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NO-ONE’S death should be celebrated, but nor should it be accompanied by undeserved eulogy as US senator John McCain’s is.
He is described in the US mass media, routinely echoed by our own subservient networks, as a war hero, but where is the heroism in bombing a major city to terrorise the population into surrender?
McCain’s F4 Phantom fighter bomber was shot down over the Vietnamese capital Hanoi in 1967, forcing him to parachute into Truc Bach lake where, given the nature of his injuries, he would have drowned but for local people who plunged into the water to rescue him.
Hanoi reported his capture and knew that his father and grandfather were both four-star admirals in the US Navy, making him a prime candidate for any prisoner exchange.
McCain made a statement apologising for his crimes against the Vietnamese people and expressing thanks for medical treatment that saved his life, but, after returning to the US in 1973, he said his confession was extracted through torture.
Hoa Lo Prison chief warder Nguyen Tien Tran was questioned later about the torture allegations, insisting: “We never tortured McCain. On the contrary, we saved his life, curing him with extremely valuable medicines that at times were not available to our own wounded.”
He told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that conditions in Hoa Lo were “tough, though not inhuman” and that it had been his job to keep the gravely injured US pilot alive.
Nguyen could, of course, be lying, so it would be a case of judging which side in the war was more inclined to the truth, the one resisting imperialist aggression or the other that admitted later that its pretext for stepping up military intervention — the 1964 Tonkin incident — was fabricated.
McCain’s war hero status passes virtually unquestioned in the US, except by Donald Trump who sought to diminish his Republican challenger for their party’s presidential nomination.
Trump derided the notion that McCain was a hero for being captured, declaring: “I like people that weren’t captured.”
He certainly ensured no personal danger of being captured in Vietnam, dodging the draft through a series of student deferments, as well as a medical diagnosis of protrusions caused by calcium built up on the heel bone.
His condition never needed an operation. Nor did it prevent him playing squash, gridiron and tennis at college or taking up golf at university and it later healed up of its own accord, according to Trump.
The future president’s good fortune was, like fellow chickenhawk George W Bush who shared his enthusiasm for overseas wars while believing that he shouldn’t have to fight in them, having family connections and an obliging medical professional.
Those who lacked these benefits — the poor, working class and disproportionately black — were press-ganged into Vietnam and subsequent dirty wars.
McCain’s reputation will not be tainted by Trump’s taunts, but nor should his own torture claims, backed by media and military, be swallowed without hesitation.
Vietnam was a resounding defeat for US imperialism, not only militarily when the world’s most powerful country was forced to flee South Vietnam with its tail between its legs but also morally because of global awareness of the scale of atrocities carried out against the civilian population.
Building up McCain, John Kerry and others as war heroes is a co-ordinated bipartisan strategy to retrospectively whitewash a dirty war by encouraging notions of nobility about those who prosecuted it.
By diminishing the enormity of its crimes, the Establishment seeks to make future imperialist wars more acceptable.
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