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Archive for July 7th, 2009

There’s the popular adage that those who never learn from history are destined to repeat it. But that’s really all it is. An adage. Something to put on a t-shirt, but certainly not something to practice apparantly.

I was listening to NPR yesterday and I heard Bob Edwards Robert Siegel interview Errol Morris the filmmaker of The Fog of War featuring Robert McNamara. As you may know McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War, died yesterday. At two points in this interview Morris brings up what an interesting time it was making a film about learning lessons from war with Robert McNamara and have the Iraq War happen simultaneously. Twice, Bob Edwards Robert Siegel ignored Morris’ comments and moved on to perhaps more comfortable topics safely residing in far away history. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid we compare what happened in Vietnam to a current event. Here’s the transcript:

Morris: To him it was an ongoing investigation trying to figure out what had gone wrong, what he had been thinking and moreover how we could learn lessons from history and perhaps prevent the same things from happening all over again. Very very sad because the same things were happening all over again.

Siegel: In Iraq, your saying?

Errol Morris: Yes.

Siegel: I want to play something that McNamara told you in the documentary about working in World War II…

Opportunity lost. Then at the end of the interview, this bombshell happens.

Morris: Another fantastically interesting story that I heard from this man. Why didn’t he speak out? Here’s another question for you, why didn’t he speak out against the Iraq war when he expressed to me on so many occasions his opposition to what was happening.

Siegel: Errol Morris, filmmaker. Thank you very much for talking to us.

I don’t know about you, but I too find that extremely fascinating. What, you say? Robert McNamara was making a film about learning lessons from his experience in the Vietnam War, found correlation with the Iraq war and never said anything either while making the film or elsewhere on record about his opinion. What, you say Errol? Tell me more about that! I want to hear more about his opinion on that.

Sadly we get nothing from Siegel. Like I said, learning from history is something you put on a t-shirt. Something you tell a classroom full of children. Just like those signs outside the holocaust museum: “Never again.” But genocide does happen again and again and again and we do nothing. And we willfully ignore history. I swear I heard a chuckle from Morris at the end of the interview at the ridiculousness of it all.

Update: I may have confused Bob Edwards with Robert Siegel. While I listened to the interview last night on the radio, the segment posted online did not have an introduction of the interviewer. After looking at the hosts for All Things Considered, I’m willing to make the change to my post without confirmation of the speaker to Robert Siegel because I’m thinking that the interviewer is most likely Robert Siegel.

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