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Press Release

July 7, 2009

No. 09-18

Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146

The Sullied Legacy of Robert McNamara  

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – “Few veterans we know shed tears with the announcement of the passing of Robert Strange McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America. 

“What enraged some of us and anguished most of us with the publication in 1995 of his memoir In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam was Mr. McNamara’s belated apology for not having spoken out decades earlier about the futility of the Vietnam War while the fighting and the dying were still going on.  It is an exercise in futility,” Rowan said, “to hazard a conjecture today how the course of the war might have altered had Mr. McNamara revealed his doubts while he was still in a position to influence its outcome.

“What is true is that Mr. McNamara kept silent and was rewarded with a big job as head of the World Bank, which would surely have not been his had he spoken out then. Yet why speak out thirty years later and hurt so many veterans and families who lost their loved one because of Vietnam? Was this just a move to make himself feel or look better, at the expense of others, in the eyes of history?

“For many veterans and their families,” Rowan said, “the war is still going on.  The spraying of  millions of gallons of herbicides throughout Vietnam has had the unintended consequence of killing more veterans after the war than who perished during the war.  Perhaps even more tragically, the effects of dioxin in these herbicides and defoliants on Vietnam veterans are responsible for birth defects, cancers, and learning disabilities not only in their children but in their grandchildren as well.

“As we develop the website of our Veterans Health Council, www.veteranshealth.org, we expect to add information about these defects, cancers, and disabilities, and the studies that support their connection to the exposure of the parent who served in Southeast Asia,” Rowan said.

“McNamara’s legacy to Vietnam veterans is one of shame.  He was the consummate bean-counter, who never considered the effects of his policies on the men and women who served honorably and well in Southeast Asia.  Unfortunately, he was, to borrow from our friend Joe Galloway, “a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.”

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


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