Honoring the wisdom of an anti-war hero
Thank You, Bill... :
LIVING ON A DEADLINE IN THE NUCLEAR AGE. SOME PERSONAL NEWS FROM DANIEL ELLSBERG
by Daniel Ellsberg 030323
“My wish for you, my friends, is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.”
Dear friends and supporters,
I have difficult news to impart. On February 17, without much warning, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer – which has no early symptoms – it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor). I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.
I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know: right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years! Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high. Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have two more scheduled this week.
As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!
I feel lucky and grateful that I’ve had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. (I’ll be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else). When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was). Yet in the end, that action – in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses – did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.
What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and nonviolent resistance.
I wish I could report greater success for our efforts.
Continued at https://original.antiwar.com/daniel-ellsberg/2023/03/02/living-on-a-deadline-in-the-nuclear-age-some-personal-news-from-daniel-ellsberg/
WE'RE LOSING OUR ANTI-WAR HEROES RIGHT WHEN WE NEED THEM MOST
by Caitlin Johnstone / Going Rogue 030323
Going Rogue With Caitlin Johnstone
"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." ~ Greek proverb
The heroic whistleblower and peace activist Daniel Ellsberg is dying.
In an open letter to his friends and supporters, Ellsberg announced that two weeks ago he learned that he has inoperable pancreatic cancer with a prognosis of three to six months. The letter is beautiful and inspiring, but it's also as heart-rending as anything you'll ever read, largely because within it Ellsberg makes it abundantly clear that he has extremely urgent concerns about the world he will soon be leaving behind.
"As I write, 'modernization' of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the US most of all)," Ellsberg writes. "Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas – like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the US government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO ) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen."
Ellsberg writes of the "scientific near-consensus" that a nuclear war between the US and Russia would cause a nuclear winter that ends most life on earth, and mourns the fact that this understanding has had no bearing on the behavior of the world's major nuclear powers.
"There’s tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here," he writes.
But Ellsberg will not be here long. And I personally find this to be a very dear loss, for reasons that go much further than the death of one man.
At 91 years of age it is entirely unreasonable of me to resent the exit of Daniel Ellsberg from this stage at this time; the man was no spring chicken, and he's done more good with one lifetime than thousands of us lesser souls combined. And yet still I find myself objecting: "Why now? Damn it, why now?"
Right when the threat of nuclear war is, as Ellsberg says, "as great as the world has ever seen," we lose what is probably the most famous and influential voice dedicated to opposing the madness of governments stockpiling Armageddon weapons and brandishing them at each other in ways that imperil us all. Right at the moment when a powerful anti-war movement is more urgently needed than at any point in human history, we lose one of the greatest peace activists that has ever lived.
And Ellsberg is just the latest voice we've lost on this front right when we needed them the most. Stephen Cohen, the renowned scholar and expert on US-Russia relations, died of cancer in 2020 after spending his final years warning urgently about the dangerous escalations the west was waging against Moscow. Consortium News founder Robert Parry died in 2018, also of cancer, and also after spending years warning of the dangerous waters that western brinkmanship with Russia was dragging the world into.
(Fuck cancer, by the way.)
And with each new loss I find the same objection coming up: "Why now? Damn it, why now?"
And of course when I settle down and get real honest with myself, I know that the source of my argument with reality is not an objection to the fact that everyone has their time and that sometimes elderly men get cancer. No, when I am really honest with myself, I know that the real source of my objection is that I know these losses mean an increase in my own responsibility. Because every time we lose a giant in the fight against imperial omnicide, that means the rest of us need to step up and fight that much harder.
Ultimately my argument isn't with mortality, or with cancer, or with Daniel Ellsberg, Stephen Cohen or Bob Parry. My argument, when I am really honest with myself, is with my own fear of going on fighting this battle without those titans at my side.
But that's reality. The loss of our anti-war heroes does not afford us the luxury of collapsing in grief and defeat, because it means those of us who remain here have all got to step up, and step into some very big shoes. The loss of the Ellsbergs, Cohens and Parrys of this world means nothing other than the need for more Ellsbergs, Cohens and Parrys. And there's no one who can step into those giant shoes but us.
Thank you for your service, Daniel Ellsberg. You are a beautiful and courageous soul who has lived a beautiful and courageous life. May your remaining days be your best and brightest. Go in peace knowing that we will carry on the fight.
Of course, the answer to your last [rhetorical] question is an unequivocal "no," Bill, as most of us unfortunately understand.
About the points in your book review:
#1. Were the Chinese aware that they'd be attacked along with the U.S.S.R., if the U.S. decided to deploy nuclear weapons back in 1960? If so, that would explain a lot.
#11. I confess myself to be among those who were ignorant of the fact that field officers could call for nuclear launches. <Shudder!> No wonder Truman got rid of MacArthur!
Regarding the difficulty of realizing the awesome destructive power of nuclear weapons, I think the destruction of Hiroshima served a purpose. A 93 year old friend of mine repeatedly remarks to me how that event resulted in a national reaction of "WOW", but it recedes into the past.
As I've mentioned, I think it is only a matter of time to nuclear exchange and when it begins whether through accident or on purpose it's hard to imagine that in the panic there will be any ability to choose to stop rather than unload the national arsenal. Our ability as individuals to stop the madness is no more than that of our forebears to turn swords into plowshares. In the past the sword was always within reach, in our time the system is armed and ready to launch. A big difference is that then one would know, being personally involved, why fighting started. Bewildered billions now will only know the end has arrived, not knowing who did what or why. There can no longer be a righteous side. The closest we could come to that would be to renounce first use and that we refuse to do.
Speaking out as Ellsberg has done is something we all should do, but everyone should enjoy life, for most of us a far better life than was possible at any time in history, but one that tragically has brought with it the real end time, though we know not when. The enemy is us, but no more stoppable than the mass extinctions that have happened on earth before man was present.