It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were 500,000 Vietnamese Communists under arms—more than twice the number that our military in Saigon would admit to in the “war of attrition.”  Gen. William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books.  And in a cable to Washington, Gen. Creighton Abrams warned that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.

Westmoreland’s figures were shown to be bogus in January/February 1968, when Communist troops mounted a surprise countrywide offensive in numbers that proved that Adams’ analysis had been correct.  But because Sam was reluctant to go “outside channels,” the CIA and Army were able to keep the American people in the dark.

After the Tet offensive, however, Daniel Ellsberg learned that Westmoreland had asked for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam—right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond.  In his first such act, Ellsberg leaked Sam Adams’ data to the then-independent New York Times on March 19, 1968.  Dan’s timely truth telling, and that of the Times’ Neil Sheehan, won the day.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us...We have no support for the war.  This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks…I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”  On March 31, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November 1968.

Sam Adams continued to press for honesty and accountability but stayed “inside channels”—and failed.  He was not able to see that the supervening value of ending unnecessary killing trumped the secrecy agreement he had signed as a condition of employment.  Nagged by remorse, Adams died at 55 of a sudden heart attack.  He could not shake the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled, the entire left wall of the Vietnam memorial would not exist.  There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.

In the past, the annual Sam Adams Award has been given to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; and former US Army Sgt. Sam Provance, who told the truth about Abu Ghraib.

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