notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Light / Heat
NickÕs an educated and gentle man so when he pushes a newspaper article through your letterbox on which he has written ÔJohn - if youÕd like your nose rubbing in the roots of evil...Õ, you take it as a sign of the serverity of these times. And buckle down to what will be hard but essential reading.
In our search for light over heat in the present debate Nick has chosen to share an article from Chalmers Johnson in the London Review of Books. ItÕs a review of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. He writes:
ÓThe subject of Daniel Ellsberg's memoir is the decadence of American democracy. The conditions he began fighting in 1969 are much worse today and far more dangerous to many more people. Yet central casting could not have produced a more perfect foil for the American imperial Presidency than Ellsberg. An infantry lieutenant in the Marine Corps with genuine battle experience in Vietnam, a PhD in economics from Harvard, and a defence intellectual employed by the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, with the highest security clearances, Ellsberg is as good as the American system can produce in the way of a male citizen working in the foreign policy apparatus. His odyssey from Pentagon staff officer to the man who spirited 47 volumes of top secret documents out of the Rand Corporation, copied them, and delivered them to the New York Times and a dozen other newspapers is breathtaking.
The article details at length all of the latter features of American government; it does indeed make sobering reading. It puts more flesh on the arguments and concerns of Tom and Christine Sine regarding the deliberate policy of empire in the US administartion; but it delves deeper into the psyche of the leaders who, in EllsbergÕs very considered view, become Ôhabitual liarsÕ, misleading their people and the world community not because of ÔpersonalityÕ traits but through 'an apparatus of secrecy, built on effective procedures, practices and career incentives, that permitted the President to arrive at and execute a secret foreign policy, to a degree that went far beyond what even relatively informed outsiders, including journalists and members of Congress, could imagine'.
Ellsberg helped end the Vietnam War, but publication of this memoir now is not just a happy coincidence. The features of American government he documents - the cult of Presidential infallibility, the march of militarism, the executive's routine lying to the other two branches and to the people, and the cancerous growth of official secrecy - are just as relevant today as they were thirty years ago. The United States, even the world, desperately needs more Ellsbergs.Ó
Searching for light is a noble pursuit, but in this climate, nigh-impossible to achieve to any satisfaction. Save us, though, from dismissive cynicism. Repeat: Õthe world desperately needs more Ellsbergs'.