As the world pays tribute to the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who passed away on Saturday after a hard-fought battle against brain cancer, even the Senator’s former captors from his first hard-fought battle in the Việt Nam War are praising their former adversary.
Colonel Trần Trọng Duyệt is the man who ran the Hỏa Lò Prison where Navy lieutenant commander McCain was imprisoned and tortured after he was shot down over Hanoi on his 23rd bombing mission. He told the Việt Nam News yesterday that he had spent a lot of time meeting with McCain while he was held captive.
“At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance. Later on, when he became a US Senator, he and Senator John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Việt Nam-US relations so I was very fond of him.”
“When I learnt about his death early this morning, I feel very sad. I would like to send condolences to his family. I think it’s the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Việt Nam – US relations.”
That McCain was able to overcome his justifiable anger and resentment towards the victorious North Vietnamese and work to restore American relations with the reunited nation after his treatment in the prison where he was repeatedly tortured and held in solitary confinement for two years is a tribute to his character and his ability to overcome personal animosity when the good of the country was at stake. If only the current occupant of the White House had that kind of character and ability to put the needs of the nation above his own selfish motivations.
McCain joined his then fellow Việt Nam Veteran Senator John Kerry in 1994 to sponsor a bill ending the American sanctions on the former foe and traveled to the country multiple times to facilitate the search for the fate of American soldiers missing in action during the war.
Hà Kim Ngọc, the Vietnamese Ambassador to the US who often acted as McCain’s interpreter during his visits to the country, told Việt Nam News that the Senator’s role in the history of Vietnamese-American relations is particularly special.
“It can be said that Senator McCain is a symbol of the Việt Nam – US reconciliation process during which the two sides overcame their past as old enemies to normalise and develop bilateral relations.
“McCain enthusiastically supported and made untiring efforts for the Việt Nam – US comprehensive partnership,” Ngọc said.
“Even during his illness, McCain still paid attention to Việt Nam-related issues such as cooperation with Việt Nam, the East Sea issues and the catfish programme that affects poor farmers in the Mekong Delta region of Việt Nam.”
“With the support of both the Republican and Democratic Parties in the US Congress, the Việt Nam – US comprehensive partnership will continue thriving for the benefits of the two countries.”
With a legacy that spans the diplomatic bridge between the U.S.A. and Việt Nam, John McCain will be sorely missed by the leaders of a country that now has to deal with President Bone Spurs without the knowledgable mediation of the late Senator. The whole world is poorer for the loss.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.