Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wish List 

Daniel Ellsberg, the eminence grise of government whistleblowers (he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and eighteen other newspapers in 1971), has been giving a series of interviews to diarist SusanG at Daily Kos. The latest and perhaps most harrowing in the series in entitled "Bush, the Next 9/11, and the Approaching Police State":
DANIEL ELLSBERG: One thing I think we should be asking right now is: Could this happen again? Can Iraq happen again? I'm thinking Iran right now. I mean an air attack, not an invasion.

I don't think they can do much about invading Iran without a draft.

Q.: They can't invade anybody without a draft.

DE: I'm made really uneasy by a line that I'm seeing from a lot of liberals and even from critics of the war, and that is the emphasis on the unfairness of the volunteer army and the fact that gee, isn't this a terrible situation where a few people are paying enormous risks and an enormous price, and the rest of us are paying no price.

I'll tell you why that makes me very nervous. I think that a case is being made for a draft, and I think it will happen with the approval of our Democratic leaders and many liberal columnists because of this unfairness issue. But it will not happen until there's been a major crisis, another 9/11. Or conceivably a war that came out of our air attack on Iran. So when I talk a short-term attack, an attack on Iran before a 9/11, it would be an air attack.

If we have another 9/11, then I think you do get a draft. I seem to be the only person saying this at this point.

But if you want to put 200,000 or 300,000 more in Iraq- which I believe he would do if he could- he has to wait until he has a draft. So we've got to stop that draft. And people who think that the draft would be a good thing because it will spread the burden and so forth, really have their heads up their ass. You can quote me on that.

It's terribly misguided and that's another thing we might be able to stop. I hope we can stop an attack on Iran - that will be very hard - and I would hope we can build a backfire where even under a 9/11, people will balk at a draft and say that isn't what we need. Because if they give him the draft, not in their minds in order to send more troops over - nobody wants to do that in large numbers - but because they think it will be more fair, what they'd be giving him is a blank check to send hundreds of thousands of troops within a year or two into Iraq and Iran and maybe Syria and North Korea.

If and when there's another 9/11 while Bush is in office, I think he'll get what he wants. And what he wants is - I have a sort of litany of what I think you'd get. Maybe I should just say the list right now.

First, I think you get a new Patriot Act, probably drafted already, that makes the old one look like the Bill of Rights. And the Bill of Rights is gone. Obviously, it hasn't had any reality in the minds of the White House, the administration, as a desideratum, as something to hang onto, since they got in, or since 9/11 anyway.

Second, total surveillance, which apparently we may have right now. When I was saying this a month ago, it wasn't on the assumption that they'd gone as far as it turns out they have. But I did see that happening in the future, as I started thinking 40 years ago, when I had clearances. I knew then that there was no great technical problem in simply turning on the NSA domestically, to listen to the American public the same way they listened to foreign countries. There was just a political problem, you could say a constitutional problem. And the day that they flipped that switch, for whatever reason, we would become a total surveillance society. I would say that switch was flipped, secretly, just after 9/11 (if not before) . . . .

Oh, it's illegal. You can't make it legal without changing both existing laws and the Constitution. When it comes to the will and determination of this executive branch to conduct unconstitutional surveillance, the die has been cast, the shift has been made. The question before us now is whether the public and the rest of the government--Congress, courts, the fifth estate--will act to roll that back, fast, or will they sign on? That remains to be seen, soon.

Third, with a big 9/11, I think there will be martial law in large parts of the country if not all of it. Fourth, a broad official secrets act. Add to that an overall surveillance society, and we have a country in which the government has total privacy in terms of secrecy and the public has zero privacy from the government. That is not a democracy. Then the world has the chance to find out what it means to have a superpower not only out of control but one that is totalitarian, a dictatorship . . . .

And more. Fifth, on a large scale I think we'll see from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands - and I mean plural, hundreds of thousands - of Middle Easterners, Muslims and sympathizers, some non-Muslim dissenters but mostly young Muslim males, in camps or deported. And that will happen without a whole lot of resistance by the public after another 9/11.

Six, a quick renewal of nuclear testing. Not because it has any relevance to any of this but because Bush wants it, the Republicans want it, and he'll get what he wants after that. And the rationale will be: It's a dangerous world, we have to be prepared to hit terrorist underground nuclear storage sites or whatever. It will be a very thin reason, but he'll get it. Nuclear testing. That starts nuclear testing all over the world.

Basically, a police state is what we're talking about. And that's what I'm really afraid of with another 9/11. And then I'll add ... Iran. If Iran hasn't already been hit, it gets hit. And then after you've had the draft for a year or so, invasion of the southern oil fields of Iran, which apparently we were close to doing a couple times in the last 20 years with earlier oil crises. That came up under Kissinger with the oil crisis in 1973, possibly taking the eastern oil fields of Saudi Arabia; later, Iran, after the shah had left.

I think an attack on Iran is fairly likely, and almost sure to have disastrous effects in the Middle East, especially if nuclear weapons are used, above all. But even without that. In Iraq itself I don't think we're facing imminent escalation, unless there's an attack on Iran, which may be imminent. And the police state ... that's as imminent as a new attack Al Queda, I'm afraid.

For that matter, an attack on Iran is a way to get more 9/11's. It's a provocation.

I could even conjecture that that's why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being so provocative about his nuclear program and Israel. I'm not sure he's totally averse to an attack. It would almost surely strengthen him politically.

Q.: Well, it did Bush here, didn't it, with 9/11?

DE: Good point. Instead of saying, My god, how could this man let this happen ... You know, that's a good comparison. The way that the administration reasons about attacks on other countries, 9/11 here should have brought about regime change in the U.S., rather than greater popularity for Bush.

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