Saturday, July 18, 2009


The Right Honourable Jean Chretien, P.C., O.M., C.C., Q.C.

During his long career, many of his political opponents from all parties – including his own - took every opportunity to vilify, defame and humiliate him. They made fun of the way he looked and talked, viewed him as an unintelligent proletarian rube, and accused him of having no class. Some even said he was thuggish.

His major opponents in his beloved Liberal Party knew that they spoke more elegantly than he, and took comfort in knowing that they - unlike him - had achieved a level of enriched refinement by having attended some of the nation’s best schools. In fact, his upbringing was strictly working class. Naturally, his competitors thought they were smarter than him. When he seemed to move forward in politics many attributed his success to good luck alone and recklessly convinced themselves that he was too much “Le petit gars”- the little guy - and not enough Plato.

Many in the press spent great slices of their professional careers parroting his political critics about his intellect and character, and worked overtime turning over every grimy moss covered rock they could lay their hands on to get something on him. Lofty elitists like Quebec notables and conservative English speaking Canadians, were embarrassed by his rough-hewn French and heavy accented, malapropism-laced English. For the 40 or so years he spent in Canadian public life, most of these detractors pooh-poohed his many accomplishments, and attributed whatever success he had merely to a fluke of political nature or being in the right place at the right time.

Boy, were they wrong! When the counting was done, the carcasses of his political opponents were strung out across the country from Bonavista to Vancouver Island, and from the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters. He left one of the big ones rotting in a Florida jail, and even demolished the reputation of an egotistical Judge who had the temerity to call some of his activities ‘small town cheap.’ In the end Le Petit Gars proved that not only was he a match for the Platonists - he was better than all of them. He whupped them all. The Right Honourable Jean Chretien – the little guy - prevailed.

Oh, he was a tough customer alright. In 1985 he wrote,

“The art of politics is learning to walk with your back to the wall, your elbows high, and a smile on your face. It’s a survival game played under the glare of lights. If you don’t learn that you’re quickly finished. It’s damn tough and you can’t complain; you just have to take it and give it back. The press wants to get you. The opposition wants to get you. Even some of the bureaucrats want to get you. They all may have an interest in making you look bad and they all have ambitions of their own.”

In politics no truer words were ever written.

It does not take rocket science to figure out the reasons for the success of this great and unique Canadian. All it takes is an open mind. Throughout his public career he was first and foremost, a great communicator. Who cared about the accent, mangled English or bad French, when everyone understood perfectly well what he said in any of his official or unofficial languages? He made every Canadian - big, small, rich, poor, Eastern, Western, Northern, or of any race or culture – know where he stood better than any Canadian leader who ever passed before him or since. And he did it always with wit, simplicity and passion.

He also knew every nook and cranny of the country. No politician in Canada’s history spoke so many times, for so many years, in so many church basements and in so many cities and small towns strewn about the length and breadth of the whole country as Jean Chretien. He knew and understood every wrinkle of the Canadian people, their values and their aspirations. And they knew and understood him.

When he spoke, his central theme was always his love for Canada. It was always delivered with raw emotion and passion and his audiences always knew that it was visceral and real. His “I love Canada” speeches were legendary. The patriotism he expressed was infectious. At the end of his speeches his audiences – many with tears in their eyes - were on their feet, giving him a long and rousing standing ovation which they very often followed with a spontaneous, spirited rendition of ‘O Canada.’ His love of Canada was true and honest and everybody knew it, felt it and shared it with him.

To say that his record in government as a minister or Prime Minister was illustrious and as successful as any other Canadian, is almost to demean his accomplishments. Consider this - from the time of his entry into the House of Commons in 1963, he served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, Minister of National Revenue, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, Secretary of State for External Affairs, and Minister in charge of Social Development. Oh yes, I almost forgot - he also served for ten happy years, as Canada’s 20th Prime Minister presiding over three consecutive majority governments during unprecedented, prosperous economic times.

As a member of the cabinets of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, Chretien was a major player in all of the initiatives of that era, including Medicare, and the Official Languages Act. He was the first francophone Minister of Finance and the point man for the federal government during the Referendum campaign of 1980. In 1982, while Justice Minister he was responsible for the appointment of Bertha Wilson to the Supreme Court of Canada, the first woman to serve on Canada’s highest court. As minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development during the years between 1968 and 1972, he and his department created 10 new Canadian national parks. This was a stunning achievement, particularly when considering that in the previous forty years only 4 national parks had been created. Chretien’s contribution to our national parks will forever stand as a huge landmark in our nation’s quest to conserve and protect Canada’s environment.

He also had a strong hand in the strategy and negotiations that gave rise to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Patriation of the Constitution of 1982. He was a sturdy and brave opponent of the Mulroney mish-mash called the Meech Lake Accord. As Prime Minister his government slashed the deficit, paid down a lot of debt, and cut taxes by $100 billion. Although the Referendum vote in 1995 was a squeaker, he had the courage to have his government pass the Clarity Act, finally setting some clear rules for any declaration of independence. His four trade missions to China led to a new era of good relations and vastly increased trade between the two countries. His efforts alone kept us out of the Iraq War, but we did gave our help and money in the following reconstruction effort, and at the same time kept our focus and contribution of arms and manpower on the real problem – Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors in Afghanistan.

Oh, he had his detractors. There are plenty of mizzling Canadians who whine about the controversies that he brushed up against, assuming the worst of course, even though no one has proved one iota of wrongdoing on his part. But for every mizzler there were hundreds of Canadians who recognized and appreciated a great Canadian when they saw one and who knew that brushing up against controversies in a long public career was an occupational hazard that few long-serving politicians are immune from.

Among the universities that honoured him with Honorary degrees are:

Wilfrid Laurier University (1981), Laurentian University (1982), York University (1987), University of Alberta (1988), Lakehead University, University of Ottawa (1994), University of Moncton (1994), Meiji University (Tokyo) (1996), Warsaw School of Economics (Poland) (1999), Michigan State University (1999), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2000), Memorial University of Newfoundland (2000), Queen’s University (Kingston) (2004), McMaster University (2005), University of Western Ontario (2008), University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres (2008).

He is also an Honorary Member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and a Companion of the Order of Canada. See:

On June 29, 2009 the Queen recognized this great Canadian with his appointment to the very exclusive and prestigious Order of Merit. He is one of only twenty four other living persons who hold the honour, among whom presently are Baroness Margaret Thatcher, The Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Edinburgh. Some of the 150 or so recipients of the Order who have passed on are Sir Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, and Florence Nightingale, Bertrand Russell, Lester Pearson, Mackenzie King, and Wilder Penfield. See:

This was a worthy honour awarded to a great Canadian. His contribution to the well-being of our country is unequalled. All Canadians should be rightfully proud of his achievement.

Saturday, July 11, 2009



Yesterday at the end of the G8 Conference in L’Aquila, Italy, the Prime Minister once again shot himself in the foot. And once again, his self-inflicted wounds were the result of his rash, nasty, and obsessive propensity to wreak havoc on his opponents, regardless of the occasion, appropriateness, or whether or not what he says is true.

With his wrap-up press conference Harper had his golden opportunity to act as a statesman. All he had to do was put together two or three coherent sentences of no-brainer reflections on the light-weight gabfest of the previous couple of days and he would have been home free. With CanWest and CTV doing the rest of his heavy lifting to drive the message home back in Canada, Harper would have looked positively Prime Ministerial – indeed, no small achievement for such a klutz. It should have been a romp in the park.

Instead, Canada’s Icarus* (or Inspector Clouseau** – take your pick) screwed it up for himself again.

First of all, in his response to a question at the press conference Harper exhibited his usual class and elegance, vowing not to take “dumb” advice from Parliament budget officer Kevin Page. The courageous Page, increasingly becoming one of Harper’s chief pains in the ass, had earlier in the week stated the obvious – that the Harper government had misread the effect of the Canadian recession on both the economy and government coffers. As a result, said Page, there would be more job losses than previously thought. Furthermore, Page noted the government was now running a “structural deficit” which would preclude a return to surpluses when the economy got better. All of this, he said, pointed to “significant discretionary actions” for the government so that it could rid itself of the red ink.

Harper took Page’s words to mean that the government would have to impose higher taxes and slash programs, all of which said Clouseau, er, Harper, was a “dumb suggestion.” Sounding much like President George H. W. Bush (father of Harper’s pal, young George) when the elder Bush told a crowd on the campaign trail, “Read my lips. No new taxes” (words which later caused him much grief), Harper said, "It will not be the position of our government. We will not be raising the GST or any other tax during or after the recession.”

But it wasn’t enough for Clouseau to merely trash Page. There was little challenge in that, Page being in the PM's mind merely a miserable, lowlife bureaucrat. No, Harper now had to go after a bigger fish like Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff. Without the reporter even hinting of a question about Ignatieff or even mentioning his name, the PM gratuitously accused the Opposition Leader of saying publicly that the G8 should be replaced by a group of nations that do not include Canada.

As he ad-libbed his way through his attack it was clear Harper wanted to keep on message with his party’s earlier attack ads that belittled Iggy’s Canadian credentials. Those ads, you will recall, questioned Ignatieff’s commitment to Canada because he had studied and lectured at some of the best universities abroad, authored well-written books from a world perspective, and reported from war zones far from home. According to Harper and his cronies, Iggy’s background is no match for one whose intellectual pursuits and job experience consists of being of brainwashed in the neocon political science classes of Tom Flanagan at the University of Calgary, or reciting the collected works of Ronald Reagan as chief honcho of the National Citizen's Coalition - surely the lunatic fringe of Conservatism in Canada. Harper said of Ignatieff’s so-called remarks,

"I don't think you go out and throw out ideas like this that are so obviously contrary to a country's interest and nobody else is advocating them. I think it's an irresponsible suggestion, and Mr. Ignatieff is supposed to be a Canadian.”

But alas, Iggy had not said those words and Harper was forced to issue this ignominious apology immediately after the conclusion of the press conference:

"During my press conference I attacked Mr. Ignatieff for some things he had allegedly said about Canada in the G8. I learned shortly after the press conference this was not a quotation of Mr. Ignatieff. I regret the error and I apologize to Mr. Ignatieff for this error."

For a complete transcript of the exchange giving rise to Harper’s statement about Ignatieff and the abject apology, read this very carefully.

Of course, there is always somebody around to take the fall for the PM on the many occasions he puts his foot in it. This time it was his media mouth piece Dimitri Soudas – who seems to be getting a lot of press these days - what with having to explain the unexplainable, like the case of the missing communion wafer.

Soudas, who because of his yeoman service in taking bullets for his boss should be in line for a permanent job with the Fraser Institute before the summer is out, admitted passing false information about Ignatieff to Harper without substantiation.

In fact, it was former Canadian diplomat Gordon Smith, director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, who made the statement attributed by Harper to Ignatieff. Smith laments Canada’s not taking a leadership role in the G8 and believes the country is losing its importance internationally.

During the same press conference, Harper also displayed his continuing irritation over the wafer fiasco during Holy Communion ceremonies at the funeral of former Governor General Romeo Leblanc. Skipping over the fact that it was highly unusual - to say the least - that as a non-Catholic he should take Holy Communion in a Catholic ceremony, he said,

“First of all, as a Christian, I have never refused communion when offered to me. That's actually pretty important to me. Somebody running an unsubstantiated story that I would stick communion bread in my pocket is really absurd and I think it's a real, frankly, a low point. This is a low moment in journalism, whoever is responsible for this. It's just a terrible story and a ridiculous story and not based on anything, as near as I can tell."

Well, given his negative ads and his record as a campaigner/politician, Harper clearly knows something of ‘low' points. I mean, he’s an expert at low points, having spent a lot of time wallowing amongst low points of his creation himself.

As far as the wafer story not being based on anything, perhaps he should look at the video and see it for himself. Once again it can be found here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

HARPER BOTCHES ROMAN CATHOLIC COMMUNION: Attempt to hustle RC votes collapses

Prime Minister Harper (on the left) with Spiritual Advisor

Astonishing! Scandalous! Sacrilege! Heresy! Sinful! In his ongoing effort to shamelessly hustle votes by trying to be all things to all people, Prime Minister Harper recently tried to pass himself off as a Roman Catholic at the funeral service for former Governor General Romeo Leblanc in Memramcook, New Brunswick by accepting sacramental communion.

Given his sparse worldliness, his early background as a frequenter of United and Presbyterian Churches, and his current affiliation with his fellow arch-social conservatives in the Evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance, it is little wonder that the klutzy Harper found the ceremony quite foreign and confusing to him. Unlike Roman Catholics who rise and gulp the wafer and bolt real vino (if they so wish) when communion is served by the Priest, in Harper’s ho-hum religious world communion involves seated parishioners discretely passing along wafers which each of them consume, together with small glasses of unfermented grape juice.

It would appear from a video of the Harper communion that when the Priest gave Harper the wafer, he did not immediately gulp or devour it. He slipped it into his pocket! See it for yourself here: as it disappears amongst his loose change, kleenex and other personal debris.

What made the Prime Minister do such a thing? Was he confused? Disoriented? Did he have qualms of guilt? Was he playing an improvised shell game? See:

In the Roman Catholic Church, not to swallow the wafer immediately is a grave no-no! In case you are interested in this ancient practice, read:

The Roman Catholic clergy in New Brunswick is up in arms at the insult and is demanding an explanation. The wafer – properly called “the host” in Roman Catholic ritual – is the body and blood of Christ and must be consumed when received. No ifs, ands, or buts. Not only that, in order to receive “the host” you must be a Roman Catholic, unless perhaps there is a real emergency - like imminent death.

Monsignor Brian Henneberry the vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John says, if Harper accepted the wafer but did not eat it, ". . it's worse than a faux pas, it's a scandal from the Catholic point of view." See:

So with a multitude of Canadian Roman Catholics being irked and upset at the gaffe (or sin, insult, heresy, scandal and/or sacrilege), all of this bodes ill for Harper’s audience with the Pope, expected to take place over the next few days in Rome.

Today, Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s chosen mouthpiece in the debacle, said that Harper ate the wafer within seconds and that all is well with the world. And surprise, surprise, he blamed the CBC for the whole affair saying that regardless of what the video shows, the cameras were not on the prime minister long enough. Read:

Well, have another look at the video and see if you agree:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Reading an obit with great pleasure

Joseph L. Galloway McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: July 06, 2009 03:56:15 PM

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

Well, the aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the 7th level of Hell.

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 McMamara 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.

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha's Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers. On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.

He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.

McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.

By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Robert McNamara, Architect of Vietnam War, Dies at 93

By Thomas W. Lippman Special to The Washington PostMonday, July 6, 2009 9:07 AM

Robert Strange McNamara, the former secretary of defense whose record as a leading executive of industry and a chieftain of foreign financial aid was all but erased from public memory by his reputation as the primary architect of U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, died early this morning at age 93.

Family members said McNamara died at his home in Northwest Washington. They did not give a cause of death.
McNamara was secretary of defense during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. In that capacity he directed a U.S. military buildup in Southeast Asia during the critical early years of a Vietnamese conflict that escalated into one of the most divisive and bitter wars in U.S. history. When the war was over, 58,000 Americans were dead and the national social fabric had been torn asunder.

Before taking office as secretary of defense in 1961, McNamara was president of Ford Motor Co. For 13 years after he left the Pentagon in 1968, he was president of the World Bank. He was a brilliant student, a compulsive worker and a skillful planner and organizer, whose manifest talents carried him from modest circumstances in California to the highest levels of the Washington power structure. He was said to have built a record of achievement and dedication in business, government and public service that few of his generation could match.

After his retirement from the bank in 1981, he maintained an exhausting schedule as director or consultant to scores of public and private organizations and was a virtual one-man think tank on nuclear arms issues.

But more than 40 years after the fact, he was remembered almost exclusively for his orchestration of U.S. prosecution of the war in Vietnam, a failed effort by the world's greatest superpower to prevent a communist takeover of a weak and corrupt ally. For his role in the war, McNamara was vilified by harsh and unforgiving critics, and his entire record was unalterably clouded. For the rest of his life, he would be haunted by the Vietnam ghosts.

From the day in 1961 when he burst upon the Washington scene as a political unknown selected by Kennedy to be secretary of defense, McNamara's trim figure, slicked-back hair and rimless glasses made him instantly recognizable, a Washington monument whose interests covered everything from nuclear war to the fiscal health of local governments.

At the Pentagon, he reorganized the military bureaucracy, built up the country's nuclear arsenal, and instigated a massive campaign to end racial discrimination in off-base housing. At the World Bank, he was often described as "the conscience of the West," for his relentless efforts to persuade the industrialized world to commit more capital to improving life in the have-not nations. In retirement, he avoided celebrity-for-hire appearances on the lecture circuit and the television talk shows, devoting his time and talent instead to improvement of education, government and health in this country and abroad and writing when he thought he had something to say.

He served as secretary of defense longer than anyone else, and in that role he was a key figure in such major crises as the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile confrontation with the Soviet Union. He changed the balance of nuclear forces in the world with the development of the multiple-warhead missile.

But his reputation foundered in Vietnam, a then-little-known country halfway around the world. Many Americans held him largely responsible for the futile and humiliating military adventure there--a responsibility he accepted in a controversial 1995 memoir of the war.

It was "McNamara's war," matching his technology, statistics, weaponry and organization charts against a peasant army from a small, impoverished country. The peasants won. In retrospect, it could be seen that McNamara's can-do, technological approach to military issues might have been perfectly suited to a conflict against the Soviet Union in Europe, but it led him into disastrous miscalculations in the jungles and paddies of Vietnam.

On his first visit to South Vietnam in 1962, before most Americans had heard of the place and before the involvement of American combat forces, McNamara said that "every quantitative measurement we have shows we're winning this war."

It was a statement often quoted by his critics in later years, because it seemed to encapsulate the fallacy of his approach. American troops did prevail in many of the big battles and the United States did win the war by every statistical measurement on the Pentagon charts that McNamara so admired. But the numbers--even the few that were accurate--had little to do with the political reality on the ground.

In fact, despite his addiction to charts, statistics and briefings in which the United States and its ally in Saigon were always winning, McNamara privately had a broader appreciation of what was happening in Vietnam. As early as 1964, after Buddhist uprisings that shook Saigon's political structure, he observed that the Viet Cong had "large indigenous support" and were held together by "bonds of loyalty." In 1966, even as the buildup of U.S. forces continued and Cold War tensions gripped Europe, he said it was "a gross oversimplification to regard Communism as the central factor in every conflict throughout the underdeveloped word . . . The United States has no mandate from on high to police the world and no inclination to do so."

McNamara acknowledged late in his Pentagon tenure that the bombing of North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh trail supply line could not cripple the Vietcong because the Vietcong hardly needed any supplies other than ammunition. But as critics pointed out and as he admitted many years later, he was unable or unwilling to translate these assessments into policy reversals that would extricate Johnson administration from the Asian morass.

The harshest critic of all, David Halberstam, describing McNamara's trips to Saigon, wrote in "The Best and the Brightest" that McNamara, the ultimate technocrat, was "a prisoner of his own background . . . unable, as indeed was the country which sponsored him, to adapt his values and his terms to Vietnamese realities. Since any real indices and truly factual estimates of the war would immediately have shown its bankruptcy, the McNamara trips became part of a vast unwitting and elaborate charade, the institutionalizing and legitimizing of a hopeless lie."

In Halberstam's judgment, McNamara "did not serve himself or his country well. He was, there is no kinder or gentler word for it, a fool."

Chester L. Cooper, a senior official at the State Department when McNamara was at Defense, wrote in "The Lost Crusade" that McNamara's brilliant staff and his "unique ability to grasp and synthesize a vast mass and variety of information made him the best informed official in Washington." But McNamara's insistence on dealing with Vietnam in the same way he dealt with other issues led him into miscalculations, Cooper said. Cooper summarized McNamara's approach in one memorable portrait:

"His typical trip involved leaving Washington in the evening and, after a 24-hour journey and a 13-hour time change, arriving at Saigon at eight in the morning. The Secretary would emerge from the plane and suggest graciously that his fellow-travelers take a half-hour or so to wash up and then join him at a 9 o'clock briefing at MACV [Military Assistance Command Vietnam] headquarters. There, for the next three hours, they were expected not merely to add up figures but to absorb a rapid-fire series of complicated military briefings liberally seasoned with charts, graphs, maps, and the inevitable sequence of slides. While we less adaptable beings desperately attempted to make sense out of the mass of information, McNamara queried every apparent inconsistency and was usually well ahead of the briefers."

The problem was that as the war escalated the briefings grew increasingly irrelevant to what was really happening. McNamara tolerated, even encouraged, a system in which optimistic Washington analysis dictated the content of the briefings, rather than the other way around.

For all his participation in the great events of his time, it was the Vietnam war, always the war, that shaped the nation's perception of McNamara and his performance, and eventually eroded his credibility. When he said, in 1966, that manpower requirements and draft calls would be reduced in the following year, hardly anyone seemed to believe him. When he told congress that the purpose of bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail was to reduce North Vietnamese troop infiltration into the South, newspaper analysts pointed out that the Pentagon's own charts showed infiltration was increasing.

An incident that reflected the temper of those tense, bitter years occurred in November, 1966, when McNamara traveled to Harvard for an informal discussion with undergraduates. He was mobbed by about 800 jeering students, who blocked his car and cried "murderer."

The secretary, never apologetic, climbed atop his car, in shirtsleeves despite the New England chill, and told the crowd, "I spent four of the happiest years of my life on the Berkeley campus, doing some of the things you do today. But I was tougher than you, and I'm tougher than you are now. I was more courteous then, and I hope I'm more courteous today."

It is inaccurate to portray McNamara as an unreconstructed hawk to the bitter end; his early doubts became known after the war. But he failed to persuade the president and such hard-line White House insiders as Walt W. Rostow to moderate their views. He succeeded only in hastening his own ouster from the Cabinet, and because he waited 20 years after the fall of Saigon in 1975 to go public with his confession of error about the war, he retained his reputation as a technocrat committed to firepower above all else.

McNamara later dismissed as "absurd" and "baloney" suggestions that he devoted himself to helping Third World countries through the World Bank to atone for his record in Vietnam. But he never attempted to defend himself against critics of his role in Vietnam, or to justify the escalation there. For more than two decades after leaving the Pentagon he avoided the topic of Vietnam in his public statements.

Even when testifying under oath, as he did in the 1984 trial of a libel suit against CBS filed by the former U.S. troop commander in Vietnam, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, McNamara remained resolutely non-judgmental about the conduct of the war. He testified that unlike Westmoreland and senior White House officials at the time, he began to believe as early as 1965 or 1966 that the war "could not be won militarily." But he added, "I say this without saying that I was right and they were wrong."

In a 1983 interview, he said he went to the Mall to see the memorial to the more than 58,000 troops killed in Indochina shortly after it was dedicated in 1982, but he declined to say what he felt when he read the names. "I just don't want to talk about it," he said. "Those are personal things." He skirted the topic of Vietnam even in long interviews with his biographer, Deborah Shapley.

It was what one would have expected of McNamara, who preferred an analytical, unemotional approach to every issue. With his characteristic penchant for dispassionate analysis, he said he would have been interested in a careful, scholarly study of the war, of the decisions that were made and of what the alternatives might have been, without regard to his personal sentiments or motivation.

That was the book he finally produced, to a storm of criticism and controversy, in 1995. In his memoir of the war titled "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," McNamara said he and his senior colleagues were "wrong, terribly wrong" to pursue the war as they did. He acknowledged that he failed to force the military to produce a rigorous justification for its strategy and tactics, misunderstood Asia in general and Vietnam in particular, and kept the war going long after he realized it was futile because he lacked the courage or the ability to turn President Johnson around.

Once again McNamara was vilified by critics who said he should have spoken up when it might have made a difference and accused him of salving his conscience with a last-minute conversion.
Publication of that book opened some kind of intellectual floodgate for McNamara; he developed a virtual fourth career of organizing and participating in seminars about the war--about who did what and why, and about how doing something else might have meant, if not a different outcome, at least less death. In 1999 he published a book about this quest for the truth about the war, with a title signaling that he did not find it: "Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy."

Thus in the final years of his life, the war again took over the reputation of a man whose life in many ways had embodied the American dream.

McNamara was born June 9, 1916, in San Francisco, where his father was sales manager for a wholesale shoe company. He demonstrated academic brilliance from the time he was in elementary school, and achieved straight As in high school. At the University of California in Berkeley, where he studied economics and philosophy, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa after his sophomore year.

After graduation in 1937, he went to the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, where he earned his MBA degree in 1939. He went back to the west coast for a year, to work for the accounting firm of Price, Waterhouse & Co., and during that time he married a former classmate, Margaret Craig. (She died in 1981.)

In 1940, he returned to Harvard as an assistant professor. When the United States entered World War II, he volunteered for military service, but was initially rejected because of weak eyesight. He worked closely with the military, however, teaching courses for officers and serving as a consultant to the Army Air Corps on the establishment of a statistical system for the control of logistical operations.

He took a leave from Harvard to go to England on a military mission in 1943, and there he was finally granted a commission and accepted into the service as a captain.

In three years of active duty, he traveled in several Asian countries. He later said that it was the experience of visiting Calcutta during a famine, when there were as many dead people in the streets as live ones, that first stirred his interest in trying to improve conditions in the poorest nations.

McNamara and his wife were relocated from Calcutta to Washington during a serious polio epidemic in 1945, and both contracted the disease. His was a mild case, but hers required eight months in the hospital and another year in a back brace recovering her muscle strength.

McNamara left the service in 1946 with the Legion of Merit decoration and the rank of lieutenant colonel. Instead of returning to Harvard, he joined with nine other Air Force statistical control experts who offered their services as a group to various corporations. This extraordinary ploy resulted in all ten being hired as a team by Ford Motor Co.

Ford was admittedly plagued by deficient management at the time, and Henry Ford II, chairman of the board, sent the ten into every department to study operations and make recommendations. Their unending questions at first earned them the snide appellation "Quiz Kids," after a radio program of the period that featured bright youngsters, but their performance soon changed the title to "whiz kids."

Several of the "whiz kids" made careers at Ford; McNamara rose fastest and highest. Though his specialty was the application of statistics to management, he was also credited with a sense of public taste that led him to bring out new models that scored great success in the market.

Starting as manager of Ford's office of planning and financial analysis, he rose to controller, assistant general manager of the Ford division, general manager of the division, and vice-president in charge of all car and truck divisions. In 1957 he was named a director of the corporation, and in 1960 he succeeded Henry Ford 2d as president--the first president who was not a member of the Ford family.

During his tenure, McNamara was credited with enhancing the company's market position by emphasizing sleek, expensive cars that appealed to affluent buyers, in addition to the basic transportation that had been the company's staple product. His biggest success was in tripling the sales of the Thunderbird, by converting it from a sports car to an expensive four-door model.

He had been president of Ford only a month when Kennedy offered him the post as secretary of defense. When he left to join New Frontier cabinet, he said he was relinquishing $3 million in personal profits he would have realized from his stock options had he remained with Ford.
Henry Ford 2d said of him as he left that "if he is allowed to do as good a job for the country in this new assignment as he has been able to do for our company in a series of previous assignments over the past 15 years, the gain, measured in terms of the national interest, will make it easier for the Ford Motor Co. to sustain the loss of his leaving."

While he was at Ford, the McNamaras stayed out of the Grosse Pointe social orbit dominated by the auto industry. They lived in Ann Arbor, where they cherished the academic atmosphere around the University of Michigan. Once they got to Washington, it became more difficult for McNamara to insulate his family from the demands of his job, and except for skiing vacations in Colorado it often seemed that he was on duty all the time.

"Bob lives an 'on-call' kind of life," his wife once said. When he had time to himself, McNamara tended to spend evenings with his wife and a few close friends, not on Washington's party circuit. The McNamaras kept their three children out of the news.

At the Pentagon, McNamara quickly put his own stamp on the sprawling military bureaucracy in what amounted to a management revolution. He centralized control, broke down the traditional fiefdoms of the individual services, and imposed multi-purpose, multi-service weapons on the brass.

According to an account published in The Washington Post at the time, "he shook all five floors of the Pentagon in his search for the tools he needed to get a firm grip on the biggest military establishment in the world . . . McNamara brought in computers to help with the spade work, hired systems analysts to comb through the technical points and then list the pros and cons for the generalists, reassessed the war plans, regrouped weapons into programs."

The Kennedy administration came into office vowing to close the "missile gap," the apparent Soviet lead in strategic nuclear weapons. McNamara later acknowledged that there was no "missile gap"--he said it was based on "a total misreading of the information"--but by that time the United States had greatly expanded its nuclear arsenal and the Soviets had responded in kind.

According to critics such as John Edwards, in his book "Superweapon," the U.S. actually had nuclear superiority over the Soviets in 1960, and the American buildup only convinced Moscow that this country was seeking the ability to attack the Soviet Union with impunity.
The American nuclear buildup, Edwards said, "far exceeded the forces developed by the Soviet Union in the first half of the sixties. The secretary himself later judged that the American buildup contributed to the dramatic expansion of Soviet forces."

McNamara sponsored development of missiles that could carry up to 14 nuclear warheads each, giving the U.S. the ability to strike more and more Soviet targets without adding any more missiles and the capability of launching more warheads than the Soviets could fend off. This, McNamara later acknowledged, was substantially responsible for the nuclear arms race.

"I have no question," he said in a 1982 interview, "but that the Soviets thought we were trying to achieve a first strike capability. We were not. We did not have it. We could not attain it; we didn't have any thought of attaining it. But they probably thought we did." Their response, he said, provoked a counter-response by the United States, and the cycle became self-perpetuating.

McNamara's tenure was punctuated by sensitive strategic decisions and political controversies over difficult issues: a national debate over whether to build an anti-ballistic missile system (in which McNamara's role was to wage a rear-guard bureaucratic campaign against it, despite demands from the military establishment to go ahead); the development of the Poseidon submarine-launched missile; his decision to override the military professionals and award a contract for building the F-111 bomber to General Dynamics Corp. instead of the Boeing Co.; his proposal to require all young Americans, drafted or not, to devote a year or two to public service.
He was at the center of Washington decision-making during the 1962 confrontation with Moscow over the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Fidel Castro's Cuba. After a retrospective discussion of those dramatic days with his Soviet counterparts in 1989, McNamara wrote in a Newsweek essay about the crisis that "as I left President Kennedy's office to return to the Pentagon, I thought I might never live to see another Saturday night"--so great was the threat of nuclear war. All parties to the confrontation in Cuba, McNamara wrote, were guilty of gross miscalculations and errors that nearly resulted in a catastrophe. A quarter-century later, he wrote, "It is inconceivable to me that we should be content to continue on the present path of East-West confrontation for another 40 years. The risks of disastrous military conflict, so dramatically demonstrated by our re-examination of the Cuban missile crisis, are totally unacceptable." The hardware-loving strategist of the Cold War had come full circle.

McNamara never publicly broke with Johnson over the war in Vietnam, but a gradual process of disillusionment seemed to set in as he lost control of tactics to the generals. In one well-publicized incident, he rejected a list of bombing targets that the military officers wanted to hit, including targets near Hanoi and other civilian population centers. The joint chiefs off staff went over his head to Johnson, and the president authorized the strikes.

Even when he resigned to move to the World Bank, McNamara remained publicly loyal, staying on as secretary for a transition period of several months until his successor, Clark Clifford, took over in early 1968. During that interval, the Viet Cong staged the Tet Offensive, the nationwide uprising in South Vietnam's cities that shocked American public opinion by demonstrating the hollowness of all the Pentagon's claims of military success.

Unlike other high government officials who seemed to spend their years out of power waiting around Washington for a chance to get back in, once he moved from the Pentagon to the World Bank McNamara threw himself into his new assignment with zest, and concentrated on using the bank's resources to help alleviate the poverty of the most backward nations.

The year before he took over the bank, it had a staff of 767 and made 60 loans totaling about $954 million. In the last fiscal year of his tenure, a staff of 2400 made about 250 loans, totaling $11.7 billion. And yet he wanted more, and importuned the industrialized nations to expand their commitments.

As president of the bank, he could have given a speech a day if he wanted to, but he chose a low profile and private persuasion. "I just don't give a damn whether I'm on TV or not," he said. "I just am uninterested in personal publicity. I've had all I need. Other people in town have different objectives."

He limited his public appearances to one or two a year because, he said, he only wanted to speak out when he had "new ideas" to offer, and "I don't get those ideas so frequently as to require me to speak out on them." His technique was to choose his spots, decide what message could best advance the objectives he was pursuing at the bank, and take his time deciding what to say.

He spent a year, for example, thinking about what to say in a 1982 speech at the University of the Witwatersrand, in apartheid South Africa. Then he told his audience that America's "century of delay in moving to end our shameful discrimination toward black Americans . . . was without question the most serious mistake in our entire history, and the hard truth is that all Americans will continue to a heavy price for it for decades to come." He urged South Africa not to make the same mistake.

In retirement, McNamara maintained an office on K street and worked, by his own count, with 55 corporations, universities, foundations and other groups in which he was interested.

"I'm not wealthy, but I don't have to do anything I don't want to do," he said, "and I decided not to do anything that doesn't meet two criteria: expand my understanding of the world, and allow me to apply whatever understanding I have in some productive way."

He was a director of The Washington Post Co., Royal Dutch Shell and several other companies, a trustee of the Ford Foundation and California Institute of Technology, and chairman of the Overseas Development Council, a nonprofit organization that sought increased American understanding of economic and social problems in the developing countries.

In 1982, he diverted his attention from global concerns long enough to serve as chairman of the Greater Washington Research Center's task force on local government, which conducted a thorough examination of the finances of Washington-area governments and warned of revenue shortfalls to be faced in the mid-1980s. With careful planning, he said, the local jurisdictions could meet those gaps without drastic service cutbacks or fiscal gimmicks of the kind that brought turmoil to other cities.

McNamara is survived by his second wife Diana, who he married in 2004, and his three children: Craig McNamara, of Winters, Ca.; and Kathleen McNamara and Margaret Pastor, both of Washington.