In the press conference at Maryknoll, NY, to give publicity to views he expressed in an article in the October 2006 number of Harper's Magazine, Daniel Ellsberg addressed the gathering Iran crisis.  --  The press conference is available at the link below.[1]  --  Passages pertaining to Iran are transcribed below.[2] ...




Maryknoll, NY
November 14, 2006


[Synopsis & partial transcript]


Maryknoll, NY
November 14, 2006

Ellsberg said he believes that the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and taking of both houses of Congress by Democrats means that the odds of an attack on Iran are now "significantly lower" than the 80 or 90% chance of an attack that would have existed otherwise.

He also said he believes the whistle-blowing on Iran would have a "great chance to prevent the president from preparing and carrying out in secret a crazy plan -- and attacking Iran would be crazy. One of the trio of crazy advocates of this -- Rumsfeld -- has now left, and so the chance has gone somewhat down, but we still have Bush and Cheney, who are as far as we know still committed to that plan.

"The chance of stopping them, even from within their own administration, with Gates and with Baker's influence, and perhaps with his father's influence -- Bush's 'earthly father,' as he called him once, who is a better adviser than any other voices that have counseled Bush -- that there is a chance, really, of stopping it.

"So I would say that even though, say under a Republican Congress, they would be facing the likelihood of prosecution, that it would be well worthwhile, to avert a war. Actually the chance of prosecution and of conviction is much less now; they have Democratic committees to testify to. So in that position I would say that the risks are less and the promise of achieving something is much more. So I hope that people will risk their careers in a way that really none has done so far."

Ellsberg also said, on Iran's president, that in his view "Ahmadinejad is not correctly described as a madman in any clinical sense, that he's a populist, something of a demagogue, and certainly a believer in Islamic fundamentalism. So he believes in theocracy, essentially. . . . so he's not a democrat at heart. . . . "[P]eople who do know the situation say unanimously .  . . that he has very little power, that what he thinks about their nuclear energy program, for example, has very little more to do with that program than the man or woman in the street.

"The supreme authority, the ayatollahs, totally control that -- and through their Revolutionary Guard -- totally control the nuclear energy program, or weapons program, if it comes to that. And so [Ahmadinejad's] opinion is not crucial there. And the ayatollah there, actually, for what it's worth, far from talking the way Ahmadinejad does, has issued a fatwa, an edict, that nuclear weapons are un-Islamic -- which is plausible, by the way -- they should be seen as un-Christian, un-Jewish, un-Hindu, but, of course, they're not, since all these other countries, these other religious bases, have nuclear weapons. But they certainly are, it's plausible, without knowing much about Islam, that this authority will say they're against -- they're weapons of mass murder, we don't want them, and we don't need them. That isn't to say that one could rely on that not changing totally. Still, that is the word from the person who is in charge, and it's better than his saying we do have to have them, or that we have a right to them, which he could make a case for too, but -- in political terms -- but rather than say that, he's said the opposite.

"I think, by the way, there's every reason to believe that Iran, both these authorities, are pursuing a nuclear energy program at this point which will give them a capability for nuclear weapons fairly fast should they want that in five or ten years -- in other words, a dual capability. There's no reason -- the IAEA has said that there's no scrap of evidence that would point to a decision or a determination to have nuclear weapons. Everything they're doing is totally consistent with a nuclear energy program, as they've said. It's not as though they've been caught designing nuclear weapons, or preparing vehicles that are only for nuclear weapons, and so forth.

"There's a lot of countries that have given themselves the capability to have nuclear weapons very fast. You can't do that overnight. Japan could be a nuclear superpower within a year or two, and could have nuclear weapons within a day or two -- that's how close they are. And other countries like Brazil and Argentina and many others have the kind of capability that Iran seems to be trying to get.

"So in other words, as things are going, I think they could end up five or ten years from now -- more likely ten, according to the CIA -- with nuclear weapons, and that would be bad for the world. It wouldn't be good.

"On the other hand, the chance to keep them from exploiting that capability and actually building the weapons, keep them from doing what Israel, India, and Pakistan did do -- that is, get up to the point and then, build them -- is really pretty good. They're making negotiating points. People who, again, who know it, seem to feel, have a good chance of heading that off, as North Korean weapons could almost surely have been headed off by agreement and diplomacy of the kind Clinton was pursuing, and it's Bush's fault, almost entirely, that he reversed that course, apparently because it was Clinton's, and because he was paying attention only to attacking the Middle East, attacking Iraq. It was totally irresponsible to have followed a policy that led to North Korean weapons."