'A Coup Has Occurred'

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Daniel Ellsberg,
the heroic former Defense Department analyst and Army
officer who shared the secret Pentagon Papers history of the Vietnam
War with the American people, talked about the looming war against
Iran, and the American police state, at American University on September
20.

I think nothing
has higher priority than averting an attack on Iran, which I think
will be accompanied by a further change in our way of governing
here that in effect will convert us into what I would call a police
state.

If there’s another 9/11 under this regime … it means that
they switch on full extent all the apparatus of a police state that
has been patiently constructed, largely secretly at first but eventually
leaked out and known and accepted by the Democratic people in Congress,
by the Republicans and so forth.

Will there
be anything left for NSA to increase its surveillance of us? …
They may be to the limit of their technical capability now, or they
may not. But if they’re not now they will be after another
9/11.

And I would
say after the Iranian retaliation to an American attack on Iran,
you will then see an increased attack on Iran – an escalation
– which will be also accompanied by a total suppression of
dissent in this country, including detention camps.

It’s a
little hard for me to distinguish the two contingencies; they could
come together. Another 9/11 or an Iranian attack in which Iran’s
reaction against Israel, against our shipping, against our troops
in Iraq above all, possibly in this country, will justify the full
panoply of measures that have been prepared now, legitimized, and
to some extent written into law. …

This is an
unusual gang, even for Republicans. [But] I think that the successors
to this regime are not likely to roll back the assault on the Constitution.
They will take advantage of it, they will exploit it.

Will Hillary
Clinton as president decide to turn off NSA after the last five
years of illegal surveillance? Will she deprive her administration
her ability to protect United States citizens from possible terrorism
by blinding herself and deafening herself to all that NSA can provide?
I don’t think so.

Unless this
somehow, by a change in our political climate, of a radical change,
unless this gets rolled back in the next year or two before a new
administration comes in – and there’s no move to do this
at this point – unless that happens I don’t see it happening
under the next administration, whether Republican or Democratic.

The Next
Coup

Let me simplify
this and not just to be rhetorical: A coup has occurred. I woke
up the other day realizing, coming out of sleep, that a coup has
occurred. It’s not just a question that a coup lies ahead with
the next 9/11. That’s the next coup, that completes the first.

The last five
years have seen a steady assault on every fundamental of our Constitution,
… what the rest of the world looked at for the last 200 years
as a model and experiment to the rest of the world – in checks
and balances, limited government, Bill of Rights, individual rights
protected from majority infringement by the Congress, an independent
judiciary, the possibility of impeachment.

There have
been violations of these principles by many presidents before. Most
of the specific things that Bush has done in the way of illegal
surveillance and other matters were done under my boss Lyndon Johnson
in the Vietnam War: the use of CIA, FBI, NSA against Americans.

I could go
through a list going back before this century to Lincoln’s
suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War, and before that the
Alien and Sedition Acts in the 18th century. I think that none of
those presidents were in fact what I would call quite precisely
the current administration: domestic enemies of the Constitution.

I think that
none of these presidents with all their violations, which were impeachable
had they been found out at the time and in nearly every case their
violations were not found out until they were out of office so we
didn’t have the exact challenge that we have today.

That was true
with the first term of Nixon and certainly of Johnson, Kennedy and
others. They were impeachable, they weren’t found out in time,
but I think it was not their intention to, in the crisis situations
that they felt justified their actions, to change our form of government.

It is increasingly
clear with each new book and each new leak that comes out, that
Richard Cheney and his now chief of staff David Addington have had
precisely that in mind since at least the early 70s. Not just since
1992, not since 2001, but have believed in Executive government,
single-branch government under an Executive president – elected
or not – with unrestrained powers. They did not believe in
restraint.

When I say
this I’m not saying they are traitors. I don’t think they
have in mind allegiance to some foreign power or have a desire to
help a foreign power. I believe they have in their own minds a love
of this country and what they think is best for this country –
but what they think is best is directly and consciously at odds
with what the Founders of this country and Constitution thought.

They believe
we need a different kind of government now, an Executive government
essentially, rule by decree, which is what we’re getting with
signing statements. Signing statements are talked about as line-item
vetoes which is one [way] of describing them which are unconstitutional
in themselves, but in other ways are just saying the president says
“I decide what I enforce. I decide what the law is. I legislate.”

It’s [the
same] with the military commissions, courts that are under the entire
control of the Executive Branch, essentially of the president. A
concentration of legislative, judicial, and executive powers in
one branch, which is precisely what the Founders meant to avert,
and tried to avert and did avert to the best of their ability in
the Constitution.

Founders
Had It Right

Now I’m
referring to that as a crisis right now not just because it is a
break in tradition but because I believe in my heart and from my
experience that on this point the Founders had it right.

It’s not
just “our way of doing things” – it was a crucial
perception on the corruption of power to anybody including Americans.
On procedures and institutions that might possibly keep that power
under control because the alternative was what we have just seen,
wars like Vietnam, wars like Iraq, wars like the one coming.

That brings
me to the second point. This Executive Branch, under specifically
Bush and Cheney, despite opposition from most of the rest of the
branch, even of the cabinet, clearly intends a war against Iran
which even by imperialist standards, standards in other words which
were accepted not only by nearly everyone in the Executive Branch
but most of the leaders in Congress. The interests of the empire,
the need for hegemony, our right to control and our need to control
the oil of the Middle East and many other places. That is consensual
in our establishment. …

But even by
those standards, an attack on Iran is insane. And I say that quietly,
I don’t mean it to be heard as rhetoric. Of course it’s
not only aggression and a violation of international law, a supreme
international crime, but it is by imperial standards, insane in
terms of the consequences.

Does that make
it impossible? No, it obviously doesn’t, it doesn’t even
make it unlikely.

That is because
two things come together that with the acceptance for various reasons
of the Congress – Democrats and Republicans – and the
public and the media, we have freed the White House – the president
and the vice president – from virtually any restraint by Congress,
courts, media, public, whatever.

And on the
other hand, the people who have this unrestrained power are crazy.
Not entirely, but they have crazy beliefs.

And the question
is what then, what can we do about this? We are heading towards
an insane operation. It is not certain. It is likely. … I want
to try to be realistic myself here, to encourage us to do what we
must do, what is needed to be done with the full recognition of
the reality. Nothing is impossible.

What I’m
talking about in the way of a police state, in the way of an attack
on Iran is not certain. Nothing is certain, actually. However, I
think it is probable, more likely than not, that in the next 15,
16 months of this administration we will see an attack on Iran.
Probably. Whatever we do.

And …
we will not succeed in moving Congress probably, and Congress probably
will not stop the president from doing this. And that’s where
we’re heading. That’s a very ugly, ugly prospect.

However, I
think it’s up to us to work to increase that small perhaps
– anyway not large – possibility and probability to avert
this within the next 15 months, aside from the effort that we have
to make for the rest of our lives.

Restoring
the Republic

Getting back
the constitutional government and improving it will take a long
time. And I think if we don’t get started now, it won’t
be started under the next administration.

Getting out
of Iraq will take a long time. Averting Iran and averting a further
coup in the face of a 9/11, another attack, is for right now, it
can’t be put off. It will take a kind of political and moral
courage of which we have seen very little…

We have a really
unusual concentration here and in this audience, of people who have
in fact changed their lives, changed their position, lost their
friends to a large extent, risked and experienced being called terrible
names, “traitor,” “weak on terrorism” –
names that politicians will do anything to avoid being called.

How do we get
more people in the government and in the public at large to change
their lives now in a crisis in a critical way? How do we get Nancy
Pelosi and Harry Reid for example? What kinds of pressures, what
kinds of influences can be brought to bear to get Congress to do
their jobs? It isn’t just doing their jobs. Getting them to
obey their oaths of office.

I took an oath
many times, an oath of office as a Marine lieutenant, as an official
in the Defense Department, as an official in the State Department
as a Foreign Service officer. A number of times I took an oath of
office which is the same oath office taken by every member of Congress
and every official in the United States and every officer in the
United States armed services.

And that oath
is not to a Commander in Chief, which is not mentioned. It is not
to a Fhrer. It is not even to superior officers. The oath is precisely
to protect and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Now that is
an oath I violated every day for years in the Defense Department
without realizing it when I kept my mouth shut when I knew the public
was being lied into a war as they were lied into Iraq, as they are
being lied into war in Iran.

I knew that
I had the documents that proved it, and I did not put it out then.
I was not obeying my oath which I eventually came to do.

I’ve often
said that Lt. Ehren Watada – who still faces trial for refusing
to obey orders to deploy to Iraq which he correctly perceives to
be an unconstitutional and aggressive war – is the single officer
in the United States armed services who is taking seriously upholding
his oath.

The president
is clearly violating that oath, of course. Everybody under him who
understands what is going on and there are myriad, are violating
their oaths. And that’s the standard that I think we should
be asking of people.

Congressional
Courage

On the Democratic
side, on the political side, I think we should be demanding of our
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate – and frankly of
the Republicans – that it is not their highest single absolute
priority to be reelected or to maintain a Democratic majority so
that Pelosi can still be Speaker of the House and Reid can be in
the Senate, or to increase that majority.

I’m not
going to say that for politicians they should ignore that, or that
they should do something else entirely, or that they should not
worry about that.

Of course that
will be and should be a major concern of theirs, but they’re
acting like it’s their sole concern. Which is business as usual.
“We have a majority, let’s not lose it, let’s keep
it. Let’s keep those chairmanships.” Exactly what have
those chairmanships done for us to save the Constitution in the
last couple of years?

I am shocked
by the Republicans today that I read in the Washington Post who
yesterday threatened a filibuster if we … get back habeas corpus.
The ruling out of habeas corpus with the help of the Democrats did
not get us back to George the First it got us back to before King
John 700 years ago in terms of counter-revolution.

We need some
way, and Ann Wright has one way, of sitting in, in Conyers office
and getting arrested. Ray McGovern has been getting arrested, pushed
out the other day for saying the simple words “swear him in”
when it came to testimony.

I think we’ve
got to somehow get home to them [in Congress] that this is the time
for them to uphold the oath, to preserve the Constitution, which
is worth struggling for in part because it’s only with the
power that the Constitution gives Congress responding to the public,
only with that can we protect the world from mad men in power in
the White House who intend an attack on Iran.

And the current
generation of American generals and others who realize that this
will be a catastrophe have not shown themselves – they might
be people who in their past lives risked their bodies and their
lives in Vietnam or elsewhere, like [Colin] Powell, and would not
risk their career or their relation with the president to the slightest
degree.

That has to
change. And it’s the example of people like those up here who
somehow brought home to our representatives that they as humans
and as citizens have the power to do likewise and find in themselves
the courage to protect this country and protect the world. Thank
you.

September
27, 2007

Daniel
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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