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Daniel Ellsberg Warns of Trump Possibly Starting War with Iran—and Calls on Whistleblowers to Step Forward



From a reader:

In an important opinion piece published online on January 8 by the Guardian, two days after Trump’s MAGA thugs ran riot in Washington, DC, Daniel Ellsberg warns: “President Trump’s incitement of criminal mob violence and occupation of the Capitol makes clear there is no limitation whatever on the abuse of power he may commit in the next two weeks he remains in office. Outrageous as his incendiary performance was on Wednesday, I fear he may incite something far more dangerous in the next few days: his long-desired war with Iran.” And Ellsberg urges whistleblowers to step forward and expose any such plans for war that may exist, just as he himself blew the whistle 50 years ago on the U.S.’s criminal war in Vietnam. (“Donald Trump's parting gift to the world? It may be war with Iran”)

In 1971, Ellsberg was an analyst with a think tank closely linked to the U.S. military when he made public secret government documents which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. These documents exposed important truths about the massive horrors committed by the U.S. in the Vietnam War and the lies they told to cover this up. The whistleblowing by Ellsberg played an important part in the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam. The government’s response was to arrest him and bring serious charges against him under the Espionage Act; operatives of the then-President Nixon’s staff even broke into his psychiatrist’s office in an attempt to steal personal information and discredit him. has reported on recent ratcheting up of U.S. war moves against Iran. As Ellsberg notes in his Guardian article:

The dispatch this week of B-52’s nonstop round-trip from North Dakota to the Iranian coast – the fourth such flight in seven weeks, one at year’s end – along with his build-up of U.S. forces in the area, is a warning not only to Iran but to us.

In mid-November, as these flights began, the president had to be dissuaded at the highest levels from directing an unprovoked attack on Iran nuclear facilities. But an attack “provoked” by Iran (or by militias in Iraq aligned with Iran) was not ruled out.

Drawing from his own experience around the Vietnam War and exposures about other U.S. wars, Ellsberg points out that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “have frequently… provided presidents with false information that offered pretexts to attack our perceived adversaries. Or they’ve suggested covert actions that could provoke the adversaries to some response that justifies a U.S. ‘retaliation’.”

Ellsberg gives an example from the Vietnam War:

I was a participant-observer of such planning myself, with respect to Vietnam half a century ago. On 3 September 1964 – just a month after I had become special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, John T McNaughton – a memo came across my desk in the Pentagon written by my boss. He was recommending actions “likely at some point to provoke a military DRV [North Vietnam] response … likely to provide good grounds for us to escalate if we wished”.

Such actions “that would tend deliberately to provoke a DRV reaction” (sic), as spelled out five days later by McNaughton’s counterpart at the state department, the assistant secretary of state William Bundy, might include “running U.S. naval patrols increasingly close to the North Vietnamese coast” – ie running them within the 12-mile coastal waters the North Vietnamese claimed: as close to the beach as necessary, to get a response that might justify what McNaughton called “a full-fledged squeeze on North Vietnam [a progressively all-out bombing campaign]”, which would follow “especially if a U.S. ship were sunk”.

And turning the focus to the situation we face now, Ellsberg writes:

I have little doubt that such contingency planning, directed by the Oval Office, for provoking, if necessary, an excuse for attacking Iran while this administration is still in office exists right now, in safes and computers in the Pentagon, CIA and the White House. That means there are officials in those agencies – perhaps one sitting at my old desk in the Pentagon – who have seen on their secure computer screens highly classified recommendations exactly like the McNaughton and Bundy memos that came across my desk in September 1964.

Ellsberg says he has always regretted that he did not come forward with the Pentagon Papers at that time in 1964, rather than five years later in 1969 when he turned over the documents to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or 1971 when he released them to the press. “A war’s worth of lives might have been saved.”

Ellsberg concludes with the huge stakes involved in the danger of Trump provoking a war on Iran—and the need for people to act—now:

Current documents or digital files that contemplate provoking or “retaliating to” Iranian actions covertly provoked by us should not remain secret another moment from the U.S. Congress and the American public, lest we be presented with a disastrous fait accompli before January 20, instigating a war potentially worse than Vietnam plus all the wars of the Middle East combined. It is neither too late for such plans to be carried out by this deranged president nor for an informed public and Congress to block him from doing so.

I am urging courageous whistleblowing today, this week, not months or years from now, after bombs have begun falling. It could be the most patriotic act of a lifetime.

Read the entire piece by Daniel Ellsberg here.

U.S. weapons of war – F-35 jets – line up for a launch exercise, January 2020. (Photo: USAF twitter)

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