Media waxes poetic over architect of pointless war
Well, Robert McNamara, the architect of the failed Vietnam war, died this week. As expected, every chickenhawk began hammering away at their keyboards as part of a desperate race to be the first to link their sad lives to McNamara, which is really like handcuffing one’s self to a fiery runaway train.
David Ignatius nostalgically reminisces about the time his father, Paul Ignatius, joined the Pentagon team in 1961 and became a close aide to McNamara. So add “Paul Ignatius” to the list of people to blame for Vietnam along with McNamara.
In addition to the sickening hero worship of a man partially responsible for the deaths of between 2 and 5 million civilians and 58,000 American soldiers, the media does not mention that the United States government has new war architects, who have also failed as McNamara failed, and also deserve our collective derision for their hubris. We shouldn’t wait until after they die to hold them accountable for their actions.
Jim Hoagland interviewed Alex Frank, who is apparently some dude in an infantry officer training course, about counterinsurgency working in Afghanistan. Surprise! Frank totally thinks it can work, adding, ”In McNamara’s day, everybody in the administration went along with the same line. There was no arguing out of positions. It was all ‘just get the stuff and the soldiers over there and the conflict will sort itself out.’ That is not true today.”
Poor Alex Frank apparently blacked out for the eight years George W. Bush dismissed dissidents who second-guessed his decisions. There is the famous example of retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, current Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who formerly was the Army Chief of Staff in the Bush Administration. Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take several hundred thousand troops in Iraq, and his comments were immediately challenged and dismissed as “wildly off the mark” by the Department of Defense’s Paul Wolfowitz.
Tolerating a variety of political ideologies was not the Bush administration’s (or Dubya’s) strong suit. During his father’s presidential term, Dubya fired the White House chief of staff, John Sununu. “The abrasive Sununu, George W. believed, simply didn’t have his father’s best interests at heart,” according to The Austin Chronicle’s Robert Bryce.
But while the media pines over the pointless destruction of the Vietnam, no one is pointing out the rather obvious connections between Vietnam and the currents wars in the Middle East in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why do we have to wait for war architects to die before publicly acknowledging their gargantuan fuck-ups?
There are some very much alive war architects in our midst that deserve public trials, and probably jail time, as McNamara himself acknowledged while he was still alive. “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. “[Gen. Curtis E.] 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.”
As many as 1.3 million Iraqi civilians and upwards of 20,000 Afghan civilians may have died during the US-led invasions in addition to 5,500 American troops. If McNamara was a war criminal — as he confessed he was — then so too is Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and a litany of other Bush appointees that led the country to war over a lie. And unlike McNamara, these war criminals are very much alive and ready for their trials.
If McNamara has supposedly taught us valuable lessons about hubris, he’s also taught us that government officials should be held accountable for their crimes.