A group of soldiers grabbed my microphone and threw me to the ground, kicking and punching me. At that point, Allan threw himself on top of me, protecting me from further injury. The soldiers then used their rifle butts like baseball bats, beating Allan until they fractured his skull. As we sat on the ground, Allan, covered in blood, a group of soldiers lined up and pointed their M16s at our heads. They had stripped us of all of our equipment. We just kept shouting, “We’re from America!” In the end, they decided not to execute us.
And I think the right thing to do is to do what the leaders of East Timor said. They want to look forward. You want to look backward. I’m going to stick with the leaders. You want to look backward, have at it, but you’ll have to have help from someone else.
“The annihilation of the largest non-bloc Communist party in the world vividly undermined the rationale for the escalating U.S. war in Vietnam, as former defense secretary Robert McNamara has noted, eliminating at a stroke the chief threat to the Westward orientation of the most strategically and economically important country in Southeast Asia and facilitating its firm reintegration into the regional and world economy after a decade-long pursuit of autonomous development.”
The phrase “undermined the rationale for the escalating U.S. war in Vietnam” caught my attention, as did the reference to McNamara. How was McNamara involved?
I won an Oscar for my film The Fog of War, a profile of McNamara, who was secretary of defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Nov. 22, 1963 through Jan. 21, 1969. The Johnson presidency included the period of the Indonesian killings and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Simpson referred in a footnote to McNamara’s memoir, In Retrospect, a book I thought I knew well. McNamara writes:
“George F. Kennan, whose containment strategy was a significant factor in our commitment to South Vietnam’s defense, argued at a Senate hearing on February 10, 1966, that the Chinese had ‘suffered an enormous reverse in Indonesia ... one of great significance, and one that does rather confine any realistic hopes they may have for the expansion of their authority.’ This event had greatly reduced America’s stakes in Vietnam. He asserted that fewer dominoes now existed, and they seemed much less likely to fall.”
He concludes, “Kennan’s point failed to catch our attention and thus influence our actions.”
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