Vietnam POW Activists Called McCain ‘Songbird’ and ‘Manchurian Candidate’

Among groups who oppose John McCain, the most serious charges come from a small but fervent cadre of Vietnam POW/MIA activists who accuse him of being a collaborator during his time in the Vietnamese POW camps.

They call McCain “Songbird,” and say he received special treatment. Some in the POW community even believe he was brainwashed like Raymond Shaw, the character played by Laurence Harvey in “The Manchurian candidate,” who was used as a tool by the communists to destroy America from within.

Activists accused McCain of stonewalling the release of POW records because they contained evidence he had collaborated with the North Vietnamese.

The issue boiled over in 1992 after POW families and activists felt they had been mistreated by McCain during hearings before the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. In the video above (posted at Vietnam Veterans against McCain) which was apparently shot soon after the hearings, POW advocates and experts, as well as Republican politicians, including then-Rep. Bob Dornan of California, assert that McCain was stonewalling the release of POW documents because his own records included transcripts of interviews he gave to communist and other media outlets in which he said the U.S. military had deliberately bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam.

Members of the committee included Vietnam veterans among the senators — Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass), Vice Chairman Bob Smith (R-NH), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), McCain and others. (The only Vietnam vet who opted out was Sen. Al Gore.) The committee had two objectives. One was to investigate persistent rumors that Vietnam was still holding U.S. servicemen as prisoners. The second goal was to create a plan for normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam.

McCain and other committee members traveled to Vietnam on fact-finding missions. Witnesses who appeared at committee hearings included Nixon era defense secretaries Melvin Laird and James Schlesinger and Nixon Sec. of State Henry Kissinger, among many others. In the end, no evidence was found that Americans were being held in Vietnam, and relations between the two countries were normalized.

Rough transcript of the video follows:

1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs, Part 2: The McCain Factor

DR. JOSEPH DOUGLASS JR, author, “Betrayed: America’s Missing POWs”: Sen. McCain seemed to be one of those who was an obstructionist. He was not interested in the truth coming out. Who tried to attack people rather than learn what they had to say.

TRACY USRY, fmr Chief Investigator, U.S. Senate Minority Staff: No instance would he ever, ever give in and say there were POWs left behind. And my first question is, how would he know? Or not know? Just — that which is reasonable he never exhibited. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a guilt complex. [Edit.] Maybe he promised the Vietnamese something. Okay. I don’t know what it is. Maybe he actually believes that [no POWs were left behind]. That would be the saddest of all.

DELORES APODACA ALFOND, Chairperson, National Alliance of Families: I mean he was yelling and screaming at me and had me in tears!

USRY: Oh, to everybody. He was very rude to me on several occasions.

DR. DOUGLASS: He probably did more harm to the idea of trying to get the truth out than any other single person through the efforts he did to block the release of classified intelligence dealing with the POW/MIA problem.

LYNN O’SHEA, Dir. of Research, National Alliance of Families: McCain stepped in and in effect made it harder to get documentation. [Edit.] That certainly hurt us because we had hoped for a massive release of documentation.

SEN. BOB SMITH (R-NH): Many, many documents were held back for no reason. And our goal on the committee was to just dump this stuff, to declassify it, literally, to the public. But of course, you know, they withheld information from the committee. The U.S. government held all sort of information from the committee, withheld information from the committee. I know that for a fact.

AL SANTOLI, American Foreign Policy Council, fmr Congressional Chief of Staff: Even POWs who wanted to see their own debriefings were not permitted because of the McCain regulation.

Former Rep. BOB DORNAN (R-Calif.): But where did McCain get compliments for doing this? The bureaucrats at the Pentagon! Because it put a workload on them! It put a workload on them from missing-in-action people. And did we need that bill to handle a Scott Spiker [phonetic] case? Oh, you bet we did!

SANTOLI: And also what it did, and this is what he really opposed. And if you remember the contentiousness we got into with him in his office was that it would hold the bureaucrats accountable by penalty of law…

REP. DORNAN: That’s right.

SANTOLI: If they lied, or if they withheld information…

REP. DORNAN: That’s right.

SANTOLI: And he fought tooth and nail to protect those bureaucrats.


SANTOLI: Because they were protecting him.

SEN. SMITH: I could never understand that. Why would we … if someone was guilty of withholding information that would help us to solve the mystery of what happened to an MIA, and did it deliberately, why would we not want to prosecute that person? So I could never understand it. I thought the language was written … I know Bob Dornan had a hand in it. I thought the language was written very well. I supported it. Fought for it hard in the U.S. Senate. And mostly on the Armed Services Committee where we debated it, but it was watered down to where it was almost worthless.


SANTOLI: Now one of the things that happened with that bill was that we were submarined. On the House side, we passed with no … I don’t believe anybody opposed it. It was a pretty much unanimous vote.

REP. DORNAN: Four hundred and one to zero on the House, with every single Republican who is serving sponsoring it, and about a third of the Democrats.

SANTOLI: But on the Senate side, we had one person standing in the way of getting in positions that would have been very tough on government bureaucrats who didn’t tell the truth. And that one person was Sen. John McCain.

Cpl. BOB DUMAS, U.S. Army (Ret.): He didn’t want nobody to check his background because a lot of the POWs that was in the camps said he was a collaborator of the enemy. He gave the enemy the information they wanted.

Dr. JAMES LUCIER, former U.S. Senate Chief of Staff: But We do know that when he was there [in the Vietnamese prison], he cooperated with the communist news services in giving interviews there, ah, not flattering to the United States.

USRY: Information shows that he made over 32 tapes of propaganda for the Vietnamese government. Certainly, you do what you need to do to stay alive. Nobody would fault anybody for that. But there comes a point in time when enough is enough.

REP: DORNAN: They made those transcriptions, and in the transcriptions, I heard a POW who heard them comin’ into his cell and said, “Oh, my God, is that Admiral McCain’s son? Is that the admiral’s son? Is that Johnny — telling us that our principal targets are schools, orphanages, hospitals, temples, churches?” That was Jane Fonda’s line. Where are those transcriptions? Believe me — they’re in the archives of the museum, the bragging military phony museum in Hanoi. McCain could not have wanted those [to] turn up in the middle of a presidential race. He knows that. I know that, and a few other people know that, and that’s why he went against Bob Dole’s legislation.

DUMAS: And he didn’t want nobody looking into his background in that camp, what went on in that camp. That stuff is still classified so nobody can see it. And he just had it classified forever, so nobody’ll ever look at it.

LUCIER: That he was given special treatment and was put in a room with two other defectors who were later given special treatment. Although I will say to his credit he refused to be repatriated as a result.

REP: DORNAN: This sounds so good at first. McCain was offered the chance to come home. They called him the “Prince.” And he could have. But nobody ever takes that one step beyond that. If John … Admiral John McCain II … “Junior” … if his son, a lieutenant senior grade, had accepted this princely status and come home in 1967 while the others would sit there for five years, what would the Navy have done, with the son of an admiral who opted to get special treatment and come home? No Navy career. No House seat. No Senate seat. It would have been the end of his career. [Edit.] And they were offering him this chance to go home in one of three groups that came home in ’68.

SANTOLI: They were all collaborators.

REP. DORNAN: And McCain called them this — except for Bill Kagill [phonetic] — the “slipperies,” the “slimies” and the “sleazies.” I once forgot one of those names — and he refreshed my memory. The slipperies, the slimies and the sleazies. So that meant that he would have become a slimy, a sleazy and a slippery, ruining his career and the admiral’s son goes home. What I’m saying is, yes — he chose to stay. But did he have an alternative if he ever wanted to have a life? And what would it have done to his father?

DOUGLASS: And his activities were sufficiently consistent and widespread in opposing efforts to learn the truth that he was written up in a number of articles as a Manchurian candidate in this issue.

REP. DORNAN: In Hanoi, he saw McCain turn red in the face. He even used the term “Rumblestiltskin” [sic], jumping up and down in place in a rage: “If you release any of these records that you have here in Hanoi on me or the other POWs, you will NEVER get diplomatic recognition.”

USRY: McCain may have been an expert on being a prisoner of war but he was by no means an expert on the POW issue.


  • getaclue
    February 18, 2008 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    hahaahahahaha rofl ….mccain’s getting swiftboated.


  • Sharon McKiernan
    February 29, 2008 - 7:31 am | Permalink

    These are men and women I respect, not “right wingers”, but patriots. For 2008, Ron Paul is our only hope. SMcK

  • March 1, 2008 - 3:52 pm | Permalink

    More reasons why POW/MIA Familiy members do not like John McCain.

    He should be ashamed of himself …

    The POW Warrior

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  • Sergeant Major
    March 26, 2008 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    If he sang like a bird, how did he get so screwed up during his interogations. The man is physically and emotionally damaged for life.
    Get a freaking life

  • Sergeant Major
    March 26, 2008 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    One more point, though some may consider it moot…why is this just coming out, and coming out by the illustrious and infamous Bob Dornan. Someone has an ax to grind.

  • Ichabod Crane
    April 22, 2008 - 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Sergeant Major, This isn’t JUST NOW coming out. There has been a steady trickle ever since 1969. For a report from back then, search the Washington Post Archive for June 6, 1969 for the name “McCain.”

  • May 18, 2008 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    I have to laugh, what a bunch of low lifes. The brave authors of this hit piece are nothing but dispicable human beings. Now if anyone needs to be tortured are these low lifes. They would probably last about two seconds of being tortured, then they would start crying for their momies.

  • Jack
    May 19, 2008 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    While we are on the subject of President George W. Bush’s comments about Nazi “appeasement” before WWII, lets examine the connections that Bush’s own family had with Nazi financiers:

    George Bush’s grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.
    The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly Files in the US National Archives indicate that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

    His business dealings, which continued until his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz.

    The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator’s action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

    Declassified documents from the National Archives show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis’ plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler’s rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.

    Remarkably, little of Bush’s dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny.

    Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen’s US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

    Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.

    Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany and grew rich from Hitler’s efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen’s international corporate web, UBC, worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More tantalising are Bush’s links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen’s American assets were seized in 1942.

    Three sets of archives spell out Prescott Bush’s involvement. All three are readily available, thanks to the efficient US archive system and a helpful and dedicated staff at both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland.

    The first set of files, the Harriman papers in the Library of Congress, show that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.

    The second set of papers, which are in the National Archives, are contained in vesting order number 248 which records the seizure of the company assets. What these files show is that on October 20 1942 the alien property custodian seized the assets of the UBC, of which Prescott Bush was a director. Having gone through the books of the bank, further seizures were made against two affiliates, the Holland-American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. By November, the Silesian-American Company, another of Prescott Bush’s ventures, had also been seized.

    The third set of documents, also at the National Archives, are contained in the files on IG Farben, who was prosecuted for war crimes.

    A report issued by the Office of Alien Property Custodian in 1942 stated of the companies that “since 1939, these (steel and mining) properties have been in possession of and have been operated by the German government and have undoubtedly been of considerable assistance to that country’s war effort”.

    Prescott Bush, a 6ft 4in charmer with a rich singing voice, was the founder of the Bush political dynasty and was once considered a potential presidential candidate himself. Like his son, George, and grandson, George W, he went to Yale where he was, again like his descendants, a member of the secretive and influential Skull and Bones student society. He was an artillery captain in the first world war and married Dorothy Walker, the daughter of George Herbert Walker, in 1921.

    In 1924, his father-in-law, a well-known St Louis investment banker, helped set him up in business in New York with Averill Harriman, the wealthy son of railroad magnate E H Harriman in New York, who had gone into banking.

    One of the first jobs Walker gave Bush was to manage UBC. Bush was a founding member of the bank and the incorporation documents, which list him as one of seven directors, show he owned one share in UBC worth $125.

    The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush’s father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany’s most powerful industrial family.

    August Thyssen, the founder of the dynasty had been a major contributor to Germany’s first world war effort and in the 1920s, he and his sons Fritz and Heinrich established a network of overseas banks and companies so their assets and money could be whisked offshore if threatened again.

    By the time Fritz Thyssen inherited the business empire in 1926, Germany’s economic recovery was faltering. After hearing Adolf Hitler speak, Thyssen became mesmerised by the young firebrand. He joined the Nazi party in December 1931 and admits backing Hitler in his autobiography, I Paid Hitler, when the National Socialists were still a radical fringe party. He stepped in several times to bail out the struggling party: in 1928 Thyssen had bought the Barlow Palace on Briennerstrasse, in Munich, which Hitler converted into the Brown House, the headquarters of the Nazi party. The money came from another Thyssen overseas institution, the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvarrt in Rotterdam.

    By the late 1930s, Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world’s largest private investment bank, and UBC had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal and US treasury bonds to Germany, both feeding and financing Hitler’s build-up to war.

    Moral: A President whose family has ties to Nazi financiers has a lot of gall standing in front of a Jewish auduience in Israel comparing current American politicians to Nazi Appeasers.

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  • jojobo1
    June 2, 2008 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    This is no where nearthe firt time this has come out.It has been trickled out slowly.Remember the protection McCain had, Can any one not agree that our vietnam vet were treated with disrespect when they came home.I was not proud of my country at this time.No mater what they were doing a job just as our service men and women are in Iraq and should have been treated with the same respect.

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  • mamabear
    September 11, 2008 - 6:56 am | Permalink

    Do your research. Why did McCain close all records on POW’s and discount thousands of reports of POWs still alive in Vietnam, Korea and Russia.

    McCain was brainwashed. Why was he so in favor of hooking up with Vietnam in the 90’s and HOW could be hug the guys that were supposed to have tortured him.

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  • Mike
    October 10, 2008 - 3:24 am | Permalink

    “If he sang like a bird, how did he get so screwed up during his interogations.”

    He may have sustained most of his serious injuries during the crash and rescue itself.

    “The man is physically and emotionally damaged for life.”

    Even if McCain’s record had been spotless, it seems to me that being “emotionally damaged” disqualifies someone from being president; we can’t afford to have a president that makes rash decisions or blows up.

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  • Bad-Clown
    March 1, 2014 - 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the REAL story on McCain…

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