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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The past as prelude, at the movies

Judith Ehrlich, the Timmins, Professor David Weisbrot
The terrific documentary The Most Dangerous Man In America is a must see for those who remember the Vietnam war era. But it will be an eye opener for those who have never heard of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers but who listen with some scepticism to what we are being told 40 years later about current wars in which the US, Australia and other countries find ourselves. I saw it at the weekend and by happenstance had the opportunity to meet Judith Ehrlich the co director who had been in town for the screening at the Sydney Film Festival where it won the Audience Prize. That's now added to a string of others including an Academy award nomination earlier in the year. The documentary is screening at the Chauvel in Paddington, Sydney for the next two weeks. Keep your eyes peeled elsewhere. And by the by, tonight's Foreign Correspondent on (Australian) ABC  features interviews with Ellsberg and Wikileaks' Assange, something of a modern counterpart, in the program USA/Iceland - Truth or Dare.

Some personal ancient history, folks.

Apart from an interest in the film's themes of government secrecy-deception and lies are more apt in this case - and the whistleblower, my earlier professional life had two cross-over points with these tumultuous times. In June 1971 when the New York Times started what became an avalanche of publications drawing on the 7000 pages of secret documents leaked by Ellsberg-and then was prevented by injunction for a moment from publishing more - I had been at the Australian Embassy in Saigon for two and a half years trying to understand what was happening in Vietnam.Then in 1973 when Watergate began to unravel the Nixon presidency, and it was revealed at Ellsberg's trial that the White House ordered a break-in at the office of his psychiatrist - a precursor of the break in that eventually led to Nixon's resignation - I was at the Australian Embassy in Washington trying to understand what was happening in the USA. 

I'm still working on both a long time after that professional involvement came to an end in 1980.

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