The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the awful dangers of America’s hidden, fifty-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day.When former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a chilling cache of top secret documents related to America’s nuclear...

DownloadRead Online
Title:The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
Author:Daniel Ellsberg
Rating:

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner Reviews

  • Bill Rasche

    Remember Daniel Ellsberg from the Watergate era? His book will freak you right on out when you discover just how close we came to a nuclear holocaust more than 50 years ago. Spellbinding!

  • Mal Warwick

    In the closing scene of the classic 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Major T. J. "King" Kong straddles a nuclear bomb as it soars down onto the Soviet Union while the World War II hit song We'll Meet Again blares in the background. Major Kong is the commander of a B-52 bomber sent to attack the USSR by the deranged general Jack D. Ripper—and the protocol will not permit the President of the United States to recall the plane. When the bomb explodes,

    In the closing scene of the classic 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Major T. J. "King" Kong straddles a nuclear bomb as it soars down onto the Soviet Union while the World War II hit song We'll Meet Again blares in the background. Major Kong is the commander of a B-52 bomber sent to attack the USSR by the deranged general Jack D. Ripper—and the protocol will not permit the President of the United States to recall the plane. When the bomb explodes, it will trigger a Doomsday Machine installed by the Soviet military, dispersing a radioactive cloud of deadly Cobalt-Thorium G all across the earth and wiping out all human and animal life.

    The "nuclear football" is a sham

    Daniel Ellsberg, then a high-level consultant to the US military on nuclear war, viewed the film when it was newly released. He was profoundly shocked. He and a friend who worked with him thought Dr. Strangelove was "essentially a documentary." Somehow, the film's creator, Stanley Kubrick, had guessed one of the US government's most closely-held secrets. Despite all the media attention to the "nuclear football" containing the codes to unleash a nuclear war, and the government's insistence that only the President had access to those codes, it was indeed possible for a local commander to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. Beginning with President Eisenhower, an unknown number of military officers—certainly, more than a dozen; perhaps several dozen—have had their fingers on the nuclear button as well. Eisenhower had delegated that ability to his theater commanders, and they in turn had passed it down the line. Ellsberg even met an Air Force major commanding a small US airbase in Korea who could have started a nuclear war simply because he assumed the USSR had attacked American bases when atmospheric disturbance cut off communications.

    The Doomsday Machine is alive and well

    In fact, Ellsberg reveals, that level of delegation of control to military officers in the field has been the case throughout the sixty-year history of the nuclear standoff between the US and Russia. The potential still exists for a devastating nuclear exchange to be set off through miscommunication, miscalculation, or an unstable military commander. And Ellsberg makes the case in his shocking new memoir, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, that such an exchange would inevitably result in nuclear winter. This phenomenon, repeatedly confirmed by scientists, would extinguish virtually all complex life on Planet Earth by shutting off sunlight, causing harvests to fail, and subjecting billions of human beings and animals to "near-universal starvation within a year or two"—if they survive the fires and the fallout. Effectively, then, both nuclear superpowers had—and still have—the capability to end the human project with what amounts to a Doomsday Machine.

    Dan Ellsberg's dramatic second act

    Ellsberg has been studying nuclear war since the late 1950s, when he began a long career as a high-level government consultant to the military. Of course, he is far better known for his courage in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, after several years of work on the Vietnam War. However, in The Doomsday Machine, he explains that he had collected a huge stockpile of official documents about nuclear war that he fully intended to release in the same manner once the reception for the Pentagon Papers had run its course.

    "From the fall of 1969 to leaving the RAND Corporation in August 1970," Ellsberg writes, "I copied everything in the Top Secret safe in my office—of which the seven thousand pages of the Pentagon Papers were only a fraction . . . perhaps fifteen thousand pages in all." (For many years, Ellsberg had "classified access several levels above Top Secret.") Sadly, all but the Pentagon Papers were lost in an abortive effort to hide them. But much of that lost material has since been declassified. Now, based on his own extensive notes, research on the issue over six decades, and declassified files from the 1950s and 60s, Ellsberg is belatedly fulfilling his promise to bring the enduring nuclear threat to the forefront.

    Startling revelations in The Doomsday Machine

    The Doomsday Machine is full of deeply disturbing revelations. The book sometimes reads like a thriller, as Ellsberg describes his mounting horror and revulsion over the discoveries he made over the years. Here are just a few of the most shocking:

    The United States is poised to deliver a preemptive nuclear first strike. "Deterring a surprise Soviet nuclear attack—or responding to such an attack—has never been the only or even the primary purpose of our nuclear plans and preparations . . . Though officially denied, preemptive 'launch on warning' (LOW) . . . has always been at the heart of our strategic alert."

    The United States is far from alone in delegating nuclear war-making capability to field officers. "How many fingers are on Pakistani nuclear buttons? Probably not even the president of Pakistan knows reliably."

    "The strategic nuclear system is more prone to false alarms, accidents, and unauthorized launches than the public (and even most high officials) has ever been aware."

    For decades after the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s, US nuclear weapons were targeted at thousands of cities in both Russia and China—and our country's nuclear war doctrine held that every weapon in the arsenal would be released all at once in the event of war . . . on both countries.

    If you're old enough, or read enough history, you might remember the "missile gap" that played a part in elevating John F. Kennedy to the White House. Of course, there was no gap, as was revealed not far into Kennedy's short stay there. But Ellsberg reveals that the actual number of Soviet nuclear weapons at the time was not hundreds but . . .  four. The US then had forty. (Today, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled around the world; the US and Russia account for 93 percent of them.)

    If you were an adult during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as I was, you're surely aware that the world came extremely close to nuclear armageddon. Ellsberg reveals, however, that the chances of war were even greater than was known for many years after the fact. Four nuclear-armed Soviet submarines were in the Caribbean—and one came perilously close to detonating a nuclear torpedo that would have destroyed US Navy ships in the vicinity. Only the chance intervention of a single man on that submarine prevented that catastrophe, which would unquestionably have caused the US military to unleash a first strike on the USSR and China. And that event took place two days after the world believed the crisis had been resolved by agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

    In Part Two of The Doomsday Machine, Ellsberg probes the origins of the notion that attacking cities was acceptable. It's a fascinating account of the history of airpower, from the use of planes for reconnaissance in World War I to strategic bombing in World War II. Though less dramatic than his earlier revelations about nuclear war, Ellsberg's explanation of how the US and Britain came to justify the firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden is deeply distressing. This experience laid the foundation for the use of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and makes clear how "there was no moral agonizing at all among Truman's civilian or military advisors about the prospect of using the atom bomb on a city." Yet "seven of the eight officers of five-star rank in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1945 believed the bomb was not necessary to avert [an] invasion" of Japan.

    We still live under the nuclear hammer. "Two systems still risk doomsday," Ellsberg concludes. "Both are still on hair-trigger alert that makes their joint existence unstable."

  • Michael Frank

    Every adult needs to read this book and put pressure on Congress to reduce our On Alert Nuclear status. .. below is a quote from Kruschev a few years after the Cuban missle crisis.

    “When I asked the military advisors if they could assure me that holding fast would not result in the death of five hundred million human beings, they looked at me as though I was out of my mind, or what was worse, a traitor. The biggest tragedy, as they saw it, was n

    Every adult needs to read this book and put pressure on Congress to reduce our On Alert Nuclear status. .. below is a quote from Kruschev a few years after the Cuban missle crisis.

    “When I asked the military advisors if they could assure me that holding fast would not result in the death of five hundred million human beings, they looked at me as though I was out of my mind, or what was worse, a traitor. The biggest tragedy, as they saw it, was not that our country might be devastated and everything lost, but that the Chinese or the Albanians might accuse us of appeasement or weakness. So I said to myself, “To hell with these maniacs. If I can get the United States to assure me that it will not attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, I will remove the missiles.” That is what happened, and now I am reviled by the Chinese and the Albanians.… They say I was afraid to stand up to a paper tiger. It is all such nonsense. What good would it have done me in the last hour of my life to know that though our great nation and the United States were in complete ruins, the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact? “

    That last line, indeed the whole quote, deserves to be studied by all those whose fingers hover over the trigger to a Doomsday Machine.

  • Erin Carrington

    This book is a rollercoaster. And by rollercoaster, I mean only the part where you're slowly click-clacking your way further and further up toward impending doom. And, while you're making your way up there the person next to you leans over and tells you that your best friend killed your cat because she's actually a homicidal lunatic.

    But, really, this book is phenomenal as a historical record, a dire warning to humanity, and a call to action. My only hesitation in recommending it to others is th

    This book is a rollercoaster. And by rollercoaster, I mean only the part where you're slowly click-clacking your way further and further up toward impending doom. And, while you're making your way up there the person next to you leans over and tells you that your best friend killed your cat because she's actually a homicidal lunatic.

    But, really, this book is phenomenal as a historical record, a dire warning to humanity, and a call to action. My only hesitation in recommending it to others is the guilt I'll feel for scaring the shit out of the people I care about.

  • Bob H

    This is a frightening story of the US nuclear war policy from the 1950s on, by someone who was a witness (at RAND) and a participant. Daniel Ellsberg was privy to the secret war planning at that time, which apparently is still largely in place. The film "Dr. Strangelove" turns out to be uncomfortably close to true life, he says.

    We find out that:

    - there really was a doomsday machine, of sorts: in the US, a single plan for nuclear war, triggered by any use of nuclear weapons, tactical or strategic

    This is a frightening story of the US nuclear war policy from the 1950s on, by someone who was a witness (at RAND) and a participant. Daniel Ellsberg was privy to the secret war planning at that time, which apparently is still largely in place. The film "Dr. Strangelove" turns out to be uncomfortably close to true life, he says.

    We find out that:

    - there really was a doomsday machine, of sorts: in the US, a single plan for nuclear war, triggered by any use of nuclear weapons, tactical or strategic -- and one that automatically, massively targeted not only the Soviet Union but China as well, whether or not China was a party to the war. In Russia, the "Perimeter" program would trigger a nuclear salvo in much the same way as the "Dr. Strangelove" device.

    - that the US presidents had delegated authority to launch nuclear weapons to lower commanders. Ellsberg tells of visiting a remote airstrip in Korea where 12 F-100 jets, each armed with a 1.2 megaton H-bomb, whose commanding officer, a major, could launch a strike if he deemed it necessary. This was not the only such field commander who had such weaponry, we learn.

    - that the US did maintain a nuclear-weapons cache just offshore in Japan, ready to land and load on waiting bombers, in violation of agreements with Japan.

    - that the US did have a first-strike and first-use policy, at least unofficially.

    - that, on Oct. 27, 1962, the height of the Missile Crisis, the two sides came very close, on three different incidents, to launching all-out war.

    - that the US had a massive superiority in strategic weapons, overkill, which would have not only destroyed the Communist powers but, through fallout, our European allies as well. Further, the US underestimated the amount of heat and smoke that firestorms would have put into the atmosphere, possibly extinguishing most life on earth, so it was not just "Dr. Strangelove" but "On The Beach" as scenarios.

    There's more. Let's just say it's gripping reading, especially now that the same doomsday framework is still in place, and the danger, in North Korea and elsewhere, is still real. All that's different are the national leaders and the new instabilities they bring.

  • AC

    Extremely interesting, often illuminating, disturbing book, marred only by a certain naïveté expressed by Ellsberg’s concluding optimism, such as it is.

  • Annie

    Ellsberg was a member of the RAND Corporation, and who worked for the White House. He was the main whistleblower and leaker of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed things the US had done/was doing during the Vietnam War (not what they told America they were doing).

    He also had another batch of classified papers on nuclear war policy that he planned to release after the Pentagon Papers had a chance to reach the American public through the media. However, he never had a ch

    Ellsberg was a member of the RAND Corporation, and who worked for the White House. He was the main whistleblower and leaker of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed things the US had done/was doing during the Vietnam War (not what they told America they were doing).

    He also had another batch of classified papers on nuclear war policy that he planned to release after the Pentagon Papers had a chance to reach the American public through the media. However, he never had a chance to, as the papers were stored at his brother’s house, and were accidentally destroyed.

    This book are his memories of what the nuclear war papers contained, and his memories, in general, of working around nuclear weapons in the White House.

    The bombs we dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were atomic bombs, or A-bombs (aka plutonium bombs, which work by nuclear fission or cutting apart).

    Later on we would arrive at hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs (aka thermonuclear bombs, which work by nuclear fusion, or the combining of atoms) which were far more sinister than the A-bombs. Each H-bomb requires an A-bomb at its core to act as a detonator.

    Let that sink in. The images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The horrors of those nuclear bombs?

    Remember that the bomb that caused that (the A-bomb) is nothing more than the detonating cap for a modern nuclear weapon.

    In 1961, the plan—should there be any armed conflict with the Soviet Union (NOTE: not nuclear conflict. Any old armed conflict, as long as it involved more than one US battalion of soldiers, will do)—was as follows:

    1) nuke the Soviet Union to the extent that 100 million (out of 175 million total population) would be dead within weeks from the nuclear fallout alone (so this doesn’t even include deaths from the initial blast deaths or from radiation).

    2) nuke China to the extent that 300 million (of their 600 million) would likewise be dead from the fallout. (even if China is completely not involved in the armed conflict and is an innocent party, simply because they’re an ally of the Soviet Union).

    When someone inquired, “What if this isn’t China’s war? What if this is just a war with the Soviets? Can you change the plan?” Answer: “Well, yeah,” [the general] said resignedly, “we can, but I hope nobody thinks of it, because it would really screw up the plan.”

    .

    This is the kind of person who held our nuclear weapons in 1961 (there’s probably someone similar with them now).

    As the Marine Corps commandant rightly notes when he is informed of the plan: “Any plan that murders three hundred million Chinese when it might not even be their war is not a good plan. That is not the American way.”

    In total, the creators of this plan themselves admitted that, if all went as planned (i.e. not even including any retaliation by the Soviet Union whatsoever) over 600 million people would be dead between the Soviet Union, China, and neighboring countries (Finland, for instance, would quite simply no longer exist).

    What’s worse: when you add to this number those killed by firestorms (which we now know are some of the most deadly effects of nuclear weapon attacks), the number creeps to 1 billion people. That was a third of the world in 1961.

    And when you factor in nuclear winter, a concept we didn’t know existed in 1961 but which we now know does exist… the resulting famine would probably have destroyed virtually the entire human race.

    One major focus of this book concerns the Cuban Missile Crisis. As he tells it, what the public knew/knows about it wasn’t anywhere near the truth.

    First of all, when Khrushchev accepted Kennedy’s unfavourable deal offer (disarm the missiles, and we promise not to invade Cuba) the real deal went more like this: disarm the missiles, we promise not to invade Cuba, and we’ll disarm the missiles we have in Turkey over the next few months, but only if you promise to keep that part on the DL.

    Second, both Khrushchev and Kennedy were incredibly reluctant to attack— there was never any real concern that either would make the first strike (either Khrushchev by ordering the Cubans to fire a missile at the US, or Kennedy by ordering the Turks to fire a missile at Russia and/or by invading Cuba).

    For example, a few months after the crisis, Khrushchev said, regarding his decision to agree to Kennedy’s offer,

    No, the real concern here was their underlings. Military commanders and the like who were always soooo close to making that call for themselves. And of course, once they did, the other side would be obligated to respond, and so forth.

    For example: the Cuban commander who shot down the US U-2 plane flying over Cuba, on their own initiative, against direct orders from Khrushchev.

    For another (terrifying) example: On the same day the U-2 plane was shot down, an American destroyer in the Caribbean, the USS Beale, detected several Soviet submarines and peppered them with “practice depth charges” (i.e. just baiting them by chucking hand grenades at them, which wouldn’t do any damage to the sub).

    The day before, a message had supposedly been sent to Moscow that sending practice depth charges was going to be a signal to submarines that they should come up to identify themselves and surrender. (Naturally, this message was never received, so the subs had no idea this was a thing).

    So, unbeknownst to the USS Beale, these subs had no idea they were being signaled. They 100% thought they were under attack.

    And little did the USS Beale (or even the submarines’ crews!!!) know, these subs each carried a nuclear warhead with the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    Whoops.

    Two of the three sub’s captains ordered the warheads readied for release, but ultimately none actually gave the order to strike (obviously, as we’d all probably be dead by now if they had).

    Three people needed to agree to use the nuclear warhead: the captain, his second in command, and the Communist Party officer on board. On one of the subs, two of the three people to make the call to release the nuke agreed to do it— and the third was so close to agreeing with them. But he stood firm. They, and the other subs, decided to surface and surrender.

    Even more wild: when they got back to Russia, the captains were all scolded for surfacing… rather than

    .

    They were scolded for opting not to use nukes against direct orders. For saving

    basically.

    Small wonder the guy who opposed his two fellow officers on that last sub is referred to as “The Man Who Saved the World.”

    First, it’s obvious how inefficient the higher echelons of the US government are, even when dealing with things as sensitive as nuclear weapons.

    And it’s terrifying to learn how many people have the theoretical and practical ability to start a nuclear war on a whim.

    The book itself reads okay, but not great. With some unfamiliar concepts and an extreme amount of alphabet soup acronyming, it sometimes makes for dense and necessarily attentive reading. Also, Ellsberg often refers to people by either their first or their last name or their nickname, changing it up even within the same paragraph, which got very confusing. But it’s not an incredibly difficult read either.

    Ellsberg is not an objective author by any means.

    One wonders how it is he always seems to be right. I couldn’t possibly count how many times he recounts a story as follows: a situation arises. Ellsberg, a humble nobody, gives his opinion to a higher-up. Nobody believes or agrees with him. [Sometimes, Ellsberg, humble as he is, goes along with it and does things their way because they’re more important and must be right]. Later, everyone realizes he was right.

    Awfully funny how Ellsberg is virtually never wrong. I mean, come on. He can’t have been right about EVERYTHING that ever happened. I’m sorry, it’s just too easy to claim that “I thought that all along! Seriously I tried to tell people but what can ya do” after the fact, when you know perfectly well that nobody on earth can contradict you.

    Really, the only time Ellsberg ever really says “I was wrong” is in the context of “I was wrong not to stick to my guns, I was wrong to cave in, because I was right.” Which… isn’t the same thing as being wrong.

    Although, perhaps, not always humble, Ellsberg does admit to surprising things that lend him credibility (i.e. he admits to a xenophobic comment about Turks that he’s “not proud of”), in that they cast him in a bad light.

    And you can’t doubt the man’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. For instance, he’s been arrested numerous times for physically blocking the railroad tracks at nuclear weapons facilities, and pretty much dedicated his life to the cause.

  • Matthew Fenlon

    Not the easiest book to read. Lots of breaks in sentences, and a lot of repetition particularly in the early chapters. In fact I nearly gave up before the halfway point because it became quite tedious the way that the relatively few points were laboured upon. The second half focuses on the early days of nuclear weapons and is a far better read. If you can push through the early meh, it gets good, and scary!

  • Bettie☯

    Description:

    Description:

Best Free Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2018 Best Free Books - All rights reserved.