Monday, October 17, 2011

Secrets – A memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

After you read "Secrets" by Daniel Ellsberg, try "Mein Kampf - An Analysis of Book One" by Richard E. Noble. It is also a book that tackles the question ... "Why War?"

Daniel Ellsberg

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

“But, it is just history,” Daniel Ellsberg was told. Over and over Senators and Congressmen told him, “It is just history.” Four thousand one hundred pages of history. Who’s got time for it? Who would ever read it, never mind publish it in a newspaper?

Daniel Ellsberg was/is clearly an intellectual, or he never would have even considered the notion that anyone would be concerned about “history.” He was and still is concerned with all those foolish things that most of us do not have the time for. Things like principle, right and wrong, injustice, the difference between killing and murder, is napalm a weapon or a terrorist act?

It is difficult to believe but there was a time when the “world” was actually debating the morality of dropping a hand grenade from a biplane. What if the random grenade hit a civilian, was the concern.

Today even the good guys are launching “unmanned” rockets all over the world just like the Nazis did in World War II to the horror of the British and everyone else … for a moment or two. These days when they blow up some unintended people the launchers apologize. The innocent dead are referred to as collateral damage. Oops … Sorry.

Wash your salmonella drenched chicken before you eat it. Why can’t I eat rat poison if I want to? Isn’t this a free country? If she and her children choose to sleep in a sewer, that’s their business. So what if automobiles are responsible for the deaths of more Americans than all of our wars combined. I like my car. Pollution … smulution, who cares?

Daniel was wondering about a soldier’s responsibility to follow orders. If a soldier is ordered to shoot his mother, must he comply? Is there a personal responsibility in agreeing to pick up a weapon? Is shooting into a bush or a hut in an enemy village … reconnaissance? Or is it killing … murder maybe?
Is slitting a non-combatant’s throat because he has seen you in an area that you shouldn’t be in, an acceptable act of war?

Intellectual gibberish?

And Secrets is a history of our time … my time. And I wonder how many of my contemporaries have read it? I wonder how many younger people have read it – this is going to be their world shortly, you know.

This book was printed in 2002 – after 9/11 and before Iraq and Afghanistan. Again Daniel was asking us to read more history. Once again he thought that he could stop a war. Once again it didn’t happen. Some guys never learn. I think Daniel needs to read some more history.

He called the book Secrets. I think there is a reason he called his book Secrets and not The Pentagon Papers Revisited or Vietnam II and III. He did it because there is still the misconception that in this day of 24 hour 7 days a week news coverage “Secrets” can’t be kept from American citizens. This book stands as a testament to the notion that “they” can always fool the people and it can be done ALL of the time.

I read your history book, Daniel, and I got your message. I got it last time back in the 60’s also … even though I didn’t read the Pentagon Papers. It “trickled” down. I got the non-intellectual version – the street version. “This is all a bunch of crap,” is what I heard. “They’re all a bunch of liars and crooks,” is what I heard. “Hell no; I won’t go,” is what I heard.

But aside from learning anything “behavior changing” this rendering is a trip through a human conscience. It is a blow by blow description of how a very intelligent soldier and confirmed cold warrior is transformed into a war resister and a “peacenik.”

It is quite a story. It could be a movie … and it was. The Pentagon Papers is what it was called. I watched the movie too.

I’m reading a lot of history of my own times these days. This is a good one. Sure it is only history … but what else are you doing?

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