Dr. Helen Caldicott’s inconvenient truth of another era was not only inopportune for government-subsidized corporations profiting from the proliferation of nuclear technology, but also essentially ignored by the mainstream media.
And, as a result, the “truth” that Caldicott has devoted her life to telling — that we are on the brink of environmental calamity as a result of nuclear weapons that could kill off a good portion of the human race — remains as dangerous as it ever was.
While Oscar-winning presumptive President Al Gore was still a congressman from Tennessee, and voting on what was then the largest military buildup in history, Caldicott was warning of the risks posed by both the nuclear arms race being orchestrated by the Reagan administration and the continued use of commercial nuclear power in communities around the United States.
Much as private-citizen Gore has managed to frighten the world into action by accurately depicting a planet that appears to be in revolt against centuries of relentless environmental pollution, Caldicott also painted a frightening picture of a post-apocalypse or post-meltdown world that she envisioned if things had remained as they were.
Like the former vice president, a documentary in which Caldicott was featured, “If You Love This Planet,” won an Academy Award, and, also like Gore, she was once nominated for a Nobel Prize, by no less than two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling of Caltech, who won Nobel laurels for both his work in science and with the anti-nuclear movement of the 1960s.
In 1985, a group that Caldicott helped found, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, won a Nobel Prize for its efforts at ending the arms race.
But whereas Gore has parlayed his newfound fascination with the environment into a possible bid for the presidency in 2008, the now-69-year-old Caldicott has kept doing what she has always done — traveling the world and speaking out against the use of nuclear power, both for consumer purposes and war.
We caught up with Caldicott by phone Monday. A Canadian-made hour-long documentary filmed in 2003 by her niece, Anna Broinowski, “Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident,” will be screened at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Burbank’s MacCambridge Park, Room No. 4, 1515 N. Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank. The event is sponsored by the Burbank Neighbors for Peace and Justice.
— Kevin Uhrich
Pasadena Weekly: With the fall of communism, it seemed as though the world could rest easy, at least when it came to nuclear weapons. But that isn’t the case, is it?
Helen Caldicott: It never has been. The studies show that among nuclear weapons today, Russia and America possess 97 percent [of those weapons]. They still have each other targeted with thousands of weapons on hair-trigger alert, with a three-minute decision time to alert George Bush or Vladimir Putin. So, in fact, we are in more danger than we were at the height of the Cold War because the Russian early warning system is dilapidated, they keep making mistakes, and they fear America will launch a first-strike against them which is within our policy, so the system for launching a nuclear war is more volatile now.
Your latest group, the Nucleur Policy Research Institute, is about public education and exposure leading to the end of nuclear proliferation. But when you turn on the news, there is literally nothing mentioned about this. What do you think is responsible for this virtual blackout about nuclear weapons?
Henry Kissinger and a few others had an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for the evolution of nuclear weapons. I don’t think George even knows that … a man carrying the football with the nuclear codes is following him around at all times. Maybe he does. Cheney certainly doesn’t talk about it. The truth is if there were a nuclear [exchange], there would be a nuclear winter far worse climatically than anything talked about with global warming. [The mainstream media] should be, but they aren’t talking about the main issue at hand.
The Doomsday Clock, which has been kept by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists over the past 50 years, was recently moved two minutes ahead, to five minutes before midnight. How significant is that, really, and what is the most dangerous situation occurring in the world right now pertaining to nuclear proliferation?
They only moved the Doomsday Clock ahead two minutes. It should have been much more because of what I just described about the hair-trigger alert situation. I mean, we actually got to within 10 seconds of blowing up the planet in January 1995. That’s in my book, “The New Nuclear Danger.” A missile was launched containing a Norwegian weather satellite, but the Russians mistook it as a first-strike attack from America. We had three minutes to decide and 10 seconds before we hit the button. You know hackers can get into the early warning system in America, and maybe into all early warning systems. … We are in a very, very invidious situation. And instead of dealing with it, this administration, and particularly the neocons are running around with a microscope and looking at countries like Iran, which is five to 15 years from making a nuclear weapon anyway. … But the real rogue nations in the world that can blow up the planet and destroy most all life on earth are Russia and America. What are the churches doing? They should be dealing with this, and at a profound level. … I don’t think most people are unaware of the current situation. If they read the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, they’d find out about it.
Doesn’t it seem to you that the administration is actually picking a fight precisely so they can use these weapons?
The obvious conclusion of preparing for nuclear war is having a nuclear war, and America is prepared for nuclear war. They’ve got their new nuclear weapons. They are talking about dropping nuclear weapons on Iran, on the uranium facilities there, which could kill up to 3.8 million people, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.
We are talking about genocide. This is real genocide. It’s amazing how these characters have psychiatrically numbed themselves so they’re no longer aware of the evil that they are perpetrating, the potential evil.
We don’t get a lot of information about the use of depleted uranium. What has been the impact of that?
They are using uranium weapons in Iraq because they are terrific anti-tank weapons. …
When they used 360 tons near Basra in the attack on Iraq in 1991, my colleagues … noted a seven-fold increase in childhood cancer where children have been infected with radiation. …
There have been anomalies like babies born with no brain, or no eyes, or single eyes, or no arms. The uranium they use has a half-life of 4.5 million years. So, America’s conducting nuclear war over there, and no one’s been asking about that either.
They’ve used over 2,000 tons, I’m sure … and they shouldn’t be using it. It ends up punishing the children. It’s really wicked.