Home » Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

The truth is the United States, as I learned from the Pentagon Papers, when I read all of them, had begun the war in 1945 and ’46, supporting a French effort to reconquer a colony which had declared its independence in August and September of 1945. And actually Ho Chi Minh had been recognized as a head of state, at least of the north, in Paris when they were negotiating in ’45, ’46.

But when the French, starting with a shelling that killed at least 3,000 civilians in Haiphong in 1946, went into a war to reconquer that colony, the United States was financing that war, eventually up to the point of view of 80%. It was perceived by the Vietnamese, correctly, as an American-French war, perceived by Americans then and later as a French war.

I don’t think there was one American in 10,000, 100,000 who knew what I’ve just said. But the presence in Vietnam, it turns out, knew it because the communist cadres told them, correctly, that the US was financing this war. In short, it had been a war against Vietnamese independence from 1945 to 1975, when it finally ended 30 years later. The big part, the US part, 10 years war, in 1971, it had four years to go. If you see the movie, “The Post,” which I recommend you seeing– and I don’t say this publicly, generally, because it sounds as though I’m putting down the movie, and I have no interest in doing that.

But talking about the history, I will just say some questions it just doesn’t answer. It ends with the triumph of the Supreme Court saying, the First Amendment does not allow us to grant you injunctive relief from this information coming out, its history coming out. We can’t do prior constraint, prior restraint in this country as we could in England. We don’t have an Official Secrets Act the way they do. Obama, by the way, used the Espionage Act nine times, at least, or 10, if you count Petraeus, against leakers like me, but had been used only three times before that under all presidents put together.

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I was the first under Nixon. The movie, by the way, doesn’t mention that I’m put on trial. It’s a big triumph for the press. And it was a triumph for the press. They can go on printing. And although the movie is started with me giving the papers, copying them and eventually giving them to The Post, it doesn’t mention that, although they are permitted to read, on the same week, the president, the Supreme Court, decides that I’m put on trial, eventually facing 12 felony counts, 115 years possible sentence.

And Pete Williamson, who was bringing me up here, said he was 11 when this happened. He thought I was obviously guilty of putting out secrets and that I should be on trial, when he was 11. And he said he was amazed when I somehow was let off two years later. I said, well, it was amazing. It was like a miracle. Essentially, no trial has ever been ended the way that was on the basis of a findings of government misconduct, criminal misconduct, which led to the criminal proceedings against Ehrlichman, Haldeman, a number of others called, put a dozen or so White House aides in jail, and made the president, facing conviction and impeachment, resign.

Without Nixon resigning in 1974, the war would have continued until he left office, at least through 1976. With him out, it became endable. With him in, not possible.

Let me give you one hint that goes right to the present. It’s not in my book, but to show, as I say, how similar the galaxies are. Galaxy Trump here, who is accused of having colluded with a foreign power to affect his election as a challenger, right, not proven yet. It may never be proven, strictly speaking, in terms of documents. We’ll see.

In the case of Nixon, it was last year that a document– last year now– that a document just surfaced from Haldeman’s notes, his Chief of Staff, saying that it was Nixon who gave orders to derail the arrangements of going to Paris for negotiations in November and December of 1969. Humphrey was on the verge of winning with the thought in the public’s mind that there were about to be negotiations that would end this war, which was then, they thought, four years old, since ’65. They didn’t know about the earlier period. Pentagon Papers hadn’t come out yet. And so he was talking.

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Nixon was dealing with Thieu through intermediaries, President Thieu, not to go to Paris, to abort the negotiations, the prospect of which was leading Humphrey higher, higher every day and ready to overtake Nixon. That prospect stopped immediately flat when Thieu announced, I will not go to Paris, where he had agreed to go earlier with President Johnson. And Nixon won. Thieu said to aides later, I elected Nixon. He was right.

Without him, Nixon would not have come into office. The war would have ended in ’69, not ’75. I don’t think there’s one American in, what, 100,000 who would recognize what I’m just telling you now. And it’s not very easy. You don’t have to believe it.

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