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Daniel Ellsberg talks about the occupation with Eric Schubring on WOJB FM. .
Leading up to and throughout the war, I said repeatedly that we were being
lied to about our leaders' reasons for going to war, what they saw as the
risks and dangers of going to war, and their assessments of the risks that
Saddam would attack us. I was fooled on one point: their charge that Saddam
actually possessed materials for making weapons of mass destruction.
I'm a fairly skeptical person, but when every administration official says,
without any contradiction from inside, that "we know that Saddam Hussein has
biological and chemical weapons, and we know that he has reconstituted his
nuclear program," that seemed plausible to me. In other words, my opposition
to the war was not based on the belief that our leaders were lying about
that point. I assumed that our leaders were telling the truth on that one
point, that Saddam did in fact have chemical and biological weapons. In
fact, that belief was one of the reasons I was as worried about the war as I
was. I felt it was incredibly risky to be sending U.S. troops against
biological and chemical weapons, which might very well have evoked a nuclear
response from this administration.
I felt, as Americans died from nerve gas--which the British claimed was
ready to be launched on 20 to 45 minutes notice--that that posed a real
possibility that we would respond with nuclear weapons, which would endanger
us, and the whole world, in the longer run.
It turns out that the war wasn't as risky or reckless as I was lead to fear
by the administration. On that count, our leaders' aggression was less
mad--it was criminal, any way you looked at it, without UN authorization and
without an imminent threat facing us--but it wasn't as dangerous as I
thought it would be.
If Blair and Bush had been telling the truth in their statements that they
knew we were facing deployable chemical and biological weapons, the attack
just seemed insanely dangerous, on top of being illegal and certain to lead
the deaths of many Americans and Iraqis. But the likelihood it would blow up
completely was not as great as I believed.
It now appears they were lying about that as well. Which means they were
lying about every aspect of this from the beginning.
The notion, for example, that we would be welcomed with open arms, as a
liberating army, may have been believed by the President, on the basis of
some intelligence. But it's also coming out now that that was very much
questioned by our own military, and the CIA. To portray it as a clear-cut
case, that all the intelligence said we'd have no problem in Iraq after
getting rid of Saddam, was clearly a lie.
The public estimates for the cost of the war, from the White House and the
Defense Department were premised on the notion that we wouldn't need many
troops. Did they really believe that? Those lead to low budget figures--$2
billion a month. Now we're looking at $4 billion a month, and that's surely
going to be low. Was that unforeseeable at the time? The Army Chief of
Staff, Shinseki, said the number of troops would be on the order of several
hundred thousand, and Wolfowitz, the number-two man in the Defense
Department, said "that's wildly wrong, that's off the wall."
Now, who was right? Shinseki was absolutely right. It's turning out we're
going to be sending even more troops to Iraq, and they're not coming home
any time soon. And when they're talking now about "it will take 2 to 4
years," Tommy Franks said on his retirement, let me just say, that is a
gross underestimate. To achieve what they're talking about, there will be
American troops there for not just my lifetime, but your lifetime, as in
Korea. I don't think, under current objectives, those troops are leaving
Iraq any sooner than they have left Korea. And we have 38,000 troops in
Korea, almost 50 years after the war.
I've frankly been dismayed, and disappointed, and surprised--I have thing to
learn here, still at my age--at how easy it has been to fool the American
public on all these points for the last 9 months. Obviously, the media have
helped them be fooled, by being credulous, and unquestioning about the
President, by just repeating lies, or crazy statements, uncritically.
How about the statement that Saddam Hussein was the number one danger to the
United States, and to the world--even assuming, against what we now know,
that he did have chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons? Well,
that's an absurd statement. Can they really believe that? In a world with
al Qaeda, where it was clear, early on, that there was no link between Iraq
and al Qaeda? In a world in which Indians and Pakistanis are on the verge of
nuclear war? In a world in which North Korea has nuclear weapons? In a
world in which the former Soviets have tens of thousands of poorly guarded
nuclear weapons? (That's perhaps the number one danger we face right
now--the leaking of those weapons into terrorists' hands.) In this kind of
world, Saddam is our greatest danger?
Could Secretary of State Powell really believe that? I thought not. I
don't know whether Bush believed it--it's hard for me to get inside his
head. But Powell thought that? There's no way. He was just saying that, and
lying about his own beliefs. That was apparent enough, to anyone really
following this thing, and not just watching Fox News, six or eight months
ago. But what does it take to get through to the American people that
they're being lied to by their leaders?
One thing they're getting now has a chance of making a difference, and I
think nothing else will. So I say this is necessary, whether or not it's
sufficient, and that is for people who have access to the inside information
to start sharing that with the public. And we're getting some of that.
We're getting more leaks than we ever got before, including some documents.
I'm very admiring of former Ambassador to Niger Joseph C. Wilson. He didn't
have documents--he wasn't shown the forged documents about the supposed
Iraq-Niger uranium link--or I would hope he would put those out. But he has
told us the truth about what he said to the Vice President's office, that he
refuted to them the claims of Iraq-Niger uranium link. This is in
contradiction, of course, to the Administration's statements that they did
not know his results of his investigation on this issue. Wilson says "I have
every confidence that the office did know, and was briefed on this." Of
course, that ends his future participation in the government.
Admirably, people have actually resigned. A man named Kiesling resigned from
the State Department, and John H. Brown resigned from the State Department.
Greg Tielman, a former head of intelligence in this area, with the State
Department, who retired in September, has been speaking out, very
So this is the time for Congress to be calling those people. And if the
majority Congress won't hold hearings, which they're very resistant to
doing--they didn't even want to use the word 'investigation' on this.
Investigate possible lies by the President about sex? They scrambled to do
that. But investigate what appear to be--and what I'm sure are--lies about
going to war, that are still costing American lives, and will cost a lot
more, and lot of Iraqi lives? No no, that's not something we need to
investigate or look into any further, they say.
I'd say the American people should be demanding of their representatives
that they do their duty by the Constitution, and by us, to use their powers
of investigation. They should call these retired military and State
Department people who have spoken out. Get those people before Congress,
and ask for documents. And then, the other side of that is that
insiders--not the top people necessarily--but people on the inside who have
access to documents showing the country has been lied into war, and may be
in the course of being lied into other wars, whether Iran, or Syria, or
others--get those documents out.
I'm saying that people on the inside should consider doing what I wish I had
done, earlier on, in 1964 and 1965, when I could have. I'm saying, don¹t do
what I did, as an insider, don't wait till the war is continued for years.
Give documents to Congress and the public now. It's not enough to give them
to Congress alone, because they'll be led to sit on them. Get them to the
press in a timely way, that can save American lives and save other people's
You may well be found out, you will risk your career, your clearance--you
might go to prison. But a war's worth of lives are at stake here, and the
personal cost doesn't even compare with the lives you may save by telling
the truth. . . .
Schubring: Is there a way to get out of this war?
Yes, I think so, which isn't to say that I have high hopes that this
administration will choose it, but they certainly won't do it without public
and Congressional pressure. And that is to turn the so-called "peacekeeping
process"--in what is really a war going on--to turn this situation over to
the UN as thoroughly and fully as we possibly can. Ideally, I would say
that the invading US troops, who will never be seen by Iraqis as anything
but invaders and occupiers in Vietnam--[laugher] I said Vietnam, but I
should be learning to say Iraq now. . . Get the UN in there, get NATO in
there to the extent the UN will authorize it. My friends who are experts
in this area believe that US troops would be in much less danger if they
were part of an international force, they would be less perceived as
thoroughly occupying troops.
I heard Howard Dean make that point, so we do have a presidential candidate
who's calling for that, and not losing either money or support, and he
deserves more, as does Kucinich, as a result of what they're saying.
I think we can reduce our short term and long term risks here, but this
administration is very reluctant to do that. They want to run Iraq, and its
oilfields, and its bases, unilaterally, for the US. That is a mad project.
Or, let's put it this way. It's not infeasible--we can stay there, we can
keep the bases, we can keep the oil, under American control. But we the
people will pay a continuing price for that in American lives, as long as
Bush's current unilateralist policy is pursued. That price will be very
And, if there's a lot of dissent to that policy, the instinct of this
administration will be to shut down that dissent, to put us in the direction
of the tyrannies we've been supporting, like Saddam Hussein in the Eighties,
or like Saudi Arabia. That's as big a cost to us as a nation, if not
bigger, than the American lives we'll be losing. And the way to avoid both
of those costs is to let the UN do as much as they're willing to do to clean
up this mess.
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