Time To Drive Out the Bush Regime

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Daniel Ellsberg
gave this speech on September 7, 2006, in San Francisco, one of
50 gatherings held to plan national protests on October 5, 2006.

I keep looking
at that date on the calendar – October 5. I think of 1969 –
I was copying the Pentagon Papers with Tony Russo in that month,
starting October 1. My intention, however, at that time was to bring
them out in connection with something called the Moratorium on October
15, 1969… because on that day …across the country 2 million
people marched. Not in any one place, they were counted up and added
up because they all walked out, it was a weekday, out of school,
out of businesses on that weekday. They met in rallies, heard many
speakers – in those days there was great tolerance (well, there
still is to some extent) for a lot of speeches. But it was a weekday
and they called it the Moratorium because people thought the word
general strike was too provocative, but that’s what they had
in mind.

It was a walkout,
in other words it was no business as usual. The president was watching
it in the White House, hour by hour, while pretending that he wasn’t.
In fact he was in the situation room getting half-hour reports on
how many people. They were being counted, in Washington and New
York, from a U2 [plane] above.

I see in this
crowd people who are not all a lot younger then I am. How many people
were in the moratorium, look around. Let’s see the
hands. I want to ask – how old were you? Often if I ask that
questions, some people will say 10 or 2. They were there with their
mothers, in toddler strollers and backpacks on their parents’
backs, and they were doing the same job their parents were. Being
counted from the air, from reconnaissance vehicles to add up to
a number of 2 million.

What they didn’t
know was that in fact they were stopping nuclear war. The president
had made threats of nuclear war secretly several times starting
in May and in August and September, saying that he was prepared
to use nuclear weapons on Vietnam. They said that to the Russians
and the North Vietnamese directly in Paris. And with 2 million people
in the streets, he had to conclude that an ultimatum which was dated
for November 1 – he was going to carry it out on November 3rd but
the date that he gave to his adversaries was November 1st: “If
by that time you haven’t met my terms (which they did not meet
and never did meet) we will take measures of the gravest consequence,”
including total bombing of North Vietnam, mining of Haiphong (which
he didn’t do in the end until 1972), going into Laos and Cambodia.

There were
plans and target folders for the use of nuclear weapons at that
point. I know somebody, Roger Morris, who actually read those target
folders with photographs of the targets selected. None of us knew
that. That’s not why I was copying the Pentagon Papers those
nights in October, or marching with my kids who were 10 and 13 at
that time on October 15. …My son one night was actually copying
the Pentagon Papers on a Xerox machine and I was collating them,
and my daughter who was the 10-year-old was cutting “Top Secret”
off the top and bottom of the pages with scissors. That was about
October 5, somewhere in there, and then we all marched on October
15. But we weren’t doing that because we knew that nuclear
war was imminent; we just knew the war was going on unacceptably,
that the country had to change course. There was no clue that we
were on the verge of massive escalation.

Now I’ll
give you something from 1969 that has come out now– 37 years
later. Look at National Security Archives – I think it is at nsarchive.com.
Look at one of their latest releases, on documents finally declassified
last November, now published for the first time on, I think, July
1 – their latest release on Nixon’s nuclear alert of 1969.
This was first found out by Seymour Hersh, mainly with anonymous
sources some years ago, but nobody believed him. And now the documents
have become available that on October 13, 1969 – two days before
the scheduled Moratorium – SAC, Strategic Air Command planes
went on an unprecedented secret alert around the world, the intention
of which was to show the Russians by their electronic means and
their radar and their surveillance, that the U.S. was on a nuclear
alert – but not let the American people know. They actually dispersed
planes with nuclear bombs aboard to airports like Boston airport,
Los Angeles, and elsewhere as they might do on the eve of a nuclear
war. They weren’t planning a first strike against the Soviet
Union, although the Soviets were made to worry about that. This
was meant to show the Soviets, who Nixon had threatened that we
would use nuclear weapons against North Vietnam. And there was of
course the possibility that the Russian nuclear weapons might be
used in response. This alert was to let them know, don’t even
think of it. Not because they would have worried about the Soviets
really doing that, but to make it as clear as possible “we’re
going to do this and we’re prepared for anything” – to
make the threat as strong as possible.

By the way,
if you look at nsarchive, the people who wrote that up – it’s
a good account by Burr and Kimball – in my opinion they make
a mistake… They are under the belief that Nixon had turned
off his plans for the escalation just before that alert went on.
That’s mistaken, they don’t have a clear reference for
that and I believe they are wrong. They think this was simply bluffing.
Part of the bluff, by the way, was to put planes in the air on airborne
alert with nuclear bombs aboard for the first time in over a year.
(The airborne nuclear alert had been discontinued in early 1968,
when one of those planes crashed releasing a couple of its bombs
in Newfoundland, I think that was, one of which has never been found.
They went into the water…it didn’t go off as a nuclear
explosion, but they released radioactive material.

So, the reason
[the airborne nuclear alert] had been stopped was because it was
dangerous. On another occasion which I remember very well – I was
in the Pentagon actually – two planes bumped into each other with
these bombs and four bombs were released. So they were doing something
with a genuine risk to make this threat plausible. But in those
days, it didn’t pay to tell the American people you were making
nuclear threats, because the American people would have felt less
confident than Nixon that the Soviets would not respond. They would
have worried. They would have been very worried and very nervous.
And you would have seen the kind of reaction you did get when Ronald
Reagan seemed light hearted about nuclear war in 1981. The reaction
to that was one million people in Central Park protesting Reagan’s
nuclear policy at that point. So in those days you had to keep the
threats secret. What’s changed is that people no longer do
worry that Russia will respond to a nuclear weapon going off somewhere.
They’ll sit tight. We aren’t just number one, we’re
the only one now…

analogy here: the fact is that when people did march in October
and November 1969 – without even realizing that a crisis was
imminent, they just saw the war was going on – they in fact stopped
a massive escalation of the war. Which did take part sequentially
– Laos, Cambodia, Haiphong – over the years, but the nuclear
part, no. Even though Nixon was still discussing that on April 25,
1972 – three years later. I’ve heard this on the tape. Nixon
says, “I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will
that drown people?” Kissinger tells him, “About two hundred
thousand people.” And the president reflects, “No, no,
no…I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that,
Henry?” And Kissinger, the great Nobel Prize winner, earns
his Nobel Prize on this one afternoon by saying, “That, I think,
would be just too much.” And Nixon says – he sounds a little
surprised, and disappointed – “The nuclear bomb, does that
bother you? I just want you to think big, Henry, for Chrissakes.”

We are in a
crisis right now. It’s known to us, more than it was known
to almost anyone outside the White House in 1969. A genuine crisis.
We are looking at a very high likelihood, I believe, as I read the
Seymour Hersh articles about a new war, a new attack on Iran which
could involve nuclear weapons – it has been explicitly described
as having the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The president,
Rice, Rumsfeld – they have all been asked specifically: do we rule
out nuclear weapons? They answer, “All options are on the table,
nothing is ruled out.” And Hersh reveals that plans have been
made for the use of nuclear weapons. This would be a new war in
addition then to Iraq, quite possibly much, much worse than Iraq
in all of its consequences.

This is too
crazy to imagine with any other administration. If Hersh were giving
those stories about some other administration, whether it’s
George Bush Sr. or Gore or whoever it might be, I would say “impossible.”
The costs of this are too obvious, too horrific, they couldn’t
really mean that. You can’t say that about this administration,
[though] many people do. The ones who say that it’s too crazy
even for these guys I think they are on the wrong foot. It’s
not too crazy for these guys. The people who did get us into Iraq
are – according to Hersh – on the same kind of “reasoning,”
prepared to do that to Iran.

But, that’s
not all that’s abroad. The Boston Globe editorial on
Aug 31, which criticizes the World Can’t Wait, along with criticizing
Rumsfeld in the same terms, links them together– saying that
both of them engage in hyperbole and in fact the same hyperbole.
Actually Rumsfeld has a quote here that, taken by itself, is the
first sentence that I can remember that I agreed with by Donald
Rumsfeld. He said that “before America entered WWII was a time
when those who warned of a coming crisis – the rise of fascism
and Nazism – were ridiculed and ignored.”

now, that’s us he’s talking about – I would say. We are
warning about a coming crisis and the crisis I’m warning about
is Hitler-like aggression such as we’ve already seen from this
administration. The attack on Iraq is legally indistinguishable
from Hitler’s attack on Poland or France or Norway or Russia.
Same aggression – pure crime against the peace – for which people
were hanged back in Nuremberg. Critics of the Iraq war, says Rumsfeld,
“seem not to have learned history’s lessons.” Well,
I would take the “not” out of that. It’s only the
critics of the Iraq war who seemed to have learned history’s

We do face
a crisis. To do as the Boston Globe editorial does in criticizing
World Can’t Wait for analogizing Hitler’s regime to the
present, is, I would say, very mistaken – [the Globe] is very
mistaken in dismissing that. Look at the aggression that has already
happened and is looming again. Holocaust – this is not planned
in terms of gas chambers. But nuclear weapons will bring the gas
chambers to the people. Every nuclear weapon is a portable Auschwitz.
The first one that is used may kill only hundreds, depending on
where they are used, which would be extremely ominous. People would
say, “Ah they can be used easily.” The use of nuclear
weapons even in a deserted field against an underground site by
this country would bring us into a new era of history – the
consequences of which would so dwarf the holocaust, there would
be simply no comparison. The nuclear wars in our future – that
would be started by an act now being planned by this country –
are Hitler-like to the hundredth degree.

But in terms
of the domestic situation, of course this country is not Germany
in 1938 or 1939. It’s not Germany in 1934. Let me be very specific.
It’s not the Germany of July 1933 under Hitler, who had become
Chancellor as a minority candidate. They were the largest party,
but a minority – 36% of the vote in January 1933. But by July
there was a one-party state; nearly every leader of the social democrats,
which had by then been banned, had been jailed or put in a camp.
They hadn’t put many Jews in camps yet. The first people put
in camps were labor union leaders, especially social democrats and
communists in 1933. Thousands, even tens of thousands, had been
killed and put in camps by that time. Six months afterwards, Hitler
was in power… I’ll be very specific. Hitler was a fascist,
a term that came out of Mussolini really, but Hitler was a proud
fascist and his party was a fascist party, a minority – although
it came to be a large party during the depression in December 1932
and January 1933 when he became Chancellor. Hitler was a fascist,
and signaled what he wanted to do pretty clearly.

But Germany
was not a fascist state in January 1933 under Hitler. He had only
two ministers in the cabinet. He had Goering –who became his
#2 man later and was, I believe, minister of the interior in charge
of the police in Prussia – the key state in Germany. Hitler
had two ministers in the cabinet; it was not a fascist cabinet and
it wasn’t a fascist state. It was a fascist state two months
later. In between was the Reichstag fire on February 27, which Goering
and Hitler blamed on the communists. Whoever did it – and it may
have been the Nazis – it was not the communists. That is clear.
There is no historical controversy about that, but it was totally
blamed on the communists. And that night the Communist Party leaders
were imprisoned, scattered, killed – many, many killed, thousands
killed – along with the social democrats, who were still for the
moment legal.

The next day
the Reichstag Fire decree was signed by Hindenburg, which explicitly
suspended all provisions of the constitution providing for freedom
of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press. It was a social
democratic constitution. One other thing the decree ended was the
privacy of the postal system and telecommunications. Very interesting –
this ended here four years ago, it turns out, but we didn’t
know that. We haven’t had the full – despite the Patriot Act,
despite other things that have come along – we haven’t had
the Reichstag Fire decree yet, which was followed by an election
in which Hitler banned the Communist Party, banned demonstrations,
banned any public meetings by the Social Democrats. And even so,
he could only get 42% of the vote. It’s the highest he ever
got in an election. But weeks after that he had an Enabling Act
which gave him power to rule without benefit of the Reichstag. He
became a dictator by constitutional act, by vote, everything constitutional
up till that time. Over the period of the next month, the other
parties were banned, the camps were set up. It was too late for
mass resistance. The social democrats could have pulled off a general
strike up until the Reichstag Fire. After that it was too late.

The situation
now, I think, demands of us not business as usual; it demands what
was available in this country in 1969. I’ll characterize that
very briefly: 5,000 young people went to prison rather then go into
the army (under the draft) – rather then collaborate with the
war. I met some of those people on their way to prison. They put
in my mind the thought: They’re doing everything they can,
nonviolently – they were followers of Martin Luther King, of
Thoreau, of Gandhi. Truthfully and nonviolently they are changing
their lives, they are giving up their future, their career, they
are doing everything they can to avert this war. That’s the
right thing to do. What can I do now, what can I do if I’m
ready to go to prison? Among other things, I started copying the
Pentagon Papers – which did confront me with a possible prison sentence
of 115 years – at that point. Was that too much to take on?

I’d been
in Vietnam; I’d seen people in combat there. Maybe people here
have had that experience. In combat it’s very common to see
people risking their lives – giving their lives, giving their bodies,
becoming paraplegic like my friend Ron Kovic – for a lie. Bravery
and a bad cause are not uncommon – you see it on both sides.
Very often, both sides are bad causes, in fact. Doesn’t take
a good cause for people in combat to risk their lives for the other
people in the squad and for what they have been told is a good cause.

needed at home of course is people who will change their lives and
risk their careers and their jobs and their relationships with their
families, their bosses, with their church groups, whoever – by taking
a stronger stand than those people are ready to take. And by saying
truths that those people don’t want to hear. Without that courage,
policies like this can’t be changed. With it, they may not
be changed, we may fail. But, without that kind of courage and that
mass mobilization, there is no chance.

When the time
came to distribute the Pentagon Papers, the FBI was searching for
me and my wife. For 13 days we were underground, working with a
bunch of students mainly, many of whom I’d never met. I knew
one person and she knew other people. I didn’t know the other
people. And each one of those people was asked – not by me,
by some of the others – “we are doing an action that may
be very useful. It might shorten the war, but it could be very dangerous
legally. Put you in great jeopardy. Are you willing to help?”
We couldn’t broadcast what it was beforehand. Not one person
said no. That was a time when all you had to do… in those days
you could tell who you could count on, except for a handful of informers.
You went to someone with long hair, or young. That’s all it
took. And we said, “will you help end the war, it may put you
in prison?” “Yes.” And we went from house to house.
The FBI was searching for us, people gave us their rooms. People
distributed those papers, everybody did. During that time, 19 newspapers
published the Pentagon Papers. Not just the New York Times
and the New York Post who were enjoined, but the St. Louis
Post Dispatch – also enjoined for the first time in our
history. The Boston Globe enjoined. There had never been
an injunction against a newspaper before. In the face of the president
and the attorney general saying every word being published here
endangers American lives, endangers our troops in the field, endangers
national security – that’s what the president was saying.
And every one of those newspapers that had the chance, everyone
– nobody turned it down. They looked at it, they read it for
themselves. “It doesn’t look that way to us, that’s
not our judgment of the national security, and we don’t agree
with the president.” So, they all did it.

It was a wave
of civil disobedience by corporations, profit-making corporations
– newspapers that had more of a sense of being a newspaper
than is common today. They weren’t owned by conglomerates the
way they are so much now. It was a wave of civil disobedience across
the country.

I remember
two years after the Moratorium, the war was still going on. This
war may last a long time but it will not ever be ended without people
acting in the spirit of 1969 and 1968 and 1965. So thank you for
being here.

21, 2006

Ellsberg is a former American military analyst employed by the RAND
Corporation who precipitated a national uproar in 1971 when he released
the Pentagon Papers, the US military’s account of activities
during the Vietnam War, to the New York Times. The release
awakened the American people to how much they had been deceived
by their own government about the war. Ellsberg has continued as
a political activist, giving lecture tours and speaking out about
current events.

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