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The Daniel Ellsberg interview


...continued from page 10

The first chapter in that is about the Tonkin Gulf, which was my first night in the Pentagon, by coincidence. It was my first day, but it went into night because we launched our first bombing raids against Vietnam that night, August 4. It was just a coincidence that I started that day. So I spent the night in the Pentagon, following those raids because there is a 12-hour time difference between the Pentagon and the Tonkin Gulf. Daytime there when we were bombing was nighttime in Washington. I knew right then that we were being lied to. I knew about the lie.

I then go to Vietnam, I'm there for two years. I got hepatitis, or I would have stayed on. I came back and warned people that we should get out of Vietnam in 1967, a widely held view in the Defense Department, and held by Secretary of Defense (Robert) McNamara when I came and talked to him in the summer of 1967. But, how to do it without losing face politically. McNamara finally recommended we do it. And he was fired for it by LBJ, who wasn't ready to do that. So, the Tet Offensive occurred, etc., etc., the war goes on after McNamara leaves for seven years, until 1975.

By 1969, I had the example of young Americans who were resisting the draft on Ghandian principles, that they should nonviolently tell the truth and resist. They just had their own lives. Their own freedom to give, and they went to jail by thousands to resist that war. I realized that was something I could do go to prison and that I had secrets. This is what I reveal in the book for the first time. You might be the first reporter I've talked to about it. I will say that I realized then that I should be telling dangers of nuclear war, the same way I intended to tell the dangers of continuing in Vietnam, which was the Pentagon Papers.

I decided the example of Americans like Randall Kehler, who was going to prison. I go into this in "Secrets" If you want to know how we got into Vietnam and how we got out of Vietnam in 1975, that's a good book. The point is, I realized that telling the truth could be the right thing to do. It could be the right decision to make, even if the consequences were prison for myself. In comparison of consequences of not telling, the consequences could be millions of deaths, as in Vietnam for the Vietnamese, tens of thousands, 58,000 for the US. But in terms of nuclear wars, we are talking not of hundreds of millions, but of billions. Billions and billions, up to 7 billion. I wasn't even aware of that in 1969 when I decided to do this. We didn't know about nuclear winter. But I did know that something like a billion lives were at stake, something like a third of humanity. In reality, nearly everybody, but we thought a third. That's a lot more than Vietnam.

...continued on page 12
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Tags: LONGFORM

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