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A Peace Award for Robert McNamara

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It may sound provocative, and it is, and it may sound irrational but it is not, that the late Robert S. McNamara, the secretary of defense under President John F. Kennedy, should be recognized as one of history's giant defenders of peace.

I suppose it is my paucity of imagination that has considerably delayed my full appreciation of McNamara's magnificent and complex confession with his book In Retrospect (1).

So much more to be done to heal old wounds, particularly yellow craters inflicted by brilliant minds and their flying machines in Vietnam and Cambodia.

But my core interest in the topic is not about the extent of human losses but rather our collective failure to boldly celebrate McNamara's historical accomplishment: he is the first modern statesman who openly acknowledges his errors and takes responsibility for them. This is a first in history and it is a very good thing for humanity.

I want to bypass all the drama, all the phony diplomatic rhetoric, the thinly veiled transparency of obsessive minds and to leap over all the artificialities to embrace and celebrate McNamara's unique gift to humanity.

It is my hypothesis that Bundy, McNamara, Allen Dulles (the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency), General Curtis LeMay (Air Force chief of staff), Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and possibly a few others engineered a coup d'e'tat to wage war in Vietnam. It is also my hypothesis that President Kennedy's death was just the collateral damage of war and so was the disappearance of over a thousand people after the assassination.

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Why do common sense, reason, and statistics suggest that all the following pieces perfectly fit together for a complex design to make a coup d'e'tat a success? They are all very rare or extraordinary firsts in history. For instance, the president, the vice president, and virtually the entire Cabinet were away from Washington on the day of the coup (2). The president was in Texas along with the vice president, and the Cabinet were on their way to Tokyo.

By now, we know that the Secret Service was grossly negligent before, during, and after the ambush (3). We also know that all of the images of the president's death captured by photos and videos are not authentic (3). The president's autopsy at the Bethesda Naval Hospital is a sham, as areare the X-rays and the autopsy photos (3,4). This is astonishing for Bethesda, the flagship of all the best the military can provide for medical care.

On the day of the ambush, the phones in Washington, D.C., the press phones, and the Cabinet airplane communication all ceased to function (2). The only two people in Washington from the president's team were Bundy and McNamara, and they happened to be the architects of the new war opposed by President Kennedy but endorsed by the new President, LBJ (2).

Bundy and McNamara were at the Pentagon precisely at the time the presidential limousine approached Dealey Plaza (1).

Both Bundy and McNamara lied about small details of the assassination repeatedly and unnecessarily, in some ways inviting special attention to their own behavior. McNamara said for 90minutes he was not aware of the president's assassination, although he was at the Pentagon, the epicenter of reaction to national emergencies (1). Strangely, he was chairing a routine budget meeting, which he did not interrupt. Even a month later when information emerged that several communication systems were sabotaged, McNamara never evinced curiousity about the origin of all these mishaps.

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None of these, of course, individually make McNamara or Bundy a suspect, yet collectively they click and suggest they were not random events. There are other more fundamental developments that can actually solve the puzzle. Most important, Kennedy had opposed the war in Vietnam and had issued specific orders through National Security Action Memorandum 263, dated November 21, 1963, to end the war (1,2). This was to begin with the withdrawal of "1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963." (2). His orders were precise and unequivocal. But upon his death, not only were his orders reversed, but then the war expanded at an eventual cost of 58,000 American lives.

President Kennedy was the author of NSAM 263 ending the war. The new President, Lyndon Johnson, authorized NSAM 273 overriding the intent of 263 (1,2).

If, despite the evidence, one might possibly be dubious of McNamara's role, there can be little doubt of Bundy's involvement. Bundy, according to Army General Maxwell Taylor, a trusted confidante of both John and Robert Kennedy, was the number one responsible party for the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs (2). On April 16, 1961, on D-day at 9:30 p.m., Bundy would cancel President Kennedy's orders for air strikes against Cuban targets (2). Bundy's reversal would be determined to be the most crucial error contributing to the debacle. At the end of the Cuban study group, General Taylor's conclusion declared that Bundy's blunder was the main cause of failure (2). Bundy himself would offer his resignation, which Kennedy declined.

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Alen J. Salerian, MD is a Washington, DC based physician, author, and historian who has been practicing psychiatry and psychopharmacology for 35 years. He is the former chief psychiatrist of the FBI's mobile psychiatric unit. He has authored (more...)

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