POW/MIAs & John McCain
Like other progressive historians, veterans and antiwar activists, I was profoundly shocked by The Nation‘s publication of Sydney Schanberg’s recycled and thoroughly discredited right-wing fantasy about Vietnam holding US POWs after the war [“McCain and the POW Cover-up,” Oct. 6]. Although many urged me to respond, I have been reluctant to do so.
First, I hesitated to compound the damage The Nation has done to itself and its credibility. Where were your fact checkers? Where were your responsible consultants who knew the history of this mythology and Schanberg’s disgraceful role in promulgating it for decades?
Second, I did not see how to avoid the appearance of self-promotion. M.I.A., Or, Mythmaking in America (my book, first published in 1991) exposed the true history of this fraudulent issue and systematically disproved every one of Schanberg’s “facts” and arguments about POWs allegedly held by Vietnam after the war. It is not up to me to respond to Schanberg; it is up to him to respond to the meticulously documented facts and analysis in the book and in articles I published in The Nation, The Atlantic, The Progressive and elsewhere.
Some may recall that Schanberg and I were scheduled to debate at NYU on October 20, 1992, when the issue was flaming because the POW/MIA myth was being used as the main weapon to prevent normalization of relations with Vietnam. Hundreds waited expectantly in the auditorium. Schanberg chose not to appear.
What forced me to write is one transcendent fact: the POW/MIA myth is still an essential component of the culture that supports our current, and likely future, wars. If we resurrect the true history of our genocidal war against Vietnam, we would no longer see America as the victim of Vietnam and all the countries we have bombed and invaded since. And the Vietnam POW, personified in John McCain, might then be seen not as the main victim of that war and hence America’s iconic war hero.
H. BRUCE FRANKLIN
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
It was extremely disturbing to see The Nation provide space to Sydney Schanberg alleging that John McCain was part of a conspiracy to suppress information about POWs left behind in Vietnam. That would mean that John Kerry and Bill Clinton were also part of the conspiracy, not to mention the Pentagon and the State Department.
Having made more than fifty trips to Vietnam, beginning in 1975, I think the only reality of this story is as evidence of how hard it is for the United States to lose a war. I feel no less a desire than The Nation to ensure that McCain is not our next president, but such an article is Swiftboat revisionism with the endorsement of the country’s leading progressive publication.
Fund for Reconciliation and Development