Monday, July 13, 2009

McNamara and LBJ: Crooks, Liars, Murderers, and Thieves

by Jacob G. Hornberger

I can’t help but be amused by sentiments being expressed by liberals regarding Robert McNamara’s tenure at the World Bank. The notion is that, hey, McNamara wasn’t so bad. Even though he was responsible for the deaths of millions of people during the Vietnam War, he ended up helping the poor, needy, and disadvantaged around the world with World Bank loans.

What a crock.

A good example of this statist nonsense was expressed last week in an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Calculus and Compassion by Philip Bobbitt, who is the nephew of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, a fact I learned back in 1972 when Bobbitt and I, coincidentally, were in the same first-year law school classes at the University of Texas. By that time, I had already figured out, while an undergraduate at Virginia Military Institute, that the Vietnam War was founded on lies and deceptions at the hands of Bobbitt’s uncle, LBJ, and McNamara, his secretary of defense.

Bobbitt recalled that Johnson had described McNamara as a compassionate man. Telling us that his uncle was a “good reader of men,” Bobbitt alleged that Johnson was right about McNamara, saying that “his tenure at the World Bank shows a man driven by a desire to help the poor.”

Like so many other liberals, Bobbitt equates service in government welfare offices as equivalent to, say, Mother Theresa’s service to the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the help of resources that were being voluntarily donated to her, Mother Theresa was devoting her life to helping others. McNamara, on the other hand, was working for an institution that used money that was being forcibly extracted from others.

Suppose, for example, that I accost you with a gun, order you to go to an ATM machine and extract $10,000 from your bank account, and force you to turn it over to me. I use all of the money to help the poor. Does that make me a good, compassionate person? Of course not, as even Bobbitt would acknowledge. He would say that I was a thief, and he would be right.

But where Bobbitt, LBJ, and other liberals have a blind spot is with respect to government. If I run to government and persuade it take the $10,000 from you in the form of taxes and give it to the poor, I (and the bureaucrat distributing the money) immediately become a compassionate saint.

Of course, Bobbitt failed to mention that his uncle’s ability as a “good reader of men” wasn’t perfect. Throughout his tenure as president, LBJ was convinced that he would be able to buy off North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh with generous offers of U.S. foreign aid (i.e., welfare). Alas, his read of Ho Chi Minh turned out to be a bit faulty.

LBJ’s ability to “read men” might also be called into question given his devotion to such crooks as Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes. In fact, what Bobbitt also failed to mention in his op-ed was that Kennedy’s assassination saved LBJ from being dropped as JFK’s running mate in 1964 and from facing a federal grand-jury indictment for his role in the Billy Sol Estes grain scandal, which had resulted in the murder of federal investigator Henry Marshall.

In fact, no doubt Bobbitt’s relationship to his uncle is what prevented him from observing in the op-ed that the only reason that LBJ was president was because his illegal stuffing of Ballot Box 13 in Jim Wells County had enabled him to win his U.S. Senate seat from Texas some years before. Bobbitt might also have mentioned, but didn’t, that his uncle had lied about the bogus North Vietnamese attack at the Gulf of Tonkin, which garnered him the Gulf of Tonkin resolution from Congress, which in turn enabled him to expand an undeclared war that ending up taking the lives of 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese.

In an era in which moral principles on a severe decline, the last thing we need is praise of crooks, liars, murderers, and thieves. It would be difficult to find more apt descriptions for both Johnson and McNamara.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, publisher of Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax by Sheldon Richman.

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