Condolence & Memory Journal


Though I met Mr. Robert S. McNamara when he led the World Bank, I got to know Bob better after he retired from there in 1981, when both of us joined the International Advisory Panel of the East African Development Bank (EADB). There is no doubt that his blunt challenge as Advisory Panel Member to the Governing Council of EADB -- consisting of the Ministers of the member governments (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) -- to clear their past due payments to EADB helped the Bank avert bankruptcy and allowed it to continue to lend to borrowers in the three countries to finance development.

As a fellow member of the Panel, I got to know and admire Bob, notwithstanding that I had demonstrated against and vehemently opposed him for his role in the war in Vietnam during my college days in California. In the margins of the EADB Advisory Panel meetings and on a few memorable other occasions, we spent hours talking about development, finance, politics, and East Africa -- where I was born. He clearly cared deeply about the poor of the world and spent a major part of his life trying to help them, even after leaving the World Bank. In the process, I believe he atoned in a small but significant way for the harm he did in Vietnam, though this is impossible to accept for many, particularly those who suffered family tragedies resulting from that unjust war. I found it hard not to forgive as he was above all intellectually honest, admitted to the grave errors of the war, sought to learn from them, and tried and succeeded in many ways to a lot of good for the World, including for East Africa.

I will miss his mind that was razor sharp even at 90, his deep convictions and commitment to help the poor, and his incredible ability not only to command attention but also to persuade reluctant policy makers to take difficult actions.

May you rest in peace, Bob, and may the world remember you not only for the horrors in which you had a hand but also for much good that you did for US and the world. Good bye my friend. I will miss you.

Mahesh Kotecha, CFA
President, SCIC
Member of the International Advisory Panel
East African Development Bank

Posted by Mahesh Kotecha, CFA, President, SCIC; Member of International Ad - Hastings on Hudson, NY   July 08, 2009


Secretary McNamara's continued public support for a war that he didn't believe was winnable, and his willingness to support policies that he thought would fail brought tears to his eyes in "The Fog of War". The tears were for the tens of thousands of American soldiers and the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who died while he remained silent. I hope he has a chance to speak to all of them now; and I hope that they can forgive him.

Posted by Tom    July 06, 2009