12. The Pentagon Papers revealed that the United States provoked the war
It must be remembered that the documents commissioned by the Secretary of Defense were originally prepared by the Pentagon, or contractors working for the Defense Department. They were not prepared by organizations opposed to the American intervention in Vietnam. In fact, according to McNamara, who ordered the study, they intended to produce a document which accurately recorded the history of American involvement across several presidential administrations, of both political parties. When the documents appeared publicly the outrage was palpable. It was clear that the United States government, through the White House and the Secretary of Defense, had been lying to the American people for over two decades.
The papers made it clear that the war in Vietnam, that is, the war between the North and South, had been an American invention, hidden behind the veneer of American support for an embattled people. The United States already divided by the war was shocked. Supporters of the American war effort called for Ellsberg’s head on the proverbial platter. Opposition leaders called for Johnson’s and Nixon’s, who bore the brunt of the outrage over the deceit, though it was clear the deceit preceded his administration by more than a decade. Lost in the argument over patriotism and treason was the clear fact that America had started a war which it was losing, and American soldiers were dying as a result.