Daniel Ellsberg, and the “Good” and “Bad” Whistleblower 67

The massive obituaries to Daniel Ellsberg at the weekend in both New York Times and Washington Post were proof of the status he held in the United States.

Only Presidents get that size of obituary.

His name was not nearly so widely known in the UK. I first met Dan on 3 May 2006 when we were giving a joint presentation at Berkeley. The large hall was full to overflowing, and to my surprise there were young students queuing outside and striving to listen on stairways through open doors.

The large majority of the audience were not born when Dan leaked the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971. But his star status endured.

I know the date because we went afterwards for a marvellous dinner at his Californian home, replete with excellent wine. We talked long into the night, and he signed – and dated – me a copy of his book Secrets, which tells the story of his path to whistleblowing on the lies that kept the Vietnam war going.

I am looking at his message now. It reads “To Craig Murray – with greatest admiration for your conscientious truth-telling! and looking forward to a friendship”.

In 2010 we were again on stage together in London, at a massively attended Wikileaks press conference on the release of the Iraq war logs. We jointly presented Julian Assange with his Sam Adams Award.

It was at this event that I first realised that something had gone disastrously wrong in the relationship between Wikileaks and the Guardian.

They had been cooperating closely, and I myself had published frequent articles in the Guardian over the past four years. Arriving at the press conference, I ran into David Leigh, Deputy Editor of the Guardian, whom I viewed as a friend. We had lunch together a couple of times in the previous few months.

I said “Hello, David” and he simply stared at me. I thought he was lost in thought or somehow had not recognised me. I waved my hands in front of his eyes to get his attention. He stared at me, turned on his heel and walked away.

It was from that day that the Guardian’s coverage of Assange entirely changed and he was treated as a bitter enemy – and that the Guardian became a servile channel for security service propaganda.

For me the Guardian smashing of the Snowden hard drives therefore came as no surprise. I had already witnessed them turn. David Leigh, incidentally, never spoke to me again and the Guardian stopped accepting my articles.

At the time of that press conference, the publication of Leigh and Harding’s book on Assange – which gave away the location and password of the Chelsea Manning cache – was two months away, so it must already have been written.

There had been a massive row between them all over Assange’s biography, which at that height of his fame was worth millions. Julian had decided he did not want the Guardian journalists involved after all, and I think a large part of the bitterness of the break was largely the sordid matter of money.

Which brings me at last to the thought behind this article.

Dan Ellsberg maintained until the last his “respectability” in society as the “good whistleblower”.

Yet the publication of papers from Chelsea Manning and others, similar in so many ways to Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, became demonised, then criminalised, and Julian became the “bad whistleblower”, or more accurately publisher of whistleblowers.

Now Dan Ellsberg totally rejected this characterisation. It infuriated him and he actively fought against it, including at Julian’s extradition hearing, on which see below.

But how did this process of characterisation happen?

To me, the fundamental point is that the United States achieved consensus that the Vietnam War had been a terrible mistake. It was fought in the interests of colonialism, for the suppression of a nation, and was ultimately unwinnable.

The USA went through a cathartic rejection of the Vietnam War, which included recognition of the atrocities perpetrated by their armed forces on civilian populations. Portrayal of the Vietnam War, in Hollywood, in popular fiction, or in the “serious” media, portrayed it unflinchingly as a bungle and a disgrace; notably often relieved by comic treatment.

We have never really been through that process with the Iraq War. Although it is now generally accepted that the war was started on lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction, a very significant number of the political class – and quite possibly a majority of MPs, for example – do not accept that the Iraq War was a mistake.

There has been a serious failure to accept and process the fact of the numerous atrocities committed by British troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Oslo last week, Jeremy Corbyn told me that, when he stood up as Labour leader to apologise for the Iraq War, he was very conscious that he did not have the support of the vast majority of his own MPs.

It is extraordinary how many politicians, and how many high profile “journalists”, cleave to the view that the Iraq war was justified because it saved the Iraqi people from a dreadful dictator. It killed or maimed millions, displaced millions more, blasted the entire infrastructure back forty years, destroyed the economy, and set off unending civil war, but somehow the devotees of “liberal intervention” see all this as “better”.

Precisely the same, of course, can be said of Libya or Afghanistan or of Western backed Saudi organised wars in Syria or Yemen. Not only have those countries been completely devastated, the resultant mass refugee crisis has politically destabilised Europe.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

Yet, astonishingly, there is no Establishment consensus that the attacks on the Middle East and Central Asia were a terrible mistake, in the same way that Vietnam is acknowledged as a terrible mistake. The doctrine of “liberal intervention” retains a deep hold on the political and media classes.

“Liberal intervention”, of course, is simply “imperialism”. The notion that non-European people would be better off if their rulers were deposed and replaced by western mandated puppets is precisely how the British Empire worked. The justification was always the same – it was always for the good of the conquered people themselves.

The reason Dan Ellsberg attained a folk hero status denied to Assange, Snowden or Manning is that Vietnam has full Establishment acceptance as an error, but the 21st century invasions, interventions and the population mass surveillance are viewed as “justified”.

In the Assange hearing, counsel on behalf of the United States government openly stated that the New York Times – could have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for the publication of the Pentagon Papers, but that US Executive had chosen not to do so.

Let me tell you this of Daniel Ellsberg.

At the age of 89, Dan gave evidence in the Assange extradition hearing, by videolink. The court had scheduled his evidence at 2.30pm, which was 6.30am for Dan in California.

The defence applied for this to start later in the afternoon, given Dan’s age and the time. The court refused.

Then consider this also. The court had only sent Ellsberg the “bundle” the previous day, giving him less than 24 hours to master 600 pages of documentation, before rising at 5.30am and getting ready to give evidence and be cross-examined.

This to an 89 year old man.

Here is my eye witness account of Ellsberg’s subsequent testimony. I cannot do better to give you an idea of the man.

Re-reading it, I am still lost in admiration:

In the afternoon, the witness was Dan Ellsberg, doyen of whistleblowers. Born in Chicago in 1931, he was educated at Harvard and Cambridge. He served in the Marines from 1954–7, and from 1964–5 was Special Assistant to the US Secretary of Defence. He was then involved in the making of an official classified 47-volume report entitled History of Decision Making in Vietnam.

Ellsberg briefly explained that the report showed that the war in Vietnam had been continued in the knowledge that it could not be won. It showed that both the public and Congress had repeatedly been lied to. He had leaked the report to lawmakers and then the public as “The Pentagon Papers”. This had resulted in the famous case on prior restraint on publication. There had also been a less well-known criminal case against him personally under the Espionage Act. This had been dismissed with prejudice by the court.

Asked by Edward Fitzgerald QC (counsel for Assange) to comment on the Wikileaks/Manning publication on Afghanistan, Ellsberg replied that he saw extremely strong parallels with his own case. These papers had the capability of informing the public of the progress of the war and the limited possibility that it could be brought to a successful conclusion at all. The Afghan War Logs showed operational-level information not a wider view, but the effect was similar. He strongly identified with both the source (Manning) and the process of publication.

Fitzgerald then asked Ellsberg whether Assange held political opinions relevant to this publication. Ellsberg said it was absurd for the prosecution to argue otherwise. He had himself been motivated by his political views in his publication and Assange’s views were very similar. He had held very interesting discussions with Assange and felt a great affinity with him. They both believed that there was a great lack of transparency to the public over government decisions. The public were fed much information that was false.

When the public had so little genuine information and were fed so much false information, real democracy was not possible. An example was the Iraq War, clearly an illegal war of aggression in breach of the UN charter, sold on lies to the public.

The Afghan War Logs were similar to low-level reports Ellsberg had himself written in Vietnam. It was the same thing; the invasion and occupation of a foreign country against the wishes of the majority of its population. That could only bring defeat or endless conflict: 19 years so far. The war logs had exposed a pattern of war crimes: torture, assassination and death squads. The one thing that had changed since Vietnam was that these things were now so normalised they were classified below Top Secret.

All the Pentagon Papers were Top Secret. None of the Wikileaks documents were. They were not just below Top Secret, they had no restricted distribution classifications. This meant that, by definition, there should be nothing genuinely sensitive, and certainly not life-endangering, in papers of this classification.

Fitzgerald asked him about the Collateral Murder video. Ellsberg stated that it definitely showed murder, including the deliberate machine gunning of a wounded and unarmed civilian. That it was murder was undoubted. The dubious word was “collateral”, which implies accidental. What was truly shocking about it was the Pentagon reaction that these war crimes were within the Rules of Engagement. Which therefore permitted murder.

Edward Fitzgerald asked whether Ellsberg was allowed to put forward the question of intention at his trial. He replied no, the distribution of classified material outside those designated to receive it was an offence of strict liability under the 1917 Espionage Act. This was absolutely inappropriate to trials of whistleblowers. “I did not get a fair trial and nor have recent whistleblowers in the USA. Julian Assange could not get a fair trial.”

Cross-examining for the US Government, James Lewis QC asked Ellsberg to confirm that at the time he copied the Pentagon Papers he was working for the Rand Corporation. He said yes. Lewis said that Assange was not being prosecuted for publication of the Collateral Murder video. Ellsberg said that the Collateral Murder video was essential to an understanding of the Rules of Engagement. Lewis countered that Assange was not being charged for publication of the Rules of Engagement. He was only being charged for publication of unredacted names of those who might come to harm.

Ellsberg replied that he had read the superseding indictment and that Assange was being charged with obtaining, receiving and possession of material including the Rules of Engagement and the Collateral Murder video, and all the documents. On publishing, he was only charged with the names. Lewis said the other charges related to conspiracy with Chelsea Manning. Ellsberg replied “Yes. They are still charges.”

Lewis quoted US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg stating that prosecution was for documents up to Secret level containing the names of those “who risked their lives and freedom while helping the USA”. Lewis contrasted this with Ellsberg “when you published the Pentagon Papers you were very careful what you gave to the media”. Ellsberg replied that he withheld three or four volumes not to cause difficulties to diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Lewis suggested he was protecting individuals. Ellsberg said no; if he released those documents, the US government might have used it as an excuse to exit diplomacy and continue the war. Lewis asked if there were names in the Pentagon Papers that would risk harm to them. Ellsberg replied yes. In one case, a clandestine CIA agent was named, involved in the CIA assassination of a major Vietnamese politician. He was a personal friend of Ellsberg and Ellsberg had thought hard about it, but had left him in.

Lewis Asked Ellsberg whether he had read the article “Why Wikileaks is Not the Pentagon Papers” by Floyd Abrams, who had represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case. Ellsberg replied he had read several articles like this by Abrams. He did not know Abrams. He had only been involved in the civil case, not the criminal one. He had seen him once, at an awards ceremony long after.

Lewis said that Abrams had written that Ellsberg had withheld four volumes, whereas “can anyone doubt” that Assange would have published all of them? Ellsberg replied he disagreed, Abrams had never had one minute of discussion with him or Assange. “He does not understand my motives at all in his article”. The position he outlines is widely held by those who want to criticise Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden while pretending to be liberal.

What he writes is simply untrue. Julian Assange withheld 15,000 files. He went through a long, hard process of redaction. He requested help from both the State Department and Department of Defence on redaction. I have no doubt Julian would have removed the volumes as I did, in my place. He had no intention to name names.

Ellsberg continued that ten years later, the US Government has still not been able to name one single individual who was actually harmed by the Wikileaks releases. “I was shocked that Kromberg should make that allegation while offering no evidence. As nobody was hurt, clearly the risk was never as high as they claimed – as indeed the document classification would tell you.”

“They said exactly the same of me. They said CIA agents and those helping the USA would be hurt. They said I would have blood on my hands.”

There now followed an extraordinary “question” from James Lewis QC who was permitted to read out about 11 paragraphs from various locations in one of Kromberg’s rambling affidavits, in which Kromberg said that as a result of Wikileaks publication, some US sources had had to leave their homeland, go into hiding, or change their names, in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, China and Ethiopia.
Some individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq had subsequently disappeared. The Taliban were on record as saying that those who cooperated with US forces would be killed. One Ethiopian journalist was forced to flee Ethiopia after being named as a US source. The US Embassy in China reported threats had been made against some of their named Chinese sources. Wikileaks material was found in the possessions of Osama Bin Laden after he was shot.

Lewis asked in a furious voice “How can you possibly, honestly say that nobody was harmed?”

Ellsberg: With all these people who felt they were in danger, of course I am sorry it was inconvenient for them, and that is regrettable. But was any one of them actually physically harmed? Did one of them actually suffer the claimed physical consequences?
Lewis: You call it regrettable that people were put at risk. Is it your position that there was absolutely no harm caused by the publication of the names of these individuals?
Ellsberg: Assange’s actions are absolutely antithetical to the notion that he deliberately published these names. Had hundreds been harmed, that would count against the great good done by publication of the information. No evidence is produced that any actual harm came to them.
But this has to be put in the context of the policies which Assange was trying to change, invasions that led to 37 million refugees and 1 million deaths.
Of course some people could not be located again in a war that killed a million people and displaced 37 million. The government is extremely hypocritical to pretend a concern for them against their general contempt for Middle Eastern lives. They had even refused to help redact the names. This is a pretence at concern.
Lewis: What about the disappeared? Is it not common sense that some had been forced to disappear or flee under another name?
Ellsberg: It does not seem to me that that small percentage of those named who may have been murdered or fled, can necessarily be attributed as a result of Wikileaks, when they are in among more than 1 million who have been murdered and 37 million who have fled.

Lewis then asked Ellsberg if it was true he had held an encrypted back up copy of the Manning material for Assange. Ellsberg replied it was; it had subsequently been physically destroyed.

In re-examination, Fitzgerald took Ellsberg to a passage in the Kromberg affidavit which stated that the US Government could not positively attribute any death to the Wikileaks material. Ellsberg said that was his understanding, and had been said at the Manning trial.

He was shocked. It was just like Iraqi WMD. He had at first been inclined to believe the government on Iraqi WMD, just as he had first been inclined to believe the government on deaths caused by Wikileaks releases. In both cases it had proved they were making it up.

I hope that gives you an idea of the intellectual and moral stature and the incredible resilience of my friend Daniel Ellsberg. I will never forget that sparkling moment when, having been given almost no chance to prepare and so early in the morning, he corrected in detail the counsel for the US government on the contents of the second superseding indictment!

It was an incredible honour just to have known him.


Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations


Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9
Ethereum/ERC-20: 0x764a6054783e86C321Cb8208442477d24834861a

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

67 thoughts on “Daniel Ellsberg, and the “Good” and “Bad” Whistleblower

  • Scott

    A beautiful eulogy, Craig, revealing a little of the essence and brightness of a wonderful man.

    Kind regards,

  • Nota Tory Fanboy

    This – and your previous article explaining in detail the redaction process and the betrayal by the Guardian – is incredibly important context that really needs a main stream airing.

    Will Frick, the BBC interviewer whose interview of Ellsberg was aired last night (at least in part), in which the latter made the former indictable, be indicted?

    • Stewart

      “the last of a very few principled and brave men”

      What a silly comment
      There are lots of principled and brave men in this World
      it’s just that they tend not to become public figures
      agreed, our “leaders” and “celebrities” are, almost without exception, the very worst kinds of human being – but that is not the real world

  • Jay

    Ah Craig, that isn’t how the Vietnam war is portrayed in US popular culture! Hollywood and other liberals do present it as a mistake sure (although never a crime), but to this day they are still telling themselves and everyone else that its primary victims were US conscript soldiers not the Vietnamese peasantry.

    How many Americans of any age know that the societies and land of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were intentionally devastated by carpet chemical bombing or that 4-5 million men, women and children were murdered (the worst in any theatre of war other than the Nazi Holocaust)?

    Very few, because when a Johns Hopkins public study back in 1996 asked Americans to guesstimate how many Vietnamese casualties there had been the average guess was about 100,000.

    The people who conducted that study raised an appropriate question: What would we think about German popular and political culture if, when you asked Germans today how many Jews died in the Holocaust, they estimated about 100,000? What would that tell us about German political and popular culture?

    I watched the Ken Burns PBS Vietnam documentary recently and as usual over several hours there was no spelling out of the scale of the atrocity. As standard, Burns’s narrator concluded the war was simply a tragedy. Not a crime, nor a malefaction, nor an abomination, merely a tragedy.

    It’s how the Vietnam War has always been represented in western popular culture. (So too Hiroshima/Nagasaki). If the Hegemon has chemical weaponed or nuked innocent civilians, a more nuanced finesse and sympathetic interpretation is required.

    • Nota Tory Fanboy

      Do you think it’s a self-preservation thing?

      Like it’s our own, “good” side which has perpetrated such atrocities that those amongst us who are so invested in the “fact” that our side is “good” – or that ours is the “good” side – simply have to continue in double speak; have to maintain that none of those actions were atrocities, merely mistakes; have to deny observable – and, crucially, measurable – reality because otherwise they end up realising they’ve wasted so much of the fibre of their very own being for so long being invested in that “good” fabrication?

      • Squeeth

        That’s the sort of self-pity that criminals use to console themselves. Heinrich Himmler said something Simmler.

        “Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500 or 1000. To have stuck it out and at the same time – apart from exceptions caused by human weakness – to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard.”

        The Posen speech to SS officers (4 October 1943), original translation from “International Military Trials – Nurnberg Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume IV”, US Govt Printing Office 1946 pp. 563-564.

        • Nota Tory Fanboy

          I’m afraid I haven’t grasped your reply – and feel inadequately intelligent as a result because your reply comes across as eloquent.

          Are you saying that those of us who are able to engage in self-reflection and can acknowledge the wrongdoings of the society in which we live, of which we are members, without trying to justify those wrongdoings as acceptable because we’re on the “good” side, that we are criminals for attempting to rationalise the actions of those who commit such acts (or of those who try to justify them)?

          Or are you saying that those people who commit such acts (and those who try to justify them) are criminals, whether or not they are sufficiently self-aware as to realise why they are doing so?

          I would have thought that logic would dictate the latter of those two but I wasn’t sure from your reply, which is why I thought I’d ask.

          • Squeeth

            It’s difficult for people committing atrocities to feel good about doing obviously bad things so they invent specious “good” results from these behaviours. Utilitarianism at its most bestial.

        • Nota Tory Fanboy

          @Squeeth Having reread your reply for the fifth time, I think I might now understand your point (specifically that referred to in Himmler’s quote):

          That their continued attempts at justifying their own atrocities as acceptable – because they believed they were on the “good” side – led them to become so indifferent to carrying out atrocities that it became second nature? And they believe that made them (or at least their ideology) invincible, immune?

        • david

          It must also be remembered that the reason the Nazis introduced gassing of Jews and other groups they considered undesirable was because of the negative psychological effects shooting people on mass was having on German soldiers. Yet more of the “poor us” attitude that is common amongst the perpetrators of such atrocities.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Like it’s our own, “good” side which has perpetrated such atrocities that those amongst us who are so invested in the “fact” that our side is “good” – or that ours is the “good” side – simply have to continue in double speak…”

        Everyone at all times has a free choice between honesty and deception – which includes self-deception. If, as you say, some people are so “invested” in a pack of lies simply to make themselves feel happier… they ought to become disinvested, and bloody quick.

        In life as in science, strict honesty is the very basis of all success. Lying makes you an outcast and enemy of others; and lying to yourself is unspeakably foolish.

        • Nota Tory Fanboy

          I agree entirely, albeit with one caveat: given what we know about how repetition creates and reinforces neural pathways, just as an addiction does, that choice we know people can make may be rather harder for some to make than for others (due to their “addiction”).

          But clearly not everyone suffers this affliction and they certainly don’t suddenly suffer from it overnight. So potentially the more interesting question is a root cause analysis of what it is about our society that conditions people this way over time.

          • glenn_nl

            Compare fundamentalist whack-jobs who conflate Nazis and genocide with anyone opposing forced motherhood…

          • glenn_nl

            Absolutely, I think genocide should be apologised for.

            But you make no apologies for genocide? Bold of you to admit it.

        • Allan Howard

          ‘In life as in science, strict honesty is the very basis of all success.’

          Well I don’t know about that. The propagandists are very successful at lying to hundreds of millions of people and deceiving and misleading them. Tens of thousands are being killed and maimed and crippled in Ukraine on account of their lies, and those that try to get the truth out there are vilified and demonised, like Roger Waters for example. I only learnt a few days ago that his concerts in Poland – due to take place in April – were cancelled last September. And of course various people – officials – tried to get his concerts in Geremany cancelled (unsuccessfully as it transpired), and various people were calling for his concerts in the UK to be cancelled, and all based on malevolent lies and falsehoods.

          And needless to say, Julian’s plight – along with what initially happened in Sweden – is all based on lies (and machinations) as well.


      • Jay

        Yes, that’s it absolutely. There actually is growing awareness in the Internet age of what was done to Japan, Korea, Indochina and the Middle East, but too often the response to becoming aware is even more bullish self-righteousness. Too many have invested too much of themselves in the delusion of US goodness. We can be certain the Hollywood dream weavers will sustain that delusion no matter what future horrors are inflicted.

    • Karl Curtis

      Yes, Jay, well said!
      The ‘mistake’ of Vietnam from the deep state/military industrial complex perspective was the draft. Specifically, drafting middle class young men was the major source of opposition to the war. This problem was solved in subsequent U.S. criminal wars through the economic draft; basically, as a result of goverment policy of ensuring a steady supply of poor desperate men and women who have few options and who are attracted by the training and education offers from the military.
      But in an important sense Craig is correct in his characterisation of the U.S. view of the Vietnam as a mistake, quite simply, poorly judged and executed. There is no acknowledgement, understanding, or acceptance that it was one more in a long and never ending line of supreme international crimes committed by the U.S. Apart from the token prosecution of the My Lai massacre afaik there were zero prosecutions for the several million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians murdered by the U.S. war machine and certainly none of the planners e.g. Kissinger. Craig is a great writer, a great supporter of Julian, clearly a man of great integrity. But sometimes I feel he has never quite taken on board the deeply and fundamentally nefarious nature of Western imperialism and moreover that every single war prosecuted by the West has always been ultimately in pursuit of resources or/and power, never morality, if such a thing is even possible. And yes, sure, we got lots of post hoc narrative construction about ww2 being the good war fought to defeat the Nazis and free the concentration camp victims, and certainly the defeat of Nazi Germany was positive, but the mass murder of German civilians through fire bombing cities was never justified, served no military purpose , and of course was ever prosecuted. And that brings us to Ukraine, the current imperial project, where again I feel Craig has not accepted that responsibility lies again with the imperial West and their designs to threaten and neuter Russia and once again pillage its natural resources as under Yeltsin. Should that goal not be realised, as seems likely, then record profits for the military industrial complex, weakening their economic rivals in Europe while making them dependent on U.S. natural gas, and devastating Ukraine with depleted uranium ensuring no ‘prize’ for the Russians, will do nicely. Of course, Ukrainian and Russian lives are fully expendable and do not factor into their calculus at all.
      For anyone interested in understanding the unbroken line of U.S. wars, coups, invasions etc. Killing Hope by William Blum is a great start.
      And to better understand the true nature of the U.S. A People’s History of the U.S. by Howard Zinn.

      • jim hogg

        [ MOD: Caught in spam-filter ]

        To your list of US/western depredations you can add the “Night of the Black Snow”, the firebombing of Tokyo on 9/10 March 1945. Named Operation Meetinghouse by the US military, it probably resulted in more civilian deaths than Dresden, “likely more than 100,000, in a single night; some one million people were left homeless”; Pathfinder aircraft marked the target area with “napalm bombs. An armada of 334 B-29 bombers followed from bases in the Mariana Islands, with 279 of them dropping 1,665 tons of incendiaries, including a half-million cylinders of napalm and white phosphorus. Dry, windy conditions aided the spread of the conflagration, which turned into a firestorm, destroying almost 16 square miles of the densely populated city.” Enc Brit. More detailed information on US interventions abroad can be found in the work of John A Tures, and, of course, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine which is strongest on US interventions in South America. Ted Galen Carpenter (article in The Guardian, surprisingly) is good on Ukraine, and Brzezinki’s revelation that the CIA were in Afghanistan in 1979, 6 months before the invasion, trying to lure the soviets into “their Vietnam”, as a fine example of “bait and bleed” which sums up the ongoing US/Ukraine operation over the last few years, and ongoing attempts to lure China into the same trap.. As for motivation, para 1 of The Wolfowitz Doctrine, 1992 is very succinct. Para 3 confirms your point about the importance of the US maintaining access to resources.

        Issue raised by others: why so many people are supportive of what some would class as highly immoral acts by their governments? Many answers: our talent for hypocrisy; our vulnerability to our inner biases and values, and unwillingness to let them go regardless of contrary evidence; our desire to believe what we hear and see, to trust our governments, both of which tendencies are being tested to the limit at present, though we are, for the most part belief machines; and our associated gullibility and stupidity – we’re not as bright as we like to think, I suspect. Or any combination of these and other more specific personal motivations.

        Many, if not most of us (the general population) in the west want to believe that the US is good – or used to – and that it is trying to live up to the noble ideals it claims to represent. If only it would. And a majority of those who are deeply embedded in the system, as minions/pawns or decision makers at various levels probably believe passionately in what they do, for any or all of the reasons I’ve listed and more besides. But still there are great imponderables. The best possible world may follow as much from bad actions as good – if they don’t destroy it in the process. Some times the worst examples are the best teachers, and the worst people may do the most beneficial things, though often only the future can tell.. The more I understand and learn (not a lot), the less I’m certain of anything, and more convinced I become of how primitive we human beings still are in essence, despite our moral ambitions/predilections. I’m not persuaded that we’ve gone very far beyond the stage of “poking at things with sticks”. The world as it is at this moment reflects a terrible judgement on the kind of creature we are.

      • Calgacus

        Amalgamating Vietnam and WWII as imperialist wars is absurd. The actual course of history before, during and after WWII, the proclaimed intent (Atlantic Charter), and the now accepted view of the intent of the most important leader – FDR was that it was anti-imperialist.

        The post hoc narrative construction was that WWII was NOT fought against fascism. This omnipresent revisionism tells the incredible lie that the WWII allies were silent on Hitler’s genocide, rather than the reality that it was loudly and quickly denounced it in the strongest terms.

        The bombings did have a military purpose and they were just as much if not more British than American. For a long time, there was nothing else that the allies could do against Hitler in Europe. They drew substantial German resources away from the Eastern front. They showed the people of Europe that they were not abandoned. There is a great and long running historical debate on them, but only one extreme view appears in popular consciousness.

        Much better books to read to understand the USA are the 8 volumes, 10,000 pages of Page Smith’s People’s History of the USA. Howard Zinn took the name and wrote a book which even his admirers admit has a great many errors. More errors, serious errors than are in all of Smith’s far longer work. E.g. The Union fired the first shots in the US Civil War? ! Nobody ever said that but Zinn. Smith was just as far to the left as Zinn. But Zinn’s inferior pastiche has obscured even the existence of Smith’s work. [Blum’s work is a lot better than Zinn’s.]

        Par for the course, bad books with “post hoc narrative construction” purporting to reveal heretofore hidden truth- which is actually incessantly dinned into everyone’s ears – are a dime a dozen. While those with actual history consistent with specialist research – are scarce and little known. It’s amazing how close to today’s research the wartime narratives – easiest to get from the movies of that era – are. And it’s amazing how close that the revisionism accepted by the herd of independent minds of the right, the center, and crucially the great majority of the Left – has come to contemporaneous histories of the war – those written in German.

        • Jay

          There’s even more entrenched revisionism in the opposite direction about the Hiroshima-Nagasaki atrocities. At the time they were committed six of the seven US 5-star generals and admirals – including Eisenhower, Nimitz and MacArthur – said nuking civilians was militarily unjustifiable and morally reprehensible. But eight decades on we’re being told those Mt Rushmore men lacked the military understanding of a Bill Kristol or a David Frum.

        • Karl Curtis

          Not the forum for a debate but I’ll make a few rejoinders to Calgacus.
          In the 30s the Nazis/Hitler received plenty of positive reviews from the anglo corporate media (e.g. the Daily Mail, Hitler as Time magazine person of the year) as they were seen as a bulwark against the feared rise of socialism/communism in Germany. Ford, IBM etc were all working closely and collaborating with the Nazi machine. Fact.
          To bolster this point further one only has to look at the Spanish civil war where the anglo imperial powers blocked military aid to the republicans while the fascists were allowed a free hand to support Franco. So the argument of the deep ideological hatred of fascism in the 30s by anglo elites and their media is not supported by the historical record.
          Attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure is a straight up war crime. Nothing more to be said there.
          To understand the history around the Nazi genocide I recommend Norman Finkelstein’s Holocaust Industry.
          Reports reached Churchill and the allies about the genocide taking place in the concentration camps yet not one attempt was made to bomb the railways used to bring the victims to the camps. Nothing was done. In the immediate aftermath of ww2 the genocide received scant coverage in the anglo media as it was felt that it would hurt morale in West Germany at a time when West Germans were needed to hold the line against the Soviets/the Red Army. The holocaust as an historical fact only started to get widely covered in the 1960s. Fact.
          Churchill wanted to take the remnants of the Wehrmacht and use them along with the allies to attack the Soviet Union in the immediate aftermath of ww2 hardly the action of someone who had a deep ideological hatred of fascism. Further, operation paperclip where the U.S. recruited Nazis from the various Nazi intelligence orgs, known war criminals,again does little to support the idea of this deep ideological disdain for fascism and revulsion at the holocaust. Many known Nazis were installed as mayors and other functionaries in Germany in the aftermath of ww2 as they were perceived as reliable and most importantly enemies of communism. The U.S. made similar use of the Japanese in Korea again to hold back communism. Contrary to popular myths little attempt was made to find and prosecute known Nazi war criminals apart from the Nuremberg show trials and Israel tracking down Eichmann.. Many lived openly and prospered, occupied positions of power, and generally felt very comfortable. Ditto for the heads of industry, chief facilitators for the Nazi war machine. I’m afraid the evidence for this ideological hatred of fascism on the part of the anglo american empire is scant to non existent, at least when it comes to actual meaningful opposition versus lip service. Witness, the long line of South American and other murderous authoritarian leaders who the U.S. has supported over the years.

          • Squeeth

            The reconnaissance photos of Auschwitz were developed in the 1970s. By what method would you have bombed parts of Auschwitz and not others? With US day bombers so inaccurate that they sometimes bombed the wrong countries? British night bombers which hit the Trassenheide slave camp on the Peenemunde raid 18/19 August 1943 when accuracy was emphasised at the risk of mass bomber losses? Something more accurate like Oboe Mosquito bombers? Oboe was limited by the curvature of the earth. The quickest way to end mass murder by the nazis was to continue to support the Red Army which overran and closed them in 1944-1945.

          • Calgacus

            Most of your response concerns the pre- and post- war situation, where we are more agreed, but is not relevant to what I said – on the opposition to fascism during the war. While FDR’s distant USA was anti-imperialist and anti-fascist before, Britain and France had been governed by “guilty men” who abetted the rise of fascism. While Churchill had class sympathies in that direction, unlike the prior appeasers he was not a moron and saw how they had betrayed the deepest national interest of independent survival for Britain and France for a future of slavery to Germany.

            On the railway bombings, all military experts then and now say it was a foolish idea. Rail lines are very easy to rebuild and hard to target. It was at the limit of possibility – the death camps were far from airbases and the Soviets refused permission to land to refuel. It would have drained major resources from the war effort – and thus lengthened it and allowed the Nazis to kill even more than they actually did.

            “The holocaust as an historical fact only started to get widely covered in the 1960s. Fact.”

            Not a fact, but a most outrageous lie. Yes, the word “holocaust” came decades later, mostly popularized by US TV movie of that name. But as I said, it was vigorously denounced at the time. The December 1942 Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations.

            Actress Marsha Hunt, the very last survivor of Hollywood’s Golden Age, died some months ago age 105. One of her biggest roles was in None Shall Escape. Made in 1944 at Roosevelt’s suggestion during the war, it was about postwar war crimes trials. The poster shown is mute testimony that the holocaust not being widely covered until the 1960s – is a fabrication of hucksters like those Finkelstein denounces, not a fact. It was common knowledge, so American Jews served in the armed forces at twice their percentage of the population, iirc the participation of British Jews were even higher. All knew that many fought to defend their own close relatives.

            The two best sources on this horrible distortion of history are Robert N. Rosen’s Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust & William Rubinstein’s The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis. As I said, much of the history of that era – from today’s Left even – idiotically repeats German / fascist propaganda as gospel truth. The people who could correct this fake “history” from personal experience are now almost all dead.

          • DunGroanin

            Karl, thanks for these plain facts of the ‘West’s’ actual being the driver of the rise of Nazism and Hitler in post WW1 Germany and wider Europe.
            It is directly repeated with the Ukranian Nazis again.
            All for the same reason – to take Russia. That never ending avarice, piratical Dream.

            As is now finally beginning to be publicised many tens of thousands of these demented Nazis and their families were resettled in the West – from close by France, Spain, Italy to Britain and of course the US, Canada and even the Outbacks of Oz! Yes a few went to South America where apparently they disappeared! Another lie and subterfuge to divert attention. Hell I have come across tales of some of these old boys still hoarding their paraphernalia in the midlands and Derbyshire of the U.K.
            let’s not forget how the CIA was created with many of the Nazis ; Nato was staffed by many; the UN too. The never ending cause to take Russia and the World Island.

            WE are the Nazis. We have always been. All else is just fairytales for little children, like Santa Claus. Shame that the Collective Waste is so self infantilised and intent on remaining so.

    • Jimmeh

      Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary seems to me like The World At War or smething; a very dated and conservative take. His take on the Civil War is similarly conservative, with a strong smell of “Lost Cause” about it. And many of the commentators he interviews are explicit proponents of the Lost Cause view.

      • Squeeth

        I thought that the Vietnam War documentary was rather bogus but on second thoughts decided that the narrative was slightly subversive of itself, in that the vilest US crimes were well documented in the gaps between the sanctimony and self-pity.

  • SleepingDog

    I have read Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (highly recommended) which reasonably categorises the USAmerican plans: “It depicted evil beyond any human project ever.” (p3) Ellsberg adds that after publishing the Vietnam section of the Pentagon Papers (the tip of the iceberg), the nuclear files were unfortunately lost in a municipal dump. The USAmerican War on Vietnam was bad enough in terms of human atrocities, but also crucially indicates their military zeal for ecocide. It is also worth remembering that for all NATO’s newfound concern for Ukrainians, its nuclear weapons were targeting its infrastructure and cities a generation ago. Earlier plans would have seen it razed out of existence. I’ll leave the last word to Ellsberg (p20):

    No policies in human history have more deserved to be recognised as immoral. Or insane.

    • Cornudet

      From the early 1980s onwards senior figures in the Reagan administration, George HW Bush among them, started to speak about the “winnable” nuclear war. The SDI or “Star Wars” programme needs to be seen as the son et lumière branch of this doctrine, designed to beguile the general masses of mankind. Looking beyond the spiel the winnable nuclear war involved restricting the said conflict almost entirely to the European mainland. Europe might well be turned into a glowing charnel house but so long as they didn’t get their hair mussed too badly in the US then this was an auspicious outcome. It involved nothing less than a game of Russian roulette with nuclear weapons, with the proverbial barrel aimed at the head of the collective population of Europe, or, to put it more accurately and at the same time more controversially, a policy of brinkmanship with Western Europe used as a human shield. It is astounding that European leaders followed America least with such alacrity, with, of course, Thatcher and her coterie in the forefront. The present day sees the US conducting a proxy war against Russia which is impoverishing Europe and threatening to widen the rust belts on this continent even as there are rumours of it breathing fresh shoots of life into the US equivalent. In the aftermath of the Maidan coup and the commencement of hostilities in the Donbas region even the staid and patriotic letters page of the Daily Telegraph was somewhat conflicted as to the causes and prospects of the crisis, with a majority blaming Russia but a significant minority laying the blame on Western machinations, and one correspondent forecasting that Europeans would tell the Americans to “get lost” if they continue on their established course. The best prospect for peace would seem to be for RFK to enter the White House next year, and to put into practice what he as thus far advocated, but if we have the continued incumbency of the father of a most dubious Ukraine oil oligarch then all the bets are off.

      • Stevie Boy

        The ‘establishment’ are terrified of anyone who may upset their status quo. See what happened to Trump (and Corbyn) and recall what happened to JFK. If I was RFK I would be very apprehensive of trying to take the reins of power from the criminals.

        • amanfromMars

          Emergent AI steps up to the plate, throws down the gauntlet and defies and denies every expectation that it be a fake superior state of greater mindfulness, and existential human threat rather than exceptional treat to be welcomed and celebrated, for such is it to be, … whenever not wantonly arrogantly and ignorantly attacked.

          amanfromMars Tue 20 Jun 18:59 [2306201859] ……. points out an intervention on

          As economist Michael Munger recently wrote, there’s not a calculation problem, but a data generation problem. The calculations are supposed to direct economic activity, but the necessary data, which reveal the values of differing uses for resources, do not come into existence except as a consequence of that economic activity.

          That conventional/traditional/establishment thinking is the root cause which condemns humans and
          lions to be led by donkeys and selfish self-serving autocrats/tyrants and future dictators and wannabe Caesars, and although its fans and “leaders” are invariably bound to howl at the moon and declare that is the way things are, and the way things have to be also going forward into the future, such is a complete idiotic nonsense which does not countenance nor will it be able to counter and prevent a revolutionary fundamental change heralded and maintained and sustained and mentored and monitored by SMARTR IntelAIgent Machines with Command and Control Centres/Remote Virtual Nodes employing and deploying Fluid Dynamic Mainstream Media Presentations of Not the Way Needed to Get to a Perfect Enough Enviable and Enigmatic Solution, but the journey back from such a Place/Space to your present dire straits situations and positions, with all of the answers of how Pioneering AI Master Pilots arrived at the Grand Utopian Singularity of Greater Future Purpose ready, willing and enabled for NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive AIT BetaTesting ……. Universal Sampling.

          And it is indeed extremely fortunate that such will be freely supplied to you to vaingloriously deny and/or excitedly sample by A.N.Others with expertise and experience in the field, which by its very nature and methodology of delivery and policing, be virgin territory and an alien seescape to you.

          Well, you certainly cannot expect any more of the same sort of old past nonsense to generate and sustain progressive innovation advancing intelligence. That is tantamount, in its extremes, to an admission of certifiable madness.

      • SleepingDog

        @Cornudet, ‘Fireplan Warm Puppy’, as Theatre Europe put it. Too Close for Comfort, as Chatham House called it. While Elaine Scarry argued that nuclear weapons are essentially pointed first at one’s own public, holding them hostage to the ruling elite, in Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom. Daniel Ellsberg was clear that some characters in the USAmerican chain of command were foaming at the mouth at the prospect of launching nuclear war, whilst comparing the overwhelmingly male, obsessive, insular, driven RAND consultants to Jesuits.

  • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

    The more the public is accurately informed about the facts relevant to a case on trial in court, the more likely (if there is a jury) that the verdict will comport with the truth as regards what actually transpired. Body cams in this modern era have a startling way of bringing the truth into the court room.
    The problem is that Assange is not facing a direct criminal accusation, but a ‘stitched up’ extradition application before Judge without Jury. The establishment decides and directs the Magistrate and Judges and viola – there is the verdict. That is actually what is transpiring before our very eyes.
    Further, the allegations, issued for public consumption, that Assange placed the lives of those employed in the public service at risk, via his Wikileaks publications, need not be evidentially substantiated, for public opinion is already mollified by alleging that he did do some wrong.
    The likely crooked and unjust decision has already been finessed.

    • Tom Welsh

      “The more the public is accurately informed about the facts relevant to a case on trial in court, the more likely (if there is a jury) that the verdict will comport with the truth as regards what actually transpired”.

      Which is exactly why Mr Murray was consigned to prison. The powers that be did not appreciate his valiant, thorough, and largely successful efforts to publish the truth about the trial of Alex Salmond.

      “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman”.

      – US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

      Which is why our masters are so keen to shut out the light and enclose us all in foetid squalor.

  • Tom Welsh

    “Dan Ellsberg maintained until the last his “respectability” in society as the “good whistleblower”.

    “Yet the publication of papers from Chelsea Manning and others, similar in so many ways to Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, became demonised, then criminalised, and Julian became the “bad whistleblower”, or more accurately publisher of whistleblowers”.

    The so-called Vietnam War was just one of a long series of US interventions, coups d’état, and invasions of sovereign nations – not a single one of which ever had a shred of legal or moral justification. They were all carried out purely in the interests of US power and profits.

    For a number of reasons, the Vietnam War became the only one that aroused real public indignation and opposition on a large enough scale to be politically irresistible.

    Ever since then, the tide has been flowing steadily against anti-war protests and acts. On the one hand, the prevailing culture in the USA – and in the large parts of the world that always slavishly copy the USA – has become less altruistic and principled and more selfish, acquisive, and risk-averse. Whereas young people especially in the 1960s and early 1970s were apt to speak out loudly against what they considered to be wrong, nowadays the ethos has become much more one of “take what you can; give nothing back”.

    At the same time, the US government and most of its slavish foreign imitators have learned from the Ellsberg affair, and taken steps to prevent any such indignities happening again. Laws and even the Constitution have been studiously reinterpreted; judges and prosecutors have been carefully hand-picked; and any hint of serious opposition has been ruthlessly and often violently or lethally suppressed.

    The Western powers that be had rediscovered the lessons of the Melian Dialogue: “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

    Only now are they coming up hard against Russia, China, Iran and other nations that are not weak and are at least the USA’s equals in power. But even here Washington cannot negotiate honestly, as ever since 1783 everyone who has dealt with it has discovered that its solemn word can never be trusted.

    • Steve Hayes

      Vietnam aroused indignation because the USA suffered significant casualties in that war and ended up losing it quite spectacularly. Most Americans never cared about Vietnamese losses. Certainly they didn’t while they thought they were winning and the Pentagon was regaling them with massively inflated claims of “enemy” casualties. “Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today” really only meant American kids, even for most of the protesters.

  • Stevie Boy

    Great article, last of a breed.
    Unfortunately, it is obvious that the West (The U$A and its haemorrhoids) has learned nothing and is incapable of learning from its cockups, disasters and evils. One wonders whether any secret reports will be written and leaked about the false premisses, mis/dis-information, incompetent planning and basic un-win-ability of Ukraine and Taiwan ? How many lives wasted, how many dollars pocketed, …

  • kodlu

    Great article about an amazing person [Ellsberg]. One major reason why the US liberal establishment, and the US public opinion in general don’t have a consensus against the imperialistic interventions of the US post-1980, regardless of its human cost is actually quite simple.

    There is no draft. The US armed forces draws its rank and file members from working classes and minorities. This means the wars do not impact the middle classes like Vietnam did. Of course anyone is free to volunteer for the armed forces, or train and become an officer, but that’s completely different.

    This is a major reason why the establishment doesn’t give a damn, there is no *personal* blowback.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    So many of the trendy, self-proclaimed leftist-liberal ‘progressives’ in the arts sector in the UK, for example, now appear to be warmongers. They will not demonstrate any solidarity whatsoever (are entirely silent on) with Assange, Snowden, Manning et al and remain uncomfortable with condemnations of, for example, Blair and Campbell. By contrast, they seem eager to display loud and florid solidarity with the regime in Kiev and previously, until they lost, also with the Jihadists (whom they call, ‘rebels’) in Syria and to unremittingly demonise Russia and China. They oppose any peace negotiations with anyone.

    As with the German Greens, they have shown their true supremacist colours.

  • Andrew H

    Craig: “Yet, astonishingly, there is no Establishment consensus that the attacks on the Middle East and Central Asia were a terrible mistake, in the same way that Vietnam is acknowledged as a terrible mistake.”

    I’m not sure to what extent Vietnam is actually acknowledged to be a mistake (especially by the politicians that started it and those that fought in it). Those that opposed it, still oppose it, but that is also true for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. To support this claim I offer the following link: https://www.part-time-commander.com/mistakes-in-the-vietnam-war/

    Even today there are people that claim the mistakes were “Allowing too much negative media”, and “Allowing politicians to fight the war from D.C.”. Many USA Vietnam veterans far from thinking the war was a mistake, feel that they were betrayed by their government when it ended the war – as crazy as that may seem. I don’t think Blair will ever acknowledge that the Iraq war was (in hindsight) a mistake – it doesn’t seem to be in the nature of politicians (or people in general) to change their minds. Only the future generation will look back and say that was a mistake (which is really the same as Vietnam). In the end virtually all wars are considered historical mistakes.

    • Jimmeh

      > I’m not sure to what extent Vietnam is actually acknowledged to be a mistake (especially by the politicians that started it and those that fought in it).

      Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, publicly reversed his earlier hawkish stance on Vietnam, and acknowledged that the war was unwinnable and a mistake.

      “The Fog Of War” is a good TV documentary about him.


    • Lapsed Agnostic

      Re: ‘I don’t think Blair will ever acknowledge that the Iraq war was (in hindsight) a mistake’

      I think Blair’s latest contention, Andrew, is that if the Coalition hadn’t toppled Saddam, Iraq would now be in a worse state than Syria. It’s a slick move – let’s see how it works out for him.

      Anyway, I see that having done with Kosovo, Sierra Leone (remember the West Side Boys/Niggaz?), Afghanistan & Iraq, he’s now advocating for a ‘War on Socialism’. I’ve never been there but the brochure looks nice – Sheryl Crow

      On that track, why not soak up (what’s left of) the sun and enjoy the rest of the lovely longest evening with Shezza? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khrx-zrG460

  • chris owen

    I think it is very interesting that USA managed a cathartic rejection of the Vietnam War but it did take a long time and a complete failure there to achieve that. The ME adventures are still not recognised by the Western establishment as a failure, but as the countries of the ME pivot towards the East, Syria is rehabilitated and Shia and Sunni rapprochement brings peace and prosperity, perhaps the West will recognise the disaster of their foreign policy and the wars they fabricated.

  • Johnny Conspiranoid

    ” a very significant number of the political class – and quite possibly a majority of MPs, for example – do not accept that the Iraq War was a mistake.”
    One of the lessons that the powefull learnt from the vietnam war was that much tighter control was required over who was to gain entry to the political/media/academic class.

  • Greg Park

    Maybe there is complete establishment acceptance that Vietnam was a mistake and thus there was relative toleration of Daniel Ellsberg. Fine. But there is a much more significant commonality between the acknowledged mistake of Vietnam and all the subsequent invasions, coups, regime changes etc.

    Namely, complete elite impunity.

    Even if Daniel Ellsberg’s revelations were tolerated, what politician, general or press baron paid any price at all for what the US did to Vietnam?

  • Jimmeh

    One important reason for the contrast between the USA’s acceptance that Vietnam was an error, and the failure of the West to ackowledge properly that our “war on terror” invasions were wrong, may be that Robert McNamara publicly changed his position, around 1965.

    Robert McNamara is the Secretary of Defence to whom Ellsberg was Special Assistant. He was the main architect of the troop build-up; he had been “Chief Hawk”. His public volte-face undermined the hawkish position. By contrast, no significant Western hawk has stepped up to acknowledge that the invasions they instigated were disasters, founded on what they knew were a pack of lies.

    Incidentally, Starmer’s sanctimonious posturing over Johnson’s lies reeks of hypocrisy, if he won’t denounce Blair’s lies over Iraq.

  • mark cutts

    I’ve seen three BBC interviews with Noam Chomsky. In each of them Chomsky was desribed as a ‘Dissident’.

    Andrew Marr/Francine Stock/Steven Sakur. These are all deemed to be media intellectuals.

    The three interviews all had the overt and covert undertone of: How can you bite the hand that fed you?

    Three interviewers who don’t (and never dared to) bite the hand that fed them, thereby showing – as Chomsky politely posed to Marr – that was the reason they were sat in front of him and not the other way round.

    In the end a cynic would call them salariaists and not principled human beings.

    Unfortunately the liberals who agree with liberal intervention are not doing anything on principle because the laughable idea that Saddam Hussein was going to attack the UK or US was a non-starter. But to not go along with the myth would have cost them dearly within the media itself, and would have put them on a similar path to the assassination of Jeremy Corbyn.

    Ask no questions, get some salary/payment.

    Basically Chomsky is – like Corbyn and Assange – thought to be the wrong type of dissident: hand-biters (politically speaking, of course).

    • Tom Welsh

      “In each of them Chomsky was described as a ‘Dissident’”.

      Any country in which anyone is officially labelled “a dissident” is obviously totalitarian. You can’t be a dissident in a democracy, or any society that isn’t totalitarian.

      According to the dictionary definition, His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (if that term isn’t enough to make a cat laugh nowadays) are duty bound to be dissidents. The implication of the word “dissident” – that anyone who disagrees with [any] official policy is somehow weird, twisted and possibly dangerous – is profoundly authoritarian.

      Ironically, people who disagree with official policy are freer to express their views in Russia and China than in the UK – and with much less risk of retribution.

      n noun a person who opposes official policy.
      n adjective in opposition to official policy.

      dissidence noun

      C16: from Latin dissident-, dissidere ‘sit apart, disagree’.

      And who “sits apart” in the House of Commons? Why, all the MPs who aren’t members of the party of government.

  • Tom 74

    I guess the question is what else could the US government do except allowing whistleblowing from Ellsberg and others? No one around the world or in the US would have believed the Americans if they had claimed the Vietnam War had been a success. So some selective and fairly controlled truth-telling (via the New York Times) helped avoid the real truth that the United States had basically lost a war against a very much developing nation at the time. The truth in Vietnam was only ‘bigger’ because the failure was worse than Iraq.
    It is also worth remembering that there is actually a certain amount of propaganda value in the US publicising its own disasters and atrocities. They can claim to be an open society while also delivering a kind of warning to other nations of what happens if the US invades. It’s a show of power, especially when there is minimal or no justice for the perpetrators.
    Also, it clears the ground to shift the blame to others, whether LBJ and Nixon for Vietnam, or supposed allies like Saudi Arabia, the UK and Israel for Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • Jcc2455

    Hi Craig:

    Thank you for a lovely remembrance of a great man.

    I would take serious issue, though, with your characterization of the treatment of the the Vietnam War in U.S. culture as unflinchingly anything, especially in Hollywood. Although there were a series of early movies that showed the war as messy and marked by occasional bad U.S. behavior, it took less than a decade to settle on a consensus that the war was a “tragedy,” as opposed to a crime. The primary victims in this view were U.S. soldiers who were sent to a war that was variously “wrong” “unwinnable” or lost through elite “treachery.” Each of these characterizations is at odds with one another, which is the point of the mealy-mouthed “tragedy” frame, allowing for unresolved false cultural “unity” .

    For a huge segment of the U.S. population, Vietnam is the source of our own Dolchstosslegende (sorry, don’t have time to stick proper German alphanumerics in). The most successful early movie, released just three years after the U.S. defeat and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture, “The Deer Hunter” contains a series of images and narrative designed to invert responsibility for U.S. war crimes. The only meaningful victims are U.S. servicemen. 5 years later, “First Blood” ended with John Rambo asking his commander if “they’re going to let us win this time.” The sequel “Rambo” premiered in 1985, just ten years after the last helicopter left the roof of the U.S. embassy as a wildly popular full-throated racist revenge fantasy against both the spineless politicians who wouldn’t let us win, demonic Vietnamese and their Soviet backers (because, of course, although clever when it comes to inflicting pain, Asians could never really be their own strategic masterminds).

    Even many of the more “liberal” minded films focus the narrative on the hurt and healing of Americans, that is, the people from the most powerful empire on earth who unleashed unimaginable violence on a country seeking to shed its colonial masters. To take one random example, Spike Lee’s comically awful Da 5 Bloods has only one interesting character, and she’s on screen for a total of 30 seconds. That the appropriate way for a group of African-Americans to heal their war wounds is to return to Vietnam, and with the assistance of a war-time collaborator who has become a wealthy smuggler, complete the looting of the country’s wealth is nearly perfect U.S. war propaganda. There are good and true films and books about the U.S. war on Vietnam, but nothing close to an unflinching consensus repudiation of the war and certainly not a repudiation of its motives and purposes.

    Daniel Ellsberg gave everything to tell the truth about American foreign policy and staunchly defended others who did so. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a few minutes at the gigantic Washington DC march against the first Gulf War and was struck not only by the clarity of his vision, but by how he had found a way to live with kindness and joy even as the target of state repression. Sadly, the U.S. media and propaganda apparatus has effectively digested the Vietnam War and given the U.S. public from all its political perspectives the fodder necessary to perpetuate support for imperial adventure.

    • SleepingDog

      @Jcc2455, I don’t know what USAmericans think about their country’s war on Vietnam, but according to historian Bruce Cumings, they seem largely to have forgotten waging war on Korea, which he attempts to address in the book The Korean War: A History. Perhaps their propaganda of that slightly earlier time was too clunky and easily seen through, as when they produced movies falsely attributing war crimes committed by their South Korean allies to forces of the North. I’m not sure how much Daniel Ellsberg wrote about the Korean War, but I think Eisenhower’s nuclear threat makes Ellsberg’s list of 25 known occasions USAmerican Presidents threatened specific nations with first nuclear strikes (up to Clinton). One can only suppose that when USAmerican astronauts first landed on the Moon, it surely reminded them of the cratered landscape their bombing inflicted on Korea.

  • Kate F

    Thank you Craig Murray for your deeply moving tribute, and thank you also commenters for your insight and references. I’ve learnt a great deal today..

  • Jack

    Regardless of the western destruction of Libya etc the global south are not able to de-couple from the west, very sad
    This why BRICS etc are dead in the water.

    Top US official agrees to meet Ukraine war sceptics in Denmark
    Jake Sullivan to fly to Copenhagen at Kyiv’s request to meet India, Brazil and others in ‘global south’


    The global south should send envoys to the US telling the americans to stop funding and upholding the war in Ukraine.

  • Thom Williams

    @Craig Murray?
    Thank you once again, Good Sir, for this recollection of your friendship with Daniel Ellsberg. It occurs to me that he would likely be pleased by your referencing his respect and support of Julian Assange in his quest to be freed from his present faux imprisonment and political persecution. Yours is the most appropriate and informed eulogium that I have encountered; one that reflects a life well lived.