Saturday, October 9, 2010

"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" - Trailer


In the early 1960's Daniel Ellsberg started out as a "hawk" who believed in the Vietnam War.

He first served on active duty as a Marine rifle company officer in the 1950's, later a scholar and professor, and by 1959 a senior analyst at the defense-based think-tank, The Rand Institute near Los Angeles.

By 1964, he had become an important intellectual conduit for Defense Secretary Robert McNamara when he and President Lyndon Johnson launched a major American-led escalation of The Vietnam War in 1964 (using a misleading report about attacks on an American warship in The Gulf of Tonkin.)

Risking twenty years in jail for espionage, Ellsberg snuck out a copy of a top secret report about the lies and half-truths and cover-ups that led the American public into endorsing the Vietnam war, a war that cost 58,000 American lives and also killed up to two million Vietnamese. In 1971, he turned these copies over to "The New York Times" and selected Congressmen, and in so doing became a highly controversial figure and a target for the Nixon White House.

The massive tome of papers, that Ellsberg released to the New York Times and selected members of Congress became known as "The Pentagon Papers". This recent documentary explores Ellsberg change of mind and heart about the war he not only analyzed but led a Marine company into battle in. It keenly explores his motivations and those around him, including his wife and his colleagues who also changed their minds on the war.

I found this a riveting documentary. If you're interested in how America went into this war and how leaders don't trust their citizens with the whole truth, or any truth at all at times, its is worth seeing.

**2010 Academy Award Nominee!**

Co-winner of this years Freedom of Expression Award from the National Board of Review (and one of their Five Best Documentaries of the Year), Winner of the Special Jury Award at IDFA, and in contention for the years Best Documentary Oscar, The Most Dangerous Man in America tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, a high-level Pentagon official and Vietnam War strategist, who in 1971 concluded that the war is based on decades of lies and leaks 7,000 pages of top secret documents to The New York Times, making headlines around the world. A riveting story of how this one mans profound change of heart created a landmark struggle involving Americas newspapers, its president and Supreme Court. With Daniel Ellsberg, Patricia Ellsberg, Tony Russo, Howard Zinn, Hedrick Smith, John Dean, and, from the secret White House tapes, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who called Ellsberg the most dangerous man in America.


  1. We studied this in my history class, and honestly, I wasn't as surprised as I might have been when I was younger.
    I was totally against the war in Viet Nam, but it seems for all the wrong reasons. Of course, I believed the "Red menace" threat that came from all of the presidents, but I honestly didn't think we needed to be there. Now, I guess maybe I thought there was more to it than I did then.
    I don't believe any of our leaders anymore. After that fiasco, and GW Bush's lies, why should any of us believe them?

  2. Ellsberg drew attention to the fact that America has been committing crimes against humanity for decades and every president has been lying to the population about it.

    On 9/11 the US government overplayed its hand, but there is nothing new or surprising in that, it was just what it has always done and had mostly got away with it.

    You could of course say that all governments are guilty of similar crimes and deceptions, but it is the scale and the ambition of successive US administrations that is the uniquely defining factor here.

    In a unipolar world the US has concentrated the spotlight exclusively upon itself and what it has revealed is not pretty......mass murder, lies and hypocrisy have been the driving forces that define America.

    Unfortunately for Bush Jr and now Obama - the internet has made available information that once only people like Daniel Ellsberg were privy to.

    Now the equivalent to the Pentagon Papers are published thousands of times every day and distributed globally destroying the veil of propriety behind which the military industrial complex once conducted its business.

    Nixon was the first 'criminal president' to be exposed in my my lifetime at least, now they are all being exposed daily and the whole legend they represent is evaporating before our very eyes.

    Ironically the sheer commonplace ubiquity now of public scepticism regarding the legitimacy of the US government (and their clients) means that Daniel Ellsberg is also deprived of some of his iconic status, he has made the transition from heresy to orthodoxy which to me is evidence that a revolution is in fact taking place.

    The federal agencies of US government will however be among the last to know this glaring historical fact I think.

    America is of course not being attacked by Islam nor by Communism and it never really has been, it's nemesis is the crisis in legitimation that will eventually overwhelm the Washington corporatocracy and will collapse the American Empire in due course I believe.

    Ellesberg was once a hero but now he is just a citizen of planet earth, a regular guy in the newer world order...... another pioneer from the 60s and 70s who can be pleased with the progress of the revolution he helped shape!.

    Thanks for this post Doug, a timely mid-term reminder that all that glitters in Washington DC is not gold.

  3. Truth is, we really WERE the "wrong side".

  4. I'm not even sure there were ever any 'sides' really..... so- called sides that weren't all funded by the same corporations anyway.....'sides' seem to me to be largely the creation of the corporately controlled news media...."real" people are all on the same side I think.

  5. Since the politicians talk to us like we are children, no, we should only judge them by their actions. Their words are just puffery for the most part--and untrustworthy. That's one reason why so many people don't even bother to vote.

    No, I dont think we needed to be in Vietnam either, Jacquie.

    I remember as far back as I can my father the ex-Marine wondering "why in the hell America is in the middle of a civil war 8,000 miles away?"

    My mother's other son was over there in a combat unit for a "tour". She worried about him every day. And now America does business with Vietnam like it was just another country. American businesses are even talking about building nuclear power plants in Vietnam. Remember that the next time the drums of war are being beat by our politicos.

  6. Well put. As Ellsberg said in the documentary, after leading a Marine company into villages in Vietnam: "I felt like we were 'the redcoats'." And many of his men and brother officers agreed with that. He didn't have a sudden "Road to Damascus" moment--he was an insider who choose the outside. That's part of the interest to me about Mr. Ellsberg's story.

  7. Historians like Howard Zinn (R.I.P.) have indeed made that clear, AA.

    Not that Zinn or Noam Chomsky or Naomi Klein EVER get the air time in the media they should. Hence your other important points about the Internet. We now have a "shadow" media that will not be filtered by "editors"--outside China at least.

    Ellsberg was indeed a pioneer--spending night after night after work with his teen-aged kids copying material and then sending it in clandestine meeting to journalists and sympathetic Senators and Representatives. And then hoping they would publish or make good on promises to publish these inflammatory studies of attempts at mass brain-washing about Southeast Asia from the Eisenhower years on up.

    That a character like Nixon could be reelected by voters in 49 of 50 states in 1972 and then be forced to resign in disgrace to save his pension 20 months later speaks volumes about the power of truth I think.

    Today, he could have published all this himself and let the media watchdogs report afterwards. The obstacles Elllsberg faced--both personal and institutional--shows real perseverance and bravery on his part and that of his whole family. And, yes, for thinking people Ellsberg's views are the orthodox positions on the Vietnam War and now the Iraq and Af-Pak War.

    Overall, there does seem to be a serious "legitimation" problem right now. As a famous American cartoonist, Walt Kelly, put it so well in the Joe McCarthy Witch-hunt Era: "We have met the enemy, and they is us."

    Thanks to you and Jacquie for your commentary.