Monday, June 13, 2011

The Pentagon Papers 40 years on

Sanford Ungar and Michael Beschloss brought back the memories on the NewsHour tonight in a quite interesting discussion (which I heard on the radio as my TV is not working). Beschloss mentioned in passing that in 1961, ten years before Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the NYT, that paper had acceded to the Kennedy admin's request not to publish material it had acquired about the prospective Bay of Pigs operation. Apparently Kennedy later said, after the Bay of Pigs turned out badly for the U.S., that he wished the NYT had published it.

What really strikes me is the realization that only one short decade separates the Bay of Pigs from the Pentagon Papers. That was one heck of an eventful ten years. I'm not old enough to have many reliable first-hand memories of the U.S. in 1961 (and was only living here briefly then anyway, between my family's overseas domiciles), but I have a sense of what the early '60s were like from photos, movies, some things I've read, etc. The early '70s, of which I definitely do have memories, seem a long way away from the early '60s, which is, partly, a testament to how much happened in between and to how much 'the 60s' changed the tone (for lack of a better word) of American life and politics.

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