Today is April 4. Here is a link to Tavis Smiley’s show this week on Martin Luther King’s speech against the Vietnam War delivered April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before King was assassinated in Memphis, 43 and 42 years ago.
A video of the 1967 speech is but 10 minutes, the rest is audio. Listen here. Many other sermons of King are recorded in their entirety. But this was a momentous speech, one that he, unusually, wrote out before and read. Yet as Smiley’s documentary indicates, the video was broken or has disappeared. The speech created an earthquake. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were more all over this, and in fury, than other activities of King. The establishment had been divided on civil rights, north (or federal) and south. But the division about the war was different and less extensive in the elite. Senator Wayne Morse had spoken out, and Senator Ernest Gruning from Alaska. William Fulbright, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was privately and increasingly publically critical of the war. His writings, some of them later, about The Price of Empire are still the most intelligent pieces written by a mainstream American politician (they prefigure Chalmers Johnson’s Blowback or my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? in the late 1990s), As my book indicates, such insights are rooted in a great republican tradition going back to Thucydides, Socrates, and Aristotle, highlighted in Montesquieu’s Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, and captured as a central feature of Marx’s internationalism. That empire is the death of democracy or a republic; that a decent regime must turn away, Johnson’s third volume, Nemesis, contrasts England, which at last left its empire after World War II, a diminished power but still a parliamentary regime, and Rome, eventually the imperial rule of 5 or 6 monsters in Montesquieu’s phrase, as polar images of the two most likely paths that America might take.
We have more weapons than Rome. Though a financial casino (Larry Sommers and Phil Gramm and the corrupt derivatives and credit default swaps – not just unsupervised or "private" – the banks have bought the favor of many politicians – but at the expense of real production), though its economy has been gutted under and since Reagan, American democracy has miraculously elected Barack Obama. We are in steep decline compared to China (derivates and default swaps are wisely illegal in China; China just does manufacturing; as my father once said in Congressional testimony about Russia, a gaudy way of putting it which fortunately in that case proved inaccurate, “the silk slippers come down the stairs while the hobnailed boots come up.” China is a bit more attractive than that and the US, as Obama shows daily, has much more verve. But this difference, that the US creates nothing except war. As the economist Simon Johnson said about the collapse, we should remove points from the supposed Gross Domestic Product of the United States - never did an idea of net national product look more insightful - because derivatives aren’t real production. They show up as monetary exchanges, but their shadowy consequences - the long term debts, making individuals ultra-rich now, are “kicked down the road” until the economy collapses Ours is now a truly original decadence.
Fulbright was scorned by Johnson and treated shabbily. But though he was elected in Arkansas for being a segregationist (not a loud one; one of his aides was the young Bill Clinton), his Senate hearings made a difference. A huge anti-war movement, built among students, but spreading among blacks and workers generally, had taken hold. By 1968, even the middle classes had turned against the war. Riding this wave from below, Senators Gene McCarthy and particularly Bobby Kennedy, someone transformed by his brother’s death and compassion for blacks and latinos, someone outspoken against the war, became Presidential candidates, and LBJ, for all his political calculation and creepiness, fell. LBJ is in good odor these days because of Civil Rights. It is only because we glorify Presidents. He was a piece of work.
Now Bobby Kennedy was once a counsel to the McCarthy committee, as attorney general did not enforce the law against Southern brutalizations of civil rights workers, as John L. Lewis would try to testify at the march on Washington (Eisenhower sent troops, but Democratic Presidents – tied to the segregationist South didn’t), and did nothing when SNCC warned in a public conference about racism just before my friend Andy Goodman* was murdered in Mississippi Freedom Summer. Bobby Kennedy tragically suffered the same fate himself. The bullet that chased Martin King for years, in Vincent Harding’s expression, also, so to speak found Andy, James Cheney and Mickey Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi and then Bobby Kennedy as well. It might have been quite a different 40 years if Bobby Kennedy and not Richard Nixon had been elected in 1968.
Social forces are real things. But they sometimes create quite dramaticially different possibilities short of radicalism (FDR v. Hoover for example). America did not have to destroy itself as a financial/military casino (the Reagan-Clinton- Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act which had separated deposit banks for ordinary people and speculative banks and given which officials knew how to regulate the economy and prevent this kind of collapse; he and Larry Sommers really deserve a special place in the pantheon of destroyers of what is decent in America -Bush “economy”). Obama seeks to revive America with green productivity, The stimulus was really the most important economic or productive act done by the American government in 40 years and by a long shot more important, if it were to be continued and built upon, than the health care reform. But one has to emphasize, if the Congress were capable of pursuing this possibility, if the elite would permit it…
Further, Obama has surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs in the personae of Tim Geithner and Sommers; he is, so far. more a clever politician than a statesman. Now America still has superior resources and could easily compete with China and Europe to fight global warming and produce a new kind of green industrialism. This possibility would be part of Obama’s greatness as a President – he will be a significant President whatever happens. The way is visible though darkened. Still, who would have imagined the election of Obama (the anti war and anti-racist movements as well as King as Obama says made him possible if unlikely)? Perhaps…
Bobby Kennedy was also a politician representing some backing off from Empire, some redistribution. Martin King, as Smiley’s film emphasizes and is often said, was a prophet. One should spell this out a little. What is decent in America comes mainly from democratic movements from below. It is this difficult, frustrating, usually dangerous activity – the list of American martyrs is long – which from the Revolution and the abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, the IWW, the sit-down strikes, the civil rights, anti-War and gay movements has given America its decency. Even Obama came to power on the crest of the anti-Iraq war movement and a movement of young people who would not accept the horrors of Cheney and Bush any more.
King had a choice. He could be Amaziah, the king’s man, a civil rights leader in the South of enormous courage, but a politician nationally, a servant of Presidents who had made concessions on civil rights, a patronized figure (as they said of him sneeringly and fearfully after this speech, "his competence is civil rights"). I will trace below his loyalty to Kennedy and Johnson in doing corrupt things – for instance allowing the true words that John L. Lewis would have said in Washington to be silenced – but though willing to compromise deeply, he himself could not be silent. There are almost no parallels in mainstream politics to what he did (Bobby Kennedy on the poor took the most timed steps before he was murdered; Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation and his last year...). No one lives very long who does it.
King broke with all this, he shattered the dishonorableness of mere politicians, and moved as Vincent Harding says like an astronaut, so far from where he began, not only a great leader against segregation (surely enough in this lifetime) to someone who took on the unreality of Ameican parliamentarianism on behalf of the poor, someone who named and fought the violence of Empire and questioned the moral vacuity and viciousness of capitalism, a nonviolent original kind of democratic socialist - one who lived the most dangerous protests from below, not merely waited, like others, for electoral results - a political leader so brilliant that this speech – that star – will shine as long as America remains.
It is rare that someone does, as Tavis Smiley, a television documentary that will also last for years. One reason is that the Empire even with Barack Obama as President will continue its wars into the future. It would take a great effort to change that, something that reflects the first line of King’s speech. He is answering the call of conscience to break silence. There would be a “fire-storm” of controversy, led by the Johnson administration and the Democratic party. Johnson (and soon Nixon) were in the process of murdering 3 million Vietnamese whose lives were spent on this unnecessary and genocidal war which tore the American democracy apart and revealed, glaringly, that democracy is mainly in the streets. This point was gaudily put by Jefferson about the Shays Rebellion – the tree of liberty must be watered every 20 years with the blood of patriots and tyrants (the great revolution that created Haiti was too much for Jeferson of course, though not, ironically, for the otherwise reactionary John Adams, the only American President before the Civil War to consider a diplomatic relationship with Haiti). At the Genoa conference of the G-8, President Bush was faced with 300,000 protestors outside; he and the other "leaders" were protected by the military and barricaded in their little fish bowl: “I was elected [sic – Bush got millions of votes, but both elections were stolen]. Who do they represent?.” Chirac, a French conservative with a sense of proportion as well as a sense of humor, replied: “There are 300,000 people out there. Perhaps we ought to listen to them.”
The police shot and killed one teenager, wounded many more, arrested six hundred.
Susannah Heschel, daughter of the rabbi Abraham Heschel who was with King at Selma, spoke of how her father, as a spiritual brother, understood King’s leadership. But Heschel also worried about the firestorm that was to come and might have tried to warn Martin away from it. He had apparently heard some words of the speech. What he told his daughter, which was true, was that every word was from the heart, was exactly what King meant to say, who he was. One could no more head King off from doing this, one might say, than one could stop the sea. In that last year, he swept away from all expectation, away from anywhere an American Nobel Peace Prize winner, might be imagined to go. As Vincent Harding said at the end of the film, King approached what he did with such integrity and bravery, knowing the consequences for him personally, that there was but one thing Vincent could say: “it was a privilege to follow him.” More than any other person around King, Harding knew who King was, what it meant that he made – and that his ministering in the civil rights movement and for poor people embodied - such a choice.
Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown who has written on King, contrasted the macho posturing of some rappers with King’s immense courage (he knew from age 26 in Montgomery that he would be, if he did not turn away, say he had done enough, a sacrifice. Jesse Jackson analogizes Martin with Jesus, to the bone. In the isolation of the year to come, King was no longer the celebrated hero of Selma or a leader of a civil rights movement facing death constantly in the South but collaborating with Kennedy and Johnson. King had been immensely loyal to the corrupt and patronizing Johnson. When Johnson accepted the segregationist Mississiipi delegration to the 1964 Democratic Convention and refused to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, when he made a “national” (that is racist) speech to divert attention from the hearings at the convention where Fannie Lou Hamer told how she was beaten within an inch of her life for standing up to register to vote in rural Mississippi and organizing others to do the same, King, Johnson’s ally at the time, tried to cool out the Freedom Democratic Party. I doubt his heart was in it. As Eyes on the Prize reveals, he did not succeed.
The scene of Fannie Lou Hamer leading that delegation in the singing of spirituals, contrasts with the decadence of Walter Mondale and other white Democratic leaders who, in their crawl to power, would not challenge indecency. That – anti-racism and the meaning of democracy - has been the fight in America of the ages. About that, one needed courage – black people, actually elected by the previously excluded majority of Missisissippians, could have 4 seats, Mondale’s committee ruled, as opposed to the 40 Klansmen/Democrats of “white” Mississippi. Johnson had, however, sponsored the Civil Rights Act. This much (at my pace) and no further, he said. But the Klansmen went home, withdrawing their fangs from the neck of the Democrats, but soon, possessing Nixon and Reagan, plunging them into the Republicans (and thus Karl Rove, W, and Cheney; without racism and other bigotries, they would have been politically, nothing).
King also went to Watts and spoke out against the violence in the streets. Watts and many other rebellions were provoked by wanton police murders of black teenagers. In the worst moment of his life, King told black young people that they must not act out of the anger that possessed them, that they must give up fighting back immediately (even just attacking property), while the government murdered and protected murderers. He spoke idly then of nonviolence - what campaign in Watts could he invite them to join? He stood there, ineffective, while Watts burned.
But King heard them. He went North. He organized the poor in Chicago. He tried to initiate a new movement, but the Church did not have the same hold as in the South; the intense racism was different in form; it was harder to work in the North. There was the continuing surge of rebellions during and partly against the War (in your face, white America); Fulbright said, we cannot pursue such a war and have the cities burn at home. How could King try to reach these young people, who did not know or care of the Nobel Peace Prize or Lyndon Johnson's favor, who saw him just as a man in a suit…
In “Breaking the Silence.” Martin says that he had talked with young people in Detroit. They had said to him: is the US government nonviolent? And King said in the speech, I could not speak out for nonviolence in the ghetto if I did not speak out first against the international violence of my own government, the “most violent government in the world.” America today – even under Barack Obama who admires King and Gandhi as he said in Oslo, and has learned from them – is still the most violent government in the world.
King moved. This is Vincent Harding’s great and poetic memorial, reflecting deep love and mourning, about his friend. Others wanted to bask in the sunlight of the President, even though he lied for genocide. McNamara, as Smiley’s documentary, notes, knew the war was wrong – he claimed this about himself as early as advising Kennedy in 1963 in Errol Morris’s brilliant documentary ”The Fog of War” but that is probably not quite true.** Even Johnson knew that in escalating the war he was only gambling for resurrection in the words of my friend George Downs - that the Republican security-hounds made it impossible for him if he wanted reelection, not to murder more brown people and waste the lives of more American soldiers, black and white, brothers only in destruction and dying themselves. Lyndon Johnson the paradox, was a genocidal, Civil Rights president. He burned the same black teenagers in war that he acknowledged in saying himself, movingly, as President, “we shall overcome.”
But dishonor, genocide and losing a far away war out of ignorance and racism are hardly keys to success for the head of the empire. This contradiction was too great. The young turned against Johnson, Stokely Carmichael in the lead among blacks (also many whites in SNCC in this respect), and many of us in Students for a Democratic Society all over the country. From 1965, Vincent Harding had spoken out against the War. King had tried to in 1965. He knew the War was wrong. But civil rights “leaders” and even his own organization, the in this respect, sad SCLC spoke against him and he retreated into semi-silence. SCLC actually issued a press statement saying that they disagreed with their leader on Vietnam. King outshone the SCLC which was a mixed phenomenon. Ralph Abernathy and many others were great human beings. But it was made up of ministers, decent but privileged in the black community. In contrast, SNCC under Stokely’s leadership went to sign up people to vote in the last great march King led to Jackson. The ministers could have, but didn’t. From SNCC’s effort came the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Arguably, Fannie Lou Hamer (and SNCC and Stokely) helped to radicalize King at least as much as King’s efforts brought them and many others forth, pushed them on. There was a complex political interplay in the movement (Malcolm X and the Panthers also played a role here),
Stokely became, unhappily for him, a Panther for a while, the Minister of the Interior I seem to recall (they all went crazy at each other; the Panthers expelled him for ostensibly being a “police agent”; there were many cops in the Panthers and the federal government/"local" police murdered some 60 Panthers (many like Fred Hampton paid the price for standing up in America), but I wouldn’t bet that those who were suspected were often the actual police agents.
Of SCLC, James Bevell did not follow his conscience and ultimately disgraced himself, Wyatt T. Walker had some good ideas in Birmingham but was ridiculously patronizing toward SNCC in Albany, Georgia, and life moved swiftly beyond him; Jesse Jackson, who played so great a role in blazing a path in politics for a black Presidential candidate, often standing for decency and hope, carried the struggle into new dimensions. Andy Young, UN ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, always the amusing urger of caution in SCLC to permit Dr. King to find a middle way, has ultimately and sadly become spokesperson for Walmart.
King was, one might say, a comet (or an astronaut in Harding’s phrase in The Inconvenient Hero); the others were, in the public sphere, often enduringly serious people, but pale shadows in comparison. Still many, for instance Vincent Harding, and Stokely and most of those in SNCC, have labored long and deeply, often in the shadows, and contributed to the understanding and transmission of democracy in America in the most diverse and powerful ways.
But none of them could follow King’s course. King was, in this sense, an irreplaceable leader because he could continuously face death from age 26 on, because he followed his star, because the call of conscience rang out in him more brightly and consistently than anyone who has been around here. Einstein once said of Gandhi “it will be hard for later generations to believe such a man walked the earth among us.” There are perhaps others in American history (John Brown and Malcolm for example). But the calling into being of nonviolence is something special. Though he lived in most ways carefully and for the cause, King was no ascetic. He also did not - and could not - have exhibited Gandhi's lone and somewhat authoritarian leadership. King was a democrat. Still, one might also say such a thing of King.
In the documentary, Jesse Jackson speaks of an SCLC meeting before Memphis. Martin had been depressed much of that last year. He had accomplished so much, but the welcoming of the sit-ins nationally and internationally, the celebration of Selma, had been broken by his speaking out on Vietnam. He was organizing the poor people’s movement. But now the New York Times and the Washington Post and the NAACP – one would have to forget the words to think well of them, cried out against him, sucked up to Johnson’s genocide in Vietnam. In contrast, many will read "Breaking the Silence" over the years as we go on. Its words speak pierceingly to all who listen. Those who decried King- who said sneeringly, what competence does a black civil rights leader have to speak about foreign policy? - burn up the page. They are dishonest words. Only by making King’s birthday each year a celebration without Martin’s words can the establishment take possession of it, attempt to tame it. But there are too many black and white people who march everywhere and know something, it is always for the Urban League or the mayor’s office or some corporation quite a potential problem, even with anti-War protests in 2003, an ordeal.
Martin came to the SCLC meeting that morning, Jackson reports, and said: perhaps it is time for me to quit. Perhaps I have done enough. “Father, may this cup pass from me,” Jackson says.
Then when they were all in fear and shock that Martin would take himself from them in one way, he spoke, prophetically, of going to Memphis and supporting the sanitation workers, of building the movement of the poor, black and white. He turned, Jackson says, as Jesus did, to do what he was called upon to do. There may be a more profound experience recorded in this film – these people were all serious Christians - but Jesse’s image cuts pretty deep.
I met Clay Carson, the great scholar of King and compiler of King’s papers in wonderful collected editions still coming out, when he was a graduate student who lived in UCLA student housing. I was canvassing as a student organizer, selling newspapers for the International Committee against Racism. Clay was even then a man of great insight (I also met Dr. Humberto Bracho a zoologist from Mexico who played a major role in the radical student movement there, and Jim Prickett, an historian of the American communist party – published 7 fine articles but never got a fulltime University job...
In Smiley’s documentary, Clay also says something profound. Would Martin Luther King be welcomed by Mayor Hickenlooper and the Urban League at the State Farm martin luther king day in Denver? Would they want to hear his words (see here)?
Clay’s analogy calls to mind Christ and the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky. It puts in another way the theme of Vincent Harding’s The Inconvenient Hero. Amusingly, Harding has lived in Denver all these years, has spoken at anti Iraq war rallies in 1990 and 2003 and is not invited to speak at Martin Luther King day (Tavis Smiley found him at Iliff School of Theology where he taught for 30 years but the Urban League and Denver mayors can’t). King day became an anti-war rally in 2003 despite the repeated efforts of Michael Hancock, now a City Councilman, to prevent this inauspicious – he thought – manifestation of King’s spirit and words.
King went down the line for the poor. Barack Obama speaks for the middle class, though he wants to help the poor. In the documentary, my friend Cornel West speaks eloquently of the difference between a prophet and a politician. The prophet may be a smiling and eloquent face but he or she will eventually be taken out by the Empire. The President is a smiling and eloquent face who is the leader of the Empire. Cornel (like me and Vincent) recognizes what Obama sometimes accomplishes (and we are just barely removed from the police state aggressions of Cheney here, the darkness of Moria, to put it in Lord of the Rings language). Perhaps none of us expected Obama to do that much (he could have been a transformational president but he is just a Democrat and a much better human being - he is still merely a president - than LBJ ). So the fact that he is suddenly for a moderated version of Drill baby Drill is not surprising, that he gives a Nobel Prize speech about how King and Gandhi are right but he is President of the country and must defend it (the Republicans would crucify him otherwise), is not surprising. Where is the aggression, Barack? Is it the British invasion of 1812 that the US is stopping in its five aggressions and occupations….? What wedding party in Yemen, taken out by an American drone, is really equivalent to Hitler? Barack makes even what is empty resonate in words and is unusually careful, but his words sometimes run away with him…
Corettta Scott King figures but once in the film. She was in the anti-war movement (the peace movement) before Martin – in 1965. So was Vincent Harding and his wife Rosemary (and they were all neighbors in Atlanta). There is probably a deep story here about Coretta which needs to be told. Just after the film, I got a phone call from Nick Thomas. Nick came to my nonviolence class last quarter because he knows one of the students in it He decided the fourth week in to take it.. He is going into the State Department in a year. He kept coming back to the class. His parents are Quakers (his father teaches China at University of Colorado at Denver and I have known of him for years) and they were close friends with Coretta.
Nick loved Coretta, she was his grandmother and he stayed with her in Atlanta (the charmed white boy – the lone white in the neighborhood – and was treated as a brother by everyone there, never heard an unkind word). Nick said on the phone: I have an epiphany. I have a year before I go into the State Department. I want to make a documentary about Coretta. There are too many guys celebrated in this movement (though if one watches Eyes on the Prize, the feeling that Diane Nash, who asked Mayor West of Nashville whether as a man he approved of selling blacks goods and not letting them eat at store restaurants, and West said “No as a man I do not” – illustratrating the transformative powers of nonviolence as perhaps nothing else ever has – is a great figure, Fannie Lou Hamer of profound force (Vincent founded the King-Hamer-Gandhi center at Iliff), one who again probably helped Martin on his way. But of Coretta, who is also a great figure, there is silence.
Nick is right. This story needs to be told (Donnie Bettts who made the documentary about Neshoba which will be shown in honor of SNCC this Wednesday night April 7th at 7PM at Crossroads Theatre, 2590 Washington Street in Five Points, 720-748-1388 for tickets and information
Tavis Smiley interviews Vincent Harding three times in the film. In the second, Vincent gives Smiley the original text of the speech. Smiley actually understands how historic a document this is. He made the first words which King kept in redrafts, the ones about the call of conscience, that King could do no other, the theme of this radiant documentary. Smiley was up to hearing the words that were said and making a film which reveals their significance.
Vincent also retells the story that he had told me (see here) about his phone call with James Lawson. What he says is far deeper than what I conveyed. Lawson was a pastor and heard Vincent’s agony. Had Vincent’s friendship and King’s (and Harding’s) words led to King’s death? Had the government killed King or more likely created the atmosphere of ostracism, even more intense than Birmingham where “lawyer Vann” was the single white person who would speak to Martin King? Only those of deep insight – very few – and certainly not Democrats would speak now with Martin King. In the Cold War, the empire could go just so far in tolerating a movement from below against segregation; what was noble in American democracy must be put to death until a new anti-war movement and the election of Obama 40 years in the future.
Do you blame yourself, Vincent asked, for inviting Martin to Memphis? Lawson responded: he really wanted to come. In other words, he followed his calling. “I spoke with him at an SCLC meeting, and everyone said 'no you can’t come to Memphis. We have too much to do. We have the poor people’s march in Washington. You can’t do it.”
And Martin asked, calmly and perhaps amusedly: “how soon can I come?”
James Lawson lifted a burden from Vincent. Vincent says: “it was privilege to follow King.” At the time, I was sympathetic to the riots in American cities (still am up to a point). I thought nonviolence was not the way. But I have listened to King and Gandhi and Vincent Harding and Sudarshan Kapur and many others. We have the twin threats of global warming and American wars (there are others, too). If we don’t turn this massive ship of the war complex around, redesign it for living in this place, this planet will no longer be habitable for 6 billion humans, and perhaps over time for any. “Nonviolence” Martin says in this speech, "or nonexistence."
Tavis Smiley says that in his judgment, King is the greatest leader our country has produced. Martin's words ring out against American wars, against the “unipower” waging 5 aggressions and counting, even under the anti-“dumb” Iraq War candidate Obama. King was right.
*My friend at Walden School (86th street and Central Park West in Manhattan) between first to fourth grade. Andy and I were in a class of 12 (oddly, there were three Alans; all of us spelled our names differently), and played at each other’s apartments. My family then moved to Connecticut. Andy Goodman went to Philadelphia, Mississippi – his first day in Mississippi – drove with James Cheney, a naïve Mississippian, and Mickey Schwerner to a burned out church, was “arrested,” taken to jail, and then at midnight lynched by a mob led by the sheriff. SNCC and others had organized hearings in Washington on the violence earlier in the summer (everyone knew the danger). LBJ and Robert Kennedy had been given summaries of the racist violence. As Jack Kennedy before, LBJ did nothing.
** my father’s student and friend, aid to my father in the Office of Wage and Price Administration in World War II, and subsequently for many years, an amusing writer and great public figure, John Kenneth Galbraith, was in India as ambassador for Kennedy when my father was chief economic advisor to the Pakistan Planning Commission (leader of a Harvard-World Bank-Ford funded international advisory committee), They visited. Galbraith had gone to Vietnam for Kennedy and warned him against listening to Rusk, Bundy and McNamara about escalating in Vietnam. The “Fog of War” has tapes of Johnson saying he disagreed with McNamara and Kennedy who kept the war presence at 25,0000 “advisors.” Somewhere in this process, McNamara changed his mind. He of course lied routinely about the war – or deceived himself – and wasted many lives (the film is really about McNamara, a too smart guy deceiving himself as a public servant, mass murdering Japanese civilians in the fire-bombings of wooden Japanese cities during World War II. McNamara actually says, looking pale, [General] Curtis Lemay used to tell me, if we the lost war, we would be tried as war criminals. Lemay was genuinely crazy (and urged taking out Cuba, during the Cuban missile crisis which would have probably led to human extinction). He would have ridden the missile down (as he flew bombing missions over Japan to force other pilots to risk their lives) at the end of Dr. Strangelove. He had ideal military, unfortunately fascist bravery (the difficulty in courage as the least independent or self-standing virtue). McNamara was neither crazy nor brave (smart enough to get a glimmer that what he had done was profoundly corrupt).