A new book, The Doomsday Machine, by former military analyst and cold war hawk Daniel Ellsberg hits the streets at an opportune time. Ellsberg counsels against a pre-emptive attack to remove the North Korean leadership – a strategy under consideration by some in the White House. This, he says, would be more likely to trigger than prevent a nuclear exchange.
Ellsberg calls for the US government to adopt a nuclear no-first-use policy. ‘This is not a species to be trusted with nuclear weapons,’ he says. ‘And that doesn’t just apply to “crazy” third world leaders.’
Writing of the US attach on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he says: ‘We are the only country in the world that believes it won a war… specifically by bombing cities with weapons of mass destruction, firebombs, and atomic bombs — and believes that it was fully justified in doing so. It is a dangerous state of mind.’
In 1971 Ellsberg he leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers, a US Department of Defence study which showed the White House had systematically lied about its Vietnam War strategy. His leak helped bring the Vietnam War to an end and precipitated the indictment of then-president Richard Nixon. Ellsberg was indicted for conspiracy and espionage, but these charges were later dismissed. The Pentagon Papers were fully declassified and publicly released in 2011.
Ellsberg is well known among anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigners in Britain. He wrote an introduction to EP Thompson’s pamphlet of the early 1980s. Protest and Survive – the peace movement’s ripost to the UK government’s civil defence pamphlet, Protect and Survive, purporting to advise the public how to survive a nuclear war.
The Doomsday Machine: confessions of a nuclear war planner by Daniel Ellsberg is published by Bloomsbury,432pp, £18.
Pre-owned copies of Protest and survive, a Penguin Special by EP Thompson, 1980, are available from London CND website, price £5 plus £1.20 p&p.