Latest read: Legacy of Ashes – The History of the CIA

Tim Weiner wrote an extraordinary book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.  He traced the origin back to World War II and movements by former Office of Strategic Services Officers to run the new agency in a post war world.
Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIAWeiner’s research (over 50,000 documents and interviews with agents and over a dozen CIA Directors) is priceless.  Legacy of Ashes won the 2007 National Book Award for non-fiction.

I cannot help but look back at sections of his book regarding the CIA’s role in Vietnam from 1954-1975. Weiner book helps indicate where the CIA is today as an organization, regarding their war on terror….also known as the ‘transnational anti-terrorism activities’ including implications of human rights abuses.

Weiner’s rich history of CIA’s vast amount of intelligence gathering required by Presidnets Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon is no surprise, however I was surprised by Weiner’s documentation regarding Kennedy’s distain for the agency and its Director former Air Force General Charles Cabell.

Continue reading “Latest read: Legacy of Ashes – The History of the CIA”

The first wikileak: Pentagon Papers

Finally after 40 years the US Government will publish The Pentagon Papers for the very first time.

The Pentagon Papers

The study commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was officially titled: “United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense” and was a secret kept hidden from President Johnson. and American public for over 40 years.

The study traces US involvement in Vietnam beginning in 1945 just after World War II and ending in 1967 before the Tet Offensive.  The report, a scathing self-examination of U.S.-Vietnamese relations and the Vietnam War, led to one of the largest and most significant court battles ever concerning government secrets vs. freedom of the press.  Nixon’s demand to damage Ellsberg resulted in the Watergate scandal.

The Nixon Library has a copy in that was part of President Richard Nixon’s papers. It will be released at 9 a.m., June 13, 40 years to the day that leaked portions of the report were printed on the front page of The New York Times.

Most Dangerous Man in America ?

mdmiaWatching this documentary about Daniel Ellsberg reminded me of his rather extraordinary life that has not yet stopped. With the recent WikiLeaks sensation its worth reminding America how powerful documents can change people and governments.

I read Ellsberg’s book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers back in 2006 (review here) and realize its better than the movie.

However for today’s Gen Y its more than enough to get them visually interested in events as old as Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon.

Movie Website

Latest read: The Best and The Brightest

Writers are Heroes. David Halberstam wrote his groundbreaking The Best and the Brightest in 1972 but won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for reporting on Vietnam.  Did Halberstam reveal the deep mistakes (in Vietnam) that are visible today in Iraq? There are probably just a few books regarding Vietnam that can actually upset you, the reader after 40 years. David’s writing does just that.
Clearly conveyed by very bright men in President Kennedy‘s Administration, they looked past the expected failures; lack of leadership of the South Vietnamese government, an empty South Vietnamese military, a war against colonialism not communism and even falsified reports by the US military on the progress of the war. That almost documentation-like writing proved US interests in Vietnam would fail in Kennedy’s Administration.

Was our continued commitment a combination of China falling to the communists, the effects of the Korean War, McCarthyism and a view that Democrats were actually soft on communism? Clearly Kennedy surrounded himself with the best, smartest and successful cabinet members. Halberstam’s detailed writing provides the type of deep background on all who served in both Kennedy and Johnson’s Administration exploring how talented they all were, including Adlai Stevenson.

It was a bit of a surprised to learn outgoing President Eisenhower suggested in his first meeting with then President-elect Kennedy that the country would indeed fight communism in Southeast Asia…but in Cambodia.

It was also very interesting to see Daniel Ellsburg mentioned — prior to his Pentagon Papers leak. Very bright men thinking they could win a war by freeing people who viewed America not as liberators but as colonial invaders.

Continue reading “Latest read: The Best and The Brightest”

Latest read: State of Denial

So I reached the finish line of Bob Woodward’s three part series on Bush at War. State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III is hard hitting to say the least. Not sure why I could not get through it earlier. I’ve been on a reading tear of late, but also pulling duty on our bathroom update for our first born.

As the book clearly shows, there are a lot of issues that have turned into stumbling blocks for the Bush Administration. It clearly shows we are involved in another disaster: Vietnam 2.0

Amazed that Woodward closed the series and his book with feedback from Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense during Vietnam.

Pick your poison: is it worse that Bush could not admit during five minutes of questioning that no weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) were ever found in Iraq — or was it Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin resolution? Your pick.

Did McNamara micromanage the war like Donald Rumsfeld? Are we today supporting an army in Iraq as weak as the South Vietnamese Army? Probably if the time frame was the ARVN following the Tet offensive.

Continue reading “Latest read: State of Denial”

Latest read: Nixon in Winter

Was looking forward to Monica Crowley’s Nixon in Winter : His Final Revelations about Diplomacy, Watergate, and Life out of the Arena for any Watergate insight but failed to learn anything new outside of Nixon’s predictable thought and opinions on the issue that killed his presidency . I was somewhat more interested in his insights relating to Vietnam.

So what I learned was the impact of Vietnam and ultimately how it was just another part of the downfall of Nixon. I believe Nixon’s secret invasion of Cambodia which lead to campus protests, really ignited the anti-war movement and as a result began the actions of CREEP. He promised if elected he would bring peace to America, yet most Americans did not realize the resources North Vietnam utilized in Cambodia.

The most revealing was Crowley’s view of the Nixon’s and how he was so attached to Pat, especially at the time of her physical failures resulting from cancer. The insight of his devotion to her was true. In recalling video of Nixon weeping openly at her funeral showed he was just as human as the rest of us in the moment of tragedy.

Overall this final revelation about Watergate proved little value. If memory serves me correctly this is now my 14th book relating to Watergate. Not sure I will pickup Crowley’s other book Nixon off the record.

Latest read: Kent State

Kent State: What Happened and Why was a very personal, private reading experience. Raised and educated in Ohio, my father was an Army MP in the Ohio National Guard. My father’s twin brother was also an MP.
During that weekend, my father’s unit based in Toledo was called up by Governor James Rhodes.

At the time of the shooting my grandmother who was in failing health was overcome by the initial, inaccurate reports that Ohio guardsmen were shot and killed. She died that day. I was only four years of age when my grandmother passed away.

In the spring of 1970 the war in Vietnam, waging since 1959 spread into Cambodia.

The US Military began limited expansion into Cambodia which came as a shock to many Americans.

President Nixon announced Thursday April 30th the incursions by US troops into Cambodia to find enemy supplies and troops. This event drove a further wedge in America still coming to terms with the My Lai massacre the previous November.

As author James Michener followed the timeline of events, he quoted Roy Thomson, Kent’s Chief of Police that same day as stating “Kent is exceedingly fortunate in that most of the 20,000 students at Kent State University are well balanced.” Could anyone have predicted the tragedy that was to unfold?

Continue reading “Latest read: Kent State”

Latest read: Secrets A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg‘s Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers is about his direct experience in Vietnam and more importantly his role in leaking The Pentagon Papers.  Daniel’s lessons in both academic research and military battlefields helped me learn more about the times he lived in and how it ultimately caused him to steal and publish top secret files regarding the war in Vietnam.

Secrets A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon PapersThe Pentagon Papers showed world the surprising role of US involvement in Vietnam dating back to Harry Truman through the Nixon Administration.  His influence is not to be under estimated. I was impressed to learn of his work with President Kennedy in David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. There was more to Ellsberg than meets the eye.

His background: undergraduate studies at Harvard and post graduate Woodrow Wilson fellowship at Cambridge in England. Daniel returned to apply for Marine officer candidates courses but had to wait a year — so he went to grad school at Harvard (during the Korean War) where he was expected to serve. In the beginning Ellsberg was a political hawk regarding communist expansion in the world especially Soviet aggressiveness in Czechoslovakia and Poland.

A week after getting his PhD he was in the military training to be a lieutenant. He would command a rifle unit in the second Marine division. As his tour was ending his first son was born. He was awarded a three year junior fellowship back at Harvard, but asked the Marine commandant to extend his tour as war in the Middle East appeared imminent. Daniel drafted secret plans against Egypt and Israel. As a research fellow back at Harvard in economic and decision theory he attracted attention of the Rand Corporation and in ’58 accepted an economic position with RAND in California. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik during this time-frame.  The cold war was beginning to really heat up.

Continue reading “Latest read: Secrets A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers”

Latest read: 1968 The year that rocked the world

1968: The Year That Rocked the World. What a strange year…even from an American point of view. What do you remember? — I was two years old.

For most Americans 1968 was this series of events: The assassinations of MLK and RFK, The Prague Spring, USS Pueblo, Tet, The My Lai massacre, Civil Rights Act, Student protests, Apollo 6 & The death of Yuri Gagarin. The political election of Nixon, Wallace, McCarthy, Humphrey, Rockefeller, Reagan, Romney, McGovern and even Pigasus.

On a “smaller” scale: Onassis marries Kennedy, Saddam Hussein’s coup d’etat brings the Ba’tathists into power, US Army Deputy Operations officer Colin Powell wrote denials of initial reports regarding the My Lai massacre.
–Even Hypertext (aka – the web) was publicly demonstrated by Doug Englebart in 1968.

Clearly 1968 changed the world…
After finishing Mark Kurlansky’s book I realize the biggest global ‘event’ was the student protest movement. From France, Poland, Mexico, Greece, Czechoslovakia to America. –Where have all student protest gone forty years later?
Continue reading “Latest read: 1968 The year that rocked the world”