By Adam Baker/News editor
Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, doesn’t really know what to call himself.When Ellsberg came to campus this past Thursday as part of the year-long Chautauqua Lecture Series, Bruce MacLaren, series director, suggested the title of “truth-teller.”
Ellsberg agreed it was better than the common name “whistle-blower,” but said “truth-teller” did not completely tell his story.
Then MacLaren said they came up with “unauthorized truth-teller.”
When Ellsberg, 72, took the stage Thursday night in the Student Services Building Auditorium, he told the crowd of more than 300 people his wife particularly disliked the term “leaker.”
“She says it makes me sound incontinent,” he said with a smile.
Ellsberg added while he was in Germany to accept an award he discovered the country had no term for whistle-blower.
When he asked for the closest equivalent, he got two words. One translated to traitor and another to tattletale, he said.
Thursday a member of the audience later stood up and told Ellsberg the title fitting him best was “patriot.”
During his lecture Thursday, Ellsberg drew many comparisons between the war in Vietnam, the time he released the Pentagon Papers, and the current war in Iraq.
“Vietnam would have been avoided if the truth had been told,” he said. “The biggest lie of this year is that the war against Iraq is connected to the war against terror.”
Ellsberg called the situation in Iraq a mistake and forecasted another four years of President George Bush would be “unusually awful.”
“We will not pacify Iraq,” he said. “I believe it is the intentions of this administration to keep control of (Iraq).”
MacLaren said Monday these comparisons were engaging.
“I was fascinated by the parallels between the end period of the Vietnam War and the activities (that) surround the second Iraq war,” MacLaren said. “His grasp, both of details 40 years ago and what is happening now, was also impressive.”
Ellsberg became known to most Americans in the late-1960s and early-1970s when he photocopied a 7,000-page study, known as the Pentagon Papers, and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The report, also sent to The New York Times and 18 other newspapers, outlined government secrets regarding U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Following the document’s release, Ellsberg faced 115 years behind bars. The charges, however, were dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him.
The documents led to the convictions of several White House aides and the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, according to Ellsberg’s Web site.
Dawn Smith, a freshman education major from Hamilton, Ohio, attended the lecture and called Ellsberg “one of the most influential men in history.”
“I think he really is a patriot, not a traitor as some would say,” she said. “He protected us as citizens.”
Chris Jacques, a junior history major from Sydney, Australia, had never heard of Ellsberg before.
“I just really enjoyed it – it was really informative coming from a perspective that I don’t know much about as most Americans,” he said.
Lt. Col. Brett Morris, chair of the department of military science and former Chautauqua lecturer, said he respects and appreciates Ellsberg and his actions, but said his talk was “a little partisan.”
“I think when we’re at war … I would hope that we would always believe that our elected leaders are at first trying to do the right things instead of at first accepting all the conspiracy theories and ideas,” he said. “He has his rights to his opinions as a lecturer, I just wish he had come and delivered the facts and talked about his experiences.”
Malcolm Pratt, chair of the department of earth sciences, said Ellsberg was careful in his criticism of the current administration.
“I think what gave his statements so much power is that he is a veteran of serving both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said. “His message is definitely anti-war, and yet he has been a Marine and been in combat. He was very careful to say he didn’t think that the folks in the administration right now are not patriotic, he just doesn’t think they’re making appropriate decisions.”
No matter how diverse the crowds’ opinions about Ellsberg may have been, his lecture concluded with a standing ovation from the audience.
“In over 50 lectures his was the only standing ovation,” MacLaren said. “I remain convinced the people love the truth, deserve the truth and ought to be given the truth.”
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