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Ellsberg speaks in Toronto: A call for `mutiny'

Matthew Clark and Patrick MacDonald — August 1984

TORONTO – On June 27, an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 900 people gathered at Convocation Hall on the University of Toronto campus to hear anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg deliver a “Call to Mutiny.” The lecture was co-sponsored by the Toronto Disarmament Network and the Alliance for Non-Violent Action, in co-operation with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group.

Daniel Ellsberg was an employee of the Kennedy and Johnson US Administrations during the 1960s. At first he worked on nuclear strategy, particularly in the area of command and control; later he was sent to Vietnam to make an on-the-spot assessment of the progress of the war.

When Robert McNamara, then US Secretary of Defense, commissioned a secret history of the war in Vietnam, Ellsberg was assigned to the project. After he left government service, Ellsberg photocopied this report (now known as the Pentagon Papers) and leaked it to the press. Publication of the Pentagon Papers had an enormous political impact, for the classified documents revealed milch of the American government’s deception and largely supported the version of events told by the anti-war movement.

Ellsberg was tried for the illegal dissemination of classified material, but charges against him were dropped because the Nixon Administration resorted to questionable and directly illegal actions in an effort to ensure his conviction.

More recently, Ellsberg has been an important anti-nuclear activist; he has been involved in various civil disobedience actions at nuclear weapons facilities, he is a member of the strategy committte of the Freeze Campaign, and he has written some important and widely published articles, particularly on the connection between nuclear weapons and military interventions in the third world.

In his lecture, Ellsberg praised local teacher Joanne Young, who is in danger of losing her job because of her participation in civil disobedience actions. He also criticized former Prime Minister Trudeau’s ten-point peace initiative, arguing that some of the points were in contradiction with actions of the Canadian government. He noted that Trudeau had recently received the Einstein Peace Prize, and he suggested that Joanne Young deserved the prize more than Trudeau did.

Ellsberg also argued that the current deployment of U.S. missiles in Europe is reminiscent of the 1963 Cuban missile crisis, but in reverse. The Soviet Union opposed the placing of intermediate range nuclear weapons near its territory for the same reasons that the U.S. did, but Soviet response has been more restrained. Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba as a possible response to the European deployments would present a direct reenactment of the Cuban missile crisis, though in the context of greatly enlarged, and now rougWy equal, nuclear arsenals.

The re-election of Ronald Reagan, according to Ellsberg, would almost certainly lead to escalation of US military action in Central America, perhaps eventually including US military strikes against Cuba, an ally of the Soviet Union. This dangerous scenario can only be prevented if Reagan is defeated. Political realism, Ellsberg argued, thus forces the American peace movement into an electoral campaign.

Ellsberg ended his speech by comparing the world today to Jonestown on the eve of the massacre. It is time, he said, for the people of the world to mutiny against the global suicide planned by the leaders of the world. “All we’re doing is enlarging a chance for survival that is very small. Weare at a critical stage in testing nuclear weapons. In another year or two the momentum will be so great that it will be too late.”