Four score and several quagmires ago
IThe Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, documentary, The Screen, not rated, 3 chiles
Ellsberg, a handsome and charismatic 40-year old ex-Marine in 1971, threw himself into the arc of American history when he leaked the papers to The New York Times, leading the Nixon administration to call him “the most dangerous man in America.” As the film makes clear, Ellsberg was the most unlikely candidate to become an anti-war radical, something that made him all the more convincing to the American public when history forced him into the role.
At RAND, Ellsberg was a young East Coast wunderkind who worked under Robert McNamara, among others, helping to sell the war and plan its major operations. He would become one of what historian It was June of 1971. By the end of the year, the death toll of American servicemen in Vietnam would exceed 56,000. Yet for three years, the Pentagon had sat on a top-secret history of the Vietnam War whose revelations included unreported carpet bombings of Laos and Cambodia, an astronomical estimate of casualties, and most damning of all, a conclusion that the war could not be won at all. “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side. We were the wrong side,” said Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst for the RAND Corporation who would be called a hero and traitor for leaking this explosive report, later dubbed the Pentagon Papers, which he had also helped to author.
This chapter in American history, at turns both dark and noble, is revisited in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.