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Helen Caldicott speaks frankly about the media, nuclear weapons, future prospects

 Interview A conversation with Helen Caldicott From the forthcoming issue (May 2018)Taylor and Francis online, 17 Apr 18
 “…………Helen Caldicott:

Yeah, though I think the election was about racism and the fact that CNN and Foxput Trump on for free for hours and hours and hours, because it sold a lot of Viagra and hemorrhoid cream. And they acknowledged that. They said he’s good for business.

There was one occasion when CNN and Fox were looking at an empty stage for about half an hour waiting for him to appear, and there’s Bernie Sanders with an audience of tens of thousands and they never paid any attention to that. Now that’s evil. The networks put Trump in. Not the Russians, whose role was minor in comparison – bad as it was.

Why don’t people write about that? It’s so obvious.

Dan Drollette:

Do you have any suggestions about what could be done …

Helen Caldicott:

Well the media should not be used just to sell stuff. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the media itself has become a product, and no longer a public service. And the person who’s led this approach is Rupert Murdoch, of News Corporation [parent company of Fox News]. I keep wishing that he would shuffle off this mortal coil, but his mother lived to 101.

Dan Drollette:

Speaking of the media, Ira Helfand said that he feels that there is a strong prejudice in the media towards the idea that nuclear weapons are here to stay. In his words, there is a “dogma among some elements of the press” that even talking about eliminating nuclear weapons is unrealistic. And he said it’s a perception he’s always fighting. Do you think that that’s true?

Helen Caldicott:

I do. And more than that, I think that there’s an attitude that my nuclear stockpile has to be bigger than yours; I even wrote a book called Missile Envy, a la Freud. And

the generals in the Pentagon hated it, but they all had a copy on their book shelf.

And it really is very sexual: They talk about missile erectors, soft lay downs, deep penetration, hard lines and soft lines. And they talk about this like this in front of women, with no sense of embarrassment at all. The missiles are penile surrogates.

Some of the jokes in the movie Dr. Strangelove were not much of an exaggeration. After Dan Ellsberg saw it, he said it was like a documentary. It wasn’t fiction.

It would be hilarious except it’s scary as hell.

Dan Drollette:

Speaking of movies, you were 19 years old when you saw On the Beach. Considering that this is International Women’s month, do you have any suggestions you’d like to make to any 19-year-old women out there?

Helen Caldicott:

Yes, they should watch my film, If You Love This Planet(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FjgBBQFmGs). It is 30 minutes long, it was made by the Canadian Film Board, and it won an Oscar for short documentary. But it says everything that anyone needs to know. The haircuts are different because it was made about 30 years ago, but that film cracks people’s psychic numbing.

Dan Drollette:

So you want them to watch films like that, and become more aware of what the issues are?

Helen Caldicott:

If they want to survive they have to know what the story is. And then they have to use their democracy. They have to vote, and they have to run for Congress. And one thing that heartens me is that very many women at the moment are running for Congress. Because in 1978, I started what’s called the Women’s Party for Survival. Because I noticed that although 52 percent of us are women and we have the nurturing hormones, and we have no power. The organization has changed names a few times, but it encourages and helps women run for Congress. And it’s quite powerful.

Dan Drollette:

Okay. Just a couple more questions. What do you think are the prospects for the future? Do you think there’s a lot more nuclear saber-rattling lately? Are things getting worse?

Helen Caldicott:

Yes. And I don’t think … I’d never say this in public, but I don’t think we’re going to make it, Dan.

Dan Drollette:

Seriously?

Helen Caldicott:

My prognosis is grim.

Dan Drollette:

Seriously? I would like to put you on the record for this, if that’s okay.

Helen Caldicott:

(pause) Yeah, okay. That’s my prognosis as a physician, and as someone who really knows about the subject inside-out and back-to-front.

Dan Drollette:

I just want to repeat that. Your prognosis is that we’re not going to make it?

Helen Caldicott:

Yep.

Dan Drollette:

Wow.

Helen Caldicott:

Well, certainly from global warming, but I’m now talking about nuclear holocaust. And I don’t … In fact if you look at the record and the number of mistakes that have been made and errors, I actually don’t know how or why we are still here. Looking at it as a physician, collating all the data, etcetera, I don’t actually understand how we are still here.

Dan Drollette:

You’re thinking of all those mistakes? Flights of geese that were mistaken as incoming flights of B-52 bombers? The accidental dropping of bombs off Palomares in Spain and other places? The belligerent tweets and whatnot by people like Trump? That’s the kind of thing that you’re thinking about?

Helen Caldicott:

Yes. And there are so many other examples. I’ve put some of them in one of my books, The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush’s Military Industrial Complex. For example, in 1995, America launched a weather satellite from Norway. They had informed the Kremlin that this was going to happen but the Kremlin lost the data, because the Russians are pretty hopeless when you deal with them. So often they have interviewed me and then the camera didn’t work, so they had to do it again.

So, the Kremlin lost the data, they saw this missile go up, and they thought: “America’s launched a weapon from a Trident just off the coast.” And for the first time ever, the [Russian nuclear] football was opened.

Yeltsin was in charge – a hardened alcoholic – and he had three generals over his shoulder, he had three minutes to decide whether or not to launch, and the generals were advising him to launch. And at the last minute, about three seconds before it was going to hit, it veered off in another direction and they closed the football.

Now that is not the only situation. There have been many such situations, but they don’t really get reported. But this is what’s going on a lot. How is it that we’re still here? They only have seconds to decide.

Dan Drollette:

Is it a sudden burst of rationality at the last minute? Luck?

Helen Caldicott:

Luck. It’s pure, pure luck. Especially when you consider that America won’t rule out a first-strike policy: the idea that you can decapitate Moscow and take out all their nuclear missiles, so what the Russians saw on their radar was in line with an American attack.

And the Russians don’t want to lose a nuclear war, because they’ve got the same mentality. So they’ve got a system called the “Dead Hand” – essentially a system based in a deep underground bunker in the Ural Mountains that allows them to launch a missile that tells their other missiles to launch before the American missiles can land. In other words, it was an automatic system that would allow the Russians to strike back with nuclear weapons even if the Kremlin leadership was decapitated. One of the Russian who oversaw and designed the installation of the system later revealed it to the Western press.

Dan Drollette:

It sounds a lot like the plot-line of the imaginary “Doomsday Machine” in Dr. Strangelove.

Helen Caldicott:

Yeah, but this is for real. Let me send you information about it; I’ve got it somewhere here on my bookshelf. The author came to Australia, and he was such a lovely man. And I took him out to my daughter’s and he stayed there, and he just fell in love with Australia and the surfing beaches and the lifestyle.

[Editor’s note: Nearly a decade after the Dead Hand system was installed, Russian military specialist Col. Valery Yarynich shared details with Bruce Blair of the Brookings Institution; with Blair’s help, Yarynich published a book about it in 2003, titled C3: Nuclear Command, Control, Cooperation. When Yarynich was asked by a reporter why he chose to speak so openly and candidly to the West, Yarynich informed him that “it was utter stupidity to keep the Dead Hand secret; such a retaliatory system was useful as a deterrent only if your adversary knew about it.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/valery-varynich-the-man-who-told-of-the-soviets-doomsday-machine/2012/12/20/147f3644-4613-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html)]

Dan Drollette:

Okay, sounds good. Before we sign off, I do have to ask you: Do you ever get discouraged? And if so, how do you deal with it?

Helen Caldicott:

Well, I’m going to be 80 this year. And I was going to write one more book, called Why Men Kill and Why Women Let Them. But I think I won’t write it.

I actually personally have been a bit depressed, and I think it’s because when I look at the world and what is happening, it’s very, very, very grim. Trump is dismembering the infrastructure of America. There are terrible things happening around the world, and I just think we’re out of control.

Previously, I’d always felt that I should educate people and take action, and that I must practice global preventive medicine.

When I wrote If You Love This Planet back in 1991 – a book about global warming, toxic pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, the whole thing – I had a sort of notion that everyone would read it and they would stop global warming and everything. But, of course they didn’t… You have to get the majority of people to understand where things are, so that they can use their democracy to change things. But if you’ve got an uneducated population on everything, then our society really is sleepwalking on its way to Armageddon.

Though I do take heart from what happened in the ‘80s. Within five years, 80 percent of Americans were opposed to the notion of nuclear war. Now that was the second American revolution. It was peaceful, sagacious, and it was a revolution of thinking, it was really amazing. And it laid the groundwork for some amazing things; the movement helped lead Reagan meeting with Gorbachev. Two mere mortals met over a weekend, and they almost agreed to abolish nuclear weapons. So it’s not impossible.

Dan Drollette:

So hopefully we can get a reprise of the ‘80s kind of thing?

Helen Caldicott:

Well, hopefully you’ve got leaders who will lead, and who are inspirational, and who can corral this technical jargon down to lay language so that ordinary people can understand that their lives and the lives of their children are in great danger.

Dan Drollette:

Were there any last comments that you wanted to make before I sign off?

Helen Caldicott:

If you want me to be really frank, I sometimes feel that my life has been a failure. That we almost did get to a point to eliminate nuclear weapons, but it hasn’t happened. So, I want on my tombstone the words: “She tried.”

And while getting the number of nuclear weapons down from 70,000 to 15,000 is good, we have to go farther. And we can’t settle for half-measures, like getting the number down to 1,000 nuclear weapons – even 1,000 bombs dropping on 100 cities would cause nuclear winter and the end of our life on Earth. So, we need to get our data straight. One thousand bombs on 100 cities equals annihilation. Counting the numbers is just silly. It’s like saying: “How many metastases of a melanoma do you need before you die” sort of thing.

Dan Drollette:

We have to remove all of them?

Helen Caldicott:

If you have only one, you know it will metastasize again. The whole idea of keeping any sort of stockpile is just crazy. The whole thinking is so masculine – a “mine’s bigger than yours” sort of thing. It goes right back to that, still. And that’s why 52 percent of the population, which are women, will have to step into their power and stop being so pathetic. Stop being wimps.

So often, I’ll give a talk in America and people will crowd around, and a man will make a suggestion, and I’ll say, “You know that’s a great suggestion, you should run for Congress” and he’ll say “Yeah.” But when a similar situation happens with a woman, she literally takes two steps backwards and says “Who, me?”

And that’s the problem. We’ve got to be like a lioness, and protect her cubs. We’ve got to tap into that ferocity and that nurturing instinct.

We’re on the short course to annihilation, and we need to say to men: “Look, stand aside, you need your bottom smacked. We’re taking over.” https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/MBkXvHtz5QyAfikSM8Cv/full

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    April 20, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, media

    1 Comment »

    1. ‘She tried’ – does not begin to describe a lifetime of heroic efforts Helen Caldicott has engaged in for humanity. She and her work are Planetary Treasures. @DrHCaldicott ‏

      Comment by Sunshine Coast Real Estate (@disruptduopoly) | July 26, 2018 | Reply


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