Daniel Ellsberg Video & Letter
A video presentation created for the October 21, 2017 "From Protest to Resistance” conference organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee. Please watch and share!
In this interview, Ellsberg critiques the PBS Vietnam War series, discusses what he was doing at the Pentagon on October 21, 1967, reveals how Defense Secretary McNamara had secretly proposed ending the war, confirms the peace movement’s essential role in shortening the war, speaks of how draft resisters inspired him to release the Pentagon Papers, and notes current parallels to the war in Afghanistan. Ellsberg’s book “Secrets” provides more details on his release of the Pentagon Papers. His latest book is “Challenging the Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner”.
Marine veteran and former defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg played a major role in turning public opinion against the U.S. war in Indochina. In 1971, Ellsberg gave the top-secret Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post, risking life in prison. The 7,000 pages he helped to compile reveal how U.S. government officials repeatedly lied to the public about the origins and conduct of the war. Yet, he was not interviewed for "The Vietnam War” 10 episode series on PBS. Consider this interview "Episode 11, Part 1".
Letter from Daniel Ellsberg
Ellsberg was not able to attend the Pentagon vigil, October 20, 2017, so wrote this letter to be read at the event with his memories of that day 50 years ago.
I was at the Pentagon on Oct. 21, 1967... with lots of other people.
I started at the Washington Memorial and walked with the Armies of the Night to the Pentagon. My former fiancee and future wife Patricia was in the march, but I didn't see her. (We had broken our engagement -- or, truthfully, I had -- over disagreement about the war and my role in Saigon, 1966). My brother was there too, from Scarsdale in a bus; he said, "No one will believe me there were 20,000 people here when I say I ran into my brother."
After seeing people get beaten and thrown into paddy-wagons at the Pentagon, I used my identification card and went inside. We were researching and writing the Pentagon Papers on the third floor, River entrance, in a suite next to McNamara's office. It was a Saturday; no one else was in the office. To get a better view, I went to the next suite to look outside: McNamara's office. I recoiled when I saw McNamara standing at one of the floor-length windows in his office. Then I recovered and went to another window; he paid no attention to me. He knew me. (I had written speeches for him, and talked to him about how to get out of Vietnam in July that year, when I'd come back from two years in Vietnam with hepatitis in June.) We didn't say anything to each other. I was looking out at the crowd and thinking: I wish they had come on a weekday, when the building was full; in those days, they could have infiltrated easily, passes weren't usually looked at then, and they could have sat down in the aisles, closed the whole building down. Oh well, not for me to second-guess organizers.
I had told McNamara in July that I wanted the US to stop its bombing of the North and drop its support for Thieu and Ky in the coming elections in Vietnam and allow the Vietnamese to vote for a candidate who would call for negotiations directly with the NLF, assure the NLF of a place in the government, and who would call for us to get out of South Vietnam. He agreed on that program (! ) but said that the Vietnamese elections were Rusk's sphere and he couldn't intervene in that. He was trying to put a lid on the bombing of the North. (He called for that in open hearings in the Senate in August; the JCS considered resigning all that night, in protest, but they gave it up by morning.) In November, after Thieu's election, he secretly recommended to LBJ what I had otherwise proposed (not that I influenced that, or that he needed that advice from me): end the bombing of the North, negotiate directly with the NLF and assure them a role in the government, withdraw our forces on a schedule. LBJ promptly fired him (to the World Bank).
I don't remember at this moment how much of this is in Secrets, or my earlier book, Papers on the War. I remember somewhere telling about the organizing meeting I attended for the action, when Abbie Hoffman proposed that they surround the Pentagon and exorcise it -- the idea was to levitate the building, six feet into the air, and make it spin around. That got publicity. Good idea. I remember someone in the Pentagon saying about it (the levitation): Can they do that?
I remember speaking about that later (after the Pentagon Papers came out) and saying: It turned out they didn't succeed in levitating the Pentagon that day; it had to be an inside job; if people in the Pentagon would open their safes and send all the classified paper in the drawers that revealed crimes and deceptions over to Congress and the press, that building would rise more than six feet: off the backs of people in the Third World.
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