More than forty documents detailing United States involvement in the East, with the emphasis on Indochina, starting during the Second World War and finishing around May, 1968. Students who would like to know how and why the US was (and is) so concerned about countries a long way away should study them; if they can.
The Pentagon Papers were commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1967. He had helped the late President John F. Kennedy to unravel and finally defuse the Cuba Crisis during the latter’s brief Presidency. McNamara and Robert Kennedy (John’s younger brother, also murdered) were staunch opponents of what has become known as the ‘Industrial/Military Complex’ (q.v.).
In 1971 essential parts of the Documents were ‘leaked’ (revealed secretly to the Press) by one of those responsible for the writing, one Daniel Ellsberg – an interesting case of an expert who had originally been all for US involvement in South-East Asia, but, possibly after the close study of facts needed to prepare the Documents, had changed his tune. He leaked information because he now felt strongly opposed to what he and other thought of as US imperialism.
Ellsberg was arrested and the Government obtained a temporary restraining order, but was sunk by the Supreme Court, which in North America is indeed supreme. This maximum tribunal ruled in favour of publication, because there was little else they could do. Large sections of the papers had already been read by countless citizens across the United States. Thus, the Documents were published.
The Papers revealed acts of deception and miscalculation on an unimagined scale, occurring during the Richard Nixon administration. There are been unauthorized military attacks. America learned details about the still growing intensification of United States action in the Vietnam War. Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers are still inflammable subjects in the United States.