When does the duty to your country supersede your duty to your government? Are they the same? For Daniel Ellsberg, growing up after the end of WWII, the threat of Communism was always at the forefront of things. So he decided to pursue a military career and when he got out, wanted to go into how the government makes public policy on things, especially regarding military actions.
Ellsberg ended up working in Washington, D.C. under the Lyndon Johnson administration and learned some things quickly, as the involvement in Vietnam began to gather momentum. He firmly believed that the United States had an obligation to prevent the spread of Communism and if that meant putting boots on the ground in that country, then so be it.
At one point, Ellsberg went to Vietnam just to see what the situation was for himself. He spent two years living in the country, going out with U.S. soldiers and seeing for himself what was happening in the country of Vietnam. After that, he realized that he could no longer support the war as he once had.
Upon his return to the United States however, it wasn’t until some time later, after reading a 7,000 page secret government study detailing the escalation of the conflict and showing how many times things were mishandled by four presidents that Ellsberg realized he could no longer remain silent. He decided to share these top secret 7,000 pages with the press and therefore, the American people.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin reads in parts like a spy novel or perhaps how NOT to be a spy! What is interesting about this case, is that because of Ellsberg’s actions, and the steps taken to “take him down” a president became embroiled in one of our nation’s biggest scandals- Watergate.
Recommended for any student who is interested in the Vietnam War or wanting to know more about the 1960s, Nixon or Johnson. Fascinating read.