Wasn’t McCain tortured in Russia or something? by mattsteinglass
May 31, 2008, 2:59 am
Filed under: President | Tags: , ,

In the course of an irritating whine about Barack Obama’s commencement address at Wesleyan, in which Obama talked about his decision after college to work as a community organizer rather than pursue a lucrative corporate job, Jim Manzi proclaims:

I’m pretty far from being a John McCain booster, but does Obama not get that he’s running against a guy who spent the directly analogous years of his life in a fetid jungle prison being hung upside down and beaten with sticks until his bones broke?

And I said yes. Cry me a river, pal.

John McCain was 31 when he was shot down over Vietnam. In the “directly analogous years of his life” to those Obama spent as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, his early 20s, John McCain was drinking, carousing, dating exotic dancers, and enjoying himself in Florida and Europe. Here’s how he describes the “analagous years of his life” in his book Faith of My Fathers.

At flight school in Pensacola…I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer. …I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties, and generally misused my good health and youth.

…At some point during my time at flight school, I had begun dating a local girl whom I had met at Trader John’s. She made her living there, under the name Marie, the Flame of Florida.

…I found plenty of time to revel in the fun that European ports offered a young, single flyer; spending holidays on Capri, risking my wages in the casinos of Monte Carlo.

…When we arrived, Special Forces soldiers picked us up and took us to a lovely inn on a lake in a small German village called Unterdeisen…The inn was run by a former Luftwaffe pilot, who took us flying in glider planes. We whiled away the rest of the time drinking beer, admiring the scenery…

…While at Bad Tolz, I and the pilot I had escaped and evaded with met two college girls from the States who were spending the summer in Europe. Since the “Intrepid” wasn’t due in port for another ten days, we joined them on their drive through southern Germany to Italy…

…While I was stationed at Norfolk during my service on the “Intrepid” and “Enterprise”, a few pilots in my squadron and I lived in Virginia Beach in a beach house known far and wide in the Navy as the infamous “House on 37th Street”. We enjoyed a reputation for hosting the most raucous and longest beach parties of any squadron in the Navy.

And so on. McCain volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam, he writes, because it was the best way for an officer with a low level of prior achievement and commendation to move up the ladder towards a command post. Then he was shot down. When shot down, he was not held “in a fetid jungle prison being hung upside down and beaten with sticks until his bones broke”. He was shot down over Hanoi, and taken directly to Hoa Lo (the “Hanoi Hilton”) and, soon after, to a hospital. Then he was held in the POW camp nicknamed “The Plantation”, which was the least bad of the POW camps, generally reserved for prisoners who were in some way special. He was beaten severely during one period of several weeks in the summer of 1969, and was not, according to his own account, ever hung upside down; he had his arms tied behind his back painfully, and was once forced to sit on a stool for four days straight. Other than that he was beaten very sporadically and scarcely at all after the fall of 1969; the usual punishment was not beating, but the far more disturbing punishment of solitary confinement. His bone injuries were suffered during ejection from his A-4, and were inadequately treated by the Vietnamese — hardly surprising in a third-world country in the middle of a war.

It would be nice if people presuming to comment on this issues would actually learn something about McCain’s life story, rather than just imagining it with the aid of some poorly remembered scenes from “Stalag 17”.


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