A few days ago I took my youngest daughter, now a grown woman, to see the documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America.”
A few days ago I took my youngest daughter, now a grown woman, to see the documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” It was the story about Daniel Ellsberg and his gradual transformation from a hawk to his fateful decision, while working with classified documents, to make public what was really going on in the Vietnam War.
Basically, he came to the conclusion that U.S. involvement in that terribly costly war was not about bringing democracy to a benighted country as much as it was to defend military policy at home.
No U.S. president was willing to face the politically difficult fact that the war was unwinnable. Therefore, top political leaders, from the President on down, continued to lie to the American people about what was actually happening on the ground in Vietnam.
This led Ellsberg to release to the New York Times and other media, what came to be called “The Pentagon Papers.”
While Ellsberg was vilified for violating his oaths of secrecy, the debate that it helped generate was instrumental in ending the frightfully destructive war in Vietnam.
All comparisons have limits and comparing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam immediately raises vitriolic responses. Nevertheless, in viewing this documentary my mind couldn’t resist asking, “Where is today’s Daniel Ellsberg when we need him?”
There definitely are parallels between then and now. As in Vietnam, the reasons given to the American people for making war on Iraq and Afghanistan were patently false. U.S. political and military leaders, as they did about Vietnam, willfully lied to us.
Presidential candidate Obama held this view until he became President Obama. Again, any U.S. president, regardless of political persuasion, is reluctant to accept defeat on the battle field.
It is impossible to isolate military actions abroad from political issues at home. Ignoring the incalculable value of lost human lives, we’ve spent more than $268 billion on making war in Afghanistan. This amount could be multiplied by four or more if one includes the subsequent cost of interest on debt, veterans care, energy prices, etc.
Congressmen Jim McGovern (Democrat) and Walter Jones (Republican), Sen. Russ Feingold (Democrat) have sponsored Senate and House bills S. 3197 and HR 5015 requiring President Obama to provide a plan and timetable for withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military contractors from Afghanistan.
Last year a similar bill garnered more than 100 cosponsors and received 138 votes.
McGovern points out that he isn’t advocating that the U.S. abandon Afghanistan, “nor should anybody,” but he points out that some of the most successful developments in Afghanistan have occurred without a significant military footprint.
Maybe if enough of us encourage our representative in Congress to support these two bills it won’t be necessary for another Daniel Ellsberg.