“History’s Like the Weather”

In an intriguing Salon interview, documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris, comments on his recent film, The Fog of War, in which he interviews former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (subscription or free day pass required). The film has received a wide audience, in part because of the temptation to draw historical parallels between the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq. Morris, to his credit, is somewhat careful to avoid drawing false analogies between the two events, while recognizing some relevant comparisons:

I don’t believe that history exactly repeats itself. That’s not the argument. History’s like the weather — it never exactly repeats itself. And there’s a danger in making inappropriate and false analogies, but it’s really hard to look at this story without seeing parallels, common themes. I think about why I was attracted to doing this movie with McNamara in the first place. One of the reasons most certainly is that his stories, whether he knows it clearly or not, his stories are about error, confusion, mistakes, self-deception, wishful thinking, false ideology. It’s a cornucopia of bad stuff, of human failings. And what’s so interesting is that in some form or another, we see them in play today.

I’ve been an Errol Morris fan ever since I saw The Thin Blue Line for the first time. Here’s hoping that he earns a well-desrved Oscar (it would be his first) tomorrow night.

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