Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It is Now Safe to Talk About the Vietnam War

Thank goodness! The American people can now legally find out how their government screwed them into fighting an unnecessary war that cost 58,220 American lives and 2.34 million Vietnamese lives.

From the Federation of American Scientist's blog Secrecy News:
The Pentagon Papers will be officially released in June at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, 40 years after Daniel Ellsberg famously leaked the documents in 1971. Steven Aftergood in Secrecy News reports:

The National Archives announced this week that it "has identified, inventoried, and prepared for public access the Vietnam Task Force study, United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967, informally known as 'the Pentagon Papers'." As a result, 3.7 cubic feet of previously restricted textual materials will be made officially available at the Nixon Library on June 13, the Archives said in a May 10 Federal Register notice.

While any release of historical records is welcome, the official "disclosure" of the Pentagon Papers is in fact a sign of disarray in the government secrecy system. The fact that portions of the half-century old Papers remained classified until this year is a reminder that classification policy today is often completely untethered from genuine national security concerns.

On March 28, 2011 the National Declassification Center announced “the great news that the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has declassified the information of interest to them” in the Papers, clearing the way for next month’s public release.
Go read the original post to get the embedded links.

The odd bit that puzzles me: how can you have a democracy, a form of government that requires a "informed electorate", if you stamp "secret" and "classified" on everything? I understand that some things need to be kept secret, but policy analysis that is trying to tell your country's leaders that their policy is misguided and wasting lives? You mark that as "secret"?

I remember so vividly that during the 1960s that the chuckleheads who had access to the media would get up and sternly lecture the public about the domino effect: if South Vietnam fell into the communist's hands, then the whole of southeast Asia would go communist and the next thing you know you would be fighting a communist invasion of San Diego. This was delivered in the manner of Moses coming down from the mountain top with the tables of "the Law". There was no debate in the media. How could there be? All the facts were stamped "secret" and "confidential"!

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