copyright 2004, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
No. 47

Death and contradiction:
Errol Morris’ tragic
view of technokillers

by Laurie Calhoun

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999) and The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003), both directed by Errol Morris, treat the life stories and career trajectories of two men who, though not themselves killers, came to be involved in institutions of killing, conventions and practices devised by human beings expressly in order to effect the deaths of other human beings. Although the stories of Fred Leuchter, an autodidact execution machine expert, and Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1960-1967, are in some ways unique, Director Errol Morris’ portrayal of these men reflects a general philosophical view of the human condition and the predicaments to which human fallibility often leads.

What became Leuchter’s and McNamara’s involvement in state killing was initially a matter of historical chance. Leuchter’s father took his son to work, as many fathers do, but “work” in his case was a prison, where Leuchter interacted with inmates and visited death row. McNamara served for three years in the U.S. Army, analyzing the efficiency of bombing raids during World War II, and he later came into public view as a result of his success at the Ford Motor Company. Five weeks after having been named the president of that company, McNamara was approached by representatives of the incoming Kennedy administration and offered a cabinet position.

Critics of capital punishment and the use of military force as a means of conflict resolution would no doubt claim that, beyond their instrumental role in the deaths of individual human beings, these men both helped to perpetuate state killing, by designing, developing and/or implementing the means to do so. In Leuchter’s case, his willingness to develop what he characterized as “humane” ways by which to kill convicted capital criminals may have had as its most immediate consequence to quell dissent against the practice, which has been outlawed in every Western nation except the United States. Similarly, McNamara’s part in what devolved into the Vietnam debacle contributed at the same time to the amoeba-like expansion of the military-industrial complex, which continues to grow and engulf people and companies long after the end of the Cold War. McNamara and Leuchter naturally view their life’s work in an entirely different light.

McNamara: “I just felt that I was serving at the request of the President, who had been elected by the American people. And it was my responsibility to try to help him to carry out the office as he believed was in the interest of our people.”

Leuchter: “I became involved in the manufacture of execution equipment because I was concerned with the deplorable condition of the hardware that’s in most of the state’s prisons, which generally results in torture prior to death.”

Somewhat ironically, Leuchter’s claim to fame was not his invention of ever better ways to extinguish human beings, but his involvement with the disreputable Holocaust revisionist movement, without which it is probably safe to say that he would never have been made the subject of any film. However, what eventually became Leuchter’s role in denying the reality of the Holocaust, through his publication of The Leuchter Report: The End of a Myth (1988), was a direct consequence of the peculiar line of work in which he had found himself, the business of execution.

Holocaust revisionist Ernst Zündel was on trial in Canada on charges that he had published statements which he knew to be false and which could cause racial intolerance. In his quest to defend himself, Zündel sought out an expert who might be able to prove that prisoners were never gassed to death at Auschwitz. Because gas chambers continue to be used only in one first-world nation, Zündel’s idea at the time was as follows:

"We can solve the mystery of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and all these other places if we find an American expert, because America is the only country that dispatches people with gas. You can’t open up the telephone book and say ‘gas’, and then ‘chamber', and then ‘experts’, and out come ten Fred Leuchters. No. There’s nobody. Fred Leuchter was our only hope.”

Robert McNamara’s appointment as Secretary of Defense was in some ways fortuitous. First he was offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury, for which he claimed to be ill-qualified. Having declined that position, McNamara was then asked to be the Secretary of Defense, for which he also claimed to be ill-qualified. In the end, however, basking in the flattering glory of the moment, McNamara accepted the job, having being reassured by John F. Kennedy,

“Look Bob, I don’t think there’s any school for Presidents either.”

McNamara’s childlike glee in accepting the appointment is evident not only in the archived footage, but even in McNamara’s recalling, at age 85, Kennedy’s announcement to the press:

"That’s how Marg [McNamara’s wife] learned I had accepted. It was on television, live!”

But it was snowing the night when McNamara met with Kennedy, a detail which Morris highlights through including footage of large, heavy snow flakes dropping irrevocably to the ground—what in retrospect reads as a dismal premonition of McNamara’s imminent Fall.

Waging war for peace

The nature of the human intellect and the complexity of the world conspire to ensure that self-inflicted catastrophe is always just around the bend, for, as McNamara himself observes, “We all make mistakes.” In the case of state killing, this entails that some people’s lives are sacrificed for the false beliefs of others, an idea also articulated by McNamara in discussing his interpretation of the metaphor “the fog of war":

"What ‘the fog of war’ means is: war is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.”

Although in his later life McNamara has warned of the dangers of nuclear arms, he continues to speak for the most part from within the broader and widely accepted perspective according to which the use of military means of dispute resolution is itself obviously reasonable:

"Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he’s speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He’s killed people unnecessarily—his own troops or other troops—through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But he hasn’t destroyed nations.

And the conventional wisdom is: don’t make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the same mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five.”

The “mistakes” about which McNamara warns do not relate to the very idea of wielding military force in circumstances of international conflict. As Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, like all members of the establishment before and after him, simply accepted that the proper course of action in resolving international disputes was to deploy deadly weapons, though this invariably meant that some people would be killed in error. In defending the comportment of Curtis LeMay, under whose command 67 Japanese cities were extensively firebombed, and then, on August 6 and August 9, 1945, atomic bombs dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, McNamara explains that LeMay was ultimately concerned to save the country:

"I remember reading that General Sherman in the Civil War said that the mayor of Atlanta pleaded with him to save the city. And Sherman essentially said to the mayor just before he torched it and burned it down: ‘War is cruel. War is cruelty.’ That was the way LeMay felt. He was trying to save the country. He was trying to save our nation. And in the process, he was prepared to do whatever killing was necessary.”

In order to save nations, commanders such as LeMay and managers such as McNamara are willing to annihilate the inhabitants of nations, as though the importance of a nation might somehow transcend the sum total of all of the people who live there. The idea that the state is qualified to decide in the manner of a surrogate God who may live and who should die is quite peculiar, given the nature of institutions in general. A nation is, in the end, no more and no less than a group of people who happen to be ethnically and/or geographically related to one another and who have therefore devised a set of practical rules and conventions by which to facilitate their cohabitation.

The supreme importance of the state is built into the notion of patriotism, which with the Cold War became even more widely embraced as U.S. leaders and policymakers came to regard themselves as defending the intrinsic values of goodness, freedom and democracy against the Soviet Union, thought to epitomize evil, oppression and tyranny. It was during that time, with the massive development of enormously powerful nuclear warheads, that the strategy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) arose out of the state-centered security model. This program of nuclear deterrence by nuclear proliferation led to an exponential increase in military spending for weapons so destructive that they threatened the very continuation of the species, all in the name of “defense.” But when the state reaches the point where it serves not to protect but to threaten the very people by whom it was erected, then it has undermined its very raison d'être.

Nonetheless, the waging of war in the name of peace is an oft-recited litany in a long history of bloody battles between groups of people all of whom invariably claim to be combating evil in order to permit peace to prevail. That the state may destroy its own people is a contradiction widely embraced, for many do support sending soldiers abroad in order to fight wars on behalf of the nation of which they themselves are a part. In capitalist societies with voluntary armies such as the United States, this sacrifice of one portion of the population for the rest is essentially classist, for the bulk of troops come from the lower economic strata and have chosen to enlist primarily as a means of securing a living wage.[1] There is perhaps no more perverse irony than the sacrifice of these particular soldiers, for they enlisted not in order to commit suicide, but in order to enhance the prospects of their own life.

Millions more civilians than soldiers died in Vietnam as a result of the military machine set in motion during McNamara’s tenure as Secretary of Defense, including not only the forced enlistment of hundreds of thousands of young men, but also Operation Rolling Thunder, which, McNamara explains,

"Over the years became a very, very heavy bombing program. Two to three times as many bombs as were dropped on Western Europe during all of World War II.”

At the time, McNamara justified to the public the policies he implemented by saying that such military action was needed in order to win the allegiance of the South Vietnamese:

“This is not primarily a military problem. It is a battle for the hearts and the minds of the people of South Vietnam. That’s our objective. As a prerequisite to that, we must be able to guarantee their physical security.”

Director Morris conveys what to military strategists is the shadowy existence of foreign civilians by including time lapse footage that blurs their identity, imparting to them the appearance not of complete people, with friends and families, plans and projects, histories and prospects, but of fleeting images that disappear without the strategists’ ever having to acknowledge their own role in the victims’ demise. From the perspective of military managers such as McNamara, the far away victims of bombing campaigns are never fully real.

In order to illuminate the mechanics of non-natural death from the perspective of those who orchestrate war, Morris also includes many shots of bombs and missiles from aesthetic and functional perspectives, abstracted from the bloody context and consequences of their use. In the single twenty-second segment depicting civilian death and suffering, Morris provides a rapid-fire suite of ever-accelerating images thus illustrating how the number of victims in Vietnam increased exponentially as a function of military force applied over time. This use of a series of images of victims, each successive shot of which lasts a shorter period of time than the previous, also reflects the ephemeral reality of these people from the perspective of those who assuage their own conscience by quickly and quietly filing them away in their minds as the “collateral damage” of a “just war.”

Killing killers for having killed

The institution of state execution, which kills killers for having killed on the grounds that killing human beings is morally wrong, embodies similar contradictions to those involved in the waging of war for peace. Proponents of capital punishment draw a moral distinction between the victims of capital criminals and the people executed upon conviction of murder by the state, but even if one distinguishes the former from the latter, certain nagging problems persist.

Whether or not “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is a sound principle of retributive justice, the insurmountable problem with state execution is that it is carried out by fallible human beings, from start to finish. The ACLU has estimated that one out of every twenty-seven people on death row is actually innocent of the crime for which he has been sentenced to death. While such statistics can only be speculative, it is indisputable that some executed convicts have been posthumously exonerated, and the possibilities for error in criminal trials are obviously rife: from the collection of evidence by fallible detectives, to the analysis of evidence by fallible technicians, to the sometimes inadequate defense provided to destitute suspects (particularly by the overworked and underpaid district attorneys who tend to defend them), to the unavoidably biased interpretation of the facts presented in court to fallible jurors and, finally, by the fallible judge who presides over the case.

Furthermore, because the jury selection process excludes from the outset those citizens opposed, on principle, to the death penalty, trial jurors in capital cases have a greater tendency to impose the death penalty than would an average citizen selected randomly from the general population. To make matters worse, because a disproportionately high percentage of convicted murderers on death row are black, there are grounds for believing that, as things stand, the imposition of capital punishment is itself racially slanted. Alternatively, the practice may simply be classist, for a disproportionately high percentage of black men are also poor.

These sorts of subtleties elude Fred Leuchter, and probably anyone else involved in the practice of state execution, for they simply assume that the people whose deaths they are helping to effect deserve to die. Leuchter regards the justice of capital punishment as a given, and the manner in which to carry it out as a straightforward problem of engineering. The essential contradiction inherent in the idea of human beings devising the means by which to annihilate human beings is nowhere better illuminated than in Leuchter’s own comparison of execution to life support systems:

"There is no difference in a life support system and an execution system. The system has to function flawlessly for the time period that it is operating. With a life support system, if it doesn’t function, the person dies. With an execution system, if it doesn’t function flawlessly, the person lives.”

Throughout both Mr. Death and The Fog of War, Morris highlights the tactile thingness of the machines of death, a reminder that only sentient beings can appreciate the sensory qualities of this equipment, expressly designed in order to destroy the very capacity of people to perceive.

The role of functionaries
in death industries

In some ways, McNamara and Leuchter bear striking resemblances to Adolf Eichmann, at least as portrayed by Hannah Arendt:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal."[2]

During the height of his professional career, each of these men’s attitudes toward the taking of human life was the same, and each took himself to be acting in a principled way. Just as McNamara and Leuchter conceptualized in moral terms their professional involvement in destroying human beings, Adolf Eichmann claimed to be a rule-governed, law-abiding citizen, a person so principled and disciplined that he even acted in accordance with Kant’s categorical imperative. Eichmann, like so many others throughout history involved in mass murder, was a functionary, and his leader, like most throughout history, did not ask anyone to murder other people. Rather, Hitler justified his war by appeal to the usual moral rhetoric, most notably in terms of self-defense:

"Today it is not princes and princes’ mistresses who haggle and bargain over state borders; it is the inexorable Jew who struggles for his domination over the nations. No nation can remove this hand from its throat except by the sword. Only the assembled and concentrated might of a national passion rearing up in its strength can defy the international enslavement of peoples. Such a process is and remains a bloody one.”[3]

The Germans involved with the death industries of the Third Reich did not ask whether they should be killing for the state. Rather, they focused their energies on how to go about doing it.[4]

McNamara and Leuchter, too, acted as exemplary functionaries, directing their energies and intellect to the development of methods by which to destroy human beings in the name of “justice.” This is not, however, to suggest that Leuchter and McNamara were somehow exceptional in this respect. People often claim that they would have fled or helped the resistance, or acted in some other way so as to thwart the evil Nazis, but the tragic truth is that most people would have done precisely what most of the Germans did, viz., accept as true the proclamations of their government, a government which was in fact put in place by the people themselves. One of the most disturbing aspects of the Holocaust is the fact that the people who accepted “the received view” at the time were complicit in their government’s slaughter of millions of innocent people.

In Mr. Death, historian Van Pelt reminds us that the Nazis were themselves the first to deny the reality of the Holocaust, for they used a coded language, according to which chemical extermination was “special treatment". The use of this coded language is no doubt one of the reasons why the Third Reich succeeded to the extent to which and for so long as it did. Similarly, when, today, people support their leaders’ decisions to go to war, they do so under the interpretation which has been offered to them by the executors of the war themselves, in an idiom that codes civilian slaughter as “collateral damage". McNamara himself recasts the notion of military “efficiency” as follows:

“I analyzed bombing operations, and how to make them more efficient—not more efficient in the sense of killing more, but more efficient in weakening the adversary.”

While Leuchter and McNamara simply accepted that state killing is a perfectly respectable enterprise, they are far from unique in this regard. Throughout history, human beings have found ways to interpret their own acts of killing as at least permissible (in self-defense), if not obligatory (to combat evil). Indeed, some of the most savage battles and practices throughout human history have been and continue to be carried out by self-proclaimed Christians, who interpret “Thou shalt not kill” to mean “Thou shalt not murder,” and maintain that their own acts of killing, even of indisputably innocent people, are never unjust.[5]

The Tragic Flaws of
Fred A. Leuchter and
Robert S. McNamara

In spite of their blindspots with regard to capital punishment and war, Leuchter and McNamara did recognize, on some level, the irrelevance of their past experience to the tasks with which they were charged by people who wanted to believe in their expertise. Leuchter explains how his detailed knowledge of the electric chair led him to be hired by another state to design a lethal injection machine, and from there eventually to producing a gas chamber:

“Essentially the states talk with each other. We immediately got Illinois and we got Delaware. They had a hanging problem that they totally were not able to deal with. They had a gallows that had been stored for 25 or 30 years. They took it out and they screwed it together and it fell over. The only thing that was left that was functional were the hinges for the trap door. The reasoning here is that I built helmets for electric chairs, so now I could build lethal injection machines. I now build lethal injection machines, so I’m now competent to build a gallows. And since I’m building gallows, I’m also competent to work on gas chambers because I've done all of the other three.”

But at this point the degree to which Leuchter has come to believe in his own expertise emerges:

“And what really makes you competent is the fact that you have the necessary background, you do the investigation, you find out what the problem is and you solve it. It’s not anything different than any competent engineer could do. The difference is that it’s not a major market. A lot of people are not interested and are morally opposed to working on execution equipment. They think it’s going to change them.”

Those who refuse to work in the death industries on the grounds that doing so will change them are right, for everything we do changes us. Precisely and only because he became an expert on execution, Fred Leuchter was enlisted to aid the Holocaust revisionist movement. Leuchter himself never killed anyone using the machines of his own device, and he came to be reviled not for his profession, but for his public denial that millions of people had been annihilated by the Third Reich.

McNamara relays the most telling part of his 1995 exchange with the former Foreign Minister of Vietnam, Xuan Thuy, who decades after the end of the Vietnam war sternly admonished the former Secretary for his ignorance as follows:

“Mr. McNamara, you must never have read a history book. If you’d had [sic], you’d know we weren’t pawns of the Chinese or the Russians. McNamara, didn’t you know that? Don’t you understand that we have been fighting the Chinese for 1000 years? We were fighting for our independence. And we would fight to the last man. And we were determined to do so. And no amount of bombing, no amount of U.S. pressure would ever have stopped us.”

Similarly, it was Leuchter’s utter ignorance of the science of chemistry which prevented him from recognizing the ridiculousness of his supposed proof of the non-existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, as the chemist who performed the “definitive” analyses explains:

“He presented us with rock samples anywhere from the size of your thumb up to half the size of your fist. We broke them up with a hammer so that we could get a sub-sample... You have to look at what happens to cyanide when it reacts with a wall. Where does it go? How far does it go? Cyanide is a surface reactant. It’s probably not going to penetrate more than 10 microns. Human hair is 100 microns in diameter. Crush this sample up, I have just diluted that sample 10,000; 100,000 times. If you're going to go look for it, you're going to look on the surface only. There’s no reason to go deep, because it’s not going to be there. Which was the exposed surface? I didn’t even have any idea. That’s like analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber that’s behind it.”

While proud of their accomplishments, Leuchter and McNamara became inextricably entangled in a web of catastrophe owing to their in some ways humble belief that it was their place to do their job, without challenging the premises upon which the practice in question was based. And, although both men clearly derived pleasure from the power they possessed in virtue of the alleged expertise conferred upon them by others, in their better moments they recognize the role that chance played in the narratives that their lives became. This element of chance serves as a source of solace to both men, and Director Morris renders Leuchter and McNamara virtually impossible to hate, in spite of their glaring flaws, through his portrayal of their intermittent humility. As horrible as state execution, the Vietnam War, and Holocaust revisionism may be, Morris’ depictions of men intimately involved with these enterprises are finally sympathetic. Rather than denouncing these men as their critics do, the director offers us the opportunity to think about what it would be like to be in these unfortunate people’s shoes. Morris portraits are of tragic heroes, whose frailties are human-all-too-human, not heinous. These pictures thus illuminate the perils and pitfalls of human fallibility in a much more general way.

Both Leuchter and McNamara came to believe that because they had been hired to do a job, this, in and of itself, showed that they were qualified to do it. But why should a man who knows how to kill people using technology know anything whatsoever about historical research? Why should a man who has helped design cars and seatbelts while working on the problem of human “breakage” at the Ford Motor Company be competent to deal with international conflict? Through the misapplication of tools to problems for which they are not suited, human beings often find themselves in a “rabbit hole,” as Morris characterized Vietnam during his acceptance speech for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, awarded to The Fog of War on February 29, 2004:

"Forty years ago this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam and millions died. I fear we're going down a rabbit hole once again...”

Illustrating a metaphor used by President Johnson, Morris’ domino images suggest that one event leads to another. But the domino theory of communist takeover of small states, feared intensely by U.S. policymakers during the time of McNamara’s tenure as Secretary of Defense, was erroneously applied to Vietnam. Having already suffered under French colonial rule, the Vietnamese vehemently resisted the United States, which they quite understandably took to be yet another colonial power. Although the domino theory holds considerable appeal, in fact, as the case of Vietnam amply illustrates, it is impossible to predict the ultimate outcome of even one’s most deliberative actions, for it is impossible to predict their effects upon other people, all of whom are operating in accordance with their own beliefs.

So, for example, James Roth, the chemist who provided the analyses used to support Holocaust denial as presented in The Leuchter Report (which has been widely translated and distributed all over the world), produced a context-free analysis of the chemical constituents of the samples which he had been presented by Leuchter. That analysis was then appropriated by revisionists to defend a thesis fallaciously.

When Leuchter speaks in his capacity as a death expert, explaining why an electrocution must use 2000 volts or why a lethal injection machine must administer sequential doses in order to achieve the subject’s death, his words sound shallow and sophistic. While capable of parroting intelligent turns of phrase, Leuchter has somehow completely failed to grasp what the intentional annihilation of human beings really means:

“We must always remember, and we must never forget, the fact that the person being executed is a human being.

Similarly, McNamara cites many facts about his past regarding superficial measures of success such as his election to Phi Beta Kappa, his appointment as an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, or even that in grade school he was smarter than his classmates, all in a diaphanous effort to convince his audience of his superior intellect. But in describing the Cuban missile crisis, McNamara explains the choice which he and Kennedy faced as follows:

“On that critical Saturday, October 27 th [1962], we had two Khrushchev messages in front of us. One had come in Friday night, and it had been dictated by a man who was either drunk or under tremendous stress. Basically, he said, ‘If you'll guarantee you won’t invade Cuba, we'll take the missiles out.’ Then, before we could respond, we had a second message that had been dictated by a bunch of hardliners. And it said, in effect, ‘If you attack, we're prepared to confront you with masses of military power.’ So, what to do? We had, I'll call it, the soft message and the hard message.”

By including McNamara’s own description of the dilemma, Morris displays how the former Secretary’s reaction reflected his own presuppositions and the militaristic framework underlying his understanding of what are appropriate responses to conflict. In recalling this period, “the dates when we literally looked down the gun barrel into nuclear war,” McNamara does not even mention the April 16, 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion as a relevant factor in the Soviets’ stance. Instead, it takes Morris to remind McNamara of that offensive action, leading the Secretary to provide a much more elaborate explanation of what happened, and finally illuminating the rational grounds for what otherwise might have seemed to be a gratuitous provocation on the part of the Soviets:

Morris: “Also, we had attempted to invade Cuba.”

McNamara: “Well, with the Bay of Pigs. That undoubtedly influenced their thinking, I think that’s correct. But, more importantly, from a Cuban and a Russian point of view, they knew what in a sense I really didn’t know: we had attempted to assassinate Castro under Eisenhower and under Kennedy...and later under Johnson.”

Someone within the administration presumably knew about the U.S. attempts to assassinate Castro, but, without this information, McNamara’s context-free analysis of the Cuban Missile crisis seems just as foolish as Leuchter’s “proof” that cyanide was never used at Auschwitz.

The logic of error

Given the pyrotechnic opening of Mr. Death, and its inclusion of a segment featuring the electrocution of an elephant (an experiment performed by Thomas Edison), Errol Morris’ fascination with technokiller Fred Leuchter might strike one as morbid or even perverse. Similarly, in The Fog of War, Morris includes a significant segment of skulls crashing on impact after having been dropped down a stairwell, which was, in fact, precisely the manner in which McNamara studied the problem of “human breakage” during his tenure at Ford. These morbid scenes notwithstanding, the director’s philosophical interests reach much deeper than death. Morris’ portraits of McNamara and Leuchter, men who would never describe themselves as “killers,” though many others have, serve to magnify the intractable problem of human fallibility.

When Morris asks McNamara how he was affected by the ever more strident protests against the Vietnam War, the former Secretary replies,

“I don’t think my thinking was changing. We were in the Cold War. And this was a Cold War activity.”

In this single phrase lies the key to the mystery of why people never seem to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes. It is the very nature of mistakes not to be recognized by the people who make them at the time when they make them.

Some people may learn from their own mistakes, as McNamara takes himself to have done, for since his retirement he has invested considerable energy and time in trying to increase awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons. But people do not generally learn from other people’s mistakes. This is not because they do not want to, but, rather, because no two situations are ever exactly the same. In order to recognize the applicability of “the lessons of history” to the present, one would have to accept that the current situation were relevantly similar to that of the past. However, when regarded in detail, the rich texture of history is invariably unique. Nothing like the Vietnam War could ever have occurred at any time in history other than when it did, which is precisely why McNamara quite rightly insists that his thinking at the time was largely determined by the dynamics of the Cold War:

“It’s almost impossible for our people today to put themselves back into that period. In my seven years as Secretary, we came within a hair’s breadth of war with the Soviet Union on three different occasions. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for seven years as Secretary of Defense, I lived the Cold War.”

In a similar way, when people defend the actions of U.S. President George W. Bush, who on March 19, 2003 flouted international law and waged offensive war on the grounds that with the events of 9/11 the world forever changed, they effectively deny the relevance of any of the teachings of history for the present day.

McNamara and Leuchter applied the very same powers of deduction and calculation that had led to their professional success to other contexts, which led to their infamy. But they were unable to recognize their errors regarding Vietnam, on the one hand, and the Holocaust on the other, for these problems exceeded their ken. They themselves were incapable of appreciating this fact, for they were operating from within a cognitive context that permitted them to make their mistakes, as McNamara explains:

“We were wrong, but we had in our minds a mindset that led to that action. And it carried such heavy costs. We see incorrectly or we see only half of the story at times.”

As outsiders or in retrospect (in McNamara’s case) we recognize that these men applied the wrong tools to the problem at hand, rather like someone who tries to remove a screw using a hammer. Is it “vicious” or “evil” to attempt to remove a screw using a hammer? No, it is stupid.

When Fred Leuchter’s lack of certification as an engineer in the state of Massachusetts was claimed to discredit his alleged expertise, Zündel offered this hilarious albeit earnest defense:

“Did Christ have a diploma in Christianity? Did Marx have a diploma in Marxism? Did Adolf Hitler have a diploma in National Socialism? No, they did not. But they knew a hell of a lot about their field.”

The segments of Zündel are consistently and deeply comic, in stark juxtaposition to those featuring Zündel’s and Leuchter’s morally stern critics, dark and somber judges who condemn the two misguided men for being misguided. Morris’ philosophical point here is profound. Zündel and Leuchter hold beliefs that are deeply flawed—it’s not that they are evil, but that they are clowns. And, ultimately, they arrived at their eccentric beliefs about the Holocaust in the very manner in which they arrived at their other, socially acceptable, beliefs, through applying their own intellect to the data with which they had been confronted.

When people rail against Holocaust revisionists, one thing that they fail to bear in mind is that, as despicable as Holocaust denial may seem, in fact revisionists are in a tiny minority who raise skeptical questions about “the received view.” It may well be that their skepticism is motivated by subterranean racism and other psychological and emotional forces, but the fact remains: they are going against the grain to raise the questions that they do. In other words, though they are evidently wrong in the conclusions that they have drawn through their idiosyncratic “reexamination” of the facts, they are independent thinkers in a way in which the vast majority of people who supported the Nazis then or unreflectively accept what they have been told by their own government today, are not. Fred Leuchter expresses his consternation at being treated as a criminal for holding a set of beliefs as follows:

“I bear no ill will to any Jews any place, whether they're in the United States or abroad. I bear a great deal of ill will to those people that have come after me, those people who have persecuted and prosecuted me, but that’s got nothing to do with them being Jewish. That only has to do with the fact that they've been interfering with my right to live, think, breathe, and earn a living. As far as being a Revisionist, at this point, I’m not an official Revisionist, but I guess I’m a reluctant Revisionist. If my belief that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek makes me a Revisionist, then so be it. They've expressed their unquestioned intent of destroying me simply because I testified in Canada, not because I have any other affiliation with any anti-Semitic organization, not because I’m affiliated with any Nazi or Neo-Nazi organization.”

Errol Morris recognizes that ignorance is omnipotent vis-à-vis the person who suffers from it in the moment: an ignorant person does not know what he does not know. Problems arise when people assume that they do know what they do not know, but where does the moral culpability for a person’s ignorance lie? A mistake is, by definition, not something intended by the person who makes it. Ignorance is a type of mistake for which, therefore, the individual cannot reasonably be said to be morally reproachable. When people willfully don blinders, refusing even to entertain information possibly relevant to the question at hand, then some would claim that they are culpably ignorant. But this merely postpones the same concern, leading ultimately to a variation on the initial question: what sort of person would choose to be ignorant? Is a person who freely chooses to be ignorant sufficiently rational to be held responsible for his choice?

In the cases of McNamara, Leuchter and Zündel, these men made mistakes precisely because of their own spiraling ignorance and delusion, which they themselves could not surmount, for they believed what they believed. Whether or not their false beliefs were a matter of wishful thinking, they were nonetheless beliefs.

By placing Zündel under the bright light of shining irony, Morris suggests that this man is yet another victim of himself, a tragic victim of his own limited powers of cognition and pretensions to The Truth. The irony of Holocaust revisionism is that the Holocaust was so horrific, that it verges on the surreal and is very nearly incredible. Were incontrovertible historical evidence not preserved at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. (and elsewhere), one could only wonder how such an atrocity could ever have taken place. As the remaining survivors pass away, humanity will become more and more dependent upon historical evidence, but it is probably the case that most people today believe in the reality of the Holocaust on the basis of hearsay.

Errol Morris protested the Vietnam War and is obviously not a Holocaust revisionist, but he presents these characters sympathetically, because he recognizes that their vice is an admixture of ignorance and self-delusion to which everyone is prone. Thus his portrayal of the contradictions involved in the historian Robert Jan Van Pelt reveal him not to recognize how he himself embodies some of the very Leuchterian characteristics which he decries:

“Leuchter is a victim of the myth of Sherlock Holmes. A crime has been committed. You go to the site of the crime and with a magnifying glass you find a hair, or you find a speck of dust on the shoe. Leuchter thinks that is the way reality can be reconstructed. But he is no Sherlock Holmes.”

In relaying, without apparent irony, his own investigative process in retracing Leuchter’s steps, van Pelt explains,

“I have a job to do and my job, my first job, is to try to understand where this guy [Leuchter] was at what time. To take that tape and to record every camera angle, where it was, what piece of wall they were looking at, where he took the samples. It was important to be able to follow that trail very, very precisely. I wanted to see how he had done it.”

Echoing Leuchter’s own discovery of his “mission” to serve the truth, Van Pelt later reports about himself,

“The first time I came into the archive I was stunned. I had found a mission, I had found a task, I’d found a vocation. When you go to Birkenau there is very little left and to suddenly have in that room that concentration of evidence. There is a tactile reality, an incredible texture, the texture of making that camp...”

Revisionist history

Perhaps it should be unsurprising that Errol Morris presents Holocaust revisionists as suffering from cognitive, not moral defects, for Morris is himself a revisionist of sorts. With The Fog of War, the director calls into question the widely embraced view that Robert McNamara was a hawk who somehow talked Lyndon Johnson into getting much more deeply involved in Vietnam than he would have been inclined to do, left to his own devices. Some historians have disputed Morris’ revisionist picture, but, in his defense, he has pointed out that the most important tapes upon which his interpretation rests were only recently released. Defenders of Johnson retort that a judicious selection of tapes could be used to support any interpretation, no matter how at odds it may be with the rest of historical documentation, including all of the books already written about that period.[6]

The text of a film running less than two hours is of necessity omissive and therefore ultimately reflective of the director’s own values and beliefs. But even within Morris’ film one finds the following curious exchange:

Johnson: “My answer is ‘yes’, but my judgment is ‘no’."
McNamara: “All right, we'll take care of it, Mr. President."
Johnson: “When are you going to issue the order?
McNamara: “We'll make it late today so it'll miss some of the morning editions. I'll handle it in a way that will minimize the announcement.”

Obviously, taken out of context, we cannot know why Johnson said “My answer is ‘yes,’ but my judgment is ‘no’,” but, given the date, this certainly appears to be his response to the question whether ground troops should be deployed. This interpretation would imply that when Johnson said “but my judgment is ‘no’,” he himself had scruples about the idea, but acquiesced to whoever had made the proposal, and, given his response, it may well have been McNamara himself.

Indeed, given McNamara’s apparent readiness to invade Cuba in the face of the missile crisis (“The first day’s attack was planned at 1080 sorties, a huge air attack”), and the fact that Kennedy was finally dissuaded from doing so not by his Secretary of Defense, but by Tommy Thompson, the former Ambassador to Moscow, who knew Kruschev personally and thus was able to “empathize with the enemy,” there does not seem to be an abundance of support in The Fog of War for a revisionist reading. It is obviously crucial to McNamara that his audience believe that he was hired by Kennedy and fired by Johnson, but whether the latter was because McNamara had provoked or restrained Johnson in Vietnam remains an open question.

In any case, one suspects that had Morris produced such a biographical documentary of Lyndon Johnson (were he alive today), it would have been every bit as sympathetic to Johnson’s own plight. The pictures and words of Johnson presented in The Fog of War are those of a man basically as confused as Fred Leuchter, Ernst Zündel and Robert McNamara. When Johnson histrionically justifies his massively destructive military policies by claiming that he is combating tyranny and aggression, one can only regret his failure to recognize the contradiction in which he has become embroiled:

“Well, we're off to bombing these people. We're over that hurdle.”

The segment showing Johnson assuming the Presidency can hardly inspire anything but pity for the man, who deeply regretted Kennedy’s untimely death and certainly never asked to inherit the problem of Vietnam:

“I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help. And for God’s.”

With The Fog of War, Morris has offered one perspective on Robert S. McNamara and his role in Vietnam. But Morris is not (nor is it plausible that he would claim to be) immune from his own critique of the notion of human expertise. What, in the end, makes a man a historian, beyond his desire to know more about history? What qualifies a documentary filmmaker to produce a film that finally tells “the truth” about his subject matter?

Extra-epistemological considerations

Leuchter’s mere belief in the non-existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz finally developed into a veritable article of faith, as Morris brings out by asking, “Have you ever thought that you might be wrong, or do you think that you could make a mistake?” Leuchter responds:

“No, I’m past that. When I attempted to turn those facilities into gas execution facilities and was unable to, I made a decision at that point that I wasn’t wrong. And perhaps that’s why I did it. At least it cleared my mind, so I know that I left no stone unturned. I did everything possible to substantiate and prove the existence of the gas chambers, and I was unable to.”

Leuchter’s “will to believe” is admired by Ernst Zündel, who recalls,

“When my doubt about the Holocaust first came to me, it took me two and a half years, and I was like a reforming alcoholic. I was like one yo-yo, back and forth: believe, not believe, maybe believe, false belief, true belief. Fred was able to purge his own mind within a matter of a week. That’s amazing to me. So I said: ‘Fred, what convinced you?’ He said: ‘Ernst, it wasn’t what I found, it was what I didn’t find.’ That blew me away. It never, ever occurred to me that a man could be convinced by something that is not there. That’s what Fred said.”

Like atheism, Holocaust denial is based upon the alleged proof of non-existence supposedly achieved through not finding any evidence. This hubristic error of reasoning supposes that, because something lies outside of one’s own limited range of experience, it does not and cannot exist.

It seems clear that Leuchter and Zündel advocate Holocaust denial largely because of extra-epistemological considerations, one factor of which is no doubt the value they derive through being “celebrities” of a sort, albeit notorious ones to all Holocaust survivor groups. Both men paint their mission as having to do with the right to freedom of speech, but it is clear that this is simply an add-on which delusively confers upon their activities a veneer of moral righteousness. At bottom, each of these men is most strongly driven by psychological factors that transcend the evidential context which they claim to support revisionism, as Van Pelt explains, “Holocaust denial is a story about vanity. It is a way to get in the limelight, to be noticed—to be someone—maybe to be loved.”

Yet through his depiction of the outraged and morally righteous critics of Zündel and Leuchter, Morris simultaneously signals the ugliness of the critics’ own vanity. There certainly seems to be a widespread misconception among people throughout history that simply by denouncing others as “evil” one elevates oneself to the exalted category of “good.” The often seething self-righteousness of such judges does not become less ugly for the fact that they appear to hold true beliefs.

Errol Morris is keenly aware of the degree to which we find ourselves with our beliefs, and these beliefs sometimes rest upon flimsy evidence. Sometimes the only real “reason” that we believe something is that we happen to believe it (we no longer even know why), and our cognitive manner of dealing with the world into which we have been in some sense thrown is essentially conservative.[7] Traditions such as the institution of slavery, the legal possession of women by men, capital punishment, and the use of military means of conflict resolution are extraordinarily difficult to dismantle precisely because people tend to believe what they have been told by their parents and authorities, who themselves have come to their beliefs through the testimony of other merely fallible human beings. While Holocaust revisionists are in all likelihood emotionally and psychologically motivated to deny the reality of the Holocaust, they are far from unique in this regard. The chemist who analyzed the Auschwitz samples for Leuchter describes a far more general tendency when he observes,

“If they go in with blinders on, they will see what they want to see. What was he really trying to do? What was he trying to prove?”

In reality, neither Holocaust revisionists nor their critics seem to have much effect upon the political landscape of today. The former group wishes to deny that the slaughter of millions of innocent people by the Nazis ever transpired; the latter affirms that it happened. But what, in the end, is the import of either stance, when those who possess the power to kill innocent people continue to this day to do so, all the while wielding moral rhetoric along the lines of the perpetrators of The Third Reich?

In relaying the story of the March 10, 1945 firebombing of Tokyo, which incinerated 100,000 human beings, most of them innocent civilians, McNamara concurs with the opinion of the commander in charge, Curtis LeMay, who after the war observed that if they had lost, they would have been tried for war crimes:

“He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

In the moment of action, political leaders invariably conceive of their own mass killings in moral terms. Holocaust affirmation and Holocaust denial do nothing to change this. Ironically, the reality of Hitler has been deployed rhetorically to support every manner of military aggression in recent years. Thus, in 1991 Saddam Hussein was equated with Hitler, and that supposedly made it permissible to destroy thousands of innocent Iraqis. Slobodan Milosevic’s alleged similarity to Hitler made his country fair game for massive and indiscriminate bombing in 1999. The existence of Osama bin Laden and his instigation of the crimes of September 11, 2001 supposedly justified the slaughter of thousands of innocent Afghanis during October and November of 2001. And the ghost of Hitler reared its ugly and ironic head once again when proponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq spoke of weapons of mass destruction, allegedly stockpiled and waiting only to be deployed. But rather than finding and destroying WMDs, the invaders killed thousands of innocent human beings. What is the importance of our historical understanding of the Holocaust, if the populace still, to this day, has not learned that leaders invariably characterize their own mass killings as dictates of justice, as though they themselves were acting under the divine light of The Almighty?

In some segments, McNamara attempts to distance himself from the Cold War “activities” of which he was intimately a part:

“During the Kennedy administration, they designed a 100 megaton bomb. It was tested in the atmosphere. I remember this. Cold War? Hell, it was a hot war!”

Again, regarding the Cuban missile crisis, McNamara remarks that “major voices in the U.S. were calling for invasion.” Who, precisely, were these “major voices”? By employing these words, McNamara suggests that he had nothing whatsoever to do with what was happening in the labs and factories that created such weapons, nor in the decision of whether or not to invade Cuba. But McNamara was the person in charge of the entire U.S. Department of Defense. If the Secretary of Defense had nothing to do with the creation and testing of such weapons and the decision of whether to invade other nations, then who, precisely, did?

Some historians are disturbed that The Fog of War (as does McNamara’s Vietnam-era memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (1996)) gives McNamara “the last word". Both The Fog of War and In Retrospect suggest that in a case such as this, where responsibility for a deplorable event is shared among various parties, the historical truth is a function of the complictors’ longevity. While this is perhaps one way of understanding the adage that “The victors write history,” it is clearly at odds with orthodox historical scholarship. It is manifestly a matter of chance that, of all people, Robert S. McNamara should have the final say, but, to reiterate, one cannot help but surmise that most any protagonist would have been handled just as charitably by Director Morris, whose humanity shines through at every interpretive turn.

The lessons of history

Errol Morris is a tragedian, in the classic sense of the word. His protagonists are tragic heroes with the usual human-all-too-human hamartia, most notably hubris. The virtues and vices of these people are inextricably intertwined, and they fall because they have come to believe in the expertise ascribed to them by other, equally ignorant, people. Because McNamara and Leuchter had succeeded by dint of their own self-reliance, they finally came to believe in themselves to such a degree that they ended up in regrettable and in some ways ridiculous predicaments. Morris’ approach to these characters is to attempt to understand their situation from their own perspective, rather than simply accepting the received view and denouncing them outright. Morris is himself something of a detective, setting out like Sherlock Holmes to learn “the true story” about his widely maligned protagonists, who emerge not as evil, but profoundly misguided.

"No one knowingly does evil” are words sometimes ascribed to Socrates, and suggestive of a correlative question as well: what precisely is the moral judgment, the denunciation of these unfortunate people supposed to accomplish? What is the point of condemning Robert McNamara and Fred Leuchter, when it is obvious that no rational person would ever willingly choose to be either one of them? These men stumbled into holes that they themselves had dug, and try though they may to pull themselves out of the mud, it is simply too late. In the epilogue to The Fog of War, McNamara refuses to explain why he did not speak out against the Vietnam War after he and President Johnson had parted ways:

“I’m not going to say any more than I have. These are the kinds of questions that get me in trouble... A lot of people misunderstand the war, misunderstand me. A lot of people think I’m a son of a bitch.”

McNamara knows that he cannot bring back the lives destroyed during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, nor the many others who died after he and Johnson had set in motion a military machine that consumed millions more. He may wish, on some level, that Kennedy had never persuaded him to accept the position of Secretary of Defense, but McNamara, though tempted by glory and fame, was never coerced, and so he must live with the knowledge that he alone bears responsibility for having done what he did.

In a trailer to the DVD release of The Fog of War, McNamara offers ten lessons to posterity. These lessons differ significantly from the direct quotes presented by Morris as “lessons” within The Fog of War. McNamara’s own lessons are caveats to those who would wage unilateral war, militarize outerspace, and attack preemptively to thwart hypothetical dangers lying in the future. But McNamara has apparently failed to grasp that, to the people who make decisions about such matters, his advice falls on deaf ears, just as did the words of war critics during the period of his own tenure as Secretary of Defense. In other words, McNamara seems never really to have understood the epistemological lesson that Morris’ films convey and the former Secretary himself relays, viz., that human fallibility is insurmountable. Even after having acknowledged in his memoirs that the United States’ involvement in Vietnam was a regrettable mistake, McNamara nonetheless feels qualified to apply his own expertise, this time, he thinks, in virtue of his age:

“Historians don’t really like to deal with counterfactuals, with what might have been. They want to talk about history. ‘And how the hell do you know, McNamara, what might have been? Who knows?’ Well, I know certain things.”

Why should McNamara’s mistakes, which contributed to the needless and premature deaths of millions of human beings, qualify him to be the first war critic in history whose exhortations U.S. leaders might finally heed?

Interestingly enough, in one of McNamara’s many efforts to endear himself to his audience he blithely confesses:

“One of the lessons I learned early on: never say ‘never.’ Never, never, never. Never say ‘never.’ And secondly, never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you. And quite frankly, I follow that rule. It’s a very good rule.”

Should we, then, believe anything that McNamara says, anymore than people should have believed him when he gave press conferences extolling the “progress” being made in Vietnam? Are we really to believe that McNamara thinks that the people in positions such as he once occupied might have any interest whatsoever in his “lessons”? Can he possibly believe that the hawks are likely to modify their policies in the light of McNamara’s own late-life conversion to dovedom? Perhaps not, since, near the end of the interview, he frankly laments how otiose is his entire project to transmit his “lessons” to future generations:

“I’m not so naïve or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war. We're not going to change human nature anytime soon. It isn’t that we aren’t rational. We are rational. But reason has limits.”

If McNamara truly believes that there is no way to stop people from waging war, because they are going to do what they are going to do whatever he and other war critics say, then why does he bother saying anything at all?

McNamara’s critics answer along the lines of Van Pelt’s explanation of the existence of Holocaust revisionists: it’s all about vanity, in the end. McNamara wants to believe that he can salvage something of his life, make amends with his past, and eventually pass away having contributed to rather than diminished the world in which he lived.

“At my age, 85, I’m at an age where I can look back and derive some conclusions about my actions. My rule has been try to learn, try to understand what happened. Develop the lessons and pass them on.”

McNamara’s tragic flaw, an admixture of vanity and pride, will accompany him to his grave. Still, Morris suggests, McNamara is no worse in this respect than is anyone else. The difference between McNamara and most other people is that McNamara applied his fallible intellect within the framework of the war machine and so his errors led directly to the deaths of fellow human beings. McNamara’s case amplifies the tragedy of the human condition, by illustrating how, through the very humanness that we all share, some people end up by stripping other people of that very humanity.

At the end of Mr. Death, Fred Leuchter offers a “lesson” of his own:

“In 1957, I actually had the opportunity for the first time to sit in the chair. There’s a legend that goes with the chair, relative to prison personnel and their families. There was a youngster, much the same age as I was when I sat in the chair, whose father was a guard at the institution, who toured the institution, and who sat in the electric chair. Some ten or twelve years later, he was executed in that same chair for the commission of a murder during an armed robbery. And so the legend grew that prison officials shouldn’t allow their children to sit in the electric chair. I kind of sat in the chair waiting for something to happen. But, some twenty years later, I wound up making execution equipment instead of being the person the execution equipment was used on. So maybe the legend got turned around, and maybe we created a new legend, and some good came out of it after all.”

Protagonists in each of these two films observe that, “Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” and we do tend to regard our latest stories as the most accurate, for they are based upon our latest interpretation of what appears to us to be the most up-to-date information. The perennial epistemological problem in the moment is the at once trivial and profound tautology, that one simply does not know what one does not know. Even in a case as ghastly as the Germans under the Third Reich, many perfectly normal, law-abiding citizens no doubt persuaded themselves to believe something less outrageous than that their disappearing neighbors had been gassed to death, a nightmare which even the most grisly of horror fiction writers would be hard-pressed to invent.

Left with other people’s accounts of what happened before us, we make our way about this confusing world, all the while writing in our minds new revisionist texts, just as Fred Leuchter did in the caves of Auschwitz, trying to answer the question whether this place could have really been used to gas innocent human beings to death. Just as Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson attempted to defend the nation against tyranny and aggression through the use of rapid-fire bombing and agent orange. Just as Robert Jan Van Pelt retraced the steps of Fred Leuchter to ascertain exactly what he did while at Auschwitz, committing sacrilege by bungling about that sacred place. Just as Ernst Zündel tried to save the world from what he wants to believe is the false story of the Holocaust. And just as Errol Morris did in making these films...

Notes

1. Calhoun, Laurie. “Be All That You Can Be,” New Political Science, Volume 25, no. 1, 2003, pp. 5-17.

2. Arendt, Hannah. 1994. Eichmann in Jerusalem, p. 276.

3. Botwinick, Rita Steinhardt, ed. 1998. A Holocaust Reader: From Ideology to Annihilation. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 133.

4. Calhoun, Laurie. 2002. “The Phenomenology of Paid Killing,” International Journal of Human Rights, Volume 6, no. 1, p. 1-19.

5. Calhoun, Laurie. 2004. “An Anatomy of Fanaticism,” Peace Review, Volume 16, no. 3, pp. 349-356.

6. Morris’ exchange with critic Eric Alterman is posted at Morris’ website: http://www.errolmorris.com/html/
blog/argument_alterman.html

7. Harman, Gilbert. 1986. Change in View. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

References

Arendt, Hannah. 1994. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Penguin Books.

Alterman, Eric. 2003. “The Century of the Son of a Bitch,” The Nation, November 26.

Botwinick, Rita Steinhardt, ed. 1998. A Holocaust Reader: From Ideology to Annihilation. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 133.

Calhoun, Laurie. 2004. “An Anatomy of Fanaticism,” Peace Review, Volume 16, no. 3, pp. 349-356.

Calhoun, Laurie. 2003. “Be All That You Can Be,” New Political Science, Volume 25, no. 1, pp. 5-17.

Calhoun, Laurie. 2002. “The Phenomenology of Paid Killing,” International Journal of Human Rights, Volume 6, no. 1, p. 1-19.

Harman, Gilbert. 1986. Change in View. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Leuchter, Fred A. 1988. The Leuchter Report. Samisdat Publishers Ltd.

McNamara, Robert S. 1996. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York: Vintage Books.

Morris, Errol, dir. 1999. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter. Lions Gate Films.

Morris, Errol, dir. 2003. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. Sony Pictures Classics.


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