Barack Obama heeft meerdere keren gezegd dat hij de enige Democratische kandidaat is die het in een debat over buitenlands beleid (lees: over de oorlog in Irak) op zou kunnen nemen tegen John McCain. Cynici denken dat hij redelijk kansloos is tegen McCain. Dat iedereen kansloos is tegen McCain, omdat zijn verleden als krijgsgevangene simpelweg teveel krediet aan hem geeft. De meeste mensen weten wel dat McCain tijdens de oorlog in Vietnam krijgsgevangene is geweest. Er zijn echter maar weinig mensen die weten hoe dat gevangenschap is geweest. En ook al wil ik een Democraat als president krijgen, ik moet zeggen dat ik wel enorm veel respect heb voor McCain. Lees dit maar eens, het is werkelijk ongelooflijk:
On October 26, 1967, McCain was flying as part of a 20-plane attack against a thermal power plant in central Hanoi, a heavily defended target area that had previously been off-limits to U.S. raids. McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down by a Soviet-made SA-2 anti-aircraft missile while pulling up after dropping its bombs. McCain fractured both arms and a leg in being hit and ejecting from his plane. He nearly drowned after he parachuted into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi. After he regained consciousness, a mob gathered around him, spat on him, kicked him and stripped him of his clothing. Others crushed his shoulder with the butt of a rifle and bayoneted him in his left foot and abdominal area; he was then transported to Hanoi’s main prison. Although badly wounded, his captors refused to put him in the hospital, deciding he would soon die anyway; they beat and interrogated him, but McCain only offered his name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. Only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral did they give him medical care and announce his capture; at this point, two days after it went down, McCain’s plane going missing and his subsequent appearance as a POW made the front page of The New York Times.
McCain spent six weeks in a hospital, receiving marginal care, was interviewed by a French television reporter whose report was carried on CBS, and was observed by a variety of North Vietnamese, including the famous General Vo Nguyen Giap, many of whom assumed that he must be part of America’s political-military-economic elite. Now having lost 50 pounds, in a chest cast, and with his hair turned white, McCain was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Hanoi in December 1967, into a cell with two other Americans who did not expect him to live a week (one was Bud Day, a future Medal of Honor recipient); they nursed McCain and kept him alive. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would be for two years. In July 1968, McCain’s father was named Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC), stationed in Honolulu and commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain was immediately offered a chance to return home early: the North Vietnamese wanted a mercy-showing propaganda coup for the outside world, and a message that only privilege mattered that they could use against the other POWs. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation due to the Code of Conduct of "first in, first out": he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well. McCain’s refusal to be released was even remarked upon by North Vietnamese officials to U.S. envoy Averell Harriman at the ongoing Paris Peace Talks.
In August 1968, a program of vigorous torture methods began on McCain, using rope bindings into painful positions and beatings every two hours, at the same time as he was suffering from dysentery. Teeth and bones were broken again as was McCain’s spirit; the beginnings of a suicide attempt was stopped by guards. After four days of this, McCain signed an anti-American propaganda "confession" that said he was a "black criminal" and an "air pirate", although he used stilted Communist jargon and ungrammatical language to signal the statement was forced. He would later write, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine." His injuries to this day have left him incapable of raising his arms above his head. His captors tried to force him to sign a second statement, and this time he refused. He received two to three beatings per week because of his continued refusal. Other American POWs were similarly tortured and maltreated in order to extract "confessions". On one occasion when McCain was physically coerced to give the names of members of his squadron, he supplied them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. On another occasion, a guard surreptitiously loosened McCain’s painful rope bindings for a night; when he later saw McCain on Christmas Day, he stood next to McCain and silently drew a cross in the dirt with his foot (decades later, McCain would relate this Good Samaritan story during his presidential campaigns, as a testament to faith and humanity). McCain refused to meet with various anti-war peace groups coming to Hanoi, such as those led by David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, and Rennie Davis, not wanting to give either them or the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory based on his connection to his father.
In October 1969, treatment of McCain and the other POWs suddenly improved, after a badly beaten and weakened POW who had been released that summer disclosed to the world press the conditions to which they were being subjected. In December 1969, McCain was transferred to Hoa Loa Prison, which later became famous via its POW nickname of the "Hanoi Hilton". McCain continued to refuse to see anti-war groups or journalists sympathetic to the North Vietnamese regime; to one visitor who did speak with him, McCain later wrote, "I told him I had no remorse about what I did, and that I would do it over again if the same opportunity presented itself." McCain and other prisoners were moved around to different camps at times, but conditions over the next several years were generally more tolerable than they had been before.
Altogether McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, ending direct U.S. involvement in the war, but the Operation Homecoming arrangements for POWs took longer; McCain was finally released from captivity on March 15, 1973, having been a POW for almost an extra five years due to his refusal to accept the out-of-sequence repatriation offer.