'Modern-day Pentagon Papers’: Comparing the Afghanistan Papers to blockbuster Vietnam War study

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tags: Vietnam War, Afghanistan, Washington Post, Pentagon Papers, Afghanistan Papers

“A massive study of how the United States went to war in Indochina, conducted by the Pentagon three years ago, demonstrates that four administrations progressively developed a sense of commitment to a non-Communist Vietnam, a readiness to fight the North to protect the South, and an ultimate frustration with this effort — to a much greater extent than their public statements acknowledged at the time.”

That was the lead of the New York Times’s first earthshaking Pentagon Papers story, published on June 13, 1971. Nearly half a century later, it bears a striking resemblance to revelations about the 18-year war in Afghanistan published Monday in The Washington Post. A confidential trove of documents obtained by Post reporter Craig Whitlock shows U.S. officials made rosy pronouncements about the war they knew to be false.

Here’s how the Afghanistan Papers compare to the Pentagon Papers.

Both studies were commissioned by obscure Defense Department agencies

The study that became known as the Pentagon Papers was originally ordered by then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara in June 1967, but it was actually written primarily by the obscure Office of International Security Affairs, with assistance from State Department and White House staffers.

From the Truman to Carter administrations, the ISA played a role in policy planning, arms transfers and liaisons with the National Security Council and State Department, according to political scientist Geoffrey Piller in a 1983 paper. But it also played an outsize role in major foreign policy initiatives during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, Piller wrote.

As the Times noted in 1971, many of the officials who wrote the Pentagon Papers “had helped develop or carry out the policies that they were asked to evaluate.”

Read entire article at Washington Post

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