It’s hypocritical of “Songbird” McCain to oppose Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to head CIA, over waterboarding allegations, says former Air Force general

Sen. John McCain, the long-serving Arizona Republican who is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer and likely won’t be serving much longer, has endured the kind of pain that no one should ever have to endure.

Shot down near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on July 29, 1967, Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain was severely injured when he was captured by enemy forces. He had two broken arms and a leg fracture when he parachuted to the ground — and into a lake, where he nearly drowned. 

He was pulled ashore by North Vietnamese soldiers who proceeded to crush his shoulder with a rifle butt and bayonet him. 

Though he was severely injured, his captors would not offer him any medical treatment. Rather, they regularly beat and interrogated him; he only began to receive medical treatment after the North Vietnamese learned that his father, Vice Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., was named commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe — which included the Vietnam theater — in 1968.

The North Vietnamese offered him special treatment and early release, none of which McCain accepted. As such, beginning in August 1968, McCain was subjected to a program of severe torture that included being bound and beaten every two hours — at a time when he was suffering from dysentery. 

McCain was beaten so regularly and so savagely that at one point was planning suicide, only to have his plans thwarted by his captors. It was at this point that he made an ‘anti-U.S. propaganda’ confession. He always felt that the statement was dishonorable, but as he would later write, “I had learned what we all learned over there: every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.” 

There’s no question that McCain — whose injuries were so severe he could never again raise his arms above his shoulders — endured much more than most people can imagine, let alone survive. He was a POW for more than five years.

But is what he suffered through, which eventually led him to make one ‘confession,’ reason for him to oppose a Trump nominee for CIA director who may have also been involved in torturing al Qaeda militants for information? 

One former ranking military officer — Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney — doesn’t think so.

Last week McCain came out in opposition of Gina Haspel, the CIA’s current deputy director and the first woman nominated to lead the agency — because of her “refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality,” which he called “disqualifying.” (Related: In the twilight of his life, the REAL John McCain emerges.)

McCain noted that during her testimony last week on Capitol Hill Haspel had an opportunity to “explain her involvement in the so-called enhanced interrogation program during the Bush administration, and account for the mistakes the country made in torturing detainees held” following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Haspel said at her hearing that she did not believe torture worked. 

McInerney disagreed, and used McCain’s Vietnam experience to justify it. During an interview on the Fox Business network, he said, “The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’”

He said the statement McCain signed referred to him being “a black criminal” and an “air pirate” though again, that didn’t end his beatings. But, said McInerney, that proves torture is effective.

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” he said.

Also, McInerney’s slur aside, what he’s really saying is that he disagrees with McCain’s position against supporting Haspel, especially since he supported President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to be CIA director.

Brennan “had the same record on rendition and enhanced interrogation as Ms. Haspel,” tweeted radio host Larry O’Connor last week. “Respectfully, why the double standard?”

Good question. The only logical explanation is that McCain wants to continue sticking his finger in Trump’s eye over the president’s disparagement of the senator’s Vietnam experiences during the 2016 campaign.

As for McInerney, he probably should have picked a different example.

Read more about the Trump administration at

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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