04/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why The Merrill Bonuses Are A Watershed Moment

In the midst of the Vietnam War, an Air Force major told war correspondent Peter Arnett that it was necessary to destroy the town of Ben Tre in order to save it. The twisted logic came to encapsulate the insanity of the entire decade-long fiasco.

We've now reached a Ben Tre moment in the financial crisis, thanks to Wall Street's fat-cat bonuses, especially those at Merrill Lynch. New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo is investigating why Merrill issued $3.6 billion in bonuses to executives last year - even though the firm lost nearly $28 billion and had to be taken over by Bank of America, with taxpayer assistance. And now the Wall Street Journal has identified some of the top recipients, including 11 executives who received more than $10 million each, in the same year that Merrill barely escaped a total flameout.

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