Monday, June 27, 2011

"The Most Dangerous Man in America" Tackles Still-Riveting Topic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
WRITERS: Lawrence Lerew, Rick Goldsmith, Judith Ehrlich, and Michael Chandler
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vicente Franco and Dan Krauss
EDITORS: Michael Chandler, Rick Goldsmith, and Lawrence Lerew
COMPOSER: Blake Leyh

DOCUMENTARY – History, Politics, War

Starring: Daniel Ellsberg (also narrator), Anthony Russo, Patricia Ellsberg, Mort Halperin, Egil “Bud” Krogh, Tom Oliphant, Janaki Tschannerl, and Howard Zinn

June marks the 40 anniversary of the New York Times’ first publication of excerpts from the Pentagon Papers (specifically June 13, 1971). Officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon Papers are a history of the United States' political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. This study was initiated by the United States Department of Defense by order of then Secretary of State Robert McNamara.

Daniel Ellsberg, PhD, (born April 7, 1931) was a United States military analyst beginning in 1964 for the Pentagon under Secretary McNamara and then for the State Department as a civilian in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Beginning in 1967, Dr. Ellsberg was at the RAND Corporation (a global policy think tank) where he worked on the top-secret study of classified documents that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. This study was 7,000 pages long and was divided into 47 volumes.

Once a supporter of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Ellsberg became disaffected with the Vietnam War. Beginning in late 1969, Ellsberg and a former colleague, Anthony Russo, secretly photocopied several copies of the Pentagon Papers. In 1971, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, which began publishing excerpts from the study. The Times’ publication precipitated a national political controversy because the Pentagon Papers exposed the top-secret military history of the United States involvement in Vietnam.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is a 2009 documentary film from directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith. Nominated in 2010 for a best documentary Oscar, The Most Dangerous Man in America explores the events around the publication of the Pentagon Papers by focusing on Daniel Ellsberg, who also acts as the film’s narrator. Some of the film’s narrative is also taken from Ellsberg’s 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Viking Press).

Daniel Ellsberg is certainly an important man in modern American political history, and The Most Dangerous Man in America gives us a glimpse into his personal history, including details into a childhood tragedy, his time in the U.S. Marine Corps, and his relationship, courtship, and eventual marriage to his second wife, Patricia Marx.

However, Ellsberg is a doorway into the secret history of the Vietnam War, and though much of that history has been revealed, thanks in large part to Ellsberg, the majority of Americans are likely still unfamiliar with how the U.S. really got involved in Vietnam. For a long time, the official story was that the U.S. stumbled into Vietnam, and that’s not true. Understanding American involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 is crucial not only to understanding American foreign policy – how it works and why, but also to discovering how four U.S. Presidents lied to the American public about Vietnam.

Ellsberg and this film reveal that sometimes, even what is top secret should be made public. Perhaps, such revelations will protect the United States and its citizens both from dirty wars and also lying, even criminal Presidential administrations. None of the four Presidents mentioned here comes out looking good – especially Richard M. Nixon.

If one wants to be entertained, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers isn’t exactly entertaining. It is sometimes dry and academic, although there are moments of riveting drama and even bits that seem like a spy thriller. Still, it is our responsibility as citizens to know the truth and the things that are hidden, both in hour history and in the times in which we live. From time to time, this documentary is even broadcast by PBS. Watch it on television or rent it, but The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is an essential film for everyone from high school students to adults.

8 of 10

2010 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)

Monday, June 27, 2011


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