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Secrecy, Freedom and Empire
October 23, 2002
E. Daniel Ellsberg, Barton J. Bernstein, Edwin B. Firmage, David R. Henderson, J. Victor Marshall


David J. Theroux

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is David Theroux, and I’m the President of The Independent Institute. I’m delighted to welcome you all to our special event this evening entitled “Secrecy, Freedom and Empire: Lessons for Today from Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.”

Our program features the former Pentagon official and renowned whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, and is cosponsored by the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy here at the University of California.

For those of you who have not seen his new book, Daniel Ellsberg is the author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, which is receiving rave reviews around the country.

The Independent Institute regularly sponsors the Independent Policy Forum, a series of lectures, seminars and debates held here in the San Francisco Bay area. After 9/11 for example, we began a program to examine the key issues involved, and our event this evening continues that dialogue.

In all of our programs, we seek to get beyond left and right, and feature speakers who present their own views, so that we all have a better opportunity to sift through and make up our own minds.

For those of you who are new to our program, The Independent Institute is a non-profit, public-policy research organization that sponsors and publishes studies of major issues, and conducts many conference and media programs. We invite you to visit our Website, which is at You’ll find further information on our many programs, our books, our journal, which is called The Independent Review. This is the current issue, for those of you who have not seen it. In addition we invite you to receive a free subscription to our the e-mail newsletter called The Lighthouse.

I’d like to share with you four quick quotes. Thomas Jefferson once declared that “peace and freedom, with all mankind, is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn has stated that “violence does not, and cannot exist by itself. It is invariably intertwined with the lie.” Thomas Paine said, “it is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” [Applause.] And last, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

I believe that each of these quotes speaks to the remarkable story and courage of our speaker this evening. With the war on terrorism, we face unprecedented new government powers at home, and the prospects abroad of a highly dangerous preemptive war as part of a new U.S. policy of global interventionism. Will such actions produce a safer, freer and more peaceful world? If not, what are the real lessons we should be learning from the past?

A couple of quick program matters before we begin. After the discussion, we will have questions from the audience. In the printed program that you hopefully all received, there is a blank card on which you can jot down any questions you might have, and there’ll be ushers roaming the aisles during the program to pick them up. After the question period, we will adjourn and Dr. Ellsberg will be available to autograph his book in the outer lobby on the mezzanine level.

We’re particularly pleased to have the Goldman School as a cosponsor of tonight’s program. At this point, I’m delighted to introduce Professor David Kirp, who is here to represent the Goldman School. Professor Kirp received his LLB from Harvard Law School. He’s the author of 14 books at last count, and among his many activities is his being a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Northern California. [Applause.]

David L. Kirp

On behalf of the Goldman School, it’s a pleasure to welcome you and to introduce Daniel Ellsberg. Three decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to make public 7,000 pages on the history of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam, 1945 to 1968. Those classified documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers influenced the course of a war. Now, even as Secrets, an account of that era, has been published, we seem poised on the brink of another, and at least equally, problematic war.

It seems to be fitting in two respects for the Goldman School to be a part of this event and a sponsor of this event. For one thing, the school is committed to the kind of rigorous analysis of central policy issues. Rigor has really been the hallmark of Dan Ellsberg’s work. If there’s a motto, it comes from the title of a book by the founding dean, Speaking Truth to Power.

As well, we pay attention to the ethics, not just the analytics of policy making. I teach an ethics and public policy course. It includes a unit on whistleblowing. You might imagine who one of the star figures is of that material.

As well, there’s a shared recognition at the school that analysis by itself is not enough, that unless legitimate concerns of those affected by policy are taken into account, government action will be ineffectual at best, and even wrongheaded. And that recognition, too, is consistent with the spirit of Daniel Ellsberg’s life work.

But there’s another reason why it’s appropriate for me to be here, and that is, had life events unfolded differently, Daniel Ellsberg might not be the author of this book and a figure known to the world but one of the founding faculty members at the Goldman Policy School. Certainly, his own intellectual background is the stuff of public policy—a dissertation on decision analysis.

He worked with Thomas Schelling, who’s one of the founding figures in the public policy field, after having worked on military strategy. He had a career that took him to the Rand Corporation, one of the places in which the field of policy analysis has its origins, and then to the government, and careers back and forth from government to public policy or familiar stuff in the policy field.

He was one of Robert McNamara’s “bright young men,” a group who really launched—in the aftermath of disappointment over the perceived failures of the Great Societylaunched this field called policy analysis.

And one of his bosses at Rand, a fellow named Charlie Wolf, described in the book as a hawk on Vietnam, became just a few years later, one of the first directors of Rand’s graduate program, which is the counterpart to the Goldman School.

Now, I wrote all that before discovering that this bit of counter-history turns out to be true—that on November 14th, 1969, Aaron Wildavsky had Daniel Ellsberg up to interview for a position at the then-about-to-be-created Goldman, well, then—Graduate School of Public Policy. He came, but knew he couldn’t accept the position because, as he says, “by then I was busily copying the Pentagon Papers.” [Laughter.]

As he describes in his book, coming across the Vietnam files was like opening the door to Ali Baba’s treasure. He’d thought of Vietnam as a worthy effort gone wrong, or a case of failed good intentions, and came only gradually to the conviction that American involvement had no legitimacy from the beginning. And then he acted on that conviction. The rest, as they say, is history.

One of my colleagues worked at the Rand Corporation in the1980s. He tells me the story that he’d go up to the guards desk and look kind of behind the guards desk at Rand. There’s a photo of Dan Ellsberg which says, “Never let this man enter this building.” [Laughter.] That is surely Rand’s loss. It’s a gain for the rest of us.

Today in the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, there are files and files and file cabinets filled with classified documents on the history of American decision-making in Iraq, 1945 to the present. And perhaps there’s a Daniel Ellsberg, prepared for reasons of principle, to take the great personal risk of making those papers available, and a New York Times that is willing and prepared to publish them. [Applause.] If so, that would have an enormous impact on our times, even as Dan Ellsberg’s decision to make the Pentagon Papers public probably shortened the war in Vietnam.

In the meantime, we have the pleasure to hear from Dan Ellsberg himself, a voice whose actions in the past, whose entire life vocation have enormous continuing relevance today. Dan. [Applause.]

Daniel Ellsberg

How many people here saw the little interview that was published by me in the [San Francisco] Chronicle this morning? Can I see? Okay, very good. So, you know what I think about Iraq, the war. I don’t have to go into that, right? It’s what you think probably, pretty much.

I’ll try to talk this evening about history, but actually I’m not on this tour this month, which was set up months ago, with no thought that there would be such uncanny timeliness, unhappily, to the history I was speaking here. So I’m very happy even when I had no voice to have the opportunity in the last 10 days not to talk about history, but to do my best to avert that history being repeated, as is in the process of happening right now. And that’s what I’m going to appeal to you actually to join in this audience, because I suspect that here in my home town of Berkeley, I can count on not having to argue with people over why this war must not happen, and why it’s wrong. [Applause.]

Anybody out here have this book already? Okay, class, will you turn to page seven? [Laughter.] No, actually you don’t have to turn to it. The people who don’t have it yet, or don’t even buy it tonight, can find the chapter I’m about to quote from Chapter One on the Web, where I put it, thanks to my 24-year old son, Michael, three days ago—

Because I told my editors about three days ago, as I was reading in the daily papers, “I want to put this whole book on the ‘Net’ right now. I can’t wait for people to buy it.” Well, you can imagine the reaction I got from my editor on that the week this went on sale. [Laughter.] But I said, “Okay, okay, just parts of it. Chapters one, three, and four. Two is background—the part that has to do, in 1964, with the approach to war before the bombs started falling. And that’s the part that needs reading right now.”

As a matter of fact, I had been sending this with that recommendation to people in Congress before the vote, and now after the vote on the authorization, it is still, the bombs aren’t yet falling. So this is the part that people have to read, I think, very quickly.

Well, one, three, and four. My editor went up to the upper bigwigs in Viking and said, “Chapter One—can’t do Three and Four.” I said, “it’s only 10 percent of the book.” And [she] said, “No, chapter one.” But I negotiated a few pages, which I may get to on chapter four, and you’ll see why.

Because the book begins with my first day as a full-time employee in the Pentagon, having been for about six years a consultant in the Pentagon, occasionally in the White House, or the State Department, from the Rand Corporation, with high clearance—higher than Top Secret—working mainly on nuclear weapons plans, nuclear war plans, almost a year-long study of nuclear crises in ’64, which led me to be hired by John McNaughton, who I talked to in the course of that study, former General Counsel of the State Department, former Harvard Law professor on evidence, now Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. And he asked me to be his special assistant.

And I wasn’t really interested in being a bureaucrat. I was interested in improving the process, and studying it, and talking really about things that I knew something about. Vietnam was not something I knew about, although I had been there long enough—in 1961, several years earlier—to know that there was very little prospect of any kind of success in Vietnam. I’d been there long enough. It took about a week, and that’s all it did take actually.

But he said, “Look, you’re interested in crises, Vietnam is one long crisis.” This was in July of ’64, and he said, “You’ll study it from the inside. You’ll learn things you have not learned as a consultant, about how the government really works.” And that was true.

So when my first day started—in the book, chapter one, page seven—I didn’t even have an office yet. I was assigned a desk next to the secretaries because my predecessor, a special assistant, hadn’t yet moved out of the little cubbyhole, the office next to the assistant secretary. So I was just sitting at a desk there waiting to read cables and to learn about this new job, when a courier from the message center came running into the office, asked for the assistant secretary, who wasn’t there at the time. He was directed to me, the special assistant. And he handed me a cable, which was very dramatic, from a Captain Herrick, who was the commodore of a two-ship, two-destroyer flotilla in the South China Sea in the Tonkin Gulf, just off the coast of North Vietnam. It was a flash cable. And the reason he was running? It said “am under continuous torpedo attack.”

Now this was at 10:30—I have it here. I had looked this up, of course, on the time. I remember the occasion. And I checked in various textbooks now on when that time was.

The first cable was 10:42 a.m., Washington time—9:42 p.m. in the Tonkin Gulf. The time zones changed in the middle of the Tonkin Gulf, so there’s a lot of confusion actually as to which time zone a particular ship was in. But it was essentially twelve or thirteen time zones away. So morning in Washington was night in the Tonkin Gulf, and it happened to be a moonless night, very choppy, clouded over, no light at all, no stars, no nothing. All that could be seen was on radarscopes, or listened to on sonar, and that was the basis for the reporting that was coming in. The reporting was very dramatic, because one cable after another kept getting run into me. I never had an experience after this again, and I’m not—I don’t know how many there have been, really—since then.

This was not an ordinary event. This was the second time that a U.S. naval ship had been attacked by anyone since the Second World War. The first time had been—this was August 4th—had been two days earlier in daylight in the Tonkin Gulf on a Sunday afternoon, a Saturday night in Washington—so not too many people were in the office. The President wasn’t in.

But the President, then, on Sunday morning got the word that there had been this attack. It lasted about 20 minutes. Torpedoes had been fired; they all missed. Machine guns had been fired from the patrol boats. When we were looking for evidence that there had been a second attack on August 4th, my predecessor Alvin Friedman—who was sworn in as a deputy assistant secretary to give him a little more authority when he went to the Tonkin Gulf to find out what had happened—he came back with a .50 caliber bullet that had lodged in the superstructure of Herrick’s ship. And I’ve held that bullet in my hand. He came back and got quite a historic artifact—the bullet that started the U.S. escalation in Vietnam that lasted quite a long time.

But two days after that actual attack which occurred, were these reports of a second attack in the face of the President’s warning that any other repetition of that—and we hadn’t reacted to the first one—any repetition would have the gravest consequences. And in the face of that warning, here again, they were doing it.

So the other dramatic thing about this was that as flash cables, they were coming in as they were received in the Pentagon. I looked at the clock, I looked at the date/time group on the cable, and could see that it had been sent about half an hour before. Now, a flash cable is supposed to arrive at its destination in 10 minutes. That was the definition of flash, but it’s very hard to achieve that. And actually I wasn’t the first person seeing these, of course; it was going to the President, it was going to the Secretary of Defense. So what I was seeing were reports of something that was actually happening about half an hour earlier, but since they were coming to me minute after minute, it was like real time.

And there was no CNN then, where you could watch events slide half a way across the world. As a matter of fact, there was no radio contact directly with those ships from Washington, so this was as close to a kind of CNN version, a real-time version, as you could get. And apparently Herrick was dictating cables one after another from the bridge of the destroyer while he was taking evasive action in the dark there to avoid these torpedoes.

And here’s what I was reading, and this is verbatim. “Torpedo missed. Another fired at us. Four torpedoes in water. Five torpedoes in water. Have successfully avoided at least six torpedoes.” Nine torpedoes have been fired at the ship, fourteen, twenty-six in all at the two ships. More attacking boats had been hit, at least one sunk. This went on for over an hour, not just 20 minutes—a very extraordinary thing as I was watching these.

The reason I was getting these cables was that my boss was down the hall with Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, planning, picking the targets to be hit in response, because the President, even before the torpedoes were fired, on the basis of intelligence reports from Herrick that he believed—that he was being shadowed by torpedo boats. There was an ambush. He believed he was going to be attacked. The President had already decided on the morning of August 4th that we would retaliate this time. And McNaughton, my boss, was picking the targets with Joint Chiefs representatives.

So I was getting all these cables together to show him when he got back in order, kept coming in. Twenty-six was the surprising number, though—to experts more surprising than to me. This is my first day on the job. They knew, which I didn’t know, that 26 torpedoes was more than we had estimated was in the entire inventory of the North Vietnamese navy. [Laughter.] And there were other odd things about this to intelligence experts, such as no radio signals. No radar signals from the boats. How had they found these destroyers on a moonless night without radar in the middle of the South China Sea at that point?

But, anyway, the cables were coming fast. More torpedoes, more torpedoes, and then, a cable that, for many years, I could remember verbatim, but now I have to look it up.

I was having a discussion with my great historian friend—a great friend and a great historian—Bart Bernstein, who was expressing skepticism very properly about my memory of the conversations that I’d give so long ago. And I said you’re absolutely right to raise these questions. I’ll just tell you—he thought I should have put this in the book. My memory for discussions, and cables, and things that I read 35 years ago, was, and even is, extraordinary. Last week, not anymore—ask me tomorrow what questions people ask me tonight, and I will have some problem with it.

But where I could in this book, of course, I’m using the actual cables, and this new cable, or memos that I wrote at the time, which can also be found, a lot of them, on the Web. This book isn’t just this book, it’s also the outtake section of I put all the memos on that, and a lot of other stuff. The book would have been three times as long if my two sons, especially my young son, Michael, who called himself, in the editing process, Jack the Ripper, had not slashed at this book.

So a cable comes in that suddenly says, in effect, full stop. “Review of action makes many reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful.” Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen may have accounted for many reports. No actual sightings [visually] by Maddox [his ship]. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken.” Another peculiarity turned up very quickly, within an hour, was that even with all the sonar—these two ships were very close together in the water—only the Maddox heard sonar reports. The other ship didn’t hear any, and only the other ship had radar contacts. The Maddox couldn’t see any. So there are peculiar things about it right from the beginning.

But this message at two o’clock from the commander of the ships was quite a cold bath to me reading this stuff. And a few minutes later—this was a little after 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon Washington time—Herrick sent another cable. “Entire action leaves many doubts, except for apparent attempted ambush at beginning. Suggest thorough reconnaissance in daylight by aircraft.”

Now this had been sent 1:27 a.m., Washington time, so it’s the middle of the night there, so daylight was a few hours away. The point of reconnaissance was to look for wreckage or oil slicks, or even bodies in the water, because they believed they had hit two to four boats and destroyed them. See if there’s any evidence they had actually been under attack, which, to leap ahead here, they had not been. There was no second attack.

But certainly earlier in the day, we had all assumed there was an attack, and there was some other evidence, which was misleading and misinterpreted at the highest levels by McNamara and Johnson, which I’m almost sure did lead them to believe that despite Herrick’s doubts there probably had been an attack or even certainly had been an attack. That was a mistaken interpretation not shared by intelligence analysts at the time. And the head of intelligence, Ray Klein in the CIA, had informed the foreign intelligence advisory board two days later that the evidence they were relying on, which was communications intercepts, had been misinterpreted. Almost certainly there had been no attack. But that was a day before Congress voted on the first Tonkin Gulf resolution, which was based on the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary Rusk’s Top Secret testimony in hearings, rather brief hearings, to the Congress on the 5th and 6th of August.

And the statements by McNamara that night, August 4th, a night I spent entirely all night in the Pentagon, watching the progress of these raids, the first raids against North Vietnam. I was to spend other nights all night, but my first day in the Pentagon, as a full-time employee, was 24 hours long.

And about 11:00 o’clock that night, the President informed the public, and Secretary of Defense then briefed them at length. “We are retaliating to an attack, an unprovoked attack,” and in McNamara’s words, “unequivocal evidence of an unprovoked attack on our destroyers on routine patrol in international waters. We seek no wider war.”

By that night, and certainly within a couple of days, I knew each one of those statements was false, and I knew it not just orally. I had documentary evidence of that from the cables. I won’t go through it. It’s in the book. But “unequivocal”? It could not have been more equivocal, and in fact, hadn’t taken place. But they did believe it, but it was extremely equivocal to say that it was what Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would say, “bulletproof evidence”; it was a lie.

And it would appear, by the way, that the CIA has been saying to Congress right now, that that is a false statement. They have no evidence of links from Iraq to al-Qaeda. I’m going to try tonight not to start with these connections, and just go on history here for a minute. And I won’t go through why it was all a lie. I’m just saying, “unprovoked”? No, it had been provoked deliberately, at least by very provocative actions.

And indeed when we found that we could get the North Vietnamese on Sunday, on August 2nd, actually to attack a ship, a flurry of excitement went through the Pentagon of all new ways to get more reactions out of them to which we could respond. And “unequivocal”? No. “International waters”? Well, yes, at the time of attack, because that’s why they were fleeing into international waters, having been very provocatively sailing right there as close as they could get, and within what we knew the North Vietnamese regarded as their territorial waters, before the alleged attack.

No wider war? The very fact that I knew this as an essentially insignificant, unimportant person, highly paid. I came in as a GS-18 because of my earlier work as a consultant; it was a raise from my Rand salary, actually, but from work that I had been expert on—actually, the nuclear work—into a field I was not expert, but wanted to learn. So this was kind of an apprenticeship within the government and had no impact on the policy process. And yet a very good window on what was being said, which meant that I knew critical, crucial things bearing on the issue of war and peace, which not one Senator and not one Representative was allowed to know. And on the contrary, about which each one of them, chairmen of committees, was lied to, and successfully lied to. A wider war was on the way.

Now, I have another odd thing worth noting about this was. After my trip to Vietnam one week in ’61, and then having stayed away from it deliberately because I didn’t want the kind of taint that people had gotten from being associated with the Bay of Pigs. I was no expert on Vietnam, but as I mention in the book, I heard somewhere—maybe somebody can give me the reference—“You don’t have to be an ichthyologist to know when a fish stinks.” And Vietnam was not something I really wanted, but to study—all right.

I believe specifically that the bombing campaign that was being planned underway, and the targets that were hit on August 4th, were targets that were part of a 94-target list that had been selected months earlier, just as the Tonkin Gulf resolution had been drafted months earlier, and waited for the appropriate time, the appropriate provocation that would justify getting this blank check through Congress.

I’d have called it a blank check because it said the President was “authorized to take all necessary measures as he determined to prevent, among other things, further aggression in Southeast Asia.” A check can only be cashed once, so that’s a misleading metaphor. There was an unlimited line of credit.

It was a total delegation to the President, and people asked at the time, “Doesn’t this mean that the President could send divisions over there?” And [Senator William] Fulbright, who was shepherding this through for the President, said, “Well, actually, yes, it does say that. The language is that broad, but I assure you that this President will not take any such action.” First, doesn’t intend any such action? Well, that’s another story, but—“and will not take such an action without coming back to Congress for explicit immediate further authorization”? On that assurance, all but two Senators, although many of them had doubts and worries and skepticism about it, but all but two—[Wayne] Morse and [Ernest] Gruening—voted yes for that delegation, for domestic political reasons largely. The Democrats voted to get the Republicans on record behind our President, take the issue away from Goldwater, show a bipartisan support for the President at that time, before the election of ’64.

I was asked just recently when I told a story like this by an interviewer, “Weren’t you shocked when all these lies?” And I said, “No, no, I had been a consultant for years.” [Laughter.] And I had seen a lot of lies in the government. In fact, Harrison Salisbury once wrote in a book about the Pentagon Papers, “It was the lies that got Ellsberg finally.” And I remember writing a long set of corrections to them. I said, “Are you kidding? I couldn’t have been in the government for—if you can’t stand lying—I couldn’t have been an official for a week, let alone for years as I was.” If you don’t understand all the reasons for lying, all the need for it, all the need for secrecy.

Now the secrecy is justified in their minds, especially the need to keep secrets, information from foreign enemies in wartime. But even other countries, other states. And there is that reason which accounts for—I don’t know how you’d measure exactly—one percent, two percent, five percent of the secrecy. The rest of it is to keep secrets from other agencies in the executive branch, from rivals for power, from Congress above all, from the budget committees, from people who control the budget, those are the real enemy—and from other services. The Navy is the enemy for the Air Force and vice versa. That’s what the secrecy is for, and to protect officials from being blamed for errors, from being held accountable, or crimes, or catastrophes, various things, to prevent accountability, in short to prevent democracy.

But then, I don’t want to get too abstract here. Let me give you a few examples of what I learned inside the government. I knew already, yes, they lie, they lie a lot. Let me give some examples of the first kind. Start out with the rational example, the legitimate kind.

It was one day when I was working for McNaughton early in the morning, just before eight o’clock. McNaughton ran. He always ran back and forth from McNamara’s office down the hall. And he ran in and he said, “There’s a press conference coming. A Blue Springs drone has just gone down over China.”

Now Blue Springs was the code name for a covert set of reconnaissance planes by drones, the kind we’re sending over Iraq right now rather openly, the Predator drones we have in Afghanistan and so forth. Well, this was a very covert program at that time because we weren’t in principle at war with China. Sort of like the U2 that we’d been doing over Russia. That was a manned plane, this was an unmanned plane.

So he says, “Okay, a Blue Springs drone has just gone down. We have a press conference at eight-thirty. McNamara says we have ten minutes to give him six alternative lies.” [Laughter.] So he sat down on one side of the desk, I on the other of his desk, at his big office, with yellow pads, and we wrote lies as fast as we could. And we didn’t have time to confer with each other, so there was bound to be some overlap; we just wrote as fast as we could.

The first couple came very quickly, sort of like, “It was a Chinese Nationalist plane.” And I remember asking him, “By the way, did it have U.S. markings on it?” McNaughton writing away, didn’t even look up. He said, “Who knows? Who knows?” [Laughter.] And I said, “Okay, it was a Chinese Nationalist plane.”

Second, “It was a weather plane off course.” That was the one used on [U2 pilot Gary] Powers. That hadn’t worked so well on the U2 because they caught Powers alive, and the plane came down, and they had the photographs and everything. So that one hadn’t turned out well, but it was something to say.

And there were some other things. I don’t know, we wrote these things fast. McNaughton took the list, ran down the hall, came back a few minutes later and he says, “McNamara likes these, he wants four more. We have five minutes. We have five minutes. [Laughter.] So I said, “Why doesn’t he say, ‘no comment’? Because I think the reporters don’t like to be lied to, and they understand intelligence operations, and they’ll accept that, maybe.” He says, “McNamara won’t say ‘no comment.’”

But as he ran out again with our next four lies—I can’t even remember what they were; they came a little harder when you got up to about ten—I said, “try it again, try it again, see if he won’t say ‘no comment.’” So he came back after the press conference where he was present, and he said, “Amazingly he did it. They asked him this question, and he said ‘no comment’ and they seemed to like it.” A reporter came later into the room and said, “Tell your boss, assuming it was him who did it, thank him for this morning. It was so much nicer at last not to be lied to on this point.” Well, that’s the kind of lie, of course, that supposedly legitimizes the whole system.

A more serious kind had to do with right after August 4th. On September 3rd, a few weeks later, when we were planning—and I could quote here, it’s in the book—but writing memos, which I was helping McNaughton on, on how to provoke further attacks on our ships, or our planes, or our troops, to which we could respond. In other words, planning two things: to lie to the public about unprovoked attacks to which we had to respond. The Tonkin Gulf situation, I said, as you’ll see in the book, had been preceded by covert operations of attacks on North Vietnam of actually exactly this nature.

And what stimulated me to decide that there was enough similarity here to what’s going on? The people in the Senate, including people who had voted wrong, who had voted yes on this resolution, still needed some education on. I believe that the President probably will not wait till the good weather in late December or January to get on with his war, because public support is eroding for it. The allies are raising resistance and so forth. I think he wants to get in there fast. I actually think it will probably, though not certainly, be before the election. Now that’s two weeks away, and that poses us a challenge here.

If not before the election—if things like the North Korean episode come along that delay things somehow or confuse things—it might be later, and he’ll take his chances on getting a Republican Senate, though I actually think he would want to nail down a Republican Senate by getting the bombing underway before the election. Maybe there’s in my mind, very roughly, something like a 30 percent, 40 percent chance for that, and then maybe a 20 percent, 30 percent chance that it would be after the election. But let’s say before December or maybe later. But that’s just my guess—I’ll just say how it did happen 38 years ago.

When the President [i.e., Lyndon Johnson] wanted to get on with the war, in that case after the election, he was competing with a man calling for escalation, so he did not want to carry out the Goldwater plan before the election, or it would jeopardize his landslide, which is what he got. But after the election, we needed to get on with it. So when that time came, the various plans that had been made for provocation began to be taken out and updated. And what I’m saying is, I want our Senators, in particular—the House will never be consulted on this—to be very critical of what they hear at the last minute about the necessity for bombing, having nothing to do with the Congressional resolution, nothing to do with the UN resolution, the President’s need as Commander-in-Chief to respond to, or preempt, attacks on our boys—and girls nowadays.

I use that phrase because on August 4th, the President was saying to Congressmen in his office, “There’s American boys, boys, in the water as we speak. There is blood in that water.”

Now there had been no attack at all, actually. The .50 caliber bullet was two days earlier. There were no bullets and so forth. But he took that act then. He was planning to take the act, not on the basis of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, nor do I think Bush would do it on the basis of Tonkin Gulf 2, which just got passed. He would do it, I think, probably—my own guess from inside—to protect American soldiers, to preempt, and to do something. So, how might that happen?

My choice to put some of this on the Web and not wait for people to buy it, was prompted by a Doonesbury cartoon of October 19th. I read it in Seattle the other day. This reporter, I forget his name in the strip, says, “Ari”—he’s addressing the President’s spokesperson, not Sharon—“Ari, could you go over it?” [Laughter.] It can be hard to tell the difference this month. “Ari, could you go over it one more time? Why war with Saddam, exactly?”

He says, “I mean, there’s no real al-Qaeda link as CIA has confirmed. He doesn’t have nukes. His army’s been decimated, and he hasn’t even been able to shoot down a single U.S. jet, despite all this firing which has led to the protective reaction.” “Isn’t there some kind of provocation you can point to, anything at all?” Ari comes back. “No, we don’t need one.”

So the other reporter says, “Maybe our guys should fly slower.” [Laughter.] And then the first reporter says, “Hey, yeah, like they could cut their engines.” And Ari says, “That’s it for today.”

Well, funny, except that the two pages I wanted put on from chapter four, which they wouldn’t let me put the whole chapter on, starts from early September ’64. U.S. quote “retaliatory”—because we hadn’t retaliated. We were planning and had conducted initiative action. Against North Vietnam was a cocked pistol, as it certainly is today, as we speak.

Officials were waiting for something to retaliate to and increasingly ready to provoke an excuse for attack if necessary. This memo that I quoted from September 3rd went up to the highest levels to provoke a military Hanoi response, and to be in a good position to seize on that response to commence U.S. actions against the DRV [Democratic Republic of Vietnam, i.e., North Vietnam]. That recommendation was accepted and signed by the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as a recommendation to the President, saying the main further question—well, we should resume the destroyer patrols offshore as close as possible to North Vietnam, resume the covert operations against North Vietnam, which we had suspended not, because the President didn’t want more of that before the election. But now the election was, when it was over, they said, the main further question is the extent to which we should add elements to the above actions that would tend deliberately to provoke a Hanoi reaction and consequent retaliation by us.

Examples of actions to be considered would be running U.S. naval patrols increasingly close to the North Vietnamese coast and/or associating them with our covert operations, openly saying, “Yeah, we’re doing it, and take that.” And I then say that this is my memory but this document has not turned up.

I very well remember reading the memo by the Joint Staff in response to the question, how can we get this done? Running the destroyer increasingly close to beaching on their coast. U2 reconnaissance planes over North Vietnam could be supplemented by low-level reconnaissance jets flying progressively lower over populated areas.

And so, not slower, but lower and actually faster. The idea was that they proposed to break the sound barrier over Hanoi causing a sonic boom that would—and I remember these words very clearly—“break every windowpane in Hanoi,” to get a rise out of them somehow.

Well, the war started. Another incident in the book: The war did get underway, I’m sorry to say, with my help, not because I thought it was a good thing to do, I thought it was a terrible thing to do. I thought it was even disastrous, and leading the bombing in particular. As a former Marine I have to admit that once the bombing got started—I’m not proud of this—I thought, okay, now the bombing has started, our prestige is at stake, we’re in it, we’ve got to achieve something. I was nuts, psychologically—subjectively against sending Marines or ground troops, which I thought were at least relevant to the situation there. That’s a bad memory for me, but there I was.

So I’m not pointing fingers at other people so much. The question for me that I’m addressing is not how could they—which this country has been asking for 38 years and far more. What this book addresses is how could we—how could I, how did I—come to do this? And then, what came of it?

I had been all over Vietnam evaluating pacification there, using my Marine training as a former Marine company commander to look at the war up close, as you’ll see in some of the pictures here.

And I was on a plane with McNamara to brief the new Undersecretary of State Katzenbach on this plane, as we were coming back from Vietnam. I now was a foreign service officer—I had switched over to the State Department—a civilian. McNamara, for whom I had written speeches earlier, before I went into the Pentagon full-time, calls me to the back of the plane—his KC-135—which could fly all the way from Vietnam unrefueled, a windowless tanker.

And as we were getting at the end of the trip, he calls me to the back of the plane, where he was standing with Bob Komer, an old friend of mine from Rand, as many of you may know, who was a former CIA guy now working for the White House on pacification for the White House. So McNamara said, “Dan, here’s a question you can answer. You’re the best person to answer this. Bob here says that we’re making great progress in Vietnam, and I say things are worse than they were a year ago. What do you say?” So I said, “Well, Mr. Secretary, I would have to say that I’m most impressed at how much the same they are as a year ago. They were pretty bad then, and they’re about the same now. I wouldn’t say worse.” He said, “Well, that proves what I said. They’re worse. We’ve put another 100,000 troops in there, and they’re no better than it was before.” He said, “That shows the situation is actually worse, as I said.” I said, “Well that’s an interesting way to see it, Mr. Secretary. Yeah, you could say that.”

At that moment, a voice comes over the loudspeaker from the pilot’s, the captain said, “Gentlemen, please take your seats. Fasten your seatbelts. We’re coming in for a landing.”

The plane comes in fairly fast at Andrews Air Force Base. It’s very foggy—I’ll always remember. There’s a line of television cameras waiting to be briefed by the Secretary of Defense as he gets off the plane. He’s the first one off the plane. I follow. And actually minutes after we had had this little exchange with him, I hear him go to the microphones and say, “Gentlemen, I’ve just come back from Vietnam. I’m extremely encouraged by all the progress we’ve seen in every dimension of the war. Things are moving ahead.”

And I remember listening to this and thinking, Wow, I hope I’m not in a position where I have to do that. Actually there’s a picture of that moment that is in the book of McNamara making that statement.

That was ’66. A year later I had hepatitis. I would have stayed, but I was leaving. And Bob Komer was coming to take over pacification from the White House. And I was there to say goodbye to him. I would have stayed there if I didn’t have hepatitis and worked for him, but I was leaving. So I had just gotten out of bed, and I was in the Embassy waiting for him to come in so I could shake hands and say goodbye to Bob, and I heard his press conference at Tonsonut Airport when he landed.

And—one minute here—he was saying that he was known as Blowtorch, he had a very hard charging manner and all this, and he’s very brusque, and rather loud when he spoke to the press. But nonetheless—he was saying, “I’m terribly excited that the job I’m taking over here. This is going to be wonderful because we’re on the way, victory is in sight, again, making progress, progress, progress.” I was listening to that.

An hour later he—I mean half an hour later, he comes into the Embassy, and I could hear him down below, I guess—he’s on the second floor. And I could hear him saying hello to the secretaries. “Great to be here. This is wonderful, wonderful.”

This is Bob Komer coming up. He comes into the office. He says, “Dan, Dan, great to see you. Come into the office.” And he goes into the office, sits in his desk, lights his pipe, leans back, he says, “Well, Dan, how’s it going?” I said, “Bob, did you believe what you were saying at the airport?” And as I said that, he went like this on the desk. [Laughter.]

He said, “Dan, do you think I’m crazy?” And I said, “Bob, why did you take this job?” And he said, “Well, that’s what my wife keeps asking me. She said, ‘You could resign. You could go to a university. You could go back to Rand or something like that. Why are you doing this?’ And I keep telling her, when the President of the United States says we’re in a desperate situation, and we need you out there, you just cannot say no to him.”

I’ve reached the end of my time, here, but there is a lot more to say. I believe the Pentagon and the CIA are filled at this moment with people who knew, who know as well as I knew at that time, and McNaughton knew and others—McNaughton, who wrote hawk memos throughout the Pentagon Papers. And who believed nothing of what he was writing in Top Secret memos. He was doing it because he worked for McNamara, and I worked for McNaughton, so I understood that. I did the same.

And Senator Morse, one of the two men who voted against this in ’71. I was just in Oregon so I was very happy to pay tribute to him, as to Mark Hatfield, in Oregon, told me in ’71, when those Herrick cables that I just read to you came out in the Pentagon Papers. That one actually had come out in ’68. But when all the other documents came out in the Pentagon Papers, that had been in my safe, he said, “If you’d given us that, if you’d given me that on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1964 in August, the Tonkin Gulf resolution, instead of five years later, I gave it to the Senate, and then seven years later came out in the New York Times—if you’d given me that then, the Tonkin Gulf resolution would never have gotten out of committee. And if it had, by some chance, it would have been defeated on the floor.”

Well, I thought at the time, that’s a little overstated, because the President wanted to get into the war. I knew already, and it’s certainly true, it’s very, very hard to keep a President who wants to get into a war from having his war. And very hard to stop it once he gets in, very hard. So the time to do it is before he gets in, but it’s not easy. One cable, a few cables, would not have done it. So there’s no Tonkin Gulf resolution, then it would have come later under a different provocation, or he would have gone without a Tonkin Gulf resolution.

And then, years later, it came to me: Wait a minute, if I had taken the whole contents of my safe, or one drawer of it, and given that to Congress, or put it out in the fall of ’64, showing that everything the President was saying during the campaign was false, and that the estimates he was getting indicated that this was unnecessary or ghastly dangerous, highly bloody, I don’t believe the war would have occurred.

I could have done that. A hundred other people could have done that. McNamara could have done that. Of course, none of us thought of doing it, and the reason I was—using the last bit of my voice, which has now come back, in the last week; I lost it here in Berkeley here at a fundraiser for Barbara Lee, which was a good cause to do it. [Applause.] And some of you may have heard me that night, croaking away and losing my voice, talking about Mordecai Vanunu, the greatest prophet and whistleblower of the nuclear era, I would say, who has been in prison for 16 years.

I’ve wanted to say, and I’ve said on every occasion, now—if you know anybody in the government, or if you have any way to get through to them—but especially when I’m in Washington and elsewhere where I can speak directly on the radio to people who listened to this. If you know that the President is now lying us into a recklessly dangerous and unnecessary or wrongful war in Iraq, then I urge you to consider doing what I wish I had done in 1964/1965. Go to Congress, and the press, and tell the truth with documents.

It will, in fact, be at risk to your career, even if you do it anonymously, all the more if it’s traceable to you. All the more if you do it in open testimony, which is the most effective way to do it. Scott Ritter is doing everything he could as a former official. [Applause.] He is definitely a new hero of mine, and he is doing whatever, but a Senator, I mean, an official could do that.

Senators could be holding hearings right now, and in my opinion, you should tell your Senators, both Feinstein, who voted wrong on this, and who does not know something that her colleague, Senator Boxer, does not know. Boxer is on the Intelligence Committee, and understands perfectly well that this is a wrongful war. Boxer should be told she did the right thing, and we’re behind her. Feinstein should be told, “Get right or we will work against you in primaries. We will give our contributions to your rivals. We will work for your rivals. And we will do our best to fire you on this.”

There is, by the way, another Web site that I am even more anxious that you go to than mine——on which you can make contributions. They’ve raised $2 million—an average contribution of $35—to give to campaigns this week—like Paul Wellstone’s and others where the Senate is in question.

You can tell Feinstein, “If you can’t bring yourself as a vice presidential candidate...”—just as John Kerry, who voted wrong, is a presidential candidate. I would say to Kerry and I have said to his staff—“If you can’t vote right on this subject, at least shut up. Don’t give speeches that echo the President’s lies as if you believe it.”

The success story that’s in this book—not just the bad news that government officials lie more than any outsider can imagine or conceive, and that they succeed because of a secrecy system that protects them in those lies, and the secrecy system and the lying allow them to pursue crazy policies at various times.

But the good news is the truth that not only Senators and officials can tell, but the truth that each of us knows, in one capacity or another, of the wrongfulness of the war—or aside from the war, your corporate involvements, your church involvements, as we’re seeing with the Catholic Church, all of those. Truth telling is always risky, and can be worth it because it can save a lot of lives, so it is worth taking the risk. Thank you for being here. [Applause.]

David J. Theroux

Thank you, Dan. Dan’s work is so unusual, and so relevant to our time, it’s hard really to describe it. And we have a very distinguished panel of scholars with us who will be bringing up some of the reasons why we believe that might be the case.

Our first panelist is Barton Bernstein, who is a professor of history at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. He’s the recipient of two Koontz Prizes, the Goldstein Prize and the Johnson Prize. Professor Bernstein is a world-renowned expert on U.S. foreign policy, the arms race, U.S. science policy, and weaponry. Bart. [Applause.]

Barton J. Bernstein

I want to say I’m delighted to be here, and I’m delighted to be here not just because I needed something to do in the evening, other than sitting home and watching “Law and Order,” but rather this is an opportunity to say to Dan publicly what many of us have said over the years behind his back privately: that is thanks on behalf of American democracy, and thanks for doing something, which 30 years later, as we know how it turned out, and you didn’t spend a decade in prison, we can look at it as if it was comparatively low risk. [Applause.] But moving forward in time, as historians try to do in retrospect to reexamine and understand, things could have really turned out quite differently. And it’s an indication of the time that there were not multiple Dan Ellsbergs vying for the opportunity to disclose the secrets of the American government.

Indeed, one can ask the larger question, and that is—it’s a question that Dan implicitly asked, and I want to raise it explicitly and address it obliquely, and badly—why do good people lie on behalf of major issues? Maybe it’s that they’re not good. Maybe it’s that ideology often urges them on behalf of a larger purpose. Maybe the whole pattern of social recruitment is that you don’t allow into positions of power, people who are, and I mean this puckishly, people who are irresponsible and who believe that there’s a larger obligation to the polity than advancing themselves and their friends.

That is the necessity of efficacy of counsel in not offending your friends and moving up in the bureaucracy and moving on for honor and receiving various rewards. These are not naked purposes. These are the subtle seductions of social recruitment. One meets them in all aspects of life. Lots of cases. Most of us lie part of the time. Only occasionally do some people get to lie on matters of major significance, where the cost is not just an injured reputation or a lamented situation, but rather life and death.

As to the question as why do good people lie, I hope you realize that I’ve skirted the surface, given you a few notions, answered the question inadequately, and now I’d like to move on from that to a kind of oblique assault from various perspectives on that question.

Governments, of course, use security and classification to protect some real secrets that merit protection. How to build nuclear weapons would be a perfect example. By and large security is, of course, used to protect a government internally from its own constituency. This is one of the wonderful aspects of bipartisanship, and it was something developed well in World War I, under a master of dissembling, propelled through various agencies with a larger budget after a few years, by Democrats and Republicans. For some, the argument would be it came to Watergate—but the road to Watergate is paved in a nice bipartisan fashion. A different political culture in the early ’60s and Kennedy could have come a cropper. A slightly different political culture a few years later, and it could happen to Johnson. It is wonderfully ironic. And one has to savor the fact that Nixon, who would have prosecuted Dan, was in turn, if you will, obliquely threatened with the prospect of prosecution and left amid a debacle. Seldom does history get the right guys, but this is a case where at least, briefly, before there was a new Nixon followed by a new Nixon followed by a new Nixon, and the multiple emanations of self-creation. [Laughter.]

But my point, I want to move on to something actually more troubling, and that is, think back to the Pentagon Papers, either as history, or for those of you beyond the age of 48 or 50, as experience. Had the papers been available in 1967 and finished and given to the American press, we can guarantee, without full proof, that there is a kind of oblique experiment you could do. No major paper in America would have published those papers. It was a violation of secrecy. The government knew best, lies were necessary, consent had to be manufactured, legitimacy should not be assaulted, and the war, if not a good cause, was at least a reasonable cause.

What changed? Well, we didn’t win the war. The largest thing that changed and produced delegitimacy was America did not win speedily and at a comparatively low risk. What began for many Americans as, if not a just war, not clearly an unjust war, to use a double negative, became progressively a dubious enterprise, and became, for some, I think not most Americans, but for some, and this was part of the odyssey that Dan himself went through, it became an immoral, it became an atrocity.

By ’70, ’71, the major press could contemplate publishing the Pentagon Papers. But even then, I suspect, strangely, it was easier to do it with a Republican in the White House than a Democrat. Certainly in the case of the Washington Post who were deeply beholden to Lyndon Johnson, sharing the counsel of Clark Clifford, in particular. I suspect that had Johnson been elected in ’68, had he run and been elected, the Pentagon Papers probably would not have come out in the early ’70s. It’s not an argument one can prove, but I’d like you to contemplate an alternative pass, which is at least plausible as a way of getting purchase on the larger political culture.

The press, for years, served legitimacy. The early protests by the press were that the war wasn’t being fought well. It wasn’t being fought reasonably. People like Halberstam moved from lamenting the way it was fought to beginning to wonder why it was fought, to suggesting that perhaps the enterprise was less than legitimate.

As Dan pointed out, and many of you are drawing today, and quite properly, many of us worry, and worry duly about the prospect of an imminent war. We have a President who’s promulgated a new doctrine that others have believed in, but none has publicly promulgated. That is the doctrine of preemption. The right of the United States unilaterally to decree enmity and to take action appropriate on the basis of it’s own sense of rectitude. It’s not exactly what the document says, but that’s what the document really means. We will choose our enemies, act accordingly, and use whatever criteria seem to be suitable in this situation.

Iraq, we’re told, is a threat. Why? Well, first of all there’s a madman.

It would be hard I think for most of us to be delighted by the prospect of Saddam Hussein ruling a country, but on the other hand, “madman” is rather extreme. The Kuwait situation could be interpreted, back in ’90, very differently. And indeed one can argue this is a man who uses force against his own people, against Kurds, who are half his own people, and against neighboring areas. But madness? By and large he’s far from being mad, although undoubtedly immoral.

He will have nuclear weapons. Only mature powers that have used nuclear weapons should be permitted to have them. [Laughter.] This is a theory of oligopoly in international relations, that has raised the barrier of entry so high that only the possessors can legitimize their enterprise. Others lack maturity; they are madmen.

I agree. I would much prefer not to have him have nuclear weapons. I’d much prefer none of the possessors, including a small country in the Middle East that officially doesn’t have them, because if it had them America could not provide aid. [Applause.] And therefore we all abide by the fiction that no social scientist or historian believes for a moment, that country doesn’t have nuclear weapons.

We’re told, worst of all, Saddam Hussein and Iraq are involved with al-Qaeda. And how is this known? Well, it’s known somewhere between divine intervention [laughter], the decalogue handed down by Texas Baptists [laughter] and the intuition of unique wisdom through the angel Rumsfeld. [Laughter and applause.]

Admittedly, I’ve taken cheap shots and hyperbolic rhetoric to delegitimize arguments, which on their face are unproved, and are largely, in many ways, I think, literally absurd. If there’s a case for the al-Qaeda connection, let the government make it, not through assertion, but through evidence. Even the New York Times, in today’s editorial has basically said, the case is unproved. [Applause.] Come on, guys, be straightforward.

Moving from the gray ghost of lackluster prose and polite civility of the New York Times, basically what’s being said is, “So far we’ve heard lies. We’re the Times, we’re not going to call these things lies. Provide your evidence.”

Why Iraq as an enemy? Had anybody said to me, and I think most of the panelists, a year ago, September, well, October 2001, “A year hence there’ll be a war planned against Iraq. What do you think the likelihood is?” I think I would have bet on UFOs first.

Why the war? Well, let me say, I’m one of those historians who, respecting the craft, recognizes that I can offer only tentative answers and amalgamate them without being able to adequately weigh the factors. But the amalgamation would go something like this without necessarily indicating priority of place:

Part of it is that America has the power to do it in a way that during the Cold War, similar ventures would have been impossible because of larger threats. And having the power is not insignificant. The desire without power is less likely to be acted upon. Beyond that, undoubtedly the events of 9/11 have predisposed an American public to believe in the miasma of fear that enmity lurks anywhere where allegation is made, evidence undoubtedly lurks behind it, and need not be provided. Without 9/11, this would be impossible.

But why does George Bush want to do this? One offering has been, he’s an empty vessel into which his advisors pour advice. [Applause.] I confess my distaste for Bush inclines me to like that interpretation for visceral reasons, but for intellectual reasons, I’m actually inclined with inadequate evidence to reject it. I think this is somebody who does believe what he’s arguing, even though he has to dissemble to legitimize the case, eliminate certain evidence, and claim other evidence.

So what is going on? Well, part of it is the opportunity believed, I fear, that this is going to be the creation through war of a Jeffersonian or some kind of democracy in the Middle East, resembling Japan after World War II. All analogies are both like and unlike other things. But this is an analogy that really comes close to or indeed strains credulity. But it may well be believed. We have good reason to believe that Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, and other people believe that; it may well be that Bush believes it.

Undoubtedly, oil plays a role. If you ask the question, why is North Korea a trouble and Iraq a threat? It’s not power. It’s not proximity to the United States. It’s something else and one should not minimize oil.

Why are the Russians opposed to such a venture? Well, in part they’re locked up in the oil business with Iraq and the United States is not. That’s not a whole explanation, and a whole explanation would be far more nuanced, but that’s not insignificant.

Could this be partly, as someone suggested, George W’s effort to solve the problems that his father couldn’t solve? Well, seems quite likely.

I’ve one minute left, and thus, I’m going to summarize and then run over 30 seconds. [Laughter.] It’s a panel on empire, and what’s better than an academic imperialist? [Laughter.]

Let me say that the fact that Scowcroft and Baker, among others, came out in op-ed pages against this venture, suggests that George Bush the first, is probably himself disinclined. And thus I want to offer a speculation that can’t be proved, is fiercely speculative. It will interest some of you, intrigue more, and some will reject it.

This may be the case of the lackluster son who wasn’t expected to go very far, besting the father. I don’t want to argue it’s Oedipal. [Applause.] The liability of the argument is it’s unprovable at present. It’s speculative, and be aware that it’s speculative. Beyond that, this does offer, we’re told, to return to the earlier theme, a set of opportunities in the Middle East.

You can either blow up the Middle East, which is most likely, or create democracy, which is least likely. If I were pro-Israeli, if I were Sharon with conscience, conviction and concern, not somewhat distorted, I would think the worst thing that could happen would be an American attack on Iraq, for the most proximate hostage state for Iraq, and possibly others, will be Israel.

But beyond that, how is this war being sold? It’s being sold through the capacity to manufacture consent at a time that the American people want to trust a President when we feel we’re beleaguered by massive terrorism, and thus in peril, and indeed, it allows a president in such a situation, with a too frequently trusting press, to claim, to allege, to deceive, and to lie.

In the short run this is how legitimacy is created and maintained. In the long run it sometimes comes to shambles, and sometime doesn’t. Let’s hope for the best. Thank you.

David J. Theroux

Thank you very much, Bart. Our next panelist is Edwin Firmage, who is the Samuel Thurman Professor of Law at the University of Utah. Among his books are To Chain the Dog of War: The War Power of Congress in History and Law [with Francis Womuth], and incidentally, there are copies in the front, which we hope that you’ll pick up. He’s also the author of The International Legal System and Religion and Law. We’re very pleased to have Ed Firmage. Ed. [Applause.]

Edwin B. Firmage

My Scottish forebears gave me very little hair and very little height. Nothing happens when I stand up. [Laughter.]

Dan has upset my heart and my head from any dialogue between them, because we started almost the same, well, the same day. In different ways, we’ve been comparing notes and reading each other’s stuff for some time now.

I was starting with Hubert Humphrey as a very young minted law professor from the University of Chicago. My whole job, thank God, was working in civil rights. I worked with Martin Luther King a long time ago, names other than that you probably don’t know and I feel very sad that you don’t. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. Whitney Young of the Urban League. [Applause.] Sargent Shriver. John W. Gardner, who was my godfather and my dear friend. [Applause.] Huge losses. They’re all dead, but they’re in my heart.

I went through some of the same stuff. I watched Hubert, a good man, a man I loved, paining terribly over a war he detested in the most God-awful job ever created by the American Constitution. In John Nance Gardner’s words, “It’s not worth a bucket of warm spit”—and he spoke as Vice President of the United States.

I started, like Dan, as my version of a Cold Warrior—which is pretty pacifistic guy, really. My own religion didn’t permit me to do much other than that. But I didn’t like the Soviets and I thought communism stunk, and I wanted to do what I could about it. I was a Boy Scout in Korea, and I was a father of a couple of kids, and a young guy in my 20s in the White House at the same time Dan was doing what he was doing. And so, his book, as I have been reading it, has torn my heart out and scrambled my brain; but what’s left of this old brain?

My job is to tell you about the war clause, and it says this: “Congress shall declare war and grant letters of marque and reprisal.”

That’s all it says but that says a lot, a great deal. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the line, “chained the dog of war”—our book title we stole from Jefferson—he was ambassador to Paris, and his disciples in the convention in Philadelphia in 1787 sent him the draft when he was our ambassador there. He wrote back a letter saying, “Thank God, you’ve chained the dog of war, because you’ve taken the war power”—now it’s Firmage interpreting Jefferson—from a president or a king, who is on a boring Thursday afternoon likely to declare a war, and given it to Congress, who have to answer to the people. You’ve chained the dog of war from a president or a king by whatever name, and that inclination, to make executive war by dispatch to a deliberative body.

And there was a huge reason. These were Republican Democratic Whigs. The Tories were out of town, in Canada, dead, or having sudden conversion. And they didn’t like war, and they didn’t like an executive propensity to war, and they thought anticipatory self-defense was an oxymoron used by idiots, or knaves, or fools, or all three. [Applause.]

And they knew, but they’d had no idea of delegating the war power. No, it had to be a Congress of the United States sitting right now and judging the facts, and you don’t delegate it. And Robert Byrd, the only one in the Senate making much sense along with Senator Kennedy—several of the Senators have been calling me during this time. They take their job seriously. The Senator from Pennsylvania, his staff called others. I’ve testified there many times.

And they were debating Chapter 13 [of my book], and I had forgotten it was Chapter 13, but he said Chapter 13 was non-delegation. We don’t want to do this because the whole presumption of the war clause is that peace is to be preserved and nurtured and cultured and loved and defended—and you don’t de-nuclearize the world by starting to knock them off one by one by waging war. You don’t wage war against people you don’t like. “They’re evil and they’re so forth”–my heavens, we could depopulate our own government with half that. [Laughter and applause.]

And you declare war. If you’re going to go to war, say “This is war, people. You’re going to go to war. We’re going to take you to war.” Watch how many people support you then when you do that. It drops along a long way.

And state your grievances. We are going to war for this, this, this, and this. If you want to see a good declaration of war, pick up the Declaration of Independence and read it. Thomas Jefferson did a damn good job. [Applause.] Remonstrance and grievance. “Here’s what you did. Here’s what you did. Here’s what you did. Here’s what you did, and here’s why we’re doing it. And here’s how we’ve tried peace.” Give peace a chance.

The international legal system says this. And Congress has the Constitutional Article I right to determine what is international law for the purposes of the United States of America. It’s by fact-finding, and good officers, and conciliation, and negotiation, and arbitration, and talk and talk and talk. It doesn’t work any other way.

I spend a lot of my time now working with the Dalai Lama, and he knows about war. And he knows about alienage. And he knows about violence. And he knows it doesn’t work, and my friends, it doesn’t work. It just simply doesn’t. [Applause.]

Another of many items tying our lives together—an abhorrence of nuclear weapons. I was studying at Brigham Young University a million years ago when Henry Kissinger was at Harvard, and I read these awful books about nuclear weaponry, and I had an abhorrence for that.

And talk about sinning or abusing your own people. I live in Utah. We are the home for almost every bit of the chemical, biological, and nuclear crap that we’ve ever had. And I’ll tell you something, my friends, I started the fight against the MX missile a long time ago, and it started right here in your state after two years in my own, talking to churches and church leaders who came out against that horror story.

The government has never even had the courtesy to declare war on us. If you want to talk about harming your own people, a lot of us have cancer, a lot of us think we know why. It’s what we’re living. The statement of the spiritual masters—living by the sword and dying by the sword—can have many incarnations. Living nearby the sword can most certainly cause one to die nearby the sword.

I fear a time when we won’t any longer possess free will. When we can get to a point where we can’t go back. The tricky part is, you can only see it in retrospect.

I fear nuclear weapons as the matrix within which all this silly stuff about war—talk about the mouse that roared—Iraq. I fear what it will put out, what will happen. Not because we were particularly bad—most of the men I knew here were good. Some of them were not blessed with an abundance of brains, but they were basically decent people. Here’s what I fear. I’ve written on nuclear stuff since 1962, and all this stuff for a long, long time. I fear a time when we can’t get back. To put it in religious terms, I fear moving to a point where we can’t repent or turn, turn away.

This is tragedy—when good people see like the last weeks before World War I, see where you’re going, and everybody tries to stop, and yet you can’t. You can’t get back. In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, based on Prince Hamlet, these two guys who set in motion—interestingly by being spies at the behest of the king not telling the truth—but they set in motion the death of Hamlet, the king, his stepfather, the queen, Laertes, his dear friend. Everybody is dying, dead. And Rosencranz and Guildenstern are scratching their heads in a little boat crossing the channel. They think they have a letter that says, “Give the bearer safe harbor, sanctuary.” It says, in fact, “Put these two people to death fast,” but they don’t know that. But Rosencranz turns to Guildenstern, they didn’t like the result. He said, “There must have been a time, somewhere near the beginning, when we could have said no.”

I suggest that, my friends. Thank you. [Applause.]

David J. Theroux

Thank you, Ed. Our next panelist is Jonathan Marshall. Jonathan is a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute. His many books on foreign affairs include To Have and Have Not: Southeast Asian Raw Materials and the Origins of the Pacific War; Drug Wars; The Iran Contra Connection; and Cocaine Politics. Jonathan. [Applause.]

Jonathan Victor Marshall

Thank you very much. Well, sadly, Vietnam wasn’t the only war sustained by government lies and half-truths. I’d like to spend just a few minutes reminding you of a few of the lies and distortions from the 1990, ’91 Gulf War because they form the backdrop for the second Bush administration’s threatened policy of war today.

The first myth was that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait demonstrated aggressive ambitions akin to those of Hitler’s Germany. In 1990, President Bush likened the invasion of Kuwait to Hitler’s occupation of the Rhineland, the first step towards World War II. You hear a similar refrain today from George W’s administration.

But certainly it was aggression, it was unjustified, but it was hardly part of a master plan, a regional conquest. Indeed, one scholar has likened the invasion of Kuwait to India’s 1961 invasion of the Portuguese colony of Goa, which attracted hardly a peep of international protest.

In fact, long before Saddam ever got on the scene, Iraqi leaders and the public had rejected the borders that Great Britain drew in 1922 defining the borders of Iraq and Kuwait, which basically limited Iraq’s access to the sea. Iraq resented bearing the financial burden of the war against Iran, which it viewed as protecting the gulf states from Shiite expansionism. And it resented Kuwait’s overproduction of oil, which drove down the price of oil and drained Iraq’s treasury.

It demanded that Kuwait forgive war debts, hand over an oil field that Kuwait was draining, even though most of the oil fields lay within Iraq’s territory. And it asked for a small island, which would have given it access to the sea. All it got were Kuwaiti diplomatic snubs.

Interestingly, when Iraq finally did invade on August 2, 1990, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd blamed Kuwaiti intransigence for Iraq’s invasion. And when the National Security Council met that day to discuss the situation, there weren’t any particular protests. As one participant put it, the attitude was, “Hey, too bad about Kuwait, but it’s just a gas station, and who cares whether the sign says Sinclair or Exxon?”

At the same time, Jordan’s King Hussein told the President that Saddam was planning to withdraw from Kuwait within a few days, and, indeed, Arab leaders put together a plan which would have had Iraq annex a very thin slice of Kuwaiti territory and quickly withdraw.

But, then, unfortunately, President Bush ran into Margaret Thatcher at a conference at the Aston Institute, and she, perhaps heady from her days with the Falkland War, convinced Bush that as leader of the free world, he couldn’t stand by while naked aggression went unchecked. That it was his duty to stand up to it the way that Chamberlain had failed to in the 1930s. And Bush then started a rhetorical rampage talking, denouncing Saddam’s intolerable invasion and naked aggression. Exactly the kind of rhetoric that, in fact, Arab leaders had warned him against if they wanted to see Saddam withdraw quietly. Quickly, the administration went on the diplomatic offensive to sabotage the peace plan worked out by Arab leaders, the neighbors of Iraq, to get Saddam out of Kuwait.

Well, derailing a diplomatic solution allowed the Iraq crisis to become the rallying cry for a much more expansive foreign policy. As Bush declared, if history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy freedoms.

On a rather ironic date—September 11, 1990—Bush said that the Persian Gulf crisis offered a rare opportunity to create a new world order free from the threat of terror—rhetoric which has a little certain ring to it today. His premise was that “the United States henceforth would be obligated to lead the world community to an unprecedented degree in pursuit of our national interests.” Bush wrote in his diary in November, 1990, “Our role as a world leader will once again be reaffirmed, but if we compromise and if we fail, we will be reduced to total impotence, and that is not going to happen. I don’t care if I have one vote in Congress, that will not happen.”

Well, to justify such rhetoric and such expansive aims, it became necessary to claim that much more was at stake than just “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as one administration official put it, or to claim that we were defending democracy in the feudal emirate, which had just a few months earlier arrested a bunch of pro-democracy demonstrators. They needed some much bigger threats. Well, one of the many claims made was that Iraq represented an imminent threat to Saudi Arabia and its oil fields, thus posing a major strategic issue for the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and so forth. Then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell both started working the press.

Within days the New York Times and Washington Post both ran stories based on leaked administration information that Iraqi troops were poised on the border of Saudi Arabia to invade. And as one historian says, the news had been deliberately doctored, despite the fact that at no time did either the Central Intelligence Agency or the Defense Intelligence Agency believe it probable that Iraq would invade Saudi Arabia. Shades of what Dan Ellsberg has been telling us about Vietnam.

In September 1990, the U.S. claimed that Iraq had 250,000 troops on the Saudi border ready to invade. By January that number had been inflated to more than half a million. Most of the American media bought this without question because, of course, the government doesn’t lie. Well, the St. Petersburg Times went out and purchased some commercial satellite photographs of the border region, and couldn’t find any Iraqi troops poised on the border, but given the choice between believing the photographs and the administration, the American media chose to believe the administration.

Needless to say, the lies worked. We invaded. We won quickly. And this brings me to the third myth I want to address which is that this was basically a low cost, surgically precise war. We’ll put aside the fact that it cost over $100 billion. But I think the public’s perception was heavily influenced by the idea that this war was marked by the expert use of precision weapons with pinpoint accuracy to eliminate so-called collateral damage.

American TV showed over and over again, footage of cruise missiles homing in on their targets without mentioning that much of the destruction we had done Iraq was done by old-fashioned B-52 bombers in their carpet bombing. A mere seven percent of all the munitions dropped on Iraq were so-called smart munitions. In all, the United States dropped 142,000 tons of bombs on Iraq and Kuwait in 43 days.

Their targets weren’t all tanks out in the desert, either. As the Washington Post reported, well after the war I might add, U.S. led forces “sought to achieve some of their military objectives by disabling Iraqi society at large.” Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests invariably described by briefers doing the war as collateral and unintended were sometimes neither.

A United Nations survey in March 1991, after the war, described the bombing of Iraq as “near apocalyptic” and said it threatened to reduce “a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society to a pre-industrial age.” The next month, a twelve-member Harvard study team concluded, in the words of one member, “There is a public health catastrophe due to the cumulative effects of the allied bombing and resulting sanctions.”

The United States destroyed the country’s electrical system, its factories, bridges, highways, railroads, communications facilities, the entire infrastructure of modern industrial life.

Of the casualty counts, a mere 79 Americans were killed in action. The U.S. military refused to estimate the number of Iraqi dead, but in January of 1992, the U.S. Census Bureau produced a study concluding that the Iraqis had lost 145,000 dead. About 5,000 civilians who died in the immediate war, about 40,000 military personnel killed, and 100,000 civilians who died in the immediate aftermath of the war due to violence and health conditions. The war produced more than five million refugees, and subsequent sanctions killed more than half a million Iraqis, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization and other international bodies.

These are the kinds of so-called collateral damage that we can look forward to if the United States wages war once again in Iraq based on more lies of the same. Thank you. [Applause.]

David J. Theroux

Thank you, Jonathan. Our final panelist is David Henderson. David is Associate Professor of Economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Professor Henderson received his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA and he has served as Senior Economist for the President’s council of Economic Advisors. Among David’s books is the book The Joy of Freedom, and there are also copies of this in the front, which I also highly recommend. It’s a real pleasure to have David Henderson. [Applause.]

David R. Henderson

Thank you. I know a lot of you are walking out. I know it’s been a long night. Here’s my promise to you. I will keep this under six minutes. [Applause.]

I’ve been an economist over half my life. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve seen what a powerful insight economist Ludwig von Mises had over 50 years ago when he pointed out that virtually every government intervention leads to bad consequences that then cause government to intervene further. So, for example—that wasn’t even an applause line, but thank you—so for example, Nixon’s 1973 price controls on gasoline caused us to line up for gas.

That led the government to dictate the fuel economy of cars. The fuel economy laws caused auto companies to make lighter cars causing a few extra thousand deaths a year. That’s all documented, by the way, in my book, The Joy of Freedom, that’s not the joy part, by the way. The gasoline lineups also caused people to be more sympathetic to intervening in the Middle East.

In foreign policy, also, when government intervenes it creates problems that it tries to solve by intervening further.

Take Iraq. If I were Henny Youngman, I’d say, “please.” How did we get to the current situation where the Bush Administration wants to take out Saddam Hussein? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

In 1963, the CIA helped a young Iraqi ally, who along with other plotters overthrew General Abdul Kassim. You may have heard of this young Iraqi ally. We’ve been talking about him a bit this evening. His name was Saddam Hussein. Five years later, the CIA backed another coup that made Hussein deputy to the new military ruler. In 1979, Hussein took his turn as dictator.

Hussein proceeded to make a long and costly war on Iran. Although many people point to this war as evidence of Hussein’s evil, they rarely mention one highly relevant fact. The Reagan Administration, of which, by the way, I was a part (but I had nothing to do with this one), supported this invasion with millions of dollars in export credits and with satellite intelligence. Saddam Hussein was evil for initiating and fighting that war. How, then, should we think about the U.S. government for actively supporting him?

But my main purpose here is not to question the morality of war, rather, it’s to point out how one intervention leads to another. The U.S. government supported a man who then took over Iraq’s government and who has now become our enemy. The U.S. government’s interventions of the 1960s, led to the planned intervention today.

Why did the U.S. support Saddam Hussein in his war in Iran? Because Iran had become a U.S. enemy after Khomeini took over, and after the Iranians had taken people in our embassy hostage in 1979. One reason many Iranians hated the U.S. government was that they resented the fact that the CIA with Kermit Roosevelt and Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr.—that’s the father leading the charge—had deposed the democratically elected premier, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953, and reinstalled the Shah of Iran.

The Shah proceeded to create a secret terrorist police force named SAVAK, imprisoned political prisoners—sorry, political opponents—and poisoned water wells in rural areas in order to force people into cities. Funny how that pisses people off. [Laughter.]

Or take Afghanistan. Although the U.S. government now fiercely opposes the radical Muslims who, until recently, ran the Afghan government, it was the U.S. government that helped put them in that position. Zbigniew Brzezinski was the national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter. You remember Jimmy Carter? That wonderful man who’s done so much for world peace. Brzezinski now brags about the fact that he persuaded Carter in 1979 to destabilize Afghanistan’s pro-Soviet government so that the Soviets would invade. In other words that was his goal.

In December 1979, Brzezinski got his Christmas wish. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Then the CIA proceeded to recruit radical Muslims to fight the Soviets. One of those freedom fighters was a tall guy with a funny beard named Osama bin Laden. Incidentally, the Bush Administration has been trying like mad to find a link between Osama and Saddam. Here’s the link: In the 1980s, both were on the U.S. government’s payroll. [Laughter and applause.]

I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we just get our government to stop? [Applause.] “Ah, but we can’t do that,” say the advocates of war with Iraq, “because Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.” Maybe he does or maybe he doesn’t, but you don’t get to be a 65-year old dictator without a strong instinct for survival—which means that it’s hard to come up with a reasonable scenario in which Saddam Hussein tries use his weapons on us. He well knows that if he tries to do so, and if the weapon can be traced, he would quickly be dead.

The one case in which Saddam is most likely to use his weapons of mass destruction, as I pointed out in an article in July, and as CIA Director George Tenet, pointed out in his letter to Senator Bob Graham earlier this month, the one situation where he’s most likely to use these weapons is if the U.S. government invades Iraq.

Aren’t we taking a chance by letting him develop his weapons? Yes, but it’s not different in principle from the chance we’re taking with other dictators with nuclear weapons, including the dictator of Pakistan and the dictators of China.

Moreover, to argue for intervening now to set up a more peaceful government in Iraq is like arguing that most government intervention in the past worked badly, but from now on most government intervention will work really well. [Laughter.] Not only does intervention not work, but also it’s the main cause of the problem as the cases of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan show. The solution is not more, but less intervention. Did I say less? How about none? [Applause.]

David J. Theroux — Question #1

Thank you, David. So, I want to start with questions from the audience, and the first one is for Dan. Why do Presidents want to have their war?

Daniel Ellsberg

Well, the reasons do differ. The situations are significantly different, I think, between Vietnam, for example, and Iraq. All kinds of differences. What I was pointing to was that in the two situations, as in all the situations between Democrat and Republican, we, as democratic citizens, cannot afford the naiveté and the ignorance that is involved in assuming that we can learn the reasons why they are going to war or carrying on a war from what they say. That is simply not an adequate understanding.

By the way, one new thing in this situation is the possibility of learning a good deal more these days on the Internet and what you will get from the handouts that are given to the major newspapers. I find, for example, a very good source of editorials and comment from all over the world, really. Another one— I just want to recommend these to you as ways of getting it. We’re still asking really, why Johnson went into Vietnam. Actually that has perplexed me for a very long time. I do have some answers to it. I’ll come to in a minute.

You said presidents, what about Iraq right now? Well, there’s a number of reasons, I think. First, oil. Second, oil. Third, oil. And fourth, election. Fifth, the support for Sharon’s policy and the Christian Right in this country, the Evangelicals and what-nots support for Sharon’s sort of apocalyptic policies of greater Israeli at the moment. They are a big fact on Iraq.

But coming back to oil, and this comes back to Johnson as well, and all the people in between, there is a question of the President’s feeling of obligation, and responsibility, and terrible pressure, and anguish at running the world.

And now that we are the single superpower in the world. This has definitely gone to the heads of a number of people like Cheney, Rumsfeld—these oil men who tend to see that the way to run the world is to control the oil reserves of the whole world, essentially. All the Middle East, not just Iraq. Iraq is a first step, and that’s why we have here—it will not begin and end with Iraq—pressure on regime change in Iran in various ways. In Saudi Arabia, which has been getting uppity and out of hand, and in fact, are an actual danger, to some degree, in its actual support of al-Qaeda.

So, in short, I would say, when I look at Bush—and I have a little trouble getting inside the mind of Bush, actually, the way Bart was raising here. But Cheney and Rumsfeld, I don’t know them any better either, but I do differ from Bart in one respect. When they say, quoted here, that their object is “democracy in Iraq, and that as a model and a domino effect that will lead as a beacon of hope and cause democracy throughout the Middle East,” actually when I read that in Newsweek recently, I wrote in the margin, I notice, “Can Cheney really believe this, what he’s saying?” And Bart was saying, well, at least for Bush he thought he could.

Well, now there is an Ellsberg principle that I learned in the Pentagon that could support that, which is for Cheney and Rumsfeld: Anyone can be as dumb as he has to be to keep his job. [Laughter.] And intelligence is no obstacle here. And Cheney is very smart. I don’t really think they do believe that. I don’t know about Bush, where he is, what he can believe. But Cheney can’t believe that, I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that we would allow anymore democracy in the next decade in Iraq than we supported or allowed in Iraq in the past when we were supporting Saddam, or when we left him in power, for the reason that democracy would lead to a split up in Vietnam. Or possibly, worst of all, that 64 percent of Iraqi citizens who are Shiites, as in Iran, might possibly elect a Shiite president. That was absolutely not going to be allowed to happen, they might combine with Iran. So in that case, they’re just lying.

Coming back to LBJ, frankly, as I say, I’ve been working at this for a long time, I’ll give you an answer which I think does to some degree apply more, not to the administration as much, but to a lot of Senators in Congress right now. After the major election of ’64, Hubert Humphrey told LBJ, from the perspective of Humphrey the Vice President then—who could count votes and who cared as much about the Democratic Party as Lyndon Johnson, was as much of a Cold Warrior as Lyndon Johnson—told him this is the time to cut losses.

We were talking, and he said it was just before you worked for him. And that in fact was an enormous secret, as you were telling me. You didn’t see that memo, although you heard about it. I didn’t see it from the Vice President, working for McNaughton. I’m sure my boss didn’t see it. A secret so great that it was not in the Top Secret Pentagon Papers that I released, and it’s only come out relatively recently.

The biggest, longest kept secret of the Vietnam War was that the Cold Warriors, who had the ear of the President, who could not be dismissed, were telling the President constantly, “This is a catastrophe.” That’s the word used by Clark Clifford, another counsel who practically invented the Cold War, working for Harry Truman, and by Hubert Humphrey—who wanted to ban the Communist Party, by the way. And Humphrey and others saying, “Domestically, politically, this will be a catastrophe for you,” as of course, it was. That wasn’t so hard to see.

That raises the question, how could he have gone ahead against this? My guess is it wasn’t domestic politics. If he’d stayed out, he would have been reelected in 1968. No president has ever lost an election for not getting us into a war, to my knowledge. A lot of Presidents have run for election on the grounds that they kept us out of a war, and then proceeded to get us in—democrats, in particular, one could say. But he would have been reelected. I don’t think he was counting votes entirely.

He had been in the Senate when the Democrats were accused of losing China. We’ve paid a price, the world has paid a price, and this country has paid a price from Democratic congressmen and Democratic presidents for over 50 years for the fact, the accidental fact, that by an unforeseen victory of Harry Truman in ’48, Democrats were in office when the Communists won their civil war in China. And they were open to the accusation of having lost China. And for 50 years up until this day, and I believe that Lyndon Johnson did not want to be accused of losing Vietnam, of being weak, of being weak on Communism, being weak on militarism, not being sufficiently militaristic. And as he put it to Doris Kearns, being accused of being unmanly—an unmanly man. I think he was prepared to take the chance, which was a very high chance which took place, of getting into a way which would destroy his presidency and make it impossible for him to run again, as Korea made it impossible for Truman to run again, even if he’d wanted to.

In short, here’s something we can all play a role, I think, to change. Many Americans have died, and ten times as many foreigners have died in the last 50 years, because of Democrats who were afraid of being called unmanly, weak on Communism, weak on terrorism, weak on Osama bin Laden, weak on this, this and that. [Applause.] And therefore they got us into war; they knew it was wrong. That is something that every mother, every father, every person in this audience can work to change that political environment so that we change the concept of manliness for our politicians and of their responsibility to us. [Applause.]

David J. TherouxQuestion #2

A question for Bart Bernstein. What kind of secrecy constraints do historians face in getting access to records of recent American foreign policy? And actually, we’ve got a number of questions that are asking about why are we not getting access to documents from recent presidencies.

Barton Bernstein

Technically, the Freedom of Information Act allows one to apply, and applying is a little like going in to a dark area without illumination, having a shotgun that probably doesn’t fire, and trying to hit a unicorn. [Laughter.] That is, basically, the government at various levels has the power to say no, and it has various recondite ways of doing it. You can then appeal, and it has various recondite ways of saying no. Sometimes you succeed, very often you don’t.

Under a recent Executive Order by George Bush, there’s a new restraint on presidential papers. Basically the requirement is that the president or his heirs, and others involved, have to give approval, otherwise, on foreign policy, in particular, their papers in theory can remain closed in perpetuity on the grounds that the controlling interest is not citizens, the government, accountability, history or even the erosion of time, but ownership—ownership by people who, in the beginning, don’t own but are hired, who come to own through the Executive Order.

David J. Theroux — Questions #3 and #4

We’re running a little bit longer than we’d hoped, so I’m going to have to end with two last questions. For Daniel, why are there no whistleblowers now? Why are there no more whistleblowers now in the Pentagon, State Department, Livermore Labs, etc.?

Daniel Ellsberg

Well, that’s not true, the notion that there are none now, I’m glad to say. I infer that Bush is facing a military this time—the opposite of Lyndon Johnson’s situation—that does not want to go into this war. They don’t want to. I can only conjecture what their problems are in particular. I’ll just give one. I don’t think generals want to send their troops in to test their chemical warfare equipment against nerve gas as a possibility.

And understand that this is an unnecessary, reckless wrong war in general, which has been thrown into almost humorous relief by the fact that all the reasons that have been given for the war apply much more intensely to North Korea, which as Rumsfeld points out, we’re going to use diplomatic means for.

Apparently when we came up with this, the following we learned now from whistleblowers essentially. Without the whistleblowers that are actually occurring right now, the plans that have been leaked, the background, our knowledge of the disputes within the administration—which we never had during the Vietnam War. We did not get that. And we are getting more now. So that’s creditable and it’s useful. Without those whistleblowers, I think right now we would not have the progress that is shown by the fact that there were 133 votes in the House against this war—rather than zero in the House in 1964—and 23 votes in the Senate—one an Independent, Jeffords or really is an Independent—and one Republican, Chafee of Rhode Island—and 21 others.

And not including a single Democratic major person running for the Presidency the next year. Not one of them could bring themselves to face the charges in that of being insufficiently tough and militaristic and whatnot, so we had Biden, Daschle, Richard Gephart, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Lieberman, every one of them raising their hands, and I think, everyone of them knowing better at this point.

We, as a country, can do better than we’re doing now, and although that is progress, as I say, it doesn’t keep the Senate from covering itself with shame, especially the Democrats.

But, as I say, we’ll let them know that we expect better of that, and I’m glad to see the sign that some people in the Pentagon, CIA and elsewhere, are actually telling the truth now, which I wish I had done later. In fact, when George Tenet, the Director of CIA—no hero of mine, up until this point—sends extraordinarily a letter to this intelligence committee, giving the lie, without using that word, but clearly giving the lie to almost every statement the President had made, that was not a good career move for George Tenet.

It really was unprecedented. And I have to ask myself, how could that possibly have happened? I’ll give you a conjecture which is, in its way, a hopeful one. And that is, the only reason I can think of his doing that—because he didn’t get to where he is by contradicting Presidents—is that he was faced with a revolt in his own CIA ranks. That they said, “This is too much, we cannot have the President making these statements about links with al-Qaeda and imminent threat from North Korea and all that, totally contradicting our own estimates, which we know is the case. We aren’t going along with that.” And he was faced with a near mutiny, as happened, by the way, during the Cambodian invasion with the State Department.

So you might say I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. Well, yes, those people are Americans. They are human. Humans can decide to make a choice in favor of truth telling and that can make a difference.

Edwin B. Firmage

The head of the CIA was, in effect, Deep Throat on the record, I think.

David R. Henderson

David, can I add something to that? Another example is the U.S. Army Rangers in Afghanistan. I don’t know if you remember when the film came out showing the CIA torturing John Walker Lindh and other people. That film was made by the Army, and they managed to kind of lose it where a reporter could find it.

David J. Theroux —Question #6

The last question for Dan is, have you spoken with Robert McNamara since the end of the Vietnam War?

Daniel Ellsberg

Well, I’ve actually tried to speak to him. I’ve approached him a number of times, and he’s said a number of times—by the way, when people asked him if he would discuss this stuff with me, which I really wish he would, and I’ve talked to him very tactfully, but he has refused to talk to me on any occasion. I broke what he regarded as absolute norms. I betrayed him. I betrayed the President. I betrayed the team. I did things that he said he would never do. [Applause.] And his highest norms—I know those norms, I acted by them for a long time, and I don’t take them lightly, and they are needed. But I had come, and if this is the last question, I noticed in the line of questions, a number of people asked me well, what did change you?

And let me pass on that thought, something that I’m afraid Robert McNamara didn’t have the luck, maybe, that I had to read certain things, to meet certain people at a time when I think he could have done more than he did do. Two things: I knew the war was getting bigger under Nixon. I knew that from inside sources, but I knew it as an insider. Another fellow insider, Mort Halperin, told me what was happening in the White House and the war was getting bigger. So I was burdened with this very special knowledge that’s told in this story here.

What to do about it? That was the question. And I read a number of books here. Barbara Deming’s Revolution and Equilibrium, I read over and over again actually. Ghandi and Literature by Joan Bondurant of the University of California. But in particular an essay by an American, Henry David Thoreau, which is originally called “Resistance to Civil Government,” usually known as the “Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Now, civil disobedience—is resistance is civil authority a duty? How could that be?

He was talking, he wrote that in the immediate aftermath of having spent a night in jail—which would have been longer but, as he said, someone paid the fine against his will—to protest a war that turns out—I didn’t know this until I read that—to have been clearly an aggressive war, the Mexican War, for annexation.

As U.S. Grant put it, who took part in it as a lieutenant—I was reading his memoirs last year—he said, “One of the most unjust wars ever waged by a larger country against a smaller one, in which we were imitating the traditions of the monarchies of Europe in their aggression.” And Grant said, “I regret that I lacked the moral courage as a lieutenant to resign from the Army in that case.”

Well, that was Grant at the time, but right at the time, just after the war, Thoreau said, “In certain circumstances disobedience is a duty as when a whole country—Mexico—is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army when the other country has not attacked.” When ours is the invading army, and he said, obedience to leaders in that case is itself a choice, the wrong choice.

He said, in his State of Massachusetts, a soldier who refuses to serve in an unjust war—I didn’t know there were any, I’m interested, I’m asking the historians here if they know anything about civil disobedience, or refusal in the Mexican War—but he said such a person is applauded by many, but not imitated, out of the thousands who are “in opinion opposed to slavery into the war who yet, in effect, do nothing to put an end to them. They hesitate and they regret and sometimes they petition.” All those are important, by the way. “They hesitate but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed for others to remedy the evil that they may no longer have it to regret. At most they give only a cheap vote.” And then he went on in words that really burned in my mind in the summer of ’69. “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper, merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority. It is not even a minority then, but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.”

A month after I read that, I met people who were choosing to go to prison as a choice, young Americans, draft age, to send the strongest possible signal to people like me, that this was an emergency situation, which I believe it is today. It was not a time to be content with the usual things, which are all necessary, that I’d been doing for two years at that point. Lobbying, speaking privately, speaking truth to power in private, to no effect, the war was going on and getting bigger.

The time had come, not to question authority, but to answer authority. To tell truths that authority didn’t want told to the public. To give power to the public. That’s the way I saw it, reading Thoreau. And the people who went to prison put the question in my mind: what can I do to help end this war, now that I’m ready to go to jail, as they are? They had set that example. Their courage was contagious to me, as it always is.

And so their example led me to think of quite a few things of which the Pentagon Papers was just one, and it seemed like the least important, but perhaps the most personally dangerous, but it was only history.

If I’d had current documents, I would have put those out, as I’m urging people to do right now, and as some people are doing. But the key thing I think for all of us to remember, as Americans: vote yes, absolutely, the vote, but cast your whole vote. That’s what Barbara Lee has been doing. It’s what Barbara Boxer was doing in leading the fight in the Senate. It’s what Senator Byrd, not generally a hero of mine, a man who filibustered in ’64 against the Civil Rights Act, and voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution, along with Edward Kennedy then, and has regretted that for 38 years. There are many Senators now who will regret their yes vote for the rest of their lives, just like Senator Byrd.

But regret, shame, accountability, that’s not the issue. We must demand, we must change our lives, I think, in this crisis, cast our whole vote for those, and influencing those Senators, to use their whole power, the filibuster, hearings in the lame duck session that’s about to come, hearings that would call the people that Biden shamefully refused to call. Scott Ridder, other experts. Nelson Mandela. Some authority on the norms here when he says this is an aggressive war that must not happen.

Even Barbara Lee, in a minority could, as I pointed out to her, could call informal hearings. Kerry, who voted wrong on this, and Edward Kennedy could hold formal hearings and call these people, and educate the public to change the political environment in which these decisions are made. And it’s up to us to demand that they do that to change our lives, that they change their lives, so that we all cast our whole vote. Thank you. [Applause.]

David J. Theroux

I want to thank the Goldman School and the World Affairs Council for co-sponsoring our program this evening. I want to thank our panelists for their excellent comments. And I especially want to thank Daniel Ellsberg for his superb and courageous work.

As I mentioned earlier, Daniel will be in the front lobby, on the mezzanine level, shortly to autograph copies of his book Secrets. We hope everyone will be able to get a copy.

Please visit our Web site at We look forward to your joining with us at another Independent Institute event. Thank you and good night. [Applause.]


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