Daniel Ellsberg Thinks A Coup Just Occurred

Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Paper fame (or notoriety, depending on where you find yourself perched on the spectrum of political ideology) has written an essay that has been getting some circulation amongst white antiwar, anti-imperialist and white progressives generally. His main thesis is that a coup has occurred and that an impending attack on Iran must be averted, the implication being that it can be averted.

First, the coup.

Let me simplify this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred. It’s not just a question that a coup lies ahead with the next 9/11. That’s the next coup, that completes the first.

Although I agree with Ellsberg that the USA has come completely unhinged, I am skeptical whenever I run across ‘coup’ talk these days. So often the users of such language have imagined a the takeover of a different USA than I ever knew to exist in the first place. Ellsberg signals that I should be suspicious of him and his thinking by right of the bat tossing highly patriotic if not jingoistic rhetoric into his analysis. On the heels of explaining his early morning coup revelation, he writes,

The last five years have seen a steady assault on every fundamental of our Constitution, … what the rest of the world looked at for the last 200 years as a model and experiment to the rest of the world – in checks and balances, limited government, Bill of Rights, individual rights protected from majority infringement by the Congress, an independent judiciary, the possibility of impeachment.

After consuming that weird morsel, some of you that have been engaged with obscure US history will probably not be interested in reading the rest of Ellsberg’s essay. Perhaps Ellsberg and other ‘patriots’ have looked at the US as a model for the last 200 years. Rest assured that the inhabitants, past and present, of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, the South Africans struggling designated as terrorists for their struggle against apartheid, the hundreds of thousands of nuked civilians of Japan, not to even mention those enslaved and their continually oppressed descendants living within the US, the same US that Ellsberg says has served as a model for 200 years. It’s important to note the crucial disconnect from reality that Daniel Ellsberg labors under to best understand the ideological foundation on which his analysis rests.

Ellsberg makes concessions in an attempt to tether his buoyant proclamation to the ground,

There have been violations of these principles by many presidents before. Most of the specific things that Bush has done in the way of illegal surveillance and other matters were done under my boss Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War: the use of CIA, FBI, NSA against Americans.

I could go through a list going back before this century to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War, and before that the Alien and Sedition Acts in the 18th century. I think that none of those presidents were in fact what I would call quite precisely the current administration: domestic enemies of the Constitution.

I won’t go through the very short list I compiled before to illustrate (again) just how shocking Ellsberg’s reading of history is. If you ever wondered how Daniel Ellsberg felt physical enslavement of and genocide of a large sector of the population stack up against phone tapping, now you know. Is Ellsberg simply a sloppy writer or do his wild proclamations give the reader a snapshot of his psyche? A glimpse into the mind of white dissent within the US. Its sophomoric naivety, clumsiness, ignorance, offensiveness and thus its severe limitations.

And to be certain for those of you not in the know, Daniel Ellsberg isn’t some self-righteous loner spouting off. He has a significant following amongst Left oriented whites within the US. He’s seen as someone solidly anti-establishment and very pro rule of law. Someone to be listened to, to be discussed. Someone who’s suggestions and analysis carries weight with many of those popularly seen as the Left inside the US.

Although sloppy, rife with analytical contradictions and at times insulting to the readers sensibilities, the article is worth reading simply because it does a splendid job of highlighting what belonging to the hegemonic ethnic group in the US can do to one’s ability to tell up from down, left from right, in from out. I submit that no black public intellectual embraced by the regular people, as Ellsberg is embraced by whites, would declare the things for which Ellsberg finds himself well received among his constituency of readers.

Ellsberg goes on to discuss the need to avert an attack on Iran, something with which I agree in principle, although the sabre rattling is likely posturing to take antiwar heat and pressure away from ending the moneymaking slaughter happening in Iraq. He ends encouraging us to fight to avert ‘insane’ disaster in Iran with an appeal that harks back to the naivety if not craziness with which he began his discussion, ‘Restoring the Republic’,

I am shocked by the Republicans today that I read in the Washington Post who yesterday threatened a filibuster if we … get back habeas corpus. The ruling out of habeas corpus with the help of the Democrats did not get us back to George the First it got us back to before King John 700 years ago in terms of counter-revolution.

We need some way, and Ann Wright has one way, of sitting in, in Conyers office and getting arrested. Ray McGovern has been getting arrested, pushed out the other day for saying the simple words “swear him in” when it came to testimony.

I think we’ve got to somehow get home to them [in Congress] that this is the time for them to uphold the oath, to preserve the Constitution, which is worth struggling for in part because it’s only with the power that the Constitution gives Congress responding to the public, only with that can we protect the world from mad men in power in the White House who intend an attack on Iran.

I am not shocked. I am not shocked that the Republicans threaten a filibuster to legislation bringing back habeas corpus. The Democrats worked with them to get rid of it, they will work with the Democrats in creating a show of democracy but keeping habeas banished. The establishment works together. Shocking. I also am not shocked that it shocks Ellsberg. He, and those that listen to his version of reality are speaking, writing and blogging from a parallel dimension. A dimension in which the Bush administration is the epitome of evil, in which there has never been a crueler more law-breaking bunch. Ever. A dimension in which the answer lies in getting back to a system of government touted by the ‘founders’ who as Ellsberg writes, ‘had it right‘. If you’re wondering if he’s talking about the same Founders that crafted a Constitution that had to be amended later to acknowledge women and non-whites as human, he is. They ‘had it right‘ he says, and the way to end the current madness is to restore their vision. Or so Daniel Ellsberg and his hangers on would have us to think.

A coup has occurred. Ellsberg is right about that. He is only a few centuries late. This country was captured over 500 years ago and since then there has been a struggle for liberation. Today’s crimes are new but they are not different.  That is crucial for us to understand and acknowledge as we struggle for freedom and liberation and as we support the struggles of others. Rewriting history, pretending that US life just became ugly only serves to stroke the egos and sensibilities of a naive and privileged minority who, like Ellsberg, woke up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has occurred.  It helps build and fortify a false consciousness, something we can ill afford in these times of very real and increasing danger.



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