(8 of 10)
In a sense, McCone and the CIA were only doing what they were paid $600 million a year to do: provide accurate information to guide American policymakers. Allowed to go its own way, largely immune to the pressures that cause other agencies to oversell policies, the CIA takes pride in its detachment. When he once briefed McNamara, the late respected operations chief, Desmond FitzGerald, expressed doubt that the data reflected the actual situation. "Why?" demanded McNamara. "It's just a feeling," replied FitzGerald. McNamara gave him a stony stare and later ordered: ''Don't ever let that man in here again."
Equally prescient and independent was Under Secretary of State George Ball. Unswayed by the technocrats around him, he kept warning respectfully that their course was wrong. His memo to President Johnson on July 1, 1965, took account of souls, and French history, as well as weapons. It concluded: "No one can assure you that we can beat the Viet Cong or even force them to the conference table on our terms, no matter how many hundred thousand white, foreign [U.S.] troops we deploy. Once we deploy substantial numbers of troops in combat, it will become a war between the U.S. and a large part of the population of South Viet Nam. U.S. troops will begin to take heavy casualties in a war they are ill-equipped to fight in a noncooperative if not downright hostile countryside. Once we suffer large casualties, we will have started a well-nigh irreversible process. Our involvement will be so great that we cannot—without national humiliation —step short of achieving our objectives. I think humiliation would be more likely —even after we have paid terrible costs." Congressional Outrage
The revelations of the Pentagon papers angered war critics on Capitol Hill, who claimed vindication for their long-held feeling that Congress had been misled by the Executive Branch. "These documents," fumed Idaho Democrat Frank Church, "secure Johnson's position as a liar." Declared Maryland Republican Charles Mathias: "I am outraged—but I'm worn down with outrage." Yet the Congress made no immediate move to grasp control of the war from the Nixon Administration.
The Senate promptly defeated the McGovern-Hatfield amendment to cut off all funds for the war by the end of this year. The vote was 55 to 42, a margin only six votes smaller than that on a similar motion last year. A compromise to set the deadline at