When Will We Stand Up Like Daniel Ellsberg

by Lily Newhouse

“A coup has occurred,” said Daniel Ellsberg in a speech at Elizabethtown College. Ellsberg, who is famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, does not argue with President Bush that our country is in danger. He firmly believes we have enemies – but they aren’t Muslims or terrorists. They’re enemies of the U.S. Constitution “and they happen to be the President and Vice President.”

For a few years, I’ve tried to ignore the Bush administration’s actions – they were too depressing. But hearing Ellsberg, I realized that it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

At one time, Ellsberg was a Pentagon employee with 12 clearances above the “top secret” level. On the very day in November 1964 that Ellsberg was planning the massive bombing of Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson was being elected President on a platform of “no wider war.”

But that lie almost seems small in comparison to those the Bush Administration has spun since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – leading us into a hopeless war with the wrong enemy.
“It would be like after Pearl Harbor we’d bombed Mexico,” Ellsberg said.

But don’t worry. In case we’re getting bored with the “enemy” Iraq, Ellsberg said, the odds favor an attack on Iran in the near future.
He’s right – America is being lied to. We believe the lies, and we believe a lying administration is saving us from our enemy.

Well, the enemy is internal. Democracy is being destroyed from within in order to “protect” us from terrorist activity. And hey, it’s for the “good” of the nation if not the whole world. After all, we saved the Iraqis from an oppressive regime, didn’t we? (Never mind that we supported Hussein for years and sold him weapons – for his war against Iran!) And who needs a Constitution? Wouldn’t we much rather be safe than have a Fourth Amendment?

When Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, he was attacked for betraying his country. “I’ve been called a traitor a lot, and you never really get used to it, even if you know that it’s the opposite of the truth… even if it’s the president endangering American lives.”
Ellsberg may have taken an oath of secrecy, but he also took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States – the same oath that everyone in Congress has taken. In fact, he thinks that he betrayed his country by waiting so long. “I broke that oath in ’64 and ’65 in every week that I kept my mouth shut,” he said.

So where are the whistle blowers today? Secrecy may be necessary to protect national security, but it shouldn’t protect government lies. In a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” shouldn’t the people have the right to know what is actually going on, why we’re really at war and why we are heading towards an even greater one?

Apparently not. So, here’s the question Ellsberg asked: what are we going to do about it?

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania Citizen Journalism