Paul's Perambulations a personal blog

July 7, 2009

Robert McNamara is dead. What have we learned?

Filed under: Peace,Politics — admin @ 7:55 pm

I once thought that Secretary of Defense McNamara was simply amoral, but after hearing him speak in the 90’s at Swarthmore, I know it’s something far worse. He claims to recognize the Vietnam War as a moral issue and “feels” for people’s loss and is “sorry” for what happened, but offers no apology for sending thousands to their death for what he knew was a lost and mistaken cause. See material below from the NYTimes obituary of July 7, 2009 and “The Fog of War” interviews of 2003.

“If we’re going to stay in there, if we’re going to go up the escalating chain, we’re going to have to educate the people, Mr. President.” (McNamara)


Interviewer (from text of The Fog of War): When you talk about the responsibility for something like the Vietnam War, whose responsibility is it? McNamara: It’s the president’s responsibility (This sounds a lot like how we the victors self-righteously condemned the losers during our Nuremburg Trials.  “Hitler did it all. I was just following orders.” Only McNamara is the Nazi.) Interviewer: After you left the Johnson administration, why didn’t you speak out against the Vietnam War? McNamara: I’m not going to say any more than I have. Interviewer: Do you feel in any way responsible for the War? Do you feel guilty? McNamara: I don’t want to go any further with this discussion. It just opens up more controversy.


Regarding the self-immolation of Norman Morison beneath the McNamara’s Pentagon Window:
McNamara: “He held a child in his arms, his daughter. Passersby shouted, ‘Save the child!” He threw the child out of his arms, and the child lived and is alive today. His wife issued a very moving statement: ‘Human beings must stop killing other human beings.’ And that’s a belief that I shared. I shared it then and I believe it even more strongly today.”

(What! He has the gall to identify his concern for killing with that of Norman Morrison’s? McNamara sees killing and war as necessary. Morrison absolutely does not. But even then, McNamara has to get in a dig about “Save the child.” This makes it sound like Norman was prepared to burn the child, which would be seen as terrible and hypocritical by all.  In fact, he had put the child safely aside BEFORE immolating himself.)


“Were those who issued the approval to use Agent Orange criminals? Were they committing a crime against humanity? Let’s look at the law. Now what kind of law do we have that says these chemicals are acceptable for use in war and these chemicals are not. We don’t have clear definitions of that kind. I never in the world would have authorized an illegal action. I’m not really sure I authorized Agent Orange? I don’t remember it?”
 “I’m very proud of my accomplishments, and I’m very sorry that in the process of accomplishing things, I’ve made errors.” and  “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”  (With this last statement, he’s saying that morality is basically meaningless in war. He believes that moral qualms cannot apply for warfare, when the highest good is to accomplish the mission, and thus anything is acceptable that could lead to that end. I believe that officials who knowingly appoint such a man to a high office  are equally responsible for the crimes that are committed.)

1 Comment »

  1. McNamara testified that by 1966 he understood that the Vietnam War could not be won.

    Comment by admin — October 5, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

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