On Wed., Dec. 6, Daniel Ellsberg was in Stockholm to receive the Right Livelihood Award (known as the "alternative Nobel Prize").  --  He took the occasion to publish, in Swedish, an article in Sweden's largest-circulation and most prestigious daily, Dagens Nyheter.  --  A translation of Ellsberg's article is posted below.  --  In it, he warned that the Bush administration is making plans to strike Iran with nuclear weapons, and called on those with access to documents demonstrating this to make them public.  --  Ellsberg also called on NATO countries to threaten to withdraw from the alliance in the event of such an attack, either by the U.S. or by Israel.  --  Thanks to Aaron Dennis for his translation of this important article.  --  It is surprising that such an important article has not been made available in English, but as far as we can determine this is the first English translation that has appeared....


[Translated from Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm)]

By Daniel Ellsberg

** Daniel Ellsberg solicits new Pentagon papers concerning the U.S.’s war plans in the Middle East. The American nuclear agenda is currently among the most salient concerns regarding the Bush administration's planning details for a possible assault on Iran. Should it be so, Bush, under the U.N., will be as guilty as a mafia don of the worst conceivable crime against humanity. This piece is by former Pentagon staffer Daniel Ellsberg, who in the early 1970s was prosecuted for leaking the secret so-called Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War. Today it was announced he will receive the Right Livelihood Award -- the alternative Nobel Prize. **

Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm)
December 6, 2006


It has never been true that nuclear war is something “unthinkable.” So wrote the historian E. P. Thompson a quarter century ago. And he continued: "Thoughts about nuclear war have been thought, and those thoughts have been made a reality."

Thompson was referring at that time to the obliteration of Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s populations in August 1945. What he failed to say is that the American officials who thought of realizing that first nuclear weapon thought their actions were an incomparable success: a decisive key to the victory over Japan that spared many lives. The thinking of such novel thoughts is now also an aim that was realized.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney have been thinking such thoughts for at least half a year, and they have secretly ordered another plan for a possible nuclear assault, against Iran.

Over a year ago it was reported by a former high-ranking CIA official, Philip Giraldi, in the magazine The American Conservative, that Vice President Cheney’s staff had prepared plans for "a large-scale air assault against Iran employing both conventional bombs and tactical nuclear weapons." Giraldi also admitted that "several senior Air Force officers" involved in the planning had become appalled at the implications of what they were doing -- that the objective for Iran was an unprovoked nuclear attack -- but that none were prepared to jeopardize their careers by airing objections.

In several articles this year, Seymour Hersh and other writers anonymously cited high-level authorities as disclosing information on detailed military planning for the use of nuclear weapons against underground Iranian installations, which several American military officials themselves oppose and for this sake are considering resigning. Hersh noted that the Joint Chiefs’ opposition to the project got the White House to shelve “the nuclear weapon alternative” -- for the moment. But the detailed military planning continues -- not merely hypothetical war scenarios, but constantly updated offensive plans for powerful forces deployable on short notice.

According to these reports, many high-ranking officers and officials are convinced that Bush and Cheney intend to try to effect regime change in Iran by an air attack and that they maintain their determination despite the general public's frustration over their previous and still unfinished war adventure in Iraq -- which contributed to recent democratic victories in House and Senate elections.

Assuming that Hersh’s so-far anonymous sources mean what they say -- what one of them called “a juggernaut that must be stopped” -- to me this means that the day has come for one or more of these sources go beyond what they have done so far. In other words: they should publicly disclose the classified war plans before the war becomes a reality, and support this with unequivocal evidence from inside the power apparatus. The same applies, I believe, to European diplomats and military officers with knowledge about such war plans via their contacts within the American power structure.

I hope that one or more such persons will make the sober decision -- fully aware that such might entail sacrificing one’s career and risking imprisonment -- to make public documents unambiguously disclosing official but classified cost-benefit calculations of the considered war plans, or similar signs indicating the White House's true intentions. What needs to be disclosed is a comprehensive account of the concealed debate within the power apparatus, critiques as well as arguments and claims of the advocates of aggressive warfare and the “nuclear alternative” -- in other words, a kind of Pentagon Papers of the Middle East.

But the difference from the 7,000 secret documents on the Vietnam war that I made public in 1971, disclosing the intense secret debates *during* the American war in the region, also underscores the need to do so for Iran now, lest the 61-year moratorium on nuclear war should end in violence -- and so that democracy and world opinion are afforded a chance to avert both these catastrophes.

It also implies great personal risk. In the midst of my case I came to terms with the idea of a federal jury sentencing me to 115 years in prison. But that risk is less than the daily risks to which more than 140,000 American soldiers, and others still to join them, are exposed in Iraq, and those that the common Iraqi civilian must constantly endure. For all countries there is an urgent need that military and civilian officials display a comparable civic courage vis-à-vis the possibility, and the necessity, of guarding against an unjust and hopeless war.

Yet it is not only men and women within the power apparatus, Americans or otherwise, who bear the responsibility of reacting against the Bush administration’s politics. Last year, entirely apart from his classified plans of attack, President Bush and Vice President Cheney at the last hour availed themselves of American nuclear weapons in a way lacking precedent and entirely in the open.

The widely held belief that “no nuclear weapons have been used since Nagasaki” is a misunderstanding. Time after time, most often without Americans' -- but certainly with the enemy's -- knowledge, America has employed nuclear weapons in the same way one employs a pistol when pointing it at someone's head in a direct confrontation.

American weapons are being used in precisely this way at this moment, before the rest of the world's eyes and ears. Bush, Cheney, and, yes, even their legislature do exactly this when they assert that “military initiatives,” including nuclear weapons, constitute alternatives that cannot be ruled out in the event that Iran refuses to agree the U.S.’s and other nuclear powers’ demands for requirements regarding its nuclear energy program and suspected nuclear weapons aspirations.

It is disturbing that the U.S. Congress, the mass media, and the general public, like the greater part of the outside world, have found themselves issuing such threats against Iran, instead of directing sharp opposition towards the present attitude that an American president, or Congress, or for that matter NATO or the EU, should under any circumstances have the right to a “nuclear assault.” Through its silence, the outside world is acquiescing in just such imminent, illegitimate threats.

It is almost precisely twenty-five years since the U.N. General Assembly in plenary meeting adopted, by a strong majority, Resolution 36/100, a Declaration on the Prevention of Nuclear Catastrophe (Dec. 9, 1981). It explained that "Any doctrines allowing the first use of nuclear weapons . . . are incompatible with human moral standards and the lofty ideals of the United Nations. . . . States and statemen that resort first to the use of nuclear weapons will be committing the gravest crime against humanity."

The issue is not just that a majority of the world's nations (82 voted for the resolution, 49 against it, in order to not displease the U.S.) made this sober assessment in light of the ongoing Cold War, but that they acted with so evident a sensibility -- for the sake of greater human interest -- and the same prudence counts equally much today. As the vote then went against the position of the United States and eighteen other States, including a majority of NATO countries, as dangerously ill-advised, it is now urgent that they waste no time in correcting their mistakes and coming to accept a broader global morality and sense of goodwill.

The risk of an air strike and possible nuclear attack against Iran during the Bush Administration’s two remaining years is a source of dread outside the USA as well. Thus since October many NATO member countries have been engaged in extensive military sea and air maneuvers in order to exercise an embargo again Iran and in preparation for Iranian retaliation against these American-imposed embargoes or sanctions.

It is therefore high time to discuss these important questions in Europe: Whether, with respect to the general public and the politicians in all these countries, to avert next year's or the following year’s confrontation with definitive proof in the form of plans of an American air attack against Iran? And above all, how to react to an attack using American or Israeli nuclear weapons against Iranian underground installments?

Certainly, these countries should not permit their airspace or bases to be used in collaboration with this kind of American aggression. The general public in these countries should also require that their elected politicians immediately make clear this position to the U.S. government.

But this alone will not suffice to deter or react forcefully enough against a possible nuclear weapons attack by the U.S., or by Israel with the U.S.'s consent. Given such a war plan, every member state should do nothing less than promise to withdraw from NATO, as Sweden has done, in protest -- otherwise, the U.S. would have effectively invalidated NATO and all other defensive alliances.

What some believe to be unthinkable is that any European (or any other) state should remain in a military alliance -- or, similarly, have normal relations -- with a state so committed to the “gravest crime against humanity." The people of Europe ought to press forward in making this wholly apparent to Washington -- via petitions, demonstrations, and organizations of voters and lobbies -- as well as to their respective governments. That would be the most effective, and perhaps ultimately the last practical method, of voicing outrage against such a catastrophic path to war.

--Translated into Swedish by Per Jönsson.

--Translated back into English by Aaron Dennis.