old voices, concerns
getting a grip on today
what will history say
I saw today that Helen Viola Jackson has died.
She was thought to be the last living widow of a Civil War verteran.
The reports state she married her much-older neighbor, 93-year-old James Bolin, in September 1936 during the depression with the idea she might inherit his pension.
My Great Great Grand Father was a Civil War veteran.
Wound in action and married after he returned home, I like to tell folks I came THIS close to not being here.
Grandpa also got a pension of 8 dollars a month after surviving being shot through the lungs in 1862.
I was going to cite to Helen Viola Jackson as an example of living history but since she just died, well, you know what I mean.
A voice from the past.
There was another voice from the past this week and like many surprise voices from the past, some surprise was connected to the fact that the person in question was still alive.
Browsing through the World Wide Web this past week I can across an opinon piece by none other than Danial Ellsberg.
If there is a name that evokes more memories and little understanding of the Vietnam War era, I do not know whose name it would be.
Ellsberg has a big role in the anti Vietnam War effort during the Johnson era and while what he did had nothing to do with Watergate and the Nixon era, it had everything to do with Watergate and the Nixon era.
Ellsberg was a Pentagon staffer who had growing misgivings about US involvement in Vietnam,
The Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara (one time President of Ford Motor Company – another story for another time) asked that a report be compiled.
The report was to be titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.”
Daniel Ellsberg got the assignement and produced an 11 volume report.
Mr. Ellsberg’s report came down heavily on the side that said Vietnam was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong enemy.
Okay so Chief of Staff General Omar Bradley said that about Korea, but it fits here for this narrative.
Mr. Ellsberg was dismayed at the lack of attention his report received.
Mr. Ellsberg famously related that the only way you could really get something across to Secretary McNamara was to find out when he was flying to Vietnam and then somehow get yourself on the plane and you had 18 hours to talk to the Secretary and he couldn’t get away.
The report was kept under wraps during the Johnson years.
But the Vietnam War stayed on the front pages.
The Nixon Era began and the Vietnam War stayed on the front pages with every indication that the war would get bigger.
Mr. Ellsberg felt he had to act.
Mr. Ellsberg gave the report to the New York Times.
The New York Times published part of the report with the promise that the entire report was coming.
Even though the report was an indictment of the Johnson Administration, the Nixon Government took steps in court to stop publication.
The Nixonians cited National Security.
The Nixon reasoning was that the report said the war was both stupid and wrong and since they had the report when they took over, the were even more stupid and more wrong than Johnson to continue the war.
A Court set a restraining order in place and told the New York Times to stop printing the report.
The Washington Post got a copy of the report (strange how this things get around even then) and started printing.
The case quickly and I mean quickly got to the Supreme Court and the Supremes decided 6-3 in favor of the New York Times and the long and inglorious history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 was out there for all to read.
So what could the Nixonians do?
The could discredit Mr. Ellsberg.
The Nixonans knew that Mr. Ellsberg had been driven to seek psychiatric help.
The Nixonians broke into the office of Mr. Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist to get their hands on his case notes to prove that Mr. Ellsberg was crazy.
This did not work out too well for the Nixonians.
Not that they learned any lessons from this.
The Nixonians, if nothing else, felt they now knew what to do if they needed information.
When the Nixonians decided they wanted to know what the Democratic National Committee was doing they resurected the Ellsberg plan and broke in to the DNC Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC.
This also did not work out to well for the Nixonians.
That is how a very minor, low level Pentagon staffer entered the history books.
For a couple of years there its seems to me that you could not watch or listen to the news without hearing the words Ellsberg, Ellsberg Breakin or Pentagon Papers.
I haven’t heard the name in years however.
And here he was writing about his concerns about possible war plans for an attack on the middle east.
To be sure, he said, such PLANS are being considered.
Mr. Ellsberg even wondered out loud if the people working on these plans might be using his old desk.
Mr. Ellsberg wrote that he hoped if this was happening that who ever was working at his old desk would have his old feelings but have more courage and be a whistle blower for peace and release this information so these plans could be stopped.
Mr. Ellsberg said he was a whistle blower.
But that he waited too long.
Mr. Ellsberg wrote “I will always regret that I did not copy and convey those memos – along with many other files in the top-secret safe in my office at that time, all giving the lie to the president’s false campaign promises that same fall that “we seek no wider war” – to Senator Fulbright’s foreign relations committee in September 1964 rather than five years later in 1969, or to the press in 1971. A war’s worth of lives might have been saved.“
A war’s worth of lives might have been saved.
Old voices voicing old concerns.
History has been kind to Mr. Ellsberg.
Kind of an anti-hero hero.
I am often asked my opinion on how history might treat our current man in the oval office.
And I consider Mr. Ellsberg.
Mr. Ellsberg wishes he could have done more to prevent the Vietnam War.
A war that lasted 20 years and in the end resulted in American casualties of 58,318 dead (47,434 from combat) and 303,644 wounded.
In his words, Mr. Ellsberg thinks that had he acted sooner, a war’s worth of lives might have been saved.
Right now in a pandemic lasting less than a year over 350,000 Americans have died.
I don’t have to ponder much as to how history will judge this feller currently in office.