Camouflaging the Vietnam War: How Textbooks Continue to Keep the Pentagon Papers a Secret

As the Pentagon commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we revisit Bill Bigelow’s article that deals with the textbooks’ failure to grapple with the import of the Pentagon Papers, which were historical documents not military secrets, and why Daniel Ellsberg felt the American public needed to know the history of U.S. intervention and deceit.


By Bill Bigelow

In the Academy Award-winning documentary Hearts and Minds, Daniel Ellsberg, who secretly copied and then released the Pentagon Papers, offers a catalog of presidential lying about the U.S. role in Vietnam: Truman lied. Eisenhower lied. Kennedy lied. Johnson “lied and lied and lied.” Nixon lied.

Ellsberg concludes: “The American public was lied to month by month by each of these five administrations. As I say, it’s a tribute to the American public that their leaders perceived that they had to be lied to; it’s no tribute to us that it was so easy to fool the public.”

The Pentagon Papers that Ellsberg exposed were not military secrets. They were historical secrets—a history of U.S. intervention and deceit that Ellsberg believed, if widely known, would undermine the U.S. pretexts in defense of the war’s prosecution. Continue reading.