Ellsberg remarks at Die-in, San Francisco

[These were my remarks to several hundred activists and supporters participating in a die-in in downtown San Francisco at noon today, March 19, 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the launching of shock and awe in Iraq. All those blocking traffic–surprisingly, for a couple of hours, before we were all arrested–were handcuffed, booked and released some hours later for a later court date. I chose to paraphrase, in part, a statement to the court I had heard my older son Robert make in Colorado thirty years ago this spring, when we were on trial for blocking the railroad tracks leading to the Rocky Flats Nuclear Production Plant in 1978.]

On this fifth anniversary of an ongoing American crime against the peace, it is well to remember the 40th anniversary–four days ago, this last Sunday–of an American war crime in a hamlet named My Lai. On March 16, 1968, American soldiers–as brave as any fighting now in Iraq–obeyed blatantly illegal orders to gun down 504 Vietnamese civilians, nearly all women, children and infants.

The war in Iraq is a My Lai writ large: on a scale of a thousand. The best estimate of the number of civilians killed in this war, as of last year, is 1.2 million. Not all of those, by any means, have been killed by Americans. Many have been murdered by Iraqis; but American airpower has killed a very high proportion of those civilians, along with indiscriminate ground fire; and it was an American decision that unleashed this slaughter five years ago. 1.2 million people. That corresponds to a My Lai a day, every day, for six and a half years. That’s longer than this war has yet lasted, but not nearly as long as it will probably last.

The Republican candidate for president has projected an occupation of fifty to a hundred years. That could very well prove to be realistic. Of the two Democratic candidates, neither one has been willing to commit–even to an intention–to have every American soldier out of Iraq by the end of her or his first term: five years from now. That is unacceptable. But that situation will not change unless the American people demand that it change. We must demand that our representatives in Congress–as Representative Barbara Lee and others have proposed in resolutions that have not reached the floor for a vote– cut off the funding for any American presence in Iraq, including enduring bases, except for purpose of withdrawal over a period of months. We must demand that a candidate who wants our support and our votes commit to that same goal.

The people lying in the street here [as I began these remarks, people had begun lying down in a die-in in the middle of the intersection of Market and Montgomery Streets in downtown San Francisco, in front of the office of Senator Diane Feinstein] symbolize both the nearly four thousand American dead and the more than a million Iraqis who have died in the war. But they also express, with our bodies, our lives, that this war is continuing, as it began, without our consent.

By lying here– obstructing for moments or hours business as usual–fifty of us, a hundred, a thousand across the country, do not have the power to end this war. But we are trying to show that we as a people–if we have the will and determination–do have that power: the power to change ourselves and history. We as a people have the power to end this war. And that is what we must do.

Let’s get on with it.

[At this point my wife Patricia and I joined more than sixty others stopping traffic by lying in the intersection, awaiting arrest.]

31 thoughts on “Ellsberg remarks at Die-in, San Francisco”

  1. Mr .Ellsberg,
    You have my gratitude and admiration for your courage! I simply cannot express how deeply thankful I am for all you have done. You and others, who are demonstrating their patriotism and love for our country, give me hope.

    N.Walker

  2. Dear Daniel,

    I’ve studied US techniques of lying and covert action for many years. My files begin with your own wonderful book on the Pentagon Papers and run through the slaughter of the Nicaraguan campaign and the Iran-Iraq war. Thus, I’ve opposed the Iraq war from the first days of the two year propaganda campaign which preceded it.

    Sadly we have seen America become a land of fools led by a madman, a so-called intelligent human being who believes he has – in his own words – “a calling from beyond the stars” to bring “the flowering of democracy to the world”. Caesar is not the word for it. More like, Nero.

    Good luck in your court appearance. No doubt favourite viewing for most of those working for the court is Fox News. So, don’t expect any favours.

  3. Dear Daniel and Patricia,

    I continue to be inspired by your courage and your determination to make the truth be known.

    Sylvia Boorstein

  4. Like in Vietnam, the war is beyond the point that even it’s initial supporters believe they can accomplish their goals.

    Each and every day Americans, Iraqis and others dies in numbers too horrific to report accurately. We have reached a death toll of over a million and still counting.

    We were told the war would cost 50-80 Billion dollars now the extimate is over 2 Trillion Dollars. They print these numbers in small print.

    Isn’t this War, just about face saving.

    No, it’s about just ending the War.

  5. Mr. Ellsberg,

    As honorable (I hope that is the word, as I am not a native English speaker, and not in command of enough words in that language), your actions and thoughts are, I feel that I should remind you, even if you are the author of Mai-Lai memoirs, that Iraq is not the first time that the West has tried to better itself in the magnitude of the crimes that it commits instinctively and inherently against others, and mind you, sometimes against its own. Colonization of others is the one constant, dominant aspect of the Western character. There is absolutely nothing else that characterizes and summarizes the West in the entirety of its history as much as the desire to colonize and impose its will on others does. Just look at the history of America. The moment the Americans, gained their freedom , they started enslaving and colonizing others, and they have been at it ever since. The Americans gained their freedom, but they never broke with the great Western tradition of colonizing and enslaving others in one way or other. So, I don’t think any amount of die-in’s can do any good in America. The solution to the American or Western problem if you will, is not to be found in America. If you think carefully about it, if it were, there would not be any urgent use or wish for it anyway. I am sorry to say this, and I really wish you all the luck in the world with your honest to goodness efforts to reduce even a little the pain that the American behemoth is inflicting on the world, but that solution can only be found outside America. But as Americans, you can never admit that. Can you?

  6. Uncle Sam

    Is that really you Uncle Sam
    Is that really you Uncle Sam

    Who’s calling Sam?…..
    Who’s calling Sam?…..
    Is that really you Uncle

    Say Sam, I think it’s time for therapy.
    And hay, What’s with the treachery?
    Chilling calls of uncle all across the land
    Don’t seem to stay your taloned hand

    Even little apples blush,…. and
    them demons don’t cry when
    Uncle calls for more democracy,(demon..oracy)
    seeded from above with shock and awe.

    Yah demons don’t cry
    demons don’t cry
    when Uncle calls ……democracy.
    Uncle
    De..mock…racry
    No demon don’t cry
    No no demon don’t cry

    Is your mirror a fair one Sam?
    Is it balanced? Is it finely ground
    And bound by optics
    That flip the right and left?
    Does sinister become the righteous right?

    who’s calling Sam?
    Who’s calling Sam
    Is that a beckon or a finger?

    You got no soul to sell Sam.
    You got no soul to sell Sam.

    Who you been calling Sam?
    Is it the needy you have been needing?
    How long have you been on the lam Sam?

    Is that a swagger of a limp Sam?
    Having trouble with you strings Sam?

    You pushing pie again Sam?
    Shocking, Corporate,.. Awe pie?
    Empire Pie?

    Call your ‘little apples’
    Uncle Sam

    Magog will be agog with all them little apples
    Uncle Sam.

  7. I went to Washington to demonstrate against the wars on March 19. When I met the demonstration at 10:30 there were only fifty or so people there. I was appalled at the turnout. Some film crew came up to me and started to ask me questions…..so few people….was it worth it?…..did I think it would make any difference?? I was going to say, no…I don’t think it will make any difference….But a thought came to my mind….I said..”Perhaps when the criminality of this regime is exposed that MY family will say …”yes, there was someone in OUR family that saw these crimes & lies and stood up and protested against these abuses. How many protested at Auschwitz when they were putting Jewish people in the ovens??” Interview over!! What we are seeing is a moral numbness in the U.S. of historical proportions. There is no easy cure….Pillars of moral rectitude (of past outrages) like Elie Wiesel are just fine with killing half a million or more ARABS….Killing THEM is O.K. Just so long as you don’t kill US. I googled his name to check my spelling and I found this quote by him–“…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest
    sin of all…”stands as a succinct summary of his views on life and serves as … [Yeah, Right, when the victims were Jewish] Elie Wiesel was in FAVOR of the bush attack on Iraq. Allen Dershowitz is an ADVOCATE FOR TORTURE and Harvard too by allowing him THEIR PLATFORM ….Only with a warrant…How comforting… How long before torture becomes as routine and pervasive as search? How far will the court allow the store detective to insert the stick into your daughter’s anus to extract the shoplifting confession?? The Jewish people having been victims for so long became our conscience. Now that they are “doing what they need to do” to the Arabs from whom they “expropriate” their State they at best are silent, at worse sending the U.S. to Iran to kill more of those who resist the [their?] empire. There are notable exceptions such as Daniel Ellsberg and many if most of the voices in the antiwar movement are theirs. They are the marginalized voices. It is the loss of all mankind, The loss of their once unified lonely voice of truth and justice. Without it, without them, we seem to be morally deaf and dumb.

    1. I feel the same way Mr. George! I used to have great hopes for the Jewish leadership, especially the leadership of the torah-observant Jewish community (who were once in Israel what today we would call anti-statist paleoconservatives). The Jewish intellectual leaders were traditionally anti-nationalist and cosmopolitain in a European context…but this has all changed in the last fifty years, as both secular and religious leaders have capitulated to fear and xenophobia. Goodby Martin Buber! This is a great tragedy.

    2. I think it was the comedian, Mort Sahl, who said, “After [the success of] the 1967 War, Jews quit trying to be the conscience of the World and started liking pro football”.

    3. Thomas George:

      I’m curious, do you truly believe that Elie Wiesel has no problem with the killing of innocent Arabs? You really think he wants to see innocent Arabs die?

  8. According to Dr. Bob Bowman, former chief of US Air Force Missile Defense, missile defense is the missing link to a First Strike. Dr. Bob Bowman thinks missiles in Poland will be very useful to shoot down any surviving Russian missiles after a First Strike. Therefore the Russians will implement Launch On Warning. The terrible consequences of a mistake will be caused by the stupid Pentagon. Dr. Bob Bowman agress that the Pentagon (McCain?) will get disarming first-strike capability by 2011/12. Acc. to former Trident missile engineer Bob Aldridge-www.plrc.org-the US Navy can track and destroy all enemy subs simultaneously. The main danger is Russian Launch On Warning because of US First-Strike Capability.

  9. Mr. Ellsberg, the courage of your truth-telling has inspired many of us for years, and I’m so glad to hear you are continuing to testify to the crimes of our government in spite of massive public indifference and what amounts to a conspiracy of silence by the major media. Welcome to the blogosphere. We need you!

  10. Please Arthur Silber today at the powerofnarrative.blogspot.com. re the need for fierce efforts on the part of the inhabitants of IsraelUSA if there is to be a chance to prevent our attacking Iran next. Good luck!

  11. It looks like the American people don’t seem to care all that much about overseas wars; – Just so long as there is no draft.

    1. Precisely …. and that is the reason the wars will drag on because there can never be enough troops on the ground at one time to fully take control of any theater.

      1. Yes. Also there can never be enough protesters at home to fully make politicians take action to end the war.

  12. Here we go again….. America is terrible, awful, evil, imperialist etc etc, and on and on. The British and all of the Western World is so evil and sadistic. We are just a bunch of colonziers. The whole world would be so much better off without evil America, England, France, etc. There would be peace and justice, wealth and prosperity throughout the world if not for these wicked nations.

    You know, if you are going to point out the bad,and I do grant you that western civilization has a lot to be ashamed of, (show me ANY civilization that is perfect) why not point out some of the good as well? For all the bad, I submit there is a lot more good.

    And you know what is really funny? It is extremly amusing that the very same people who love to bash Western Civilization tend to live in America, within the British Commonwealth, or in some other western country. I don’t see these people living in some Muslim country or in Cuba or rushing to move to some third world country. Ah, how easy it is to talk. How easy it is to bite the hand that feeds you. Are you so blinded by your hatred that you don’t even see the hypocracy?

    1. Here we go again….. America is terrible, awful, evil, imperialist etc etc, and on and on. The British and all of the Western World is so evil and sadistic. We are just a bunch of colonziers. The whole world would be so much better off without evil America, England, France, etc. There would be peace and justice, wealth and prosperity throughout the world if not for these wicked nations.

      Come off it, Tim. You’re well aware that this caricature is far removed from our actual argument. At what point have I, or anyone else on this site, alleged that the West is the sole source of misery in the world? Where have we contended that it is entirely without redeeming features?

      You know, if you are going to point out the bad,and I do grant you that western civilization has a lot to be ashamed of, (show me ANY civilization that is perfect) why not point out some of the good as well? For all the bad, I submit there is a lot more good.

      Nothing is accomplished by merely celebrating the good. The good is maintained only by militant observation for signs of the bad.

      And you know what is really funny? It is extremly amusing that the very same people who love to bash Western Civilization tend to live in America, within the British Commonwealth, or in some other western country. I don’t see these people living in some Muslim country or in Cuba or rushing to move to some third world country. Ah, how easy it is to talk. How easy it is to bite the hand that feeds you. Are you so blinded by your hatred that you don’t even see the hypocrisy?

      We’re not attacking the West as such; we’re attacking its ruling class.

  13. “For all the bad, I submit there is a lot more good.”

    You must mean Hershey bars and nylons.

    Actually that was when America was a little younger. American soldiers are all “adults” now. They don’t bother with that anymore, they just get right to it. The question of where do you get your nylons, is just no more. America has come a long way, but it is the same old way you know, just like the song your singing up there.

    So to that wonderful observation of yours I submit NOT. There is not much good left in America, and the West for that matter. No benefit of a doubt anymore.

  14. Beautifully written. I encourage you to watch this short video clip of troops being interviewed at last’s “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” to see the devastating and heartbreaking impact of the deaths of Iraqi civilians on U.S. veterans:

  15. America keeps producing one set of “Winter Soldier” after another. Amazingly they materialize only when America looses a war. So, where are your “Winter Soldiers” from the wars that America has won?

    So, these people managed to salvage or rather discover some of their humanity at the cost of untold non-American lives, after knowingly becoming partners in crime with the American Empire through the cakewalk that wasn’t. Thousands sent to their graves so that these people could see the crime in their doings. At any rate, for every “Winter Soldier”, there are a hundred American and fellow Western mercenaries, trained by the Empire and proven their “worth” in places like Iraq, all over the world, that by now in Iraq alone, almost outnumber the entire American military there.

  16. What a relief to have a blog to discuss our anguish over the war. Depression is palpable in NYC and the countryside, because , I think, we can not identify ourselves as good anymore. We know our government tortures, lies, assassinates, destroys and has lost all moral sensitivity to the suffering inflicted on others. Israel reflects the psychological condition of the U.S. Israel, like the U.S, has profoundly diminished itself since the 1967 war, because of unacknowledged guilt for settling on land belonging to others. Israel is a tragedy, and the morally bankrupt US does not encourage it to seek negotiation and a ONE STATE solution.

    We will recover our capacity for happiness as a people only when we outlaw law and aggression toward other peoples.

  17. More from Ruth. We are numbed. The usual human empathic responses have been snuffed out.
    The frightening personal economic crises turn people to focus only on what is immediately impinging on them. Energy for protest is tamped down. Those of us who cry when we encounter the effects of war do not have a place to turn with our grief. The anti-war movement seems castrated, and we our left to individually suffer over our impotence to change things. No wonder the depression I referred to above.

    We must impeach, or make forceful attempts to impeach. That would lift us out of our morass and provide a moral compass. It is necessary for us, the numbed people, to call for impeachment in order to recover our vitality, and beyond that, our soul.

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