Sunday, June 01, 2008

Daniel Ellsberg, Scott McClellan, and the Inescapable Ironies of Life

Young Man
: "Dr. Franklin, what kind of a government did you give us? A monarchy or a republic?"

Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it!"

The Otherwise Crappy Mainstream Media--This isn't an attack on Daniel Ellsberg. We should always praise Ellsberg's leaking of the 7,000-page "Pentagon Papers" in the Summer of 1971. The Pentagon Papers were a secret history of the conflict in Vietnam, detailing the many crimes committed through our illegal actions there over many years. American involvement in the Southeast Asian country can be viewed as spanning 1945-75, a total of 30 years. That's an entire generation.

When Mr. Ellsberg--a former military analyst and Marine--leaked the papers, we were reaching the tail-end of our illegal invasion and occupation of Indochina. Ellsberg copied and leaked the top secret report at his job for the RAND Corporation, a think tank that does analysis for the military, and other federal agencies.

Like McClellan, Ellsberg was in the private sector when he made his revelations. While he was a maverick for doing it at all at the time he did it, his comments on Scott McClellan's new revelations (really just corroborations of what the public already knows or suspects) are rife with an irony he couldn't escape:
“I hope that people take a good look at it,” said McClellan of his book. “It has an important message.” One-time analyst for the Department of Defense, Daniel Ellsberg, shares McClellan’s view, but wishes he had told his story earlier. “He could have saved endless numbers of lives if he’d told us at that time, what he’s telling us now,” said Ellsberg.

In the 1970’s, Ellsberg blew the whistle on the Nixon White House [Ed.--This is inaccurate. The years covered in the Pentagon Papers are from the Johnson years, predominantly, though it covers the entirety of the American involvement in Indochina beginning in 1945.] by leaking the so-called pentagon papers about the Vietnam War. In front of Wednesdays’ anti-Bush crowd, Ellsberg said that President Bush failed Americans by condoning torture and eavesdropping.

Ellsberg wishes that he too would have spoken up sooner. “I worked for the president then. “I didn’t think the constitution applies to me and that’s what people on the inside think,” said Ellsberg.

He now hopes that McClellan’s book will inspire other government workers.
“Don’t wait five or ten years until we’re into the war and the bombs are falling before you tell the truth,” said Ellsberg. ("Former White House Press Secretary Turns on Bush in New Book," KUTV, 05.28.2008)
Hey, at least he finally got it by 1968-69, but that wasn't exactly revolutionary or prescient in any real sense--Wall Street had given-up on the war by the Summer of 1968, and as Mr. Ellsberg states, his conversion was a belated one. By 1968, most of the American public had begun turning against the war in Vietnam. The problem is bigger than he states.

What is the problem? Unquestioning true believers within (and outside of) the bureaucracy. There's another problem: to some extent, you need people like this (those who follow orders) in institutions of government, and there's the rub--Americans aren't known for their subtlety. We take things to the full-extent of their logic if given half-a-chance. Also, our impaired view of the world and the universe is a Manichean one, holding that things are either black or white. This is also one of the failings of the American Left, not merely the Right-wing, and can be considered a very ingrained aspect of our culture that knows no real political boundaries.

We're hardly alone in this, but unlike the rest of the world, we possess a bloated military establishment with unparalleled destructive power, truly a behemoth in the history of humankind. That's gives our Manichean world-view its apocalyptic quality, and that's what makes it so significant. We are the children of light, while our enemies are the progeny of darkness, the abyss. You're either for us, or against us. But Mr. Ellsberg isn't entirely correct in his contention that we need more leakers, and that they need to tell the public what's going on earlier. The far-too-tolerant public is part of the problem too.

That aside, there have probably been more leaks coming from the corridors of our governmental institutions than the entire 1960s-70s combined, and that's not including the Plame scandal, a truly ironic-twist in the saga of government whistle-blowing (which it wasn't, but rather a strange obverse of it). So, why aren't all these leaks working, and why is the Bush administration still standing? According to Ellsberg's logic (pun-intended), we should already be witnessing a groundswell of outraged Americans...but we aren't. The real outrage is coming from the high-price of gasoline. Why, then?

The reasons are very simple: with a Congress, an activist right-wing Supreme Court, a press beholden to the executive branch, together with an apathetic and overwhelmed public (for now, until gas hits $6.00-per-gallon), no real labor movement (thanks to Reagan and past union business bosses), and civic participation only now making its comeback, the revelations of criminality in the White House don't really matter. What matters is an active and outraged public that won't have it anymore. Expressing disapproval is fine, but action is what counts. Even the vice president understands this. The public doesn't, or won't, out of laziness, cowardice, and your basic American wrong-headedness.

We're a consumer nation, we're thick-os, as dim-witted as they come in the First world. Consider the obvious greed, apathy, and generally corrupt attitudes of the American public, then throw-in the effects of the worst educational system in the entire developed world: the prognosis isn't good, the patient is dying. A democracy is only as sound and reasonable as the people populating it, and we have earned the contempt of those within the Bush administration for our ignorance, stupidity, and selfishness. We're getting the government and the economy that we so richly deserve. There is an inevitability to all of this that's wrapped-up in the human condition.

Republics--like forests--eventually fall into a decline. A good majority of the American public once supported this president--especially in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001. Ultimately, he's just another vapid reflection of ourselves, one that's just as stupid, ignorant, and selfish. More to-the-point: How does Mr. Ellsberg and the rest of us know that Scott McClellan and others in the Bush administration haven't been leaking information on criminal activity in the White House? How else would we know as much as we already do, and how soon will we all forget out of convenience?

On Daniel Ellsberg:

"Former White House Press Secretary Turns on Bush in New Book," KUTV, 05.28.2008