Vietnam War Figure Speaks About Possible War With Iraq

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Daniel Ellsberg, the famous Vietnam War "whistle-blower," spoke on campus Wednesday to compare the political atmospheres of the Vietnam War era and the present.

Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post in 1971, which revealed U.S. officials deceived the public about the extent of its military involvement in Vietnam.

"I was a relatively insignificant person, highly payed, with a good window on the inside," Ellsberg said. "Yet I knew critical things bordering on war and peace about which committee people were successfully lied to."

At the UC Berkeley event, Ellsberg drew a parallel between the events leading up to the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War with the political climate surrounding the possible war in Iraq.

During his speech, Ellsberg focused on the secrecy of government institutions during the Vietnam War and, Ellsberg alleged, presently.

"The secrecy system and lying allows (U.S. officials) to pursue crazy policy," Ellsberg said. "Truth-telling is always risky but can be worth it because it saves a lot of lives."

Ellsberg urged audience members to e-mail their representatives and tell them to come forward to the press if they are aware of any lies on the part of the Bush administration.

"The Pentagon and the CIA are filled this moment with people who know (the truth) as well as I did," he said.

Ellsberg also upbraided those senators and representatives who "wrongly" voted Oct. 10 supporting the use of military force to get Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions prohibiting Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction.

A panel of six academics also spoke about parallels between the Vietnam War era and the current national situation.

"You don't have to wage war because people are evil," said Edwin Firmage, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law. "My heavens, we could depopulate our entire government."

David Henderson, a professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, said most U.S. military actions in countries require later military interventions to fix past mistakes.

"Virtually every government intervention causes problems, which causes government intervention in the future," Henderson said.

Many audience members said they supported Ellsberg's views.

"I came because I'm studying the Cold War, and I believe that Daniel Ellsberg is one of the heroes of the Cold War era," said Lubna Qureshi, a second year UC Berkeley graduate student in history. "We should pay more attention to what he has to say because I believe that the potential war with Iraq would be as imperialistic as (was) our war in Vietnam."

Other students said they doubted their own knowledge of the issues and the integrity of news sources.

"What he said from his experience gives him legitimacy, so I believe him in that respect," said UC Berkeley senior Lilit Grigoryan. "I don't know who you are supposed to trust as far the news goes and the people on campus."

The program was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy, the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Independent Institute.


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