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John McCain's 14th Amendment Problem

Giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy

by DOUGLAS VALENTINE

Technically, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits John McCain from becoming president of the United States.

Section III of the Amendment says, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States … who, having previously taken an oath … as an officer of the United States … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have … given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

It is a fact that McCain was an officer in the U.S. Navy and took an oath to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. This was a solemn appeal to Jehovah to smite him silly in the event he lied about or broke his oath. If he fell into captivity, he was bound by the Military Code of Conduct not to answer questions or make any oral or written statements disloyal or harmful to the U.S. To do so was considered collaborating with the enemy, and meant yet another mighty swipe from Jehovah.

It is also a fact that, in 1967, Lieutenant Commander John McCain was shot out of the sky while dropping bombs on North Vietnamese civilians. McCain’s plane crashed in a lake, and he suffered some broken bones and was slapped around after he was rescued. And all of that hurt, but none of it reached the Rumsfeld-Bush-Cheney standard for torture. Yet after a mere four days, McCain cracked like a robin’s egg. He told his captors, “I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.”

In his autobiography McCain elaborated, saying, “I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant.”

It is alleged that McCain gave the numbers of aircraft in his flight formation, information about location of rescue ships, and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place. According to retired Army Colonel Earl Hopper, McCain divulged classified information North Vietnam used to hone their air defense system, including “the package routes, which were routes used to bomb North Vietnam. He gave in detail the altitude they were flying, the direction, if they made a turn … he gave them what primary targets the United States was interested in.” As result, Hopper claims, the U.S. lost 60 per cent more aircraft, and in 1968 “called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them.”

What is Jehovah waiting for?

As became evident during the revisionist Republican Convention, McCain’s political fortunes balance precariously on the myth that he never collaborated, even under torture. On Saturday, September 6, in Colorado, Sarah Palin wowed the  faithful with an apocryphal story that brought tears to their eyes. As McCain stood beside her, feigning humility, she told how “Tom,” one of McCain’s fellow POWs, would watch through a peephole in his cell as the guards would walk McCain down the hall to the torture chamber. “Day after day after day,” Sara said – as if these torture sessions happened to every day for five and a half years – McCain would come back from the waterboard and, as he passed Tom, give the thumb’s up and flash a boyish smile. 

Forget for a moment that McCain, by his own admission, broke after four days of pain and anxiety and spilled classified military secrets in order to get medical help. After that, was he even tortured at all?

Ted Guy and Gordon “Swede” Larson were POWs with McCain. Indeed, they were McCain’s senior officers at the time he says he was tortured in solitary confinement. Guy and Larson, who have no axe to grind and have a better idea of what happened than almost anyone else, claimed that while they could not guarantee that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it. “Between the two of us, it’s our belief, and to the best of our knowledge, that no prisoner was beaten or harmed physically in [the camp where McCain was],” Larson said. “No one else in that camp was. It was the camp that people were released from.”

Jack McLamb, a distinguished Phoenix Arizona policeman, FBI hostage negotiator and Vietnam veteran with a top-secret security clearance, told Alex Jones that McCain was never tortured. McLamb spoke to several POWs, and they told him that “when [McCain] came in [to the POW camp] he immediately started spilling his guts about everything because he didn’t want to get tortured.” According to these POWs, the two broken arms McCain had sustained were the result of McCain panicking and not pulling his arms in when he bailed out of plane. (McCain, notably, was a lousy pilot and crashed three planes before being sent to Vietnam. )

Let’s pretend for a moment that, in the excitement of being nominated for president, McCain has consistently forgotten to correct the record and reveal to the public that he collaborated after four days. Maybe McCain feels that torture justifies collaboration, and that the denial of medical attention is a form of torture? Maybe that is why he feels justified to pretend to be a war hero?

So, is the denial of medical attention a form of torture?

Not so, according to former CIA officer Rob Simmons. While running for Congress in 1999, Simmons was accused of torturing civilian prisoners at a secret CIA torture center in Vietnam. The alleged torture occurred, ironically, at the same time McCain was being held in a North Vietnamese POW camp. The specific charge against Simmons, ironically again, was that he would withhold medicine from injured prisoners in order to obtain information.  

Did Simmons withhold medicine for an hour? A day?  Four Days? He didn’t say. But he did admit to withholding it, and the practice is standard CIA practice and part of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld repertoire of “enhanced” interrogation techniques.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved the practice for domestic application by your local constabulary. In 2003, in a 6-3 decision, the Court exonerated several Oxnard, California, cops who withheld medical treatment from a Hispanic suspect they’d shot five times. They claimed they were trying to get him to talk.

Irrational Behavior

Could the Republicans do anything more hypocritical than celebrate McCain for being tortured, while  they’re applauding the U.S. military and CIA for doing the same exact thing worldwide on a daily basis? Of course they could! At the suggestion that denying medicine to prisoners is torture, former CIA officer and Bush-backing congressman from Connecticut Rob Simmons indignantly asserted that “any veteran, anybody who served his country in war, should be offended.”

McCain likes to take off his clothes and show the country his war wounds – his “scars,” as he calls them – but he is less flashy about his famous psychiatric disabilities. Even his colleagues have noticed the problem. Former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) was quoted as having said about McCain: “I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues. He would disagree about something and then explode.” Smith called it “irrational behavior.”

Do we really want an irrational, angry man with his finger on The Button? A man suffering from an incurable case of PTSD? A man who pushed a woman in a wheelchair for merely asking him to do something about her son, who was MIA? What if Putin or  Medvedev  calls him “a lying skunk?” Bombs away!

No Republican hack is ever going to mention that a guilty conscience is the true source of McCain’s “irrational behavior,” or that, on June 2, 1969, McCain earned a reputation as the “POW Songbird.” On that day, McCain featured on a radio broadcast from Hanoi, aimed at U.S. servicemen in South Vietnam, praising his captors for their excellent medical treatment (“which allowed me to walk again”) and admitting he committed “crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I bombed their cities, towns and villages and caused more injury and death for the Vietnamese people.”

“The Vietnamese Communists called him the Songbird,” Jack McLamb says. “That’s his code name, Songbird McCain, because he just came into the camp singing and telling them everything they wanted to know.” According to McLamb, “McCain made 32 propaganda videos for the communist North Vietnamese in which he denounced America for what they were doing in Vietnam.”

The Republicans also steer clear of McCain’s 1997 interview with Mike Wallace, when McCain blurted that he had murdered “innocent women and children.” McCain, apparently having a flashback, confessed to having committed war crimes. “I am a war criminal,” he stated on 60 Minutes. “I bombed innocent women and children.”

And by the 9/11 standard, there is no doubt that he is a war criminal and a terrorist. As filmmaker Michael Moore has said, “McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. During this bombing campaign, which lasted for almost 44 months, U.S. forces flew 307,000 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam (roughly the same tonnage dropped in the Pacific during all of World War II). Though the stated targets were factories, bridges, and power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes, schools, and hospitals. In the midst of the campaign, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That’s more than one 9/11 every single month – for 44 months.”

Palin and Thompson did not mention that “one 9/11 every single month” fact – or that the embodiment of Christian character, John McCain, divorced the wife that stood by him while he was a POW after she was crippled in a car accident, in order to marry a trophy wife heiress who stole drugs for two years from a charitable organization of which she was president.

John McCain has been living the Big Lie for so long he probably believes it’s true. But he also acts to make sure the truth never gets out.

Like fellow war criminal Rob Simmons, John McCain has not been honest about his war record. But while Simmons signed non-disclosure agreements with the CIA, giving him carte blanche to lie, steal, cheat and murder, McCain has to resort to more devious tactics.
 
According to the journalist Sydney Schanberg (famous for his coverage of the war in Cambodia), McCain has a “long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam.” On the contrary, “in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the intelligence community [meaning the CIA],” McCain has been successful in legislating into secret “thousands of documents that would otherwise have been declassified long ago.”

McCain “says this is to protect the privacy of former POWs and gives it as his reason for not making public his own debriefing. But,” Schanberg adds, “the law allows a returned prisoner to view his own file or to designate another person to view it.” 

To try to parry his critics, McCain gave Nesweek’s Michael Isikoff a peak at his records, and Isikoff swore they contained “nothing incriminating,” although he acknowledged, “there were redactions.”

Why the redactions? This is a question that riles the POW/MIA community, including Jane Duke Gaylor, the woman in the wheelchair McCain pushed.  Indeed, many Vietnam veterans, former POWs and their families have criticized McCain for keeping his “and other wartime files sealed up.” According to Schanberg, “A smaller number of former POWs, MIA families and veterans have suggested there is something especially damning about McCain that the senator wants to keep hidden.”

Could that secret be the politically annihilating fact of his collaboration and its cover-up? Could it be that he made “numerous public statements that appeared favorable to the communist war effort in exchange for ‘special treatment.’“  

In their elitist wisdom, the Founding Fathers inserted an escape clause in the 14th Amendment. Section III says, “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

McCain’s “disability” (if not his PTSD) is thus treatable. All it takes is for some congressperson to bring the matter up for investigation and vote and avoid the Constitutional crisis that would ensue, if the “disability” becomes an issue in the campaign. As my friend Terry said, “If McCain merely appeared in photos posed in clean sheets [in a North Vietnamese hospital], then 2/3rds should quickly vote to forgive him. If, however, he supplied military secrets, McCain should not hold federal office.”

The Universal Brotherhood of Officers

McCain is a man of many contradictions. For example, he told Mike Wallace he was a war criminal for murdering Vietnamese civilians. However, according to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned him in January 1970, “McCain was ‘boastful’ during their interview and ‘without remorse’ for any civilian deaths that occurred ‘when he bombed Hanoi.’”
 
McCain had a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, “No, I do not,” when Barral asked if he felt remorse. 

On the one hand, “McCain told [Barrel] that he had not been subjected to ‘physical or moral violence’” and “lamented in the interview that ‘if I hadn’t been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.’”

On the other hand, he’s running for president of the United States (an even bigger job than admiral) primarily on the basis of having been tortured. McCain even allows his handlers to claim he only gave “name rank and serial number” when, in his autobiography, he clearly admits to collaborating and says it caused him to attempt suicide. 

All this covering-up can take a lot of energy, but it also takes a lot of help, which comes from America’s mainstream media and, naturally, the military.
 
I took a lot of flack from military officers over my previous article about McCain, “War-Hero or Go-To Collaborator”, now available on the CounterPunch  website. One marine colonel accused me of not liking officers. He implied I have a problem with authority.

I’m also the son of a blue-collar worker and veteran of WW II. Dear Old Dad explained the facts of life to me – that officers of opposing armies will treat one another more kindly than they will treat their own soldiers, who are nothing more than canon fodder. In this sense, the word “officer” is analogous with the Captains of Industry who compose our ruling class – be they Democrats or Republicans – and their totalitarian attitude toward worker bees, especially those overseas.

Another erstwhile military officer said I was unfair toward McCain because (get this) all U.S. Navy pilot prisoners (all officers) of the North Vietnamese collaborated and signed confessions.

What does this tell us about officers? It tells us that they take their oaths but not very seriously, and that they feel entitled to special treatment, which they receive from their smarter brothers in the mainstream media.
 
John Sidney McCain III has benefited immeasurably from being born into military royalty (his father and grandfather were admirals) and having married into money. Using his heiress wife’s money and his war hero mythology, he ascended to the Senate and now stands poised to become president. At every step he received, as he received it in that North Vietnamese prison, special treatment. He accepts it as his due, without remorse, the way he might drop a bomb on Hanoi.

This should come as no surprise as the class double standard is the defining characteristic of American society, which is why the mainstream media, in its role as enabler of the ruling class, allows “maverick” McCain to get away with his Big Lie.

It has never been about race and gender so much as it is about class and ideology. Race and gender do matter – race, perhaps, more than gender, in so far as you’ll never see any mainstream magazine savage Sarah Palin for toting an AK-47, while The New Yorker used a mere caricature of Michele Obama armed with one to fan America’s latent racist flames.

Imagine the reaction if someone published a photograph of one of Obama’s daughters and, say, a Chicago boyfriend brandishing rifles and handguns, and looking like Bonnie and Clyde, like Bristol and her baby’s daddy Levi? Imagine if she was an unwed mother at 17. What if Michele left her Down syndrome baby at home to pursue political office? Automatically, “family values” would become an issue.

What if Obama had advocated that Chicago secede from the Union? You just know Senator James Inhofe would say that Obama didn’t love his country.

McCain is a prevaricating loose canon with a PTSD disability, and Palin an ambitious ingénue. Yet, their volatile combination of emotional explosiveness and naïveté is likely to ascend to the White House, thanks to the Universal Brotherhood of Officers that will protect them, and which they will serve, and the bottomless ability of the American public to buy mainstream media hype.

The only way out is a Congressional inquiry into McCain’s two disabilities, as a collaborator and a victim of PTSD. Let Congress absolve him of the first disability, as it surely would, and then inquire if the PTSD is under control. Does he need therapy? Can he handle the stresses of being commander in chief? 

Alas, this is just as likely to happen as some reporter asking McCain if he collaborated, signed a confession, or committed war crimes. 

More likely that Jehovah will smite the potential first dude before he takes his next oath.

DOUGLAS VALENTINE is the author of four books which are available at his websites http://www.members.authorsguild.net/valentine/ and http://www.douglasvalentine.com/index.html His fifth book, The Strength of the Pack: The Politics, Personalities and Espionage Intrigues That Shaped The DEA, will be published in September 2009 by Trine Day.

 

Notes

   John McCain, U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973.

   John McCain, Faith of My Fathers, pp. 193-194.

    “John McCain: Privileged ‘War Hero’, Liar, Collaborator, Traitor,” Part 1, Gerard Kiley’s interview with Earl Hopper, http://educate-yourself.org/cn/earlhopperinterview08feb08.shtml.

    Amy Silverman, “Is John McCain a War Hero,” March 25, 1999, Phoenix New Times.

    Alex Jones, ‘Prison Planet,’ February 8, 2008, interview with Jack McLamb.

   “Justice Takes a Beating,” L.A. Times, May 28, 2003.

   “Justice Takes a Beating,” L.A. Times, May, 28, 2003.

    New London Day, May 1999.

    NewsMax.com, July 5, 2006.

   Cannon, Eugene. UPI report, June 2, 1969.

    Alex Jones, “Prison Planet,” February8, 2008, interview with Jack McLamb.

   Ted Rall, CommonDreams.org. February 6, 2008.

Sydney Schanberg, “The War Secrets Sen. John McCain Hides: Former POW Fights Public Access to POW/MIA Files,” New York (APBnews.com), April 25, 2000.

Ted Sampley, “U.S. Veteran Dispatch,”November 1999. Follow this link to a good photo: http://www.usvetdsp.com/mcianhro.htm.

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service, Tuesday, March 11, 2008; C01

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service, Tuesday, March 11, 2008; C01