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The Daniel Ellsberg interview

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Since the Russians imitated our own strategic forces in the mid '60s, really after Khruschev under Brezhnev, after the Cuban Missile Crisis had humiliated them, they spent an enormous amount of money buying what amounted to a strategic air command of their own based mainly on missiles, where ours started with bombers. Until that time, they had very little that could hit the United States, just as North Korea doesn't have that now in its missile capability, and is striving to get it so they will have the retaliatory ability against the US.

When I went to Rand and got top secret clearance, I was working on deterring a Soviet surprise attack that would wipe out our strategic air command and leave them essentially with a monopoly of nuclear weapons. That was an entirely illusory problem, which I was working on night and day. I was working 70 hours a week at Rand to deter or pre-empt a Soviet attack, which could not have happened. The Soviets in 1960 and '61 had exactly four ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles) that could hit the United States, which could have been wiped out by a single plane on our part, compared to thousands of warheads on planes and missiles, and submarine missiles within range of the Soviet Union. They essentially had nothing. It was like the Germans in World War II, where the Manhattan Project had worked night and day to deter a German capability of nuclear weapons, which didn't exist because they had stopped their program in June of '42, about the time we started ours. They had nothing. And, North Korea today has nothing against the United States, but will as things go on, unless we launch a catastrophic war against North Korea.

During that period, there were false alarms that could have led us to attack the Soviet Union, in which case they did have a huge capability against Europe. Nothing against the US but huge against Europe. Had we attacked them, west Europe would have (been) annihilated, and the Soviets would have been annihilated. In the early days, we would have not have been (annihilated), so our calculations showed. Our calculations were wrong.

In 1983, nearly 40 years into the nuclear era, a bunch of environmental scientists discovered that the attacks on cities which we planned from the very beginning starting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki they discovered that the smoke from those burning cities would have been lofted by the nuclear attack into the stratosphere. There the smoke would remain and be lofted further over time by sunlight as it warmed. It would girdle the globe and prevent most sunlight 70 percent, perhaps of sunlight reaching the earth which would have led to a nuclear winter all year round, killing all harvests and destroying all our food supplies. So, everything depending on vegetation all the primates, all the vertebrates would have died. Probably not all humans would die. We are so adaptable, we can live on mollusks in the south seas down near Australia and probably around the tip of Africa. Probably humans, the most adaptable mammals, would survive to some extent. Less than 1 percent of the current population, but that's a lot, many millions. Maybe 100 million. Everything else goes.

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