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James Blight on McGeorge Bundy

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Posted on Dec 19, 2008
book cover

By James Blight

(Page 5)

    In a fragment dated Feb. 3, 1996, Bundy wrote: “What can we say is most surprising? The endurance of the enemy.” When I read that passage, roughly two-thirds of the way through the book, I stopped and read it again, then read it a third time. I thought to myself: Bundy is actually admitting in this fragment that he did not understand the enemy. Who knew that the Vietnamese communists would withstand the heaviest bombing campaign in history and still retain the capacity to fight the Americans successfully? Who knew that they were so committed to their cause of uniting the country under Hanoi’s leadership that nothing, short of genocide, would have dissuaded them? The answer is that a lot of people inside and outside the U.S. government knew, but Mac Bundy wasn’t interested. He didn’t understand the enemy because, frankly, he didn’t think they warranted his attention. It is a remarkable admission.

    Yet Bundy was inconsistent on this point, even in retrospect. On Aug. 28, 1996, my wife janet Lang and I had an extended encounter with the Mac Bundy of old, who could not bring himself to inquire deeply into the motives and capabilities of the Vietnamese communists. We spent the day with Mac and his wife, Mary, at their summer home in Manchester, Mass. Our purpose was to recruit Bundy to our conference in Hanoi the following spring, the first ever at which former high-level North Vietnamese and U.S. decision-makers would discuss the escalation of the war in the 1960s. Bundy’s close friends Bob McNamara and former Deputy Secretary of State Nick Katzenbach would be leading the U.S. team to Hanoi. We finally popped the question, toward the end of a lively, meandering three-hour discussion of the briefing notebook for the conference, which we had sent to him a month or so before our visit.


book cover


Lessons in Disaster


By Gordon M. Goldstein


Times Books, 320 pages


Buy the book


    Instantly, his answer was “no.” After three hours of genteel banter about Vietnam between the three of us, he was suddenly interrogating us. What on Earth, he wondered, did we expect to accomplish by going to Hanoi? Did we really expect the communist Vietnamese government in Hanoi, with its tradition of total secrecy about its decisions, to reciprocate our own efforts to produce critical declassified documents and the forthright testimony of former top-level decision-makers? And why did we expect the Hanoi government to admit mistakes, to admit to having missed opportunities to avoid the war or lessen its damage, when Hanoi had won the war—at a terrible cost, of course, but still, as Mac repeatedly reminded us, they had won it. Why, therefore, would former members of the Hanoi government want to look back on the war in search of their own shortcomings?

    He suspected, he said, that the former North Vietnamese officials would gleefully talk about U.S. mistakes, but not their own, leading to the conclusion that the Americans missed all the opportunities to avoid or reduce the impact of the war. Looking for missed opportunities in Hanoi, Mac told us, was “like looking into an empty box.” There was nothing there.

    With the end of the lecture, we headed to lunch. On the way from the porch to the dining room, he told us he thought we should go ahead and hold the conference, but we should count him out. He reminded us, apparently without irony, that, after all, he was really interested in Kennedy and Johnson and the war, not the Vietnamese communists. 

    Thus to a significant degree, it seemed to janet Lang and me in late August 1996 that Mac Bundy was still clueless after all these years. For why was Kennedy right and Johnson (and Bundy) wrong? Because Kennedy understood “the endurance of the enemy,” while Johnson and Bundy did not. By August 1996, the evidence from the fragments that Goldstein provides suggests Bundy was starting to get it, intellectually. Yet he still would not trouble himself to gather some firsthand data on an enemy whose tenacity and skill would leave an irreparable blot on his reputation and legacy, even if someone else was willing to set everything up for him in advance.

A Lesson for Obama

    In the Dec. 18, 2008, issue of The New York Review of Books, Joan Didion warns of a potential danger faced by Barack Obama celebrants who chose to enter what she calls “the irony-free zone.” She worries that when the Obama campaign slogan “yes we can” meets the hard reality of “no you can’t” after his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, it may be tempting for many Obama supporters to cling to their much-loved slogan rather than to confront head-on our inability to avoid many unsavory possibilities.

    Since Didion sent her piece off to The New York Review, television commentator and former Clinton White House communications director George Stephanopoulos has reported on his Web site (on Nov. 24) that “one Obama adviser told me the Obama cabinet is shooting for a combination of a Team of Rivals and the Best and the Brightest. …” This drew the following response from PBS commentator Mark Shields: “It’s the same description of the team which led us into Vietnam. … I guess he didn’t read the end of the book” (“The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” Nov. 28, 2008). 

    It is not premature to ask even now, several weeks before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, whether Obama’s advisers in foreign affairs will come to see themselves as the best and the brightest, without the quotation marks and, if they do, whether they and their new president will continue to insist, as they have throughout the campaign, that the “problem” of Afghanistan can be solved via the introduction of tens of thousands of additional combat troops.

    No country in modern times has introduced large numbers of troops into Afghanistan and not regretted having done so. The Russians, to take a recent example, suffered 100,000 casualties and left humiliated in defeat. The lesson of lessons to be derived from Gordon Goldstein’s instructive and timely book is this: Keep the quotation marks around “the best and the brightest.” Stay in the irony zone in real time and avoid having to revisit it, like Mac Bundy, retrospectively.

James G. Blight is a professor of international relations at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, and author or co-author of half a dozen books on the Cuban missile crisis. He is the author most recently of “Vietnam, If Kennedy Had Lived: Virtual JFK” (with janet M. Lang and David A. Welch), to be published in January by Rowman & Littlefield. He is also a producer of the Koji Masutani film based on the book.

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By libertarian, December 24, 2008 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Expanding on the recent post by Louise, I saw a recent interview clip in which the VP made note of the importance of Bush being able to order a nuclear attack from any location with his portable boom-box. Cheney’s problems go beyond personal decency and display a total lack of comprehension of cause and effect. He suggested a fullscale nuclear attack on any aggressor would be appropriate, not considering that this simpleminded act of revenge would mean no more Wall Street or grouse hunting for his oil buddies. In fact, no more of nothing for everyone. Having any President lugging this box around is nuts. We have missile subs all over the world who can screw anyone anywhere via a command system isolated from DC, I believe. France and England also have the means to blow up lots of stuff for us.

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By Maani, December 23, 2008 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment


There is a great line from On Deadly Ground (Steven Seagal) when Seagal confronts the evil oil magnate (Michael Caine) who is destroying Native American lands in order to drill for oil.  Seagal looks at him and says, “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.  What does one say to a man who has no conscience?”

Cheney reminds me of Caine’s character.  He seems to have little or no conscience.  So when you ask, “He certainly must know by now how most view and question his motives.  Does he care?,” the answer is a resounding “no.”  He does not.


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By Louise, December 23, 2008 at 9:50 pm Link to this comment


I sometimes think Cheney’s entire political career has been driven by some sort of perverted need for pay-back. Is it possible an act of utter destruction could be seen by him as justified?

A simple, “that’ll show ‘em all.”

He certainly must know by now, how most view and question his motives. Does he care? More important, does he care enough to want to hurt someone? How horrible would an attack have to be to simply silence everyone?

Actually, maybe Bush should watch his back!

Does anyone know what happened to nuclear warhead number six? The Military Times reported five warheads had gone missing from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, in September 2007. Subsequently the Pentagon said the number of warheads was in fact six. Was the number ever resolved? Do we have a missing warhead? Could this have anything to do with Defense Secretary Gates heading for Minot immediately after Obama announced Gates had agreed to stay on for a while?

“Things go missing. It’s to be expected. In October 2000, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported that the military’s accountants had misplaced a destroyer, several tanks and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of machine guns, rounds of ammo, grenade launchers, some surface-to-air missiles, and the mother of all weapons, a hydrogen bomb.”

A good indication of how the Pentagon has addressed the missing, is in the following quote:

“I don’t know of any missing bomb, but we have not positively identified what I think you are looking for.”

Since 1945, the United States has lost 11 nuclear weapons, so perhaps my fear is misplaced. Perhaps the possibility of nuclear, or at the very least radio-active horror, is already upon us, and has been for more than sixty years. And we don’t need a terrorist to verify that threat. Still I would like to know, were there six warheads gone missing last year and five returned? Or has the sixth warhead been found and returned as well?

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By Maani, December 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment


“Or perhaps even worse, they are planning some dramatic destruction just as inauguration approaches! Throwing the nation into complete chaos, and a re-birth of nationalism and a call for a new dictator in a new totalitarian government! History teaches us despots and dictators don’t like to leave.”

You may remember that I suggested this way back during the primaries: that Bush & Co. might carry out another “false flag” operation (like 9/11) in order to either postpone the election or, alternatively, postpone or eliminate the transfer of power.  There is still time for them to do so.

And it would have to be on a scale even larger than 9/11.  Perhaps major “terrorist” attacks on multiple cities simultaneously (with thousands, or even tens of thousands killed), perhaps with biological or chemical weapons.  (God forbid nuclear.)  But large enough to warrant a “national emergency,” including martial law.

Unlikely?  Perhaps.  But, as you note, dictators (and even wannabe dictators) don’t like ceding power.  And I can’t help but wonder why Bush & Co. seem so “calm” in the face of losing that power.  Could it be because they DO have something up their sleeve?

And then the $64,000 question: If there IS such a “terrorist” attack, will the U.S. populace “buy” it the way they did 9/11?  That is, will it “work” to keep Bush & Co. in the White House after 1/20?

Let’s hope all of this is rank speculation.  But if it DOES happen, I hope that everyone here (and hopefully elsewhere) will see it for what it is.


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By bearsf, December 23, 2008 at 1:37 am Link to this comment

Irrelevant? FYI

While discussion takes place here over man’s behavior and historical events, history is being constantly distorted in front of us. The advertisement for the new film “Valkyrie” keeps being displayed on these comment pages, so I feel compelled to comment.

Whose History Do You Believe? / Plan Valkyrie: The German Conspiracy against the Nazi Regime culminating in the Coup Attempt of 20 July 1944

Before (or after) you watch the new movie Valkyrie be sure to check the real history behind the true story.

Here is the trailer for the movie Valkyrie - Trailer; &sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7SUNA_en&um=1&sa=N& tab=wv#

Read about the Hitler Resistance inside Germany here

Plan Valkyrie

The German Conspiracy against the Nazi Regime culminating in the Coup Attempt of 20 July 1944

“My extensive research refuted the bizarre portrayal of Olbricht which seeped into the literature in the wake of a growing “Stauffenberg Cult” - of which Tom Cruise is one of the worst perpetrators. The effect of this cult of personality is to lionize Stauffenberg at the expense of virtually everyone else. Important German historians, e.g. Joachim Fest, noted that my explanation of events was much more credible - and I can document it. If you are interested in a detailed analysis of events and the evidence I uncovered, you need only wait until January, when Sutton Books in the UK will be releasing an English biography of Olbricht under the title “Codename Valkyrie.” I will be sure to put a link for purchasing the book on this site as soon as it is available… -Helena P. Schrader Historian and Novelist

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By Louise, December 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment

I neither deny nor excuse. I simply say we need to
restore the value of and respect for those honest men and women who make up our military. And get rid of the privateers who’s allegiance is only to who pays the most! You may not like the idea. But in the final analysis, the real military may be our best hope for an honest democratic republic in the future.

Fascism is typically totalitarian imposed state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic. A strong, single-party government for enacting laws and a strong militia or police force for enforcing them through threat of reprisal against dissidents or through political violence directed at opponents, are typical of Fascism.

Private corporate mercenary forces, and private corporate police forces are what we see at most protests. The government in place cant risk depending on a volunteer military to enforce their control. Most of our kids would never shoot us, even if ordered to. But the privateers kill for money. Nothing more.

Fascism exalts the nation, state, or group of people as superior to the individuals composing it, and uses explicit populist rhetoric. It calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness, and demands loyalty to a single leader, leading to a cult of personality and unquestioned obedience to orders. Fascism promotes the indoctrination of people into the movement, through education, propaganda, and organizations.

In the twenty first century in the United States we have seen a form of Fascism move into government, where one single-party, Republican, has functioned as totalitarian. Their strong militia or police force is a collection of private, corporate mercenaries. And the exalted group of people, held as superior to the mass who populate the nation, are those who call for absolute obedience to the Christianist and their chosen leader George W. Bush. And all populist rhetoric, whether calling for war or calling for abolishing rule of law, has been done using the name of Christ, Bush and 9-11. The trifectica of cult.

Indoctrination, education and propaganda to encourage acceptance of this form of government and leadership has been on-going for many years. And I suspect if I were to suggest here Republicans and the popular Christian Evangelicals have contributed mightily to the development of fascism in the United States, a lot of folks would scream in outrage. But many of them have. The cult of personality has revolved around Bush, even though he is not the actual dictator. He is the figure-head over the dictator who actually governs. And we all know who that is - Cheney. 

Historian Gaetano Salvemini argued in 1936 that fascism makes taxpayers responsible to private enterprise, because “the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise. Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social.

Nothing new there, we’ve been bailing out corporate corruption for years!

The current unwinding has worked quite well for Cheney, since everyone now blames Bush and the cult are frantically trying to re-group. But make no mistake Cheney is still a very dangerous man, and will be until the final moment he is removed from any semblance of power.

That we find ourselves entangled in two hopeless wars can be blamed on allowing this form of fascism to take control of our government. And by extension, blamed on allowing a religious mind-set to dictate how we all must think. These were wars for profit and political gain. But now require our constant care and attention. Since we find ourselves in these two hopeless wars, we need a military force to fight those wars. Or at the very least the forces to cover each others behinds until we can get out of there!That we are where we are is certainly not the fault of those in the military who have to fight those wars. After all they are the ones putting their lives on the line!

So lets put the blame where it belongs.

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By Louise, December 22, 2008 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment

Totalitarian government tries to protect itself only so long as it can exist. The day is quickly coming when the current dictator and dupe will no longer have any power, but that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods. In fact they have timed the unraveling to coincide with their departure, counting on the stupid but loyal to put forth the notion that they need to come back. Or perhaps even worse, they are planning some dramatic destruction just as inauguration approaches! Throwing the nation into complete chaos, and a re-birth of nationalism and a call for a new dictator in a new totalitarian government! History teaches us despots and dictators don’t like to leave.

Fortunately, in spite of our poor education, an ignorant mainstreammedia and the loudness of Christianist indoctrination, the masses still want to be free. Free to screw up or succeed on their own. Free to speak out even against so-called Cristians. And free to love and live with the person they chose to share their life with.

I think we would be shocked if we knew the true number of votes for Obama, from both private and public, civilian and military. I think we would be shocked to learn, in spite of obvious vote fraud over the past eight years, they tried it again. They were overcome by numbers. And if we are still here four years from now, they will try again. So we all need to be careful and watchful, and that includes the military. Those folks take an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. And most of them are smart enough to understand what’s happened.

Now if you want to talk about Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, the Defense Budget and Corporate Americas hand in privatizing war for profit, that’s another matter. The Pentagon is run largely by civilians with no military experience. And, up until two years ago was directed by the most incompetent and unqualified, non-soldier politics has ever produced. He surrounded himself with yes-men, and radical Christians and Israelis. They no more represent the body of military personel than Bush and Cheney do! They are those who have adopted Mussolinis original version of Fascism.

“Fascism, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace - thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism -War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy - Fascism denies, in democracy, the absurd conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of “happiness” and indefinite progress”

“The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone”

And as how to make that goal appealing,

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”

And gain the co-operation of the rich,

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

We are not a nation of “militaristic” people. We are a body of victims who have been misled, manipulated and lied to until we find ourselves in this sorry state. But that doesn’t mean we support or like it. We don’t. Most of us are fed up with the machinations of war profiteers, private armies, private police forces, and a never-ending stream of welfare for the rich. All in the name of good government, and all funded by the working tax-payers!

We need to restore the value of and respect for those honest men and women who make up our military. And get rid of the privateers who’s allegiance is only to who pays the most! You may not like the idea. But in the final analysis, the real military may be our best hope for an honest democratic republic in the future.

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By bearsf, December 22, 2008 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

The Beat Goes On!


War Is A Racket

By Major General Smedley Butler

The Plot to Sieze the White House by Jules Archer

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By nrobi, December 22, 2008 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

I too am afraid that the “best and brightest,” will arise in many areas of foreign policy. Among them the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, led by the chief of staff
Rahm Emanuel.
The fact that most of the people who make up the foreign policy team of Barack Oabam, are hawkish and for the most part pro-war as a means of resolving the current crises in Afghanistan and Palestine makes me wonder whether there will be real change in the actions and policies of the new administration.  “These policy mistakes arise first and foremost because our nation is militarized. If you can’t afford the admission to the casino you don’t lose.(in the casino) With just a coast guard and no long range bombers, massive naval fleets and no foreign bases,the U.S. international relations would be very different. You want to stop these policy disasters take away the dangerous toys!” Thanks to unregistered commenter, Marcus Meddler for the foregoing paragraph of insightful and witty commentary. For as I see it there is really only one way to stop the imperialistic and colonialist drive of the neo-cons and those who hold power, and that is
to stop the funding of the military-industrial complex that has run this country for the last 50 years. The “corporatocracy,” has effectively supplanted our form of democracy and replaced it with
a neo-fascist, authoritarian, built on money form of government that cannot sustain itself too much longer
before it implodes from the sheer weight of its mistakes and blunders.
Yet, until this happens, the American people will be subjected to the worst kind of model of governance that can be imagined. One in which the rich and powerful have sway over the lives of those who are wage slaves and who cannot control their own lives.
I am certain, that either the people or the military-
industrial complex must come out ahead in this deadly
game for control of the government. Which one does, that is the question? For there are no parameters for
the seers to foresee the future, they have no guidance in the books or the waves of the present, with which to make their choices.
Hopefully, the people, will win out and there will be
lasting peace in the troubled spots of the world. But only time will tell, we cannot foresee the future
far enough to tell of the outcome now.

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By We have seen this movie b4, December 22, 2008 at 8:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I highly recommend the excellent Vietnam book by Lt. Col. (now Brig. Gen.) H. R. McMaster, “Dereliction of Duty”. McMaster’s painstakingly, exhaustively researched and annotated chronicling of how the “whiz kids” failed is both illuminating and a tragic inside look, in their own words, of how those invovled where ultimately clueless.

They new they could not succeed before they decided to go, see ppgs. 155-158.

In McMaster’s ending paragraph he states the Vietnam war was not lost in the field, or by the New York Times, or on college campuses but by President Johnson and his civilian and military advisors ... in 1965.

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By Xntrk, December 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jeez Louise, how can you deny or excuse the militarization of our society? Have you watched the way demonstrators are treated for exercising their Civil Rights. Don’t those cops in black uniforms and helmets with black visors a la Darth Vader scare the shit outta you?

Then there is our Military Budget, larger then all the rest of the world’s spending on defense and military equipment, and then some. What is that about if not to establish control of both the US itself, and the rest of the World [our colonies] too. It sure as hell is more then we need to fight any conceivable enemy on the horizon. And it doesn’t even provide for our security. We wind up living in lock-down out of fear of the unknown, or a stranger!

A ‘Militarized Society’ doesn’t need a set percentage of people in the military to be declared one. Rather, it requires a Government and Industrial [Corporate] Complex that uses force and military means, to accomplish its goals.

Even in Nazi Germany, and Stalin’s USSR, just as in the US during WW2, most of the cannon fodder were draftees, not hyped up volunteers. There was too much money to be made making weapons to want to join up and get shot at.

That was the whole point of Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’. Perhaps it’s time to bring out a new production of that, it woulds sure as hell be appropriate for the guys manufacturing defective equipment for our troops…

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By Louise, December 21, 2008 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

marcus medler;

“These policy mistakes arise first and foremost because our nation is militarized.”


I agree with much of what you say, but I disagree with the premise that our nation is militarized. Were that true, every family would have members serving. But the percentage of those who bare the brunt of war is very small.

Rather we have Politicians in place that use the military for profit and political gain. We have leaders in place who, like Bundy, have no clue about what war really is. We have corporations and manufacturers who see war only through the lens of $$$$. And we have a general population who sees war as Hollywood’s romantic version.

We are told 70% of the population wants the war in Iraq to end. But is that because they understand the horror of Bushes war, or because they are alarmed about the escalating cost in dollars?

Bush started his wars in Afghanistan, creating a situation guaranteed to deteriate into a form of gorilla warfare. Then he left for someone else to finish what he started. Proving he, his Secretary of Defense, and his entire cabinet were no more qualified, and every bit as clueless as Bundy was! 

What will happen if we escalate in Afghanistan? We all think we know. We want to believe somehow this time, escalated force will bring a different outcome. Which tells me most of us don’t know.

If in fact our nation was militarized, we would all know. And we would all have a clear memory and understanding of the futility of fighting a gorilla war with bombs. We need to re-visit that. And we NEED to revisit the reality of thousands of lives lost in the pursuit of political power and corporate profit. That’s the lesson we have NEVER learned!

We can’t draw a parallel between Bush, and Nixon and Johnson, because there is none. Bush is a man who does as he’s told because he hasn’t the sense to decide anything on his own. History holds Nixon and Johnson, in spite of influence from people like Bundy, made their own decisions. They both lived to regret their decisions and said so.

Bush on the other hand, as we all know, has made no mistakes. Maybe he can say that with ease because he’s never actually made a decision!

“As Goldstein reports, Bundy was retrospectively appalled by the content and tone of his memo: so clueless about his president, so flippant about matters of war and peace, life and death.”

One could easily, with a little re-write, transfer that to Bush.

“... so clueless about his [responsibility as] president, so flippant about matters of war and peace, life and death.” 

I suspect Bundy came to be greeted nightly by a parade of dead marching through his head. I suspect his resistance to putting it all down on paper was driven by the fear of apparitions revisited. And I suspect in the end he realized, the only way to put them to rest was to speak of, and face honestly his place in that tragedy. I also suspect Bush will never have such an epiphany.

All that aside, the point I want to make is how unfair it is to paint the military with the same stained brush we paint greedy corporate power and stupid politicians. We did that at the end of the Vietnam era. We attacked the returning troops instead of the creeps who sent them there. We tarnished and defiled the thousands of deaths and injuries sustained by honest military members guilty only of following orders! We made their return Hell and kept right on making it Hell, and it’s high time we recognize how wrong that was!

We need a military, especially since we have allowed our leaders to make the world more dangerous. Even though I don’t hold that any day now our nation will be over-run by bands of terrorists, we could be attacked by organized troops from another Nation.

Of course our hubris tells us that can’t happen. But, if we don’t have a strong, well disciplined military stationed on our shores, it can.

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By irspariah, December 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Submitting to the guidance and whims of the “brightest and the best” seems to be a reccuring theme in recent American history, and look where it has led. It seems as if there is a serious disconnect between these “leaders” and the general population. There is also a misdirected sense of awe of the credentials these louts throw in our faces as examples of their suitability to lead. Maybe what is needed is that machinist’s or mechanic’s bruises as the underpinning for national policy.  Yale and Harvard have wrought precious little other than grief and hardship for us peasants.  The experts and geniuses have done nothing for anyone other than their cronies. It’s time now for the rest of of us idiots and fools to take a shot at this.  After all, we are the ones who are most directly affected.

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By Maani, December 21, 2008 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

Of course, one critical thing unmentioned here is the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which Bundy & Co. created out of whole cloth: it is a matter of historical fact that that incident never occurred, and was a phantom “false flag” operation intended to create the outrage necessary in both the military and the general populace to support escalation of the war.

Bush & Co. learned this lesson well when they needed support for deposing Saddam and ramming through the neocon agenda.  9/11 was a “false flag” operation.


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By Expat, December 21, 2008 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

paschn, December 19 at 8:01 am #
(Unregistered commenter)
There was a popular saying when I was young and good looking. “What if they had a war and nobody came?”

Nice post;
Ever since the Spanish American War; we’ve been like a phonograph needle stuck in the same groove.  I’ve long been bored with it.  As long as we continue to follow jingoist crap and allow our lives to be directed by fear, we’ll never break the pattern.

You’ve sung all the words,
You’ve played all the notes,
But you never quite learned the song.
(The Incredible String Band)

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By libertarian, December 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Johnson killed 2 million Vietnamese. Kissinger/Nixon killed another 2 million, if including Cambodia and Laos. Johnson’s initial invasion took place one decade after the French had been thrown out of Vietnam. Vietnam had already repelled Chinese expeditionary forces. Johnson knew we could do it right, though.

A continuing issue, unaddressed by Democrat or Republican Presidents, is the blanketing of three or four countries in SE Asia with “bombies” made, I think by Honeywell (see Chomsky). Thesestep45 small, sometimes colorful, personnel mines were spread over vast areas of Asian farm country and forest. They are active to this day in numbers unknown. Last I read there are typically 50-60 people presently who are killed or maimed each week in the region.

An aspect of Bundy/Johnson/McNamara which deserves at least as much attention is the full deployment of thousands of nuclear warheads targeted, apparently, against all of our perceived enemies. The Soviet gov, frightened to death from the seven-year feast by Hitler which killed 20 million or so Russians, responded five years later with a long-range missile and bomber force of their own. Use of any of these weapons would have ended our version of civilization. Precursor to this was the Eisenhower and Kennedy decision to surround Russia in the late 1950’s with nuclear-tipped Jupiter missiles; these based in Turkey and several other locations. This dopey decision led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Enough said. Maybe Pres. Obama will bring some clear thinking.

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By oujiQualm34, December 20, 2008 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment

I recommend James W. Douglass’ incredible book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It matters on the issue of Kennedy and the Vietnam War.  He provides SO MUCH new evidence to the growing chorus that is all but the unbroadcast consensus: JFK was going to get out of Vietnam.

This book is not just an assassination book (CIA, Conspiracy, even Daniel Ellsberg
says it changed his mind) but the most important book on the Cold War to have been published in twenty years. Its depiction of the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis has so much for even the best read to learn.

“Douglass presents, brilliantly, an unfamiliar yet thoroughly convincing account of a series of creditable decisions of John F. Kennedy—at odds with his initial Cold War stance—that earned him the secret distrust and hatred of hard-liners among the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Did this suspicion and rage lead directly to his murder by agents of these institutions, as Douglass concludes? Many readers who are not yet convinced of this ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ by Douglass’s prosecutorial indictment will find themselves, perhaps—like myself—for the first time, compelled to call for an authoritative criminal investigation. Recent events give all the more urgency to learning what such an inquiry can teach us about how, by whom, and in whose interests this country is run.”—Daniel Ellsberg, author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“Douglass writes with moral force, clarity, and the careful attention to detail that will make JFK and the Unspeakable a sourcebook for many years to come, for it provides us with the stubborn facts needed to rebuild a constitutional democracy within the United States.”—Marcus Raskin, co-founder, Institute for Policy Studies

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By marcus medler, December 20, 2008 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
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These policy mistakes arise first and foremost because our nation is militarized. If you can’t afford the admission to the casino you don’t lose.(in the casino) With just a coast guard and no long range bombers, massive naval fleets and no foreign bases,the U.S. international relations would be very different. You want to stop these policy disasters take away the dangerous toys! I am afraid the new regime will have their foreign disaster(s)as well. A great shift in our foreign policy will happen if we disentangle our national identity and economy from the massive,influential military establishment and/or we learn to say no, despite;“yes we can we have the boats”.

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By Big B, December 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

We have re-fought the Vietnam war ad nauseum, for the last 35 years. We are like the children of the south who still can’t believe the confederacy lost. We are now ending a disasterous 8 year presidency that was obsessed with exercising the demons of Vietnam by attempting to prove that ill concieved wars in the third world could not only be winable, but profitable as well.

And, as the old saying goes, we failed to learn from our history, so what the hell, lets repeat it!

We have found out through painful self-examination that elitists from both sides of the asile have led the nation astray time and time again. The wealthy and educated don’t give two shits about the human costs of war. It’s simple really, our aristocratic class has a financial stake only in war. The blood of their families will never spilled on the sands of a middle eastern battlefield. And much like the French revolution, they won’t get it until they are dragged out of their mansions and placed in a Bastille. But until that day, the burden, the human cost of war will continue to be born by the ever growing american lower class.

We have not come very far from the old European nations that our ancestors left. We still look to a ruling class for leadership, and they still lead us down a primrose path that ultimatly benefits only them. Whether it’s Roosevelts, Kennedys, Bushs, Rockefellers or Vanderbilts, the working poor(serfs) still look to these inbred charlatins for leadership. Things will never change in our nation as long as we keep permitting Ivey League assholes to run the nation into the ground every 20 to 30 years.

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By Maani, December 20, 2008 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment


Hear, hear!  Excellent summary and advice.


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By Naz, December 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

War is an extremely profitable business. Anyone who believes that we were threatened by Communism is just as big a fool to believe what has come out of the mouths of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et. al. I could care less why McGeorge Bundy “didn’t get it.” If he had been a real man, he would have returned from Pleiku and immediately enlisted in the marines or the army but Harvard, Yale, etc. snobs are far too superior to everyone else to get themselves dirty and bloody over something they purport to believe in. All these types of people are remorseless cowards.

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By Mary Ann McNeely, December 20, 2008 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In his great book about the Vietnam War, Dispatches, Michael Herr coined the term “closet throatsticker”. It mockingly referred to people like Bundy, Walt Rostow and McNamara, people from the top echelon of society who cause the deaths of untold thousands while sipping a glass of expensive wine.  Needless to say, none were ever shot at.  Bundy and his ilk, like today’s Neocons, are nothing more than criminals, pure and simple.

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By clancy Sigal, December 19, 2008 at 5:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for the Blight review of Goldstein.  Useful…and needlessly courteous.  McBundy and Harvard/Yale/etc. cohorts were psychopaths incapable of ordinary…I stress the word…ordinary human imagination let alone sympathy for the people whose oh-ho-ho memos killed.  Neither McBundy, nor alas Blight in his review, unless I missed something, shows that he can picture in his mind the corpses and burned flesh and dismembered bodies and permanently grieving families.  What worries me most about Obama is that he went to Harvard and taught at the U of Chicago and may have picked up a certain sense of - despite the community organizing - detachment. 

Human solidarity trumps a “good” education.  When Sarajevo was besieged by the Serbian murderers, all 3 leading generals pouring lead into the city were PhDs…a poet, a psychiatrist and I forget the other thug.

Iraq has already supplied us with several more Bundys.  “Clueless”?  They knew what they were doing and did it anyway.  What do you call this behavior?

Clancy Sigal

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By jhebrink, December 19, 2008 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps it is ironic to use a lyric by a musician that clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of irony to preface a book review referring to irony.

I’ve typically focused on Bundy’s role in the Chilean elections, (1964, etc..)  I am interested to read this to find instances of the U.S. wholeheartedly making a case to support the notion of Realism in International Relations.

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By Walter J. Kelly IV, December 19, 2008 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You wasted too much time talking about the collaboration re writing. Consequently the contents, presumably Mac’s thinking, gets crowded out. Better luck next time.

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By P. T., December 19, 2008 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

I remember the appearance of McGeorge Bundy on PBS’s “The News Hour.”  I was hoping he would say something interesting and revealing, but he said hardly anything.

The elite has a perverse way of looking at war.  A war is right or wrong to them depending on whether it is won or lost.  That U.S. imperialism would use primarily its working class to destroy a foreign country to keep it capitalist or get its oil is beside the point to America’s elite.

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By paschn, December 19, 2008 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There was a popular saying when I was young and good looking. “What if they had a war and nobody came?”
What you Lemmings need to finally learn is, Patriotism is a disease for the masses. We all assumed that our “leaders” cared about God, Country and….us.
There are always exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, our leaders and the elite that control them could give a tinker’s damn about us.
We who as young men rally ‘round the flag, (when needed), then are cast off, lied to and left to deal with the horrible memories alone. Along with the questions as to why.
When Bush stole his first election I began to look to the vast information on the net for the “truth”.
How the elite and their lackies in office manipulated world events and caused millions of death and unbelievable suffering. For what? not for a few dollars for them to live on, but billions more. When you investigate, you see a pattern of fat, rich evil old white men leading a world of macho, chest pounding idiots to slaughter and be slaughtered because their bosses told ‘em to.For their “careers”, their “paychecks”. And we at the bottom pay the price. Chronic, acute stupidity.
Parents, you want it to stop? teach the NEXT batch of Lemming to QUESTION and give them the courage to KEEP to their principals. There’s no honor in being led by evil men to kill and be killed. It’s all a sham. a deadly, evil sham and each one of us, when we stand before our creator, WILL pay the price for our actions. And contrary to popular belief, God’s office doesn’t have a U.S. flag pinned to the wall. Just a “book” with the names of EVERY single human being killed by another, and an unfailing memory as to WHY.

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By socks, December 19, 2008 at 7:26 am Link to this comment

Thank you for this preview and monologue concerning some major players’ motives and the short history of America’s misadventure into Viet Nam.

Plus the timely advise to the people in the ‘Age of Obama’.

At 61 years old, Viet Nam was the countries’ war of choice during my youth, coloring much of our settings of reference, as to what our country was and was not. Depending on which side of the debate you were on about weither or not fighting Communism in Asia was a correct American enterprise.

To this day there is little public conversation that quaified as a resolution between the 2 sides of the arguments surrounding the disaster America committed herself to during the 60’s and 70’s.

Many will say it is irrelavant and unnecessary for our present age.

I counter that our nation is divided in its philosophy about the rightness and wrongness of military interventions. And without some reconciliation or profound amniesia, this cycle will continue to curse us. Even to the possibility of another uncivil war.

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