Posted by: twotrees | November 6, 2009

The Measure of a Man

Daniel Ellsberg  The Start of the 10th Annual Ojai-Ventura Film Festival was a free outdoor (brrrrr) screening at the Ojai Valley Inn of the film The Most Dangerous Man In America  – the story of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.  Good film about an amazing story.  Ellsberg, a highly regarded war strategist for the Rand Corp. in the 1960’s and was the consummate hawk. 

His top-secret clearance made him privy to the most sensitive documents in the U.S. Government, documents that eventually, along with the moral compass of his wife, caused Ellsberg to change his thinking about the Vietnam war.  Eventually, he made the decision to spirit out of the Pentagon some 7,000 pages of secret documents, photocopy them and distribute them to whoever would publish them.

As it turned out, it was a series of articles published in newspapers throughout the country that brought the information to light.  Even though the full pressure of the President and Attorney General were applied in an attempt to quash the publication of this information, ingenuity and guts overcame power with all major news organizations trumpeting the news for weeks.  This in turn lead to the Nixon Whitehouse hiring of men to break into democratic HQ offices and those of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, only to be discovered soon thereafter.  In short, a series of events stemming from the Pentagon papers resulted in Nixon’s resignation and the end of the war in Vietnam.

Unbeknownst to me until now was the fact that the war in Indochina really began with Truman, who provided U.S. funding to the French to overtake Vietnam and perpetuated a series of lies by presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, who had no intention of seeing the war end. 

Ellsberg was in attendance and answered questions after the screening.  At 71, he is still vigorous and as passionate as ever about taking a position and defending it.  Here’s a man who took a giant chance, against the federal government, and seemed to win, although he lost many things along the way.  Quoting Thoreau, Ellsberg said “” Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”

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