The Fog of War, the movie that finally won Errol Morris the best documentary Oscar, is a spellbinder. Morris interviews Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and finds a uniquely unsettling viewpoint on much of 20th-century American history. Employing a ton of archival material, including LBJ's fascinating taped conversations from the Oval Office, Morris probes the reasons behind the U.S. commitment to the Vietnam War--and finds a depressingly inconsistent policy. McNamara himself emerges as--well, not exactly apologetic, but clearly haunted by the what-ifs of Vietnam. He also mulls the bombing of Japan in World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis, raising more questions than he answers. The Fog of War has the usual inexorable Morris momentum, aided by an uneasy Philip Glass score. This movie provides a glimpse inside government. It also encourages skepticism about same. --Robert Horton
Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he is speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He's killed people - unnecessarily. His own troops or other troops. Through mistakes, through errors of judgement. A hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand, maybe even a hundred thousand. But he hasn't destroyed nations.
And the conventional wisdom is: don't make the same mistake twice. Learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five.
They'll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. Make one mistake and you're going to destroy nations.
I was on the island of Guam in his
command in March 1945. In that single night, we burned to death one hundred thousand Japanese civilians in Tokyo. Men, women and children.
Were you aware this was going to happen?
Well, I was part of a mechanism that, in a sense, recommended it.
LeMay said, "If we 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.
LeMay recognised that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose, and not immoral if you win?
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