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Learning the Ropes at the Hanoi Hilton By: Henry Mark Holzer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, September 16, 2008


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.




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

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.


Henry Mark Holzer, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School, is a constitutional lawyer and author most recently of The Supreme Court Opinions of Clarence Thomas, 1991-2006, A Conservative’s Perspective.



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