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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  July 9, 2009 11:30pm-12:30am EDT

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>>ose:welcome tohe brast. toni robert mamin n wos. th fme cretyofefse durihe vietn and la presidofheorldank died th wk a 9 de ogsten to ierviews ons >> we'rein to mistake i mean weple,ee ads, wgoing to make stakes andor g's makeistakes a opre bei kied you ow you'vead a mtaut your lse a t out! now,f i bd theat ani dn't gutld cldn't win i mitary. what freas if w didn' trevent comstoftn, ould danger they of the west. and i tryi tobalanc th >> robertama i his
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rose: bothisiohi i suas by present. mcfore owmcmaar eathe v ca >> o fepower advtage is e ailitarydvta e: cted inhede o or 50,000ericans aov three ioname. wrg,wr t wereed his e wbo him scri a mggle toerms hisac frndwalts e twain p " his e ptato the world redto wh civure.r for thos13 yearsf ng to good for t less rtunat arou t d it id n she th demons witnim. cnamcame to the dertment frofordotor company whheas predent of theutaker am o wiz kids dbedhe
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best a the bte ovhaul pentagon burea and usher inewer but by timees i68,ama'raonal pr heeundone, along rort mamar aparedonhi ramwi. in 15lo the puic me nng documentary "the fogof wa" re is bertamara in those oppearances henou lisn rd d hehapele sayin aburwhatsit y twings.s t i fit, you get aifrent mess dferemes om those whhave readts comped tthose whoav ieeou havnewe" re. ths deul tie he by an who i belien foin theoreahtr vi anviwathe m
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cora soldieryoare my. d ss mar it book. tselp us de what happen swe cane futur d that'sxactly >>ose: my peo askhe questi now. undendhy you i buu sa ts athwas neingo w inly you looked at nismamand "i hao writ." felt ildri it, and that th is intoound erving ande do dress a mennd s ere'a ry iti ion tnkhe frefysas sci et. these e liny w broht toy teio5r yrs ag t.s.llt wtewe s e omg. and heur ate'etn
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pl f aw t ifin hea w and you ur w u st uil end u don'kn whe u've b unth d ose: theendof your >> that's t. >>os so ly 7cod to writeth i verl sen yes. any inteiotori thebookt sawnayand iteci abre p of t le okacefle and fee comfortainwingessons he eernc s. cer of thbooks ener d ihoug i'reedwrit it so i can feel comfortableith these lessons, i'll ite the book. and bycoincidence, i came across very young m who had ready written a smallook on
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vietnam who teaes at the naval academy, professor of histo. his interests that. d he wanted to help me the rearch on it. so i was capable then of doing what i hadn't bn able to do before i didn't take an papers with me i didn't have any diary. so that'sow it came about. >> rose: the question that sll ishere, why not wre this book, why not come o... you began have doubts eay. when you leftovernment, why t say when you left government "this war is mistake" as you had ivately expressed to t president. >>o. no. that's... is is a mplicated queson. >> rose: okay. >> plee give me time now to make this clear. wh i had exprsed to the presidenand what i strong believed was wcouldn't win the war militarily. and my dots on that began very early. and you'll see i the book, every oneof statement is footnoted and documted. in december 1965 i sd to the
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presideni thought there was only a one in threehance of winning the war militarily i id well, at best,ne in two. the dialue is right there. he said "do you mean tosay we can't win it militarily?" i sa "mr.resident, my judgment will n be shed by the secretary of state, the chairmanf the joint chiefs, by many others, but that's my judgment." as the years went by, i gained incrsingly that belief. bu- and this is the important point-- i believe itad threat was just as great as the others did. >> ros in 198? >> in 1968. you're absutely right. >> re: so anybody that wanted bob mcmarao say "this war was wrong 1968," it was possible for bob mcnamara to say it because he didn't believe it? >> i dn't believe.... rose: it wasrong, war in 1968. >> let me no use quite those words. i didn't belie that there was no threat. i lieved that in sense senhower's statement in 1954
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of thedominos and in 1961 to president nnedy and me if we lostaos and vietnam, we'd lose all soheast asia. if we los all of southeast asia we're likely to lose all o area, inuding india. if we did tha the pow of the communists against western europend against this nation would increase. now, that s what appeared t be at risk if we lt vietnam. >> rose: that's the ideology thathaped all of you. johnson, kennedy, everybody. >> absolutely. >> rose: wenderstand that. >> b what i think by your estion those who asked this question d't understand is it's one thi to saycnamara believed and td the president that the war was not wnable militarily. it's another thi to sayhat he believed trefore we should ju say to hell wi it and go. now i belie we should have said that then. but athat time, i was still obsessed with is sovt threat. give me second to tell why. because i always k questioners on the tephone or t.v.-- how old are you?
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and st of them e 40, 45. i say, well, i uerstand your position, you don't understand ours. t me start by saying, we were ong. but what have we done? rusk h been in world war ii, kennedy had been in world wa ii. had been there three, four, five years of fighting. the germans and the japanese when churchill said if we had started earlier, we uldn't ha lost the millis thatwe lost becaus we delayed and what rusk said-- and iquote a memo in there from him-- i never saw the memo until i ben to wri this book. rusk said to the predent in july of '65, "mr. president, if we don stop them there, if we don' prevent loss of vietnam, there ll be a cattrophic war." he mnt world war iii. i think that w tally wrong. today. then i dn't. i s concerned. now, why was i concerned? i'm sorry to take so much time but this is very important. >> rose: time we've got. >> i've gonehrough world war ii in three or four years.
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i had seen... after we won the war ihad seen the siets take over poland, hungary, czechoslovakia. i'd seen them try to subvert the established gornments of france and italy. when i camto the pentagon... i s there seven ars. in august of '61 the soviets tried to take berlin and when i lled larry ngor sd, the supreme aled commanderin europe, he sat in my office to ask how this was going to evolve he said " may have to use nuclear weapons." think of it. in october '62, the soviets put clear-equipped missile in cuba. we came mn close to nuclear war. much closer than our public today understas. in june of '67, t egtians said we're goingo destroy israel andthey thought they'd have theupport of syria and the soviet union. th israelis preempted and knocked the he out of them. after there, the hotline was us for a hot time, a cableas sento our president sayi "if you want war, you'll gewar.
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" now, i'msyly tryg to cate the atmosphere that in a sense we wereaptives of. we mjudged the soviet and communist threat in asia. no question abt that. but therwas a rson for i >> rose: the histo of world war ii and the fear o counism." >> that's right. >> re: back to my qstion. you believe it had war was not winnable in 1967 '68. not winnab. >> not winnable militarily. >> rose: you believedhat in '67,' 6. >> that's coect. >>. >> ros when did robert namara decide the war was wrong, wrong, terribl wrong? >> well, that's... let me answer qckly and then perhaps we should go back a bit. relative later. five, seven yrs ago,omething like that. becae at that time i ban to understand t communist threa was not at i visualized it to be and thought was in the '06s and even the '70s. it wasn't until.... >>ose: so it wasn't until
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1990? well, no, the '80s. >> rose: was it befe the fall of sain that you realiz the war was wrong? >> i don't li to use that phra. >>ose: is that yourhrase? "the w was wro"? >> terribly wrong. but that was later. before the fall saigon, i contind to feel it wasn't winnable militarily and therefore what ihad proped to the president an what he eventually pushed an what president nixon and kissinger pushed was moving toward... to know,s a achving them... a negotiated settlement, hopefully which would allow us t dingage military without losing vtnam. w,ltimately we didn't lose vietnam. >> re: but we didn't ve the domino theory. >> you a so right sfwfrjts that's why i thinkthe war was wrong? >> two m who i think led and respecteeach other-- johon and i-- came to e point wre
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i couldn't convie him and he couldn't convince me. d we had to pa. now, who took the initiative? i honestly don' know. bu i wrote a memorandum in may of '67 and another memorandum on novemb 1 of '67.... >> rose: all abo halting bombing? >> about haltingbombing. turning th militaryction in a sensover to the south vietnamese vietnamese. reducing u.s. casualties, pressuri the north vietnese to negotiations in order to dingage. and he, i knew, wasn't prepared at that time to accept that. the november 1 memo i delivered to him byhand. it has aittle note on it, you can see that. i sa, mr. president, i haven't shown this to anybody, no to dean rusk, noto the chairman of the joint chiefs, not to the national secury advisor becausi know you maynot agree with it. and won't show it t them until you authorize me to. i ner to this day have received an swer and i'm not cricizing johnson. i'm justaying that thi was
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th dilemma we were in. it wasn possible siation. what i felt responsible r was to behave in a way that didn't give aud andomfort to the enemy. hnson in hisast eight nths in office wa seeking t move toward negotiations. he was pursue.... >> rose: but.... >> no, listen. >> rose: oy. >> he was pursuing coue and he did achieve the binning of gotiations in may of 1968 in paris. nixon was elected, as i recl, on a ptform of endingthe war. >> rose: seet plans. well, he was going to end the war. so he was engaged in attempting renegotiations to be absolely frank with you my friendenry kisnger would talk to me abo that. what could they do? but fo me as ex-cretary of defense come out and say "i knowow to do this and to hell with what psident johnson i trying to do or nin andecret
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diplomacy,o hell with that, do it my way" that would have been irresponsible. >>ose: would it have been irrespsible for you with the experience you hadad to be part of an iortant debate in is country over one of the siificant events of the 20th century? this war? and what it h done in the consequence tohe country, creating theynicism youow speak out against. >>f thatdebate could have contributed to ending the war, yes. >> rose: cou it have, in yr jument? >> well, a that time i dn't think . >> rose: and now what you think? >> well, i don' know all that mickon was trying to do. one of his key associates called me today, jus two hours ago a told me some of t things he was doing, others associat th nixon at that exa time. and th... this associate of ne was trying... nixon's a friend of mine was trying to move toward negotiion. i thin.. of course didn't know tt at the time.
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second pla, i knewhings were going on at at time for me to stand onhe tside and second guess is secr diplomacy i think uld have been irresponsible. >> rose: yound your chiren ve never discussed ts war? >> no, that's not quite correct. >> rose: iead that. well, you're half right. what i sd inhe book and what i said on ane sawyer's progm last week w that i never fully discsed myfeelings orhe war th myhildren and my wife. it wasvery, very difficult to do so. >> rose: help us understand that. >> well, itwas so complex. i'veried to tell you day and i'm not sure your viewers wi derstand even after ur dialogue with me. the comexity, as suggest. were almost obsessed wi this soviet threat. if youace the possie of nucleawar twice within 4 or36
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months and, by theay, there's inhe book reverence to memoranda from the cefs that said now mr. secretary and mr. present we believe you should do a, b, c. and if you do it you may welcome in conflict with the soviets and the chinese and i that haens you're going to haveo go to nuclear war. now,hese are terrible thgs d to have that on the one side and el you can't accolish it militarily on the other. >> rose: you cannot convie... >> how canou talk to ur wife and children aboutt? >> ros i find that almost impossible to believe, thathe complexity othe issue notwa standing all thais too difficult... it seems meit has sothing ngor do with very deep and psonal emotions that you felt about this war, not the complexity oit and the forces at work her >> oh, yeah. >> rose: but having to do with pain and deep sense... e sgr well, no, no, perhaps that'.. you're qte right on that. bu is thesetwo lked together, u see. put very simy, i didn't have the answer.
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d people were being kled. how can you talk about that without de emotion? you ought to feel deep emotion about it. i did. now, we... i don't mean t say therwasn't contact with it. t me take aecond to tell you this. >> re: but... >>my children we deeply involved in al this. my middle child, dauter, had a very close frien who literally organid the protest marches, lethe protest marches ainst thwhite house, against the president,gainst me. my daughter brought them home to dier and we haddinner together several tim and on one of these occasions after dier we went into the library talkedo 10:30. his st words as he left the room were "well, nobody can be all bad who lov the mountains as much as you do." now his name was sam brown. a year ago he was ninated to be ambasdor to the s.e., the counl onsecurity and coeration in europe. senar helms was posing his nomination because he sa this guy was a traor during vietnam
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and to hel with him, we'renot gog to confi him. >> rose: the demonstrato who d theccarthy mccain. >> so samasked me towrite a letter to senator helms toay he wasn't a traor, which i did. >> rose: but letme come back to family in a sens you lieve, if i understand it, that thetress of vieam had a profound impact on your family. >> it brought ulcers to my wife and ulcers to my son. and trauma to l. >> rose: because of the consequees of the decisio being ma and the ft that lives were being lost over policy. >> yes. ye yes. anyoneho has bee resnsible, whether it be a uformed litary officerr an official of government responsible for sending men to risk their lives must be haunted by th deaths thatccurred. and all of us who ve had tt
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responsibility know we've de mistakes some big,some small. the me colonel that we were talkg about earlier.. >> rose:he's going to be on this broadcast. >> he say he sent men to death. he's the most decorated living soldier inhe army. he isn't men to death and in a sense it hauntshim. it haunts me. of crse it ds. i believe today that ho chi mh was not aollower of stalin and kruschev, whh i thought he was at the time. he was a tito. he was an asian tito. believed the war south vietnam was not a war of foreign aggressi. i believe it w a civil w. i belve that it was the power ofationalism that wa at stake there. believe at under tse circumstances no foreign army can substitu for the pple of
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that cotry decing a civil war themselves. it's impossible. now, tse beliefs,hey y seem obvio to you. they wen't obvious to me five years ago. >> rose: i've... but let me ask th question. >> i'm wiser today. >> ros let me ask this estion. >> that' why i was able to write. >> rose: let me ask this question. then if you had believedhat yojust said... >> i wou have written it... two things. let me just y this. i would have writt the book the moment i bieved it. mber one. >> re: no questions? >> no question about it. >> re: the moment you believe that, you wod haveritten the book. secondly, what if you'd come to that conclusion as a... >> if i had comeo it in '65.... >> re: '66, '67, '68. i tell you i woul have fought like hl to stop the war andithdraw... take our losses and get out. anthis, by the w, is oneof e lessons. we're going makemistakes. i meane, the peopl we, the leaders, we're goi to make mistakes. and fo god's sake, when you makeistakes and people are being killed and you know you've
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made a mista, cutour losses and get out! now if i believethen what i've just told you, i would ve fought to myeath to get out. without any question. i didn't believe it. what i belved was half right. weouldn't win it mitarily. what i feared was if we didn't at least pvent commust corol of vieam, would endanger the security of the west. and i was trying to balance those. i went to the wld bank, i was there13 years. the other da the "new yo times" cled it a... it's the bestob in the world but it isn't a sinecure. d i worked my tail off for 13 years to try to advance the welfare of the three billion people in the devoping countries. and i'm proud of it. now, i don't know how hisry willudge me. >> ro: but when somebody comes along and says mcnara did that becae he needed some wayto ease his aching soul aut the responsibity... >> that's total bony!
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i lod it! i went there because i wanted to do it and ias very pleased that i did have the portunity. >> rose:hen you look now at the future and the lesss that are to be learned, is tre some leon here about people in power. and i ce back to how long ittook, in a sense, that no one n... didn... some lesson about listening, some leon about making sure you know, that... >> i'm going to give yo what you'llhink is the wrong answer. >> rose: no, i don't thi so. go ahead. >> don't alwa listen to the polls. don't alws lten to the majority of the congss. don't always sten to the majority of theress. the majority of people through thpolls, the majority of the congss, the majority the press were in support of what was going on in vietnam during
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mu of that perd. that doesn'tabsolve us a leaders or what we did. we were respoible to lead, not follow. and we led wrgly. so that's one lesson. i hope people allnderstand that. the aders are respsible to lead, not follow. that's theirst point. seco point, for god's sake, i don'want thepeople to take the lesson you shouldn't serve in govement, you'll get crucified. i saidhe other night and the morning... i said on v., the morning aftemy children, all three of them separately called and ty just were almo in tears. ey were so pleased. >> rose: this wa.. >> thisas the dayfter the diane sawyer show ere i was almost in tears melf. but what iaid on that show was afteseven years of stress a trauma andain in the family, i believevery one of us-- my
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wife, craig, my son, kathy, my daughter, margie my daught, i-- re better for the seven years of government service. an that's the message i want to leave to the american people. for god's sake, when your govement asks you to serve, serve. it's your obligation, it's your duty and you'll be better for it. that's what believe. >> rose: and what did they say? >> they re in tears. they s believe it >> rose: that nothing tha happened shou rob a sense of serving country? that's correct. that's correct. >> roseif the call h ce again afr all thatou've been through, you don't regret the day that you accepted jo kennedy' quest? >> it was th proudt day ofy life and is. and i do'd do it a over again
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hopefully wiser. but wer or not, i'd do it all over again. ani want to see eve american do that. >>ose: what lessons are applicable to tay? especially some comparisons are beinmade between iraq and vietna >> wel i don't wanto... by stating lessons i don't want t suggesthat these should be applied to the iraq situation. if you think so, do it. but these are lesso that apy general to security. >> rose: all rht. >> the first lesso i empathize with your opponent. now i don't u the word "empathy" as synonymous with sympathy i e the word empathy as understand your oppone. we did not understand the north vietname. they didn't unrstand us. with onexception. we reallyidn't undersnd krusev. the eexception was tommy thompson. critical momt in a sense evented the nuclearar. >> rose: he sai to president kennedy... >> he id to mr. kenne,
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you're wro, president kendy. presiden knedy, we had a soft messe from kruschev at we could accept. we have atough messagehat we uldn't accept. the tough messagead been publicized before we received it. the soft message was sent in secret. we wand to.. >> rose: buthe soft message me before the tough message. >> well, it's a lite uncertai a little uncertain. you're right, it did, but it's not clear in... in any event, whh message torespond to. toy said "yove got to respond..." the mority of kennedy's adviss said "rpond to theough message." >> rose: including yr frien geral lemay. >> yeah, but tommy said "mr. president, responto the soft messa." the president id that's what's wrong with you, tommy, you don't understand politics. no political leader can pu out a tough messag in the public and in a sense accept a lesser deal than that. he couldn't survive. tommy said ". president, i know that ma i've lived wi him. i knew his wife." he and jane, his wife, had lid with krusch, vacations and
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otheise. he said "i bieve heill accept your acceptance of the soft message." kennedy said, "ll, is a risk but i' do it." kruschev did. he prevented a nuear war. >> se: because thompson believede was looking for a way ou >>hat's right. and he knew what kendy wanted. >> rose: ppose we had empathized with the noh vietnamese, what cou we have done. >> they didn't empathize with us. rose: but we can't wor about that. >> well, it's hardfor only o party ly. but what we could have done... the second lesson for my life is for god's ke communicate wit your opponent. that true in business a it's true with non-governmentals and 's sure as hell true in security rationships. we did nothave any conta, dire contact, between president johnn and ho chi minh during e entire period. we came closest in a deal that, in a sense, i worked on with henry kissinger who w then professor atarvard. we came damn close to getting it. >> rose: it uld have been possible? it would have been possible >> rose: for thewo of themo
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lk? >> tt's right. well, or to have a high-ranking emissary to go over tre. and the "new york time had an article that saidhat husin was ying to make a deal with before. >> rose: and a lebanese businessn went to see rhard pearl in lond. >>eah, but my god assuming for the moment... >> a very disturbg article. >> it was disturbing. >> rose: and the c.i.a. rejected it accordi to the "new york times," ght? >> well, i was going t say, th wasussein's idea an m not sure it s. but if iwas, he chose a dn poor way of communicatg. you don't do it through third-level individuals w can be disregard. >> re: but the main thing is commicate with the enees and find out wt they're...find out what their reqrements are and what yours are and see if you can bring tm together. >> one of e things fo me having made this movie that is so disturbing is ostensibly robert mcnamar is talking about events that occurred 40, 50, 60
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years ago. this was not intentional, but it became more and more obvious as worked on the film. even though he's talking about history, is he could just as easily be talkingabout events that occurred four, five, six daysgo. which givesme a funny feeli. rose: what kind of feeling? >> the question are we dmd? i would call it feeling of despair,f you like. are we doomed to repeatin endlessly the mistakes that we've made in the pt. n we do things differently? his earliest memory. i should allow him describe it rather than myself, but it's of world war i, armistice day, 1918.
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wilson war to end all wars. ifou like a pventative war... >> and the peoplehought we'd achieved that oective. how wrg they were. we human beings killed 160 million her human begs after the timeresident wilson thout was a war to end all wars. killed them in confli, within nions across borders in the 20th century. is that what we want for the 21st? it's not what i nt. and my booksnd my atements and some dree this film are directed tard trying to move toward that objecve. avoiding 160 million fatalities in thest century. my friendsave been killed in the island wars in the pacifi. >> rose:uadalcanal... >>nd iwo jima and the marianas and so on. so i understood what wabeing done. and there was a reasonor it. but couldn'we have do it with less human kilng? we leveled 69 cities.
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i' forgotten h many intotal we killed. something ke 900,000. shouldn't there beome proportionality? shouldhe human race t up a.... >> rose:ut was the same tng tr about the bombings in vietnam? could we havdone it withou... >> yes. i think we could have. >> rose: were you that wise then? >>o, i wasn't. >> rose: w it some conclusion yod come t ler about proportionlty? >> it wasn'tlear. >> re: it wasn't clear to you. >> i wasn't clear to me and todait isn't clear... i thin it's clear to me, it's not car touch of your audience, it's not ear to the hum race. we the huma race have not established any judicial framework thin wch warnd crimes ainst humanity can be caied out. we have t up a court the inteational court of cris against humanity. our country is one of the few major countriethat have not supported that. i know why. they're concerned that our people will be.. >> rose: broht to the fore.
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>> brought to the court by moammar qaddafi or somody. and there's reason to fear th. but there are many safeguardsn the internaonal court procedures and we can negotiate mo. we ought taccept the objective of trying to set se acceptable standards for that that will reduce casuaies. >> rose: you don want to cond guess msfeld. >> absolutely not. i want to stop you one secd. 71-- you won'telieve this, 71 recorders, t.v., radio, magazine newspaper,rom all over the world,ustralia,razil, weern europe, have aske me to comment on iq. i haven't respond to one. the reas is i think it is irresponble for an execretary of defense to comment inny wa on the tions of a predent who's deeply involved in w wh hundreds of thousandsf our citizens at risk. anhe is carryg out very delicate negotiations with the u.n. and oth cotries. i haven't said a wor and i'm not going to.
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>> see, th is where we do disagree. >> rose: what do you disage about? >> i think that it's very important for robert mcnamara to speak out out these issues. >> rose: i do, too. >> know he has very,ery strong feelings. i know he said ings to me in private. ment >> i'llill you ifou repeat them! >> and, in fact, won't repeat them out of respect for him and our relatiohip. but i know that he has spent a life... a large fraction of a li inublic service. and he has learned a lot of thin from that life. and it's portant that he brings thatknowledge to bear. >> rose: bute is not doing it in tal. you know hs not, earl, come on! >> now wait a second.... >>ose: you just said that! >> i think that he could be more outspoken. >> he specifically thinks i should comment on the iraq situation. inhe book, in retrospect an in the other two books i drew
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lessons. but thoseessons can bepplied to iraq. let people read the books and apply the lessons. m not going to criticize president when he'sn a war. up into but let me just suggest to you that onof the importt things that u underlined other thanempathy andother than communation is that we needto have public debate aut the tse essentl issues. you talk about that time after time but you're not wling to participate inhe debate becausof the silly le you have. >> we havet had a public debate. >> rose: you can participate in it. >> nobody asked me. >> rose:h, but... lots people ask. you just told me every repoer that's ever come toyou asked you to participate in a debate >> they didn ask me f that. they wanted a one sided comment. >> ros fair enough. suppose put together a group of peopl including former seetaries of state and cretaries of defense to tal abouwhere america goes iraq and late yowon't participate that? you won't tell us wha you think if, in fact it mht be important to the dirtion and
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decisions the country tas? the debate not somuch what happens here. >> wl, let me say i think for seniorfficial to debate in the midst of a war the wng time. our people are at risk. th debate may encourage the enemy. >> maybe it'sven more critical we debateuring war. >> i derstand that. but just thithis through. it may encourage the ene. look what happened a few days ago.... >> ros they always say that. that's what they sa in vietna and you ow that. >> all rightall right, but it's true. look what happened a few days ago when the iaeli general criticized iaeli policies. that certainly eouraged the palestinia. is that what wwant. >> rose: encouraged them to do what? >> to be tougher. to think there's weakne in the israelis. take, fo example.... >> rose: wait a minute, doou think he should not haveaid that? we should not have in an interview wh those three iseli journalists shoulnot have raised questions fo consideration? >>e didn't raise them for consideration, he said "our
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policies are wng." >> rose: no, he spoke to the ise... yes, he did. but hepoke to the issue of how they were treating e palestiniansnd as towhether it was counterproductive a whether they we creating more problems. this isn't... listen. donaldumsfeld in his famous mo which came leaked out of thpentagon raise these very same questions. did he not the secreta of defense rsed if questions. >> in a diffent way. th implication of the israel general'comments as i rea th was that he believedthe israel should change those policies andn a sense the palestinians should expect changes. >> rose: i think i would argue... whatever the decion out to be made by the israelis they shoulmake the decion. >> yes. >> re: he's an israeli. >> i agree >> he raised the question aso what wasn the best interes of his country >> i agree. >> re: you have saidhat debate is in the best interest of decion making. >> butit depen on when the debate takes place. >> rose: but suldn't just be... suppos tommy thompson hadn'teen there!
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the decision ithat cabinet room. >> that was closedebate. >> se: john kennedy said that if, in fact, newspapersad printed some things, that he mighnot have made some mistakes that he me. you know that. >> take, fraction.... >> rose: you kw that. >> wait a minute.... >> rose: with we making any inroads here? >>o. >> rose: you still think it' t important to have a debate? >> oh, i think is important to debate >> rose: not imptant for a former secreta of defense who hasn't been... who hasn' been secretary defense since the '6, more than 25 years ago, to speak out and say "this is at i've elevened and is is what the jumentat 85 i have about puic ents"? >> there's several points. the first point is that i don't have t information t president has an th secretary of defenseas. >> rose: mbe he doesn't have the inrmation you have in a dierent way. >> the judgmentnd expience. but any event i'm not going to participate in public debate. >> one does not have to be omniscient to speak out. >> rose: exactly.
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>> let me give one example from the movie and it's certainly one of rober mcnamars fundamental lesss. 's a lesson abo multilatalism. he says inhe course of the movie that we didn' listen to any of our alli. if we had lisned tour allies in the crse of vietnam, we wodn't have been there it's a direct quote. we couldn't have been tre. now, this is actually a question for you. do you see a parallels in the currensituation? >> i'm not goingo answer that question. >> rose: well, there you go. >>n saturday, the critical moment, saturday, octer 27, 1963, that washe critica mome. the predent had... his council there, the chiefs the secretaries of state and defense and naonal security advisor and director of c.i.a., we argu all day long about what to do. we weren't se. hadn't been able to get the damn missile out, had to g them out. but we had photographs of missile on the sl of cuba.
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e c.i.a. sai we don'think e warheads are ere yet. the first batc of 20 warheads are coming on a ship that will be there in two or three days. we had a contiency plan of attacked developed the rst day's air strike was planned wi shorties, larger than any day in kosovo. we had 180,000troops milized in southet u.s. ports. we had the shipping there. we were read to go. at 4:00 p., thehief said, . president, we recommend unimously that yo undertake thisttack within two days. it wasn't until 29 years later in january, 1992, that we learned that at that moment the soviets had about 170 nucar warhds on the soil of cuba. stup already there. >> rghly 90 tactical and roughly 80 to besed inhe misse to attack 90 million amicans. that's how you ma mistakes. >> rose: you have d intelligence. >> well, but we had a damn good inteigence outfit.
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i have tremdous airation for the c.i.a. >> rose: were they wrongbout the mber of clear warhds? >> you're damnright. but can intelligence peoplee perfect? no! you've got to derstand that. >>ose: perfect is not the difference between saying tre arnone on the island and having 92. >> well, the pot i want to makes there are serious limits that willever be overcome to the intelligence you will have and haveo depend on in relation to thes critical decisions and you better be damn careful. and founately we lucked out. because at at momentruschev saw,... literally saw these 180,000 troops ande feared an invasion. and when kennedy st tt aner to him, i'm going to call it the soft message and basically accepted the deal kruschev so feared that e war would starbefore he could tell kennedy he accepted kennedy acceptance that he sent a system down to e public radio
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trsmitter in moscow, heaid "hold that transmitter open, have a message." it took normally six hrs to commicate a message from kruschev to kennedy,ritten and translated and put into code and send it and decode itnd send it to the whe house. was going to get it done in, effect, six minutes. we leaed of his acceptance of kennedy's proposal, t action that delayed... that prevented nuclear war. we learned it overthe public radio. >> rose: i want to a this question, which is offhe beaten path. compare joson and kennedy. you sawith them, served with them. >> i can't do that in two mites or 20 minutes o whatev. >> rose: did y get into is, earl? >> not really. >> wel yes, we did. not ntradict anybody. >> had... >> come on! >> i didn't really compare them, i taed about each. i had... maybe the point me is about johnson because
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ultimately i lef i had tremendous respect and affection for hnson. i think he had respect and affection for me at thend we disreed totally. and somethinhad togive. and i was out. and i said to m friend kate graham, the former publisher the "washington post." you know, tohis da- this is five or seven years ago bore she died i id "to thisay, kay, i don't know whether i quit or i was red." she said "you're out ofour nd, of course yo were fired." the rson i didn't know is because i d tremendous respect for johnso and i wand to stay for as long as i cld be of help. anyhow, i ft and that was the proper thing because he and i were i total disagreemt. >>'m remded in this conversation o how diicult you are to interview. >> rose:t reminds me, too cause i've been here before. aughter) >> because onething is that you have this implacable sense of
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rectitude. there are things tt are prer speak about and things which are improper. >> do and i feel it very strongly. >> know this. >> re: we can respect you for that. >> no doubtbout it. >> rose: do u think robert mcnamaras at peace with himself? >> n >> wt human being is? i hope there not. >> rose: if you're not, what are you not at peace about? >> i tnk it's one of his virtues. >> i'm not at peace because i han't been able to convin her people-- or at lea engh other people-- of the sodness of some of mymajor thoughts. that i think are in their interests and e interests of the human race. >> rose: give me the most important of those. >> the mos important of those is the one that chirac and bla referred tas the eatest thre to security in the 21st century. the ri of nuclear war. that's most important. it's notaccepted and it shoul be a i'm intent to increase its acceance. >> rose: think we accep that but... well, i don't think we....
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rose: we accept it but we don't donough. we're not ing enough to... >> we're t applng that. >>ose: we have to ve this part of this conversation. you expect him to say... you did bad things heaid. at did you mean? >> the war in vietn for meis very bad thing >> rose: well, he didn't do the war in vietnam. >> he was certainly partf the war effort. he was the secretary of defense in the kendy and johnson administration. >> rose: he could ha resigned on principle. >> he could resignedn prciple. there are ma, many, many questions about the '60s, what happened in the war, the tragedy the trueragedy not onl that we've stted the war but even after he left the jnson administration in 1968 the war
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continued til 19 with millions of vietnamese dying and tens of thousands of americans. >> rose: you've heard this before on this program even at the central thing that happened about that was that pele felt like that en after you acknowledged that you had realized certainhings about e war, you didn't speak out evenhen. >> well, that... again, for an ex-secretary odefense to spea out against a war.... >> rose: but americans we dyin >> but more americans... inhe first place i might he been wrong because almost a of my associateselieved i was wrong. but assuming i was correctnd i think in hindsight i was, b speaking out publicly in the midst of a war, more americans could die. it would haveiven aidnd comft to the enemy. andhat's absurd to sgest. >>ose: well,did you gon... >> i sure as hell went in and spoke to johnson in writingnd orally. and that that'sall on the record. that's why we bre. >> re: and you now say the
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vietm war wrong, course. well.... >> rose: you don say tha >> that's not quite what i s. >> rose: wt does he say? >> this is not wl understood. >> wel.. >> let meake this poi and i don't want to appear be self-serving si brought with me a thing i'm going to read. >> rose: fair enough. >> this is aittle note from... i think it w the "new york times." yes, the "new york times," february 1 of this yea and it says... it refers to a bo by a man named keen and keegan wte a book and says "the vietnam war was not the brain child of three or four peop. it was a produ of ahole way of thinking abou the world. it was f better or worse the logical consequen of the policy of containment." which is the policy we followed for years set up by george nnon. andhe breptnd depth of pport for american policy in vietm, certainly the elite inteectual class was enormous. let's not suggest that itas somehow just the bundys or
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rostow this was national consensus. thisar was part of the cold wa it was a logicalerivative of the cold war. now, i think we were wrong in many of our judgments. but at the tim when you regnize how close we've come to war wi the soviets-- three times my seven years as secretary, september of '61 october of '62 andune of '67. we came close to war with the soviets. this vietnam was part of that. today that isn't recognid. it should be. rose: you expecd somethg... you wanted him to confront what with respect to vietnam? >> there areo many questions. among them, ceainly, mr. mcmara's silencefter he left t johnso administration.
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what's really interestg.... >> rose: >> let me interrupt justor a moment. i wasn't lent when i wrote that book inretrospect. >> this was much later. >> laid out the decision mang process. the decisions that were wrong and the lessons at should be lened from it. >> yes. >> nobod else has done anythin like tha not only in vietnam but other situations are comparable. that's wt should be expected of every lder. >> and i thinkt's extraordinary d interesting book. one of a kind in many, many ways. >> rose:ut.... >> um,it's not that there's some hidden "bu here that hasn't bn addressed. there are going to be many, many unsolved mysteries about vtnam
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about robert mcnamara >> about the human race killing people they're unsolved. these are difficul issues. >>unsolved qstions, if you like, about el. about the problem of evilnd ere it comes fro >>ne of the greatest theologians said "how much evil shoulde done to achieve good." that's a basic problem. >> i think we have this very simplisticdea that il is the product of evil people. that tre are a ho of gos inhe wings rubbing theirhands together conving, calculating, plotting. and then the solution is just, well, let's find out where they are and let's go g them. t's kill them. let's lock em u and there you have it. a solution to the proemf il. but at if evil is muchharder to identif
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wh if we're all capab of it? >> and what if at tis it's necessary do good? that was lieber's point. >> yes. i'm reminded-- ani have been minded again and again in the course of making the movie-- w complex these decisions were that thi man faced. thiss not to excusehat he did or to apogize for him. that's not m role. nor would i want to do so. i felt part-- and iteel feel-- part ofhis enterprisef ying to exane historynd a man's role in it. it's a very odd movie, because you see movies abohistory, you'll see fe, six, seven,
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eight or more characters auing with eh oth. this movie containsnlyne indidual, robertmcnamara. sometimes see the adow figure, sometim i see the 85-year-old mcnama arguing with the 45-ye-old mcnamara. and we can ask ourselves, is it the same man o are these different me in what way are they the same? or in whatway arehey different? one thing that i do know f su is that the enterprise of tryi to figure out o we are and why we do what we do is a very deep and important enterprise and for better for wors this man is enged in it. >> that' what i' been voting myself to for 5 years. and i make no apologiesor it. it is an essenal steptoward advancg the human race.
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will i ever understand why he n't speak out against the current administration? i probably won't! >> no. >> ros i don't think you will. >> lalty? >> no,it's not loyalty. it's... >> a sense of... what proper and iroper? >> it's a sense of what's in the intest of the american people today when aricans are dyin in iraq. that's not e time fo an ex-secretary of defense to, as you call it, speak out. >> rose: wt do you think the idea that allthat is reired for evil to triumph... >> is what? >> rose:s for goo men, in this ce, not to sak up. >> well, i ve spoken t in retrospect. >> rose: but'm talking about current situations again, it's not that y're going come down on one side or the other, it's to eak out. >> read the bo and y decide whether it applies to current situation. >> rose: but you are the figure. you are the person. you can't y "read the book and you can decide."
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anyway, i want to ve beyond th. >> i think you're runng out of time. >> rose:aybe, i'll be okay, though. i' make that choice. what did you... in this search to elain, to underand, to come to tms with, h far are you on that? i an, is it... haveou ached where you wanted to be in tms of.. >> let me tl you, i' 87 years old and i'm running out of time. so thefore i'm sortof celerating the pross. a sense, at's why i did the fi. >> rose: was th a kind of catharsis for you? >> no, no, not catharsis. >> rose: well then what. >> iwas a chance to. >>o reach... >> to reach large audience with ideashat are very controversial d to smulate their thinking. and debate. >> re: robert mcnamara, dd aged 93.
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