Four score and sev­eral quag­mires ago

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

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.

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