Letters from the issue of April 8, 1999
John, We Hardly Knew Ye
Your feature articles are reliably engrossing enough to grab your copy hot off the press. With about average-citizen knowledge of our reputed hero senator, I was captivated by the excellence of your expose, "Is John McCain a War Hero?" (Amy Silverman, March 25). I knew tidbits from both sides, and was pleased to find this an impartial and comprehensive coverage, a truly fine piece of journalism.
While I am often moved by, and sometimes dubious about, your many revealing articles, this one struck a chord that has inspired me to respond. I am a Vietnam-era enlistee, not a hero, but like John had volunteered to serve not knowing if I would return. This was a basic call to duty, while heroes go above and beyond the call. Starting with the claims of his detractors, it first appeared in your report that the senator's character was in question. But reading on, I found myself pitying both sides.
The grief of losing a loved one, without knowing if or how they died, is one of the saddest commentaries in or out of war. It is a paradox that such grief, resulting from sincere love, can in turn produce absolute hate. Unfortunately for the senator, he's in the limelight, so he became the focus of those seeking to spotlight their dilemma. So he becomes the target, the scapegoat for the myriad emotions and frustrations suffered by those loving relatives. As sensitive as I am to the fate of my fellow servicemen, I was amazed with how perverse and vile the activists have become. It seems like most of the little nuances they talk about are more recent, postwar criticisms of McCain. The question of him being a hero is ancillary to their greater frustration, but it gives them something to vent on, since they can't just "hit a pillow" and be satisfied. It is really a sad, unresolvable situation for them.
On the other side is John McCain, unquestionably a POW, which in itself is a heroic calling above and beyond the call of duty, dead or alive. Cruel war imprisonment is perhaps the worst ongoing experience a person can suffer. It is a disgusting topic that has been exposed in such cinema portrayals as Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful on the civilian side. But military solitary confinement in a closed space no bigger than a closet, interrogations and beatings leave nothing to question as far as being heroic or torturous. So many Vietnam vets, who were not POWs, have mental and emotional problems to this day from the strain of combat. I find it humanely magnificent that any POWs can function at all in society today, as well as continue to serve their nation.
Surely it would have been better if McCain and his aides had a better acumen for relating with the POW/MIA activists, but McCain unfortunately is caught in the middle of a difficult situation. At the time he supported normalization with Vietnam, I had my doubts about him, but through your article it is clear between the lines that without renewing diplomacy, he could not get further information from the only possible source, the captors. The true fate of all MIAs certainly is not on a list somewhere, and in some cases it might be better not to know. As cold as that may sound, atrocities of war can be vile to ponder, and any defectors who were pledged anonymity may not want to be found.
I hope and I pray that your article will improve the understanding on both sides of this pitifully dismal issue.
It is disheartening to live in a world where entire societies clamor for revenge for injuries and wrongs that are centuries old. About the time we start to see a glimmer of hope and cultural maturity between the ever-feuding Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, we have our collective faces pushed into the stew of hatreds and recriminations in the Balkans that originated a thousand years ago.
Now, I don't think John McCain is perfect. I'm not even sure that he is a "hero." But it is darned refreshing to know that someone out there has actually followed the 2,000-year-old Christian precept of forgiving those who have harmed them. Those who deduce that John McCain must be a traitor, or that he must not have really been tortured because he does not harbor hatred toward his former captors, just don't get it.
I just finished your article on Senator John McCain. I must confess: I had never heard any of the traitor stories that you brought to light.
I started reading your article as a strong McCain supporter. I finished as a strong McCain supporter. There seems to be a big difference in what these people say John McCain claims and what the senator actually claims. It's almost like they put words in his mouth so they can claim that he lies by saying those words.
To even claim that he in some way caused his broken bones because of what he did during his ejection from the aircraft . . . those folks are crazy. They lose any credibility instantly after that argument.
I would find it very difficult to criticize anything any of the POWs did while captive. I think McCain's father had something to do with his special treatment--though very limited special treatment while captive.
Can we not support all of our POWs for the sacrifice that they gave to us and our country without such criticism? I'm sure Senator McCain has many, many bad memories that, when brought back to the surface, just make him want to run or escape from reliving any of that time.
Shame on us for asking any of the POWs to relive any of those years of hell.
I plan on supporting and voting for Senator John McCain for the next president of the United States. Not because of his POW history or him being a hero or a traitor--but because he is the best mind at the best time to lead our country.
Thanks for your informative article.
After reading this entire long-winded "expose" on McCain, I've decided you really haven't said a thing, except that McCain's detractors are assembled by "the Hoppers [who] have gathered a motley crew of local Vietnam veterans and POW/MIA family members to assist in their crusade against McCain," barely concealing the fact that you apparently think we're all irrational lunatics with nothing better to do than trash another politician.
I initially thought you might be submitting an impartial collection of people who know McCain firsthand. The only ones you've made heroes of are McCain and his stooge Salter.
Go back to your liberal arts journalism, and enjoy your position of town crier of hot air and say-nothing crap. After a year assembling this drivel, you still don't understand this POW/MIA issue, and the harm and pain this BS artist McCain has caused.
Get a clue--really find out--why the visceral response by veterans who have been sickened as we've watched this con artist slither up the ranks for years, instead of quoting your own skewed sources.
Semper Fidelis (you wouldn't know what this means even if you could translate it).
Khe Sanh TET '68
I read your article about John McCain. I must admit I came away slightly confused. Was your article pro-McCain? It appears to me--and surprises me--that you were painting the POW/MIA activists in much the same light as McCain and his cronies have, as zealots and fools.
Please enlighten me, as I found the article disappointing from my perspective as an activist and as an American voter who most assuredly does not want to see this collaborator in the office of the president.
Steven Terrell Sr.
Madam, you came across to me as pro-McCain. While I am not saying that you or other people do not have the right to express your opinions, I must disagree that McCain is presidential material. He has been extremely rude to many POW/MIA activists, and he cannot answer any honest questions that are posed to him by any activists.
There are many of us in the country (myself included, thank you!) and we will make sure that this man (and I use the term "man" loosely!) does not get the presidency!
I have a friend who is a disabled veteran and has not received his pension that the U.S. government promised him when he signed up for the service. If McCain gets the presidency, it will be even harder for honest American men and women to get what is rightfully coming to them! Knowing McCain and his dishonest ways, the money would probably be lining his greedy pockets!
I suggest you do more research and change this article to show him for the low-down cold-blooded snake that he is!
Eva L. Donnelly
I would like to thank Tony Ortega for digging deeper than needed ("Joe's Spies," March 25). Not just thank you from me but from everyone else Arpaio has screwed, would have screwed and will screw. Thank you for letting the people know the truth about this publicity-hogging self-centered little sh*thead. He deserves what he gets. He seriously messed up my life and my mental well-being with my probation. I find it hard to trust anyone nowadays.
And I would also like to thank Mark Koppinger's wife for doing the right thing. Thank you, Shannon. Without you the world may have never really believed me.
Ryan L. Laughlin
Thank you to Paul Rubin and New Times for the article titled "That Would Be You, Mr. Chief Justice" (March 18). It was refreshing to see the record accurately depicted, for once, regarding the delays in the "Chipman Road rape case."
When will Mr. Rubin clear up the other misrepresentations that have been published and broadcast about this case? For example, this is not a case about racism or a case about "boys" languishing in jail, but a case about dangerous gang members, who frequently disregarded the law, and who violated a mentally retarded girl.
Name withheld by request
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