The Dark Heart of the US Government

Previously by Ron Unz: Was Rambo Right?

Six days ago, we released our cover story presenting Sydney Schanberg’s stunning account of the American abandonment of hundreds of POWs in Vietnam, their presumed later death at Communist hands, and the decades-long governmental cover-up which thereafter ensued.

Since that time, hundreds of websites have reprinted the articles in our symposium or otherwise discussed the topic. Based on the known traffic figures for the larger ones, I would guess that some hundreds of thousands of politically-oriented readers have now become first acquainted with this long-buried story, and the voluminous evidence which stands behind it. I can well imagine the shocked and horrified reaction of so many of those individuals.

Meanwhile, the near-absolute silence on the other side of the case is quite deafening in its own implications. Neither anyone from the John McCain campaign nor from among his many erstwhile admirers in the media commentariat has seen fit to deny or dispute any of the devastating charges of his leading role in cover-up, charges leveled by an eminent Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Keeping silent is always the best course of action when you have no remotely plausible case to make.

The sole exception to this wall of silence actually tends to confirm this impression. Two days after the release of our magazine, a prominent neoconservative website called blasted back, with a front-page banner-headline piece denouncing the “baseless smears” being resurrected to impugn John McCain’s heroism. Interestingly enough, the 1000-word essay, followed by another 500-word piece soon after, constituted a classic “non-denial denial," in which much vague verbiage was expended touting McCain’s heroic war-record and personal patriotism, while almost completely avoiding any mention of the very specific charges being made against him, let alone the massive evidence behind those charges. All in all, a rather curious attempt at seeming to refute an extremely serious accusation without actually discussing it.

The Killing Fields Best Price: $1.95 Buy New $15.76 (as of 11:50 EST - Details)

More curious still was been the identity of the author of that piece, John McCain’s sole visible defender in the media and the blogosphere: Peter Worthington, an eighty-three-year-old Canadian journalist, is almost totally unknown to Americans. Although Worthington is David Frum’s stepfather-in-law, he is hardly a noted expert on our politics or our history. Why select him?

A plausible hypothesis presents itself. Once McCain’s supporters became aware of the gravity of the case facing him, they quickly went to their numerous friends in the media and the neoconservative movement, seeking public support in their time of need. And all these journalists and pundits, who have written so many glowing tributes to their maverick war-hero hero over the years, then sat down and began to read the 15,000 words published in our magazine under the heading “McCain and the POW Cover-up…" and quickly decided that silence was the better part of valor.

Put simply, if Schanberg’s extensively documented claims are correct then John McCain played a central role in perhaps the greatest act of national treachery ever committed in American history. And any American political figure or journalist who now associates his name with that of McCain stands an excellent chance of being completely destroyed as well, dragged to the bottom by the same boat-anchor. Thus, all of McCain’s previous legion of neocon fans have now run for cover, never once looking back. But since eighty-three-year-old Canadian writers have relatively slender American reputations to protect, poor David Frum’s elderly stepfather-in-law was dragooned into action instead.

Beyond the Killing Fie... Schanberg, Sydney Best Price: $2.34 Buy New $11.59 (as of 04:50 EST - Details)

Meanwhile, consider some of the names and reputations weighing in the other side of the ledger. A few weeks ago, Potomac Books, a small Washington press, published a collection of Schanberg’s war writings entitled Beyond the Killing Fields, in which his presentation of the Vietnam POW-MIA cover-up constituted one of the longest sections. The dustjacket of that book carries a glowing endorsement by David Rohde, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner currently at the New York Times, who declares: “Sydney Schanberg is one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.” Russell Baker, who also won a Pulitzer at the New York Times, is similarly lavish in his praise of the book. So counting the author himself, we may reasonably say that Schanberg’s POW theories are now backed by the credibility of four New York Times Pulitzer Prizes.

Perhaps poor David Frum has an elderly second cousin living in New Zealand who can now also be enlisted to help even up this score by publicly defending Arizona Senator John McCain against such dire accusations.

I attach below links to some of the aforementioned pieces, as well as a link to Alexander Cockburn’s long column on the same topic, published as Counterpunch’s weekend lead item. Given that the FrumForum piece defended McCain against what it characterized as a “rightwing” smearjob, I suppose that the editors must know something of Cockburn’s politics which the rest of us do not.

Read Sydney Schanberg’s exposé "McCain and the POW Cover-Up" here.

And read Schanberg’s account of how this story was buried by the mainstream media here.

For further perspectives on this story, visit the links below:

Peter Richardson: Why small media breaks the big stories

Gareth Porter: The evidence doesn’t stack up

Andrew J. Bacevich: Will Iraq be forgotten as well?

John LeBoutillier: How the D.C. media covers for the establishment

Alexander Cockburn: Sometimes conspiracy theories are true

June 3, 2010

Ron Unz is a Silicon Valley software developer and publisher of The American Conservative.

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