Divulging the secrets of war
Take the uncertainty of the past year and extend it over a decade, and you have an approximation of what the 1960s were like. The tumultuous era is captured in Daniel Ellsberg's fascinating new book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Viking, $29.95, 480 pages, ISBN 0670030309). Ellsberg, a Harvard graduate, U.S. Marine and during the '60s hardcore advocate of America's fight against Communism, was enlisted by Lyndon B. Johnson to serve in the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. As an insider in the Defense Department, Ellsberg had access to information that convinced him of the futility of Johnson's war policies, and in 1969 certain that he would be jailed for his actions he leaked to The New York Times a copy of the Pentagon Papers, a 7,000-page document on U.S. decision-making in Vietnam that helped to end the conflict. Spanning the years between his entry into the Pentagon and Nixon's withdrawal from the presidency, Secrets is ultimately a memoir about Ellsberg's crisis of conscience. His struggles to tell the truth to power evolved into his momentous decision to take matters into his own hands. In telling his unforgettable story, he skims over much of his personal life. (He does, however, admit to taking his 12-year-old son along when he copied the Pentagon Papers.) A compelling look into the workings of power, Secrets is the story of a hero and a patriot.