Friday, January 05, 2007

Shredding History

In the moral universe of Steve Inskeep it's just a lark that one of the great 20th century American heroes of conscience shows up to challenge the current climate of lies and secrecy in our threatened democracy. "Whatever downsides there may be to living in the nation’s capital, there are moments when you think, ‘ONLY in Washington.’ One of those moments happened yesterday to NPR’s Ari Shapiro," Inskeep informs us.

Shapiro follows this send up by misinforming listeners about the famous Pentagon Papers, and the man who leaked them, Daniel Ellsberg. Shapiro states, "Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers 35 years ago, 7000 pages containing the military’s top secret account of the Vietnam War." Morally speaking, that tells us nothing - leaking top secret war documents could be good or bad. What made them "top secret" - and what made Ellsberg's action so honorable - was what they revealed about the US Government regarding the war. As the Wikipedia article on Daniel Ellsberg states, "They revealed the knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed a deep cynicism towards the public and a disregard for the loss of life and injury suffered by soldiers and civilians." (Sounds vaguely familiar doesn't it?) Shapiro also fails to mention that Ellsberg released the papers over a year after getting no congressional support for revealing them in the Senate, and with the full knowledge that he was ending his privileged career and could spend the rest of his life in prison for leaking them.

By ignoring the high moral ground (after all 58,000 Americans and over 2 million Vietnamese were slaughtered in the war) of Ellsberg's actions, Shapiro gives equal weight to the anti-democratic and servile position of Ken Wainstein that Ellsberg was in Washington to challenge . Shapiro says, "Wainstein said leaks can cripple the government’s ability to function successfully and they are never justified...."

I don't romanticize that NPR was ever any great bastion of excellent journalism in the past, but it is really sad to compare this morning's condescending tone toward Ellsberg, to this stirring commentary by Ellsberg aired just three years ago on Morning Edition.

1 comment:

bluetaco said...

Yes, I heard this too and I could only shake my head. I wonder if Inskeep has even read the Pentagon Papers. And what would Wainstein say about the Busk Administration leaks of classified information such as Valerie Plame's identity? Any condemnation there? (crickets)