Monday, July 6, 2009

Remembering Ex-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's War Crimes

In his 2000 book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, William Blum indicated the role that the recently-deceased former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara played in world history, by writing the following:

“…Any number of countries would be justified in issuing a list of Americans barred from entry because of `war crimes’ and `crimes against humanity.’ Such a list might include the following:…Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, a prime architect of, and major bearer of responsibility for, the slaughter in Indochina, from its early days to its extraordinary escalations; and for the violent suppression of popular movements in Peru…”

In A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn also recalled how McNamara lied to the people of the United States about what actually happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in August of 1964:

“In early August 1964, President Johnson used a murky set of events in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam, to launch full-scale war on Vietnam. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the American public there was an attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on American destroyers. `While on routine patrol in international waters,’ McNamara said, `the U.S. destroyer Maddox underwent an unprovoked attack.’ It later turned out that the Gulf of Tonkin episode was a fake, that the highest American officials had lied to the public—just as they had in the invasion of Cuba under Kennedy. In fact, the CIA had engaged in a secret operation attacking North Vietnamese coastal installations—so if there had been an attack it would not have been `unprovoked.’ It was not a `routine patrol,’ because the Maddox was on a special electronic spying mission. And it was not in international waters but in Vietnamese territorial waters. It turned out that no torpedoes were fired at the Maddox, as McNamara said. Another reported attack on another destroyer, two nights later, which Johnson called `open aggression on the high seas,’ seems also to have been an invention…

“The Tonkin `attack’ brought a congressional resolution, passed unanimously in the House, and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, giving Johnson the power to take military action as he saw fit in Southeast Asia…

“Immediately after the Tonkin Affair, American warplanes began bombarding North Vietnam. During 1965, over 200,000 American soldiers were sent to South Vietnam, and in 1966, 200,000 more…”

But after it became evident to many U.S. academics that the Democratic Johnson Administration’s policy of escalating the Vietnam War in early 1965 by starting to bomb North Vietnam on a regular basis had failed to achieve a quick victory in Vietnam for the U.S. war machine, Harvard University Graduate School of Public Administration Associate Dean Carl Kaysen visited U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the Pentagon. As Power and Promise: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara by Deborah Shapley recalled in 1993:

“McNamara was looking for `fresh’ ideas when he returned from Vietnam in November [1965], and he was handed one in particular—for a technological `barrier’—that would play a major part in his attempt to redirect the war…Carl Kaysen, who had worked in John Kennedy’s White House…recalls visiting McNamara twice in December 1965 in his office.

“It was common for leading university scientists and other experts to work on military problems during war…In Cambridge in 1965, there evolved a `floating crap game,’ Kaysen says, involving a few Harvard and M.I.T. faculty—some with formal Pentagon ties and some without—to brainstorm on ways to resolve the war…Thus the idea arose of the `electronic fence,’ or `barrier.’…

“Perhaps America’s technology could be used to advantage in the jungle after all, Kaysen’s group told McNamara in December. A string of new devices—tiny sensors that detected footfalls, air-dropped mines, remotely guided air and ground fire—could be installed starting on the coast, following the 17th parallel, running inland and continuing straight on across the waist of Laos…

“The plan for the barrier went forward in secret. Scientists in a secret group called the Jason Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses would bring in parallel studies to McNamara by the fall of 1966…”

Former Harvard University Dean Kaysen also stated in the book Jerry Wiesner: Scientist, Statesman, Humanist—Memories and Memoirs:

“In late 1965 and early 1965, Jerry [Wiesner], [MIT Professor] George Kistiakowsky, and I persuaded McNamara to support a summer study in Cambridge with the purpose of finding more effective ways than bombing…”

McNamara then “wrote back to the Cambridge group asking that their summer study examine the feasibility of…night vision devices, defoliation techniques and area-denial weapons,” according to the book The Jasons by Ann Finkbeiner. The same book also noted that:

“To set up their summer study, the Cambridge group called Jack Ruina, who was now president of IDA. `I got a call either from George Kistiakowsky or Jerry Wiesner or one of those guys,’ Ruina said. `Zacharias maybe. So what were they talking? They said, “We would like to have a study on a Vietnam issue and would you be willing to set up a study so it would be an IDA study.”’ IDA, with its academic trustees and its highly placed Defense Department customers, was a natural for the Cambridge group.”

According to The Jasons by Ann Finkbeiner, the Jason East group apparently completed their report during July and early August 1966 that designed “specific types of mines and bombs” and “suggested the aircraft appropriate for dropping, orbiting and striking” and again met at Dana Hall Girls School in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Aug. 15, 1966. Then, on Aug. 30, 1966, “Nierenberg, Deitchman, Kistiakowsky, Ruina, Jerome Wiesner and Jerrold Zacharias met with Robert McNamara and presented their report,” according to the same book.

In their 1987 book Vietnam On Trial: Westmoreland vs. CBS, Bob Brewin and Sydney Shaw also described what happened after the July and August 1966 summer meetings of IDA’s Jason Division:

“the IDA’s Jason division…on August 30, 1966 sent McNamara the results of their `Summer Study,’ which determined that `In the realities of Vietnam…the barrier must be imposed and maintained mainly by air.’

“This report, based on the research of M.Goldberger and W. Nierenberg, put a twentieth-century high-tech spin on the age-old concept of a wall…

“…As the Jasons planned it, the air-supported…barrier would consist of two parts, an anti-foot-traffic barrier and an anti-vehicular barrier, each backed by its own system of sensors and weapons…

“The Jasons…proposed `seeding’ a variety of unique munitions along the [Ho Chih Minh] Trail, lying in wait for an unsuspecting foe. These included `button bomblets,’ aspirin-sized explosives designed more to activiate the sensors when stepped on than to cause casualties. The bomblet was backed up by…irregular-shaped antipersonnel mines…

“Finally, the Jasons proposed that vehicular traffic detected by the sensors should be attacked with SADEYE-BCU26B cluster bombs…”

After receiving and looking over the IDA weapons research report that resulted from the Jason Division’s summer 1966 session of developing new weapons technology for use in Indochina, U.S. Secretary of Defense McNamara “helicoptered in to meet with Jason and the Cambridge Group for the last time” on Sept. 7, 1966 “at Zacharias’ summer home on Cape Cod,” according to The Jasons by Ann Finkbeiner. At this Sept. 7, 1966 meeting between these IDA-linked U.S. university professors, “Deitchman and Kistiakowsky explained the plan to McNamara” and “maps of Southeast Asia were spread out in the living room,” according to the same book.

The Vietnam On Trial: Westmoreland vs. CBS book also revealed what else happened in September 1966:

“The Jasons…pushed for a follow-on contract…They recommended that the Pentagon follow up the `Summer Study’ with a full-time task force…They...noted that IDA, by virtue of its…location and experience, seemed a suitable place to manage this effort.

“McNamara bit. On September 15[1966] he appointed Air Force Lieutenant Alfred Starbird as head of Joint Task Force 728, which would develop the barrier…”

According to The Jasons by Ann Finkbeiner:

“The task force was called the Defense Communications Planning Group, or DCPG…Its adjunct Scientific Advisory Committee included…a reasonable fraction of Jasons: Richard Garwin, Murph Goldberger, Val Fitch, Gordon MacDonald, Henry Kendall, Charles Townes, Bill Nierenberg, Hal Lewis, and probably others; Kistiakowsky was the committee’s chairman. It reported directly to McNamara.”

For secrecy reasons, the “Defense Communications Planning Group’ changed its name on June 13, 1967 to “Illinois City.” For secrecy reasons, it again changed its name in July 1967 to “Dye Marker.” Then, in September 1967, the Pentagon and IDA Jason Division-conceived air-supported sensor barrier project’s code-name was again changed; this time to “Muscle Shoals.” By June 1968, the electronic barrier project code-name had been changed yet another time, to “IGLOO WHITE.”

By 1968, the electronic battlefield technology that IDA’s Jason Division had developed for McNamara’s Vietnam War was being used in South Vietnam in the Battle of Khe Sanh. And, on Sat. Feb. 3, 1968, Columbia University Professor and Director of Columbia’s Watson IBM Labs Richard Garwin “traveled to Vietnam” with Henry Kendall and several other scientists “to check on the operation of the electronic barrier,” according to The Jasons by Ann Finkbeiner. The same book also observed:

“The sensors allowed such accurate detection of the enemy at night, in fog, behind hills, and in the jungle, that attacks on the enemy could be remote—that is, only artillery or air strikes—and would need no soldiers.

“…The electronic barrier turned into the electronic battlefield, the modern method for carrying out nonnuclear warfare, in particular on the urban battlefield…The relay to which the sensor talks is now a UAV, an unmanned aerial vehicle like the Predator or the Global Hawk, used in both Gulf wars and in Afghanistan…The responders are now bombs that are guided by lasers…”

According to a 1972 book by Cornell University’s Air War Study Group, titled The Air War In Indochina:

“The figures show that during the intense phase of the North Vietnam bombing, 100,000 to 200,000 tons of munitions per year were dropped. This bombing inflicted 25,000 to 50,000 casualties per year, 80 percent of whom were civilians…

“Indochina…has…become the laboratory for the evolution of the electronic battlefield…

“For the period from 1965 to April 1971, the estimate of civilian casualties in South Vietnam is 1,050,000 including 325,000 deaths…

“…American scientists and engineers—civilians as well as those working for the Department of Defense—have been deeply involved in the development of the electronic battlefield.”