The Post: Hollywood’s massacre of the Pentagon Papers story
Hollywood is America’s dream factory. It has been selling its version of American exceptionalism and superiority to the world for almost 100 years.
Since my days in short trousers and bare feet I’ve been addicted to movies of all sorts, American, British and Australian. However, it has taken all these years for me to draw the line and say “enough is enough”.
I’m referring, of course, to The Post which has just hit our screens purporting to tell the story of the Washington Post when owned by the late Katherine Graham and edited by Ben Bradlee.
The film is a piece of grotesque fiction. As told by director Steven Spielberg, the story of the paper’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers simply didn’t happen. It’s an invention.
I can only conclude that this massive fiction is designed to sanitise the mainstream media which has fallen into such colossal disrepute since supporting catastrophic wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Painting fantasia as in La La Land is one thing and how America won World War II in Saving Private Ryan is another , but organising protection for the privately-owned media is something else, particularly when historical facts are thrown aside to be replaced by gross distortions.
Is America’s mainstream media up in arms over this perversion of history? No. Editors and journalists seem happy to see Hollywood’s fabrication deodorise their smelly sewer because it represents an answer to President Donald Trump’s obsessive taunting of the media, the commentators and the prime-time presenters.
Does this matter? Should journalists go along with the lies of The Post although they know the bothersome truth about the Washington Post’s egregious role as a long-standing purveyor of snivelling propaganda from the White House, Republican and Democrat sources, the US State Department, Pentagon, CIA, gun lobby, big pharma and other private vested interests? I believe they should.
There have been some notable exceptions of great merit on The Post’s staff, of course, and those individual writers, photographers and cartoonists deserve great credit for their work. But the unassailable truth is that The Post is a conservative bastion of Washington DC and its imperialist and corporate values. Ask any US worker, white, black or Hispanic.
Ellsberg’s courage shamed
Daniel Ellsberg, a former US Marine lieutenant who was awarded a PhD in economics from Harvard and studied at Cambridge University in England, joined the Rand Corporation to research nuclear strategy, before going to Vietnam in the early 1960s on behalf of the US State Department.
He contributed to a top secret document, completed in 1968, which became known as the Pentagon Papers, commissioned by US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, an intimate personal friend of the widow Kate Graham, owner of the Washington Post and Newsweek. (Other intimates were billionaire investor Warren Buffett).
Ellsberg was alarmed when he was told the research paper – which was scathing of the Pentagon’s chaotic conduct of the war – would remain secret. He told his friend Robert Kennedy, brother of assassinated President JFK, who urged him to have it tabled in Congress and placed on the Congressional Record or published in the mainstream media.
If all that failed, Bobby Kennedy said he would order its publication if he won the Democratic nomination and defeated Richard Nixon in the November 1968 presidential election. Kennedy’s assassination ended that particular gambit. “I loved Bobby,” Ellsberg wrote in his memoir. “He was the only politician I ever felt that way about.”
Ellsberg took the Pentagon Papers to four Democrats in Washington, George McGovern, William Fulbright, Charles Matthais and Pete McCloskey, pleading for its exposure. They all knocked him back.
He was then urged to contact senior New York Times journalist Neil Sheehan, a supporter of the war who was having second thoughts about the savage enterprise and the mounting loss of civilian lives during the CIA’s assassination project, Operation Phoenix, and the Pentagon’s carpet bombing campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder.
Finally, Ellsberg’s victory
After excruciatingly convoluted negotiations, the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers on 13 June, 1971.
Forty years later Australian whistleblower Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, faced the same obfuscating double-dealing with the NYT when he exposed US war crimes in Iraq.
Only after being out-scooped by its New York rival did the Washington Post carry its own report.
Senator Mike Gravel, a Democrat from Alaska who opposed the draft of working class men and women to Vietnam, read the Pentagon Papers into the record on the floor of the Senate, virtually collapsing after four hours on his feet. He is not mentioned in the Spielberg movie.
My copy of Ellsberg’s 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, is 457 pages long. The Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee is mentioned once (on Page 392). Kate Graham is not mentioned at all.
When Mrs Graham’s long-awaited autobiography Personal History was published in 1997, she gave the Pentagon Papers a dismissive 12 pages in her 642-page doorstopper.
In Spielberg’s cobweb of lies, Mrs Graham and her paper are portrayed as opponents of the Vietnam war. They weren’t. She ordered full support for President LBJ’s escalation of the war and his commitment of half a million troops. When two senators voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, a fabrication designed to cover US bombing raids of Hanoi and allowed the administration illegally to declare war, the Washington Post lambasted them mercilessly. When Martin Luther King spoke out against the war in 1967, her paper condemned him. He was assassinated a year later.
Ellsberg has never publicly discussed why he never went near the Washington Post with his history-making scoop but privately he has made clear he knew the Washington journal, under the leadership of Mrs Graham, was locked into the capital city’s swamp. The unelected officials of the State Department, the CIA, FBI and Pentagon held sway at The Post and giving it the report would be tantamount to giving away his freedom and going to jail.
In order to build a legal protective wall, Ellsberg and his supporters also gave the Pentagon Papers to a string of papers across the country, including the Boston Globe and the St Louis Post Dispatch. Ellsberg put himself at personal risk by doing so, while Mrs Graham nor Bradlee never did.
Meryl Creep’s perfect role
Meryl Streep portrays Mrs Graham as a roaring reformer and libertarian. She was no such thing. She described herself as a “limousine liberal” but that was inaccurate too. She had little to do with liberalism.
She hated trade unions, communism and all socialists and frequently gave her views to anyone within earshot. In the 1970s when feminism was beginning to make a contemporary impact on society, following the publication of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and other trail-blazing books by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Kate Millett, Mrs Graham was a staunch opponent of women’s equality.
After the demise of the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, her closest friends became unspeakable unindicted war criminals such as Dr Henry Kissinger. She then moved further rightwards to embrace the Ronald Reagan crowd when they descended on Washington and held private parties for them.
When she died in 2001, longtime US correspondent Godfrey Hodgson wrote: “In lifestyle and manner, Graham was both genuinely diffident and unmistakably a magnifica, if that is the word for a female magnifico. She could be, as it seemed alternately, charmingly direct and friendly, and aloof, even arrogant.
“Interviewed in what seemed to her an insufficiently respectful way by British journalist Henry Fairlie, she reproved him by saying she had been told by no less an authority than McGeorge Bundy [National Security Adviser to JFK and LBJ, 1961-1966] that she was the most powerful woman since Queen Victoria.” (Katherine Graham obituary by Godfrey Hodgson, The Guardian, 18 July 2001).
Meryl Streep, who was “surprised” to learn of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory sexual behaviour and never saw or heard of unsavoury sex bullying during her 30-year Hollywood career, is a perfect choice to play Mrs Graham. Both shared a faulty memory.
Behold the “independent economist”
Somewhere in the bowels of the ABC is an Orwellian committee known as the Ideas, Concepts and Innovation Executive. It is a smug, self-satisfied group of highly paid nonentities who have invented a job description known as the “independent economist”.
The first individual to receive this bizarre nomenclature is Saul Eslake. He has started to give economic commentary on ABC radio and television where he is billed with his new moniker, “independent economist”.
But just how “independent” is Eslake? Does he meet the dictionary criteria of “independent”? Is he “free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority; not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence; an independent person or body”? You’ve got to be kidding. On the contrary, Eslake is a lifelong, paid up, gold-plated member of the banking mafia. He’s one of them, not one of us.
Here is a brief sketch of his career as a key adviser to the capitalist banking system.
Graduating from the University of Tasmania with an economics degree in the 1970s, Eslake moved to Canberra where he worked in Treasury and adviser to the Hawke-Keating government during its worship of monetarism and privatisation.
He became chief economist with the stockbroking firm, McIntosh Securities, chief economist at National Mutual Funds Management and finally, from 1995 to 2009 during the Howard-Costello financial swindle, chief economist at ANZ Bank.
From 2011 to 2015 he became chief economist of Bank of America Merrill Lynch when world finance led an orgy of greed by selling subprime loans to unsuspecting customers.
He became director of the Productivity Growth Programme at the Grattan Institute “think tank” before his metamorphosis into the ABC’s “independent economist”.
I think I’ll pass on Dr Eslake who holds an honours degree in economics from the University of Tasmania (surely oxymoronic?) plus an honorary doctorate
Australia’s richest dumbo
It’s official. Australia’s richest person is a woman, Gina Rinehart, with a personal fortune of $16.6 billion.
Her prime status on the latest BRW Rich List has been inexplicably ignored by vast sections of the mainstream media. Quite why it is deemed embarrassing remains a mystery to me.
Her towering wealth is proof – if it were ever needed – that you don’t have to have any brains to be super-rich. Just look at James Packer who is also on the list. Having a billionaire daddy helps …
BRW’s Rich List reveals that there are now 33 billionaires in Australia, or eight more than 2016 and double the number of a decade ago.
Today’s billionaires have a total wealth of $115.4 billion. According to merchant bank, Credit Suisse, the wealth of the super-rich grew by 1% in 2017 while the wealth of 50% of poor Australians fell due to falling wages and rising unemployment.
Dr Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia’s CEO, said: “Over the decade since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the wealth of Australian billionaires has increased by almost 140%.”
Commenting on figures that show some major Australian companies paid no tax in 2015-16, Dr Szoke said: “Our big concern is that, all too often, morally or ethically bad behaviour can be perfectly legal.”
Australia’s billionaires’ list was published just as the World Economic Summit in the six-star Swiss ski resort of Davos began under the banner “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”. Another colossal dumbo Donald Trump is giving the main economics lecture which will be devoted to selling America. Attention, folks, casino capitalism has arrived on centre stage.
Australia Day (again)
About 3% of Australia’s total population, or 700,000 people, are Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
For very good reasons, almost 100% of them want Australia Day changed from January 26, the day in 1788 when the London colonialists hoisted the Union Jack on Sydney Cove and claimed the whole continent as a British imperial possession.
I reckon that a further 70% of fair-minded Australians would like to see Australia Day relocated to a more unifying date. So by adding the 3% of indigenous Australians to the 70% of Australians who yearn for a single multi-racial nation, we have 73% who want a new date to replace the current colonial one.
A change of date might seem trivial but it is a critical step towards national maturity and independence. I’m in! Let’s vote!
STOP PRESS news from USA
Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West have named their new daughter Chicago who was carried by a surrogate. The first daughter of the multi-millionaire celebrities is called North and their son is named Saint. America’s “first family” is now Kim, Kanye, Chicago, North and Saint. OMG.