Theodore's World: Learning the Ropes at the Hanoi Hilton

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September 19, 2008

Learning the Ropes at the Hanoi Hilton

Drawing copyright © 1975 by the United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland

Learning the Ropes at the Hanoi Hilton

By Henry Mark Holzer

The Obama campaign has recently ridiculed John McCain for his supposed unfamiliarity with computers, and his alleged inability to type. Whatever the truth of this not-so-thinly veiled attempt to portray the Republican candidate as a fossil out of touch with the contemporary scene, the Democrats have yet again denigrated McCain’s (and other POWs') suffering in Hanoi, which was the cause of most of the Senator’s physical ailments.

Much of that suffering was caused by a torture treatment called “the ropes.” It is pictured below.

As Erika Holzer and I wrote in our book “Aid and Comfort”: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam: “Perhaps the worst torture the North Vietnamese inflicted was “the ropes.”

One POW, Larry Guarino, described it this way:

"Let me try to tell you what it really feels like when they tightly bind your wrists and elbows behind your back with nylon straps – then take the strap and pull the arms up, up your back, to the back of your head. * * * Well, imagine this with both arms tied tight together – elbow to elbow, wrist to wrist – and then, using the leverage of his feet planted between your shoulder blades, with both hands, he pulls with all his might, ‘til your arms are up and back over your head down between your feet, where your legs are between iron bars. The pain is literally beyond description. . .
Besides the pain itself, you are tied up so tight that your windpipe becomes pinched and you breathe in gasps. You’re trying to gulp in air, because your wind passage is being shrunken. Your throat, in a matter of 30 seconds, becomes completely dry. . . .
After about 10 or 15 minutes in this position, tied up so tightly, your nerves in your arms are pinched off, and then your whole upper torso becomes numb. It’s a relief. You feel no more pain. . . . The breathing is still difficult, but the pain is gone. You’ve been anesthetized. However, when they release the ropes, the procedure works completely in reverse. It’s almost like double jeopardy. You go through the same pain coming off the ropes as you did going in."

And so in the freedom and security of hotel penthouse suites the effete Obama camp sips their lattes and nibbles on their stilton, ridiculing McCain, Guarino and their fellow POWs because they don’t know how to use computers and can’t type.

Well, maybe they can’t. And maybe, just maybe, it’s because at the Hanoi Hilton they were busy learning something else: the ropes.

....Thank you Mark for this article.

Posted by Wild Thing at September 19, 2008 04:50 AM


And the goody two shoes and human rights people focus on the U.S. and Gitmo. No cries on the intolerable behavior of third world countries and Islamists. Murtha and Biden couldn't wait to jump on our Marines about Haditha.

Posted by: Bob at September 19, 2008 07:27 AM

Where is the accountability in the world courts for the treatment of POW's by the Communists and Islamists world wide who have tortured and butchered millions? The WWII Nazi's and Saddam Hussein seem to be the only ones to have been tried, convicted and eliminated in the past 75 years. The rest are living with impunity amongst us.

Posted by: Jack at September 19, 2008 11:01 AM

I guess this is not as bad as the "barbaric" waterboarding. At least according to Jane Fonda who publically commented during the Vietnam War that American POWs were criminals and deserved harsh treatment.

I know several former POWs have similar arm, hand and/or shoulder issues that John McCain has from "the ropes". They suffered long painful torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese while our politicians dickered over whether to support the war or not and the negotiators fretted about the shape of a table.

Today, we again have politicians not supporting America's efforts for personal political gain and again these selfish people endanger our troops.

Posted by: TomR at September 19, 2008 12:07 PM

Why wasn't Jane Fonda and her loser husband Tom Hayden ever tried for treason and hanged and the rest of those SDS bastards, today like William Ayers they are free to run around and spout the same gargabe they did 40 years ago.

Then there is the left wing party, the party of defeat, the democrats, Kennedy, Biden, Durbin, Kerry, Schumer, Obama and the list goes on and on and into the house.

So why aren't these bastards in jail. This has more to do than just one person.

Posted by: Mark at September 19, 2008 04:02 PM

Bob, exactly, they only care about the enemy being safe and happy.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 19, 2008 05:31 PM

Jack, yes they sure don't care about it at all.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 19, 2008 05:33 PM

Tom, I agree so much with what you said.

And thank you for sharing about knowing some of our heroes that have gone through this horrible torture.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 19, 2008 05:39 PM

Mark, that is how I think too, this is huge for me and something I have been furious about for a long time.

I wish with all that is in me that I had the power to make real punishments for treason and those you named are at the top of my list.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 19, 2008 05:42 PM

Yesterday I sat in a room with close to 50 POWs from WWII thru Vietnam. The speaker, who was recording their stories, pointed to a wooden ship model he had brought with him. He said it was built by a German POW in Canada. That, he said, was the difference in how we treated POWs in stark contrast to how Our POWs were treated.

Posted by: yankeemom at September 20, 2008 06:35 AM