War and Whistleblowers

Green Greetings Mike,

My last email contained a link to the podcast ON THE MEDIA from WNYC – the public radio station of New York city.  Their last podcast contains so many gems of wisdom that it deserves to be featured with this email to Tennessee Green Party members.  The topics for this email are whistleblowers and war. 



Brooke Gladstone: Yet whistleblowers, over the past few decades, have changed the course of history more than any other time, you say, and that Daniel Ellsberg was the catalyst. Can you give me a few examples of whistleblowers we likely wouldn't have had without him?

Tom Devine: In the Iraq war, the marine science advisor, Franz Gayl, he was requested, semi-ordered, by the Chief Field General in Iraq to free up vehicles that would actually protect the troops against landmines. They're called MRAPs. They were using Humvees that weren't even designed to protect them against landmines. 90% of our fatalities and 60% of our casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were from landmines. Thanks to his whistleblowing, the MRAPs were delivered. The casualties went down to 5% from landmines.

Nuclear power plants, and there was a story on Netflix about three nuclear engineers who stopped the three-mile island clean up from turning into a complete knockdown that would have taken out Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, Baltimore and Washington DC. They exposed that instead of losing track of 10,000 gallons of radioactive waste, it was 4 billion gallons of radioactive waste at our nuclear waste stuck, which forced a big upgrade in the cleanup.

Human rights abusers. Until not that long ago, people were coming in from foreign countries. The US government would stop them, accuse them of drug smuggling, without any evidence. Usually it was attractive women, usually it was near the end of a shift so they could get overtime. If they didn't find any drugs on the travelers, they would do body cavity searches. If that didn't work, they would take them to a hospital and do up to four days of laboratory tests, during which time those people couldn't contact their lawyers, their family, and thanks to a courageous customs inspector, Cathy Harris, that blew the whistle on this, that was changed from four days to two hours.

I could keep going on and on, but these people make a difference. The truth matters. They've been changing the course of history ever since they got rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act that can be traced back to Dan Ellsberg.

Brooke Gladstone: Thank you so much, Tom.

Tom Devine: Thanks for having me.

Brooke Gladstone: Tom Devine leads the Government Accountability Project.

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/legacy-daniel-ellsberg-and-pentagon-papers-on-the-media



Brooke Gladstone: How did you feel back in 1971 when you discovered that the New York Times was about to publish the Pentagon Papers?

Les Gelb: That's a very good question because to be perfectly frank, as I think I've been throughout this interview, my first instinct was that if they just hit the papers, people would think this was a definitive history of the war, which they were not, and that people would think it was all about lying rather than beliefs. Look, because we never learned that darn lesson about believing our way into these wars, we went into Afghanistan, and we went into Iraq.

Brooke Gladstone: Do you think that's why it's important to clarify what the real lesson of the Pentagon Papers is?

Les Gelb: Absolutely. We get involved in these wars, and we don't know a darn thing about those countries, the culture, the history, the politics, people on top, and even down below, and, my heavens, these are not wars like World War II and World War I, we have battalions fighting battalions, these are wars that depend on knowledge of who the people are, what the culture is like, and we jumped into them without knowing. That's the darn essential message of the Pentagon Papers.

Brooke Gladstone: Les, thank you very much.

Les Gelb: You're very welcome. It's so hard for people to swallow all this because of all these years of hearing the other story. Again, I don't deny the lies. I just want them to understand what the main points really were.

Brooke Gladstone: Les Gelb led the team that wrote the Pentagon Papers. He was also a former columnist and correspondent for the New York Times, and a long time head of the Council on Foreign Relations. He died in 2019.

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/what-press-missed-about-pentagon-papers-on-the-media2


Seymour Hersh: After I'd done the first story, I ran into this wonderful soldier. He's now dead, Ronald Ridenhour. There's a prize now given in his honor every year. Ronald Ridenhour was a soldier who learned about this right away and tried to get something done through the system without any success. He gave me a company roster, and I began to find the kids. What happened is they had been in the country, this company, Charlie Company, for about 10 or 11 weeks. They all have been told, you're going to be fighting North Vietnamese regular army. They saw nobody. They were a hundred guide strong company. They lost maybe 15 or 20 guys to snipers and bombs. They were very angry, and they were beginning to take it out on the (Viet Namese) population. They were told March 15th, tomorrow morning, you're going to meet the enemy for once.

They did what that army did. Then they toked up with their joints, and the enlisted men and officers drank. They got up at 3:30 to kill and be killed. They jumped on choppers, they go to this village, they march in looking scared to death, thinking they're going to be in a firefight. There's 500 people sitting around making breakfast, all women, old men and children. No young men of fighting age. They gather them in three ditches. Calley orders his young man to start shooting.

One was Paul Meadlo, and he shot and shot and shot. When they were all done, they sat along the ditch and had their lunch. Don't ask me how, why, and they heard a keening. One of the mothers in the bottom of the ditch had tucked a boy underneath her, two or three-year old boy, and he climbed up out of the bodies full of everybody else's blood and began to run in a panic, Calley said to Paul Meadlo, this kid from southern Indiana, "Plug him." Meadlo, one-on-one, couldn't do it, although he'd fired maybe 10 clips of 20 bullets each into the ditch. Calley, with great daring duke, took his carbine and ran behind the kid and shot him in the back of the head. Everybody remembered that.

The next morning, they're on patrol, Meadlo gets his leg blown off to the knee, and they call on a helicopter to take him out. While he's waiting, he starts issuing an oath, a real oath, a chant, "God has punished me, Lieutenant Calley, and God is going to punish you. God has punished me," and the kids, when they finally began to tell me about it, and I didn't learn about this for two weeks although everybody knew this story, when one told me, they all told me. I hear this story, he lives in southern Indiana. I just dial away, and I call every exchange in Indiana. Finally, New Goshen, which is below Terre Haute, which is below Indianapolis, which is below Chicago, that's where he lives. I fly to Chicago, go to Terre Haute, get a car, go to New Goshen, and spend hours. It's a chicken farm. Meadlo is back. It's a year and a half after the incident he was shot. He's home now on this farm, rundown, chickens all over the place, a shack house. This mother walks out. I introduced myself, my ratty suit again. I said I was a reporter, I wanted to talk to him. I knew what happened. She said, "Well, he's in there." She said, "I don't know if he'll talk to you." Then she said to me, "I gave them a good boy and they sent me back a murderer."


Brooke Gladstone: Journalist Seymour Hersh.

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/seymour-hersh-my-lai-on-the-media



Kate Webb: I couldn't understand the war [in Viet Nam]. There were arguments in pubs. I was in Sydney, Australia then, and the boys who were marching out were getting paint thrown at them.

Brooke Gladstone: Like Kazickas, Webb bought a one-way ticket. When she got off the plane in Saigon in March of 1967 to find a job, she was 23. Eventually, she made her way to UPI and became Cambodian bureau chief when her predecessor was killed. She covered the Tet Offensive, and over strong objections in Washington, broke the story of Cambodian leader, Lon Nol's disabling stroke. She saw many friends die. She was tough on reporters who took needless risks. Then she was taken captive by North Vietnamese troops on the south coast of Cambodia.

Kate Webb: It's one of those things that's fascinating if you live to tell it. I was able to see how the other side operated, in a limited way, of course. When you're tied up and marching all night, you don't see much.

Brooke Gladstone: How about the experience itself, what it was like simply to live as a prisoner of war?

Kate Webb: Physically, it was very tough. I lost 10 kilos in three weeks, walking all night on bare feet. That's 12 hours a night, next to no food. You have to keep urging yourself on as if you're a small child. You talk to yourself and say, "Keep going."


Brooke Gladstone: For Palmer, being female was by now an advantage. Some sources were more inclined to open up to a woman, but there were drawbacks as when she was offered a tour and lunch by General Minh, the commander in chief of the Saigon region. She thought they'd eat at HQ, but a table was set up in his trailer with a big double bed.

Laura Palmer: I thought, "Oh, my God. What have I walked into?" He asked me if I liked music. I said, yes, I liked the Rolling Stones, and he liked The Carpenters. Then he looked at me with all earnestness and said to me, "Miss, Laura, would you go-go for me?" [laughs]

Brooke Gladstone: She said no.

Laura Palmer: What I really wanted to say was, "You son of a bitch. People are dying under your command." This was one of the top five generals in Vietnam, and you're having lunch with me, giving me a fake Cartier lighter, and asking me to go-go for you. I thought, "There is no way if there's this much corruption at the top that they will ever win the war."


Brooke Gladstone: Martha Gellhorn, that Veteran War reporter who cut her teeth documenting The Rise of Adolf Hitler, wrote that "Of all wars, I hated Vietnam the most because I felt personally responsible. I'm talking about what was done in South Vietnam to the people who we supposedly had come to save, Napalmed children, destroyed villages. My complete horror remains with me as a source of grief and anger and shame that surpasses all the others."

Jurate Kazickas: This was a war like no other for everybody.

Brooke Gladstone: Jurate Kazickas.

Jurate Kazickas: To get that close to the fighting, nobody ever is numb to it. There were many people who had nervous breakdowns. There were several suicides among male reporters. It took its toll. It really did.

Brooke Gladstone: Jurate Kazickas, wounded in Kasan, is a writer who has co-authored several books on women's history. She later began a foundation to support charitable work in Lithuania where she was born.

Laura Palmer, who hitchhiked to Vietnam, continued her journalism career as an author and at Nightline on ABC News. She later worked as a pediatric hospital chaplain. In 2019, she was ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Kate Webb, who'd been taken prison in Cambodia, died in 2007.


Clip: Daniel Ellsberg, at a recent press conference, you said you were willing to accept any responsibility or anything that came from your part in the Pentagon Paper. The latest indictment says 115-year prison term and $120,000 fine. Are your thoughts still the same, that you're willing to accept any consequences?

Daniel Ellsberg: How can you measure the jeopardy that I'm in to the penalty that has been paid already by 50,000 American families and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese families? It would be absolutely presumptuous of me to pity myself.

Source: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/women-covered-war-vietnam-on-the-media


We conclude with  an article by 89-year old Ralph Nader, whose mind is still sharp as a tack. (Reprinted by permission under Creative Commons license)

Here's an Idea for Congress: Stop Funding War and Start Funding Peace

U.S. lawmakers must learn to say “no thanks” to more Pentagon money than requested and use those funds to help save hundreds of thousands of lives in America lost every year to domestic problems.


Jun 04, 2023Common Dreams


The Military Budget, which devours over half of the entire federal government’s operational expenditures, has been exempted by President Joe Biden and the Congressional Republicans from any reductions in the debt limit deal just reached. Also exempted are hundreds of billions of dollars in yearly diverse corporate subsidies to big business freeloaders.

Most of the cuts will slash the domestic programs that protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people. Cuts will also be made to the starved IRS budget, further weakening its capacity to pursue super-rich tax cheats and giant corporate tax escapees. The GOP insisted on continuing its aiding and abetting of grand-scale tax evasion that fuels bigger deficits.

Biden also agreed not to restore any of Trump’s tax cuts on these same plutocrats and corporatists who refuse to pay for the undeclared wars of Empire from which they massively profit.

The failure of Congress to provide support for desperately needed programs such as Head Start and other programs to reduce child hunger, homelessness, and poverty involving 80 million people, either without health insurance or under-insured, is beyond shameful.

Welcome to America—Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, sleepwalking its way through Sucker Land. It gets worse, People. Not only did the Pentagon, and indirectly the giant munitions corporations like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics get exempted, they were told by both the GOP and the Democrats to get ready, in the coming years, to receive additional tens of billions of dollars that the Generals and Biden didn’t even ask for. Biden wants to increase last year’s Pentagon budget by $48 billion, and the blank-check solons on Capitol Hill are inclined to match him. Except for a few dozen progressives, the support for this Niagara of dollars is bipartisan even though the Pentagon budget is and has been unauditable.

Yet, since 1992, the Department of “Offense” has been violating the federal law that requires DOD to submit an auditable budget to Congress every year. Every Secretary of Defense has admitted this noncompliance and promised to correct it. Yet year after year the violation of law continues. No one can fathom the waste, redundance, and gigantic cost overruns by the coddled big business military contractors with their government-guaranteed arrangements. Without Congressional investigatory hearings, without instructing the Congressional watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) to do its neglected, underfunded specialized auditing, and without giving voice to budget experts like William Hartung or knowledgeable military professionals like retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and MIT Professor Emeritus Ted Postol, the Pentagon has gone unchecked. The two-Party duopoly has turned Congress into a giant shovel of unaudited money for the military to secure misguided bragging rights for your Representatives and Senators back home about being “strong on defense” rather than watchdogs over your tax dollars.

Meanwhile, back home, schools crumble, existing public transit is dangerously antiquated and in need of repair, as are bridges, roads, clinics, ports, airports, public drinking water systems, and waste management facilities. Care for the public lands and national parks suffers massively due to deferred maintenance. Funding to deal with land erosion, toxic water, and air pollution is in short supply.

The failure of Congress to provide support for desperately needed programs such as Head Start and other programs to reduce child hunger, homelessness, and poverty involving 80 million people, either without health insurance or under-insured, is beyond shameful. Why is the United States, the richest nation on the planet, providing less to its citizens than Western European countries and Canada? Answer: the runaway power of Big Business over public budgets!

Moreover, we are woefully unprepared for the coming pandemics, as we were for Covid-19, and for worsening natural disasters of climate violence perpetuated by the giant fossil fuel companies (e.g. Chevron and Exxon Mobile) that control Congress.

But hey, our war machine can remotely vaporize a cluster of young men idly standing on a dusty road in Yemen with a drone operator pushing buttons in Virginia and Nevada. Over a trillion and a half dollars will be spent on upgrading our nuclear bombs with the same amount being wasted on strategically useless F-35 fighter planes.

And remember citizens, when the government talks war, organizes for war, has military bases in a hundred countries, and provokes belligerence, wars are likely to happen.

Not even the money spent on one F-35 is being devoted to waging peace, initiating ceasefire negotiations, and launching efforts for international arms control treaties as occurred under former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

There is no Department of Peace, and the State Department is more bellicose than the Pentagon in its war of words. We’ve been waiting for Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) who has yet to put a bill in the hopper to create such a department—a purported priority of his since long before his election to Congress.

One can hope that the Pentagon Brass—the generals and admirals, some of whom anticipate retiring to become consultants to, or executives of, the corporate weapons industry, would teach the rampaging Congressional Yahoos a lesson in patriotic restraint. Congress must learn to say “no thanks” to more money than requested and use those funds to help save hundreds of thousands of lives in America lost every year to toxic pollution, preventable negligence in hospitals, the opioid epidemic, tobacco, alcohol, occupational hazards, and more.

Absent that prospect, the dozens of small citizen peace advocacy groups and organizations such as Veterans for Peace should establish a national “Rein in and Audit the Military Budget and Save American Lives Day” to spark a nationwide grassroots mobilization focused on Congressional offices on Capitol Hill and in the states. There is no time to waste!

Fill the reception rooms of Members of Congress with citizens for peace and justice for a change. Let our elected officials start hearing the rumble from an aroused people conveying irresistible arguments backed by irrefutable evidence. Tell them to stop the arms race and pursue arms control treaties before autonomous weapons of mass destruction and miscalculations lead to World War III—the final world war.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of "The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future" (2012). His new book is, "Wrecking America: How Trump's Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All" (2020, co-authored with Mark Green).

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Michael Guth

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