The Nation, 3 August 2009

nation 3 august 2009Jonathan Schell’s remembrance of former Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara begins with the story of Schell’s meeting with McNamara in 1967, at which he, then a young reporter for The New Yorker, briefed the secretary on what he had seen American forces doing in Vietnam.  Schell would not hear from McNamara after that meeting, but declassified documents would subsequently reveal that the secretary had responded to it by attempting to discredit Schell’s story and block its publication.  Schell mentions McNamara’s subsequent contrition for his Vietnam policies, stressing that the remorse he suffered was quite trivial compared with the what the people of Vietnam suffered during the war McNamara did so much to design.  Still, Schell points out, McNamara was unique among high-level US policymakers of recent decades in publicly admitting error.  The piece ends with Schell’s line “If there is a statue made of McNamara, as there probably will not be, let it show him weeping.  It was the best of him.”