Azara Blog: The Fog of War

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Date published: 2005/05/15

The BBC tonight had the network premiere in the UK of "The Fog of War" (Errol Morris, 2003), the half-interview with and half-documentary about Robert McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson. Needless to say the camera can easily lie, so you don't know how much Morris has distorted the real views of McNamara, who was 85 at the time of the interviews.

McNamara is often blamed for the Vietnam War, and to some extent that is true, although as McNamara points out the buck must stop with the president, in particular Johnson. Needless to say it is the Vietnam War that is the main focus of the film, although the First and Second World Wars and the Cuban Missile Crisis also get some discussion. And McNamara obviously feels fairly guilty about the Vietnam War. The film implies he had real doubts about it in private even at the time, but as Secretary of Defence of course had to support it in public.

Although Iraq is not Vietnam (for one thing the US outguns their opponents by 1000 to 1 in Iraq instead of the 100 to 1 in Vietnam) the film does make lots of implicit comparisons between the American policy in Vietnam and in Iraq, including the public statements by Johnson that Vietnam was all about the fight for freedom in the world.

If only more lucid 85 year olds with a story to tell were put in front of the camera. You have to wonder if anyone in the Bush administration will be featured in 30 or 40 years, or are they all such second-rate robotniks that they are incapable of worthwhile reflection.

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