The vast network of ready-to-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles that make up the United States’s nuclear triad remains a constant source of apocalyptic risk that few in politics or the media will openly acknowledge. Even if the Cold War threat of imminent nuclear war has dissipated from the public mind, the threat of catastrophic accidents and even humanity’s mutually assured nuclear destruction has by no means disappeared. Instead of confronting this threat head on, the government is funneling billions of dollars into ‘modernizing’ the nation’s nuclear arsenal. As Daniel Ellsberg and Norman Solomon write in a recent piece for The Nation, “The history of nuclear weapons in this country tells us that people will spare no expense if they believe that spending the money will really make them and their loved ones safer—we must show them that ICBMs actually do the opposite.”
In this segment of The Marc Steiner Show, Marc speaks with Ellsberg and Solomon about the persistent threat of nuclear disaster and why it needs to be at the center of our political concern. 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. Ellsberg has continued as a political activist, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events. Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, the author of War Made Easy, and a cofounder of RootsAction.org.
Tune in for new episodes of The Marc Steiner Show every Tuesday and Friday on TRNN.
Pre-Production/Studio/Post Production: Stephen Frank
Marc Steiner: Welcome to the Marc Steiner Show here on The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner, and it’s great to have y’all with us once again.
Though it gripped the world for many, many years, most of us don’t think about nuclear weapons or the possibility of a nuclear war, a war that could literally wipe us all out. And we don’t think about it especially now given COVID and the deep political divide that exists in the United States and across the world, environmental disasters looming, or just living our lives. But Dan Ellsberg and Norman Solomon brought it into glaring relief with their recent article in The Nation that was entitled To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles – Eliminate Them. In the article, they take on the reality that our government wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrade our land-based ICBM missiles, despite the fact that military leaders and former defense officials say it’s a boondoggle foisted on the American people by Northrop Grumman, who would make billions of dollars on this deal, and what we once called the military-industrial complex. And that all of this could really trigger an Armageddon. It’s an interesting moment when former military officials and anti-war activists agree on stopping land-based missiles together. And all this seems to be happening under the radar of our awareness.
Today, we’re joined by the two men who wrote that article. One is the legendary Dan Ellsberg who, when he was a military analyst during the Vietnam War, and at great risk to himself, secretly released the Pentagon papers to The New York Times that proved to the American people that they’d been lied to and deceived to both start and continue the Vietnam War. And over the decades, he’s continued to be a political activist, giving lecture tours and talking around the world.
And Norman Solomon, who’s been a leading voice in the fight for democracy and world peace. He’s the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, author of the book War Made Easy, and co-founder of rootsaction.org, a website you should definitely check out. And welcome to the program.
First of all, I want to thank both of you for agreeing to do this today. I’m looking forward to this.
Norman Solomon: Sure.
Daniel Ellsberg: So am I. So am I.
Marc Steiner: And actually, when I read the article, and for all of us listening out there, the article is called To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles – Eliminate Them, that appeared in a recent issue of The Nation magazine. And I immediately wrote to Norman and Dan. And here they are. So, let’s just begin.
This is not an issue that for most people in the United States is on the front burner. Most people wouldn’t even think about the differences, which we’ll talk about in a moment, between ground-based strategic deterrents and ICBM missiles and more. It’s not something that people think about a great deal. So, let’s talk about A, why you wrote the article, and why you’re trying to put it in the forefront. And Dan, let me start with you.
Daniel Ellsberg: Okay. The so-called GBSD, ground-based strategic deterrent, is just a generic name for the next-generation ICBM. Which they’re proposing to put in replacing the Minuteman-III, of which we now have 400 in silos with single warheads in them, and another 50 on the shelf, and 50 more silos kept in hot alert. because the people in whose states they are appreciate the increase in real estate values and restaurant values and whatnot from having a number of Air Force people reporting for work daily, 365 days a year, in hot alert, for an event of sending off their missiles, that would be 400 in all, which would essentially end civilization. That’s what ICBMs are designed to do in the sense of destroying enough targets, which would cause smoke to be lofted into the stratosphere, from which it would circle the globe almost immediately and block most sunlight, therefore killing all harvests and dooming nearly everyone on earth to starvation within a year or so.
That’s not, of course, their intention. Their intention is to disarm Russia, originally the Soviet Union, by striking first. But since that would leave hundreds of Soviet, or now Russian, submarine missiles capable, again, on their own, of destroying life on earth. The effect of destroying their ICBMs, their land-based ICBMs, would be nothing, zil on the eventual outcome in either case, whichever goes first. Landing enough warheads near cities – And there are many, what they regard as military targets in cities or near cities – Will have the same effect within about a year, which is civilization is destroyed, nearly all humans are destroyed. So, this would be an insane act for which we’re preparing. And the Russians are doing the same.
But it’s highly profitable to prepare for it by Northrop Grumman, which is the sole contractor at the moment for our new ground-based strategic deterrents. And Russia, of course, too has its military-industrial complex, which apparently is anxious to keep up with the US. That is, to have an excuse to build their own missiles for pretty much the same motives that we do, which, again, I repeat is essentially corporate profit.
Marc Steiner: So, Norm, let me bring you in here. So, I’m curious about why this article is so important to put out now, and what’s going on that the public needs to pay attention to that we’re not.
Norman Solomon: Well, some of what’s going on is that there was an effort in Congress to stop building, as Dan mentioned, the so-called strategic deterrent new generation of land-based ICBM missiles. And it failed in Congress. And one of the disturbing things is that the debate on Capitol Hill has not gone where it needs to go, which is to pivot around the question of, do we need ICBMs at all? Are they not more dangerous to have them than not? And instead, the discourse, even in the effort to prevent the new generation of ICBMs from being built, was really well, we’re okay the way we are. The status quo of ICBMs can be extended for some more decades. And that’s really the wrong discourse. It’s really… The cliche is there of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It really applies.
And I was really stunned by this brilliant book that Dan wrote, The Doomsday Machine, which is subtitled Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. And the conclusion in The Doomsday Machine book, the last chapter talks about, if you will, the lowest-hanging fruit to reduce the chances of a nuclear global holocaust. And that is to shut down all of the land-based ICBMs, getting rid of what’s known as the triad. You know, air, sea, and land-based missiles. Changing it so at least you get rid of all the land-based ones.
And the book makes such a methodical and convincing case, which is supported by, for instance, Former Defense Secretary William Perry and Former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Cartwright and others, all saying that there’s no reason to have any land-based nuclear missiles, except really the profits, the billions of dollars being gouged out of taxpayers by military contractors.
And one of the most stunning things to me is that, unlike in some cases where as a practical matter it’s tough to have an effective, doable, unilateral action, in this case unilateral action would be terrific. There’s no real downside. If the US shut down permanently all of its land-based nuclear missiles, even if the Russians did not follow suit, it’s still a net gain for everybody on the planet. And so, politically and in media and in organizing, we need to move this issue to center stage.
Marc Steiner: So, let’s talk a bit about that. And first of all, I want to very quickly talk a bit about what the danger is here. And I don’t mean to sound ridiculous to ask that question. I’m asking that question because, as I said earlier when we began the conversation, it’s not on the front burner, people do not think about nuclear war or nuclear holocaust taking place. I mean, it’s something that’s not, with everything else going on… So, let’s talk about how you two perceive the danger that we literally face day to day with this. And how deep and real is that?
Daniel Ellsberg: Well, many people have seen in TV series or movies or whatever, the scene of a president having 10 minutes to decide whether to end civilization or not by launching his ICBMs because that’s how long he would have. If there was tactical warning from our radar and our infrared satellites and other information that enemy missiles were on the way, they would take 30 minutes from launch to hit our continental US. And of that, some time obviously would be spent in picking them up and verifying that these seem to be an actual attack. Actually, there have been many, many false alarms. And I’m talking about at that level of possibly mistaking literally a flight of birds, high-flying birds, or reflections of the sun off clouds. That has happened very many times. But fortunately, so far, as time goes on, minutes go on, they’re able to say, no, that was a weather launch or that was something else, before it gets to the president.
But by the time it’s gone through several layers of command deciding, yes, this really is happening and gets to the president, he has something between 5 and 10 minutes to decide how he wants to launch doomsday by hitting 100 cities or 500 or 1,000, any one of which will end civilizations. So, it isn’t really a choice of any significance.
The reason that apparatus occurs, of warning and conceiving, of getting the president up literally in the middle of the night, as did happen with President Carter’s national security assistant Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was awakened at 3:00 in the morning and told that there was a flight of Soviet missiles on the way. And the reason that there’s any reason to respond on such short notice is the existence of the ICBMs. And the reason they call for that is that they are entirely vulnerable to Russian attack, just as Russian ICBMs are vulnerable to ours.
That means, by the way, that this name, ground-based strategic deterrent, is entirely misleading. It’s a very false marketing, false branding name there because it can’t deter Soviet attack or Russian attack now, or, on their side, American attack. It can’t survive an opponent’s attack. So, it can’t retaliate. It can’t threaten massive retaliation to that attack. It is purely a first-strike weapon, something you launch before the other side has launched its missiles. So, that right there, in other words, suggesting that it is an addition to our deterrence and makes us safer is totally misleading. These missiles as deterring nuclear attack actually are a lightning rod for attack. Their very existence tells the Russians in a crisis that they may be getting a first strike from the use of those ICBMs, and they should destroy them before that happens. I repeat, the only temptation on either side to launch those missiles is their existence on both sides. Nothing else demands a fast reaction by the president.
The Trident submarines and their missiles can be underground, underwater, you could say indefinitely, but indefinitely in terms of months or a year or so. Their normal operating term is several months underwater. So, they don’t demand any fast reaction in terms of what to do with them, nor do planes who can get off the ground without being ordered to go to target – And this has been done a number of times in crises to reduce their own vulnerability – They don’t have to be ordered to go to target because they can be recalled.
So, what you have here then is a first-strike-only weapon, which does suggest to the other side that they may have to fear a first strike on them, and are challenged to do that first. That simply wouldn’t occur without these weapons. No other weapon poses that. Think of it. There’s nothing else in the world that requires a 10-minute decision from the president of any consequence, except one that would, in fact, lead to ending life on earth and would in no way benefit the United States. If they’re on the way, sending our missiles is not going to make any difference to the outcome.
Actually, we would be better off destroying it than reproducing it. If you could use the 243 billion dollars that’s scheduled for this over the next 10 years instead for almost any other purpose, including, well, job training for the people into another line of work that would actually serve some social purpose, or just letting them stay at home actually and have a year sabbatical, any of that would make us safer. Paying them, in effect, not to produce those missiles would improve our security. And, as it is, promoting them is not distinguishable from promoting bleach for COVID-19, which presidents have found themselves – Well, known anyway – To actually promote, let’s face it.
Marc Steiner: So, let’s talk for a minute, Norm, about what the politics of the moment is and why this push now to create more ground-based missile systems is taking place because, given everything else going on, it’s flying under most people’s radar. So, what’s the politics of the moment?
Norman Solomon: Well, the military-industrial complex, of course, is voracious. They always need to create new products and new multi-billion-dollar weapon systems. And in this case, you have Northrop Grumman which won the contract. 13 billion, with a B, dollars. And that’s just really to start. And so, there’s huge amounts of profits to be made here.
There are five states where the silos are now armed with ICBMs. There’s a modicum of jobs. I compare it to the Keystone XL. We heard all this nonsense about all the jobs it would create. Not that many, especially at the expense, so to speak, of the climate or in the case of nuclear weapons –
Daniel Ellsberg: That is a good analogy, Norman. That’s good.
Norman Solomon: Yeah.
Daniel Ellsberg: I agree.
Norman Solomon: But of course, politically, the drum is banged on all the time. And so, in Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, and lesser quantity in Colorado, Nebraska, you’ve got these silos where people go to work and you’ve got senators who are obsequious. They’re bending the knee to the altar of the gods of metal, you might say, of nuclear weapons, and in particular ICBMs. So, the politics really are that you have this cadre and something in the Senate called the ICBM Coalition with senators especially from Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, where there’s some services provided for ICBMs. And they’re all out. They’re, so to speak, fanatical about this. And other senators don’t want to cross them.
And besides, there’s a conventional wisdom that is not being disrupted: Just throw more and more money into the maw of the military industrial complex. And I’d say it’s sort of a hidden in plain sight madness or super irrationality, but if everyone is flying in formation in an insane direction, they all seem to be pretty rational to each other.
Daniel Ellsberg: Well, you say insane direction, Norman, they’re getting exactly where they want to be, which is money in the pockets of Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Raytheon. And why do congressmen care? Because these are major, if not the major in some cases, donors to their campaigns, to their campaign funds, and can muster up lobbying efforts in their states that jobs are at stake here, even if it isn’t too many jobs. In states like the ones you mentioned, North Dakota, Wyoming, are very lightly populated. And actually in a region like Great Falls Montana, the presence of these missiles makes a difference to the labor force at that point. Could you find other jobs for them? As I say, easily, but no one is doing that. The jobs right there are the minutemen, and you don’t take them away lightly.
And when a Senator says to his colleagues, I need this for my state, for the jobs, there’s a tradition, which is more than a tradition, a logrolling tradition of, don’t cross me on this or you won’t get my vote for your bridge to nowhere or whatever it might be, where you need your log rolled. And so it goes. My son… no. Somebody was asking me the other day, wouldn’t it be good if we had a lobby or a movement for marketing peace or disarmament, you know, getting rid of these ICBMs? And then he reflected, “But there’s no money in it.” And that’s true. There’s nobody…
Norman, when you were naming the people who were in the ICBM Coalition, something we’ve really pointed to is not only do they get all the senators from states where the missiles are, five states, but that’s all they get. No senator perceives the strategic necessity for these weapons if he or she doesn’t happen to be in a state where the missiles are launched, where the missiles are sited. The coalition consists exactly of those people. And they’re enough to get their way because they say, who’s against it? Money for the military industrial complex? That’s our business.
Norman Solomon: That point about there not being much money in marketing peace and disarmament, I think it’s very important. And what there is overall is a relatively tiny effort by some groups, compared to the Pentagon or Raytheon budget, very small resources. Organizations that are sincerely trying to arrest the momentum of the nuclear arms race. And whether they go under the name of arms control or disarmament or peace, they’re doing their best.
However, Congress is a suction tube that draws people into its own framework. And so, many, and certainly the most well-funded peace disarmament groups in Washington, DC, often calling themselves arms control organizations, they routinely begin to and then continue to accept the framework and the frame of reference of the aides and the members of the House and Senate. And that’s really very dangerous and ultimately begins to erode, and continues to erode rationality, because nuclear weapons then become accepted. And it becomes a matter of tinkering with the machinery. And clearly, that is part of the problem rather than the solution.
Marc Steiner: Well, part of the issue of tinkering, it seems to me [inaudible], in reading your article, and I looked at all of the links in your article to the other pieces that were written, and many of those links were written by people like William J. Perry and others who were military people themselves. And they argue not so much cutting out the entire budget, but cutting out these ground deterrents, I mean, because they’re military people. So, the question is, how do you then proceed with this conversation? Because there’s clearly two different mindsets. There’s an establishment mindset that says, these ground-based missiles are a waste of time and money. We don’t need them, but we’re going to keep what’s on the submarines. We’re going to keep what we put in the air. And then –
Daniel Ellsberg: But we potentially have numbers on our side. The freeze movement in the early 80s had millions of people. And there were referenda in many states influencing a lot of votes. But, as you say, it is shocking to see that you can get professional judgements from people like the secretary of defense, who, by the way, was not some political appointment. He had come up absolutely through the whole ropes of the military-industrial system, and a scientist himself who had earlier been deputy secretary of defense, he’s an extremely knowledgeable person. And James Cartwright, and General Lee Butler, both of whom have been head of the strategic command and had the missiles under their control. And now, they’re saying, we would be better off without them. How can it be that that doesn’t outweigh the… That’s a very challenging question. Outweigh the people who say, well, we haven’t had a war so far, so let’s just keep what we’ve been doing? The truth is we haven’t had a war despite the existence of the ICBMs, whose existence makes that war more likely. So, it is a dismaying fact.
Our numbers of people on the whole don’t go to the congressman with bags of money, very simply. Money talks. And we don’t make huge campaign donations. Now, to the extent that small donors, as in the case of Bernie Sanders and others, or AOC, can show that they can get elected without the PACs and without the big money from these people, you’d have a chance to change a lot of policies, but not many legislators have chosen to go that path.
Marc Steiner: Norman, were you about to say something? Go ahead.
Norman Solomon: I think the analogy is important with the freeze movement of the 1980s, which completely came from the grassroots, and at first was discounted on Capitol Hill and certainly in the Reaganite White House. But people organized. They persisted. They educated. They agitated. Physicians for Social Responsibility and others had a slideshow called The Last Epidemic. Many groups made it happen. And I think there’s a potential there to again awaken the grassroots and organize effectively.
I should say that at rootsaction.org, we’re going to be launching a campaign to shut down all ICBMs. And people are welcome to join us at rootsaction.org. Just sign up for action alerts. I think it’s going to take a lot that puts faith in what people can do with a small-D democratic approach, and saying, we’re not going to wait for Capitol Hill to wake up to this. Because if we wait for the politicians in Washington that is, and no pun intended on nuclear winter, that’s like waiting for hell to freeze over. It’s just not going to happen unless people organize to make it happen.
Marc Steiner: So, let me ask you a political and strategic question. I’m just curious. So, you think now that a bridge has to be built from maybe two different sides of this equation? I was thinking about the article written by James Cartwright, who is former chairman of joint chiefs of staff and Bruce Blair. And an interesting line in there to me in terms of how you organize to say, no, we have to spend our money in a different way. We can’t continue this. Let me just read this. Just a very brief piece that they wrote. They said “Our non-nuclear strength, including economic and diplomatic power, our alliances, our conventional and cyber-weaponry, and our technological advantages constitute a global military juggernaut unmatched in history. The United States simply does not need nuclear weapons to defend its own and its allies’ vital interest,” but here’s the line, “As long as our adversaries refrain from their use.”
So, you have a spectrum of people who are saying, no, we don’t need… this is not the way we should go. But clearly you have very different agendas, and have very different senses of what that would mean and what you would cut out, what you would stop. So, do you build a broad coalition that involves all of that? Do you do it in a different way? How do you bring this to the fore? Dan looks like you’re getting ready to say something, so please say it.
Daniel Ellsberg: Well, we haven’t found a way to do it. That is a reality. We had this huge freeze movement, which, actually, at some points it was 87% of the public, which is larger than you usually get to name the vice president in a poll. So, an enormous thing. And which proceeded then, in Reagan’s second election, to give him a landslide. Which told me – And it was very depressing and I haven’t entirely emerged from the situation – But things haven’t changed, that the people who were for us on this point… Because there’s really no good argument on the other side, it’s not a matter of argument, don’t have it as a high priority.
There’s so many things then and now. Look at now: the pandemic, unemployment, climate. But take a look at the climate. You can’t ask for a bigger movement, a bigger awareness, I should say, in terms of climate. And Greta Thunberg with her millions of young people. And that is perhaps where the greatest promise is, the young people I think on a whole do tend to see this problem. But they don’t have power in their hands. And as Greta keeps saying, even on climate, there is nothing to be shown for the effect of this. Yet, there you have not Raytheon and Lockheed, you have Exxon and Chevron and the other companies that put a higher priority, much higher, on their next quarter’s profits. And they’re making profits out of taking oil out of the ground and coal, as in [inaudible], and burning it. Which shouldn’t happen, which is contributing to the threat to civilization right now, ongoing. And yet, emissions are not going down; they’re going up, despite all this.
All this adds up I think to a very poor prospect for the survival of humanity or civilization. We’re not talking exactly extinction here on either of these counts, but near extinction. Some will survive, for what that’s worth. I ask myself how concerned I would be that a species should survive that had just eliminated 98% of its own species and saying, oh, well, let’s do it all again. We’ve got to be really concerned about keeping them on the earth after they’ve just wiped out, in nuclear winter, nearly every other large animal. Totally extinct. So, we can’t get people, it seems, to care that much about even a few years ahead. We’re not talking about our great-grandchildren now or even our grandchildren. We’re talking about our children and ourselves right now.
I do think that some rich people, Peter Thiel, billionaire, is buying a lot of land in New Zealand with silos and bunkers in it and so forth, and with 10 years of food to survive. If he can afford, manage not to be at ground zero when the war occurs, he can wait out nuclear winter. I actually think that a lot of quite rich people think on climate as well, we’re going to get away with it. Our grandchildren will be okay. And they’re probably right. Does that mean then that there’s no way of challenging? Well, we have to find a way. We haven’t yet. But the numbers on various occasions have made a difference. Some difference.
And it’s not impossible to get out of this trap that we’ve built for ourselves here. It’s very unlikely, but it’s not impossible. And that means that it’s worth a person’s life work. Life work, and even life to improve the odds. They’re not zero now. And to improve that, nothing is more important.
Marc Steiner: That’s very powerfully said, Dan. And I wonder if then you’d pick this up for a moment, Norman, and talk about the politics of this at this very moment, and how that is being organized. At the end of the Obama administration, they couldn’t get it done. Now, there’s this huge progressive caucus inside of US Congress that can’t get things through because of the conservative end that’s blocking it. So, talk about the politics of the moment. How do you take the leap from what Dan just said, to making this actually happen? What kind of movement do you have to build?
Norman Solomon: Well, at a personal level, one could quote Antonio Gramsci, “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” In terms of socially organizing movements, it’s going to be crucial in making those connections. One is between nuclear winter and the climate movement. I heard one of the most prominent leaders, a wonderful leader of the climate movement, just last month say publicly that the dangers of nuclear war have diminished in recent years and decades. And I sent a corrective note to that person. It’s empirically false if you believe what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are saying with the doomsday clock going in the last 10 years from 6 minutes from doomsday to 100 seconds. So, a lot of it’s education and agitation and, as prosaic as it might sound, organizing, not only as individuals, but as organizations to make it happen. Twas ever thus. Everything we have to be proud of is because people organized.
And also, about language. I mean, on Capitol Hill, the problem with nuclear weapons is, if you will, a subset, perhaps the very, very, very worst part of overall militarism and accommodation to militarism. So, that’s certainly just the work that we’re going to have to do to reassert that when Dwight Eisenhower denounced the military-industrial complex, he wasn’t some far-out radical. Neither are we.
And one last point that nomenclature’s important, as Orwell talked about. And it’s one thing to have an uppercase Defense Department with capitalized Ds, but we really need to stop talking about lowercase-D defense spending or defense budget. I would be all for a genuine lower case-D defense budget. We don’t have a defense budget; we have a military one. And that’s a huge difference.
Marc Steiner: So Dan, as we close this out, I would… Just this one line from the piece, this wonderful piece the two of you wrote. And I want you to just kind of comment on this line as we close out here. And the line is, “Contrary to uninformed assumptions, discarding all ICBMs could be accomplished unilaterally by the United States with no downside.” Now, play on that one for our listeners.
Daniel Ellsberg: Absolutely. And to follow through what Norman was saying, people really paid very little attention to Eisenhower’s comment on the military-industrial complex. And I myself plead guilty to having paid very little attention until recently, as I should have, to the industrial part of that. I thought of them sort of as the tail on the dog. And actually, that tail wags the dog I now think to a very large extent. Eisenhower’s warning as he left office in 1960, his last speech, was we should be wary. We should beware of undue influence by this unprecedented convergence of a huge arms industry and large standing forces. He said, be wary of it. It can be… Well, we haven’t been. And it has enlarged. It’s gained in exactly the way that Eisenhower warned. And that’s where we are.
But I think it is helpful to at least become aware of the fact that there are named corporations that are involved in this, and try to demand that our representatives have hearings on this, which has never happened, like the hearings after the First World War of who got us into the First World War. They were called merchants of death at that point, the arms makers and the bankers who bankrolled them. Now, it’s merchants of homicide, far beyond death.
As a matter of fact, just last night, I was looking at a very good documentary series by Alex Gibney on the OxyContin scandal, where supposedly respectable, legitimate firm like Purdue pharma and owned by a very admired family, the Sackler family, admired for their philanthropy, which it turns out came from pocket change from the 9 billion dollars selling a heroin equivalent and reaping 500,000 lives in the last 20 years for this. And as I watched that program, in my mind, I was just substituting Lockheed and Northrop Grumman for the name Purdue in terms of their marketing strategy of something that was deadly. And it occurred to me if a real series on that, which I would like to see, would not be what Alex called his, The Crime of the Century. It would be the crime of the last four millennia, the age of empire, the age of civilization, which these instruments, these products of civilization and industry are designed, if they are set in motion, to end civilization. It’s a book ending.
And finally, I think two things could change the environment in which these decisions were made. First, I just said an awareness of where the money is coming from and who it’s going to. Members of the Armed Services Committee, for example. Adam Smith, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, for example, who just switched to a support for the ground-based strategic deterrents. And I would like to see him challenged as to what led to that switch, but there is no strategic national security basis for it, whatever. But that’s made it almost unbeatable.
Second. A lot of people on our side are so rightly cynical about elections that they don’t take them seriously. They say, only what [inaudible] we’re talking about, people in the street, civil disobedience.
Norman and I… maybe Norman, I bet you don’t have it at the top of your head. You and I got arrested, opposing, one night, a test firing of a minuteman missile, which was inclined to keep legitimizing the minuteman missile. And I’ll remind you that when we did that long ago, I couldn’t even tell you what year it was, you can tell me, I remember a number of people said, we still have ICBMs? We still have minutemen in silos? And people didn’t even know that.
We have to have, bad as they are, inadequate as they’ve been, the Democratic party. We cannot afford – And the we here is civilization, humanity – Another four years of Donald Trump, which we’re talking about, or the Republican party. And that’s not to make some apology for the Democrats; It’s to say that a party that is devoted to the maximization of fossil fuel burning in the atmosphere, as Noam Chomsky has put it, which makes the Republicans the most dangerous organization in history, we can’t afford that. And so, electoral activity, both for 2022 and 2024, is something that we, radicals, leftists, activists, do have to do in addition to civil disobedience and mass demonstrations.
Norman Solomon: And I would interject here quickly that I completely agree. We need to use all of the, so to speak, arrows in the quiver, including electoral work, including protests, education, and civil disobedience.
As a footnote, while I was arrested a couple of times for blockading trains, carrying Trident warheads, I never did get arrested interfering or trying to interfere with ICBM launches.
Daniel Ellsberg: No, no, no. I take it back. Okay. Right, right, right. I apologize. Being 90, this kind of thing happens to you every year. I was looking at you. I was thinking of my friend, David Krieger. It was David Krieger. It was not you Norman.
Norman Solomon: Well, it could be noted that Daniel Ellsberg has been arrested close to 100 times for civil disobedience. So [crosstalk] sometimes it blurs together. [all laughing]
Daniel Ellsberg: No, no, no. Don’t exaggerate. 89. 89 is a good figure.
Marc Steiner: I love it. 89. Well, one more for your 90th birthday. You should have that, at least one more.
Daniel Ellsberg: I’ve gotten ahead with my birthday.
Marc Steiner: Well, I want to thank you both. This has been a fascinating conversation. Dan Ellsberg and Norman Solomon. And I want to encourage everyone to check the link below and read To Avoid Armageddon, Don’t Modernize Missiles – Eliminate Them by Dan Ellsberg and Norman Solomon. Thank you both so much for being with us here today. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.
Norman Solomon: Thank you, Marc.
Daniel Ellsberg: Thanks for having us.
Marc Steiner: Thank you all for joining us today. And please let me know what you think about what you’ve heard today, what you’d like us to cover. Just write to me at email@example.com and I promise I’ll get right back to you. And if you’ve not joined us yet, please go to www.therealnews.com/support. Become a monthly donor. And become part of the future with us. So, for Stephen Frank and the crew here at The Real News, I’m Marc Steiner. Stay involved, keep listening, and take care.