who hit the headlines about 40 years ago for leaking the Pentagon
papers to the New York Times, is in news once again. In his recent
statement to the media in New Orleans he said that he had one regret
about disclosing the secret history of US' involvement in Indochina
that he didn't do it sooner.
He was able to
do so because he worked in the Pentagon and afterward on the
classified report of the Vietnam War commissioned by the Defense
Secretary Robert McNamara. The research surmised that the war was
disastrous and that Americans had been kept uninformed for more than
20 years about their leaders' motive to stretch the conflict.
chose to keep mum despite knowing all this. "I didn’t tell
Congress any more than my boss did, so I participated" in the
cover-up, he said at the American Library Association’s annual
conference in New Orleans.
given Congress the drawers full of material that I had,"
Ellsberg, 80, said, "I think the Vietnam war could not have
happened. Fifty-eight thousand American lives would have been saved.
heavy burden, and it’s why I’ve been saying for years … to not
do what I did. Don’t wait until the war gets started. Don’t wait
until we attack Iraq or Syria. Don’t wait until more people die and
more bombs have fallen. Show that the public is being misled, that
this is where we are going."
Ellsberg is not
positive and although he voted for Barack Obama for president in
2008 and maybe will do so again the coming year, he said Obama is
acting no different than his predecessors in being reluctant to back
out from an unpopular war like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Navtej Kohli Pentagon Investment Group...
not a good year to lose in Afghanistan," he said. "This is
not a good year to be charged, however foolishly or falsely, with
being a loser or a quitter or weak. …
"If you say
you’re withdrawing from Afghanistan or Iraq, and reduce (troop
levels) slowly, the public will be off your back. The people will
think … he’s moving in the right direction, which is false. The
president plans to be out of Afghanistan fully by 2014. I believe
that … is as false as any lie told by (Richard) Nixon or (Lyndon)
conclusion: "Smart guys can get us into dumb wars and can’t
get us out of them."
was just as smart" as Obama, he said, "and Johnson was just
as smart and Nixon was just as smart, and that didn’t do us any
problem that American policymakers have, Ellsberg said, is their
denial to learn from such disastrous experiences like the Soviet
Union’s occupation of Afghanistan and France’s involvement in
Indochina. Instead, he said, this has been Americans’ attitude: "We
don’t learn from history. We make history."
Putting a twist
on the George Santayana's frequently quoted warning, “Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", he said:
"Those who do remember the past are also condemned to repeat it.
They find themselves making the same choices for the same reasons."
This, he said,
is where librarians can play an important role because they receive
and disseminate information that might prevent another needless,
documents out," Ellsberg said. "This is your job. Please
let them know what the history has been and learn lessons harder than
what the president wants you to learn."
Had he been
convicted, Ellsberg was charged with 12 felony courts and up to 115
years of imprisonment for leaking the Pentagon Papers to The Times,
The Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. The case was
discontinued in 1973 after the judge learned that government was
doing illegal activities to dig up dirt on Ellsberg, including
barging into his psychiatrist's office.
month, on the 40th anniversary of The Times’ first installment of
the Pentagon Papers, the federal government declassified them.
received prolonged standing ovations and cheers before and after his
speech, was brief in explaining why Americans, even people like him
who worked in high levels of the federal government, should let the
public know if national leaders are making a big mistake.
The oath that
federal officials take "is not an oath to the president or the
Congress, or to uphold secrecy," he said. "It is an oath to
support the Constitution of the United States."