In Remembrance: Daniel Ellsberg, the Whistleblower Who Brought an End to the Vietnam Era

by | Jun 17, 2023 | Fact Heroes

Daniel Ellsberg in 2002. Image by Christopher Michel, Wiki Commons

In Remembrance: Daniel Ellsberg, the Whistleblower Who Brought an End to the Vietnam Era

by | Jun 17, 2023 | Fact Heroes

Daniel Ellsberg in 2002. Image by Christopher Michel, Wiki Commons

After leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg expected to spend the rest of his life in prison, a fate he avoided because of the incompetence and abuse of power by Nixon staffers.

Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst-turned-peace activist who revealed that the U.S. government had been lying about its devastating war on Vietnam, died Friday, four months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 92.

Ellsberg (1931-2023) was best known as the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to news outlets in 1971, exposing damning information about the Vietnam War that Washington had concealed from the American people and the world.

Ellsberg became an outspoken anti-war campaigner who issued stark warnings about nuclear weapons and the detrimental impacts of the military-industrial complex.

He died at his home in California surrounded by family members, according to a social media post by his son Robert.

Progressives mourned the passing of Ellsberg.

Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson called Ellsberg “a model of integrity and courage who exposed hideous crimes by the U.S. government in Vietnam and documented the insanity of U.S. nuclear war planning,” adding, “We should all follow his example and heed his warnings.”

“Huge loss for this country,” journalist Mehdi Hasan said. “An inspiring, brave, and patriotic American. Rest in power, Dan, rest in power.”

“RIP my friend,” said social justice activist and actor John Cusack.

“Today we lost a movement giant, a dear friend, and a hero,” said CodePink. “Daniel Ellsberg, who faced decades in prison for telling the American people the truth about the Vietnam War, passed away from cancer. He was a peace activist until the very end. We love you, Dan.”

In a 2019 interview, Ellsberg said, “My experience with the Pentagon Papers showed that an act of truth-telling, of exposing the realities about which the public had been misled, can indeed help end an unnecessary, deadly conflict.”

“This example is a lesson applicable to both the nuclear and climate crises we face,” he added. “When everything is at stake, it is worth risking one’s life or sacrificing one’s freedom in order to help bring about radical change.”

In a March essay he penned to announce his terminal cancer diagnosis, Ellsberg elaborated: “When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was). Yet in the end, that action—in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses—did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last 50 years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.”

“What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing, and joining with others in acts of protest and nonviolent resistance,” he continued. “It is long past time—but not too late!—for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders.”

Republished with permission from Common Dreams, by Common Dreams Staff

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