Vets for freedom

Dear General Clark,

Yesterday you appeared on CBS “Face the Nation” and made strong statements regarding Senator John McCain and his military service. Amongst other things, you claimed Sen. McCain “hasn’t held executive responsibility” and you criticized him because he didn’t command a “wartime [Navy] Squadron.”

You then claimed, in reference to war, that Sen. McCain “hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall” and concluded your political hatchet job with “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.” Even the show’s host, Bob Schieffer, let out a puzzled “really?” at the conclusion of your assertions.

Frankly General, you should know better. As a previous Commander of U.S. troops in harm’s way, you should take serious pause in disparaging the service record of a fellow decorated veteran. Even worse, your arrogant and careless words undercut the credibility of all those who served and continue to serve, in wartime and peacetime.

First of all, Sen. McCain’s service record is clear. After volunteering for a combat assignment in Vietnam, Sen. McCain was shot down during his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam and spent 5 ½ years as a Prisoner of War, enduring physical torture and repeatedly turning down preferential treatment and early release. For his service, he received seventeen decorations, including the Silver Star and Legion of Merit.

Most Americans would have ended their military career there, but Sen. McCain continued his service and eventually become the commanding officer of the largest squadron in the U.S. Navy. He turned an undisciplined and untrained squadron into one of the Navy’s best, earning the unit a Meritorious Unit Commendation.

So, let’s review your statements and check them against reality:

Senator McCain “hasn’t held executive responsibility.”

FACT: McCain commanded, and revitalized, the largest squadron in the U.S. Navy.

Senator McCain’s military leadership doesn’t count, because it wasn’t a “wartime Squadron.”

FACT: McCain volunteered to serve in Vietnam and upon his return, endured months of physical rehabilitation in order to continue his military career and command a squadron.

Senator McCain “hasn’t been there [war] and ordered the bombs to fall”

FACT: McCain flew twenty-three combat missions in Vietnam in order to drop bombs on the enemy. He was also “there” for 5 ½ years as a Prisoner of War.

“I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President.”

FACT: If serving your country, volunteering for combat, resisting the enemy, and receiving seventeen decorations for service does count for anything, then why are you on television, speaking as an “expert” on national security matters?

Your personal attacks came not from a General with respect for the uniform, but from a political operative dispatched to attack the military background of a political adversary.

On behalf of Vets for Freedom—and thousands of veterans and troops still serving—we urge you to apologize to Sen.

McCain for your comments. We also urge you to apologize to generations of veterans who served our country in uniform. Service matters—anytime, anywhere. We await and appreciate your response.

Even the candidate you represent has said repeatedly that “[Sen. McCain] deserves admiration for his service to our country.” We will be watching to see if the professionalism you showed once while in uniform will finally shine through in your new-found political role.