Hundreds filled Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on Friday for a presentation by the man partially responsible for the end of the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency.
Daniel Ellsberg gained national recognition in 1969 for leaking top-secret Vietnam documents, subsequently known as the “Pentagon Papers,” to the public. Ellsburg discussed his role in Vietnam and his opinion on a possible war with Iraq to a largely anti-war crowd, arguing this war would be unwarranted and strikingly similar to the Vietnam conflict over 30 years ago.
“Congress has approved all necessary action against, in this case, Iraq. It is essentially the same,” Ellsberg said, referring to the Tonkin Gulf resolution of 1964 that gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to escalate the war in Vietnam.
Not everyone in attendance agreed with Ellsberg’s perspective about a possible war with Iraq.
“In the long run, I believe a regime change with the help of American troops would be beneficial to the Iraqi people,” senior history major Kelly Miller said.
Ellsberg recently completed a book about the Pentagon Papers and his role in the Nixon impeachment.
“I want people to read this book, steal it if necessary,” Ellsberg said.
In October 1969, Ellsberg, then working at the Department of Defense, released a classified study of decision making in Vietnam to members of Congress, The Washington Post and The New York Times. The 7,000-page document described the conflict since the 1940s and disproved government officials’ rationale for continuing the war.
Ellsberg released the documents because he felt the war was unjustified and that the executive branch was lying to the American public and Congress.
“I was a consultant for the government,” Ellsberg said. “I knew the government lied all the time.”
After the classified account was released, the Nixon administration sought to restrict its publication by suing the newspapers involved, claiming the documents would damage national security. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the newspapers in 1971, when the government could not justify restraining the documents.
Nixon sought to discredit Ellsberg following the release of the Pentagon Papers, and parts of the impeachment charges against the former president were directly related to his actions toward Ellsberg.
“It contributed to the disillusionment of government officials by the public,” senior history major Chris Proft said.
Ellsberg left UCSB Saturday morning for an anti-war rally in San Francisco. Protests were also held in Santa Barbara, Washington, D.C. and several other major cities across the nation.