Quotes from the Movie The Fog of War

I formed the hypothesis that each of us could have achieved our objectives without the terrible loss of life. And I wanted to test that by going to Vietnam.

Robert McNamara

"Mr. McNamara, You must never have read a history book. If you'd had, 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." - Thach, former Foreign Minister of Vietnam, 1995, as recalled by McNamara.

Robert McNamara

Norman Morrison was a Quaker. He was opposed to war, the violence of war, the killing. He came to the Pentagon, doused himself with gasoline. Burned himself to death below my office. He held a child in his arms, his daughter. Passersby shouted, "Save the child!" He threw the child out of his arms, and the child lived and is alive today. His wife issued a very moving statement: 'Human beings must stop killing other human beings.' And that's a belief that I shared. I shared it then and I believe it even more strongly today. How much evil must we do in order to do good? We have certain ideals, certain responsibilities. Recognize that at times you will have to engage in evil, but minimize it.

Robert McNamara

We all make mistakes. We know we make mistakes. I don't know any military commander, who is honest, who would say he has not made a mistake. There's a wonderful phrase: '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.

Robert McNamara

The major lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is this: the indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. Is it right and proper that today there are 7500 offensive strategic nuclear warheads, of which 2500 are on a 15 minute alert to be lauched at the decision of *one* human being?

Robert McNamara

I'm not so naive 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. There's a quote from T.S. Eliot that I just love: We shall not cease from exploring And at the end of our exploration We will return to where we started And know the place for the first time. Now that's in a sense where I'm beginning to be.

Robert McNamara

On his way out of the studio, Errol Morris remarked that last August in Waco, Texas, he looked up in the airport and saw Karl Rove standing in front of him. Morris introduced himself as the film-maker of "The Fog of War." With something more than cordiality, Rove responded: "That's one of my favorite movies. I recommend it to everybody I know."

Christopher Lydon

My wife, Julia Sheehan, sees McNamara as 'the flying Dutchman,' destined to travel the earth looking for redemption, absolution, whatever. Many political writers have been less kind. They see his trip to Vietnam, to Hanoi, as an attempt to justify a war that can never be justified. And they see his trips to Havana and to Moscow as facile attempts to rewrite history. I see it differently. There is something, for me, deeply moving and interesting about McNamara's attempt to figure out what happened, who he is and what he's done. Unusual among public figures, he has embarked on an historical investigation of himself. But doesnít he know what heís done? Call it the Cartesian error: the belief that we have privileged access to our own minds, that we somehow know what we're thinking or what we were thinking. Canít I just look 'upstairs' and summarize what I find up there? I don't think so.

Errol Morris

I've always wondered where explanations end and excuses begin. And is there a difference between excuses and explanations ... is an excuse a bad or self-serving explanation? I don't know. Maybe Newton's Law is an excuse for why bodies just stay at rest or in motion unless acted on by some external force. I look at the McNamara story as the-fog-of-war-ate-my-homework excuse. After all, if war is so complex, then no one is responsible.

Errol Morris

A friend of mine has said, 'You can never trust someone who doesn't talk a lot, because how else could you know what they're thinking?' This could be true. There's a belief that if you sit people down and you let them talk that they will reveal who they are. And then this also contrary to the whole idea about how you're supposed to investigate stuff, how you're supposed to interview people. After all, you're supposed to ask difficult questions. You're supposed to - particularly if you want to find something out, you're supposed to back the subject against the wall, press them hard and get them to 'fess up in some way or another. This is part of many of the criticisms that I heard about my film of Robert S. McNamara. That he should have been subjected to much tougher questions."

Errol Morris

I had a lot of trouble with McNamara in the course of making this movie. Horrible disagreements about stuff I had put in the movie that he did not want in there. One of the major disagreements concerned the lessons in the film. There are 11 lessons. And he repeatedly said, 'You know, Errol, those are not my lessons. They are your lessons.' And I said, 'Yeah, yeah, they are. But they're extracted, of course, from things that you've said,' things that McNamara said, which is indeed the case. Perhaps not the lessons that McNamara would have chosen, but then, he was not directing the movie. I think that the lessons are all ironic. It's very odd to me that people talk about the film and they talk about the lessons without pointing out that there might be intended ironies with each and every one of them. But yes, they are for me ironic, particularly the last one in the movie: You can't change human nature. It tells you that all of the other lessons are valueless, that the human situation is indeed hopeless."

Errol Morris

I saw the movie as a collaboration between the two of us. I never saw the movie, as I was making it, and I don't see the movie now, as my attempt to quote-unquote "get," go after, Robert S. McNamara. I saw it as an attempt to try to understand McNamara - to answer questions about McNamara.

Errol Morris

This thing is heavy. I'd like to thank the Academy for finally recognizing my films. Thank you so very, very, very much! I thought it would never happen. I'd like to thank my very good friends at Sony Pictures Classics, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard. No one would get to see this movie without them. My two producers - Michael Williams, Julie Ahlberg. Couldn't have made the movie without them either. My long suffering editors - Charlie Silver, Brad Fuller. And Karen Schmeer and Doug Abel, thank you also very much. And believe it or not, Robert McNamara, with whom, if he hadn't done it there would have been no film. 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. And if people can stop and think and reflect on some of the ideas and issues in this movie, perhaps I've done some damn good here. Thank you very, very much.

Errol Morris

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