Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg tells Paul Jay of “theAnalysis”, the danger of nuclear war is as present today as during the Cold War. He says seeking profit in spite of the risk of nuclear winter is “institutional madness”.
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Paul Jay: How much does the whole system of profit making, driving all of this?
Daniel Ellsberg: Without the profit, we wouldn’t have ICBMs. If they didn’t make a profit, if you nationalize that or if there was no profit on something, we would not have ICBMs. The ultimate thing is, is that military industrial complex. On both sides. Do they need, do they need their ICBMs?
What do they do for them and so forth? Okay. I’m just going on about this, but no, of course, ultimately it is profit, but the question you asked is, can smart people in a job who’s, whose career or promotion, while they in the service, convince themselves that it makes sense to try to have more weapons than the other, which in fact doesn’t make any sense in the context of a nuclear war.
It just doesn’t make any sense. But can they convince themselves? Yeah. If that’s the directive they’ve been giving to do it, yes.
Reagan said that I, you know, nuclear war cannot be won. It must not be fought. I was, I’ve often said he did not say, must not be threatened. Must not be prepared for must, not be risked.
We could use nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear state, and we often threatened it and we prepare for it. So how about war though, between two nuclear States, even Indian, Pakistan? No, they’re not going to, neither of them is going to win a war. And we in the U.S. and Russia are not going to win a war neither.
But even the people who know that and don’t pretend otherwise in the Pentagon do believe a fallacy. They believe that however bad it is to fight a nuclear war, however bad, it’s better to go first and the second. Now, I could conceivably think of a counter example to that, but it’s not practical.
They believe plausibly very plausibly, and they really do believe it though. It’s wrong that, if you’re about to be attacked, either within minutes or hours or weeks in terms of a limited conflict, it’s going to escalate and it’s going to escalate to all-out war, I believe both sides believe better that we go first.
Why is it better? Because you’re going to prevail in the end. They may say that, but that’s not good thinking. I mean, that really is a Trump like logic. They think however bad the damage is in our society, it will be less if we go first. If we lose 50 million by going first, this is what they’ve often calculated, that will prevent us from losing 150 million if we went second.
Now, the reality of nuclear winter, and here’s where it does make a difference, is no. After a year, you don’t end with 50 million de. You end with everybody dead, nearly everybody. It doesn’t make a difference with nuclear winter with the smoke enveloping the world and killing nearly everyone. Then a year, within months, you can tell, you might be able to tell which one went first, might or might not, but a year later, no. Wouldn’t make any difference. Harvests are gone. The food is gone. Humans depend on food, and nearly everyone dies except the people eating mollusks.
But in terms of arms, our political economy is heavily committed, invested in the production of, of these arms of arms in general, and these particular corporations.
As I may have told you before, I have come to think just in the last year, that the cold war was, to a very large extent, a marketing scheme for massive annual subsidies to the aerospace industry.
I’m an optimist. I think we have a chance to get through this, and I continue, look . . . when four compartments flooded on the Titanic, there was no chance it was going to stay afloat. It was going to go down. I continue to act as if we haven’t yet hit the four compartments. We haven’t yet hit the iceberg.