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If not for the Pentagon Papers, documenting the foul-ups and the bad decisions on top of bad decisions, who knows when that terrible War to "stop the communist dominoes," might have ever ended?  If ever?

[Source -- Silent March in Protest of The Vietnam War | University of Illinois Archives, ]

Those being sent to fight and die (and their friends who dodged the senseless flight), knew that jungle war's terrible costs.  Too often first hand, with too many somber funerals.

[Source -- The Sixties Beat!: sixties ]

And those being fed a steady diet of competing "body counts" on their Evening News along with "happy sitcoms" at night however, could only wonder just how bad that war could really be? Afterall Archie Bunker says "Meathead" is just a crazy-hippie so, What did he know about the war, and stuff?

That was until one day, one insider decided to do the "right thing."  And go public.

Enter the late sixties sit-com stage: one Daniel Ellsberg.

Pentagon Papers --

The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971.[1] A 1996 article in The New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers "demonstrated, among other things, that the Lyndon Baines Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance".[2] The report was declassified and publicly released in June 2011.

Daniel Ellsberg knew the leaders of the task force well. He had worked as an aide to McNaughton from 1964 to 1965, had worked on the study for several months in 1967, and in 1969 Gelb and Halperin approved his access to the work at RAND.[5] Now opposing the war, Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo[7] photocopied the study in October 1969 intending to disclose it. He approached Nixon's National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Senators William Fulbright and George McGovern, and others, but none were interested.[5]

Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, [a Senator or Representative] {sic} shall not be questioned in any other Place", thus the Senator could not be prosecuted for anything said on the Senate floor, and, by extension, for anything entered to the Congressional Record, allowing the Papers to be publicly read without threat of a treason trial and conviction. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the decision Gravel v. United States.

Later, Ellsberg said the documents "demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates".[10] He added that he leaked the Papers to end what he perceived to be "a wrongful war".[10]

And since the Senators shows little interest in Ellsberg's bombshell "papers" -- he turned to another avenue, that constitutionally-empowered protector the public interest -- the U.S. Press ...

The Vietnam War -- The Bitter End 1969-1975

The History Place,

June 13, 1971 - The New York Times begins publication of the 'Pentagon Papers,' a secret Defense Department archive of the paperwork involved in decisions made by previous White House administrations concerning Vietnam. Publication of the classified documents infuriates President Nixon.

June 15, 1971 - Nixon attempts to stop further publication of the Pentagon Papers through legal action against the Times in the U.S. District Court.

June 18, 1971 - The Washington Post begins its publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Times and Post now become involved in legal wrangling with the Nixon administration which soon winds up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 22, 1971 - A non-binding resolution passed in the U.S. Senate urges the removal of all American troops from Vietnam by year's end.

June 28, 1971 - The source of the Pentagon Papers leak, Daniel Ellsberg, surrenders to police.

June 30, 1971 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules 6-3 in favor of the New York Times and Washington Post publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Vietnam War --
Date:       1 November 1955[A 1] – 30 April 1975 (19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks & 1 day)

Location:  South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos

Result:     North Vietnamese victory

   -- Withdrawal of American forces from Indochina
   -- Communist governments take power in South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
   -- South Vietnam is annexed by North Vietnam

Territorial changes:     Unification of North and South Vietnam
                                into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese service members and civilians killed vary from 800,000[34] to 3.1 million.[18][21] Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians,[22][23][24] 20,000–200,000 Laotians,[35][36][37][38][39][40] and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.[A 2]

[Source -- TDDE 131 Week 3: Data Visualization ]

If only someone had demonstrated Ellberg's courage of conscience sooner, eh?  Maybe casualty Fifty Eight thousand Two Hundred and Twenty, would not have to have been

"the last one to have died for a mistake."

Did Ellsberg do the right thing?  I don't know it's hard for me to say, since I was one of those sixties sitcom kids trying to fathom why Walter Cronkite on my CBS Evening news, was giving me those "body count" tallies everyday -- like they were "football scores" or something!?

North Vietnamese: 223, US forces: 125.  Even as a kid though, it didn't sound like we were "winning" to me. 125 in a DAY is a lot, right?

[Source -- Walter Cronkite on television 1976.jpg - Wikimedia ]

Did Ellsberg do the right thing?  Well let's see what the Supreme Court of the day, what they thought of the Pentagon Papers "national security" matter ...

New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)

Circumstances of the Case

The Pentagon Papers [...] were illegally copied and then leaked to the press. Acting at the Government's request, the United States district court in New York issued a temporary injunction -- a court order -- that directed the New York Times not to publish the documents. The Government claimed that the publication of the papers would endanger the security of the United States. The New York Times appealed the order to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that prior restraint -- preventing publication -- violated the 1st Amendment.

Constitutional Issues

Are the freedoms provided by the 1st Amendment absolute? Did the threat to national security outweigh the freedom of press guaranteed by the 1st Amendment? Did the publication of the Pentagon Papers in fact pose a threat to national security?

Decision and Rationale

By a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the New York Times. In the judgment, the Court cited a prevailing precedent, noting: “Any system of prior restraints of expression comes to this Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.” In other words, the Court would not be favorably disposed to stifling the press on the order of the government.

Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas, members of the majority, held that the 1st Amendment is absolute. Justice Black called it “unfortunate” in his view “that some of my Brethren [fellow justices] {sic} are apparently willing to hold that the publication of news may sometimes be enjoined. Such a holding,” he wrote, “would make a shambles of the First Amendment.”

So thanks to Daniel Ellsberg and his "legal leaking" of the Pentagon Papers -- the Vietnam War would soon end, as the sleepy middle class suburbia began to wake up to their "patriotic dissonance" of continue to shrug their shoulders, at those annually recurring recruitment posters like these:


So thanks to the courage of Daniel Ellsberg, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, this Vietnam Memorial Wall did not have to be one name longer.  This stark memorial did not have to make room for another name like my own, as my draft number was rapidly approaching its maturity due date.

[Source -- Vietnam Veterans Memorial 30 years later | Invisible Children ]

And thanks to real Patriotic Americans who dare to stand up and speak out, when our Government crosses the line with Constitutional harm, in our citizen's names -- thanks to them, those real Patriotic Americans who dare to fight in our names, may have to endure their thankless, and often misdirected burdens -- NOT one day longer than is humanly necessary.

[Source -- HST 455 – Vietnam War | History Department Online ]

If War is Hell ... What does that make those who would perpetuate it, without regular, sober, and critical review?

The Hell-raisers or the Hell-makers?  Or the counters of conquests that nevermore grace our Evening TV viewing. Afterall, who needs all that muss and fuss to ruin our exceptional dinners?

If not for the Pentagon Papers ... we wouldn't have the 'peace and security' we all enjoy today. We'd still be fighting an endless war, in a nameless country, against a hidden enemy, who would rather grow their crops and raise their herds, than die in the dust like a dog.

Thankfully those days are over, eh?

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 04:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Rebel Alliance.

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