October 5, 2004

Ellsberg to Share Experience With Students

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In 1969, he leaked 7,000 pages of government secrets and risked a sentence of 115 years in prison — all so he could expose how the U.S. had gone into Vietnam under false pretenses.

Now Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who made the Pentagon Papers public, is at Cornell to share his experience and its relevance to the U.S.’s current political situation. Ellsberg’s talk, “Abu Ghraib, Vietnam, and Empire,” will be given at Barnes Hall at 7:30 tomorrow. He will also speak at a Peace Studies brown-bag seminar at 12:15 P.M. Thursday in Uris G-08.

Ellsberg has recently urged those who have access to government information relevant to Iraq to make it public, even with the knowledge that they run the risk of imprisonment. Although very dangerous, that decision could potentially reverse the situation in Iraq, save many lives, and possibly influence the upcoming presidential election.

Cornell students likely do not have access to that type of information, but even so, Ellsberg’s point applies to all.

“He can serve as inspiration for those of us who may, in our own lives, have to risk something to take a stand,” said Anke Wessels, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy at Cornell.

“He brings up the conversation that there are secrets. What you hear from the media and government isn’t always what’s going on. Given his experience, he can provide some insight about what might be going on currently with this war,” Wessels said.

Students have noted that Ellsberg’s visit comes at a pivotal time in U.S. politics. “I think that the current political climate is a bit reminiscent of that in Vietnam-era America and that Ellsberg’s experience with disclosing truths to the American people is particularly relevant to the present, particularly with elections a few short weeks away,” said Craig Bierle, ’06.

“I’m really glad that he’s coming to speak here during such an important time for the future of American politics. I think his presence should raise interest and awareness about both the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and about the present war in Iraq,” said Eric Gregory, ’07.

Wessels looks to Ellsberg to bring up the ethical implications of the war.

“To what extend do we rationalize human rights abuses? We need to examine that.”

She added, “We need to know that it’s okay to stand up publicly and say, ‘this is what I believe.'”

“I’d like to go to hear his thoughts on the current political climate, and his current thoughts on his own drastic actions at the time, after thirty years of reflection and debate,” said Jacob Lehman, ’06, who hopes to attend Thursday’s lecture.

Ellsberg’s visit is part of a lecture series entitled “Human Rights, Genocide, and Intervention.” It is sponsored by the Peace Studies Program in conjunction with the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Social Policy, Africana Studies, the Department of Government, the Society for the Humanities, the Vice Provosts Office for Undergraduate Education, The Program on Ethics and Public Life, the Dean of Students Office, the Cornell Forum for Justice and Peace, and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Archived article by Irena Djuric
Sun Staff Writer