Mean time before rendezvous with the Secret Service

My Netflix arrived today—a documentary that came out a few years ago called The Fog of War about Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.

Given that the United States is mired in a contentious conflict in Iraq, I’m interested in how people involved in similar historical circumstances reflect on (and perhaps re-evaluate) the decisions they made. The documentary is engaging, part interview, part dynamic narrative, encompassing the incredible range of American history on which McNamara had an effect.

And my immediate thought after finishing the movie was that our current president should see this. I don’t mean that in any patronizing way. It’s just a good documentary, and on a human to human level, even at this point in the course of events, I think it would do anyone in his position some good to see. And maybe to learn from.

So I decided I’d send a copy. As a gift. Thanks to Cindy Sheehan, I know where he’s vacationing, I just need a mailing address. Turns out that’s not so easy to find online. Perhaps his ranch in Crawford, Texas is outside the purview of the US Postal Service? Or maybe he just doesn’t want to bother with fan mail when he’s out of the office. Now that I think about it, President George W. Bush, Crawford, Texas would probably be enough to get it routed on its way, but the information geek in me was really hoping for a definitive street address.

I did find the Establishment of Prohibited Area P-49 Crawford; TX, which details that “the prohibited [airspace] extends from the surface to 5,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL) within a 3-nautical mile (NM) radius of latitude 31 deg.34’57” N., longitude 97 deg.32’37” W.” Hmm, I wonder what might be at the center of that prohibited area?

Well, I discovered that I can just pop longitude and latitude coordinates into Google Maps, and it will plot the point I requested. But first I had to convert the values above to their decimal equivalents, which put me somewhere in middle of China on my first try. Turns out west longitude converts to a negative value, and I didn’t even have to go through all the conversion trouble, entering 31 34’57” -97 32’37” works just fine.

But the real beauty comes when you switch to satellite view and zoom all the way in. Paydirt!

Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford Texas

Granted it’s not an address, but it’s pretty cool to see the “10,000 ft² honey-colored native limestone single-level home” over half of which is “a ten-foot-wide limestone porch that encircles the house.” On the right you can see part of the “11 acre man-made pond that is stocked with 600 bass and thousands of bait fish” that Bush added. (Source: Prairie Chapel Ranch, Wikipedia)

In any event, my gift has been sent to a rather generic mailing address, with the following gift note:

President Bush, I watched “The Fog of War” tonight, and I was touched by how Robert McNamara evaluated his decision-making during the Vietnam War. I thought you might find this movie enlightening, especially with regard to Iraq. Justin Watt

Update: Houston, we have package tracking!


Well done, Justin!

Oh, if only you’d posted earlier. I have a friend who is driving to the ranch this very minute (I think to pee on something). He could have delivered the vid for you!

Dave in Michigan

I am sure the Bush administration is well aware of the events that transpired during the time McNamara was around.

I think you wasted your money.

Wow. I wonder how long it’ll take for google to remove that square of satellite graphic from their servers. :)

Also… Imagine what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld watched ‘The Fog of War’ and acted with as much humility as Robert McNamara has? Then again Erol Morris could be a dupe for a nice historical rewrite for a war pig who has lots of blood on his hands. Legacy means a lot to these folks. I wonder how the Shrub II will rewrite history?

I loved ‘The Fog of War’ btw.

mush, I feel like I should have sent the movie by UPS so I could have tracked it and seen who signed for it. That would have been cool to know.

Dave, I’m sure I wasted my money, but what’s $20 compared to the approx $180 billion spent on the war so far? $20 for a lark and a blog post. Money well spent, imho.

Brian, I’d be interested in hearing my parents opinion of their memories of McNamara versus how McNamara was portrayed in this film, since they lived through the Vietnam War. The movie seems to suggest that Lyndon Johnson and McNamara made for a particularly unstable combination, which I can’t help but see parallels with the current administration.


J, this might well be the coolest thing you have ever done.

Cooler than How one can become a terrorist? also note: I added a link to USPS Package Tracking at the bottom.

I echo Brian R’s thoughts. When I saw this film (in a packed theatre in Wash, D.C.), I just marvelled at three things mainly:

1) The serious self-examination that McNamara engaged in following the war.
2) The limits of that self-examination (for psychological preservation).
3) That f*cking Donald Rumsfeld is not capable of this sort of examination of his motives, which, sadly, requires some humility.

Justin, you rock for sending this to dumbyass. I think he’s an idiot who couldn’t grasp the most obvious points if he were tutored ’round the clock, but there is something to be said for the grand gesture, and I’m glad you made it.


The Fog of war is great, I imagine it is wasted on Mr. “W” but nice try anyway.

May I also recommend The Power Of Nightmares: The rise of the politics of fear – by Adam Curtis a 2004 BBC documentry

And following that Control Room (2004) & Outfoxed (2004) are great they work really well watched back-to-back.

I had read somewhere that some (small?) part of McNamara’s introspection about the war followed his witnessing of Norman Morrison’s self-immolation at the Pentagon. See for a wee bit of information.

Info from package tracking website:
Search Results
Label/Receipt Number: 9102 0012 0674 2079 3929 12
Status: Acceptance
Your item was accepted at 12:27 pm on August 20, 2005 in COFFEYVILLE, KS 67337. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later.

As far as I am concerned WHO CARES if your peace offering is a “waste of money”. Damn, what a straight jacket mentality to not do something just because it isn’t practical! Lots of things aren’t practical.

CONCEPTUAL thinking and creative action no matter how absurd, is KEY to overcoming paradigms. Thus inspiring others to create positive change. I applaud you Justin. More. More. More.

E, actually both those movies are in my Netflix queue. Brian, thanks for the props.

You know, I was thinking tonight that the thing that turns me off of politics the most is how dehumanized this left vs. right battle is. It turns politics into a bloodsport, which could be ok, except the outcome of the battle has meaningful effects on our lives, and the lives of so many people around the world.

This was a largely superficial gesture, but it helps me remember that 1) I can do whatever I want, and 2) George W. Bush is a person. Nothing less and frankly nothing more. I would say the same of myself. I’d just rather frame my “relationship” with the president in human terms, rather than in outright animosity.

Which makes me feel like I have a considerable amount of power. Rather that he acting sentiently and me railing against his every move, I can sit back and give a fuck. If he wants to go around and be like the worst president ever, well then have fun. But I’m going to be over here ready to suggest an alternative course of action when he’s done or ready to listen—which ever comes first.

Jim in Texas

If Bush donated his ranch as a memorial cemetery for the dead killed in his Iraq war; as of 17 April 2008 each grave would occupy 737 sq ft or 27.156 x 27.156 feet. If you deducted existing building and added access roads; then it could become difficult to accomodate all the graves. You’re doin a heckuva job Bushie.

Don A

The same area on Microsoft Live Search shows…nothing. They must have inserted a very old image of the area. I don’t really have a problem with them doing this, and I guess I’m kind of suprised that anyone can even get an image like Google’s, but I found it kind of amusing.


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