Richard Nixon was known for employing the ‘madman theory,’ in which world leaders were made to believe he had an insatiable lust for war combined with volatile, erratic behavior. But the ‘Pentagon Papers’ whistleblower suggests all nuclear policy is fundamentally mad.
MINNEAPOLIS — MintPress News is proud to host “Lied to Death,” a 13-part audio conversation between famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and social justice activist Arn Menconi.
Menconi wrote that these interviews are a “mixture of historical, political science and Dan’s sixty-year scholarly analysis as a former nuclear planner for Rand Corporation.”
For more information on the interview and Ellsberg, see the introduction to this series.
Chapter 10: ‘They key purpose of the Cold War … was to block trade’
In this chapter, Ellsberg criticizes common misconceptions about the Cold War period of U.S. history.
“The understanding of the Cold War that 99 out of 100 Americans hold right now … is a fairy tale,” he explained.
While most people believe the United States acted to stop Communism from spreading outward from countries like China and Russia, Ellsberg suggested that the financial domination of global markets was a far more important factor propelling the Cold War.
“The key purpose of the Cold War paradigm, both in Europe and in Asia, was to block East-West trade,” he said.
With NATO and U.S. forces now encircling China and Russia with military bases, East-West tensions are rising anew. The U.S. is also seeking to inflame tensions in Ukraine after supporting a coup there.
America’s ultimate goal, according to Ellsberg, is always to dominate a region in order to put pressure on nearby countries whose interests stand in opposition to American interests. Those maneuvers, he said, are always backed with “the threat of first use of nuclear weapons.”
He cited the “madman theory,” a strategy used by President Richard Nixon to make other countries perceive that he was psychologically unstable enough to actually deploy nuclear weapons in response to any provocation.
“The madman theory didn’t start with Nixon,” Ellsberg explained. “The madman theory as a basis for our policy has been with us since the beginning of the nuclear era.”
He expressed his horror that the U.S. has made serious nuclear threats on numerous occasions, and it remains the only country to actually make use of the bomb.
“It goes beyond any measure of morality,” he declared. “World destruction for quite marginal concerns. But relative to world destruction, what stake isn’t small?”
He stressed that those threats could be put into action someday by the U.S. military and the president. “Those people are ready to risk the world.”
Listen to the They key purpose of the Cold War … was to block trade:
About Daniel Ellsberg
As sites like WikiLeaks and figures such as Edward Snowden continue to reveal uncomfortable truths about America’s endless wars for power and oil, one important figure stands apart as an inspiration to the whistleblowers of today: Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the “Pentagon Papers,” over 7,000 pages of top secret documents, in 1971.
A military veteran, Ellsberg began his career as a strategic analyst for the RAND Corporation, a massive U.S.-backed nonprofit, and worked directly for the government helping to craft policies around the potential use of nuclear weapons. In in the 1960s, he faced a crisis of conscience while working for the Department of Defense as an assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John T. McNaughton, where his primary duty was to find a pretext to escalate the war in Vietnam.
Inspired by the example of anti-war activists and great thinkers like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., he realized he was willing to risk arrest in order to prevent more war. Lacking the technology of today’s whistleblowers, who can carry gigabytes of data in their pockets, he painstakingly photocopied some 7,000 pages of top secret documents which became the “Pentagon Papers,” first excerpted by The New York Times in June 1971.
Ellsberg’s leaks exposed the corruption behind the war in Vietnam and had widespread ramifications for American foreign policy. Henry Kissinger, secretary of state at the time, famously referred to Ellsberg as “the most dangerous man in America.”
Ellsberg remains a sought-after expert on military and world affairs, and an outspoken supporter of whistleblowers from Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning. In 2011, he told the Chelsea Manning Support Network that Manning was a “hero,” and added:
“I wish I could say that our government has improved its treatment of whistleblowers in the 40 years since the Pentagon Papers. Instead we’re seeing an unprecedented campaign to crack down on public servants who reveal information that Congress and American citizens have a need to know.”