Robert McNamara died yesterday at the age of 93.
When I remarked upon his passing to an acquaintance he asked who Robert McNamara was (wince). After I explained that he was the architect of the Vietnam War and his fingerprints are on multiple policy decisions that still impact our world, the acquaintance seemed confused then said, “I thought LBJ was the architect of the Vietnam War.”
A bitch is a history buff and one of my favorite periods to study is post World War II through the 1970’s. Robert McNamara’s name pops up all over the place because the man was all over the damn place. But what sets McNamara apart is that he reflected on his life and how he was all over the damn place and involved in all manner of shit in both a book and the award winning documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons fro the Life of Robert S. McNamara. In the documentary McNamara was both cagey and stunningly honest, manipulative and open…unrepentant and confessional…stunning, to say the least.
I highly recommend viewing The Fog of War just as I highly recommend studying history through as many sources as possible.
McNamara died at the age of 93...58,261 American soldiers and over 3 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were not so blessed as a result of his work.
And examination of McNamara offers a look at how certainty, ego and secrecy can result in policy that is fubar from the start…
…it also offers an opportunity to reflect on the limits of apology, the wages of war and the sad lack of accountability that eats at those who benefit from it even as it eats at those who object to it.
When I walked along The Wall and the cold stone grew taller and taller with name after name, person after person, friend after friend, son after son, father after father a shudder passed through me and I wondered how one could atone for such death and destruction…and I looked away as a woman wept softly while touching, barely making contact and oh so lightly caressing one name listed among the thousands.
And it is that moment that I think of now...those names and the millions of nameless Vietnamese that I think of now.
May they rest in peace.
And may we work to learn from the lesson of Robert McNamara...