Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg called Friday on the Pentagon chief to “protect us” from President Donald Trump by resisting orders to launch military actions or use nuclear weapons.
“The situation is closer to the possible use of nuclear weapons since any time I would say in 50 years,” Ellsberg, a former military analyst and nuclear war planner turned world-famous whistleblower, told AFP in a telephone interview.
He spoke shortly before the news broke on Saturday that the United States, Britain and France — three nuclear powers — were carrying out an aggression on Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
“It is a very dangerous time,” Ellsberg said, pointing out that Trump’s war of words with North Korea was the first time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 that a US president has threatened military action against another nuclear-armed state.
International actions in Syria, involving four nuclear-armed states, coupled with the political pressures on Trump at home could easily spell disaster, Ellsberg warned.
“The president I’m afraid has a very strong temptation to start a war as cover for his firing the special prosecutor,” he said, referring to Robert Mueller, who is investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
Ellsberg famously leaked thousands of documents nearly half a century ago revealing that successive US administrations had lied to the public about the Vietnam war.
He insisted that now Defense Secretary Jim Mattis should be prepared to resist “impulsive and reckless” orders from Trump to go to war.
The 87-year-old pointed out that under President Richard Nixon, then Defense Secretary James Schlesinger had secretly insisted that no orders from the president to launch military action or use nuclear weapons should be obeyed unless it had his stamp of approval.
“Now that is an unconstitutional order, and it would be unconstitutional for James Mattis to make such a directive right now,” Ellsberg said.
“Nevertheless, he ought to do it… We are depending on ‘Mad dog Mattis’ to protect us from a president.”
Ellsberg said there was a desperate need for high-level people to be willing “to put their careers on the line” to do the right thing and help avert catastrophe.
“I think Mattis in particular, and (top US general Joe) Dunford, are cooling the president down from his threats of a catastrophic action in North Korea and even in Syria,” he said.