Nixon and the Pentagon Papers


The cover of a Pentagon Papers volume

“In early 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was struggling with a mounting sense of frustration over the Vietnam War. Questioning the decision-making process that had led to such deep US involvement, McNamara initiated a comprehensive analysis of post-1945 policy in the region. So began the creation of what would come to be called the ‘Pentagon Papers.’ … A year and a half later, Gelb’s team of 36 military personnel, historians, and defense analysts from the RAND Corporation and Washington Institute for Defense Analysis had produced roughly 7,000 pages comprising 47 volumes.United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967 was a comprehensive documentary and analytical record from the end of World War II through the aftermath of the Tet Offensive of early 1968. Most important, however, the highly classified study revealed that administrations from Harry S. Truman’s through Lyndon B. Johnson’s had willingly deceived the American people about the nation’s involvement in Vietnam. As with most classified documents, McNamara’s detailed study might have gathered dust for decades. Instead much of it appeared in the New York Times, and its publication became a turning point in the presidency of Richard Nixon—an ironic twist considering the Pentagon Papers covered a period when Nixon himself was not in power. Nevertheless, the leak occurred during the Nixon presidency, convincing him that he was engaged in the battle of a lifetime—to protect his presidency as well as the nation. In his eyes, the publication of the Pentagon Papers confirmed the existence of a radical, left-wing conspiracy throughout the government and media, whose purpose was to delegitimize him and topple his administration. Nixon resolved to fight back with every tool at his disposal, making the fateful decision to break the law to achieve his ends. The story of the Pentagon Papers begins with Daniel Ellsberg, a defense analyst specializing in nuclear weapons strategy and counterinsurgency theory. Ellsberg had deep knowledge of Vietnam, having served in the Pentagon’s International Security Affairs (ISA) division from 1964–65 then as an analyst in South Vietnam for two years. After returning to the United States to work for the RAND Corporation, he became a member of Gelb’s task force. The work confirmed what he already suspected: US involvement in Vietnam was based on systematic deception by the government. …”
Miller Center (Audio/Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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This entry was posted in Books, CIA, Henry Kissinger, Lyn. Johnson, Nixon, R. McNamara, Tet 1968, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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