Monday, March 21, 2005

Hyman MIA on MIAs

In his latest editorial, he discusses the valuable, yet unheralded, work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on MIA/POWs, suggesting that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the free flow of information has helped both nations discover the fates and resting places of many servicemen.

As with a number of Hyman’s “Point” commentaries, there’s not a clear thesis to be found. Is it that it’s a good thing that the remains of servicemen are being returned to their native country for burial? That’s not much of a claim—who would disagree with it? Is it that this particular commission should get more attention? Maybe, but this claim is buried toward the end of the commentary. If “The Point” is really a commentary (as it’s billed as being) rather than a news segment, it’s not at all clear what the opinion being expressed here actually is. Two minutes of local air time go by without much of consequence being said. (Of course, there’s probably nothing going on in your locale that would warrant any of this two minutes of news coverage, right? After all, your average Sinclair station does such a bang-up job of covering local stories in such depth that there couldn’t possibly be any better use of those 120 seconds.)

What’s interesting about Hyman bringing up the POW/MIA issue is the fact that, of all the people in government who deserve thanks for taking on this politically sticky issue, the two leading figures are favorite Hyman targets: Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain.

Just last week, we saw Hyman’s latest attempt at character assassination against John McCain, and we certainly remember the anti-Kerry distortarama from the campaign. What Hyman hasn’t mentioned about either of these men is that they helped pave the way not only for better relations with Vietnam when it came to investigating MIA/POW claims, but they also helped lay the groundwork for normalization of relations with Vietnam. As the Department of Defense itself notes, this thaw in relationships has produced results in the ongoing efforts to investigate the whereabouts of American remains in Vietnam.

Kerry and McCain deserve particular credit because there task involved a great deal of political risk. Both men attacked by those who disapproved of any interaction with the government in Vietnam, no matter what the purpose. They also were targeted with propaganda by those deeply involved in the "MIA/POW industry," in which families of servicemen lost in Southeast Asia are victimized by those who prey on their hopes and desperation for their own gain.

Now, we shouldn’t expect Hyman to voluntarily sing the praises of these two men. He’s not obliged to do so. It would be nice, however, if he didn’t distort their accomplishments to suit his own political purposes. This is exactly what he did on August 5, 2004, during a commentary entitled "Patriot for Life." In it, he alluded darkly to rumors that there was a photo of John Kerry in a war museum in Vietnam, suggesting that this showed that Kerry’s anti-war activities were celebrated there as contributing to the communist victory.

But as we pointed out at the time, this photo of Kerry was not taken in 1971, but 1991, during a visit to Vietnam as a senator for the express purpose of helping facilitate investigations into MIA/POW issues. The photo was placed in the museum as part of the story of the growing rapprochement between the two countries (part of the process that eventually led to normalization). So while Hyman plays up his support for those helping to answer questions about missing servicemen in his latest commentary, he willfully distorted the facts about another man’s efforts to accomplish the same goal simply because he didn’t agree with his politics.

So much for Mark Hyman, champion of MIA/POW issues.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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