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News Link • WAR: About that War

The Fog Of War



"America wins the wars that she undertakes, make no mistake about it, and we have declared war on tyranny and aggression." Obama, one of the Bushes or Clinton? It's a familiar bit of nonsense, but it was said by Lyndon Johnson sometime around 50 years ago.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 SONY production that is basically an interview with the former longest-serving Secretary of Defense.

McNamara was in office during some of the biggest events of mid-century: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the seizure of the USS Pueblo by North Korea and the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel. He was also in office for much of the Vietnam War. Most of the movie is taken up by the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam, although it does cover his WW II experience and his work at Ford Motor Company. The Pueblo and the Liberty are not mentioned, but the Gulf of Tonkin is discussed, about which he says that the attack on the USS Turner Joy never happened.

Most of his answers are very direct – even to the point of saying that he might have been tried as a war criminal had the US lost WWII – but a few times he just says, "I won't answer that."

During the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 16 – 28, 1962) John Kennedy was very fortunate to have an aide named Llewellyn "Tommy" Thompson who had lived with Nikita Khrushchev and knew him and his wife pretty well. McNamara says that the US was in receipt of two messages from the Soviet Union regarding its position on the missiles, one conciliatory and one belligerent. Thompson urged Kennedy to reply to the conciliatory message, arguing that if Khrushchev could save face he would. The confrontation was defused and we've lived sort of happily ever after.