Irony Alert: Today the Federal Government formally declassified and released The Pentagon Papers. From Ellsberg's OpEd:
The declassification and online release Monday of the full original version of the Pentagon Papers – the 7,000-page top secret Pentagon study of US decision-making in Vietnam 1945-67 – comes 40 years after I gave it to 19 newspapers and to Senator Mike Gravel (minus volumes on negotiations, which I had given only to the Senate foreign relations committee). Gravel entered what I had given him in the congressional record and later published nearly all of it with Beacon Press. Together with the newspaper coverage and a government printing office (GPO) edition that was heavily redacted but overlapped the Senator Gravel edition, most of the material has been available to the public and scholars since 1971. (The negotiation volumes were declassified some years ago; the Senate, if not the Pentagon, should have released them no later than the end of the war in 1975.)The Documentary is an hour and 55 minutes. I suggest watching it if you have the time, it's well worth it, especially if you are too young to remember the Vietnam War and all that went down in what became known as "The Livingroom War". Below is a 20 minute clip of the Documentary, courtesy of PBS. You remember PBS, the R's in Congress want to de-fund that institution.More from Ellsberg's OpEd:
In other words, today's declassification of the whole study comes 36 to 40 years overdue. Yet, unfortunately, it happens to be peculiarly timely that this study gets attention and goes online just now. That's because we're mired again in wars – especially in Afghanistan – remarkably similar to the 30-year conflict in Vietnam, and we don't have comparable documentation and insider analysis to enlighten us on how we got here and where it's likely to go.
What we need released this month are the Pentagon Papers of Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen and Libya). We're not likely to get them; they probably don't yet exist, at least in the useful form of the earlier ones. But the original studies on Vietnam are a surprisingly not-bad substitute, definitely worth learning from.
As for Washington, the accounts of recurrent decisions to escalate in the Pentagon Papers read like an extended prequel to Bob Woodward's book last year, Obama's War, on the prolonged internal controversies that preceded the president's decisions to triple the size of our forces in Afghanistan. (Woodward's book, too, is based on top secret leaks. Unfortunately, these came out after the decisions had been made, and without accompanying documentation: which it is still not too late for Woodward or his sources to give to WikiLeaks.)Watch the 20-min clip at least...Because, for those that do not learn from history they are surely doomed to repeat it.
In accounts of wars 40 years and half a world apart, we read of the same irresponsible, self-serving presidential and congressional objectives in prolonging and escalating an unwinnable conflict: namely, the need not to be charged with weakness by political rivals, or with losing a war that a few feckless or ambitious generals foolishly claim can be won. Putting the policy-making and the field realities together, we see the same prospect of endless, bloody stalemate – unless and until, under public pressure, Congress threatens to cut off the money (as in 1972-73), forcing the executive into a negotiated withdrawal.
To motivate voters and Congress to extricate us from these presidential wars, we need the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East wars right now. Not 40 years in the future. Not after even two or three more years of further commitment to stalemated and unjustifiable wars.
Yet, we're not likely to get these ever within the time frame they're needed. The WikiLeaks' unauthorised disclosures of the last year are the first in 40 years to approach the scale of the Pentagon Papers (and even surpass them in quantity and timeliness). But unfortunately, the courageous source of these secret, field-level reports – Private Bradley Manning is the one accused, though that remains to be proven in court – did not have access to top secret, high-level recommendations, estimates and decisions.