Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a lengthy but fascinating book to read. I’d had it for awhile, but had never opened it. Now I’m glad I did. Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst with the State Department, Department of Defense, was a Marine in Vietnam, and worked for the infamous Rand Corporation. He knew details about the Vietnam War that most did not, and in the late ’60s, he worked to uncover even more. Why? During his time in Vietnam, he had come to the conclusion that it was an immoral, unwinnable war, and he found in his research that it had largely been one war with first France and later America acting as the aggressors. Five — count ’em, five — US presidents lied to Congress and the American people about our involvement in the war and about the administration’s attempts to escalate, with Johnson being very bad and Nixon perhaps even worse. This war was fought in spite of good advice being available to these presidents. It’s personally perplexing to understand what was going through the minds of these bipartisan presidential efforts. What’s made clear is the South Vietnamese didn’t care about who won the war — they just wanted it over. They weren’t anti-communist, and the antipathy displayed by so many South Vietnamese turned it into an American war, one we never should have been involved in.
So the historical stuff is interesting, but the book picks up the pace to become a political thriller when Ellsberg starts copying what will become the Pentagon Papers he ultimately releases to the newspapers and the subsequent Watergate fiasco which resulted, in part. It was fascinating to read what he did when he went “underground” to avoid arrest by the FBI.
This book should be required reading for everyone today. It’s got important lessons to reveal, about US presidents, the government, the military, freedom of the press, the right of the people to know, American imperial aggression and much more. With the state of things today, it’d be great if Ellsberg would give lectures around the country to people very willing to listen and learn. This was a good book, and it might not merit five stars on its writing alone, but the subject matter takes it over the top and earns its five stars. Read it.
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For readers of this article who may be interested in learning more about the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg, please consider a recently abridged edition of the “secret history” of American involvement in Vietnam. An ebook is available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/206483
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