The Fog of War: Learning to Live With Your Circumstances. . . . .

Good day all,

I must open by first apologizing for the time since my last communication with all of you; you see I got a little froggy and decided to try and jump the fence. I’d been working at an air duct for a while and eventually found myself crawling upward through an 80 cm (2 and half foot) shaft at about a 40 degree angle (it was slow going and reminded me of The Descent a little). Long story short I found myself standing in a vast, snow-covered forest stretching in every direction. I broke off a twig and stuck it in the ground to create a shadow, marked the angle at its longest and waited for what felt like ten minutes. I marked it again and found what I figured was South between the points (Macgyver was a pussy). It was cold as balls, like really cold, constricted balls, so I wrapped up in the blanket I had put in a bag and tied to my ankle (thank you Andy) and started walking. To properly tell the story I have to play teacher for a moment, sorry if I come across as a know-it-all douche.

You see, I love nature documentaries, especially Planet Earth, Life and Blue Planet. I am fascinated with how life always finds a way and how these bizarre creatures have adapted perfectly to fit their environments. One of the more interesting places on Earth is called the Taiga Forest; it circles the Northern part of the globe through Canada and Russia, and is interesting in that there aren’t enough nutrients available for any life to live on. Huge forests of evergreen trees that stretch for thousands of  miles and are completely void of animal life. It’s eerie to me to imagine a place where there aren’t even insects. The reason I bring up this interesting area is that it was awful quiet as I trudged along. I knew it must be far North because the angle of the sun was really low and the days short. I knew it was Spring, because it was that far North and I didn’t freeze to death immediately. The problem was that there was no life but the trees. After one night burrowed under the snow to avoid pulling a Jack Torrance, and trying to sleep through a makeshift breathing tube, I decided that I should accept my fate and not die. A sense of calm acceptance came over me as I traced my footsteps back to reality, and I wasn’t as angry or defeated as I expected to be. The emptiness reminded me that a bunker with food, good and terrible movies, and a semi-evil woman who has her charms (know-what-I-mean, nudge,nudge) was better than a world without enough nutrients to support a mosquito (I was a little hungry and light-headed by then). Then was I was amazed to see what looked like a six-pack, a bag of beef jerky and a bag of crunchy Cheetos on the path in front of me. There was no hesitation, and then a bug bit the back of my neck. I found out later that she had a snowmobile, a dart gun and a bloody tree stand; I am officially as dumb as a deer. She was almost smug about it back in reality, but didn’t punish a cracker too badly. I knew we were as cool as two people in our situation could be when she threw this movie in. This type of thing, war movies, history flicks and political documentaries in general aren’t really her thing, but I dig’em. Here we go.

The first thing I will say about McNamara is that he has a respectable set of brass balls to sit down and answer questions in as genuine a fashion as he seems to. This guy was one of the most maligned politicians in his time and, really, took the blame for Johnson’s policy. The tape of him telling Kennedy that they needed to be out of the Nam by 1965 completely changed my view of the man. I mean, this guy had the bombing campaigns pinned on him; carpet-bombing civilians in any country (and a couple you aren’t supposed to even be at war with) is some solid war-crime, and to be wrongly pegged in the press as responsible (even for starting the bombing, Nixon brought the nasty) is brutallica. I thought he was the guy that pushed the bombing and he wanted out before the bombing even began. That question “are you a war criminal if you win?” kicked me in the brain like that donkey kicked John McCain in the head (my guess at the recent dementia). He has to sit there and take responsibility for being the guy making the tough decisions, in the moment, knowing that a lot of people are going to die from it. When minimizing death in the thousands is your job, you’ve got a shitty job. I respect the man for making himself accountable for his decisions after the fact, and wish a whole lot more politicians would (imagine the Bush/Harper hybrid that exists in my terrified mind doing one honestly). When he breaks down it is gut-wrenching, and only helps you believe that this guy, trained to lie to the media, is being straight with you; I feel like nobody feels worse for the mistakes than this bastard, and he’s sitting there owning it up to it and crying honestly. I mean the guy was one of the highest paid C.E.O.s in the country, at an almost folksy $800,000 a year, and CHOSE to serve the nation for $29 grand a year. Ask a C.E.O. to do take a proportional pay-cut to serve today (I mean, if he’s not crashing your retirement at 30 to 1 odds and getting away with it). I respect the man and his lessons could’ve avoided a couple of skirmishes now going on (one which our boys are proudly and wonderfully fighting; you can support soldiers and not the war).

The next part of this film that punched me in the noodle like that time Mike Tyson punched Paris Hilton in the face (just a guess) was the conversation about the Cuban Missile Crisis. So at the last second, when the Americans are ready to nuke the world, they get two responses; one a hardline “it’s on” and the other a calmer “let’s talk”, and it was up to Kennedy and this cat to decide which one to respond to. Oh, and all the generals in the U.S. were screaming in favour of going nuke. We all, or almost all, would be dead if not for two men choosing to hear the calmer response. We were that close. Yet the Viet Nam war escalated because of the Bay of Tonkin incident, a mistake in the other direction by McNamara, and millions died because of it. It forced me to look at the decisions these guys are forced to make and the powerful criticism they face for the rest of their lives and hindsight and changing ideas paint their actions as worse than they, perhaps, were. How could this dude look at the Vietnam War Memorial and keep living knowing that an overreaction to false sonar readings led to all those dead? I couldn’t imagine being the guy to make those decisions, but I will continue to criticize the hell out of ’em.

Another tidbit that made the ol’ noggin’ a joggin’ like, people who jog (I think it’s pronounced yogging, a silent J) was a weird idea I had after seeing this. One thing that is easy to overlook is that Mr. McNamara was the bigwig at Ford and helped introduce the notion of trying to keep people alive in a crash to the American Auto Industry. You wonder how his win/loss record works out, like how many lives is he responsible for saving and how many is he responsible, if even partially, for killing. How many lives have been touched by the decisions of this one guy. Power is an interesting creature and the more I hear about it the less I really want it. That could be my feeble brain coming to accept the reality of my return from the outside world. The hopelessness setting in and the bean releasing the happy chemicals to rationalize the rest of my life, you know? But I feel for this guy and admire the seeds it takes to take responsibility for his mistakes and provide a fascinating perspective on his time in office. I learned a lot, and have to say the man has been unfairly remembered as a villain. He made mistakes and the consequences were huge, but I genuinely think he did what he felt was in the best interests of the country and what his President asked of him. Dig it!

Well it was nice talking to you again and I hope you enjoy this gem, until I wriggle loose to write I’ll be sitting here trying to cope with reality.


The Hostage

~ by stew37 on May 5, 2011.

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