29 September 2004

The Pentagon Papers 2004

History can be like a treadmill for those who won't learn...


Speaker Compares Vietnam, Iraq

Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971

Statesman Journal
September 27, 2004

Daniel Ellsberg served for four U.S. presidents before his career in government ended dramatically after he leaked the Pentagon Papers.
He told a standing-room-only crowd at Cone Chapel at Willamette University on Sunday evening that no matter one’s feelings toward Democratic candidate John Kerry, the alternative — the re-election of President Bush — would be far more damaging.

A supporter of Dennis Kucinich during the primary campaign, Ellsberg said that the policies of a second Bush term would lead the United States further down a path reminiscent of the Vietnam era.

Ellsberg, who has a doctorate from Harvard and was a Marine officer who became a policy analyst for the Defense and State departments, gave a classified history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and The Washington Post in 1971. The pessimistic assessment of the Vietnam War, and the government’s attempts to suppress the information, is thought by some people to have been a turning point in public opinion against the Vietnam War.

“Until 1969, (when) I read the Pentagon Papers, I thought Vietnam was a legitimate place to fight Communism,” he said. “But after visiting and speaking with those involved in the war, I realized Vietnam wasn’t the right place to fight the Cold War.”

He said that Vietnamese nationalism and an unwillingness to send enough troops to overwhelm the enemy forces was the policy’s downfall.

Ellsberg sees the war in Iraq following a similar pattern. With no exit strategy in place, the war will continue to exist to justify the earlier losses of soldiers.

“Iraq is just unwinnable,” he said. “There is no good reason for us to be there.

“The best-case scenario is a democratic government that loves Israel and hates Iran. That’s not going to happen.”

Ellsberg said that a military draft might be instituted to increase troop strength to 500,000.

About 138,000 U.S. soldiers are in Iraq, including more than 700 members of the Oregon National Guard.

Now 72 and living in the East Bay hills near Oakland, Calif., Ellsberg is spending eight days and nights speaking throughout the Northwest, encouraging voters who might vote for Ralph Nader or not vote to turn out for Kerry.

Ellsberg is touring with syndicated columnist Norman Solomon.
“I thought I could spend some time trying to convince people to vote for Kerry,” Ellsberg said. “A newspaper referred to my support for Kerry as tepid. But that’s wrong. I might be tepid about some of his votes, but my support for his election is desperate.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Solomon added.
The speaking tour, not affiliated with any campaign or political group, is aimed at bridging the gap between the more liberal voters and the Democratic presidential nominee.

During an interview earlier in the day, Ellsberg said he couldn’t understand why a liberal voter would opt for Nader or not vote, increasing the chances for Bush’s re-election.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, Ellsberg worries that the war will be perpetuated. He fears that there already are new “Pentagon Papers” on the Iraq war and wonders if or when they will be made public.

“You think about World War I,” he said. “Soldiers were out there dying for more than a year when each side knew they were dying in vain once battle lines hardened.”

Ellsberg wanted to make one thing clear to the roomful of left-leaning Kerry supporters who greeted and thanked the speakers with loud, sustained applause.

“Anyone who says they are unwilling to vote for Kerry because he voted for the (Iraq) war is not a serious political activist to me,” Ellsberg said. “I can’t understand that way of thinking.”

ddecarbo@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6714


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