There are two very good diaries on the Rec List discussing the possibility that John McCain's story regarding the Vietnamese guard was concocted. At this point, in my view, there is evidence pointing toward that possibility, but the story could be true. While John McCain's policies are wrong, that does not necessarily mean he's not telling the truth here. We don't know.
What I wanted to do is recap what others have researched, giving links to their work, and discuss further research possibilities. I think a fair reading of the evidence is that there is reason for further research. It's such a strong charge to make that I believe we ethically need to be sure.
After the fold, a recap.
- John McCain told a story about a Vietnamese guard who made a sign in the cross in the dirt while he was a POW.
- The story is very similar to a story about Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his times in the Soviet Gulags.
This story was actually excerpted from "The Gulag Archipelago" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which was released in the US in 1973.
- Faith of my Fathers, John McCain's 1999 book uses the story (THIS APPEARS TO BE THE FIRST MENTION OF THE STORY. NEEDS VERIFICATION. WAS THIS STORY EVER MENTIONED BY MCCAIN PRIOR TO 1999)
After one difficult interrogation, I was left in the interrogation room for the night, tied in ropes. A gun guard, whom I had noticed before but had never spoken to, was working the night shift, 10:00 p.m. to 4 a.m. A short time after the interrogators had left me to ponder my bad attitude for the evening, this guard entered the room and silently, without looking at or smiling at me, loosened the ropes, and then he left me alone. A few minutes before his shift ended, he returned and tightened up the ropes...
One Christmas, a few months after the gun guard had inexplicably come to my assistance during my long night in the interrogation room, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw him approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me. Again, he didn't smile or look at me. He just stared at the ground in front of us. After a few moments had passed he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We both stood wordlessly looking at the cross until, after a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away. I saw my good Samaritan often after the Christmas when we venerated the cross together. But he never said a word to me nor gave the slightest signal that he acknowledged my humanity. (Pages 227-228)
Same gun guard.
- (a) McCain ran for President in 2000 and the book was published as part of his campaign effort. He also had reason to want to appeal to Christian fundamentalists in the Republican primary. Some motive, but quite far from being dispositive. It's equally possible that he decided to tell a true story when it could help him.
- In 1973, McCain writes
"a detailed 12,000 word report of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report.
Even though McCain goes into a lot of detail in that story and mentions religion a few times, there is no mention of the cross in the sand story, even though it would have fitted in well with the whole narrative."
- A guard is mentioned in the detailed 12,000 word report by John McCain of his experiences that was published in US News and World Report:
It was also in May, 1969, that they wanted me to write—as I remember—a letter to U. S. pilots who were flying over North Vietnam asking them not to do it. I was being forced to stand up continuously—sometimes they'd make you stand up or sit on a stool for a long period of time. I'd stood up for a couple of days, with a respite only because one of the guards—the only real human being that I ever met over there —let me lie down for a couple of hours while he was on watch the middle of one night.
But no story of the cross is mentioned, even though it's the same gun guard.
- Between the first incident of the gun guard unloosening McCain's ropes and the same guard's cross in the dirt, McCain had been transferred to another camp:
Even so, that was May 1969, so the next Christmas, according to John McCain above, this guard draws his cross in the sand, right? Except that:
In December of 1969 I was moved from "The Pentagon" [he means "The Plantation" camp] over to "Las Vegas." "Las Vegas" was a small area of Hoala Prison which was built by the French in 1945.
- From fro:
He went back to the "Hanoi Hilton" (1+ / 0-)
It wasn't just "any camp"!
It's very doubtful his guard would follow him back there... I'm sure.
Also, we know enough about that prison to be able to prove for sure whether there was even a "dirt courtyard" or not in 1969.
by Fro on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 02:31:04 PM PDT
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- From a comment below by turing:
Mccain speaks in 1974 at a prayer breakfast with then-Governor Reagan, tells a stirring story about seeing words about Christ while a POW, but fails to mention the very relevant cross in the sand story:
* [new] Here's McCain's first draft of the story... (3+ / 0-)
Recommended by:maracuja, TomP, DEQ54
It's another very touching religious moment in McCain's captivity which he also did not mention in the 12,000 word 1973 recollection, but this one he had made up as early as 1974. Exceprt:
Reagan was Governor of California in 1974, when he invited McCain to a prayer breakfast in Sacramento. McCain has never been a particularly reverent guy; but that morning he found himself telling the silent crowd about a discovery he made when he was thrown into solitary confinement in a 6-ft. by 9-ft. hole in the ground. On the wall was etched a testimony, scratched into the stone by a previous occupant: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty," read the jagged writing. The words sustained him, McCain told the crowd, through his 2 1/2-year solitude. When he finished, the audience, including the Governor, was sobbing. "I realized," he says now, "it wasn't really me that moved them. It was the Story that did it."
by Turing on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:07:44 PM PDT
The cross in the sand story would have been worth mentioning as well. It fit perfectly. This story also is not mentioned in the 1973 article by McCain.
- Also, throwing stones has a diary in whichs/he identies a discrepency from the campaign ad last year and McCain's story:
The version that he gives in his book "Character is Destiny," is different than the dramatization from a primary campaign commercial he released in 2007, where the guard uses a stick to draw a cross
It's either a sandal or a stick. Not a lot by itself, but more data.
Great work by Calouste, rickrocket, and Visualarts101. (and fro, turing and throwing stone)
But we need to know when the story first was mentioned.
It's worth investigating more and keeping an open mind as evidence accumulates. It may be nothing, or it may be something.
Please tip and recommend Calouste, rickrocket, and Visualarts101.
This is just a recap so people can see what's there.
Update: BonnieSchlitz provides a google timeline of "cross in the dirt"
And here's a nifty google timeline (11+ / 0-)
for "cross in the dirt." The first mention and possible origin of the legend is Pizarro's assassination in 1541. The first mention of it alongside McCain's name is in the March 1 issue of the Boston Globe recapping a speech McCain gave in Virginia Beach on Feb. 28, 2000. One year after he and Mark Salter published 'Faith of My Fathers.'
by BonnieSchlitz on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:04:40 PM PDT