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.
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.”
Check out this article by Robert Scheer, written in 2000, on the U.S. refusal to try McNamara as a war criminal.
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.
Also, read about Scheer’s brief but tumultuous encounter with McNamara in 1966 at Harvard University:
[...] 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.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library