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Tonight on PBS (check your local listings for time), POV will present The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.

If you don't know anything about the Vietnam war, Daniel Ellsberg, or the Pentagon papers, and want to bring yourself up to speed, or, if you just want a good refresher on what you already know, here's your chance.

From the full description of this film, below the fold:

When in 1971 Daniel Ellsberg leaked a secret Pentagon history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam to the press, the shockwaves it set off may have been due nearly as much to the leaker as to the information leaked. While Americans were painstakingly digesting the documents’ long and byzantine history — which showed the nation’s leaders, both Democratic and Republican, lying about the facts of the war, proclaiming their desire for peace while seeking a wider war, declaring fidelity to democracy while sabotaging elections, and exhibiting a sweeping callousness to the loss of both Vietnamese and American lives — Ellsberg himself dramatically embodied the country’s division over the Vietnam War.


As recounted in The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, nominated for a 2010 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature, Dr. Daniel Ellsberg was one of the few people who even had full access to the papers, to which he himself had contributed. Far from being an outsider, the Harvard-educated former Marine officer had worked hard, and brilliantly, in the view of his superiors, as a Pentagon analyst justifying expanded U.S. military action in Indochina. After The New York Times  became the first newspaper to begin publishing "The Pentagon Papers" on June 13, 1971, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger told his staff that Ellsberg was "the most dangerous man in America who must be stopped at all costs."

Trailer for the film.

PBS newsmagazine Need To Know co-anchor Jon Meacham interviewed Daniel Ellsberg this past Friday.  Ellsberg speaks to how early in the Vietnam war, he had mistakenly equated loyalty to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara with proper loyalty to the Constitution and the American public, and that by releasing the Pentagon papers, he restored his loyalty to the oath he took to preserve and protect the Constitution.  He also comments on Bob Woodward's book, Obama's Wars, and says he sees arguments and disputes within the Obama administration which parallel those during escalation of the Vietnam war during the Johnson administration.

As we will have to wait until this evening to see The Most Dangerous Man in America, it will be interesting to see what other parallels which Daniel Ellsberg finds between the Vietnam escalation and the escalation in Afghanistan.  Two mistakes made by the U.S. in Vietnam which are being repeated in Afghanistan are 1) counterinsurgency requires that we partner with a host government which is legitimate and viable (otherwise, you're just supporting one group of bad actors over another), but a legitimate, viable government did not exist in South Vietnam and also does not exist in Afghanistan, and 2) U.S. military and political leaders did not understand the political and cultural history of the Vietnamese, nor do they appear to understand that of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan.  It will be interesting to see if these topics are developed in tonight's documentary.

Originally posted to Hound Dog on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 10:53 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's another parallel: Hearts and minds. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nose, Hound Dog, Larsstephens

    This is a policy which cannot work, ever, in a counter-insurgency war.

    Why? Because it is executed by US troops, and even if it is wildly successful and the troops garner great affection from the indigenous people, that affection does not transfer to the supported government.

    The issue isn't what the insurgents and potential insurgents think of us, but what they think of the government against which they fight.

    It is simple logic. We are not, nor can ever be, the vital component outside our own country. Insurgencies abroad are simply not about us.

    It falls to the native government to win the hearts and minds, and if they cannot, for whatever reason, there is little we can do for them.

    That said, another parallel comes to mind. Regardless of policy, the boots on the ground think in more immediate terms and attach labels to the indigenes. I'm thinking, here, of the parallels between "slopes" "gooks" and "towelheads."

    These labels reflect the alienation the troops feel in a foreign land, and also serve to dehumanize both the purported enemy and those in whose name the war is supposedly being waged.  

    If war is human nature, why are so many soldiers psychologically broken by it?

    by oxon on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 11:16:56 AM PDT

  •  sidebar: freedom of information belongs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog, Larsstephens

    Freedom of information belongs to the people

    US cultural - government history ~ nine years after "The Most Dangerous Man in America"

    Page 1 of 162

    The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
    The CIA and Mind Control

    (c)1979 by John Marks
    Published by Times Books

    Excerpt from Author's Note

    This book has grown out of the 16,000 pages of documents that the CIA released to me under the Freedom of Information Act. Without these documents, the best investigative reporting in the world could not have produced a book, and the secrets of CIA mind-control work would have remained buried forever, as the men who knew them had always intended.  From the documentary base, I was able to expand my knowledge through interviews and readings in the behavioral sciences.  Nevertheless, the final result is not the whole story of the CIA's attack on the mind.  Only a few insiders could have written that, and they choose to remain silent.  I have done the best I can to make the book as accurate as possible, but I have been hampered by the refusal of most of the principal characters to be interviewed and by the CIA's destruction in 1973 of many of the key documents.

    I want to extend special thanks to the congressional sponsors of the Freedom of Information Act.  I would like to think that they had my kind of research in mind when they passed into law the idea that information about the government belongs to the people, not to the bureaucrats.  I am also grateful to the CIA officials who made what must have been a rather unpleasant decision to release the documents and to those in the Agency who worked on the actual mechanics of release.  From my point of view, the system has worked extremely well.

    I must acknowledge that the system worked almost not at all during the first six months of my three-year Freedom of Information struggle. Then in late 1975, Joseph Terillo and Timothy Sullivan, two skilled and energetic lawyers with the firm of Fried, Frank, Shriver, Harris and Kampelman, entered the case.  

    The Republicans don't want tax cuts for the middle class. They want to turn the US into a plutocracy or an oligarchy. ~ Speaker Nancy Pelosi

    by anyname on Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 11:45:03 AM PDT

  •  On Netflix-on-Demand (4+ / 0-)

    It's on Netflix-on-Demand for people who have Netflix and want to watch it at their leisure.

  •  Watched It Last Night (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hound Dog

    Excellent broadcast.  Kudos to Mr. Ellsberg.

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