Thoughts on Fog of War
I spent three sessions in the Allen Ginsberg library, on a break between classes that I had this semester, watching this movie in segments. I took copious notes. Just the fact that there is a former politician, Robert McNamara, willing to honestly discuss his involvement in the nastiest, most unnecessary war American has ever perpetuated, is a miracle in itself. Through interviews, we were taken back through the history of war from WWII to the Vietnam era, looking at the set-ups and the escalation of war as industry in our political environment and economic structure.
I found the taped conversations between McNamara and President Johnson fascinating, and they validated what I had always suspected of the politicians of that era: they were a group of white, privileged men who created a 'good ol' boy' network of collusion and secrecy around what none of them fully understood: the continuing death machine that Vietnam had become by the time John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
McNamara's forthrightness in his review of events and circumstances during his term as Defence Secretary during the Vietnam era was refreshing and hopeful. He offered 11 Lessons of War:
1) Empathize with your enemy;
2) Rationality will not save us;
3) There's something beyond one's self;
4) Maximize efficiency;
5) Proportionality should be a guideline in war;
6) Get the data;
7) Belief and seeing are both often wrong;
8) Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning;
9) In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil;
10) Never say never;
11) You can't change human nature.
He showed empathy and emotion at times during his interviews. He spoke of the pain he felt when a young Quaker man, Norman Morrison, self-immolated and died during war protests, below McNamara's office window at the Pentagon. He said several times throughout the film, "I'm very sorry that I made mistakes."
Yes. We all are sorry, Mr. McNamara. So many mistakes, by you and others. Agent Orange, a chemical weapon that caused untold suffering, in civilians and military personel, was used all over Vietnam, as well as parts of Laos and Cambodia. We are now looking at the cultural outrage of chemical weaponry in Syria, calling them out, when we have done it ourselves. Until we accept, as a nation, the full responsibility for what we have done, we cannot enforce codes on others. This has to be a global, collective healing, or it will be no healing at all.