By Judith Ehrlich
The current Daniel Ellsberg Week celebrates the achievements and inspirational spirit of the most significant whistleblower of the 20th century. Daniel Ellsberg’s recent announcement of a terminal diagnosis broke my heart, but his remarkable response gave me great hope. To quote Ellsberg: “As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!”
Daniel Ellsberg has done just that; an avalanche of interviews and webinars have followed his announcement. And now the RootsAction Education Fund has teamed up with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy to co-sponsor Daniel Ellsberg Week, April 24-30, to celebrate his life’s work and “to honor peacemaking and whistleblowing.”
Known as the insider who blew the whistle on U.S. government lying about the Vietnam War, Ellsberg’s high level military planning experience began earlier. Ellsberg was a nuclear war planner during the 1950s and ’60s. For decades he has put himself on the line to oppose those evil plans; writing, speaking, standing up and sitting-in against the threat of nuclear annihilation. Ellsberg has been hauled off to jail for civil disobedience against war over 80 times. Here he offers chilling clarity about “the nuclear war planners, of which I was one, who have written plans to kill billions of people,” calling it “a conspiracy to commit omnicide, near omnicide, the death of everyone.” He asks us, “Can humanity survive the nuclear era? We don’t know. I choose to act as if we have a chance.”
This quote is from one of several eye-opening podcasts being released this week (which I directed in partnership with the RootsAction Education Fund), enabling people to hear Ellsberg directly. In these half dozen two-to-three-minute animated musings, Daniel Ellsberg offers up a succinct analysis of the calamity posed by nuclear weapons and a possible way to reduce their risk. You can watch and listen here.
When Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, Henry Kissinger (then President Nixon’s national security advisor) called him “the most dangerous man in America.” But those closely held secrets of the war in Vietnam were less explosive than the nuclear secrets that Ellsberg held in his safe. Then a top strategist for the Defense Department, he had been party to plans for a nuclear holocaust. After being buried for safekeeping, those documents disappeared in a hurricane that literally blew away his secrets, but that didn’t dampen Ellsberg’s desire to share what he knew.
At 92, with mind sharp as ever, Ellsberg remains an undisputed expert on “national security.” In this unusual illustrated podcast, he shares his unvarnished thoughts about the threat of nuclear annihilation and how it might be defused.
Can we simply ignore the reality of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert — amid escalation of a new cold war with heightened nuclear dangers? Indeed, the U.S. just enacted its biggest military budget in history, with unprecedented investment in weapons of mass destruction and their deployment.
We ignore this impending disaster and its impassioned opponent, Daniel Ellsberg, at our own peril.
Here’s a chance to honor him by listening and heeding his words.
Judith Ehrlich co-directed and produced “The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” which was nominated for an Oscar and Emmy and won the Peabody Award. Her recent film, “The Boys Who Said NO!” features Daniel Ellsberg, Joan Baez and a cast of war resisters who chose prison over killing in the Vietnam War.
Ehrlich is currently in production on “The Mouse that Roared,” a film on the evolution of the Internet poetically explored through Icelandic MP/“poetician,” single mother, defender of whistleblowers and Internet pioneer, Birgitta Jónsdóttir. To watch the Oscar-nominated film on Daniel Ellsberg, please go to: www.mostdangerousman.org. To host a screening of “The Boys Who Said NO!” see here, and to read Ellsberg’s 2017 gripping expose “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner” see: https://www.ellsberg.net.