Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

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9780142003428: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers - a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam - to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy. The story of one man's exploration of conscience, Secrets is also a portrait of America at a perilous crossroad.

"[Ellsberg's] well-told memoir sticks in the mind and will be a powerful testament for future students of a war that the United States should never have fought." -The Washington Post

"Ellsberg's deft critique of secrecy in government is an invaluable contribution to understanding one of our nation's darkest hours." -Theodore Roszak, San Francisco Chronicle

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Daniel Ellsberg, a Harvard graduate, ex-Marine, and Rand Corporation analyst, was one of the "whiz kids" recruited to serve in the Pentagon during the Johnson administration. In 1971, Ellsberg made headlines around the world when he released the Pentagon Papers. He is now a prominent speaker, writer, and activist.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue: Vietnam 1961

In the fall of 1961 it didn't take very long to discover in Vietnam that we weren't likely to be successful there. It took me less than a week, on my first visit. With the right access, talking to the right people, you could get the picture pretty quickly. You didn't have to speak Vietnamese, or know Asian history or philosophy or culture, to learn that nothing we were trying to do was working or was likely to get better. I read somewhere you don't have to be an ichthyologist to know when a fish stinks.

It helped that I was part of a high-level Pentagon task force, visiting the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Vietnam with a "go anywhere, see anything" kind of clearance. The chief of MAAG, General Lionel McGarr, told his staff members to help us any way they could and to speak frankly. One colonel in particular whom I talked to was near the end of his tour and inclined to pass on what he had learned in-country to someone who might have the ear of folks in Washington. He opened MAAG's files to me and pulled out piles of folders, and I stayed up half the night several nights in a row reading plans and reports and analyses of our programs in Vietnam and their prospects. The smell of rot, of failure, lay all over them, and my colonel friend made no attempt to pretend otherwise.

He told me-and the documents and what I heard from his colleagues supported it-that under President Ngo Dinh Diem, the dictatorial leader we had essentially chosen for South Vietnam seven years earlier, the Communists would almost surely take power eventually, probably within a year or two. If Diem was deposed in a coup-one had almost succeeded the year before-the Communists would probably win even faster. His reasoning was informed and complex; my notes of our discussions are filled with diagrams of "vicious circles," a whole network of them. It was persuasive.

Most of the MAAG officers agreed with him, and with many Vietnamese officials, that the only thing that would change this prospect in the short run would be American combat forces on a large scale. (The Geneva Accords of 1954 permitted only some 350 American military "advisers" in the country, although by various subterfuges some 700 were present, none in American combat units.) But even American divisions, this colonel believed, would only postpone the same outcome. The Communists would govern soon after our forces left, whenever that might be.

This was not good news to me. I was a dedicated cold warrior, in fact a professional one. I had been anti-Soviet since the Czech coup and the Berlin blockade in 1948, my last year of high school, and the Korean War while I was a student at Harvard a couple of years later. For my military service I had chosen the Marine Corps and spent three years as an infantry officer. After the Marines I returned to Harvard as a graduate fellow and then went to the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization whose entire focus was the military aspects of the cold war. My own work up to 1961 had been mainly on deterring a surprise nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. I should have liked nothing better than to hear that South Vietnam was a place where Soviet-backed Communists were going to be defeated, with our help. But the colonel's arguments persuaded me that this was not that place.

When I got back to Rand the next month, my informal message to my bosses was that they would be well advised to keep clear of Vietnam, stay away from counterinsurgency research, in Vietnam at least. We were on a losing course there, I said, that was very unlikely to be changed, and all associated with it would only be frustrated and tarred by failure. They would suffer the fate of those who had worked on the Bay of Pigs, just a few months earlier. I privately decided to have nothing to do with it.

But the Kennedy administration didn't have that luxury in the short run. Just weeks after I returned from Vietnam a White House team under two top presidential advisers, General Maxwell Taylor and Walt W. Rostow, headed out to Saigon to assess the situation for the president. In particular, they were to judge the necessity for sending U.S. ground forces. Soon after their return a month later the White House announced an increase in our involvement in Vietnam. In mid-November President Kennedy launched a steadily growing increase in the number of U.S. military personnel in Vietnam, breaking through the ceiling set by the Geneva Accords in 1954. He doubled the number of military advisers in the last two months of 1961 and accompanied them with support units for the Vietnamese armed forces: helicopter companies and specialists in communications, transportation, logistics, and intelligence.

I wasn't really surprised by this. I was glad that contrary to press speculation over the previous weeks, he sent no U.S. ground combat units. Nevertheless, I thought the increased involvement went in the wrong direction. (U.S. presence had increased to twelve thousand "advisers" by the time President Kennedy died in 1963, and some U.S. support was being supplied covertly, but still no ground combat units.) It was what I had feared was likely to happen; that was why I'd made a conscious decision not to be part of it.

I kept that resolution for the next three years.

1.

The Tonkin Gulf: August 1964

On Tuesday morning, August 4, 1964, my first full day on my new job in the Pentagon, a courier came into the outer office with an urgent cable for my boss. He'd been running. The secretaries told him Assistant Secretary John McNaughton was out of the office; he was down the hall with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. They pointed him to me, his new special assistant. The courier handed me the cable and left. It was easy to see, as I read it, why he had been running.

It was from Captain John J. Herrick, the commodore of a two-destroyer flotilla in the Tonkin Gulf, off North Vietnam in the South China Sea. He said he was under attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats and had opened fire on them. He was in international waters, over sixty miles off the coast of North Vietnam. One torpedo had been heard by the sonarman on his command ship, the USS Maddox, and another had just passed by the other destroyer, the Turner Joy.

As soon as he gave me the cable, the courier returned to the message center of our department in the Pentagon, International Security Affairs (ISA), part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the civilian part of the Department of Defense. Within ten minutes he was back to me with another one in the same series: "Am under continuous torpedo attack."

A few minutes later Herrick reported another torpedo had run by him, and two more were in the water. His ships were firing at the attackers and might already have destroyed one of them. They were firing by radar, without visual contact. The encounter was taking place in total darkness, on an overcast night without moon or stars, in the hours close to midnight.

This was no ordinary event. It was exactly the second attack on a U.S. Navy vessel since World War II. But the first had been less than three days earlier. That was on Sunday, August 2, also on Herrick's ship, the USS Maddox, on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. In broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon, twenty-eight miles out to sea, three North Vietnamese PT boats had attacked and launched torpedoes at the Maddox. All the torpedoes had missed, and there was no damage to the destroyer, except for a single 14.5-mm bullet that lodged in one of its stacks. The boats were driven off, all damaged, by fire from the Maddox and from navy planes from the carrier Ticonderoga nearby.

Since there had been no American casualties or significant damage, President Johnson had decided to take no further action, except to add another destroyer, the Turner Joy, to the mission. The two destroyers were directed to continue what was described publicly as a routine patrol in order to assert U.S. rights to navigate freely in international waters. But the president also announced on Monday his orders that in case of any further attacks, the attacking boats were to be not only repulsed but destroyed. He had sent a formal protest to Hanoi, warning that "any further unprovoked offensive military action against United States forces" would "inevitably" result in "grave consequences." All this, except for the latest announcement, I'd read in the Monday morning newspapers. That afternoon, reading classified accounts of the episode, I'd learned a good deal more.

Now, as each new message came in, I looked at the date-time group, the six-digit number (followed by a letter indicating the time zone, then the month) at the upper-left-hand corner of the cables. The first two digits indicated the day of the month; the next four, in military time (2400 for midnight), the exact time the message had been transmitted. The first cable had been transmitted from Herrick's command ship at 10:42 a.m. Washington time (9:42 p.m. in the Tonkin Gulf). I compared the time of transmission with the clock on the wall of my office in the Pentagon, which showed, as I recall, that it was about half an hour later, an extremely short time in this precomputer age for this message to reach me. The same was true for the second, sent at 10:52 a.m. Washington time and handed to me about 11:20, and for the others that kept arriving every few minutes. Herrick was giving them "Flash" priority, the highest priority for message handling, so they were taking precedence at every terminal for handling, retransmission, and distribution.

But twenty or thirty minutes was a long duration for an action like this. The whole exchange on Sunday, surface and air, had lasted thirty-seven minutes. It could have been all over, on the other side of the world, by the time I read the first message, or the latest one. Or a destroyer might have been hit, might already be sinking, while we were reading about its evasive maneuvers or its success at destroying an attacker. But there was no way for anyone in Washington to know that as he read these.

There was then no CNN on which to watch live action half a world away. There was not even any direct voice contact between Washington and destroyers in the western Pacific. The closest to it was radio and telephone contact with Admiral Ulysses S. G. Sharp, commander in chief Pacific (CINCPAC), at his command post in Hawaii, as far away from the Tonkin Gulf as Washington was from Hawaii. CINCPAC cables, and many others, were now adding to the pile on my desk, but they weren't arriving as frequently or as fast as the flash cables from the destroyers. Following Captain Herrick's stream of messages, we weren't really watching the action in real time, but they were coming in such quick sequence that it felt as if we were.

The messages were vivid. Herrick must have been dictating them from the bridge in between giving orders, as his two ships swerved to avoid torpedoes picked up on the sonar of the Maddox and fired in the darkness at targets shown on the radar of the Turner Joy: "Torpedoes missed. Another fired at us. Four torpedoes in water. And five torpedoes in water....Have...successfully avoided at least six torpedoes."

Nine torpedoes had been fired at his ships, fourteen, twenty-six. More attacking boats had been hit; at least one sunk. This action wasn't ending after forty minutes or an hour. It was going on, ships dodging and firing in choppy seas, planes overhead firing rockets at locations given them by the Turner Joy's radar, for an incredible two hours before the stream of continuous combat updates finally ended. Then, suddenly, an hour later, full stop. A message arrived that took back not quite all of it, but enough to put everything earlier in question.

The courier came in with another single cable, running again, after an hour of relative quiet in which he had walked in intermittently at a normal pace with batches of cables from CINCPAC and the Seventh Fleet and analyses from the State Department and the CIA and other parts of the Pentagon. I was sitting at my desk-I remember the moment-trying to put this patchwork of information in some order for McNaughton on his return, when the courier handed me the following flash cable from Herrick: "Review of action makes many reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken."

It was a little after 2:00 p.m. The message had been sent at 1:27 p.m. Washington time. Half an hour later another message from Herrick, summarizing positive and negative evidence for an attack, concluded: "Entire action leaves many doubts except for apparent attempted ambush at beginning. Suggest thorough reconnaissance in daylight by aircraft." The reconnaissance in daylight, still three or four hours away in the gulf, would search for oil slicks and wreckage from the boats supposedly hit, indications that an attack, not just a fight with radar ghosts, had actually taken place.

In my mind, these messages erased the impact of the two-hour-long "live" drama that we'd been following. This new information was a cold bath. Around three o'clock, in response to frantic requests for confirmation, Herrick cabled, "Details of action present a confusing picture although certain that original ambush was bona fide." But how could he be "certain" of that, or why should anyone else be, when he had seemed equally confident, an hour earlier, of all the succeeding reports up till now? Herrick continued to assert at 6:00 p.m. Washington time (5:00 a.m. in the gulf) that "the first boat to close the Maddox probably fired a torpedo at the Maddox which was heard but not seen. All subsequent Maddox torpedo reports are doubtful in that it is suspected that sonarman was hearing ship's own propeller beat." But his acknowledgment that all the other vivid reports he had been sending were unreliable undercut his assertion of continued confidence in his initial messages and the first torpedo. As negative evidence accumulated, within a few days it came to seem less likely that any attack had occurred on August 4; by 1967 it seemed almost certain there had been no second attack, and by 1971 I was convinced of that beyond reasonable doubt. (In 1966 credible testimony from captured North Vietnamese officers who had participated in the August 2 attack refuted any attack on August 4. In late 1970 journalist Anthony Austin discovered and gave me evidence that intercepted North Vietnamese cables supposedly confirming an August 4 attack actually referred to the attack on August 2. Finally, in 1981 journalist Robert Scheer convinced Herrick-with new evidence from his ship's log-that his long-held belief in the first torpedo report was unfounded.) However, on August 4, given Herrick's repeated assurances and those of a number of seamen over the next few hours, I concluded that afternoon, along with everyone else I spoke to, that there probably had been an attack of some sort. At the same time, there was clearly a good chance that there had been none. In that light, Herrick's recommendation to pause and investigate before reacting seemed prudent, to say the very least: Reverse engines, stop the presses! But that was not how things were moving in Washington that Tuesday afternoon.

Herrick's new cables didn't slow for a moment the preparations in Washington and in the Pac...

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Descripción Penguin Publishing Group, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reissue. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers - a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam - to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy. The story of one man s exploration of conscience, Secrets is also a portrait of America at a perilous crossroad. [Ellsberg s] well-told memoir sticks in the mind and will be a powerful testament for future students of a war that the United States should never have fought. -The Washington Post Ellsberg s deft critique of secrecy in government is an invaluable contribution to understanding one of our nation s darkest hours. -Theodore Roszak, San Francisco Chronicle. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780142003428

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Descripción Penguin Publishing Group, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reissue. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers - a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam - to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy. The story of one man s exploration of conscience, Secrets is also a portrait of America at a perilous crossroad. [Ellsberg s] well-told memoir sticks in the mind and will be a powerful testament for future students of a war that the United States should never have fought. -The Washington Post Ellsberg s deft critique of secrecy in government is an invaluable contribution to understanding one of our nation s darkest hours. -Theodore Roszak, San Francisco Chronicle. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780142003428

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Descripción Penguin Publishing Group, United States, 2003. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reissue. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In 1971 former Cold War hard-liner Daniel Ellsberg made history by releasing the Pentagon Papers - a 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam - to the New York Times and Washington Post. The document set in motion a chain of events that ended not only the Nixon presidency but the Vietnam War. In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy. The story of one man s exploration of conscience, Secrets is also a portrait of America at a perilous crossroad. [Ellsberg s] well-told memoir sticks in the mind and will be a powerful testament for future students of a war that the United States should never have fought. -The Washington Post Ellsberg s deft critique of secrecy in government is an invaluable contribution to understanding one of our nation s darkest hours. -Theodore Roszak, San Francisco Chronicle. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780142003428

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