An open letter to Robert McNamara (Article) published by Star Tribune (May 17, 1995)
Then came the afternoon of November 2, 1965. At twilight that day, a young Quaker named Norman Morrison . . . burned himself to death within 40 feet of my Pentagon window. He doused himself with fuel from a gallon jug. When he set himself on fire, he was holding his one-year-old daughter in his arms . . . . I reacted to this horror by bottling up my emotions and avoiding talking about them with anyone - even my family . . . there was much Marg and I and the children should have talked about, yet at moments like this I often turn inward instead - it is a grave weakness. (page 216-217) I thought I had forgotten about you until a few days ago, but there you were, large as life on the television screen for two solid hours. And as I watched and listened, you brought it all back and once again I was flaming mad. So I got your book, "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," and read it to see if I could go beyond the anger and put it all in perspective. But as I read I couldn't shake the memories, the songs and the rhetoric - passionate and untidy on one side, and cool and deceptive on the other - the murders at Kent State, My Lai, the despair, and sadness, and much else: It all came flooding back. And, as I read on, you helped me recall exactly why so many of us had been so outraged by you and others in the administration during that shocking war, the aftermath of which is still here, and in many other places: the wreckage of young men pacing about in hell, old men now, who can't even derive any comfort from the thought that it was all worth it. The Vietnam War wasn't a "mistake," at least not in the way that you designate it - a series of 11 neatly articulated "blunders." To be sure, one of the things that held so many thousands, maybe millions of us, in a state of stupefaction at the time of gross escalation was that you and your advisers apparently had made no concerted attempt even to look at the history, geography or culture of the country that you were systematically destroying. Yes, all finer considerations aside, that was a blunder. In your zeal it seemed to us that you had completely overlooked what in topographical and logistical terms was apparent from the start. As the French had already shown you: This was a war you could not win. To give credit, you admit that now.