I want to write about a man. A famous man. Alternatively, an infamous man. His name was Daniel Ellsberg, and he was the single source for the greatest story about lies, compounded felonies, corruption and treason this world has ever known about. But it is not the story, not the lies or the alleged treason, it is about the Law of a Nation; it is about the freedom of the Press; it is about courageous men and women who decided that ‘enough is enough’, that the phrase ‘publish and be damned’ was an American Institution.
Ellsberg was an American ‘Hawk’ as far as Vietnam was concerned, but in his job as an analyst for the Rand Corporation, in a huge military ‘think-tank’ with global reach and influence; he kept getting confused signals in regard to one statistic, which was ‘the body count’. The bodies counted, all of which were supposed to be dead Viet Cong, were a vital part of the American Military’s strategy to convince their ultimate pay-masters, the American people; that America was winning the war. Some say that the whole science of statistics is based on a computation of lies, and Ellsberg, unused to being puzzled, determined that the only way to figure out truth from fiction was to go to the battlefields of Vietnam, where Americans and, hopefully, the Viet Cong, were being killed. He stayed for over six months, being one of the very few ‘observers’ who actually did some observing, and came back to America convinced that America should never have entered the war on the side of the since-deposed and assassinated President Diem. But the trouble was he still believed that, although America was wrong to back a dictator, he also believed that America could ‘win’ this dirty, bloody war which was chopping Americans into bloody garbage which could only be transported back home in waterproof body-bags.
Then came the great revelation. He had heard through the Rand’s grapevine that there was a super-secret study, of America’s historical intent and involvement in the Far East, in existence, and discovers that his research and writing had been part of this document. Ellsberg persuaded his boss that he should be able to read the complete document, so as to study and best advise Rand, and thence the White House, regarding future strategic policies in the Vietnam area, and is amazed to learn that all 47 volumes, some 7,000 pages,are now stacked on his desktop. The only security requirement is that all the documents be secured in a high-security safe each night. He reads all through the ‘Pentagon Papers’ and discovers to his horror that the American people have been systematically lied to since 1945 by all the Presidents and Administrations, from Roosevelt & Truman onwards, through Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; regarding America’s intent, involvement and strategy in the Far East. In amongst the many hardly-believable sections of this massive document, comes the facts that Ho Chi Minh wrote some 15 letters to President Truman,simply stating that the Vietnamese simply wanted what had been agreed in the famous Atlantic Charter between Roosevelt and Churchill. That all peoples ruled by foreign powers should be free. The Vietnamese simply asked that Truman live up to those words, and help get the French, the Colonial Power before WW2, out of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was ignored, commenced guerilla warfare against the French, and the rest is history.
So after trying the legal route, which was attempting to discuss or broadcast the existence of the ‘Papers’ with everyone from Senator Fullbright, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman downwards, he embarked upon the perilous course of copying all 7,000-odd pages, collating and storing the copies of something which, if broadcast, could and would be regarded as treason; for the very simple reason that if he did not do this act, he would really be committing treason.
We all know the happenings which followed the publication of the Pentagon Papers by firstly the New York Times, and then the Washington Post. We know the treacherous behaviour of President Nixon’s staff, firstly to attempt to bar the publication of those damning documents by the ‘Times’ and then the ‘Post’, and when that track failed at the Supreme Court, they attempted to blacken Ellsberg’s character through knowledge gleaned from transcripts stolen from Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office during a break-in. Unfortunately for Nixon and his team, the bunch who stole Ellsberg’s papers also attempted to ‘bug’ the offices of the Democratic Party in the Watergate complex; the judge deemed Ellsberg’s basic rights had been fatally injured by the prosecution’s use of illegally-obtained personal documents, and all charges were dismissed.
The real reasons for this writing should now of course be obvious. Knowledge of activities which had never been declared to either the American people nor their elected representatives, and publication of those activities was not deemed to be an unlawful activity. This was stated to be part of the Constitution upon which the United States was formed, and ‘Freedom of the Press’ was confirmed as overriding any call for the truth, or indeed any part of that truth, to be either silenced or muzzled in any manner whatsoever.