The Passing of Daniel Ellsberg — The Man Who Exposed the Lies About the Vietnam War

by on June 19, 2023 · 25 comments

in Civil Disobedience, History, War and Peace

Daniel Ellsberg at the mic and Anthony Russo, who assisted him, behind him.

Disillusioned by the Vietnam War, he leaked a top-secret history of the conflict, leading to a landmark Supreme Court case

By Harrison Smith and Patricia Sullivan / Washington Post – Reader Supported News / June 19, 2023

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the voluminous, top-secret history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers, a disclosure that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling on press freedoms and enraged the Nixon administration, serving as the catalyst for a series of White House-directed burglaries and “dirty tricks” that snowballed into the Watergate scandal, died June 16 at his home in Kensington, Calif. He was 92.

The family confirmed his death in a statement. Mr. Ellsberg announced in an email to friends and supporters on March 1 that he had pancreatic cancer and had declined chemotherapy. Whatever time he had left, he said, would be spent giving talks and interviews about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the perils of nuclear war and the importance of First Amendment protections.

Mr. Ellsberg, a Harvard-educated Midwesterner with a PhD in economics, was in some respects an unlikely peace activist. He had served in the Marine Corps after college, wanting to prove his mettle, and emerged as a fervent cold warrior while working as an official at the Defense Department, a military analyst at the Rand Corp. and a consultant for the State Department, which dispatched him to Saigon in 1965 to assess counterinsurgency efforts.

Crisscrossing the Vietnamese countryside, where he joined American and South Vietnamese troops on patrol, he became increasingly disillusioned by the war effort, concluding that there was no chance of success.

He went on to embrace a life of advocacy, which extended from his 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers — a disclosure that led Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, to privately brand him “the most dangerous man in America” — to decades of work advocating for press freedoms and the anti-nuclear movement.

Mr. Ellsberg co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a Brooklyn nonprofit, and championed the work of a new generation of digital leakers and whistleblowers, including Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

He also continued to release secret government documents, including files about nuclear war that he had copied while working on the military’s “mutually assured destruction” strategy during the Cold War, around the same time he leaked the study that made him perhaps the most famous whistleblower in American history.

“When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969,” he wrote in the email announcing his cancer diagnosis, “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.”

Commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in June 1967, the Pentagon Papers comprised 7,000 pages of historical analysis and supporting documents, revealing how the U.S. government had secretly expanded its role in Vietnam across four presidential administrations.

The papers showed that government leaders had concealed doubts about the war’s progress and had misled the public about a troop buildup that eventually took half a million Americans to Vietnam, as part of a war that cost the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. service members and millions of Vietnamese.

The study was given a bland official title, “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” and a classification of “Top Secret — Sensitive,” an informal designation that suggested the contents could cause embarrassment.

Mr. Ellsberg, one of three-dozen analysts who helped prepare the report, had access to a copy at the Rand Corp., an Air Force-affiliated research organization in Santa Monica, Calif. As his opposition to the Vietnam War hardened, he began smuggling the papers out of his office, a full briefcase at a time, and photocopied them with help from a colleague, Anthony J. Russo, whose girlfriend owned a nearby advertising agency with a Xerox machine.

Their efforts got off to a rocky start: On their first night copying papers, they accidentally tripped a burglar alarm in the office, drawing the attention of police who stopped by but saw no sign of trouble.

Hoping to hasten the end of the war, Mr. Ellsberg contacted several U.S. senators and tried to share the documents through official channels. When he found no takers, he contacted New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, leading to the publication of the first story about the history on June 13, 1971, running above the fold on the front page of the Times.

The disclosures bolstered criticism of the war, horrified Mr. Ellsberg’s former colleagues in the defense establishment and blindsided the White House. After the third day of stories, the Nixon administration won a temporary injunction that muzzled the Times, blocking further publication.

The ruling set up a legal and journalistic showdown, later dramatized in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film “The Post” (2017). Mr. Ellsberg, who was played on-screen by Matthew Rhys, had by then started sharing material from the study with almost 20 other media organizations, including The Washington Post, which began printing stories of its own. When The Post, too, was ordered to stop publishing, it partnered with the Times in court, and the newspapers won a landmark decision June 30, with the Supreme Court ruling 6 to 3 in favor of allowing publication to continue.

The ruling was hailed as a victory for the First Amendment and an independent press, and seemed to blunt the government’s use of prior restraint as a tool to block the publication of stories it did not want the public to read. The decision meant the Pentagon Papers would continue to find an audience even if Mr. Ellsberg, who turned himself in to the authorities, faced a potential 115-year sentence.

He and Russo were charged with theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law used to prosecute spies and leakers. But a jury never reached a verdict on those charges. U.S. District Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr. declared a mistrial in 1973, citing governmental misconduct so severe as to “offend the sense of justice.”

Among other revelations, the judge had learned of a White House-directed burglary of Mr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and had seen evidence of illegal wiretapping against Mr. Ellsberg. He also reported that in the midst of the trial, he had been offered a job as FBI director by one of President Richard M. Nixon’s top lieutenants, John D. Ehrlichman.

Oval Office tapes later revealed that Nixon and his top aides had coordinated to discredit Mr. Ellsberg and destroy his reputation. “He must be stopped at all costs. We’ve got to get him,” Kissinger said during a meeting with the president, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on the Pentagon Papers. Nixon agreed. “These fellows have all put themselves above the law,” he said, “and, by God, we’re going to go after them.”

To that end, the president ordered the creation of a special unit, jokingly nicknamed the Plumbers because of its clandestine efforts to find and fix leaks of classified information. The group broke into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington, touching off a scandal that culminated with Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

“Nixon’s doom was triggered by Daniel Ellsberg’s massive release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post,” Leonard Garment, a Washington lawyer who served as Nixon’s counsel during the scandal, wrote in a 1997 Los Angeles Times essay.

“Nixon and Kissinger,” he added, “let anger overwhelm political judgment.”

Mr. Ellsberg later marveled at what he considered the unintended consequences of the Pentagon Papers. The documents themselves “didn’t shorten the war by a day,” he said, with U.S. bombing in Southeast Asia escalating in the year after their release and American combat troops remaining in Vietnam until 1973.

And yet, he told the New Yorker in 2021, “the criminal actions that the White House took against me … led to this absolutely unforeseeable downfall of a President, which made the war endable.”

“In the end,” he added, “things couldn’t have worked out better.”

A once-promising pianist

Daniel Ellsberg was born in Chicago on April 7, 1931, and grew up in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park, Mich.

His parents, the children of Jewish immigrants from Russia, converted to Christian Science and raised their children in the faith. His father was a structural engineer, and his mother was a homemaker who, beginning when Mr. Ellsberg was 5, pushed him to become a concert pianist. By his account, he practiced six hours a day on weekdays, twice as long on Saturday, and was forbidden to play sports.

When Mr. Ellsberg was 15, his family was in a car crash while driving to visit relatives. His father “apparently fell asleep at the wheel,” according to “Wild Man,” Tom Wells’s 2001 biography of Mr. Ellsberg, and drove into a bridge abutment.

Mr. Ellsberg’s mother and younger sister were killed. His father suffered relatively minor injuries, and Mr. Ellsberg broke his leg, gashed his head and went into a coma. With his mother’s death, he decided not to continue piano lessons.

Mr. Ellsberg enrolled at Harvard on a scholarship and studied economics, graduating in 1952. He spent a year at the University of Cambridge in England, studying on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and enlisted in the Marine Corps upon his return. He rose to become a rifle company commander and, after being discharged in 1957 as a first lieutenant, returned to Harvard, receiving a PhD in economics in 1962.

By then he had joined Rand, linking up with like-minded economists who were trying to apply their game-theory research to the Cold War. Mr. Ellsberg was known as a brilliant theorist, with a paradox in decision theory named for him, but his estranged colleagues later told Wells that he seemed unable to complete his assignments.

In 1964, he was hired as a top aide to an assistant secretary of defense, John T. McNaughton. His first day on the job coincided with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, an apparent confrontation between U.S. destroyers and North Vietnamese patrol boats. Doubts later emerged about official reports, but the incident led Congress, within days, to pass a resolution giving President Lyndon B. Johnson broad and open-ended powers to wage war in Southeast Asia.

Growing doubts

Mr. Ellsberg’s interest in the war led him to volunteer for his State Department trip to Vietnam, where he served for two years on an interagency task force before resuming work at Rand. He was soon attending antiwar rallies and conferences, including a War Resisters League meeting where he met Randy Kehler, a Harvard student who was headed to jail for his failure to register for the draft.

The experience left Mr. Ellsberg shattered.

“A line kept repeating itself in my head: We are eating our young,” he recalled in “Secrets,” a 2003 memoir. For more than an hour, he sat on the floor of the men’s room, sobbing and thinking about Kehler’s antiwar activism and the sacrifices it entailed. “It was as though an ax had split my head, and my heart broke open. But what had really happened was that my life had split in two.”

Around that same time, Mr. Ellsberg and Russo, one of his closest friends at Rand, began chatting about making the Pentagon Papers public.

As Russo told it, Mr. Ellsberg took some convincing and “rolled his eyes at the ceiling” when it was suggested that he leverage his more influential position to share the contents with the public. He eventually came around to the idea while withholding some of the study’s pages because he feared the Nixon administration might use some of that information to sabotage peace talks.

Mr. Ellsberg’s first marriage, to Carol Cummings, the daughter of a Marine general, had by then ended in divorce. They had two children, who played a small role in copying the papers: Robert, then 13, who tagged along twice and helped with the Xerox machine, and Mary, the younger of the two, to whom her father once handed a pair of scissors and showed her how to snip off the words “top secret.”

He married Patricia Marx in 1970. They had a son, Michael. In addition to his wife and three children, survivors include five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

Desperate to get the Pentagon Papers into public view, Mr. Ellsberg attempted to have the documents admitted as evidence in a Minnesota draft-board break-in trial. When that didn’t work, he gave them to senators including J. William Fulbright, the Arkansas Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who didn’t seem particularly interested.

Eventually he reached out to Sheehan, an acquaintance from Vietnam to whom he had leaked earlier documents about the war. Mr. Ellsberg gave the reporter a key to his apartment in Cambridge, Mass., where he stashed the files, and insisted that Sheehan could make notes but not photocopy the papers. First, he said, he wanted the Times to commit fully to publishing the materials.

As Sheehan told it, Mr. Ellsberg behaved recklessly during that period. He said Mr. Ellsberg offered to give him the papers but changed his mind, worrying about the risk of imprisonment and the loss of control that came with turning over the documents to a reporter.

“It was just luck that he didn’t get the whistle blown on the whole damn thing,” Sheehan told the Times in 2015, in an interview that wasn’t published until after his death six years later. (Mr. Ellsberg disagreed with that version of events, telling Britain’s Observer newspaper that he “was very anxious for the Times to print it” but was never out of control.)

Sheehan eventually took matters into his own hands. When Mr. Ellsberg was away, the journalist secretly photocopied the papers to obtain them for his editors. Then he prepared for publication while misleading his source, fearing that if Mr. Ellsberg knew what he was doing, he might unintentionally tip off the government.

A few weeks before publication, he again asked Mr. Ellsberg for a copy of the documents, seeking what he described as a kind of “tacit consent” that it was all right to publish. This time, Mr. Ellsberg consented to sharing the study, which soon began to appear in print.

A life of advocacy

Three months after the papers were leaked, members of the Plumbers group, led by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, broke into the Beverly Hills office of Mr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Lewis Fielding, using a crowbar to pry open a four-drawer file cabinet where they hoped to find information that could discredit Mr. Ellsberg.

That trip was unsuccessful, as was a May 1972 operation in which a group of Cuban exiles attempted to beat up Mr. Ellsberg while he was addressing an antiwar rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Barred from government work and unwelcome at Rand, Mr. Ellsberg continued to speak at protests and rallies for the rest of his life. By one count, he was arrested nearly 90 times for participating in protests or acts of civil disobedience.

Much of his activism centered on spotlighting the risks of nuclear war, the subject of his 2017 book “The Doomsday Machine.” Mr. Ellsberg recalled seeing top-secret documents in the 1960s that indicated roughly 600 million people would be killed in a first strike by the United States. The files included a classified 1966 study, which he quietly posted online, about the 1958 Taiwan Strait crisis, revealing that American military leaders had called for a first-use nuclear strike on China and drawn up plans for the attack.

Mr. Ellsberg, who first highlighted the study in 2021, at age 90, said he hoped to draw attention to the risk of nuclear war at a time of renewed tensions between the United States and China.

He wanted something else, too, telling the Times that he hoped to face federal prosecution so that he could argue against the Justice Department’s increasing use of the Espionage Act. The law had been used to target leakers such as Chelsea Manning, who shared troves of diplomatic cables and battlefield reports with WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, who revealed U.S. government surveillance programs.

Mr. Ellsberg said he felt a kinship with those 21st-century leakers, though their methods were vastly different. While Manning and Snowden used digital technology to download and share vast file sets in a matter of minutes, Mr. Ellsberg spent weeks copying the documents with a bulky Xerox machine — “the cutting-edge technology of my day,” as he put it in a 2017 address at Georgetown University.

“Manning and Snowden and I all thought the same words,” he added, “which I heard them say: ‘No one else was going to do it, someone had to do it — so I did it.’”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page June 19, 2023 at 2:45 pm

A real American hero.


Chris June 19, 2023 at 3:20 pm

Indeed. I think those who disagree are are well meaning but misguided by their tremendous amounts of hate and rage.


Chris June 19, 2023 at 3:26 pm

To clarify, I grew up around people who just couldn’t grasp the fact that our actions in Vietnam were unlawful and plain wrong. Many of these people (My family lived on Explorer in El Cajon at the time) had sons who were serving in Vietnam and had a tremendous amount of disdain for the anti war effort.


Frank Gormlie June 20, 2023 at 8:45 am

Chris, the sixties & seventies experienced a tremendous amount of changes among Americans. I grew up in a military family, my father was an army officer, my brother-in-law and his father both went to West Point (I went there too until I was kicked out), I had an uncle killed during WWII, and had a Marine Corps officer cousin during the Vietnam war. It wasn’t until I went to college at UCSD that I became educated about the true history of the Vietnam conflict and grew to understand how much our country had become a militarized modern day empire, and how that threatened any of our democratic traditions. So, people can change, but circumstances can push those changes.


Chris June 20, 2023 at 9:36 am

Indeed people can and do. For those who don’t it can be tricky in how to feel about them. My building manager (when I first moved off base around 1989) was a WW2 vet who thought the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be commemorated as a National holiday. In all other regards who was a kind and good person.


sealintheSelkirks June 20, 2023 at 5:29 pm

Absolutely, Geoff. And he’s been vilified for it ever since by both faces of the corporate party, D & R. That he wasn’t imprisoned was only a matter of luck due to Nixon getting caught before charges were filed.

Sen. Gravel should also be remembered since he read it into the Congressional Record. This country always seems to reward the wrong people
Unlike you, Chris, my childhood was directly the opposite experience with a 1960s Peace & Freedom Party anti-Vietnam war activist for a step-mom who spent part of her girlhood in a US concentration camp behind wire guarded by soldiers with guns pointed…and had her newest baby brother drafted and died there in the late 60s.

I learned early what the reality was…unlike those sons you mentioned who didn’t actually ‘serve’ as most were forced to by threat of State violence.

Excepting, of course, the ones who were so ignorant that they volunteered… Misguided is a very polite word to describe ‘tremendous amounts of hate and rage’ against a people that NEVER did anything against this country except ask for the US help to write a Constitution after they fought the Japanese Imperial Army on their own for years. Now we call those kind of people MAGATS who are trying to institute Fascism for real in this country.

Ellsberg was called by Henry Kissinger the ‘most dangerous man in the US’ for what he did. And unfortunately that rat bastard Henry is still alive. And I have the right to say that being a relative of the Kissinger clan as my father was adopted at birth by my Granny K, Anne Kissinger. I am terribly ashamed to even have that tenuous connection to this un-indicted murderous war criminal.

It would have been far more just for Ellsberg to outlive him so he could spit on his grave (though being the kind of man he was he probably wouldn’t do that). Maybe I’ll get the chance for him…

Big sigh. Enough rant, eh? Ellsberg was a hero but Kissinger’s death (may it come soon) will be far more ‘celebrated’ by the entrenched powerful in this country. Ethics demand a different outcome but…this country never has cared for admitting its awful mistakes.



Chris June 20, 2023 at 7:46 pm

Keep in mind Seal that MY parents were not pro Vietnam war. Quite the opposite, but we lived in a typical white (mostly) middle class neighborhood, which that part of El Cajon was at the time. We left for LA in the Summer of 68 right after I turned 7 so I don’t really know the details of these sons being drafted or not. I know one of them stayed in and made a full career out of it. Right or wrong I give some of these parents a pass as I think they were simply caught up in the times. And in fairness, the idea of your children being shipped off to war for no good reason is a hard pill to swallow.


sealintheSelkirks June 20, 2023 at 8:46 pm

Not meaning to point fingers at your family, Chris, I apologize if it sounded like that.

I did, however, definitely not grow up in El Cajon. MB/OB was a different world then, ya know? I did, however, date some of those inland cuties when they came to my beach! And chased out of the water some of those Inland boys who had no idea what a pecking order was…
I most definitely agree with the hard pill to swallow thought. I saw it first hand, and by 16 I was getting damned scared that I was about to become another piece of dead cannon fodder like my uncle Kenny.

The 60s Middle MB, between Santa Clara and Ventura, and the north end had far more different faces than South Mission. Which was like El Cajon by the way; wealthier white middle class with newer model cars, more expensive houses, boats on buoys in the bay.

Middle and the north end were a polyglot of people, especially during the winter with the influx of the college crowd renting apartments. Though probably the majority of residents, temp or permanent, were Caucasian of one shade or another.

Yes, I give many parents a pass like you said because society’s propaganda was especially effective in shaping minds to suit the owners’ needs.

Big sigh. Not much has changed in that respect other than it is far more insidious now.



Vern June 20, 2023 at 9:59 pm

“… Not much has changed in that respect other than it is far more insidious now…”

Vote 3rd party.


Frank Gormlie June 20, 2023 at 10:04 pm

Sure, help Trump.


Vern June 22, 2023 at 9:03 am

“… People typically vote for a third-party candidate because they are trying to send a message to the major parties. That protest vote is often heard. Both the Democrats and Republicans have accepted reforms and programs that originally seemed radical when presented by third parties. The eight-hour workday, women’s suffrage, and the railroad rate regulation are good examples…”


Frank Gormlie June 22, 2023 at 9:28 am

Yeah, but when one of the major parties has rejected the rule of law, the democratic process and is tilting toward being neo-fascist, that doesn’t leave much room for actual democracy.


Vern June 23, 2023 at 8:49 am

Still… nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Chris June 21, 2023 at 6:33 am

“Not meaning to point fingers at your family, Chris, I apologize if it sounded like that.”

No worries Seal. I didn’t take it that way. I just wanted to be clear about where my family stood. Also when I said I was surrounded by people who supported that war, there were others in my neighborhood who most definitely didn’t.


Geoff Page June 21, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Boy do I agree with you about that rat bastard Kissinger. I never liked the guy, he was a pompous ass who did not care about the lives of young American men.


Geoff Page June 21, 2023 at 12:01 pm

My dad was a career Navy officer, I did not grow up in a liberal household. I was told if I did not cut my hair before coming home for Christmas my freshman year in college that I should not come home. I refused and that was the beginning of my dad softening a bit. He began to pay attention more. Those of us who came of age during all of this witnessed a real schism in in society. Not unlike today, sadly.


Chris June 21, 2023 at 2:34 pm

Of course nowadays, it’s common for a military household to also be a liberal household.


retired botanist June 22, 2023 at 6:25 am

Me, too, Geoff. As we’ve noted before, I also grew up in a military family and my Dad was a flag officer in the Navy. Though NEVER spoken outside the home, he was against the Vietnam war. Sadly, the draft split our family apart in true Irish saga. One brother was a draft dodger and the other served as a medic in Vietnam and was in the siege of Khe Sanh. As the sibling of these two, I was heartbroken for both, but became very active in the anti-war movement. Both brothers went on to become wonderful men in their very separate ways, and our family “healed”, but with lasting psychological scars. I am still very bitter about a useless war that so damaged our generation…


Chris June 22, 2023 at 7:40 am

Do both brothers get along?


Chris June 22, 2023 at 1:20 pm

Meant to say do both brothers get along now?


Geoff Page June 22, 2023 at 12:11 pm

That is a shame. Luckily, I was the only one eligible for the draft, my next younger brother was five years younger than I. I got lucky in the second draft lottery but I did participate in the anti-war stuff. I think my dad had thoughts like yours as well. It didn’t tear our family up like what happened in yours. Your one brother went through hell having been at Khe Sanh. I hope he recovered eventually, but surely he will never be able to forget.

So, your dad made admiral! Mine left after making captain. We all wanted him to stay and make admiral but he, and more likely, my mom, did not want to stay in. After all those years, reaching admiral was the ultimate of respectability in the service. Captains were pretty well respected but not like the admirals.


sealintheSelkirks June 22, 2023 at 2:11 pm

The men in my family were all foot soldiers, ‘grunts’ in Nam parlance. Paternal Grandpa Merle was a Sgt. in France in 1916 fighting the Germans, then got sick the 1918 Pandemic and ended up as a hospital orderly for an extra year helping with all the sick soldiers still in hospitals overseas before coming home in 1919 and marrying my Granny K.

Step-grandpas Cole and Keller were WWII front-line island hoppers with the former an Army Sgt. and latter a SeaBee with a Bronze Star who stayed haunted the rest of his life. Talk about a 1,000 yard stare… Both essentially drank themselves to death. Combat Fatigue they called it for that war.

Grandpa Merle did, too, Shell Shock most definitely from the trenches of France and he suffered the rest of his life with what we now call Long Covid.

My maternal Grandpa Jimmy the Buddhist Priest also ended up a drinker but both him and Merle stopped somewhere in the later years of their lives because when I knew them as a little kid-teenager neither touched the stuff. Merle loved butterscotch lifesavers and gave me his harmonics he carried in France when I was eight. Wish I had hung onto them but I blew them out and tossed ’em.

My dad was Korea, a corporal, and luckily never went overseas for that ‘police action.’ My step-uncle Kenny wrote letters from Vietnam telling my stepmom to send me to Canada until he was blown to pieces by a mine under his 6×6 re-supplying some forward base… Unfortunately my stepmom had divorced my dad before I received my ‘report for physical’ in the mail…and by some happy chance I just happened to move to the Islands a week later after I returned it with ‘moved, no forwarding address.’

But I also was lucky, Geoff, because the draft ended the next year and it didn’t matter anymore.

Ending the draft killed the anti-war movement in this country.
A very smart move the MICC made so they could start…how many wars since then? How much in profits since for all those ‘campaign contributors?’

Thinking about what Ellsberg dedicated his life to after he outed the US Government… He did exactly what Edward Snowden did. But Snowden had to run because there wasn’t a Watergate moment to take the heat off of him. Snowden would have ended up in the US Gulag & Torture Center planted on the island of Cuba. Ellsberg was lucky, too, and he said so. I recommend everyone buy his last book ‘Doomsday Machine.’

Last night I watched two VHS movies in a row. ‘Dave’ with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, and ‘Bullworth’ with Warren Beatty and Halle Berry. Smoked a fat bowl while doing it drinking hot chocolate because it was 47’F in the house and I was under a blanket. But after watching them I though about just how f**ked up is this country or what? And they were just movies but…they made more sense than what I see now!!

Big sigh.



retired botanist June 22, 2023 at 5:31 pm

Chris and Geoff, perhaps its a poignant epilogue but, yes, the brothers loved each other in the following decades, but their experiences in life were so disparate it was hard to bridge. They couldn’t have been less alike in philosophy, temperament, and life’s subsequent journeys. But not that that was necessarily specifically b/c of Vietnam, altho it shaped so many things to follow; one became a successful, remarkable doctor of infectious disease with a lovely, large family; the other became a loner, master woodworker and boat builder, with the tortured, chaotic life that often accompanies artists. But for me, as the baby sister, it was always facilitating, mediating, reconciling, mending, and, ultimately, caregiving for a family blown asunder after that war. Still, while history shapes us, I wouldn’t trade any of my family, and I bore the yoke gladly! :-)


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman June 20, 2023 at 2:26 pm

An important moment in American life, an important figure in American life, a complicated story that defied full understanding until years later, up to now when we read Ellsberg’s obituaries. I remember every detail of the electrifying June 1971 moment when I learned the New York Times was publishing the Pentagon papers and when the Times and Washington Post later were vindicated and freedom of the press was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Could any of that happen now? I doubt it. The long view from 1971 to 2023
is less wonderful than Ellsberg’s glorious David-and-Goliath moment.

Whistleblower American Edward Snowden is living out his days in Russia rather than face certain prosecution and imprisonment at home for his Wikileaks revelations. American newspapers are fading pale shadows today, disappearing as people get their “information” from fractured sources — some biased and intentionally untruthful. The Supreme Court majority is in ultra-conservative hands.

Does the average voter understand that America today is domestically impoverished by its militarized empire? With thousands of soldiers stationed all over the world; with our unmatched status as pre-eminent global arms dealer; and that, even as we wage a remote proxy war against Russia in Ukraine costing billions and risking nuclear confrontation, fully half of our national budget is earmarked for “Defense” spending?

RIP Daniel Ellsberg.


Geoff Page June 21, 2023 at 12:02 pm

Well said, Frances.


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