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A Tribute to Daniel Ellsberg — limitless life

By Haig Hovaness, World BEYOND War, May 7, 2023 Presented during the May 4, 2023, Vietnam to Ukraine: Lessons for the US Peace Movement Remembering Kent State and Jackson State! Webinar hosted by the Green Party Peace Action Committee; Peoples Network for Planet, Justice & Peace; and Green Party of Ohio. 

A Tribute to Daniel Ellsberg — limitless life

Presented during the May 4, 2023, Vietnam to Ukraine: Lessons for the US Peace Movement Remembering Kent State and Jackson State! Webinar hosted by the Green Party Peace Action Committee; Peoples Network for Planet, Justice & Peace; and Green Party of Ohio 

Today I will pay tribute to Daniel Ellsberg, a man who has been called one of the most significant whistleblowers in American history. He sacrificed his career and risked his freedom to bring to light the truth about the Vietnam War and spent subsequent years working for peace. In March Dan posted online a letter announcing that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is likely to die this year. This is a fitting time to appreciate his life’s work.

………………………………………………. In 1969, Ellsberg made the decision to leak the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study of the Vietnam War that had been commissioned by the Department of Defense. The study showed that the government had lied to the American people about the progress of the war, and it revealed that the government had been involved in secret operations in Laos and Cambodia.

After fruitless attempts to interest members of Congress in the report, he provided the documents to the New York Times, which published excerpts in 1971. The revelations in the papers were significant and damaging to the US government, as they revealed that successive administrations had systematically lied to the American people about the progress and objectives of the war.

The Pentagon Papers showed that the US government had secretly escalated its military involvement in Vietnam without a clear strategy for victory. The papers also revealed that government officials had deliberately misled the public about the nature of the conflict, the extent of US military involvement, and the prospects for success.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers was a turning point in American history. It revealed the government’s lies about the war and shook the American people’s faith in their leaders. It also led to a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of the press to publish classified information.

Ellsberg’s actions had serious consequences. He was charged with theft and espionage, and he faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. But in a stunning turn of events, the charges against him were dismissed when it was revealed that the government had engaged in illegal wiretapping and other forms of surveillance against him. The dropping of charges against Ellsberg was a significant victory for whistleblowers and the freedom of the press, and it underscored the importance of government transparency and accountability……………………

The release of the Pentagon Papers overshadowed Ellsberg’s parallel efforts to expose the dangerous consequences of America’s nuclear weapons planning. In the 1970s, his attempts to release classified materials on the danger of nuclear war were frustrated by the accidental loss of a trove of classified documents related to the nuclear threat. Eventually he was able to reassemble this information and publish it in 2017 in the book, “The Doomsday Machine.”

“The Doomsday Machine,” is a detailed exposé of the US government’s nuclear war policy during the Cold War. Ellsberg reveals that the US had a policy of using nuclear weapons preemptively, including against non-nuclear countries, and that this policy remained in effect even after the end of the Cold War. He also revealed that the U.S. had regularly threatened adversaries with use of nuclear weapons. Ellsberg exposed a dangerous culture of secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding US nuclear policy, He revealed that the US had developed plans for a “first strike” nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, even in the absence of a Soviet attack, which he argues would have led to the deaths of millions of people. Ellsberg further revealed that the US government had delegated authority to use nuclear weapons far more widely than was known to the public, greatly increasing the danger of accidental nuclear war. He argued that the poorly managed nuclear arsenal of the United States constituted a “doomsday machine” that represented an existential threat to humanity. The book provides a stark warning about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for greater transparency and accountability in nuclear policy to prevent a catastrophic global disaster……………………

Today, the U.S. government continues to prosecute whistleblowers aggressively. Many have been jailed and some, like Edward Snowden, have fled to avoid rigged trials. Julian Assange continues to languish in prison awaiting extradition and possible lifetime imprisonment. But, in the words of Assange, courage is contagious, and leaks will continue as government misdeeds are exposed by principled people. The voluminous information Ellsberg photocopied over many hours can be copied today in minutes and distributed worldwide immediately over the Internet. We have already seen such leaks in the form of classified U.S. information on the war in Ukraine contradicting optimistic U.S. public claims. The exemplary actions of Dan Ellsberg will inspire countless future acts of courage in the cause of peace……………………



May 8, 2023 - Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, USA

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