I was the first under Nixon. The movie, by the way, doesn’t mention that I’m put on trial. It’s a big triumph for the press. And it was a triumph for the press. They can go on printing. And although the movie is started with me giving the papers, copying them and eventually giving them to The Post, it doesn’t mention that, although they are permitted to read, on the same week, the president, the Supreme Court, decides that I’m put on trial, eventually facing 12 felony counts, 115 years possible sentence.
And Pete Williamson, who was bringing me up here, said he was 11 when this happened. He thought I was obviously guilty of putting out secrets and that I should be on trial, when he was 11. And he said he was amazed when I somehow was let off two years later. I said, well, it was amazing. It was like a miracle. Essentially, no trial has ever been ended the way that was on the basis of a findings of government misconduct, criminal misconduct, which led to the criminal proceedings against Ehrlichman, Haldeman, a number of others called, put a dozen or so White House aides in jail, and made the president, facing conviction and impeachment, resign.
Without Nixon resigning in 1974, the war would have continued until he left office, at least through 1976. With him out, it became endable. With him in, not possible.
Let me give you one hint that goes right to the present. It’s not in my book, but to show, as I say, how similar the galaxies are. Galaxy Trump here, who is accused of having colluded with a foreign power to affect his election as a challenger, right, not proven yet. It may never be proven, strictly speaking, in terms of documents. We’ll see.
In the case of Nixon, it was last year that a document– last year now– that a document just surfaced from Haldeman’s notes, his Chief of Staff, saying that it was Nixon who gave orders to derail the arrangements of going to Paris for negotiations in November and December of 1969. Humphrey was on the verge of winning with the thought in the public’s mind that there were about to be negotiations that would end this war, which was then, they thought, four years old, since ’65. They didn’t know about the earlier period. Pentagon Papers hadn’t come out yet. And so he was talking.
Nixon was dealing with Thieu through intermediaries, President Thieu, not to go to Paris, to abort the negotiations, the prospect of which was leading Humphrey higher, higher every day and ready to overtake Nixon. That prospect stopped immediately flat when Thieu announced, I will not go to Paris, where he had agreed to go earlier with President Johnson. And Nixon won. Thieu said to aides later, I elected Nixon. He was right.
Without him, Nixon would not have come into office. The war would have ended in ’69, not ’75. I don’t think there’s one American in, what, 100,000 who would recognize what I’m just telling you now. And it’s not very easy. You don’t have to believe it.
But look it up on Google. You’ll find stuff about it. In short, the help of a foreign puppet, really, in that case– Putin is no puppet, needless to say– in that case, a puppet who relied entirely on American financing ensured that there would be regime change from the Democrats to the Republicans. He brought about regime change in this and enabled himself, Thieu, to stay in office another– he left in ’75– six years. And that explains something that you just won’t get from history books.
Why did Nixon so doggedly demand in negotiations that whatever happened, Thieu must remain in office? And if you’ve seen the Burns and Novick series, I think you’ll gather that the Vietnamese, North Vietnamese, always said, we will negotiate a coalition government, but not with Thieu in office. And I think their reason, which I can only conjecture, for not wanting him is that they were sure Nixon would continue the bombing if Thieu were still in office and might not if he weren’t, if there weren’t that continuity. That’s conjecture on their side.
What hardly is much less conjectural on our side is why Nixon could not afford a deal in which Thieu felt betrayed. Because Thieu could reveal, probably with tapes, with tapes, that Nixon and Kissinger and Richard Allen, and other intermediaries, had stolen an election in 1968 by direct collusion. Whether this happened at all or not in this recent election, I don’t know. Did it happen in ’68? It did happen. I do know that. And Nixon could not afford to let that go.
So another 20,000 Americans had to die and probably a million or more Vietnamese. And it would have gone on except for an extraordinary set of circumstances that came together that I really don’t have time to go into here. A lot of it is in the book, “Secrets,” toward the end about the Vietnam part. And as I say, it’s not in the movie.
So, in short, why was Ellsberg dangerous? Because I might reveal his secret plans. Why was that dangerous? Because the secret plans were for nuclear war in Vietnam. The threats were made rather explicitly. For example, as you’ll see in the book, in 1972, when there was an offensive, a year after the Pentagon Papers came out, the war was still going on and getting larger. And Nixon is saying, oh, I’d rather use a nuclear weapon, Henry. You got that? Oh, I think that would be just too much, on the tape, says Kissinger. And Nixon says, nuclear bomb? That’s too big for you, Henry? I just want you to think big, for Christ’s sake.