This is a video about a demonstration in Washington, DC, USA, against the Iraq war.
Two years before the invasion of Iraq, oil executives and foreign policy advisers told the Bush administration that the United States would remain “a prisoner of its energy dilemma” as long as Saddam Hussein was in power: here.
Ex-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara Dies at 93
By TIM WEINER
Published: July 6, 2009
Robert S. McNamara, perhaps the most influential defense secretary of the 20th century, who helped lead the nation into the maelstrom of Vietnam and spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war’s moral consequences, died early Monday at his home in Washington, the Associated Press reported, citing his wife, Diana. He was 93, and according to the news agency, had been in failing health for some time.
Serving Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, Mr. McNamara oversaw hundreds of military missions, thousands of nuclear weapons and billions of dollars in military spending and foreign arms sales. …
As early as April 1964, Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, called Vietnam “McNamara’s War.” Mr. McNamara did not object. “I am pleased to be identified with it,” he said, “and do whatever I can to win it.”
Half a million American soldiers went to war on his watch. More than 16,000 died; 42,000 more would fall in the seven years to come.
The war became his personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life.
In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” In return, he faced a firestorm of scorn.
“Mr. McNamara must not escape the lasting moral condemnation of his countrymen,” The New York Times said in an unsigned, widely discussed editorial, written by the page’s editor at the time, Howell Raines. “Surely he must in every quiet and prosperous moment hear the ceaseless whispers of those poor boys in the infantry, dying in the tall grass, platoon by platoon, for no purpose. What he took from them cannot be repaid by prime-time apology and stale tears, three decades late.”
By then he wore the expression of a haunted man. He could be seen in the streets of Washington — stooped, his shirttail flapping in the wind — walking to and from his office a few blocks from the White House, wearing frayed running shoes and a thousand-yard stare.
He had spent decades thinking through the lessons of the war. The greatest of these was to know one’s enemy — and to “empathize with him,” as Mr. McNamara explained in Errol Morris’s 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.”
“We must try to put ourselves inside their skin and look at us through their eyes,” he said. The American failure in Vietnam, he said, was seeing the enemy through the prism of the cold war, as a domino that would topple the nations of Asia if it fell.
In the film, Mr. McNamara described the American firebombing of Japan’s cities in World War II. He had played a supporting role in those attacks, running statistical analysis for Gen. Curtis E. LeMay of the Army’s Air Forces.
“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. “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.”
“What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked. He found the question impossible to answer.
From Detroit to Washington
The idea of the United States losing a war seemed impossible when Mr. McNamara came to the Pentagon in January 1961 as the nation’s eighth defense secretary. He was 44 and had been named president of the Ford Motor Company only 10 weeks before. He later said, half-seriously, that he could barely tell a nuclear warhead from a station wagon when he arrived in Washington.
“Mr. President, it’s absurd, I’m not qualified,” he remembered protesting when asked to serve. He said that Kennedy had replied, “Look, Bob, I don’t think there’s any school for presidents, either.” …
His first mission was to defuse the myth of the missile gap. Kennedy had argued fiercely in his 1960 campaign for the White House that the strategic nuclear arsenal of the United States was less powerful than the Soviet Union’s, and that the gap was growing. His predecessor as president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, called the missile gap a fiction in his final State of the Union address, on Jan. 12, 1961.
Mr. McNamara took office nine days later. He recalled that “my first responsibility as secretary of defense was to determine the degree of the gap and initiate action to close it.”
“It took us about three weeks to determine, yes, there was a gap,” he told an oral historian at his alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley. “But the gap was in our favor. It was a totally erroneous charge that Eisenhower had allowed the Soviets to develop a superior missile force.”
The problem was a lack of accurate intelligence; the estimate of Soviet forces had been a product of politics and guesswork.
By year’s end, new American spy satellites had determined that the Soviets had as few as 10 launchers from which missiles could be fired at the United States, while the United States could strike with more than 3,200 nuclear weapons. …
At the same time, Mr. McNamara was enmeshed in plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion, in which some 1,500 Cubans, trained and equipped by the Central Intelligence Agency, were badly defeated by Fidel Castro’s forces in a bloody battle in April 1961. Mr. McNamara doubted that the C.I.A.’s Cubans could overthrow Mr. Castro, who had taken power in 1959, but he asked few questions beforehand and gave his go-ahead to the plan, which had been conceived under the Eisenhower administration.
Kennedy’s first order to Mr. McNamara after the invasion collapsed was to develop a proposal for overthrowing Cuba with American military force. Ten days later, he submitted a plan of attack that included 60,000 American troops, excluding naval and air forces. The plan proved impossible to fulfill. One lesson of the Bay of Pigs, Mr. McNamara told the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was that “the government should never start anything unless it could be finished, or the government was willing to face the consequences of failure,” according to the State Department’s official record of American foreign policy, “’The Foreign Relations of the United States.”
At a meeting in the White House on Nov. 3, 1961, Kennedy authorized a new program designed to undermine the Castro government, code-named Operation Mongoose. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s handwritten notes on the meeting say that Mr. McNamara was assigned to survey the situation and help him devise ways “to stir things up on island with espionage, sabotage, general disorder.” This operation also failed.
By 1962, the White House and the Pentagon devised a new strategy of counterinsurgency to combat what Mr. McNamara called the tactics of “terror, extortion, and assassination” by communist guerrillas. The call led to the creation of American special forces like the Green Berets and secret paramilitary operations throughout Asia and Latin America. …
In retirement, Mr. McNamara argued that planning for nuclear war was futile. “Nuclear weapons serve no military purposes whatsoever,” he wrote. “They are totally useless — except only to deter one’s opponent from using them.” …
The Pentagon consumed nearly half the national budget when he took office. He had 3.5 million employees — including 2.5 million in uniform, a number that increased by a million during his tenure. He said his goal was “to bring efficiency to a $40 billion enterprise beset by jealousies and political pressures.”
Under Mr. McNamara, the Pentagon’s budget increased to $74.9 billion in fiscal 1968, from $48.4 billion in 1962. The 1968 figure is equal to $457 billion in today’s dollars. …
But by the fall of 1964, Vietnam was the all-consuming obsession.
Congress authorized the war after Johnson contended that American warships had been attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964. The attack never happened, as a report declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 made clear. The American ships had been firing at their own sonar shadows on a dark night. …
In April 1965, Johnson ordered 24,000 American troops to the Dominican Republic after a revolt against the government; it was the first large-scale American landing in Latin America since 1928.
In public, Mr. McNamara said the deployment had showed the “readiness and capabilities of the U.S. defense establishment to support our foreign policy.” In private, he voiced dismay. The C.I.A. had told the White House and the Pentagon that the rebels were controlled by Cuban revolutionaries. But Mr. McNamara had deep doubts.
“You don’t think C.I.A. can document it?” Johnson asked him, according to tapes of White House telephone conversations recorded on April 30, 1965.
“I don’t think so, Mr. President,” McNamara replied. “I just don’t believe the story.”
Johnson nonetheless insisted in a speech to the American people that he would not allow “Communist conspirators” to establish “another Communist government in the Western Hemisphere.” This led some newspapers to assert that the president and the Pentagon had a “credibility gap.” The phrase stuck when applied to Vietnam. …
The turning point came on May 19, 1967, when Mr. McNamara sent a long and carefully argued paper to Johnson, urging him to negotiate a peace rather than escalate the war.
“The Vietnam war is unpopular in this country,” the paper began. “It is becoming increasingly unpopular as it escalates — causing more American casualties, more fear of its growing into a wider war, more privation of the domestic sector, and more distress at the amount of suffering being visited on the noncombatants in Vietnam, South and North.” …
“Most Americans,” Mr. McNamara continued, “are convinced that somehow we should not have gotten this deeply in. All want the war ended and expect their president to end it. Successfully. Or else.”
That was the last straw for Johnson, who came to believe that Mr. McNamara was secretly plotting to help Robert F. Kennedy, then a Democratic senator from New York, run on a peace ticket in the 1968 election. The president announced on Nov. 29, 1967, that Mr. McNamara would give up his post at the Pentagon to run the World Bank. Mr. McNamara left office two months later, never comprehending, in his words, “whether I quit or was fired.” …
Unlike any other secretary of defense, Mr. McNamara struggled in public with the morality of war and the uses of American power.
“What makes us omniscient?” he asked in “The Fog of War,” released at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“We are the strongest nation in the world today,” he said. “I do not believe that we should ever apply that economic, political, and military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn’t have been there. None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can’t persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we’d better re-examine our reasoning.”
“War is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend,” Mr. McNamara concluded. “Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.”