eloquence when he stepped off the plane in 1973 upon his release from captivity. He was the senior U.S. officer aboard the aircraft that flew him and his comrades to the Philippines. Denton said, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander-in-chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”

A nation is grateful for this man’s service.

You go for it, young man

You know, if I could vote for this guy, I think I would for simply one reason: his age.

Joe Newman is 101 years old and is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Sarasota, Fla.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/101-year-old-florida-man-running-for-congress/

Why this guy? Beats me. I don’t know a thing about him, other than what he says on the link attached here. According to CBS.com, “Touting his breadth of life experience, the centenarian has launched a campaign as a write-in candidate against four-term Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan. He told a local news station he wanted to run as a write-in candidate instead of seeking a major party nomination ‘because I want to feel free to criticize the Democrats and Republicans.’”

I’m reminded of one of the beauties of getting to such a distinguished age. You can say whatever you want and no one is going to be as dismissive if you were, say, half as old.

I also am reminded of a tribute that the late great broadcast journalist David Brinkley paid to U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse, D-Ore. Morse at one time represented my home state of Oregon and in 1974 was running to recapture the seat he lost six years earlier to young Republican upstart Bob Packwood. Morse died during the 1974 campaign.

Brinkley noted that Morse was one of two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, the act that essentially gave President Lyndon Johnson permission to wage all-out war against North Vietnam.

Brinkley’s tribute noted that Morse was 64 at the time he cast the “no” vote. The other one came from 77-year-old Sen. Ernest Gruening of Alaska. He said both men “weren’t on the take or on the make,” meaning their age liberated them to vote their consciences.

I’m guessing Joe Newman is similarly liberated. I hope he wins.