By way of identification, I am a musician, who performed at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, the season of 1967, during which you attended rehearsals and performances for a few days.
I couldn't take my eyes off you Sir, for being conflicted between a
citizen's responsibility to speak to you regarding the suffocating
shame we felt for our nation's incomprehensible taking of so many
lives, and not being able to think what I might say that would help.
Decades later, in 1993, (by way of further identification), when you, Mr. Secretary were in Hanoi for your symposium on the American war in Vietnam, I was across the square in the Opera House preparing a concert of Brahms Fourth Symphony, as Assistant Conductor and trainer-coach of the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra *, an orchestra founded originally as a large Opera/Ballet double Orchestra by Ho Chi Minh.
Just during my seven years of trips, The Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra performed symphonies of Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms (all 4),
Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Prokovieff, Shostakovitch, overtures by Mozart, von Weber, Glinka, Copland, etc. and concertos by
Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein and both Chopin, the
later performed by Dan Tai Son, the only Asian pianist ever to win
the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, who practiced for it in a Hanoi
bomb shelter. But for the Kobe earthquake of 1997 causing the
Japanese funding to be diverted, the VNSO would have had a US tour and performed at the UN in New York.
I take the liberty of writing as a fellow lover of music masterpieces. Perhaps Mr. McNamara might be familiar with a line the seminal jazz pianist Fats Waller is said to have once quipped, "Only music is real, everything else is just 'seemin(g)'." Scientists find uncontroversial truth in mathematics and how music bears kinship to both science and the psyche and allow us to 'feel' intelligence, beauty, honor and love as one high spiritually inebriating sensation of wonder and empowerment (As opposed to war).
While reading your book, Argument Without End, I sensed Mr. McNamara would have liked to have gone beyond 'argument' and toward a researched explanation of ignorance in nostalgia for a recapture of innocence.
But the one profound yet simple statement of the war's origin, that your Vietnamese contributors insisted upon inclusion, namely, Missed Opportunity #6, in the prologue went undeveloped.
The Vietnamese predicament so succinctly in heartfelt emotion
described reflected that universal plight of all of colonially disenfranchised humanity as implicit in 'Missed Opportunity #6.'
The Vietnamese should not have needed to have insisted upon its inclusion in the book, being that they were representatives of our W.W.II ally, a Buddhist peace-loving nation thereafter re-invaded by the French,
upon Washington's decision, assistance, support and financial backing at a time when the Vietnamese still believed in American virtues, virtues Americans themselves long felt impractical and ill affordable
to live by.
Missing from Argument Without End is Eisenhower's well known admission that had an election been held (not permitted by Ike) that Ho Chi-Minh would have won by a 80% plus majority.
Including discussion of freedom from colonialism or greater mankind's resistance to colonial bondage would cause recollection of all the 'mistaken' wars ensuing from capitalism's violent attempts to smoother freedom, democracy, social reform and democratic socialism, forcing confrontation, opposition, and eventual justice based communist revolution.
Burying the hatchet of the American and French wars in Vietnam, requires burying the larger hatchet of colonialism, which was intrinsically connected to the accompanying mass economic suffering and human degradation caused by the enclosures of the commons, slavery, and world wars for resource conquest and trade monopolies by privileged upper classes in mercantile then industrial then financial capitalist society.
This was countered by the noble history of centuries of intellectual compassion and agitation for humanitarian social reform by the world's foremost thinkers, conscious stricken philosophers, brilliant writers, artists, composers, within national movements, like that of the Vietnamese, seeking to escape the bondage of colonialism and follow the model of the American Revolution whose principles would be betrayed and brutally denied the nations of French Indochina.
With your permission, it appears to guilt ridden Americans like yours
truly that in all Secretary McNamara's books, there is a mild variation
of 'my country right or wrong' that shines through with your, 'my country is never mal-intentioned' and makes for explanations less than candid,
and less than historically accurate, regarding the cause of the war
and the justifications for continuing a war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia upon quasi-defenseless populations.
While your earlier book, In Retrospect can be read as a total denial of responsibility by way of excuses presented albeit with some contrition, Argument Without End presents the counterproductive and implausible attempt to use colonialism as a bulwark against the spread of communist ideology with a whole book of argument and surmise to draw attention away from the simple murderous truth of colonialism
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).