March 24, 2016
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
Daniel Ellsberg was a marine who had led men in battle in Vietnam. He was also a genius who worked as a Pentagon consultant. As a consultant he gained access to a secret history of the war known as the Pentagon Papers. He wasn’t supposed to have the report but a secretly friend loaned him a copy and Ellsberg couldn’t believe what he read. It was obvious why one President after another had failed to win the Vietnam War.
Why? They weren’t trying to win because it would mean too many American deaths. Why then continue to fight? No one wanted to be the first American President to lose a war. The goal was simply to hang on until after the next election while continuing to send US soldiers to die.
In 1971, Ellsberg leaked parts of the Pentagon Papers to various reporters. He did this knowing that he could be convicted of treason and sent to prison. He considered that a small price to pay to bring the truth to the American people.
It didn’t take long for President Nixon and his intelligence network to realize that Ellsberg was the leak. With this knowledge, Nixon’s goal became to ruin Ellsberg. His men broke into the offices of a psychiatrist who had treated Ellsberg, planted bugs and more. Nixon believed that in this, and many other situations, that results matter more than whether or not you break the law to get these results.
This carefully researched book reads like a James Bond novel with G. Gordon Liddy and his men breaking into offices, wearing disguises and prepared to kill if necessary. Sheinkin linked Nixon’s willingness to sidestep the law to get Ellsberg directly to Watergate. But in Sheinkin’s story, Nixon is more than a power mad villain. Sheinkin brings to light his motivations and his strengths as well as his weaknesses.
Any young reader interested in history, politics or recent whistle blowing cases, such as Snowden’s revelations about NCA surveillance, will enjoy this book. As always Sheinkin has created a tightly woven, fast paced story that, though factual, reads like a spy thriller.