August 18, 2008

Jeremiah Denton Must be Lying, Too

As Andrew Sullivan, Jane Hamsher, Steve Benen, and other liberal bloggers try to discredit John McCain's story of compassion shown by a North Vietnamese prison guard as being stolen from a similar experience related between Russian author Solzhenitsyn and another prisoner, I'm forced to ask: when are the going to go after Jeremiah Denton?

Denton was another U.S Navy pilot shot down in Vietnam, a contemporary of McCain's in the same brutal North Vietnamese prisons ... and also the beneficiary of surprising Christian compassion from the North Vietnamese:

Denton also found strength in his fellow captives. The Americans were forbidden to communicate with each other. But that didn't stop them. They communicated in Morse code and other number-based codes they devised and transmitted through blinks, coughs, sneezes, taps on the wall and even sweeps of a broom.

"I experienced what I couldn't imagine human nature was capable of," Denton said. "I witnessed what my comrades could rise to. Self-discipline, compassion, a realization there is a God."

He also experienced periodic compassion from the North Vietnamese. Sometimes the guards would weep as they tortured him.

One experience, he will never forget. Denton kept a cross, fashioned out of broom straws, hidden in a propaganda booklet in his cell. The cross was a gift from another prisoner. When a guard found the cross, he shredded it. Spat on it. Struck Denton in the face. Threw what was left of the cross on the floor and ground his heel into it.

"It was the only thing I owned," Denton said.

Later, when Denton returned to his cell, he began to tear up the propaganda booklet. He felt a lump in the book. He opened it. "Inside there was another cross, made infinitely better than the other one my buddy had made," Denton said.

When the guard tore up the cross, two Vietnamese workers saw what happened and fashioned him a new cross. "They could have been tortured for what they did," Denton said.

Denton survived the war and returned home, and like McCain, became a Republican Senator.

It is also worth noting that Denton switched parties to become a Republican precisely because of the far Left's attacks on the military—including those from people like John Kerry—in the first place.

Update: And via Instapundit, a confirmation of McCain's story from another Hanoi Hilton alumni, reporting he first heard the story in 1971, two years prior to Solzhenitsyn's book coming out.

Will Sullivan, Hamsher, Benen, the Kossacks, etc apologize for attempting to discredit McCain?

Update: What's even worse than accusing McCain of stealing Solzhenitsyn's work? Finding out that Solzhenitsyn didn't write such a story. The walkbacks will be very interesting indeed.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 18, 2008 03:15 PM

Yeah whatever. Barack once had to go an entire week without fresh arugula.

Game. Set. Match.

Posted by: Pardo at August 18, 2008 03:46 PM

I find it hard to believe that anyone on the left has ever read the Gulag Archipelago....leftist people are so dense.

Posted by: Jack at August 18, 2008 03:57 PM

I'm gobsmacked that you would call Andrew Sullivan a liberal blogger. He obviously has Conservative Soul.

Posted by: mpc at August 18, 2008 04:05 PM

...The Left actually read a book critical of the Soviet System? HAH! They probably went to wikipedia and lifted the cliff notes version.... After all, we can't have The Comrade Obamamessiah look foolish and out of touch now can we... oops... too late.

Posted by: Big Country at August 18, 2008 04:08 PM

Will Sullivan, Hamsher, Benen, the Kossacks, etc apologize for attempting to discredit McCain?


OTOH it is a pretty good indication of how desperate they must be.

I'm predicting Obama in the low to mid 40s come November.

BTW I believe Kerry was doing 3 to 6 points better at this point in his campaign.

I can't wait until Denver. The circus clowns should put on an excellent show.

Posted by: M. Simon at August 18, 2008 04:09 PM

The generic democrat does 12% better than Barack against McCain so something is wrong. Are they in full panic mode yet? It's getting close.

Posted by: daleyrocks at August 18, 2008 04:18 PM

There is absolutely no question that McCain has told this story before. I was already very familiar with it in evangelical circles before this interview.

5s with google turns up that he was telling this story back in 2005.

Trying to claim this is something he just made up on the spot is rank desperation.

Posted by: Jd at August 18, 2008 04:30 PM

The Dems will stoop to anything to subvert McCain's campaign, I guess that's because their presumptive nominee has such a great backstory of commitment to our country. Maybe they should trot out their war hero John Kerry and tell us again the thrilling story of how Nixon ordered Kerry and his magic hat to Cambodia.

Posted by: Lank Bodkins at August 18, 2008 04:30 PM

Trying to claim this is something he just made up on the spot is rank desperation.

You can say that again. HotAir has a post up about this saying the left stepped in on this line of attack and says it's basically and in kind contribution to McCain. Thanks Andrew and Jane!

Posted by: Slipknot at August 18, 2008 04:35 PM

I don't understand the critics.

Are they claiming that there are no decent jailers in Communist states? That's surprising, given how many are prepared to argue that the USSR, Cuba, East Germany weren't really so bad. If there could be a Schindler in Nazi Germany, surely there might be a decent camp guard in Vietnam?

Are they claiming that there were no Christians in these countries? Given that they all "guaranteed" freedom of worship, again, that is a surprising tack.

Or is it that they simply have forgotten that not every person's personal stories are made up for the moment? Perhaps they've learned that memories seared, seared into their consciousness are sometimes false and told for the sake of votes---in which case, perhaps they should look to their own candidate first?

Posted by: Lurking Observer at August 18, 2008 04:42 PM

when they say that mccain lied about the cross - when they say he lied about not knowing the questions beforehand ... i am reminded of the thief that misplaced something and screamed that someone must have stolen it.

they see in others what they are themselves.

Posted by: clyde_m at August 18, 2008 04:51 PM

I believe its called projecting, clyde-m, and the American Left has been projecting for years. My favorite is the accusation of the Bush administration, specifically Bush-Cheney, of abusing government power to intimidate their political opponents. Whyever would they think that Bush or Cheney would do that? Well, precisely because that's exactly what Clinton did when he was in power. There are many examples.

Posted by: AF at August 18, 2008 04:56 PM

Keep up the great work!

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Posted by: Steve at August 18, 2008 05:18 PM

This is proof that the left has never read The Gulag Archipelago. No such story about a cross in the sand and Solzhenitsyn contemplating suicide appears anywhere in any of the three volumes. It's not three.

Posted by: Bob in Texas at August 18, 2008 05:24 PM

These modern day journalists, who think they speak truth to power, cannot imagine the courage of Solzhenitsyn as a Zek in the Gulag or that of John McCain as a POW in North Vietnam. I do not find it surprising that humans who are subjected to this brutality would "cling" to their faith.

I knew a pilot at Udorn who wore a Baht chain with a star of David, Crucifix, a Buddha medal, a crescent and a figure of Vishnu. When we rolled for drinks, he would shake this chain over the dice cup for luck. When he was shot down over the North, he decided not to eject from his F4 for fear of these camps. Ironically, his weapons systems officer did eject and was rescued from the jungle 23 days later.

McCain could have taken an early release and he refused for which he was beaten, tortured and put in solitary confinement for two years. He had made a promise to his fellow prisoners and he kept his word, a concept that has not yet penetrated the Left.

Posted by: arch at August 18, 2008 05:39 PM

Attacking a war heroes experiences sure is a winner for democrats, keep it up you moonbats!

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at August 18, 2008 06:25 PM

I am a great friend of Admiral Denton. I challenge anyone to read his book, "When Hell was in Session." The book will make a grown man cry.

Posted by: Luke Taylor at August 18, 2008 06:31 PM

Denton's a true American hero; when forced by the North Vietnamese to make a video confessing his war crimes, he blinked his eyes to spell out the word "TORTURE". Of course, the idiot US media disclosed that fact, and Denton got tortured even worse.

Posted by: Brainster at August 18, 2008 07:46 PM

"Will Sullivan, Hamsher, Benen, the Kossacks, etc apologize for attempting to discredit McCain?"

Will I be be nominated by Obama to fill the cabinet position of Secretary of Toweling Off Scarlet Johansen After She showers? Same answer...

Posted by: Paco at August 18, 2008 08:49 PM

Senator Webb became a Republican after Vietnam for the same reasons Denton did. No normal person would want to belong to a group who considers him a rapist and baby killer because of his service.

Posted by: stace at August 18, 2008 09:27 PM

Senator Webb became a Republican after Vietnam for the same reasons Denton did.

Which makes me wonder what in hell happened to Webb. I know he's against the Iraq War, but Webb cannot possibly believe the Dems have changed their spots. A few years back, he told Russert that he still believes Vietnam was justifiable, although the strategy was screwed up. How can he stand sitting on the same side of the aisle with Kennedy, Dodd, Biden, etc? Webb is far from stupid, so it looks like sheer opportunism to me - he saw which way the political winds were blowing and changed horses. Sad to see such a thing happen to an honorable Marine.

As infuriatingly stupid and dishonest as these attacks on McCain's war record and conduct as a POW are, I am actually glad the other side has stooped to this low. (As if there were any doubts that they would.) If there is one thing Americans know about John McCain, it is that he was a war hero. And the clueless left is forgetting that the most respected institution in this country is the military.

So let them hang themselves by attacking McCain under the impression that they can pull a reverse Swiftboat. Kerry's military service and subsequent betrayal of his fellow servicemen was his weakest point; McCain's military service is his strongest.

Posted by: Donna at August 18, 2008 11:36 PM

And here is what Swindle said four months ago:

Even when he was imprisoned, McCain was not one to confide his feelings on God.

“I don’t recall us talking specifically about our faith,” says Orson Swindle, one of McCain’s closest friends and a fellow POW. “We talked about our friends, families, our resistance posture, and that our country didn’t seem to have the will to win.”

Belief in a higher power helped them survive the routine torture and daily indignities, Swindle says.

“It would help us endure what we had to endure. But we knew God wasn’t going to come down and wave a magic wand.”

Politico blog

Robert Timburg's 1995 book "The Nightingale's Song" contains (at pp 171-174) very detailed accounts by McCain of three Christmases he spent in prison - 1968, 1969, and 1970 - yet not a word about a prison guard drawing a cross in the dirt.

McCain wrote a 17 page essay in US News and World Report when he returned in 1973, full of everyday details of his life in prison. Lots of harrowing, heartbreaking stuff, terrible conditions, terrible treatment by the guards. He wrote that he would pray for strength and guidance. But not a world about a Christian guard, nor one who loosened his ropes nor one who drew a cross in the dirt - and that would have been something that would have stood out in this horrible experience.

It doesn't look like McCain told this story at all until the late '90s.

Posted by: skylark at August 19, 2008 02:41 AM

Pappy Boyington, the WWII Marine Corps flying ace, also experienced unexpected kindnesses from Japanese Christians after he was shot down and captured; they are recounted in his book Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Posted by: Robert at August 19, 2008 06:43 AM

It doesn't look like McCain told this story at all until the late '90s.

There were WWII incidents my father wouldn't talk about until over 30 years had passed, and then only very briefly because they were still too emotional for him.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at August 19, 2008 07:07 AM

"Are they claiming that there were no Christians in these countries?"

It is entirely plausible that one of McCain's prison guards was a secret Christian: When the Communists conquered North Vietnam, they began to oppress Christians (as they also did when they conquered the South.) Even after decades of violence and oppression, Vietnam is now about eight percent Christian.

Posted by: pst314 at August 19, 2008 08:38 AM

To echo what pst314 said, Vietnam was a strongly Catholic country prior to the growth of Communism in the 1950's. One of the better priests I know is a Vietnamese refugee. It is not much of a stretch to recognize that there would be some Christians among the conscripts.

Posted by: largebill at August 19, 2008 12:02 PM
It doesn't look like McCain told this story at all until the late '90s.

There were WWII incidents my father wouldn't talk about until over 30 years had passed, and then only very briefly because they were still too emotional for him.

Yet McCain was writing and talking about the most harrowing, emotional details of his imprisonment - and his spiritual experiences too - immediately after he returned. He has continued to do so, even taking the press on tours of his former prison. He had no reason to have left this most unusual and telling anecdote out.

Posted by: skylark at August 19, 2008 09:49 PM

"He had no reason to have left this most unusual and telling anecdote out."

skidmark - Ah, you are a mind reader as well. Irrefutable evidence you've got there. Stick with it.

Posted by: daleyrocks at August 20, 2008 03:19 PM

"It doesn't look like McCain told this story at all until the late '90s."

"I recall John telling that story when we first got together in 1971, when were talking about every conceivable thing that had ever happened to us when we were in prison"
-Orson Swindle

"I heard that story in 1970, 1971—back in that time frame. Anybody who says it's not true is full of..."
-Bud Day

One of these things is not like the others...

Posted by: Andrew the Noisy at August 24, 2008 04:03 PM