'Being called a traitor no small thing for a patriotic American' - Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg  (Reuters / Stephen Hird SH / ASA / DL)
A lot of people around the world have died because certain American politicians were unwilling to be called names such as weak or unpatriotic, Pentagon Papers whistleblower and US military veteran Daniel Ellsberg told RT’s Going Underground show.

Daniel Ellsberg was charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, just like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

RT:You’ve faced 115 years in jail. Just remind us of the details of those charges.

Daniel Ellsberg: I revealed about 7,000 pages of top secret documents on the history of US decision-making in Vietnam from 1945-1968. Actually, most of Americans didn’t know we were making decisions in Vietnam in 1945; they think of it as a French war. Actually, we were financing most of the French operations, 80 percent, in Vietnam until 1954. So it was a continuous US-French operation against Vietnam, which was against all American traditions here in principle for self-determination, for independence of nations, respecting national sovereignty, and so forth.

Edward Snowden (Reuters / Charles Platiau)

In fact, it was essentially an imperial operation against Vietnam all that time based on lies and deception of the American public as to what the prospects were and what we were doing. That is what was revealed in the Pentagon Papers - that people inside knew very well that they we getting into a very large war with very bad prospects, and was serving no national interests in the US, very like the Iraq operation, in which we were lied into… Unfortunately, no one in the case of Iraq served the role - let’s say of an Edward Snowden at high level - and revealed that we were being lied into war. Chelsea Manning of course revealed many aggressions, criminal acts, including torture and assassination in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan.

RT:You credit Chelsea Manning with the fact that without Manning there would be thousands of American soldiers dead today, and we should add that America and Britain are bombing Iraq today.

DE: The chain of causality there was a little indirect, but thanks to Wikileaks, Julian Assange through whom Manning revealed information about American atrocities in Iraq that Americans had lied about, refused to investigate or prosecute. When that was revealed, it was impossible for Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki to allow Americans to stay there with immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts. In effect, Obama unwillingly had to remove American troops from there.

Now of course there are those who say if we’d only left the troops there we’d be in better shape, ISIS would be weaker. The fact is that ISIS recruits basically on the existence of American occupation forces in the Middle East, and specifically on American atrocities. The more bombing we do, including civilian so-called collateral damage, altogether is an essential recruiting tool for ISIS; they rely on it. I think that is why we’ve seen televised beheadings. When Saudi Arabia beheads people, which they do at least as much as ISIS, they don’t do it on television, because there are not anxious to get bombed by the US...

RT:Do you recognize the character assassination of Manning, Assange and Snowden? You were called “the most dangerous man in America” by Henry Kissinger.

DE: In calling me “the most dangerous man” - he said that privately, it came out on tapes - to people who might be induced to take physical violence against me. The public thing is being called a traitor, which is no light thing for a patriotic American as I am, and as Chelsea is, and as Edward Snowden is. It’s a very painful word to be flung at you... Each of us was willing to tell the truth despite being called names. I certainly respect Manning and Snowden very much for that.

I think a lot of have died in the world because certain American politicians were unwilling to be called names, be called weak, unmanly, unpatriotic, soft on Communism in the old days, now soft on terrorism, and as result they go along with executive policy that leads to many, many deaths.

RT:Ahead of the Iraq war back in 2003, you said that America could create a “Gulf of Tonkin incident.” Just tell us what a “Gulf of Tonkin incident” is, and whether those days are over.

DE: It’s certainly not over. [George W.] Bush in fact had proposed to Prime Minister [Tony] Blair privately (this came out in Downing Street memos that were withheld for a long time but finally leaked) sending U2s over, spy planes, disguised as UN planes that would be shot at by the Iraqis and give us an excuse for bombing. Blair objected to that for whatever reason. They instead went in without actually [making] up any provocations. I have to say that I am surprised they didn’t fake the existence of WMDs [weapon of mass destruction] in Iraq – the little vials of anthrax that [Colin] Powell held up...

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A U.S. Army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division scans the neighbourhood during a patrol in Baiji December 27, 2007. (Reuters / Bob Strong)

In the case of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, that was an alleged attack on American destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf offshore North Vietnam, supposedly an unprovoked attack, which was not only provoked, there was provocation - we were conducting covert raids against North Vietnam with the exact intention of provoking attacks that would justify our starting bombing. But in this case there was no attack at all; they didn’t rise to the provocation. We merely claimed that it had happened. Are you saying that to such covert actions, are they in our future as well as in our past? Yes, in a word, to the extent that is necessary to convince Americans or others that we have to take care of this bombing. They were certainly prepared to do such actions in the past, as it happened before.

RT:In the past few days, The Wall Street Journal has talked about Edward Snowden, who you support, as a “Putin stooge” doing the dirty work of the Russian president. Do you recognize that as character assassination?

DE: I recognize that as the Wall Street Journal’s ordinary yellow journalism... say anything, smear anything, smear anyone by using any charges, whatever. That’s a ridiculous charge that Edward Snowden is working for any foreign leader, and for that matter he’s acting as a truth teller consistently. I think he’s done nothing but the most conscientious revelations from the moment we became aware of him.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.