The Pentagon Papers whistleblower explained that the new Cold War is about trade, not human rights: ‘We wanted to freeze Russia out of it.’
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 11: In conflict with Vladimir Putin, ‘the issue is not freedom’
After examining the myths most Americans believe about the Cold War, in this episode of “Lied To Death,” Ellsberg compared this historic conflict to renewed tensions the United States faces with Russia today.
Just as the U.S. sought to exert financial domination over communist Russia in the past, Ellsberg argued, “trade and financial flows … between Western Europe and Russia” have become key issues today.
“Russian oil and gas is now coming into Europe in a way we did not want to happen for many years,” Ellsberg continued, noting that the U.S. would prefer to supply Europe’s energy needs, either directly or through its allies in the Middle East.
U.S. government officials and mainstream media frequently object to Russia’s human rights record, but when it comes to the current conflict, the whistleblower said, “The issue is not freedom,” but rather preventing free trade.
“The same issue is at play in China,” he said, referring to whether that nation will trade freely with Japan and South Asia.
He warned that growing tensions in Ukraine could lead to a third world war. “Putin is very clear, and no Russian would differ on this, he doesn’t want all of Ukraine in NATO, and he really doesn’t want any of Ukraine in NATO in an anti-Russian alliance,” Ellsberg said.
NATO wants to control all of Ukraine, he said, while Russia would have been content to let Ukraine trade with Europe as well. “We wanted to freeze Russia out of it.”
The stakes are high for Russia, he said, noting: “If Putin loses East Ukraine he probably couldn’t stay in power.”
Ellsberg suggested that this could lead to a situation that quickly spirals out of control — a situation in which “the likelihood of nuclear threats [becomes] very high on both sides.”
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.”