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Ear to the Ground

Robert McNamara Dies

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Posted on Jul 6, 2009
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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara died Monday at the age of 93. McNamara was considered to be the leading architect of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, sometimes referred to as “McNamara’s War,” which left more than 58,000 U.S. troops and 3 million Vietnamese military and civilians dead. 

Time Magazine:

At the beginning of his professional career, he made a name for himself as the wunderkind who reformed the ailing Ford Motor Co. At the end, he tried to rehabilitate his reputation, as a do-gooder striving to save the globe’s poorer nations as head of the World Bank. But Robert McNamara, who died early Monday morning in his sleep at home at the age of 93 (his wife Diana told the Associated Press he had been in failing health for some time), will always be best known for his role as the architect of Washington’s failed Vietnam policy in the 1960s.

McNamara waited 30 years before conceding in his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, that he had waged the war in error. “My voice would have had no impact at all at that point,” he told TIME when the book came out, explaining why he hadn’t revealed his doubts when he stepped down as Secretary of Defense in early 1968. “My voice would have had no impact whatsoever.”

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Check out this article by Robert Scheer, written in 2000, on the U.S. refusal to try McNamara as a war criminal.

The Nation:

What’s wrong with this picture?: Slobodan Milosevic will be dragged before an international war crimes tribunal while Robert McNamara tours American college campuses touting his latest book on how to achieve world peace, and Henry Kissinger advises corporations, for a fat fee, on how to do business with dictators.

Clearly, when it comes to war crimes, this nation is above the law.

The United States has supported, nay imposed, a standard of official morality on the world while blithely insisting that no American leader ever could be held accountable to that same standard.

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Also, read about Scheer’s brief but tumultuous encounter with McNamara in 1966 at Harvard University:

Time Magazine:

[...] Defense Secretary Robert McNamara went to Cambridge to deliver the first lecture at Harvard’s new Kennedy Institute of Politics. The 350 members of the Harvard S.D.S. decided that this would be an ideal time for a debate between McNamara and an eloquent spokesman they had brought to the campus, Robert Scheer, an editor of Ramparts magazine and an unsuccessful anti-war congressional candidate.

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By Peter Smith, July 7, 2009 at 11:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

chomsky savaged mcnamara back in 95:

http://www.chomsky.info/books/warfare01.htm

n extremely narrow technocrat, a small-time engineer who was given a particular job to do and just tried to do that job efficiently, didn’t understand anything that was going on, including what he himself was doing.

and
He is a dull, narrow technocrat who questioned nothing.

i love it.

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By faith, July 7, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mcnamara’s obit included a comment that he had made that he knew, “he knew” that the Viet Nam war was wrongful and unsustainable.  Yet, Mcnamara continued to support and push forward on the Viet Nam war while knowing thousands were dying, and more than thousands were returning from the war with injuries so serious,that some were mere trunks - no legs and no arms.  The military hospitals were filled beyond capacity with these wounded 19-20 year olds.  I will never forget the Pentagon answering my father’s phone call and referring to Viet Nam as a “mere containment”.  They did this to correct my dad’s having called it a war.  My dad, a WWII vet.  Mcnamara and the pentagon officials all referred to Viet Nam as a containment in order to make it more palatable. 
Forgiveness is for God to do.  Why we we allow the Mcnamara’s, the Bush’s, and the Rumsfelds to engage and diminish the value of the human lives of young men and women by sending them to fight in illicit, unjustifiable wars is just beyond my understanding.  We need to follow the old anthem, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me..”

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By Emmanuel Roldan, July 6, 2009 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Robert McNamara could have avoided the carnage of millions of Vietnamese and orphaned thousands of American families if he was truthful enough to say the war was wrong. His lifestory is like that of the prodigal son in the Bible who asked forgiveness to his father after squandering the wealth he got. Bob only said I’m sorry after everything is dead and gone including his pride.  I hope he said I’m sorry to the Father before he took his last breath.

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By Chris, July 6, 2009 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was born in 1977 so I didn’t experience all the chaos associated with the Vietnam War. I watched the Fog of War DVD which featured McNamara. To some extent, he seemed sorry for the Vietnam War and the misery it brought so many Americans. However, he pushed the Vietnam War forward when he was in charge and seemed indifferent to what the American public thought at that time despite massive protests. I doubt many Americans (Baby boomers) are sad about his passing.

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By Mary Ann McNeely, July 6, 2009 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

When Mcnamara reached his late eighties, it was obvious to me he was scared of dying and tried to atone for his crimes.  There is no atonement, however, for a criminal like him.  In his time, he truly represented the banality of evil.  Obama reminds me of him.  May Mcnamara suffer the worst that infinity and the universe have to offer.

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By Jon, July 6, 2009 at 10:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

McNamara was as nuts as Rumsfeld. Egotistical, shrewd, intimidating, and: wrong. Read about McNamara and the Gulf of Tonkin event.

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