Oct 2005 v.p. Telling the Truth … Dan Ellsberg speaks in DM p.5
“Telling the Truth about Vietnam and Iraq”
Daniel Ellsberg speaks in Des Moines
By Frank Cordaro
When he joined the Defense Department, in 1964, as a former marine officer and strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, young Daniel Ellsberg was put to work on the Vietnam conflict. After transferring to a position with the State Department, in 1965, he served two years at the U.S. Embassy, in Saigon. Then, in 1967, when he returned to RAND, he continued his work on the then Top Secret McNamara study, “Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-1968”. What he discovered caused him to smuggle out a copy of the entire 7000-page study, release it to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and forward it to the NY Times, the Washington Post and other papers, acts for which he fully expected to spend the rest of his life in prison. Indicted and tried on charges of treason, the charges were ultimately dismissed on grounds of governmental misconduct, which lead to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. The documents are immortalized as the Pentagon Papers.
Ten years later, in the spring of 1978, Brian Terrell and I found ourselves in the humbling company of Daniel Ellsberg, when we spent five days protesting nuclear weapons along the rail road tracks leading into the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Factory, in Colorado. It was more than a memorable experience of protest; it was an opportunity to know this exceptional man. Since that initiation, Dan has made two visits to Des Moines.
Back in Dec 1980, in one of our more “creative” protests, ten of us went to visit the Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquarters, at Offutt AFB, in Nebraska. At the entrance to the main gate, there was a billboard which read: “SAC Headquarters, Peace is our Profession”. Thinking a little truth telling was more important than a good paint job, we all took blood and paint and altered SAC’s billboard to read, “War is our Profession”, then dowsed the sign in blood. Three of us were charged, including me. In support of those going to trial, Dan came to Des Moines to deliver his words of support on our behalf.
Last week Dan returned, thanks to the sponsorships of the Catholic Peace Ministry to Des Moines, Grinnell and Simpson Colleges. He spoke three times, and all the venues were full. On Monday, September 12th, he spoke to a crowd of more than 350 people at the First Christian Church located at 25th and University. I was there. As is his custom, he spoke without the aid of notes, a fluid discussion for ninety minutes of the connections between the current war in Iraq and that of Vietnam.
The goal of the Bush administration, he asserted, is to secure permanent U.S. military bases, in Iraq, to achieve U.S. global domination over the vast reservoirs of Middle East oil. But, Dan told us this war can’t be won, anymore than we won in Vietnam. As was the case, in Vietnam, we are the occupying foreign military force, in Iraq. The people fighting us are either nationalist or sectarian, and in either case, as a foreign invader, they will not quit until we are out of their country. “If you are ever going to do something brave and risky, now is the time!”, he urged, “for we are not far from a militaristic society where our rights will be severely diminished.”
He followed with a special plea to all potential “whistle blowers”, who, like Dan, know the real lies buried in the agenda of the Bush administration, and if revealed, could help end this misdirected war. Dan believes there could be a thousand or more people with that kind of information. What they might lose is their job, their security clearance and maybe their freedom. What they could gain is the end of a miserable war which is only going to get worse.
Dan said, “Everybody should start doing something to stop this war… and the quickest way, is to elect a Democratic Congress, in 2006, and impeach George Bush during this second term. Members of the US peace movement need to back those candidates who are willing to impeach this President.”
Dan is a strong supported of those of us who go the extra mile, who directly and nonviolently resist the war. He highly admires those who go to jail for peace making. But, he also said protesting will never be enough. People protested during the Vietnam War and we still choose war, today. It’s going to take lots of people doing brave and risky acts for peace which will ultimately turn the war machine around. But, he said, protesting needs to be done. And, he reminded us that it was only after he witnessed the anti-war protests and came to know some of the people who were thrown into jail that he decided to release the Pentagon Papers.
Dan’s message was just what we needed to hear. It was great seeing him again. We are so grateful he was able to visit the DMCW, have lunch at Dingman House and spend some time at Berrigan House. He has been a great voice for peace for many years, an inspiration for me, and many others worldwide.