Terminally ill whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg wants more copycats and is concerned about nuclear threats.
Editors of the online newspaper Infosperber
In the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg had leaked secret military papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post. They became known as the “Pentagon Papers.” The documents revealed that the U.S. government under Lyndon B. Johnson had systematically lied to both the public and Congress about the Vietnam War for years. After leaking the 7,000-page “Pentagon Papers,” Ellsberg faced numerous charges in 1971, including charges under the Espionage Act of 1917. But the charges were dropped in 1973 because of government misconduct.
It was not until 2021 that Ellsberg revealed that the U.S. government had drawn up plans to attack China with nuclear weapons during a 1958 crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
Now 91, Ellsberg said he is suffering from a fatal cancer of the pancreas. On March 24, he gave what must have been his last interview to the New York Times. Infosperber documents some of his statements.
Fear of going to prison
“I am leaving a world that is in a terrible state, in every sense of the word. We have not been this close to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nor do I believe the world can cope with the climate crisis. We’ve known sparingly since the 2016 Paris Agreement that the U.S. must cut its emissions in half by 2030. That’s not going to happen.
Why aren’t there more whistleblowers besides, say, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning? Many people who could inform whistleblowers know about the falsity of much of the information, but they keep their mouths shut. As Snowden said to me, ‘Everyone I dealt with was aware that what the intelligence agencies are doing is wrong and unconstitutional. We’re collecting information here on U.S. citizens that we shouldn’t be collecting.’
But since the Obama administration, whistleblowers worry about going to jail. Aside from that, they fear losing their jobs, their careers, jeopardizing the level of secrecy on which their work depends.
All states should commit to refrain from first use of nuclear weapons
Today I am worried about nuclear war. I always wanted to help prevent it and make it unthinkable. Because a nuclear war would destroy the world.
Right now in Ukraine, nuclear weapons are being used by both sides as a threat, just as a bank robber uses a gun even if he doesn’t pull the trigger. You’re lucky if you can achieve something without pulling the trigger. And we’ve done that dozens of times. But as any gambler knows, eventually you run out of luck.
For seventy years, the U.S. has frequently threatened first use of nuclear weapons, as Putin is doing now in Ukraine. We should never have done that, and Putin should not do it now. I fear that his outrageous threat of nuclear war to maintain Russian control over Crimea is not a bluff.
President Biden promised in the 2020 campaign to announce a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. He should keep that promise, and the world should demand the same commitment from Putin.
My work over the past 40 years has been to help prevent nuclear war. I could think of no better way to use my time. However, I have accomplished little. As I face the end of my life, I want to encourage my two sons to continue working for peace and caring for the planet.”
“Nuclear Danger Should Not Be Carelessly dismissed”
Longtime “New York Times” editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Serge Schmemann warns against not taking the threat of nuclear war seriously:
“While it is satisfying to see that Putin’s threat of nuclear weapons is not causing panic in the West, the danger should not be dismissed lightly.”
Fear of nuclear obliteration is not high among Americans, he said. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, cyberattacks would be considered the biggest global threat today, followed by fake news, China, Russia, the global economy, infectious diseases and climate change.
But the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States would still be sufficient to wipe out much of the planet. China, he said, is pushing to become the third nuclear superpower. And at least six other countries, including the dictatorships in North Korea and Pakistan, have nuclear weapons. The others are Britain, France, Israel and India.
Perversely, he says, the complexity of today’s world “has even engendered something like nostalgia for a time when there were only two superpowers and stability depended on mutually assured destruction.”
Schmemann believes nuclear arms controls are as necessary today as ever, and not just vis-à-vis Moscow.
Source: NYT, 3/13/2023