Daniel Ellsberg is quite a remarkable man. He
defied the law, his future, an entire career's worth of brainwashing, and important
friendships in order to leak the truth about the Vietnam War to the people of
America. Richard Nixon so feared the man that he sent CIA hitmen to "incapacitate
him totally" – whatever that means. They wimped out, and he's been fighting
the warfare state ever since. To hear my June 25 radio interview of Mr. Ellsberg,
Ellsberg's famous leaking of The Pentagon
Papers, which covered the history of the war from the Truman years through
1968, to the American media in 1971 did much to damage the ability of the Nixon
administration to continue the same lies. And lies are all they were.
As Ellsberg learned when he read the complete secret history, people in the
highest levels of the U.S. government knew from the very beginning what he himself
had figured out upon his initial entry to the scene in 1961 – that Vietnam was
a war that couldn't be won. Even in their rosiest assessments of what it would
take to defeat the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong, the prospect of Chinese
intervention (as happened in Korea) always loomed.
The more realistic scenarios all saw that the native resistance to foreign occupation
could never be beaten, whether China got involved or not. The only questions
were: what would it take to stave off defeat, and how long could they stave
it off? From assessments based on that premise, the government under presidents
Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon escalated U.S. involvement while
telling the American TV audience that success was right around the corner. (Few,
of course, questioned the government's right to kill anyone it wanted, so long
as it led to "success.")
How could the national government keep such secrets for 20 years?
The answer is easy: access to power.
Ellsberg explains in his book Secrets:
A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, people with access get
drunk on secrets. They disregard the opinion of anyone who doesn't have the
same privileged clearance. They assume that fulfilling whatever their great
leader wants is their only duty, and that they, because of their relationship
(however tenuous) to him, are above the law. Above all, federal employees know
that breaking the rules can cost them their access. Even when, as was the case
with Ellsberg for a time, they disagree with the policy, most bureaucrats would
rather keep their mouths shut, keep their jobs, and try to influence the policy
from the inside. Maybe someday they'll get a little higher up the ladder, have
a little more pull…
The result of this is the remarkable ability of the executive branch to keep
its secrets and continue policies that nearly the entire government opposes,
never mind what the uninformed masses think.
The administration of George W. Bush is said
to be the most
secretive in American history. One of his first acts as president was to
further delay the
release of Reagan's papers. Rest assured this has nothing to do with the host of Reagan-era felons
in the current administration. The Republicans have done nothing but clamp
down further on the release of information since then.
After 9/11, the PATRIOT Act and
assorted changes to executive regulations made it much harder to get documents
through the Freedom of Information Act. At one point, the
ACLU was forbidden under the PATRIOT Act from revealing that it had sued
the government over the PATRIOT Act.
while researching a new book about Franklin D. Roosevelt's deliberate exclusion
of targets associated with Nazi death camps (say what?), found
that the 60-year-old documents he had been reviewing had been reclassified under
the PATRIOT Act.
Whistleblowers work for the state, so whatever they say should be treated with suspicion.
But it's great when politicians are exposed for the liars they are by their subordinates.
There have been quite a few so far this time around, beginning with FBI agents
after 9/11: Colleen Rowley
from Minneapolis, Ken Williams
from Phoenix, and Robert Wright from
Chicago all complained publicly about their frustrated attempts to investigate
Former FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds has an interesting story to
tell, but the
government will only let her scrape the
surface. She must know something we all would want to know, because
to want very much to tell us, and the state has bent
over backward [.pdf] to keep her silent.
Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who worked
the North Africa desk down the hall from the neocons' Office
of Special Plans at the Pentagon, has spilled some major beans. Her boss,
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Bill Luti, was
one of the OSP "Kool-Aid
drinkers." Col. Kwiatkowski helped expose the neoconservatives' cherry-picked
(out of the CIA's trash) evidence used to support the invasion of Iraq. (Click
here, here, here, here, here, here, here,
here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson told the story behind
the famous 16-word lie in Bush's State of the Union address of 2003 in which
he accused Saddam Hussein of buying "large quantities of uranium from Africa."
(Karl Rove, the coward, fought back – against
Abu Ghraib whistleblower Sgt. Joseph Darby,
risked a great deal in exposing the torture at Saddam Hussein's former prison.
The last veneer of liberation on our mission in Iraq is now gone as surely as
who was murdered there. So far, his killers, like all those responsible
for crafting the policy, have
gotten away scot-free, but we'll see.
Former counterterrorism director Richard Clarke and former
Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill both revealed the administration's early intentions to invade Iraq.
is leaking all the notes and memos to the Times in Britain deserves our
for the debacle is lower than ever. But where
are the American versions of the Downing Street memos?
There must be thousands of documents that could prove the criminal nature of
the Bush regime's push for invading Iraq within various executive departments
right now. A hundred bucks says they knew from the
beginning that they could never win.
Dan Ellsberg spent many years on the inside before he realized the simple truth
that unjustified war is mass murder, pure and simple. At that point he decided
to act. Along with all the parallels between the invasion of Iraq and the invasion
of Vietnam that are now apparent, let's hope for some 21st century Ellsbergs
to help bring this disaster to a close.
syndrome, here we come!