01 March 2004

Speaking of McNamara

If you've seen Fog of War (and you should see it), check out Alexander Cockburn refusing to let McNamara off the hook for his sins and then coming back to the well to take him to task for screwing up at the World Bank.
McNamara rode into the Pentagon on one of the biggest of big lies, the bogus “missile gap” touted by Kennedy in his 1960 campaign against Nixon. It was all nonsense. As Defense Secretary McNamara ordered the production of 1,000 Minuteman strategic nukes, this at a time when he was looking at US intelligence reports showing that the Soviets had one silo with one untested missile.
[As head of Ford] McNamara did push for safety options -- seat belts and padded instrument panels. Ford dealer brochures for the ’56 models featured photos of how Ford and GM models fared in actual crashes, to GM’s disadvantage.

But Morris could have put to McNamara what happened next. As Nader describes it, in December, 1955, a top GM executive called Ford’s vice president for sales and said Ford’s safety campaign had to stop. These Ford executives, many of them formerly from GM, had a saying, Chevy could drop its price $25 to bankrupt Chrysler, $50 to bankrupt Ford. Ford ran up the white flag. The safety sales campaign stopped. McNamara took a long vacation in Florida, his career in Detroit in the balance, and came back a team player. Safety went through the windscreen and lay in a coma for years.
The Gulf of Tonkin “attack” prompted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, whereby Congress gave LBJ legal authority to prosecute and escalate the war in Vietnam. McNamara does some fancy footwork here, stating that there wasn’t any attack by North Vietnamese PT boats on the US destroyer Maddox on August 4, but that there had been such an attack on August 2. It shouldn’t have been beyond Morris’s powers to pull up a well-reported piece by Robert Scheer, published in the Los Angeles Times in April, 1985, establishing not only that the Maddox was attacked neither on August 2 nor 4 but that, beginning on the night of July 30, South Vietnamese navy personnel, US-trained and -equipped, “had begun conducting secret raids on targets in North Vietnam.” As Scheer said, the North Vietnamese PT boats that approached the Maddox on August 2 were probably responding to that assault.

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