Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst for the RAND Corporation and the gent who shook up this nation and its capitol from the White House to the Pentagon when he leaked the documents in his safe to the New York Times (which were eventually collected in book form under the title by which they had become known: The Pentagon Papers) that proved that the Johnson administration lied to Congress in order to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam and continued to lie about the U.S.'s prospects for victory in the war, has an editorial in the October 2006 issue (Vol. 1850, No. 1877) of Harper's Magazine that is given the same pride of place as formerly enjoyed by the recently departed editor Lewis Lapham (the "Notebook" column).
In it, Ellsberg regrets not having the wisdom or the courage to have leaked the documents in his safe before so many U.S. troops had been killed in Vietnam; Senator Wayne Morse (R-Oregon), "one of only two U.S. senators to vote against the Tonkin Gulf resolution on August 7, 1964" and "a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1964," told him three months after the NYT began printing excerpts from the "Pentagon Papers" that, had Ellsberg given those documents to him in 1964, he would've made sure that the Tonkin Gulf resolution would have died an unlamented death.
Just as Ellsberg's revelations in 1971 served to deepen the partisanship of an already deeply polarized country, so too has much of the reporting about our current debacle in Iraq and the apparently up-and-coming debacle in Iran (special mention should go to Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour ["Sy"] M. Hersh and his reports in The New Yorker, particularly "The Iran Plans: Would President Bush Go to War to Stop Tehran From Getting the Bomb?" in the 17 April 2006 issue, and "The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon Can Now Do in Secret" in the 24 - 31 January 2006 issue; but last week's [issue dated 25 September 2006] Time magazine ran the ominous cover story "What War With Iran Would Look Like (And How to Avoid It)") served to polarize anyone outside the chattering classes who bothers to pay attention to it. Focusing on the war as yet unborn, Ellsberg pleads with the current faceless analysts to drag the White House's agenda as regards Iran into the light where the public will have to pay attention.
Picking up a theme first explored by Hersh, Ellsberg writes:
"...Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official, reported in The American Conservative a year ago that Vice President Cheney's office had directed contingency planning for 'a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons' and that 'several senior Air Force officers' involved in the planning were 'appalled at the implications of what they are doing -- that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack -- but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objection."
-- p. 9
Ellsberg goes on to say that "Hersh notes that opposition by the Joint Chiefs in April led to White House withdrawal of the 'nuclear option' -- for now, I would say. The operational plans remain in existence, to be drawn upon for a 'decisive' blow if the president deems it necessary" (p. 10). He sums up his plea in the penultimate paragraph of his editorial:
"Simply resigning in silence does not meet moral or political responsibilities of officials rightly 'appalled' by the thrust of secret policy. I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision -- accepting sacrifice of clearance and career, and risk of prison -- to disclose comprehensive files that convey, irrefutably, official, secret estimates of costs and prospects and dangers of the military plans being considered. What needs disclosure is the full internal controversy, the secret critiques as well as the arguments and claims of advocates of war and nuclear 'options' -- the Pentagon Papers of the Middle East. But unlike in 1971, the ongoing secret debate should be made available before [emphasis in original] our war in the region expands to include Iran, before the sixty-one-year moratorium on nuclear war is ended violently, to give our democracy a chance to foreclose either of those catastrophes."
-- p. 10
Last Friday's (22 September) edition of the syndicated NPR programme On the Media had a five minute spot with Ellsberg (transcript available here) reiterating his piece in Harper's, stressing that the oath that "every official and every military officer" takes "is to uphold the Constitution," and that this oath supersedes any and all secrecy agreements; Ellsberg also noted that such secrecy agreements frequently violate the Constitution.
I wish I could be more optimistic that some brave souls will heed Ellsberg's call and successfully derail the drive to another war that seems to be proceeding apace despite all of the most reasoned (and reasonable) qualms of America's senior military officers, that we won't be "blessed" with another multi-channel television spectacular, this time live from Iraq's eastern neighbor, in 2007, just in time to "gare-on-TEE" a socko Republican reclamation of the White House in 2008 (or -- shudder -- "Dubya" remaining in power due to a state of emergency that he had more than a minor part in creating in the first damn place...).
I'm all for nuclear non-proliferation, but I seriously doubt if the jokers in the White House give a fig about that issue, so long as it's only their nominal allies who have nukes; in any case, I have to question the wisdom of nuking a country back to primordial slag in order to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Seems to me there's a big flaw in that logic -- kind of like shouting "DEATH TO ALL FANATICS!"
If the shit hits the fan in Iran, at least we can't claim that the mainstream media was asleep on the watch during the run-up to war; a cover story in Time is about as mainstream as the print media can get. Maybe if American Idol would have an episode focusing on Iran, even more people might get the news....