Former Vietnamese jailer gives McCain a thumbs up
HAIPHONG, VIETNAM - John McCain has an unusual endorsement - from the Vietnamese jailer who says he held him captive for about five years as a POW and now considers him a friend.
"If I were an American voter, I would vote for Mr. John McCain," Tran Trong Duyet said Friday, sitting in his living room in the northern city of Haiphong, surrounded by black-and-white photos of a much younger version of himself and former Vietnam War prisoners.
At the same time, he denies prisoners of war were tortured. Despite detailed POW accounts and physical wounds, Duyet claims the presumed Republican presidential nominee made up beatings and solitary confinement in an attempt to win votes.
His statements seem to echo the communist leadership's overall line on America: It insists the torture claims are fabricated, but that Vietnam now considers the U.S. a friend and wants to lay the past to rest. Duyet said one of the reasons he likes McCain for president is the candidate's willingness to forgive and look to the future.
Duyet, 75, grew testy during the interview when repeatedly questioned about torture and why so many other former POWs say they too were mistreated. He preferred to talk about McCain as an old buddy.
"He's tough, has extreme political views and is very conservative," Duyet said. "He's very loyal to the U.S. military, to his beliefs and to his country. In all of our debates, he never admitted that the war was a mistake."
McCain spent 5 1/2 years behind bars at the Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi.
Asked for a response, the McCain campaign referred The Associated Press to Orson Swindle, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who was imprisoned with McCain. Swindle said Duyet "has no credibility on every utterance he makes."