Why General Wesley Clark is right (and the Obama Camp must distance themselves...without chastising him)
Back in March, I was riveted by a Daily Kos diary from diarist Timothy Smith. He wrote about his old teacher, friend and mentor, Phillip Butler, PhD Cdr, USN (ret.) who was a POW at the same time as John McCain and in the same facility. The difference: he "went on to be a national leader of Veterans for Peace and a respected activist for many local and national causes."
He was also there for eight years compared to John McCain's five.
Philip Butler wrote a letter titled "Why I will not vote for John McCain" where he identifies himself as a friend of John McCain. However, he also set the record straight on a number of points regarding the "McCain legend." Some examples:
...Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care. Several hundred of us were captured much earlier. I got there April 20, 1965 so my bad treatment period lasted 4 1/2 years...But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.
...Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.
...John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor - 8, Service Crosses - 42, Silver Stars - 590, Bronze Stars - 958 and Purple Hearts - 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well. But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many - not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.
...There were many heroes in North Vietnam. I saw heroism every day there. And we motivated each other to endure and succeed far beyond what any of us thought we had in ourselves. Succeeding as a POW is a group sport, not an individual one. We all supported and encouraged each other to survive and succeed. John knows that. He was not an individual POW hero. He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did.
(I advise everyone to go to the diary and read the entire letter. You'll see why I was riveted and you'll wonder why it didn't get more attention.)
The thing he said in his March letter that stuck in my head the most was this line:
I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.Sound familiar?
The media mischaracterization of Clark's comments as well as their "outrage" is shameful. If ANYONE has EARNED the RIGHT to question McCain it would be his brothers-in-arms, like Clark and fellow-POW Butler.
I recently received an email from a veteran on the Peninsula (which I'll include in my second post on veterans issues this afternoon) who was furious at McCain for his lies about the GI Bill requesting me to write about it. Working with veterans in Alaska has shown me just how many different "camps" there are and how they can all agree on one thing: the plight of veterans MUST improve and they want to support those people who are going to make it better. They will at least listen to other Veterans on these issues no matter what their political leanings.
I believe this scares the hell out of the neo-con right...a group who has taken the support of veterans for granted over the last 8 years. The reaction of the mostly-conservative-owned media to Clark's comments is a really good example of that shear terror.
Because only another veteran can level that kind of criticism at McCain, it is understandable that the Obama Campaign emphasizes Clark's comments ARE from Clark specifically and not from Obama. However, they need to stop before they actually level criticism at Clark...because he's right and he's one of the few guys out there who can legitimately call McCain on it.
Could someone direct Philip Butler to the Obama Campaign?