Retired Gen. Tom McInerney: We know torture works because "Songbird John" McCain confessed

I’ll never understand why guys like this, and Trump of course, insist on trying to score points on McCain for the most heroic, and indisputably the most sympathetic, experience of his life. But at least Trump has the basic good sense not to do it while McCain’s on his deathbed.

He was shot down and captured by the enemy. They tortured him and made a propaganda spectacle out of him. When they realized he was an admiral’s son, they offered to send him home — and he refused, knowing that the torture would go on if he did, because he didn’t want to hand them another propaganda victory and didn’t want special treatment that POWs who weren’t sons of high officers could expect. He ended up signing a meaningless “confession” under extreme duress and has regretted it ever since.


“We were all tortured and we wrote confessions under the pressure of torture,” said [POW Orson] Swindle, who was a cellmate with McCain and is active in his campaign. “John McCain never collaborated with the enemy. He, like every one of us, submitted to severe torture. John McCain did nothing dishonorable. He was heroic.”

At one point, McCain broke down and signed a confession. But Timberg, the biographer, said McCain deliberately used misspellings, grammatical errors and Communist jargon to show he was writing under duress: “I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate. I almost died, and the Vietnamese people saved my life . . . ”

[POW Bud] Day, a Medal of Honor winner who also is supporting McCain’s campaign, said the flyer is “the most outrageous f—— lie I’ve ever heard.”

Pressed by interrogators to name the members of his squadron, McCain says he gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. Here’s how he spent the late 1960s:

I remained in solitary confinement from that time on for more than two years. I was not allowed to see or talk to or communicate with any of my fellow prisoners. My room was fairly decent-sized—I’d say it was about 10 by 10. The door was solid. There were no windows. The only ventilation came from two small holes at the top in the ceiling, about 6 inches by 4 inches. The roof was tin and it got hot as hell in there. The room was kind of dim—night and day—but they always kept on a small light bulb, so they could observe me. I was in that place for two years.

They got him to confess, he says, by beating him every two to three hours for four consecutive days after he refused early release. They bound him with ropes and ended up breaking his arm and cracking his ribs. But even then, despite signing the confession, he still had the will to resist:

Then the “gooks” made a very serious mistake, because they let me go back and rest for a couple of weeks. They usually didn’t do that with guys when they had them really busted. I think it concerned them that my arm was broken, and they had messed up my leg. I had been reduced to an animal during this period of beating and torture. My arm was so painful I couldn’t get up off the floor. With the dysentery, it was a very unpleasant time.

Thank God they let me rest for a couple of weeks. Then they called me up again and wanted something else. I don’t remember what it was now—it was some kind of statement. This time I was able to resist. I was able to carry on. They couldn’t “bust” me again.

Prayer helped him get through it, McCain has said. Yet here’s McInerney, a fellow veteran, attempting to shame him for having endured all this and signing a perfunctory confession because — he thinks — it helps him score a point on McCain for opposing Gina Haspel’s nomination.

But it doesn’t. The pitiful irony of this “Songbird John” garbage is that it’s self-defeating three times over. One: By treating McCain’s “confession” as in any way legitimate, McInerney’s actually doing the Vietcong’s propaganda for them. He’s more of a VC asset by trying to score this point than McCain was. Two: The whole point of McCain’s experience is that torture doesn’t always, or even usually, produce useful intelligence. He admitted to being a “black air pirate” or whatever stupid thing the North Vietnamese wanted him to say for ideological purposes. He didn’t give them operational intelligence, which is what the U.S. enhanced interrogation program was ostensibly for. For cripes sake, Gina Haspel herself said yesterday that she doesn’t think pressure tactics work to produce useful information. And three: Everyone to the left of the right’s most hardcore populists, which is to say about 80 percent of the country, will watch this clip and feel nothing but sympathy for McCain and utter contempt for McInerney. As a matter of pure politics, it’s submoronic to use a tortured war hero turned dying senator as the villain in your apologia for waterboarding. What a tool.

McInerney is also a Birther, by the way, which is irrelevant to this clip except in one respect: Both that and his shot here at McCain are examples of him letting his political disdain for an opponent lead to undue credulity about the worst personal smears circulated about them, which is an embarrassingly common thing in American politics circa 2018. (Probably since 1776, really.) You can believe McCain is a RINO amnesty shill and Obama is a feckless Ivory Tower leftist without believing that one is an enemy collaborator and the other is part of a plot to evade the 14th Amendment.

Update: Charles Payne, who hosted McInerney on Fox Business this morning, is embarrassed.