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Daniel Ellsberg Warns of ‘No Survivors’ if US Goes to War With ‘Criminally Insane’ Nuclear Weapons via Reader Supported News (Newsweek)

By Nina Burleigh

aniel Ellsberg is best known as the defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed Defense Department lies about American involvement in the Vietnam War. But in 1971, when he took those top secret documents out of his office safe at the Rand Corp., he also took a cache of materials related to his job as one architect of America’s mutually assured destruction nuclear strategy, or MAD.

He hid the top-secret nuclear papers in plastic bags on his brother’s farm in upstate New York, intending to reveal them after the furor over the Pentagon Papers died down. But Tropical Storm Doria in 1971 eroded the hiding place, and he never saw his papers again.


If, as you say, the nuclear weapons system is “criminally insane,” how did you, as one of the original planners, morally justify it then and are people still thinking the way you did?

Clearly they are. I’m not pointing fingers and saying you must be some sort of monster to have been participating in this. What I have learned is that very ordinary people are capable of participating in and promoting monstrous actions all the time. It doesn’t take unusually evil people to do terrible things. In the case of building up a doomsday machine, the purpose was to deter an enemy that was supposedly far ahead of us. We were told to see the USSR as Hitler with nuclear weapons.

You talk about what happens to people who enter the system on one side and come out on the other. Late in his second term, President Obama—who received a Nobel Prize for his anti-nuclear position and who spoke at Hiroshima, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons—agreed to spend more than a trillion dollars to upgrade them. How much of that transformational process has to do with supporting the industry that developed around nukes?

I now see that this system was a massive subsidy to the aerospace industry, to prop it up. It was not that [aerospace companies] were doing what the Pentagon needed; it was that the Pentagon was rationalizing what Boeing and Raytheon and Lockheed needed in the way of sales to the government. That has warped everything. The profits and the jobs and the votes have evolved. [Members of Congress acted] in favor of what their constituents and the corporations needed, [as well as] what their careers needed. And they didn’t see a conflict of interest there because they could not imagine a conflict of interest between the U.S. and Lockheed. That’s blatantly true now.

Who are the five people in the world you would most want to read this book?

The first name that comes to mind is [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel. I think she’s in a position to realize that she could exercise world leadership on this issue with great effect. We instituted first-use threats for Germany, and she could renounce that and say we do not want to be under anybody’s nuclear umbrella.

The next person, maybe even No. 1, is Xi [Jinping] in China. I would like to see China’s world leadership on this issue. Xi does eat chocolate cake with Trump. And they have had a relatively sane policy since 1964. They have had no pretense to be able to disarm another superpower or to attack first. The world would be enormously safer if all the superpowers did that.

After that, [British Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn. He wants to denuclearize Britain. Corbyn would be reassured that he is right, and realize ‘these weapons are as insane as I’ve been saying.’

Finally, the Democrats. I would like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the other progressive leaders to read it because they don’t have this problem in their minds.

You didn’t mention President Trump. Any Republicans?

[Defense Secretary] James Mattis, absolutely. I have some real hopes there. Mattis is a Marine like me, and that means he has never had anything to do with nuclear weapons. I can imagine Mattis would allow a study to be made of the effects of nuclear winter. The Pentagon has never done such a study, asking what would our bombs do to the world. They don’t have any plan other than doomsday.



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