Morris on McNamara

Documentarian extraordinaire Errol Morris takes on Robert McNamara.

Culled from two dozen hours of videotaped interviews with Robert McNamara and declassified White House recordings from the ’60s, this latest film from documentarian extraordinaire Errol Morris is a memorable piece of work. Among other things, Mc-Namara makes the case against himself as a “war criminal” for having helped plan the firebombing of Japanese cities during World War II, resulting in 900,000 civilian casualties.

But who’s in control here? The film is structured as 11 “lessons,” each written by its own less-than-trustworthy subject. (Lesson #9: “In Order to Do Good, You May Have to Engage in Evil.”) This is the same McNamara known for never answering the question he’d been asked, but rather the question he wished he’d been asked. True to form, when Morris asks him about Vietnam, he delves into an autobiographical tour of duty that includes wistful reminiscences of his ’50s tenure at the Ford Motor Company.

When McNamara finally does discuss his role in Vietnam, his weepy remorse comes across as both genuine and self-serving. It’s tempting to say that Mr. Death, Morris’ previous movie, would have made an apt title for this film. But Fog does not leave the viewer with such moral clarity. As McNamara is quick to point out, this Mr. Death also helped bring us the seatbelt.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.