The Doomsday Machine Still Exists  - Daniel Ellsberg


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.”

Paul Jay
How much is the whole system of profit-making drive [crosstalk 00:00:06]

Daniel Ellsberg
Without the profit, we wouldn’t have ICBMs [Intercontinental ballistic missiles] if it would even make a profit. If you nationalize that or if there was no profit in it, then we would not have ICBMs. The ultimate thing is the military-industrial complex on both sides. 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 ask is; can smart people in a job, whose career while they’re in the service, convince themselves that it makes sense to try to have more weapons than the other, which 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 given to do it, then yes.

Reagan said that nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. Now, as I’ve often said, he did not say must not be threatened, must not be prepared for, and must not be risked. We could use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state, and we often threatened it, and we prepared for it.

So, how about a war between two nuclear States, even India and Pakistan? No, neither of them is going to win a war. We in the U.S. and Russia are not going to win a war either. 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 than second.

Now I could conceivably think of a counterexample to that, but it’s not practical. They believe plausibly, very plausibly — they really do believe it, and 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 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 150,000,000 if we went second.

Now the reality of nuclear winter, and here’s where it does make a difference; after a year, you don’t end with 50 million dead 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 within months you could tell, you might be able to tell which one went first. Might or might not, but a year later, no, it 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.

In terms of arms, our political economy is heavily committed and invested in the production of these arms, in general, and these particular corporations.

As I 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.

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.



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  1. A truly valuable set of observations, particularly from the viewpoint of a convinced, lifelong Imperialist. Ambassador Wilson was clearly speaking truth as he saw it, very much as Paul M. A. Linebarger had done with JFK. aw

  2. Re: Paul Jay

    Thank you for providing your extraordinary, and timely, discussion with Joe Wilson; his wisdom and integrity provide a stark contrast to far too many of our current representatives, elected or appointed.

    While the succinct “Doomsday Machine…” audio/video version of the interview with Daniel Ellsberg does begin to address the premise of your query, “How much does the whole system of profit making, driving all of this?”, the written transcription provided is a tough read.
    The works of the late Chalmers Johnson, author of the three books of his Blowback Trilogy and “Dismantling the Empire”, provide valuable factual information to any discussion of the financial motives driving every element of the MIC.
    As Usual,

  3. Plenty of information and statements from military contractors support the conclusion that profits are a prime motivator. As your previous article shows the big banks are in control and make huge profits from all of this.

    Nevertheless, if we are ever able to implement the Green New Deal, it will provide a popular base for displacing the military based economy.

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