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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fog of War - Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

What kind of a life awaits for a man whose first vivid recollection at the age of two was a celebration of the end of First World War?

This Oscar winning documentary traces the life of Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defence during Kennedy and Johnson presidency.

Whatever criticism he may or may not deserve as an architect of Vietnam War, there's no question about his strong sense of mission, dedication and contribution to his country.

Giving up lucrative job as a top man at Ford, he spent next five or so years dealing with the most pressing issues facing our civilisation, that is, the annihilation of nations through thermo nuclear exchange under the Cold War geopolitical fixation.

And what he achieved at the end of a day?
He became the most hated man on earth when he resigned. Deservedly so.
And, not everything he says in the film is historically accurate.

However, unlike Henry Kissinger, who has never shown any sign of regret, remorse, or admission of his errors, McNamara frankly recognises sufferings and pains caused by his policy and tries to learn from his mistakes so that the world will be a better place.
Of course, this later in life contrition doesn't at all exonerate him from the political responsibility he had to bear.
All the lies and deceptions he and Johnson concocted during the Vietnam War.

Well, it's really frightening to think that the worst will come after these men left, as Nixon and Kissinger move into the White House, sabotaging the peace negotiation in 1968, and prolonging the sufferings, deaths and miseries which were totally avoidable, for the sake of their political advantage.
That is really an impeachable crime against humanity.

To me, this film is a great history lesson.
I didn't know that he was deeply involved in a planning of the bombing of Tokyo and other cities in Japan during the Second World War.
And his remarks on this subject are very telling.

"LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.'
And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals.
LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost.
But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"

And he finishes the interview with this quote from T.S. Elliot.

We shall not cease from exploring
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.

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