Daniel Ellsberg at lunch with the FT

I enjoyed very much FT columnist Edward Luce’s full interview of Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg’s fear of nuclear holocaust is what most caught my attention, however, most likely because I share his fear.

I tell Ellsberg that I was at a conference in Halifax last month when General John Hyten, head of the US strategic command that controls America’s nuclear arsenal, said he would refuse an “illegal order” from the president to use nuclear weapons.

It has been more than an hour and we have yet to talk about President Trump. Given that we are a stone’s throw from the White House, this must rank as something of a milestone. Ellsberg is dismissive of Hyten’s reassurance. “No president ever believes he is doing anything illegal,” he says. “Trump is different in that he talks about that openly. He says whatever he does is legal, just like Nixon said. Of course Trump is much more unbalanced than most presidents, but Hyten was talking nonsense. Which American officer has ever been sent to jail for obeying orders? Name me one. Besides, if the general refused the president’s order, Trump could fire him and replace him with someone who would.”

Edward Luce, “Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Trump and North Korea“, Lunch with the FT, Financial Times, 9 December 2017 (gated paywall).

Daniel Ellsberg (born 1931), while employed by the RAND Corporation in 1971, released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret study of the conduct of the Vietnam War commissioned by Defence Secretary Robert McNamara. The 7,000-page leak revealed America’s generals had known for years that there was no possibility of military victory in Vietnam.

Mr Ellsberg’s completed his memoirs, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) decades ago, but released the volume only last week because it was previously rejected by numerous publishers. Mr Luce writes in his column

Ellsberg was one of cold war America’s most senior nuclear planners. First at the Pentagon, then at the Rand Corporation, he helped devise the nuclear doctrines that still hold today. Ellsberg went from being a brilliant cold war hawk to becoming an advocate of nuclear elimination.


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