While lawmakers seem to have no problem finding funds for bombs fighter jets and terrorists in Syria and Iraq, it seems that it is much more difficult for them to find money to pay American soldiers for their service and pay for their healthcare once that service is over.
This is because Congressional Defense leaders on Tuesday announced that they are looking to enact more “entitlement and personnel reforms” in 2016.
The bill being submitted and debated by Congress would provide a much lower than anticipated pay raise for U.S. troops beginning in January 2016. It includes cuts in the growth of military housing stipends, an introduction of new co-pays for some military drug prescriptions and a scale-down of the commissary benefit.
The bill also includes changes to the traditional military retirement system and an overhaul of military healthcare offerings like Tricare.
In fact, Tricare “reform” is going to be a major focus in the coming debate. This comes after a military compensation and retirement modernization commission report released earlier this year recommended dumping Tricare completely, “realigning medical commands” and “better integrating Defense Department care with Veterans Affairs medical offerings.”
Pentagon officials despite having an apparent limitless budget when it comes to funding bearded fanatics, and providing limitless amounts of weaponry to terrorists are now whining about the need to “rein in” personnel costs.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most vocal cheerleaders of this effort to reduce benefits for American soldiers is Senator John McCain who stated that military personnel costs are “one of our greatest challenges” and that “we’re going to have to make some tough decisions” soon.
No one should be shocked at McCain’s position of course since despite his constant harping about his military service as a qualification for any and all of his opinions McCain has been a relentless enemy of American military personnel since as far back as the Vietnam War.
It should be remembered that it was John McCain who stood in front of Congress and argued against any further investigation or revelation of whether or not American POWs were still being held in Vietnam, as well as displaying a general antipathy to American military personnel as I’ve detailed in my article “The Un-American Hero: Crimes of John McCain.”
As Sydney Schanburg wrote in his excellent article, “The War Secrets Sen. John McCain Hides,” McCain was consistent, at least in his actions, in his refusal to allow any further attempts to discover and recover missing American POWs in Vietnam as well as even the possibility of allowing any further investigation as to the possibility that Americans were still being held captive. This is, of course, despite McCain’s incessant reliance on his military service as some type of qualification for whatever his political position of the day might be.
But there was one subject that was off-limits, a subject the Arizona senator almost never brings up and has never been open about — his long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam and the missing in action who have still not been accounted for. Since McCain himself, a downed Navy pilot, was a prisoner in Hanoi for 5 1/2 years, his staunch resistance to laying open the POW/MIA records has baffled colleagues and others who have followed his career.
Critics say his anti-disclosure campaign, in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the intelligence community, has been successful. Literally thousands of documents that would otherwise have been declassified long ago have been legislated into secrecy.
For example, all the Pentagon debriefings of the prisoners who returned from Vietnam are now classified and closed to the public under a statute enacted in the 1990s with McCain’s backing. He says this is to protect the privacy of former POWs and gives it as his reason for not making public his own debriefing.
[…]Many Vietnam veterans and former POWs have fumed at McCain for keeping these and other wartime files sealed up. His explanation, offered freely in Senate hearings and floor speeches, is that no one has been proven still alive and that releasing the files would revive painful memories and cause needless emotional stress to former prisoners, their families and the families of MIAs still unaccounted for. But what if some of these returned prisoners, as has always been the case at the conclusion of wars, reveal information to their debriefing officers about other prisoners believed still held in captivity? What justification is there for filtering such information through the Pentagon rather than allowing access to source materials? For instance, debriefings from returning Korean war POWs, available in full to the American public, have provided both citizens and government investigators with important information about other Americans who went missing in that conflict.
Would not most families of missing men, no matter how emotionally drained, want to know? And would they not also want to know what the government was doing to rescue their husbands and sons? Hundreds of MIA families have for years been questioning if concern for their feelings is the real reason for the secrecy.
Others, however, suspect that all of McCain’s insistence in keeping the information classified revolves around whether or not releasing the debriefings would open the door to McCain’s closet, suggesting that there skeletons lurking inside it that the Senator does not want falling out. Schanburg writes,
A smaller number of former POWs, MIA families and veterans have suggested there is something especially damning about McCain that the senator wants to keep hidden. Without release of the files, such accusations must be viewed as unsubstantiated speculation. The main reason, however, for seeking these files is to find out if there is any information in the debriefings, or in other MIA documents that McCain and the Pentagon have kept sealed, about how many prisoners were held back by North Vietnam after the Paris peace treaty was signed in January 1973. The defense and intelligence establishment has long resisted the declassification of critical records on this subject. McCain has been the main congressional force behind this effort.
The prisoner return in 1973 saw 591 Americans repatriated by North Vietnam. The problem was that the U.S. intelligence list of men believed to be alive at that time in captivity — in Vietnam, Laos and possibly across the border in southern China and in the Soviet Union — was much larger.
Possibly hundreds of men larger. The State Department stated publicly in 1973 that intelligence data showed the prisoner list to be starkly incomplete. For example, only nine of the 591 returnees came out of Laos, though experts in U.S. military intelligence listed 311 men as missing in that Hanoi-run country alone, and their field reports indicated that many of those men were probably still alive. Hanoi said it was returning all the prisoners it had. President Nixon, on March 29, 1973, seconded that claim, telling the nation on television: “All of our American POWs are on their way home.” This discrepancy has never been acknowledged or explained by official Washington. Over the years in Washington, McCain, at times almost single-handedly, has pushed through Pentagon-desired legislation to make it impossible or much harder for the public to acquire POW/MIA information and much easier for the defense bureaucracy to keep it hidden.
Then there is also the case of the Truth Bill. A relatively simple bill which stated that
[The] head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including live-sighting reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict shall make available to the public all such records and information held or received by that department or agency. In addition, the Department of Defense shall make available to the public with its records and information a complete listing of United States personnel classified as prisoner of war, missing in action, or killed in action (body not returned) from World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam conflict.
As one might suspect, a Pentagon implicated in the abandonment of these soldiers thus vehemently opposed the bill.
The bill was defeated in 1989. In 1991, it reappeared only to quickly disappear again. Although the interest from family members of the missing veterans as well as the American public had not necessarily waned, another bill was inserted in its place – The McCain Bill. As Schanburg describes,
This measure turned “The Truth Bill ” on its head. It created a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the available documents could emerge. And it became law. So restrictive were its provisions that one clause actually said the Pentagon didn’t even have to inform the public when it received intelligence that Americans were alive in captivity.
First, it decreed that only three categories of information could be released, i.e., “information … that may pertain to the location, treatment, or condition of” unaccounted-for personnel from the Vietnam War. (This was later amended in 1995 and 1996 to include the Cold War and the Korean conflict.) If information is received about anything other than “location, treatment or condition,” under this statute, which was enacted in December 1991, it does not get disclosed.
Second, before such information can be released to the public, permission must be granted by the primary next of kin, or PNOK. In the case of Vietnam, letters were sent by the Department of Defense to the 2,266 PNOK. More than 600 declined consent (including 243 who failed to respond, considered under the law to be a “no”).
Finally, in addition to these hurdles and limitations, the McCain act does not specifically order the declassification of the information. Further, it provides the Defense Department with other justifications for withholding documents. One such clause says that if the information “may compromise the safety of any United States personnel … who remain not accounted for but who may still be alive in captivity, then the Secretary [of Defense] may withhold that record or other information from the disclosure otherwise required by this section.”
Boiled down, the preceding paragraph means that the Defense Department is not obligated to tell the public about prisoners believed alive in captivity and what efforts are being made to rescue them. It only has to notify the White House and the intelligence committees in the Senate and House. The committees are forbidden under law from releasing such information.
At the same time, the McCain act is now being used to deny access to other sorts of records. For instance, part of a recent APBnews.com Freedom of Information Act request for the records of a mutiny on merchant marine vessel in the 1970s was rejected by a Defense Department official who cited the McCain act. Similarly, requests for information about Americans missing in the Korean War and declared dead for the last 45 years have been denied by officials who reference the McCain statute.
In 1996, however, another bill appeared. Entitled the Missing Service Personnel Act, the bill attempted to force the Pentagon to do more and act faster to find and subsequently recover missing military service personnel. The bill contained measures that required very strict reporting requirements for these purposes.
Schanburg describes how McCain once again rode into town to destroy any potential that may have existed to discover existing missing personnel or any personnel who might become missing in the future. He writes,
McCain amended the heart out of the statute. For example, the 1995 version required a unit commander to report to his theater commander within two days that a person was missing and describe what rescue and recovery efforts were underway. The McCain amendments allowed 10 days to pass before a report had to be made.
In the 1995 act, the theater commander, after receiving the MIA report, would have 14 days to report to his Cabinet secretary in Washington. His report had to “certify” that all necessary actions were being taken and all appropriate assets were being used “to resolve the status of the missing person.” This section was stricken from the act, replaced with language that made the Cabinet secretary, not the theater commander, the recipient of the report from the field. All the certification requirements also were stricken.
In response, the backers of the original statute cited the Pentagon’s stained record on MIA’s and argued that military history had shown that speed of action is critical to the chances of recovering a missing man. Moving “the bureaucracy ” to Washington, they said, was merely a way to sweep the issue under a rug.
One final evisceration in the law was McCain’s removal of all its enforcement teeth. The original act provided for criminal penalties for anyone, such as military bureaucrats in Washington, who destroy or cover up or withhold from families any information about a missing man. McCain erased this part of the law. He said the penalties would have a chilling effect on the Pentagon’s ability to recruit personnel for its POW/MIA office.
Schanburg points out how McCain has personally acted as the first line of defense against any who may suggest that POWs were left to their fate in Vietnam. McCain acts, on this issue especially, behind a carefully crafted but false veneer of patriotism and military service that appears to make him infallible in the eyes of many low information voters.
McCain does not deal lightly with those who disagree with him on any of these issues or who suggest that the evidence indeed shows that a significant number of prisoners were alive and cached away as future bargaining chips when he came home in the group of 591 released in 1973.
Over the years, he has regularly vilified any group or person who keeps trying to pry out more evidence about MIAs. He calls them “hoaxers” and “charlatans ” and “conspiracy theorists.” He decries the “bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists” and describes them as “individuals primarily who make their living off of keeping the issue alive.” Before he died last year of leukemia, retired Col. Ted Guy, a highly admired POW and one of the most dogged resisters in the camps, wrote an angry open letter to the senator in an MIA newsletter. In it, he said of McCain’s stream of insults: “John, does this include Senator Bob Smith and other concerned elected officials? Does this include the families of the missing where there is overwhelming evidence that their loved ones were ‘last known alive? ’ Does this include some of your fellow POWs?”
Clearly, McCain likes dissent the way he likes his veterans – silent. This silence, for McCain, can come by any means necessary.
Indeed, McCain has been the biggest denier of all when it comes to the possibility that American soldiers were left on the battlefield. Schanburg states,
McCain has said again and again that he has seen no “credible” evidence that more than a tiny handful of men might have been alive in captivity after the official prison return in 1973. He dismisses all of the subsequent radio intercepts, live sightings, satellite photos, CIA reports, defector information, recovered enemy documents and reports of ransom demands — thousands and thousands of pieces of information indicating live captives — as meaningless. He has even described these intelligence reports as the rough equivalent of UFO and alien sightings.
In Congress, colleagues and staffers who have seen him erupt — in the open and, more often, in closed meetings — profess themselves confounded by his behavior. Insisting upon anonymity so as not to invite one of his verbal assaults, they say they have no easy way to explain why a former POW would work so hard and so persistently to keep POW/MIA information from coming out. Typical is the comment of one congressional veteran who has watched McCain over many years: “This is a man not at peace with himself.”
Some McCain watchers searching for answers point to his recently published best-selling autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, half of which is devoted to his years as a prisoner. In the book, he says he felt badly throughout his captivity because he knew he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs owing to his propaganda value as the son of Adm. John S. McCain II, who was then the CINCPAC — commander in chief of all U.S. forces in the Pacific region, including Vietnam. (His captors considered him a prize catch and nicknamed him the “Crown Prince.”)
Also in the book, the Arizona Senator repeatedly expresses guilt and disgrace at having broken under torture and given the North Vietnamese a taped confession, broadcast over the camp loudspeakers, saying he was a war criminal who had, among other acts, bombed a school. “I felt faithless and couldn’t control my despair,” he writes. He writes, revealing that he made two half-hearted attempts at suicide. Most tellingly, he said he lived in “dread” that his father would find out. “I still wince,” he says, “when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace.”
Some veterans and other McCain watchers have speculated that McCain’s mortification, given his family’s proud military tradition (his grandfather was also an admiral), was so severe that it continues to haunt him and make him fear any opening up of information that could revive previously unpublished details of the era, including his own nagging history.
McCain’s nagging problem – at least while surviving Vietnam veterans and/or their family members were more prevalent than they are today – was the fact that there were actual witnesses to the evidence pointing toward the existence of American POWs in Vietnam.
Schanburg writes about the case of Dolores Apodaca Alfond, Chairwoman of the National Alliance of Families. He states,
Her pilot brother, Capt. Victor J. Apodaca, out of the Air Force Academy, was shot down over Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, in the early evening of June 8, 1967. At least one person in the two-man plane survived. Beeper signals from a pilot’s distress radio were picked up by overhead helicopters, but the cloud cover was too heavy to go in. Hanoi has recently turned over some bone fragments that are supposed to be Apodaca’s. The Pentagon first declared the fragments to be animal bones. But now it is telling the family — verbally — that they came from the pilot. But the Pentagon, for unexplained reasons, will not put this in writing, which means Apodaca is still unaccounted for. Also the Pentagon refuses to give Alfond a sample of the fragments so she can have testing done by an independent laboratory.
Alfond’s testimony, at a hearing of the POW/MIA committee Nov. 11, 1992, was revealing. She pleaded with the committee not to shut down in two months, as scheduled, because so much of its work was unfinished. Also, she was critical of the committee, and in particular Kerry and McCain, for having “discredited the overhead satellite symbol pictures, arguing there is no way to be sure that the [distress] symbols were made by U.S. POWs.” She also criticized them for similarly discounting data from special sensors, shaped like a large spike with an electronic pod and an antenna, that were airdropped to stick in the ground along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Other than the panel’s second co-chairman, Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., not a single committee member attended this public hearing. But McCain, having been advised of Alfond’s testimony, suddenly rushed into the room to confront her. His face angry and his voice very loud, he accused her of making “allegations … that are patently and totally false and deceptive.” Making a fist, he shook his index finger at her and said she had insulted an emissary to Vietnam sent by President Bush. He said she had insulted other MIA families with her remarks. And then he said, through clenched teeth: “And I am sick and tired of you insulting mine and other people’s [patriotism] who happen to have different views than yours.”
By this time, tears were running down Alfond’s cheeks. She reached into her handbag for a handkerchief. She tried to speak: “The family members have been waiting for years — years! And now you’re shutting down.” He kept interrupting her. She tried to say, through tears, that she had issued no insults. He kept talking over her words. He said she was accusing him and others of “some conspiracy without proof, and some cover-up.” She said she was merely seeking “some answers. That is what I am asking.” He ripped into her for using the word “fiasco.” She replied: “The fiasco was the people that stepped out and said we have written the end, the final chapter to Vietnam.” “No one said that,” he shouted. “No one said what you are saying they said, Ms. Alfond.” And then, his face flaming pink, he stalked out of the room, to shouts of disfavor from members of the audience.
As with most of McCain’s remarks to Alfond, the facts in his closing blast at her were incorrect. Less than three weeks earlier, on Oct. 23, 1992, in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Bush — with John McCain standing beside him — said: “Today, finally, I am convinced that we can begin writing the last chapter in the Vietnam War.”
The committee did indeed, as Alfond said they planned to do, shut down two months after the hearing.
Schanburg is no “conspiracy theorist,” it should be noted. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner from 1975 whose coverage of the social and political situation in Cambodia won him the award. Indeed, it was Schanburg’s work that laid the basis for the movie The Killing Fields.
It appears John McCain’s disregard for American military service personnel is yet one more thing he has in common with his terrorist and jihadist friends in Syria. While McCain travels abroad, in order to encourage and help arm individuals who have shot and will shoot American soldiers, he works tirelessly at home to ensure that those same soldiers cannot afford the healthcare to treat their wounds. Unfortunately in 2015, if an American service man or woman is in need of medical care his best bet will be to travel to the Middle East, learn Arabic and grow a beard. That is, at least, if John McCain has his way.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 500 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.