A millenial development?

The paranoid thriller, Enemy of the State (now showing at your local movie theater), has a villain who bears an uncanny resemblance to former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, architect of the 1960s military build-up in South Vietnam. Though opponents called McNamara a "war criminal," he may be surprised to find himself three decades later a dark icon in a conspiracy movie that features a rogue national security official carrying out his own policy against "enemies of the state."

The paranoid links Enemy of the State conjures up between the lies and secrets of Vietnam and current anxieties about the technology of spying and government invasion of privacy will seem comical to those old enough to remember McNamara’s overblown confidence in technology. Still, the links to criminal acts committed in the name of the state are evocative, especially in light of General Augusto Pinochet’s extended stay in England under threat of extradition to Spain for "crimes against humanity." In their ruling detaining Pinochet, Britain’s Law Lords eloquently reiterated a traditional moral understanding: "certain types of conduct, including torture and hostage-taking, are not acceptable conduct on the part of anyone. This applies as much to heads of state-as it does to everyone else." In other words, tyrants, dictators, kings, and presidents cannot get away with murder.

Whatever Pinochet’s ultimate fate, the fact that he...

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