Do you think your dad would be surprised that we've been at war for more than a decade?
He saw these conflicts as long and protracted. It's like the Wild West where Kit Carson has an alliance with a Pawnee and the Pawnee has somewhat of an alliance with the Apaches—but we're actually after the Comanche bad guy. We're allying with one tribe against the other.
What would have been your dad's response to 9/11?
He would have wanted to get into Afghanistan and infiltrate the Taliban much earlier than we did. It didn't take John Walker Lindh and Anwar al-Awlaki, who are Americans, very long to fly over to Pakistan, grow a beard, get a turban, begin spouting anti-American slogans, and infiltrate themselves into the inner councils of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. My dad would say, Don't you think we could send a few people over there to do that same thing, but this time they'd be working for our side? Detroit and parts of California are full of Arab-Americans.
You interviewed a who's who of Washington for this film. Did being William Colby's son give you special access?
It got me in the door with my dad's friends. Others, such as William Webster, Donald Rumsfeld, Seymour Hersh—they've seen me around. But being Colby's son with them is just a curiosity.
How did you persuade Rumseld to participate?
To start with, I read his book. My dad went to Princeton, and so did Rumseld. So I had that going, too. Then I wrote him a long email explaining that I wanted to know if his experience as Secretary of Defense during Vietnam with 500,000 troops over there colored what he did in Iraq when he was again Secretary of Defense. That premise was interesting to him.
Bob Woodward was also one of your interviewees. What's it like turning the tables on him?
Bob almost interviewed me. He said, "This is very interesting, Carl. You're going to find out things about your father, perhaps, that you never knew." I told Bob some personal anecdotal things about my dad, but then he would spin it back to me. So in a sense, it's a dialogue.
Your dad abruptly divorced your mom when he was 63. In the movie, when your mom is recounting those days, she says she told your dad, "We're Catholics. We don't believe in divorce." What's her view of him now?
Her identity is still wrapped up in him. One time she said to me, "I should have probably married that guy from Columbus, Ohio, instead. We'd be living in Columbus. He'd be devoted to me. We'd go to the dances and play golf. We'd have a family and my husband would love and adore me." I told her, "But then you wouldn't have had Saigon, or Rome." Understand that living in exotic places didn't really matter to her. But she did want to be allied with a man who had a mission.
So what kind of father was William Colby?
He wasn't the Great Santini. He never challenged me to a basketball game so he could show me he was better than I was. In fact, dad didn't play team sports. He played individual sports. Or, frankly, just physical fitness, and that was for his benefit. He always looked directly at me, but I suspect he was thinking about Angola or something else. It's like my mom, siblings, and I were there as convenient window dressing. I loved him, but I always wondered whether he really loved us back.