Editor: Originally posted July 21, 2015, we are re-publishing this article on the occasion of the death of Sen. John McCain. As the media and members of the liberal establishment compete to praise McCain, we cannot allow his true legacy to be forgotten. “John McCain—war criminal then, war criminal now, war criminal forever.”
Presidential candidate Donald Trump has generated a lot of press, and criticism from other candidates, for his claim that Senator John McCain was not a “war hero.” As it happens, Trump was partially right, but he didn’t go far enough. Not only is John McCain not a war hero, he is in fact a war criminal.
Most people know that McCain was a pilot during the Vietnam War, and that he was shot down over North Vietnam and spent five years as a POW. What is less well known is the story of how he was shot down, a story that has only rarely surfaced in the media. The last time it appeared in the U.S. press, as far as I can tell, was during the 2000 primary campaign. Here’s an excerpt [emphasis added]:
On that gray morning more than 32 years ago, McCain was knocked unconscious briefly when he ejected from his damaged bomber. Both his arms were broken, his right knee was shattered, and when he splashed into the middle of Truc Bach (White Silk) Lake, his 50 pounds of flight gear kept him from reaching the surface.
When Mai Van On finally got to him, about 200 yards out, all the older man could see was a bit of white silk, the top of the American’s parachute.
With U.S. planes still bombing and strafing their target of the day—a nearby light-bulb factory where On worked as a security guard—On used a stout bamboo pole to hoist McCain off the bottom of the lake.
“If I had hesitated even one more minute, I’m sure he would have died,” said On, still vigorous at 83 and still living in the same spot on the southern edge of the lake in the heart of downtown Hanoi.
“John McCain was lucky that morning,” On said. “It was about 11 a.m. I had just come home for lunch and put my bicycle into the house. Then the air-raid siren went off, and 60 or 70 of us ran to a tunnel to avoid the bombs. I was at the entrance to the tunnel when I saw the pilot go into the water.
“The tunnel was still shaking from the bombing when I ran to the lake.”
The only hero that day was Mai Van On, not John McCain.
As I wrote back in 2005:
Bombing a light-bulb factory, a civilian target, is a war crime. McCain, obviously, didn’t select the target, he was just following orders, but that doesn’t exonerate him any more than any other soldier who follows an illegal order. According to Amnesty International this particular violation of the Geneva Convention (bombing civilian targets) is actually official U.S. military doctrine:
“Military advantage may involve a variety of considerations, including the security of the attacking force. … Economic targets of the enemy that indirectly but effectively support and sustain the enemy’s war-fighting capability may also be attacked.”
“War is a clash of opposing wills. … While physical factors are crucial in war, the national will and the leadership’s will are also critical components of war. The will to prosecute or the will to resist can be decisive elements. … Strategic attack objectives often include producing effects to demoralize the enemy’s leadership, military forces, and population, thus affecting the adversary’s capability to continue the conflict.”
Both of these statements, taken from different U.S. military manuals and documents, represent direct violations of the Geneva Convention (and, it should be noted, well before the advent of George W. Bush).
But McCain didn’t just carry out such illegal orders himself, he willingly voiced support for them, specifically during the 1999 war against Yugoslavia when “water systems, power and heating plants, hospitals, universities, schools, apartment complexes, senior citizens’ homes, bridges, factories, trains, buses, radio and TV stations, the telephone system, oil refineries, embassies, marketplaces and more were deliberately destroyed by U.S./NATO planes in a ruthless 10-week bombing campaign.”
For reference, here is Article 54 of the Geneva convention:
“It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”
McCain, and the entire U.S. political and military establishment, also supported the wholesale bombing of Iraq’s water purification plants during the first Gulf War. And this was no ordinary war crime, it was a planned genocide. Documents released in 2000 revealed that the U.S. had studied in detail all aspects of Iraq’s water system, had planned a strategy for preventing Iraq from reconstructing that system (via sanctions), and knew in advance that “this could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease.” Indeed it did, with more than half a million Iraqi children dead as a result, one of the greatest war crimes in history, carried out by the next generation of U.S. pilots who followed John McCain, and with John McCain’s full-throated support.
John McCain—war criminal then, war criminal now, war criminal forever. To be clear, he is far from the only one currently, or previously, serving in the U.S. government or U.S. military. But, at the moment, he is the only one for whom the entire ruling class, with the lone exception of Donald Trump, is rushing to assure the American public that he was a war hero, before the truth gets more closely examined.