Origins of the Vietnam War

In this program, Daniel Ellsberg discusses early U.S. support for France’s effort to retain control of its Indochina colony. In a little-known and scary fact of history, he describes Eisenhower’s offer of nuclear weapons to the French to stave off defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Within a few years, the U.S. supplanted the French and expanded the war to all of Indochina. Ellsberg looks at Washington’s policy of backing corrupt regimes in Saigon, first by Kennedy and then by Johnson. You’ve probably heard the figure of 58,000 Americans killed in the war. There is scant mention of the millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who were victims of U.S. military intervention.

Interview by David Barsamian.

Speaker: Daniel Ellsberg 

Daniel Ellsberg was a company commander in the Marine Corps. In 1959 he joined the RAND Corporation as an analyst. In 1964 he was recruited to serve in the Pentagon under Robert McNamara. He precipitated a national political crisis when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret government study about Vietnam. Kissinger called him “the most dangerous man in America.” He is the author of Secrets and The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.  He is the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and the Olof Palme Prize for his “profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.” He was an outspoken supporter of other whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. He died at the age of 92 in June 2023.

Share This Episode