FROM TWO FORMER GOP CONGRESSMEN TO U.S. COMBAT FORCES WORLDWIDE:
MCCAIN IS UNFIT TO SERVE AS YOUR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
Former Congressmen Warn Troops: As Senator He Abandoned American POWs Trapped in Indochina; as President He’ll Abandon You
Special to the U.S. Veteran Dispatch
By former U.S. Congressmen Bill Hendon (R-NC)
and John LeBoutillier (R-NY)
August 16, 2008
“He [McCain] has told me several times over the years that the myth of live POWs was a cruel hoax on the families. He chaired hearings into the issue in the 1990s and found nothing. ‘The committee … pored over thousands of records and every claim of a sighting, no matter how outlandish,’ says Salter. ‘It was all untrue.'” Jonathan Alter, When Ross Perot Calls…, Newsweek.com January 16, 2008
Senator John McCain’s heroic and inspiring wartime service in Vietnam notwithstanding, we know from personal experience he is not fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces. Here is how we know this:
In mid-summer 1991, the U.S. Senate created the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs and charged it with conducting a no-holds-barred investigation into the long-festering matter of American POWs reportedly still held captive by the Communist North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao. On the day the legislation creating the Select Committee was passed, August 2, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted nationwide showed that 69% of Americans surveyed believed that Americans were still held captive in Southeast Asia and 75% believed the U.S. government wasn’t doing enough to get them home.
Following months of negotiations between the committee and a very reluctant George H. W. Bush administration, committee intelligence investigators were finally able to obtain the postwar intelligence files relating to live POWs. Committee investigators spent some 2,700 man hours vetting, analyzing and crosschecking the postwar intelligence. They found it a textbook blend of human intelligence (HUMINT); intercepts of secret enemy radio traffic (SIGINT), and images taken by unmanned reconnaissance drones and U.S. spy satellites (IMINT). The committee’s intelligence investigators told the senators that collectively the intelligence indicated the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao had held back hundreds of POWs at Operation Homecoming in 1973 and that many were still alive in captivity during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
By the time committee investigators finally began briefing the senators in secret sessions in early spring, 1992, the issue of live POWs had become, as McCain later described it, “white hot;” this not only because of intense public interest in the plight of the POWs, but also because Texas businessman and longtime POW advocate H. Ross Perot had entered the presidential race, and had done so amid press accounts that he thought President Bush was not doing enough to bring the POWs home. By late May Perot was in first place in the national polls, ahead of President Bush, who was in second place, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Governor Bill Clinton, who was in third. What would the committee find? Might a ruling that 69% of the American people were right and that, in fact, there were live POWs still held half a world away throw the election to Perot? How could it not?
Enter John McCain.
Given his wartime experiences as a POW in Vietnam, Sen. John McCain was by default the most powerful and influential member of the Select Committee. Members on both sides of the aisle deferred to his judgment; reporters hung on his every pronouncement. And so when McCain, his chief of staff Mark Salter and their allies on the Select Committee joined forces with top Bush administration officials to assail, ridicule, attack, discredit, photoshop, retouch, manipulate, massage and/or “cherry-pick” the intelligence in order to destroy its intelligence value and keep the matter of live POWs from becoming an issue in the 1992 election, the live POWs never had a chance.
How McCain and Salter and the others went about doing this is a case study in how powerful government officials can manipulate intelligence to make it say what they want it to say – and the main reason we believe that John McCain must not be Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces.
During that spring and summer of 1992, McCain and the other members of the committee were briefed on some 925 HUMINT reports the investigators had deemed plausible, credible. These intelligence reports were some of the several thousand reports the U.S. government had received from human sources who testified they had personally observed or had been told or had otherwise learned about American servicemen in captivity after Operation Homecoming. Many of the reports corroborated one another as to location, time and circumstance, e.g., independent sources repeatedly reported seeing American POWs being held in the same area; in the same town or village, and/or at the exact same prison at the same time or over a period of time – and, of course, absent IMINT and/or SIGINT, corroboration by independent human sources is the best lie detector ever devised by man. But what did McCain and Salter make of this crucial intelligence? Not one of these reports of American POWs held prisoner after Operation Homecoming was credible, they loudly declared; instead, all 925 sources were either (1) lying, or (2) confused about what he or she had actually seen. Not one report, McCain and Salter declared, related to American POWs trapped in Indochina after Operation Homecoming.
The SIGINT – the half-dozen or so postwar intercepts of secret Pathet Lao radio transmissions where the PL were heard describing how, when, where and/or why they were holding and/or moving American POWs from one point to another inside their country – got the same treatment. When analyzed carefully by committee intelligence investigators and cross-checked with the HUMINT, it was clear these postwar radio intercepts alone collectively described the confinement and/or movement of well over 100 American POWs inside Laos. McCain’s and Salter’s ruling? Same as with the POWs described in the HUMINT, “nothing to any of it. All radio intercepts are false.”
Finally came the IMINT – the priceless postwar satellite images showing missing pilots’ names, their official secret four-digit authenticators, secret USAF/USN escape and evasion (E&E) codes given to them and/or other “I’m alive, get me the hell out of here” messages our men had laid out on the ground in hopes U.S. spy satellites would image their plea and rescue forces would be dispatched – and the similar, shocking result. A missing USAF flight officer’s name along with a valid USAF/USN escape and evasion code imaged in a field adjacent to a prison in northern Vietnam on June 5, 1992 – photoshopped right out of the image, disappeared, gone! Nineteen four-digit authenticators matching those of missing airmen imaged in rice paddies along Route 4 in northern Laos – similarly photoshopped right out of the satellite image! The name of another USAF pilot and four digit number laid out beside a jungle road in northern Laos – “naturally occurring shadows on the ground,” they said. A valid E&E code followed by the four-digit authenticator of another USAF flight officer in a field adjacent to a prison in northern Vietnam – “natural shadings in the field … not man-made intentional signals.” The letters “USA,” each 12 feet tall and together stretching over 37 feet across, and below them a huge 24 foot tall by 19 feet across valid secret USAF/USN E&E code imaged in a rice paddy in northern Laos – “a young Laotian boy’s handiwork that he had copied off an envelope,” McCain and Salter “explained” in McCain’s 2002 memoir Worth the Fighting For. And on and on it went.
(See two versions of map of Indochina showing the 925 postwar HUMINT reports [pins color-coded by DOI] and how they cluster and corroborate one another, and the postwar SIGINT and IMINT hits [yellow squares] at http://www.thepowerhour.com/news3/maps_bill_hendon.htm). Also see An Enormous Crime, cover photo and Chapter 31, “1992, The Fragging.”
John McCain could have saved these men but chose not to. For that reason – and because one can photoshop pleas for help out of desert sand and/or rocky, mountain terrain just as easily as one can photoshop them out of jungle terrain, fields and rice paddies – he must not be accorded the highest and most sacred of all honors – that of serving as Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces.
Former Congressman Hendon is co-author with attorney Elizabeth Stewart of the 2007 New York Times bestseller, AN ENORMOUS CRIME; The Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press). Ms. Stewart’s father is missing in action in northern Vietnam. In reviewing their book, Publisher’s Weekly declared “Controversial former North Carolina congressman Hendon and attorney Stewart make the case that the U.S. knowingly left hundreds of POWs in Vietnam and Laos in 1973, and that every presidential administration since then has covered it up.” (Publishers Weekly, week of April 9, 2007) Kirkus Reviews wrote that An Enormous Crime is “[a] sprawling indictment of eight U.S. administrations. Hendon and Stewart…appear nonpartisan in their disdain for governmental inaction and double-dealing. A convincing, urgent argument.” (Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007) An Enormous Crime is currently available at some 400 libraries in the continental U.S. and overseas. Click here to see list of libraries.
You can read almost 100 pages of An Enormous Crime free of charge by clicking here.
Hendon served two terms on the U.S. House Task Force on POW/MIA Affairs; as consultant on POW/MIA Affairs with an office in the Pentagon in 1983, and as an intelligence investigator assigned full-time to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs during 1991 and 1992. He has appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, Dateline NBC, ABC’s Good Morning America, the NBC Today Show, Saturday Today, CNN’s Larry King Live and on a number of network news and talk shows.
Former Congressman LeBoutillier served on the U.S. House Task Force on POW/MIA Affairs and is the author of VIETNAM NOW; The Case for Normalization (Praeger). He is a NewsMax.com pundit and a nationally recognized political commentator. Mr. LeBoutillier rose to national prominence in 1974 when, as a college student at Harvard, he raised over a quarter million dollars for a former Republican challenger against South Dakota Senator George McGovern. Mr. LeBoutillier’s efforts caught the notice of President Ford’s re-election campaign and in 1976 he was appointed regional coordinator, responsible for all field activities in New Jersey.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College, Mr. LeBoutillier completed a master’s degree at Harvard Business School.
Mr. LeBoutillier has been a prolific writer, beginning with his best-selling book Harvard Hates America (October 1978). Later he authored Vietnam Now (September 1989) and co-authored Primary, a novel (September 1979). He has contributed to many major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, among others.
In 1980, Mr. LeBoutillier was elected to represent New York’s 6th District. He defeated a 16-year Democrat incumbent and became the youngest member of the 97th Congress. In the House, Congressman LeBoutillier served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and as a member of Special House POW/MIA Task Force.
After leaving Congress, Mr. LeBoutillier continued to be active in POW/MIA affairs. He currently runs Account for POW/MIA Inc., dedicated to recovering living American POWs in Southeast Asia. He also has been a frequent commentator and host of several media programs. He is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. In 1981 he conducted an exclusive interview with Alexander Solzhenitsyn for NBC’s Tomorrow show. He has hosted radio talk show programs on WMCA radio and WABC radio. In 1984, Mr. LeBoutillier interviewed Richard M. Nixon for the ABC Network radio in his first live network radio appearance since leaving the White House. He has been a frequent guest on many national talk show programs, including the Today show, ABC’s 20/20, Nightline and CNN’s Crossfire.
Both men have traveled extensively to South and Southeast Asia on behalf of America’s POWs and MIAs. Hendon has visited the region some 33 times; LeBoutillier a dozen times.
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