A recent news article revealed that the Pentagon has known for nearly five years that China had held an American POW from the Korean War, moving him from Korea to China where the Chinese say he died and was buried in obscurity.
To some in the news business this comes as a shocking revelation, but to the POW-MIA community it is merely confirmation of what has been known for decades. That being, hundreds of Americans were never repatriated from the Korean and Vietnam Wars, many were alive at last sighting, and the US government has been complicit for decades in deflecting all efforts to find, return or even publicize their plight.
With all the talk on the presidential campaign circuit about the value of military service to the presidency there certainly is good reason to ask the presidential aspirants what they would do about the POW issue.
In the case of Army Sgt. Richard G. Desautels, of Shoreham, VT, who was captured in Korea in 1950, the Chinese finally told the US officially that he died in captivity and was buried in an unknown location - in CHINA!
Obviously this flies in the face of China's decades long assertion that all POW issues were resolved at the conclusion of the war in 1953 and that no Americans were transported to and/or held in China.
Now we find out that China revealed information about Desautels more than five years ago. The article I read about it on Yahoo News said that the information was not widely disseminated because it was intended only for members of the Desautels family who had never ceased pressing the government for information on him.
Ultimately the information went from to Desautels' brother, Rolland, through a POW-MIA organization to the media.
For many who have tracked the issues regarding American POWs none of these recent revelations are surprising. But the truth is, except for those directly involved, both the Korean and Vietnam Wars are ancient history, and the government - both civilians and the Pentagon - appears to be completely disinterested in putting the issue on the front burner.
The Chinese said at the signing of the Armistice in 1953 that the POW issue was settled even though we had some in the military and government who screamed loud and long that they had proof that all the POWs had not been returned. The issue was quieted down over time and has been relegated to an asterisk in historical documents.
The same can be said for the Vietnam War. It was known at the time of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 that more than 300 America aircrew members had been captured in Laos by communist forces and were not included in the 600 POWs released by North Vietnam. The official explanation was that North Vietnam assured the US negotiating team headed by Henry Kissinger that all POWs, including those held by Laos would be released.
But when the accords were signed, North Vietnam suddenly feigned a lack of control over Laos and the issue has been deadlocked ever since. The communists claim the Nixon administration secretly promised billions in war reparations that were never delivered; hence there was no pressure on the Laotian communists to release the prisoners they held.
The issue of live POWs held in Asian hell holes was brought up over the years both by POW-MIA activists and in some Hollywood productions - particularly the movie Uncommon Valor starring Gene Hackman, the second Rambo movie starring Sylvester Stallone, and of course Chuck Norris in his Missing in Action series, as well as the earlier Good Guys Wear Black.
But even as activists and a small band of producers and actors attempted to keep the issue alive, the media dismissed it as the stuff of disaffected veterans who - they said - couldn't accept a loss (that never occurred militarily) and conspiracy theorists.
But there was plenty of evidence that American POWs had not been returned from WWII German prison camps that were "liberated" by the Russian Army, in addition to those from the Korean and Vietnam Wars, so it was not improbable that Americans were still being held by communist governments.
Legally a conspiracy is defined as two people discussing a plan of action between them, so we have to question whether it is appropriate to dismiss people who want to keep the POW issue current, if there is evidence that more than two people in the government have had many, many discussions about it. At the very least there seems to be a mountain of evidence that there has been a conspiracy of silence on the issue of American POWs and MIAs.
The admission that an American POW was taken from North Korea to China and buried there merely confirms what many who have refused to let the issue wither knew or believed about what China, Russia, Laos, North Vietnam and other communist countries did with our military personnel who had been captured.
Not only does the Desautels case confirm that the Chinese know far more about American POWs-MIAs than they have been willing to share, but it also reconfirms that far more is known about the 300 plus Americans held by the Laotians.
Somebody has some explaining to do. An enormous effort was made in the early 1990s through a Senate Select Committee series of hearings on POWs and MIAs - John Kerry and John McCain both served on the committee - but the hearings ended on a sour note with much vital information declared classified and locked away from public view. To put it mildly many veterans and family members are still understandably bitter over the outcome of those proceedings.
The Pentagon also has shut the door, slammed the door probably is a more accurate description, on the issue and many inside and out of the military have had their careers tarnished for refusing to accept the standard line.
In the second Stallone Rambo movie, his female counterpart tells him while they are on a mission to document the existence of live American POWs that "you are not expendable."
It sounded good in the movie and probably is an accurate assessment of how most Americans feel about those who serve in the military.
But it is obvious from the actions of American politicians and Pentagon officials alike over the course of five decades now, that far more is known about the fate of our POWs than has been publicized. For those in government and the military whose careers would suffer from more revelations of this nature, in their minds at least, our troops are expendable.
Also published at http://talon.eaglesup.us/
Friday, July 11, 2008