Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
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This as the afternoon magazine on W I L L Urbana. Good afternoon. So last question this afternoon we talked with the man who leaked a seven page multi-volume secret government study on American foreign policy in Vietnam to the New York Times. And then The Washington Post and other newspapers. The documents came to be known as the Pentagon Papers their publication in 1971 altered U.S. history. Daniel Ellsberg is our guest. He’s now written a memoir about the Pentagon Papers the title secrets A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers in the wake of the publication of the Pentagon Papers came a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court. Ellsberg is
arrest and trial Watergate the publication of the Pentagon Papers ultimately helped end Richard Nixon’s presidency and the war in Vietnam. Listeners I invite your questions and comments this afternoon for Daniel Ellsberg. Here are the phone numbers in Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 That’s 3 3 3 W I L L. Anywhere else. Call toll free 800. 2 2 2 9 4 5 5 800. 1:58. W I L L. Let me tell you a little bit more about our guest after graduating from Harvard University Daniel Ellsberg served in the Marine Corps for two years then he returned to Harvard to earn a
doctorate in economics. In 1959 he joined the Rand Corporation then in 1964 he was recruited to serve in the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Following two years in Vietnam for the State Department he returned to Rand. Again our telephone numbers 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. That’s the number in the Champaign-Urbana area anywhere else. Toll free 800. 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. Daniel Ellsberg thank you very much for joining us this evening and have the opportunity.
Some listeners may be too young to know much about the Pentagon Papers. So I thought I would ask you right here at the at the top to give us a sense of the information this study of American foreign policy in Vietnam.
The information that it contained had 4000 pages of documents mostly top secret from the period chiefs estimates analyses by the civilian parts the Defense Department and elsewhere in the government’s memo was directed by the president all of which hadn’t been which was history by the time the Pentagon Papers came out in 71 and even in that in the newspapers and even history by the time that I gave them to the Senate earlier in 1969 the study ended in 1968.
So it didn’t deal directly at all with the Nixon administration but it did deal with four previous administrations. Truman Eisenhower Kennedy and Johnson two democratic and three Democratic and one Republican and demonstrated really a tremendous gap between what the public had been told in each of the administration about what the government was doing in Vietnam what its intentions were what its aims were and the programs really were at the moment what had been done and what was being done. A great gap between what the public was told and what these documents indicated
insiders understood of what they were doing and what the costs would be and the estimates one thing revealed for example was that there really was never any great optimism at all when the government did that almost any of our policies would have long term success or even short term success. Preventing a victory by the communist led forces that had evicted the French from the northern part of Vietnam North Vietnam by 1954 it also revealed that Eisenhower at that time had no intention of allowing the elections which were promised in the Geneva Accords that ended that conflict with
the French a conflict by the way which the paper showed had been financed by the United States predominantly in 1949 and 50 in the Democrats anxiousness and followed by the Republicans not to be accused of having been in office while Vietnam went entirely communist China’s Communist China had gone in 1949 50 and be accused with the notion they lost Vietnam. They really administration after administration was prepared to sacrifice an indefinite number of lives both American and
foreign to postpone that result. Result was virtually inevitable. Finally because of the prestige and the experience and the support that the communist led independence forces had achieved by their successful fight against the French. And what the papers showed was that presidents understood that pretty well that was just a question of whether they could put off that result by fighting and by escalating the fighting until they were out of office which was an aim that in the eyes of most Americans would not have justified any killing at all. And certainly and certainly the level of warfare that was being conducted by
the administration could not admit to that that was their real aim to the public so they gave false impressions that cost would be low that the success was just around the corner. There was light at the end of the tunnel and so forth all of which no one really by any officials to be false. There was a pattern of governmental lying went right through both Democratic and Republican ministrations right until the war ended.
Under President Ford you went to Congress first with the Pentagon Papers you went to William Fulbright in 1969.
I copied this. I felt that I’d been wrong to conceal these lies and these and the realities behind them from the Congress when I was first in the Pentagon in 64 65 was a full time employee. And in 69 four years later after four years of war I felt that the war was going to get bigger and was not only going to continue as I said but was going to get bigger and that it was way past time for Congress to understand how they’ve been manipulated all this time. So I copied the papers and gave them to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Fulbright with the expectation that he
encouraged that there would be hearings and using these documents and they would call witnesses and get the history out and I hoped make the public realize that the same pattern was being reproduced under a fifth president under President Nixon although I didn’t have documents to prove that. But that is a long pattern of deception wouldn’t at least make it plausible that a fifth president was doing the same. Well wait. Chose not to bring the documents out. There was too much support for Pres. Nixon’s again quite false impression that he was giving that he was getting out of
Vietnam and it would appear to be interfering with that in some way by holding hearings and bringing them out so he didn’t do that. And after two more invasions in Cambodia in 1970 I was in 1971 heading toward new escalation in North Vietnam. I gave the documents to The New York Times and when they began publishing in June 1971 President Nixon issued an injunction got an injunction from a court against him to stop publishing the first injunction against the press in our history.
I then gave them to the Washington Post which published them and was also enjoined then to the Boston Globe which was enjoying it and ultimately to 17 other newspapers of which one other was enjoying St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But in the end of that he after several weeks of this process with the newspapers defying the attorney general and the president as to whether these historical documents would hurt the national security the Supreme Court ruled against the injunctions a sufficient case had not been made for such a prior restraint the publication was resumed. But I was put
on trial facing charges of a possible and years in prison for copying the documents. It was the first such prosecution ever done in this country against someone for a leak for an unauthorized disclosure. And the person who had helped me copy the papers initially told me that it was also put on trial.
Why were there no hearings after publication of the Pentagon.
That’s a very good question now which I’ve been asking myself a lot as I was writing this book and you know reliving the history.
One thing I became aware of was that when the papers first came out when I was underground with my wife still getting them out from one paper to another with the help of friends and strangers who were trying to help end the war. I hadn’t fully realized in that process till I was studying it that both Senator Fulbright the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Mansfield the senator majority leader said we will have immediate hearings and we will use these documents and move on.
Another thing I didn’t know which came out only this last year with new tapes from President Nixon was that he agreed he wanted hearings and he wanted them for the reason ultimately that they didn’t want them. Namely that they implicated the Democrats at least as much as the Republicans if not more in recent years. Made them look bad. And the party simply didn’t want to go into history that for it constituted a dirty laundry.
President Nixon did want those despite the fact that they raised the possibility that his in his own administration was doing the same. And the next question is why why he didn’t get the hearings despite that apparently I think it was essentially that the Democrats backed off despite Nixon’s desire to see them.
And then Nixon I wanted to see them too and that in that respect I was allied with with Nixon as a matter of fact that one of the tapes shows our best ally is Daniel Ellsberg who’s going around the country saying why aren’t there hearings why aren’t people looking at these things. And so we were on the same side of that issue.
Well you’re on the same side for a little while. But then the Nixon White House you know worked to discredit you.
Yes but that wasn’t because of the Pentagon Papers. I said we really were on the side of getting history out since the history was largely from his point of view was largely Democratic history. That wasn’t my concern I just was it was history it was our country’s history. And although I was a Democrat I was prepared to see that dirty linen out. He was afraid it was some basis realistic basis that I had documents on his own administration that went beyond what the Pentagon Papers and I did as he knew. But I didn’t have as much as he feared or suspected.
I wish I had but I didn’t have what proved what I was saying that he had made nuclear threats.
In fact I was I wasn’t saying that at the time saying that earlier but I was saying that he had threatened massive escalation which did come about indeed a year after the Pentagon Papers he was he was bombing North Vietnam very very heavily leading up to the heaviest bombing in history after an election that year just after in which his secretary his assistant for national security Henry Kissinger had announced peace is at hand.
And people voted for that happily and then we saw the heaviest bombing in human history for several weeks over Hanoi.
He was afraid that I had documents that would prove what he was planning to do and what he was threatening and he had to shut me up. And although I didn’t have such documents it was quite plausible and realistic for him to fear that I did. And I think he reacted as I’m afraid many presidents would have reacted he acted illegally to silence me. He sent people to get information on me from my former psychoanalyst office it might blackmail me into silence. The plan wasn’t to release it immediately but to threaten me with releasing it if I kept denouncing his policies.
And later some of these same people were sent to beat me up or intimidate me on the steps of the Capitol in 1972. May 3rd and then tryst they didn’t carry that out because they were afraid they would be captured. But just weeks later the same people were caught in the Watergate.
They then had information about White House crimes against me and some others to tell to prosecutors if they weren’t shut up. So President Nixon then undertook further criminal activity of bribing them into silence to perjuring themselves. And when some of that began to come out and thanks to John Dean revealing to prosecutors when he revealed the break in to the psychiatrist’s office. The president was now on a path that led him to resignation facing impeachment and that didn’t make the war.
So because of presidents President Nixon’s reaction his criminal reaction to not so much to my immediate revelation but to his fears that there would be further revelations. My actions did in fact contribute to ending the war was good although he believed it.
We’re talking this afternoon with Daniel Ellsberg. He has written a memoir of Vietnam in the Pentagon Papers the title secrets. This is the afternoon magazine My name is Celeste Quinn listeners you can join us with the telephone call 3 3 3 9 4 5 5.
The number in the Champaign-Urbana area anywhere else toll free 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. We have a couple of callers ready to talk with us. We’re going to go first to a caller on line 1 in champagne. Good afternoon.
Hello. It’s an honor to ask a question sir. I want to go back a little bit in the history of French Indochina is it not true that the man was actually our ally against the Japanese and to spur him on. We were promised freedom for Indochina from the French.
And I’m sorry I’m not hearing this too. OK. Isn’t isn’t it true that man was actually a U.S. ally against the Japanese. Yes that is true and that we had promised him that colonialism would and we reneged on that.
No I would say that no promises were made to him the people who worked directly with him including a an oasis major named Archimedes Patty found himself quite sympathetic to agreement’s fight for independence but he was in no position to make any promises and did not as far as I know.
I and did Truman in fact or FDR at that time in fact FDR was very unsympathetic. Franklin Roosevelt was unsympathetic to French colonialism but for reasons of our diplomacy in Europe where we relied on French against the communists and to counterbalance the Germans to some extent he did decide somewhat reluctantly but he did decide to back France’s effort to regain its colony.
That was a really rather fatal error for the next 30 years and it has persisted in by Truman also. We did not promise him we did not know we didn’t make a promise and we didn’t renege on that promise.
We did act in very strong contradiction to our own country’s tradition of self-determination and of opposing colonialism we ourselves of course had liberated cells from an empire and we’ve made promises a very gentle sort in the Atlantic Charter that our aims in the war was for self-determination.
But since Churchill joined us from that promise that Churchill did not really have in mind of letting go of his own color of Britain’s colonies in India and elsewhere. And it was that was another reason for our backing the French effort.
We felt that if we did not back the French effort to reconquer a colony that had declared itself independent and both marked for 45 and in September 45 that the British would take that as a very unfriendly precedent for their own colonies in India and Malaysia and elsewhere. We were very close to the British so for reasons that did not really do credit to our anti-colonial tradition of war in contradiction to it we supported these post-war colonial efforts and went when did Ho become communist who had been a communist since
very early in the communist movement around 19 20 I would say.
He founded the Indochinese Communist Party in the early thirties I think 1930. And but that came after independence nationalist efforts by him he actually turned up at Versailles was a borrowed frock coat and what not for a diplomat to argue for his country’s independence in the light of Wilson’s 14 points promising self-determination.
Of course they had a very good case for it but Wilson refused to see him.
And it was after his disillusionment I think at first sight and with other efforts in France that he joined the communists and what he saw was an anti-colonial struggle. Well thank you. And I just want to say you’re a very courageous man. And we all owe you a great debt.
Thank you. Thanks for the call. Let’s go next to another listener. A caller on the toll free line calling us this afternoon from Eureka. Good afternoon.
Good afternoon. It’s also an honor to speak to you Dr. Ellsberg. I heard you on Book TV this weekend on C-SPAN and then you were on you had been on a.
WGN radio interview program and what I got from that is that one of the great lessons from this is that leaders lie and especially on your C-SPAN talk you were seeming to predict that by the time or after the election after the Republicans had one in which they seemed to have won a majority that the war with Iraq would be in full force. Do you still hold true.
I made the prediction that Republicans could win. I must say I was going to predict what you said after I did last night but I thought that whoever won really whoever won and I don’t I don’t think I made a prediction though I favored.
I certainly was as I say disappointed that the Republicans had control of the Senate because I think that makes war even closer than it was. I thought that even if the Democrats had control of the Senate.
And remember as I’ve said on some of these programs in my view. Yes yes.
The Democrats had had covered themselves with shame by signing over their constitutional powers on this war to the president. So I was very disappointed in the president and the Democrats too but even had they won I think they would not have done what they could and should have done to stand in the president’s way. He clearly does believe this was in the interests of the United States as well as those of his his close allies in the Republican Party. And he wants this war. And at this point. And I did foresee that starting the war would be accompanied. And I do foresee
that not with certainty but with likelihood that that will be accompanied by that kind of deception and manipulation that we saw in the past under my Democratic president Lyndon Johnson. In other words I think the president will claim at the last moment that he has evidence which at most I would say would be very ambiguous evidence but that he will claim he has unambiguous evidence that American forces are being put in jail and his commander in chief. He has no alternative but to move faster against Iraq to protect American forces. And I think this is very likely to be untrue or founded. But and I would and I’m
calling on people in the government who know that to be the case if it is the case who know that the president is once again lying manipulating the country into a wrongful and unnecessary war that they should do it. I wish I had done back in 1964 go to Congress and the press immediately with documents and tell the truth.
Do you see any evidence that has begun to take place.
Yes. In fact there is much more unauthorized disclosure which is the official term for leaking than we ever saw in Vietnam.
One can say except for the Pentagon Papers and that had to do with history with past events we’re seeing now current documents being released by people mostly anonymously but also very many statements of belief and understanding by people like Major General Marine Major General Anthony Zinni who has just given as a matter of opinion very very informed opinion he was a previous head of U.S. forces in the Middle East and was Bush’s bush jr’s own representative as a mediator in the Middle East and he
was saying that he sees he does not see Saddam as anywhere near that number one danger to the United States and sees no real justification for invading him at this time or any links with al Qaeda. Others are saying the same the current director of CIA George Tenet is that has made an unclassified statement which he was clearly legally authorized to do. But I am certain not authorized not encouraged by the president to Congress directly contradicting what the president had just been saying to Congress namely Tenet said CIA has no evidence of a link
between no credible evidence of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda for any evidence or any reason to predict that he would give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. In the absence of a U.S. attack and on the other hand he said that he felt that if we did attack there was a high expectation that he would give such weapons to terrorists and would use them himself to possibly terrible effect. He didn’t and does. But I would say that that meant a high likelihood that we or the Israelis would use nuclear weapons with the president thank you very much Dana for us.
So people are speaking out more before when I had my first two that it’s just I think we can use a lot more of that.
I don’t think the listener who’s called this afternoon invite others to join us. Daniel Ellsberg against you in the afternoon magazine the numbers to call if you’d like to join us was a question 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. That’s the number in the Champaign-Urbana area anywhere else toll free 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. I want to go back to August of 1964. You were new at the Pentagon you had been working with the Pentagon as an employee of Rand but in August 1964 at this point you had been recruited to work for the Pentagon. And in
August 1964 you’re not there very long and the goal of the Tonkin Gulf resolution is passed or stayed the first day a full time employee the alleged attack on August 2nd the attack on our destroyer in the Tonkin Gulf.
Oh it has taking place in the morning that I find the office and by the time our raids had taken place that night the very first night Washington time the first raids against North Vietnam there were to continue for over seven years.
The president had made statements that I already knew to be false. That there had been there was unequivocal evidence of an unprovoked attack on our destroyers and routine patrol in international waters and that we had retaliated with the intention of no wider war. And there’s about five. As for fair I knew within days and mostly that very first night that each of those assertions was false and known to be false by the president that he was lying and the country was being lied into a war first via a Tonkin Gulf resolution that gave the
president on limited power really to respond as he saw fit.
If the president determined to attacks on U.S. interests abroad a very broad delegation which he used of course to get us into a major war.
And also very quickly you became acclimated to the culture of secrecy.
Well I was that already. People ask me I wasn’t shocked by all these lies. My very first night I had to say well no I had been a consultant for years and was aware of lying though it was true that once inside I didn’t learn a whole new dimension of that.
There was far more lying than I had realized by the way.
As the previous questioner pointed out they heard me speak about lying.
I’m not really talking about lying as being the problem. The lying is far more pervasive than I think any outsider can imagine.
But my complaint is ultimately not even so much with the lying as I said I was kind of used to that as a consultant but with what the lying encourage the president to do which was to follow a policy for which he could not have gotten adequate support if it had been open.
But a policy that was essentially crazy is extremely extremely against U.S. interests disproportionate to U.S. interests and with very great dangers. I believe that’s happening right now. And even though there is more disclosure than there was then a great deal of lying is going on. And again my complaint is is with lying to a degree but much more with what the lying is about the secrecy and the effective find it plausible the fact that he gets away with it enables him to carry out a policy that seems to me as it does clearly to many members of the administration. Beneath the president
essentially crazy that it was it’s a reckless gamble that is not justified at all in its in its dangers or in the not on the people that it will kill. We’re about to kill and Middle Easterners and not only Iraqis and Americans. In a cause that does not in any way justify those deaths.
Tell us what you learned though working for John McNaughton. And tell us about his ability with reporters to feed them a line ball.
Well he I don’t and my boss John McNaughton I think was not unusual in that respect at that job dealing with reporters and I didn’t personally have to deal with reporters. You have to be an effective con man effectively essentially to have the job which is part of the job. It turns out that that’s fairly widely held to that capability to foreign reporters from a position of authority. As I’ve said to my close friend Sy Hersh who’s the perhaps the number one investigative reporter in the country known as very hard bitten and very many exposed
Saiz which have gotten them two Pulitzer Prizes. Sy I don’t believe that you can imagine how often you have any idea how often you still in your life are lied to and how effectively how much you are fooled by it because that’s that’s the way the government works. They regard that as part of their job. It’s not that they’re unusual buyers from necessarily an unusually good liar. It turns out that speaking from authority with supposedly lots of information behind you reporters like other citizens want to believe
that they’re not being lied to. They want to believe their president is telling the truth and the president has an enormous advantage when it comes to fooling people. But the moral of that it seems to me is twofold that one if they are following policies that are vulnerable to truthtelling. So if you believe they’re wrong and dangerous in the government and I’m sure their government is filled right now with people who believe the current course of action is dangerous and wrong where the very leaks that are happening indicate that and we’re getting leaks about dissent within the government that they do have a power to change those
policies by telling the truth not not by doing something wrong but by doing something right.
They have more power than they really may think of themselves as having And from the public’s point of view we can demand out of our officials and get some of it but we can also see the positive side the real moral is you don’t take your understanding of the situation you should not mainly or only from what you hear from officials or from the president whether it’s a matter of your own party or not. He’s got to supplement that with news from other sources and test them against each other in your own commonsense and form your own opinions on this. There’s no no substitute for doing your own
investigation on these very important matters. Life and death it’s worth it’s worth the effort and it is possible to do it. It’s somewhat easier than it used to be with the Internet now because you can see editorials and comments from all over the nation in our sites like for example w w w dot antiwar dot com or common dreams one word dot org and they bring you information from all over the world really which it was much harder to get.
Thirty years ago when you were working in the Pentagon back in 1964 your new employee and pretty much you’re pretty quickly brought up to speed. Did were you thinking about the welfare of the nation did you think about the public or were you thinking about John Macnaughton Well that’s it isn’t quite an either or there me.
Certainly I felt quite idealistic as a public servant and earlier as a Marine and I was doing this for the good of my country and for the good of the people and for the world. And that’s what was good for the U.S. was good for the world and that was that we were all working. And I’m sure that’s true today. By the way that people do see themselves whether I agree with with their judgment or not at all I have fully confidence that they see themselves as working for the good of the country and of the people and of the world.
But one is a strong tendency in any line of work like that. I think it’s not only going to be have your sense of what’s good for the world shaped very strongly by what’s good for your team your organization your corporation your boss and that’s ultimately your own job and your career.
If you see the good of the world as being opposed to what’s good for your job or what’s good for you you’re in a terrible dilemma often.
But most people don’t see that they manage to see what they’re doing is quite compatible with the good of the world. And so they sort of focus on what they are what their boss wants. Certainly if you work for the government what the president wants and that you can’t go wrong in terms of your own career by doing it that way it’s rarely a good career move to be going against the interests of your boss. So it’s a very strong tendency to see everything as converging in that way even when an outsider can see what seems to be a very obvious contradiction.
Let’s talk with some more listeners. Next we’re going to go to a caller on line 1.
Good afternoon. Hi. Hi. I’m wondering what you think or thought of the United States military response an attack on the al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan. With that well justified were we lied to on the face of it it seemed like we were responding to attack the people who attacked us on 9/11. Yes. I’m wondering what your thoughts on that.
First of all it’s very clear increasingly clear that we really do face a serious danger from al Qaeda and that that we didn’t have anything corresponding to that at the time of Vietnam or even in between. This is new and it is a very serious danger along with other dangers in the world. We could name right the danger of nuclear war anywhere which is a precedent as in India Pakistan which is a kind of precedent that endangers the whole world including those that dangerous toxic warming the dangers of toxic. These are general dangers which are very real. And in addition to those we have a significant danger here if we took that
list of dangers in the world facing the world face the U.S. specifically I put al Qaeda very high and at least if not the most immediate of all. And along with another one by the way the danger of which is related the danger of leakage so to speak of nuclear weapons and materials from Russia who are very ill guarded and where I’m afraid.
Thanks to our own policies and thanks to Al Qaeda the black market price of a Russian nuclear weapon is probably going up up up on up. So the chance of al Qaeda getting a nuclear weapon from Russia or from Pakistan for example is I think a very serious danger to this country and elsewhere. Much much more. And the danger of ever getting weapons from Saddam or nuclear weapons if he gets them from Saddam unless he is attacked to come right back to al Qaeda.
I think it really is a danger as far as I know not linked to Saddam’s CIA knows and when it comes to Afghanistan it was quickly clear that they had a real base in Afghanistan which so that to attack Afghanistan Afghanistan might or might not have been a prudent or effective thing to do but it was addressed to a real problem that had a real plausible base there. You were attacking the home base and the funding base at the moment.
Well take that back. The real funding bases in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan wasn’t coming from Afghanistan. But the money was going to Afghanistan and you were were you are attacking their home base.
Now there’s nothing like that realism in attacking Iraq when we attack Iraq. We are not attacking Al Qaida.
We’re making al-Qaida’s problems almost surely he’s here their problems we’re making our problems harder by making new recruits for al Qaeda and by making it harder for other countries with a large Muslim population to cooperate with us against al-Qaida. So that’s good for al-Qaida.
I would assume that Osama assuming he’s alive somewhere is praying for the U.S. to attack Iraq. And that’s that’s pretty obvious. In a way the the attack in Iraq is against the interests of our struggle against al Qaeda going back was it a good thing to attack Afghanistan after all the book and the word is still out on that.
George Tenet of the CIA has just warned us that we’re in greater danger now than we were before 9/11 from al-Qaida. Well that shows that the attack on Afghanistan certainly did not solve the problem on the face it would seem to have made it worse. One could argue well maybe it would be even even worse if we hadn’t attacked Afghanistan. I’m not a good judge of that.
My own guess from what I’ve read is that it did not forward our interests very greatly although it had some plausibility as a way to attack it given that we were unable to get Osama or most of the al Qaeda people given that they went into Pakistan given that their funding seems anything to have increased and that they’re still at it an actual military attack did not seem to have served our purposes very well. And I think there is a general point to be made from that. This is a serious problem and it is not a problem with a military solution. On the whole if there was one place where a military approach had some plausibility of helping it
was Afghanistan and may may or may not have help there but elsewhere it’s a police problem an intelligence problem. And it absolutely demands cooperation from all the places where al Qaeda operates and that means Muslim countries. But it also means countries like Germany and elsewhere where they where they have operated we have to have cooperation. And if the U.S. acts in an illegal reckless arrogant and lethal way that enrages the populations of these countries where we need cooperation we will find it harder to get that cooperation. And our problem will be more serious. And I’m afraid that’s
exactly what’s on the way.
Thank you very much. It’s nice to hear you speaking. Thank you.
Let’s talk with another listener on line 2 caller in Charleston. Good afternoon.
Good afternoon. I’ve just finished reading a recent article in Newsweek regarding the military buildup in the Gulf. On a scale from 1 to 10 although you’ve just commented on on the dangers of it what do you think of the chances of some kind of military action against Iraq.
Well I’ve been asking my friends who are more wired in on this than I am here in California. From my own you know to get a sense of that and the the most optimistic answer I’ve gotten from someone who is quite well where it ends up is if there’s a one third chance of no war. In other words two thirds chance of war. The These kinds of estimates are I’m comfortable with because I I worked for a long time on the question of expressing uncertainties in terms of IEDs doesn’t mean an objective probability but it means you know what is in your own opinion.
You think the odds are and other friends put it much higher than that close to certain or being certain. Well nothing’s certain quite certain.
Miracles do happen such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or that or the peaceful resolution in South Africa which virtually no one foresaw. And maybe there will be no war. I would regard that as a kind of almost at this point after the election even as much of a miracle as those. But they did happen. I think the hope now I was putting more hope in Congress somehow getting in the way of this yesterday or two days ago and thinking trying to think of ways to to get Congress to live up to its responsibilities and and at the
very least demand that there be no action without U.N. sanction whether it gets U.N. sanction is not yet clear. Not just saying that you now feel that Bush is determined on regime change here which will require invasion. And my current hope as of midnight last night and then now if Congress is going to be part of the problem here what can possibly avert this because I think it’s extremely important that it be averted not only to save a lot of lives but to avert reactions by
Saddam that will be suicidal on his part and terribly murderous weapons of mass destruction which could lead to the use of weapons of mass destruction by us or the Israelis. I would like to see at this point and if you know any way to get through to it or anybody does I will be doing what I can to see. I would say Secretary of State Powell convince the Russians and the Chinese and the French who have relations with Saddam to really put it to him that this game is up altogether and that he must
allow U.N. inspectors in immediately. That he should he should move as fast as Chris drafted and getting missiles out of Cuba. When he saw war coming at him and I don’t think by the way that’s the result that Bush really wants.
I think Bush wants something that can only be achieved by war. He wants an invasion that will give us control of that oil under a. And of the region. And the mere backed down on the inspection issue would not really satisfy the Bush administration but it could keep them from going to war and all and simultaneously cleanse Iraq of weapons of mass destruction which would be a good thing in itself.
So I think there is a chance of that. I’d have to say it was a small chance but it’s one I will be working on.
I want to thank the listener for his call this afternoon we’ve got to wrap up now. I have one last question in the book Secrets you write about meeting with. Henry Kissinger in August the fall of 1970. Let’s just say and you are interested at this point you have the Pentagon Papers and you were interested in leaking into the White House. Yes. Here’s the question I have for you. Do you think the current administration. Do you think President Bush is aware of does he have the full picture of the risks of going to war in Iraq.
I can’t I this will sound as though I’m joking. I can’t get a good feel for what President Bush is aware of or is not aware of into his mind.
I have more more confidence without even having met them.
Of the way Rumsfeld Cheney Wolfowitz Perle these people whose judgment I certainly don’t share and expectations I don’t share. But they are the kind of people I worked with in the Pentagon and elsewhere. And it’s not coming through to me that on the one hand I’m sure that they know the falsity of some of the reasons they are given for two of those can be dismissed. I do not believe they believe they are heading toward democracy in Iraq or would even accept democracy in Iraq which could lead to a Shiite regime that might ally with Iran and they wouldn’t accept that. So democracy is not among our goals. I don’t
believe they can believe.
I just don’t believe they can believe that Saddam is our number one danger that they they’re just saying that they can see these other dangers and I’m confident as well as everybody else can and the Devey believe that they are really going to reduce terrorism.
Hard to say a principle I learned in the Pentagon was that anyone can be as dumb as he has to be to keep his job. And when you talk about these subordinates for going down there. Yeah. People can believe anything if they have to practically. And yet I do have hard. I do have trouble believing that they are that dumb that they don’t see some of these dangers. On the other hand once you set a goal there is a human tendency right across the board every culture and everything to begin to turn your attention away from the
costs and the risks of that goal toward the possible.
And of itself seven the idea that it will work. This is why it’s so essential. It would be essential for Congress to pray its constitutional role of opposing their judgments or you know confronting their judgments to those of these people inside who can just be. I think they’ve gotten swept away by the feeling of being the only superpower. And the real power in the world into a kind of arrogance and activism that everything is going to fall down and fall before them. That’s very dangerous.
We’ve got to we’ve got to wrap it up here. We’ve strayed a little bit past our time even. OK. I want to thank you very much for talking to us and thanks for having.
Sure. Daniel Ellsberg has been our guest He’s the author of Secrets A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. The book is published by Viking. You can find him on the worldwide web at w w w dot Ellsberg dot net.
Daniel Ellsberg was a U.S. military analyst in 1969 when he learned that the government was hiding the knowledge that the Vietnam War could most likely not be won. His release of the papers to the New York Times and other U.S. newspapers in 1971 precipitated a political crisis, and led to a series of events culminating in the Watergate burglaries that brought down President Richard Nixon. In this interview, Ellsberg tells his story.