DANIEL ELLSBERG COMMENTS ON THE McNAMARA PLANE SCENE IN SPIELBERG’S “THE POST” FILM:
Astonishingly, the researchers for Most Dangerous Man in America actually found the film clip of McNamara in 1966 descending from the plane and stepping to the cameras to lie to the press — with me behind him, recognizably! (the filmmakers put a circle around my head).
His lying at that moment was neither disillusioning nor motivating to me. After all, he’d been lying like that for at least a year (since fall 1965), as well as lying about lots of other things as long as he’d been in office (Tonkin Gulf, remember, was my first day on the job, my first night at the Pentagon, in August, 1964): “unequivocal evidence…unprovoked attack…international waters…routine patrol…we seek no wider war.” (Both McNamara and LBJ. The press all ate it up. I watched that on TV in my first 24 hours as a government employee.)
As I’ve often said: “If you can’t stand official lying, you couldn’t work for the government for two weeks.” I was in government service or consulting for a decade.
It was, of course, in 1969, what the fifth president in a row was lying about, on these matters — mass murder (as I had come to see it just that summer, after reading the volume in the Papers about the origins of the war) — and my inside knowledge that the murder was going to continue, indefinitely, and almost surely escalate (which it did, in the air), plus the examples of draft resisters who were choosing to go to prison to tell the truth about the war, that it was wrong — that inspired me to follow their example.
What got to me on that occasion in 1966 (I stayed another year in Viet Nam, after all) was the stunning, real-time aspect of the lying: literally a few minutes between McNamara saying to me and Bob Komer on the plane about the war, “That means it’s really worse,” he was telling the press (as he had so often before) that “by every measure we were making progress.”
I remember saying in a tape I sent to someone back in the States, in a kind of sober awe — “Boy, I hope I’m never in a position where I have to lie like that.”
WATCH THE SCENE FROM “MOST DANGEROUS MAN”
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