If you look at photos of Daniel Ellsberg and the events surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1967, you first note the dated clothes and the men with longish hair and sideburns, but clean shaven faces.
The Pentagon Papers were the result of a top secret study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Before the war’s end, over 500,000 American troops would be sent to that South Asian nation. Ellsberg had worked on the study and came to believe his country had wrongly chosen military action. Not only that, he believed the government had withheld disturbing facts about our involvement, facts which would cause the public to push for withdrawal.
So he released the results to The New York Times, who began publishing them in a series of articles.
The Department of Justice issued a restraining order against further publication. The newspaper argued the case before the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the Times. Release of the material was justified under the U.S. Constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom of the press.
A new movie, The Post, recounts that episode.
Ellsberg today continues his tradition as gadfly. In a new book, The Doomsday Machine, Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Ellsberg reveals plans for nuclear war carried out under former President Dwight Eisenhower, now seeing new life under President Donald Trump.
In an article in Sojourners (“It’s a Miracle We’re Still Here,” January, 2018), Ellsberg is interviewed by James W. Douglass, a peace activist. Ellsberg talks of nuclear madness.
He says the activation of nuclear war today would cause near-extinction of life on earth. Regardless of the nuclear destruction, Ellsberg says, the resulting ash in the stratosphere would doom most, if not all, of earthly life.
Said Ellsberg: “It will be a miracle if we get through another 70 years without setting these weapons off again on humans . . .”
Alluding to the previous miracle that staved off nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Ellsberg continues, “It will take a miracle for the transformation in the world to take place for another 70 years. But fortunately miracles are possible . . . ”