POLITICS
08/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Robert McNamara Reads Creepy, Ironic Poetry (VIDEO)

One of the things that is likely to prevent former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara from receiving the same wall-to-wall coverage in death that Michael Jackson did is the fact that McNamara did not leave behind that many widely-watched music videos. That's a pity, because he might have broken new ground in the area of Vincent Price voice-over narration. The closest we come to such a thing is this deleted scene from Errol Morris' The Fog Of War, where McNamara recites Dylan Thomas' "The Hand That Signed The Paper":

The poem, in its entirety, goes like so:

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;

Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,

Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;

These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,

The finger joints are cramped with chalk;

A goose's quill has put an end to murder

That put an end to talk.

The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,

And famine grew, and locusts came;

Great is the hand that holds dominion over

Man by a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften

The crusted wound nor pat the brow;

A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;

Hands have no tears to flow.

It's worth noting that "these" in the fourth line becomes "those," a case, perhaps, of McNamara unconsciously divesting himself of authorship. I faked my way through too many analytic discussions of poetry as an undergraduate to offer up any insight into whether or not there's significance in McNamara leaving out the second stanza. Any experts in the field are welcome to lend me their insight.

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