Tramp the Dirt Down

July 7, 2009

As the Palindrone combines with the Michael Jackson funeral coverage to make the Marabar media cave even more howlingly empty than usual,  leave it to war correspondent Joe Galloway to write the proper obituary for war criminal Robert McNamara:

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

Back in 1990 I had a series of strange phone conversations with McNamara while doing research for my book We Were Soldiers Once And Young. McNamara prefaced every conversation with this: “I do not want to comment on the record for fear that I might distort history in the process.” Then he would proceed to talk for an hour, doing precisely that with answers that were disingenuous in the extreme — when they were not bald-faced lies.

Upon hanging up I would call Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam and run McNamara’s comments past them for deconstruction and the addition of the truth.

The only disagreement i ever had with Dave Halberstam was over the question of which of us hated him the most. In retrospect, it was Halberstam.

When McNamara published his first book — filled with those distortions of history — Halberstam, at his own expense, set out on a journey following McNamara on his book tour around America as a one-man truth squad.

McNamara abandoned the tour.

Galloway also has an astonishing anecdote about something that happened to McNamara during a ferry ride, but I’ll leave you to read it. I also appreciated this tidbit from Matthew Yglesias.

The only eulogy this bloodstained bureaucratic monster deserves was written a while back by Elvis Costello. It’s called “Tramp the Dirt Down” and while the thoughts were aimed at another politico, a little adjustment would make the lyrics just as applicable to McNamara.

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