In Memoriam: Daniel Ellsberg

June 17th, 2023 - by Progressive Democrats of America & Norman Solomon /

In Memoriam: Daniel Ellsberg
With Heavy Hearts We Mourn The Passing
Of Our Friend And A True American Hero
Mike Hersh for the Progressive Democrats of America National Team

(June 16, 2023) — Daniel Ellsberg personified so much of what is best in humanity. A person of deep compassion and abiding principles, this warrior Marine turned peaceful paladin risked his career, his freedom, and more. All to sound a clarion call against criminal acts of war that were committed in our name.

By conveying “The Pentagon Papers” to the major media outlets of that day, he laid bare the lies underlying the barbaric, indefensible violations of basic human decency committed by a US government obsessed with prosecuting an illegal, imperialistic, undeclared war.

If that were all he did to further the causes of transparency, accountability, and peace, that would have been more than enough. Yet this champion, this paragon, this undaunted voice of reason devoted the rest of his life to saving the lives of others. This, by opposing nuclear weapons, speaking out against aggression, and setting an unattainable but still inspiring example for every one of us.

Twelve years ago, he honored us with this brief video:

Just one of the countless examples of this came recently when Dan graciously agreed to join PDA for one of our weekly Progressive Town Hall meetings. I’d learned that we were planning a discussion of his life with Professor Christopher Appy who was working on a book chronicling part of Dan’s life. So I shot the great man an email that morning, inviting him to drop in that afternoon, if he could find the time.

I didn’t expect him to be able to join us on such short notice, but I figured, “What the heck?” Another person of such stature might complain about the last minute invitation, and probably even scold me for thinking that he might be available. Not Daniel Ellsberg. He modestly requested the link, which he used to sign on a few hours later.

Then, he sat back silently listening while we talked about him. This went on until I told our Executive Director Alan Minsky, who hosts our Town Halls, that our surprise guest of honor was available and eager to greet our audience.

You can watch that video by clicking here:

Daniel Ellsberg was not just a great person. He was also profoundly kind, patient, considerate, and humble. His revelations exposing the illegal clandestine machinations of our government are beyond valuation and without equal, and so are his countless other contributions to our shared knowledge and, from these, our ability to understand the immeasurably high stakes we face as peace activists.

As the saying goes, “We shall never know his like again.” That’s true, but thanks to his tireless struggles for peace and his mentoring of each subsequent generation of activists, we’re empowered to carry on in his unfathomably formidable footsteps. And for all of this and so much more, we all owe Daniel Ellsberg a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, and Rest In Power, dear friend!

In peace,
Mike Hersh for the PDA National Team
Progressive Democrats of America · Grand Rapids, MI 49515, United States

Daniel Ellsberg Has Passed Away.
He Left Us a Message.

Norman Solomon /

(June 17, 2023) — When Daniel Ellsberg died on Friday, the world lost a transcendent whistleblower with a powerful ethos of compassion and resolve.

Ellsberg’s renown for openly challenging the mentalities of militarism began on June 23, 1971, when he appeared on CBS Evening News ten days after news broke about the Pentagon Papers that he’d provided to journalists. Ellsberg pointedly said that in the 7,000 pages of top-secret documents, “I don’t think there is a line in them that contains an estimate of the likely impact of our policy on the overall casualties among Vietnamese or the refugees to be caused, the effects of defoliation in an ecological sense. There’s neither an estimate nor a calculation of past effects, ever.”

And he added: “The documents simply reflect the internal concerns of our officials. That says nothing more nor less that that our officials never did concern themselves with the effect of our policies on the Vietnamese.”

Ellsberg told anchor Walter Cronkite: “I think we cannot let the officials of the Executive Branch determine for us what it is that the public needs to know about how well and how they are discharging their functions.”

The functions of overseeing the war on Vietnam had become repugnant to Ellsberg as an insider. Many other government officials and top-level consultants with security clearances also had access to documents that showed how mendacious four administrations had been as the U.S. role in Vietnam expanded and then escalated into wholesale slaughter.

Unlike the others, he finally broke free and provided the Pentagon Papers to news media. As he said in the CBS interview, “The fact is that secrets can be held by men in the government whose careers have been spent learning how to keep their mouths shut. I was one of those.”

Ellsberg’s mouth, and heart, never stayed shut again. For the 52 full years that followed his release of the Pentagon Papers, he devoted himself to speaking, writing and protesting. When the war on Vietnam finally ended, Ellsberg mainly returned to his earlier preoccupation – how to help prevent nuclear war.

This spring, during the three months after diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Ellsberg made the most of every day, spending time with loved ones and speaking out about the all-too-real dangers of nuclear annihilation. He left behind two brilliant, monumental books published in this century – “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” (2002) and “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner” (2017). They illuminate in sharp ghastly light the patterns of official lies and secrecy about military matters, and the ultimate foreseeable result – nuclear holocaust.

Ellsberg was deeply determined to do all he could to help prevent omnicide. As he said in an interview when “The Doomsday Machine” came out, scientific research has concluded that nuclear war “would loft into the stratosphere many millions of tons of soot and black smoke from the burning cities. It wouldn’t be rained out in the stratosphere. It would go around the globe very quickly and reduce sunlight by as much as 70 percent, causing temperatures like that of the Little Ice Age, killing harvests worldwide and starving to death nearly everyone on earth. It probably wouldn’t cause extinction. We’re so adaptable. Maybe 1 percent of our current population of 7.4 billion could survive, but 98 or 99 percent would not.”

During the profuse interviews that he engaged in during the last few months, what clearly preoccupied Ellsberg was not his own fate but the fate of the Earth’s inhabitants.

He was acutely aware that while admiration for brave whistleblowers might sometimes be widespread, actual emulation is scarce. Ellsberg often heard that he was inspiring, but he was always far more interested in what people would be inspired to actually do – in a world of war and on the precipice of inconceivable nuclear catastrophe.

During the last decades of his life, standard assumptions and efforts by mainstream media and the political establishment aimed to consign Ellsberg to the era of the Vietnam War. But in real time, Dan Ellsberg continually inspired so many of us to be more than merely inspired. We loved him not only for what he had done but also for what he kept doing, for who he was, luminously, ongoing. The power of his vibrant example spurred us to become better than we were.

In a recent series of short illustrated podcasts created by filmmaker Judith Ehrlich – who co-directed the documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” – Ellsberg speaks about the growing dangers of global apocalypse, saying that nuclear war planners “have written plans to kill billions of people,” preparations that amount to “a conspiracy to commit omnicide, near omnicide, the death of everyone.” And he adds: “Can humanity survive the nuclear era? We don’t know. I choose to act as if we have a chance.”

Norman Solomon is national director of and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His book War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine was published this week by The New Press.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.