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Monday, April 02, 2007

An ignored legacy

I would like to take a moment and discuss what Mark Woods didn't cover in his Sunday article in the Florida Times-Union, "It all started with a tap on the wall." The centerpiece of the article was about current Atlantic Beach Fleet Landing resident Capt. (USN-Retired) Richard Stratton and current GOP '08 candidate for President, Arizona Sen. John McCain as former Vietnam War POW's in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Though I worked at Fleet Landing in Atlantic Beach for 5 years in the late '90's as a Medicare consultant and had an occasion to speak with Capt. Stratton two or three times, I seriously doubt he would remember me. But rest assured he is a legend amoung a community filled with legends that had colorful and historic careers in the service of their country in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

The scope of Mr. Woods' article was about the relationship and shared experience between these two decorated veterans as Vietnam POW's and and one would not expect the piece to go beyond that. My concern though is their shared experiences as subjects of abuse and torture at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors and their subsequent support of Attorney General Gonzalez's interpretation of what defines torture and their support of the Military Commisson's Act 2006 [H.R. 6166 (109th Congress)] that all but ignores the basic precepts of the Geneva Convention.

There is no doubt about the honor, bravey and actions above and beyond the call of duty to their country exhibited by these two individuals. The well deserved awards and citations awarded to Capt. Stratton in particular are staggering: theSilver Star, the Legion of Merit with V, the Bronze Star with V, Air Medal,the Navy Commendation medal with V, the Combat Action Ribbon, and a PurpleHeart, as well as the POW medal. What is troubling though is his tacit support of the Military Commion's act through his support of Sen. McCain who signed on to Gonzalas' interpretation [though at first he was against it - another flip flop I might add in a growing list] and H.R. 6166. Capt. Stratton's status as a Vietnam POW was second only to that of former Admiral and Alabama Sen. Jeremiah Denton who was a captive for nearly eight years. It is extemely troublesome and disturbing when one considers the weight of those in the miliarty establishment who are against it. When one considers the current situation regading United Kindom captives in Iran it is not hard to see the consequences of the administrations actions regarding torture and Geneva. The Iranians have already violated Geneva on two occasions by realeasing video of their captors and forced signed confessons. There is the potential of a third if there are show trials for international political purposes. Thank you George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzalas. Hmmmm, trials. Now where have I heard that? Oh yeah, David "I'm so dangerous I only got 9 months" Hicks. That's quite a legacy there Mr. Gonzalas and Mr. Bush.

The special bond established between those former residents of the Hanoi Hilton is a dynamic only they can understand and would never be questioned. It is no doubt a special brotherhood that should be honored by one and all. The justice system and adherence to international treaties that have served us so well for the past 200+ years made us a beacon of justice, liberty and fairness to the rest of the world. These actions and current public posturing about the so called GWOT [Global War on Terror] makes a mockery of our leadership on these issues in the community of nations. Let's hope I'm wrong about Capt. Stratton's seeming support here of these policies.

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