Category Archives: Daniel Ellsberg

Only The President?

Things Every Adult Ought to Know

We’ve been living under the shadow of the mushroom cloud for going on 76 years. It was on a Monday, August 6, 1945, that the Japanese city of Hiroshima was virtually fried off the face of the Earth by a single nuclear weapon dropped by an American Army Air Forces B-29.

Hiroshima, Burnt Out of Existence.

The bomb had exploded at approximately 8:16am, Japan Standard Time. An estimated 80,000 people were killed, either instantly by the momentary +10,000ºF temperature within the bomb’s 1,200-feet in diameter fireball or within moments by the firestorm that hellpoint ignited in the city 1,900 feet below it. Everything — vehicles, mules, birds, people, structures (except for a very few reinforced concrete, earthquake resistant buildings) — within a mile radius of ground zero was vaporized. Outside that circle, extending out another mile, everything was burned in a wind-driven inferno that lasted for hours. Only a lack of stuff left to burn caused the firestorm to fizzle out.

Within the next few months and years some 6000 more people died from radiation effects. Those who were in the blast zone and survived experienced for the rest of their lives a high risk of cancer directly related to their exposure to radiation

That particular bomb today seems laughably primitive. Even when it was dropped, Manhattan Project physicists and Army Air Forces commanders understood a much more complicated but also more efficient bomb would be used in the ensuing days as well as in future warfare. The Hiroshima bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, was a gun-type shell that produced a nuclear fission explosion. Its designers had re-purposed a large-bore naval artillery gun and encased it in a ten-foot-long aerodynamic cylinder. At the moment of detonation, a pellet of Uranium-235 was fired down the length of the gun tube until it nestled precisely within a hollow cylinder, also made of U-235. That created a critical mass, initiating an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, releasing heat, light and X-ray energy of previously unimaginable proportions.

Kid Stuff.

Three days later, another B-29 dropped a second nuclear weapon, this one nicknamed Fat Man, on the city of Nagasaki. In Fat Man, a 3 1/2-inch diameter ball of plutonium was squeezed into critical mass by a concentric shell of explosives, the resultant heat and blast wave killing another 75,000 or so people either instantly or by the explosion’s aftereffects. Japan surrendered within a week.

In the whole of human history, a total of more than 150,000 people have been killed in the only two wartime uses of nuclear weapons. Since those two incidents, the world’s nation have constructed well more than 60,000 nuclear weapons. A more exact total is impossible to ascertain since each nation’s nuclear weapon inventory is kept secret. Thus far, eight nations have been recognized as possessing nuclear weapons. They are the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and India. Most observers believe Israel also possesses a nuclear inventory but that nation refuses to verify it, preferring to let its Middle East rivals fret over the question. Were you to state in court that Israel is a nuclear power, it’s a good bet you wouldn’t be at risk of perjuring yourself.

From ourworldindata.com

By the way, it’s generally acknowledged that South Africa, under its apartheid rulers, had built a few nuclear weapons but after the African National Congress ousted that regime, the nation’s nuclear bombs were dismantled. Knowing humanity as we do, South Africa’s actions in this matter remain stunning to this day.

The nuclear bombs nations posses in the year 2021 (some 13,000-plus overall) are mostly of the thermonuclear variety. Dubbed “The Super” by its earliest advocate, physicist Edward Teller, and commonly known as the hydrogen bomb, a thermonuclear device actually uses an old fashioned atom bomb, something akin to the Nagasaki explosive, its critical mass being depleted uranium, as a detonator. When a hydrogen bomb is dropped, the atom bomb within it explodes, creating enough heat to cause a fusion reaction. In the old fission bombs, atomic nuclei caught in the chain reaction are split apart, releasing energy. In Teller et al‘s “Super,” the energy created by those spiltting nuclei is merely the match the lights the real guts of the thing, a mass of hydrogen isotopes. The nuclei of those hydrogen isotopes are fused together, forming helium atoms, the same type of reaction that goes on in the cores of stars. In order for the bomb to cause that fusion, that temperature must momentarily reach about 180,000,000ºF.

Fission vs. Fusion.

The blast generated by a hydrogen bomb makes both the Little Boy and Fat Man explosions look like firecrackers set off by children. Were a one-megaton hydrogen bomb dropped on Hiroshima that day in August 1845, its destructive power — including to one degree or another, the crushing overpressure, initial and residual radiation, heat and resultant fires — everything within a nearly five-mile radius would effectively be destroyed with significant damage to structures within a seven-plus-mile radius. A lethal dose of radiation would extend outward, depending on wind direction and speed up to 90 miles. Death for anyone caught within that radiation plume would ensue within two weeks. An area of up to 250 miles distant, again depending on wind speed and direction, would be uninhabitable for up to three years.

By the way, a megaton in nuke-speak is analogous to one million tons of TNT. That’s big. How big? Consider this: the biggest thermonuclear device ever exploded, the USSR’s “Tsar Bomba,” dropped from an airplane in October 1961 over the absolute nowheresville locale of Russia’s Novaya Zemliya island archipelago north of the Arctic Circle, had a yeild of 50 megatons. The crew of the aircraft that dropped the bomb barely survived the blast even though the plane was more than 24 miles away at the moment of the explosion. Soviet planners previously had estimated the crew would have a 50 percent chance of surviving the blast but it was important enough to them to risk those lives in order to prove to the United States how big its nuclear dick was.

The Tsar Bomba’s Explosive Force in Terms of a Cube of TNT. That’s the Eiffel Tower on the Left, for Comparison.

Here in the United States, a nation just as concerned with nuclear genital size as the (now) Russians, we go about our daily business, most of us, believing only the president can authorize the use of nuclear weapons by our armed forces. To this point, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force (the Army Air Forces became a separate service in 1947) possess and control separate nuclear stockpiles. Spy movies and suspense novels over the last eight decades have led us to believe the President of the United States travels around followed by a military officers carrying the “Football,” a briefcase containing the launch codes and communications devices that allow only him (that gender thus far) to “press the red button.” No general or admiral, the belief goes, no matter how high up in the chain of command, can launch the Bomb without a presidential go-ahead.

It’s all bullshit.

A Member of the Armed Services Carrying “The Football” Accompanies the President at All Times.

From the weeks before the Hiroshima bombing when Harry S Truman lay awake in bed for nights at a time trying to decide whether to authorize the use of this nation’s terrible new weapon, the assumption always has been it’s the president who has the sole authority to use a nuclear bomb. The average American thinks there’s some kind of mechanical barrier — that “Football” — in addition to tradition and an abundance of prudence that make it impossible for anyone but the Chief Executive to make such an apocalyptic decision.

Not so. Not at all.

In fact, the number of people who can elect to drop a hydrogen bomb on a city — be it Moscow, Beijing, Tehran or any major metropolis in a country that happens to stick in their craw at that moment — reaches into the thousands.

Let’s ponder that again: thousands of people, American people, can, on a whim, obliterate a major world city, killing hundreds of thousands, even millions, in a blinding flash of light and heat.

In the last few years, a number of books have been published recounting the history of this Holy Land’s nuclear arsenal. That history has been a doozy.

Two books in particular illuminate what is in reality a not-very controlled control of this nation’s nuclear arsenal. It can be assumed that the arsenals of Russia and at least some of the rest of the nuclear powers are similarly left in the hands of many people, not all of whom, of course, have been vetted for sanity, compassion, morality, or decency. The books are reporter Fred Kaplan’s The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, and Daniel Ellsberg‘s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear Planner.

Kaplan‘s book is largely based on Freedom of Information Act requests as well as scheduled classified information releases. Ellsberg’s research was more direct; he was a nuclear war planner for the RAND Corporation, the nonprofit financed by the US government to analyze, basically, how big and effective our military dick is.

Both Kaplan and Ellsberg became aghast at both the destructive power of our nuclear arsenal and the mechanisms to control and utilize it. Both authors remark every president from John F. Kennedy to the present day * were stunned by the power they controlled, a capability they learned their first days in office. And, yes, there is a “Football” and it does indeed contain the codes the president needs to launch a nuclear attack. But that “Football” is no barrier to all those people whose fingers are not on the nation’s entire nuclear inventory but merely some of it.

[ * Not only that, the succeeding presidents to a man immediately became convinced the nuclear arms race must be reversed, with one exception, acc’d’g to Kaplan. When the 45th President took office, he nearly gleefully urged his military commanders to increase significantly the number of nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal, just because, it can be surmised, bigger is better.]

US Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Daniel Ellsberg (c. 1957).

Those button-pushers range from military theater commanders, admirals or generals in charge of broad regions of operation like the Pacific Ocean or Europe down to bomber pilots and submarine captains whose craft are laden with one or more thermonuclear weapons. For instance, acc’d’g to Ellsberg, President Harry Truman in the early 1950s gave the then-named Commander in Chief–Pacific Command (CINCPAC), Admiral Harry Felt the authority to use any and all of the nuclear weapons under his command, basically, any time he felt the need to. That order, Felt attested, had never been rescinded by the time The Doomsday Machine was published.

Going one step further, Regional CINC’s have authorized pilots and submarine commanders to use their thermonuclear weapons at their individual discretion any time communications are lost between themselves and their bases at times of high alert. Knowing what we know about the reliability of any of our modes of reaching out to each other (phones, radios, the internet), it’s reasonable to assume those pilots and captains’d be on their own, burdened with the decision to roast a city of several million, far more often than is comfortable to ponder.

In other words, a small town’s worth of potential Major T.J. “King” Kongs from “Dr. Strangelove” are flying airplanes or sailing on or beneath the surface of the world’s seas are all that stand between us and armageddon.

Given that both Russia’s and the US’s strategies are to respond en masse with nuclear weapons should either party launch a single bomb against the other, only the sanity and sense of human decency of those few thousand has kept the lot of us from being cremated into our constituent atoms.

Hot Air

And The Winner Is….

Let’s talk awards.

The Pulitzers Prizes are the Oscars of the newspaper and scribbling biz. If I were to reveal one dream that I’ve harbored all my life, it’d be that I’d win the Pulitzer.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Big Mike Glab.

Trips off the tongue, no?

Maybe. But it won’t trip off the Pulitzer judging committee’s collective tongue. Not at this late date. And there, kiddies, lies the bare-bones moral of pretty much every novel that’s ever won the Pulitzer itself. Dreams die.

Sigh.

Anyway, Donna Tartt won this year’s fiction P.P. for her book, The Goldfinch. It’s about 16,000 pages long, which makes sense, considering it’s only the third book she’s had published in her so-far 22-year pro career.

Tartt

Donna Tartt

I haven’t cracked open The Goldfinch yet but I did read Tartt’s The Secret History back in the ’90s. It was quite good even though it was about privileged, over-the-top neurotic white college kids. See, I’m not a complete bigot.

I may read The Goldfinch when it comes out in paperback, although I wouldn’t bet the mortgage payment on it if I were you. I shy away from exceedingly long books and movies these days. The Goldfinch actually is 784 pages in hardcover. That translates to at least two weeks of reading time. I just can’t see myself making that kind of commitment anymore.

As far as movies go, my limit is two hours. If you can’t tell me a story up on the screen in two hours, you can’t tell me a story.

The big news, as far as I’m concerned, is that the Washington Post and The Guardian US jointly won the public service award in journalism for publishing the Edward Snowden revelations. Long-time readers of this space know I find Eddie to be a repulsive little character but, just to show what a big man I am, I do allow that he performed an absolutely invaluable and heroic service for this holy land.

I just wish he hadn’t run off to hide in one of the world’s most repressive states after he did it.

For those of you who fret that our great nation is slip-sliding into a fascist, tyrannical police state, take heart in the WaPo/Guardian‘s award. It’s part of a long tradition of American news gatherers winning praise for embarrassing the bejesus out of, well, America. Think back to 1972 when the New York Times copped the prize for printing the Pentagon Papers. It could reasonably be argued that the Times‘s actions harmed Murrica.

Certainly the revelation that our generals, Defense Department officials, and even the President himself had been lying through their teeth about our ill-conceived war in Southeast Asia helped hasten the general populace’s demand that we get the hell out of there. In other words, the publishing of the Pentagon Papers just might have prevented our great country from maintaining its perfect score in the Mighty Nations at War League.

Now, gosh dang it, Murrica’s got that tainted 12-1 mark (not including our record in little exhibition excursions like Grenada).

Anyway, the Buck Turgidsons of the Pentagon in 1972 would have given half the medals off their chests to prevent the NYT from publishing Daniel Ellsberg’s photocopied documents. Instead, the Times got laurels.

From "Dr. Strangelove...."

Bomb The New York Times!

If America was a fascist state back then, it was a lousy one. Old Adolf H. would have called us a bunch of pansies.

Funny thing is, it’s more likely that invertebrate publishers are more responsible for quashing the free press than all the iron-fisted generals, FBI agents, and presidents combined. In 1966 Harrison Salisbury was the only American reporter resourceful enough to slip into Hanoi. His subsequent series of stories revealed that US Air Force bombs were hitting hospitals and schools and killing civilians. The Pulitzer jury the next year voted to award him their prize. The Pulitzer board of directors nixed Salisbury’s award because they didn’t want to risk the ire of the Pentagon and President Johnson.

The same type of thing could have happened this year. The Far Right would have us believe the Obama Administration is chock-full of jack-booted Nazi lesbian abortionists. Funny, though, how that despotic gang let the Pulitzer committee recognize the Snowden articles.

They must have been too busy having sex orgies in the Oval Office.

And the Pulitzer peeps aren’t even cowering in fear of the Obama Reich.

Some fascist state.

Anyway, huzzah for the Pulitzer committees, for the Washington Post and The Guardian US, and for Edward Snowden (even if he is a weird little fker). I dig my press free.

Happy Tax Day

Here’s an item that ought to make your red cells sizzle this AM. Apparently, the extremely profitable National Football League does not pay federal taxes.

That’s right; the org. that administers a $10 billion-a-year operation and whose chief profiteer, Roger Goodell, makes a cool $44 million a year, does not turn over any of that lettuce to the feds. This despite the fact that many of the NFL’s franchises play their knee-breaking, cranium-shattering games in palatial stadia bought and paid for by you and me, the people.

Just to clarify: the individual teams do indeed pay taxes on their kingly revenues. It’s the NFL office that doesn’t fork it over to the taxman. Still, we’re talking some hefty scratch that could be going to things like rebuilding Interstate Highway bridges, say, or fixing the ACA online sign-up system. The NFL office’s yearly take amounts to nearly $200 million in dues from its 32 teams plus whatever cuts it gets from licensing fees and other squeezes of the avg. football fan.

Total US tax bill: zero.

Football

Money From Heaven — Tax-Free!

You may wonder why. The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville explains: The NFL is a nonprofit. Yep. Just like Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County or WFHB’s parent, Firehouse Broadcasting. No lie.

What, you wanna argue with that? You think nonprofit status should only apply to crunchy, goo-goo, liberal-socialist outfits that, y’know, help people?

Pshh. What country do you think you live in?


Your Daily Hot Air

Conviction

“I decided it was worth a life in prison to do it.” — Daniel Ellsberg

Ellsberg

Problem Solved

Yale University has hit upon the magic solution to the problem of rape. Rape culture, at least within the confines of the ivy-covered halls of the institution that has given us Sinclair Lewis, John Hersey, Garry Troudeau, Aldo Leopold, Eero Saarinen, Meryl Streep, and…, and…, um, George W. Bush (nobody’s perfect), has been smashed to bits for good.

Lewis/Bush

Fellow Elis: Sinclair Lewis & George W. Bush

Rape shall be no more at Yale!

That’s because the university has now eliminated the usage of the word from its official lexicon. A provost’s report released this week addressing the Campus Sexual Climate for the school year just past, makes rape disappear by simply not calling forcible sexual contact, well, rape.

It’s now the much more palatable nonconsensual sex. Isn’t that better?

And just in case any Elis still harbor any desire to attempt a bit of the good old violent penetration, why, they’ll be deterred, no doubt by the dreaded threat of the written reprimand.

Wow. That’s tough, man.

And if some male student happens to commit a particularly egregious form of nonconsensual sex, he just might be put on probation or even suspended for a year!

Thank god. The women of Yale can now feel free to walk the campus in the nude, making come-hither gestures without fear of having creepy guys try to force themselves upon them.

Because that’s how women usually become rape victims, isn’t it?

Get healthy — or else!

Let’s stay with academia.

Former football factory extraordinaire Penn State University also is getting tough, this time with employees who refuse to be healthy.

PSU Icon

The Nittany Lion (What The Hell Ever That Is)

See, professors, janitors, and clerks alike are being threatened with hefty — nay, borderline confiscatory — financial penalties for failing to submit to the U’s stringent wellness (a word I loathe) guidelines and reporting procedures.

Chief among those procedures is PSU’s mandatory “biometric screenings.” This means if you refuse to have your waist measured, step on a scale, have your blood sugar tested, and a raft of other peeks inside and around your holy temple, you’re going to have to pay a cool hundred bucks a month extra for your health insurance coverage.

Waist Measurement

Get ‘Em Up!

Say you’re a brand new PSU hiree making $15,792 a year. That comes out to about $850 per month after taxes. Should you consider the university’s health spies poking into your bloodstream or running a measuring tape around your heretofore pleasing girth to be intrusive, well, you’re going to have to pay a full 12 percent of your ready monthly cash flow for your silly little principle.

Which, I suppose, is the U’s intent. You’ll have to slash your grocery budget to next to nil. That’ll shrink your waistline.

British Model

See? Now You’re Healthier!

PSU, of course, is well known for its strict adherence to rules and law. Why, it took the less than a decade for the school to ban Jerry Sandusky from campus after he’d been seen sodomizing a ten-year-old in the shower.

Not My Fault

You know — don’t you? — that scary-looking San Diego Mayor Bob Filner squeezed all those women’s asses, groped their breasts, and pressured them to have sex with him (a nauseating prospect, to be sure) because he’d never gotten harassment training.

Filner

Eek!

At least that’s what he and his lawyer say in an effort to get the city to pay his mounting legal bills in the harassment lawsuits brought about by a number of women whose ladyparts now bear his cooties.

Hell, this revelation ought to cause the judge or judges in those cases to dismiss them forthwith.

How in the world can we expect anyone to know that groping and forcibly kissing co-workers is frowned upon if we don’t have a mandatory training session telling them so?

Palin’s Payouts

Here’s what Sarah Palin’s squealer arm, SarahPAC, spends in a typical half-year, in case you give a good goddamn.

Palin created her PAC for the ostensible purpose of supporting candidates for office who share her (terrifying) views. So far in 2013, SarahPAC has spent a total of a half million dollars. Palin’s action faction in the same time has donated $5000, or 1 percent, to political candidates. That’s some overhead.

Sarah PAC FEC Filing

Click For Full Federal Election Commission Report

Your Daily Hot Air

Imperfect Hero

Computer patriarch Steve Wozniak told CNN’s journalist-manqué Piers Morgan the other day that the secret-spiller who blabbed that the NSA is trawling through yours and my phone and interwebs records, purportedly for the purpose of looking for bad guys, is the moral and heroic equivalent of Daniel Ellsberg.

Wozniak

Steve Wozniak (photo by Nik Harrison)

Now, Ellsberg was one of my great heroes back when I was an idealistic (and insufferable) teen rebel. Now that I’m an old man rebel, Ellsberg still holds an honored spot in my pantheon. (And I’m still insufferable.)

Anyways, I’m tempted to agree with Wozniak. Edward Snowden did indeed perform a patriotic service by revealing the NSA’s spook methodology. If the bosses of my gummint are eavesdropping on my conversations or peeping in my garage windows, I want to know about it. Even if they are protecting me from 9/11: The Sequel.

Look, I have no desire to have skyscrapers collapse on top of me (and the way things are going here in B-Town, our heretofore quaint town square ought to be ringed with supertalls by the start of the next IU semester.) Still, if the Feds are honestly trying only to protect us, I want to know how often G-men are going to be rifling through my folded underwear.

Underwear Drawer

Secret Drawers

Guaranteed, there’ll always be one or two true-believer pencil-pushers who want to expand the spy ops to swallow up anybody they disagree with politically or whom they feel might not worship god properly. As long as we know what mechanisms they have in place to harass us, we can at least pretend to resist.

All that said, this Snowden character sure gives me the willies. From his premature Army discharge to his selfie-addicted girlfriend (whom he suddenly bolted from when the story broke) to his habit of wearing a red hood when he logs on to his interwebs browser, he just seems like a guy who sees life more as a histrionic graphic novel than, well, reality.

He calls himself a “spook” and says he’s been spying all his adult life which is like a guy bragging that he’s a member of the Mafia. Real spooks and real mobsters rarely have the inclination to call attention to their job descriptions.

His globe-trotting odyssey keeping him one step ahead of teed-off cops and prosecutors seems a bit overkill-ish. He says he can’t bear the idea that he lives in a country that’s a nest of spies, then he hides out in Hong Kong and, now, Moscow. Honestly? He wants to couch surf in China and Russia to get away from spies?

What’s next — he wants to get a job at McDonald’s because he’s worried about Americans’ eating habits?

None of Snowden’s weirdnesses, in any case, should detract from the importance of what he has revealed. He’s a hero for blowing the whistle. But he’s Daniel Ellsberg with a lot of baggage.

Daniel Ellsberg

No Baggage

When all is said and done, though, I shouldn’t care about the baggage, only the revelations.

The Plot To Oust Obama

It may not surprise you to know that the psychotics who run World Net Daily love this whole NSA domestic spying story.

Their take, natch, is that President Obama, channeling his inner Hitler, spends all his days and nights listening to phone conversations of honest, law-abiding Murricans, hoping to put the screws to Tea Party-ists, militia members, and other pathologically bent individuals.

They’re certain, of course, that Obama’s Secret Black Shirts will be rounding up all gun-fondling, god-fearing, Flat Earthers long before his eight year Reich comes to an end.

Eavesdropping

And they’re not gonna be marched into re-education camps without a fight, god help them.

If they had any sense, they’d wish with all their hearts that Obama actually was listening in on their conversations. Nothing could drive him from office quicker than suffering their paranoiac prattle for anything more than three and a half seconds. He’d be pulling his hair out and bouncing around the Oval Office like Daffy Duck if subjected to (what passes for) their logic.

In fact, perhaps this whole NSA deal is a clandestine operation conjured by the likes of Chuck Norris, Alex Jones, James O’Keefe, and other stars of the Right Wing bedlamite firmament. They know that if the Prez does indeed monitor their respective audience’s jabberings, he’ll be carted away from the White House in a straightjacket before they get to discussing which canned goods they should stock up on for the coming apocalypse .

Who sez Me Party-ists are stupid?

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I got my head bashed in at a demonstration against the Vietnam War. Police were losing control because they were up against a world they really didn’t understand.” — Terry Gilliam

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

Gotta tell ya, folks, I hate to see Little Rickey Santorum go, for the loss of his entertainment value alone.

Now the presidential race is down to two politico-economic fraternal twins, each of whom is about as exciting as a can of beige paint.

Definitely Not Beige

If it wasn’t for guys like Santorum, I’d have to actually take the Republicans seriously and you know how disconcerting that prospect would be for me.

Digging the Santorum campaign was like having a daredevil hobby — bungee jumping off tall bridges, say, or rowing across an ocean. Exciting, sure, but if things go wrong, you’re screwed.

In this case, the worst-case scenario would have been a Santorum presidency

So, bye-bye Rickey. We knew you all too well.

A SIMPLE QUESTION

Does it surprise anyone that the first media creature George Zimmerman has spoken with is Fox News’ Sean Hannity?

Sympathetic Ear

DANIEL ELLSBERG, PATRIOT

I missed this. Saturday, April 7th was Daniel Ellsberg‘s birthday.

You want a hero? You got him.

Ellsberg

Here’s the story of Ellsberg’s heroism as told by Howard Zinn in his compelling graphic narrative book, “A People’s History of American Empire.”

Zinn and Ellsberg became friends in 1969 during the anti-war movement. Ellsberg earlier had worked for  the RAND Corporation, which was assigned by the US Department of Defense in 1967 to write up a history of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg actually did much of the grunt work researching this nation’s involvement there.

He learned that President Harry Truman authorized the funding of France’s colonial war against Vietnam independence fighters as far back as  the 1940s. President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s threw US support behind Vietnam strongmen who opposed free elections in that country.

Throw in a pile of other falsehoods, exaggerations, forgeries, and intentional inaccuracies on the parts of generals and politicians executing the slaughter in Southeast Asia, and Ellsberg understood that our stated aims there were a colossal sham.

Thanks to the study, Ellsberg saw that President Lyndon Johnson’s assertion that the North Vietnamese had started a war just for kicks in the summer of 1964 was an out and out lie.

Johnson, see, had said some North Vietnamese in a little motorboat had attacked a couple of American cruisers just sitting in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and minding their own business. Johnson parlayed this whopper into getting Congress to sign him a blank check and the next thing you knew, a half million American soldiers were fighting for who knows what in Southeast Asia.

Johnson, Finally Grasping What Vietnam Had Become

Ellsberg and some other RAND researchers privately agreed that they had to say something to the American public about our country’s shenanigans in Vietnam.

They figured Middle American folks would trust them, sub-contractors to the Pentagon with 7000 pages of damning documents in their hands, rather than wild-eyed hippies carrying peace placards.

So they sent a letter to major newspapers around the country calling for an end to the war. The New York Times and the Washington Post both published the letter, but nobody really gave a damn about it.

Meanwhile, the United States military went on happily killing and bombing in Vietnam. Then there was a Green Beret murder scandal and the My Lai Massacre. Ellsberg already was wracked with guilt for his country over what he knew and these atrocities only pushed him over the edge.

Destroying The Town In Order To Save It

He contacted another former RAND colleague and together they photocopied the 7000 pages with the goal of releasing the classified documents. The two agreed it was worth going to jail for exposing government secrets if it might shorten the war somehow.

Their hope was the release of the papers would turn even the most die-hard patriots against the war. They contacted the offices of a few congressmen and found no one willing to touch their hot docs.

Finally, they went to the New York Times with their bundle of papers. After a few months, the Times went ahead and published what would become known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was charged with theft and violations of the Espionage Act. He faced 115 years in prison. He turned himself in to the FBI in Boston on June 28, 1971, after having run off many more copies of the Papers and distributing them to other newspapers.

Setting The Type For The New York Times Pentagon Papers Edition

While Ellsberg was on trial, it was learned that the Nixon White House had ordered mugs to burglarize his psychiatrist’s office in hopes of finding incriminating notes against him there, and other mugs to harass him at public appearances. The federal judge declared a mistrial in Ellberg’s case due to these government interferences.

He was lucky.

He was also, as I mentioned earlier. a hero.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

The Buffalo Springfield played this song on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, February 26th, 1967.

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