MIAMI - When Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg wrote a new memoir
chronicling his decision to leak secret U.S. military documents exposing official
lies about the Vietnam War, he had no inkling the United States could soon be
at war with Iraq.
A week after the October release of his book, "Secrets: A
Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," Congress authorized
President Bush to wage war if necessary to disarm Baghdad.
Daniel Ellsberg speaks out during a protest rally against NATO involvement in
Yugoslavia in this April 23, 1999 file photo. When Pentagon Papers whistle-blower
Ellsberg wrote a new memoir chronicling his decision to leak secret U.S. military
documents exposing official lies about the Vietnam War, he had no inkling the
United States could soon be at war with Iraq. A week after the October 2002 release
of his book, 'Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers,' Congress
authorized President George W. Bush to wage war if necessary to disarm Baghdad.
REUTERS/Photo by Mike Theiler/Files
Ellsberg is busy doing what he wishes he had done earlier
during the Vietnam War -- sounding the alarm.
"I would give anything that is mine to give to avert this
war, anything truthful and nonviolent to avert this war, which
I think will be a catastrophe, and it will usher in an age of
catastrophes," Ellsberg told Reuters during a weekend visit to
the Miami Book Fair.
"The future is bleak but not hopeless. I am trying to do
what I can to at least warn people. The risks are too great."
Ellsberg's view of the probable future is bleak indeed.
If Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network launches a "spectacular" terrorist attack
on the United States as the FBI has warned, it will trigger a U.S. invasion of
Iraq even if Baghdad is not involved, he predicts.
If there is no attack soon, the United States will provoke
Iraq into shooting down one of its aircraft in the "no-fly"
zones in southern and northern Iraq, he said.
"If Saddam doesn't manage to shoot down one of our planes, our planes will
fly lower and lower," Ellsberg said. "We're going to be at war with Iraq well
Saddam would then use poison gas against U.S. troops, triggering a retaliatory
U.S. attack on his bunkers with earth-penetrating nuclear weapons that would inadvertently
cause mass civilian deaths and "create hundreds of thousands of new recruits for
suicide training," he said.
"I believe they (the U.S. government) are very smart. They
would have to be very stupid to believe that this would reduce
the chances of terrorism. It will increase it sharply."
Saddam would make his weapons of mass destruction available
to al Qaeda, allowing them to stage attacks that will wipe out
Israel and many of its neighbors and prompt armies sympathetic
to Islamist causes to take over Pakistan and Indonesia and set
off a grab for Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
A NEW AGE OF BARBARISM?
"It will make it impossible for these countries whose
cooperation in hunting for al Qaeda cells is absolutely
essential," Ellsberg said. "We will no longer be able to reduce
al Qaeda's strength. ... Osama will be a hero for the Muslim
world for the next thousand years."
End result: A new age of barbarism, he said. "The world is going to look eventually
like Afghanistan outside of Kabul."
Others have posed such doomsday scenarios, but in the case of Iraq, the United
States' military superiority has grown so overwhelming since the 1991 Gulf war
that even NATO has been left behind. Iraq's military is much smaller than it was.
U.S. officials have said they have no intention of using nuclear weapons against
Saddam, but have warned that if he unleashes biological or chemical agents, all
bets are off.
In making his predictions, Ellsberg does have unique
credentials, albeit from a different age and a different
The former Marine and ex-Pentagon official was part of a
defense think tank that wrote a secret study of U.S. policy in
Vietnam. The 7,000-page study, which became known as the
Pentagon Papers, revealed that four presidents had steadily
lied to the public and Congress about the U.S. war in Southeast
Disillusioned, Ellsberg leaked it to newspapers in 1971,
setting off a furor that helped pave the way for the U.S.
pull-out from Vietnam.
Ellsberg was imprisoned on espionage charges that were
thrown out in 1973 and says he regrets only that he did not
blow the whistle sooner.
"The worst thing I ever did was help get the bombing
started" in Vietnam, he said.
He wrote his book, he said, because it holds timeless
lessons on "the folly of self-delusion."
It opens with Ellsberg's discovery that the supposed North Vietnamese attack
on a U.S. Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 probably never happened and
that President Lyndon Johnson knew it when he used the purported attack to persuade
Congress to authorize U.S. military force in the region.
Ellsberg calls the Iraq war authorization "Tonkin Gulf II,"
adding: "I've studied this government's decision-making for 44
years. I don't know these specific individuals but I know some
of their advisors. I understand that thinking.
"This war will look very, very bad within months after it
starts," he said. "This war is an abomination that must not
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