52 RI Bar J., No. 2, Pg. 23 (September, 2003). Book Review: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, by Daniel Ellsberg.


Rhode Island Bar Journal

Volume 52.

52 RI Bar J., No. 2, Pg. 23 (September, 2003).

Book Review: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, by Daniel Ellsberg

Book Review: Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, by Daniel EllsbergJERRY ELMER, ESQ.Jerry Elmer is a partner in Goldenberg & Muri LLP where he practices commercial litigation.In August 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, I attended the triennial conference in Haverford, Pennsylvania of War Resisters International (WRI), an international pacifist organization founded in 1923 with members in 53 countries around the world. The conference was a wonderful and exciting gathering. As a young American peace activist I got to rub elbows with Indians who had worked with Mahatma Gandhi during the independence struggle against England. Pastor Martin Niem

There were also three American draft resisters present. I use the term draft resister advisedly, for I do not mean draft evader. These draft resisters were men who had easy exemptions from the draft as students or as conscientious objectors. But instead of taking the easy way out - cooperating with the draft and taking safe deferments - they instead chose not to cooperate with the draft at all and to confront the system with their civil disobedience, thereby risking years in prison. One day, the conference adjourned so that we could all hold a silent vigil at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Philadelphia on the occasion of the sentencing of Bob Eaton, one of the three resisters. Bob got three years. Another day, Randy Kehler, gave a moving speech to the conference about his own draft resistance; Randy was scheduled to go to trial that autumn (and ultimately got a two-year sentence). I was the third draft resister; I publicly refused to register for the draft (a felony punishable by five years imprisonment then and now) the day after the conference ended.

Wholly unbeknownst to me at the time, someone else also attended this conference, a Pentagon analyst who had experienced some growing doubts about the war. He had worked on a major study of United States involvement in Vietnam for the Secretary of Defense and did not know just what to do with the inside knowledge he had gained. Impressed with the draft resisters he met at the WRI conference (Eaton and Kehler), the Pentagon employee eventually engaged in his own act of civil disobedience against the war. In June 1971 everyone learned the name of Daniel Ellsberg when he revealed the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. Ellsberg always traced his civil disobedience back to Randy Kehler's speech at Haverford (though publication of a secret Pentagon study could not have been...

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