Ryan White interviews Dr. Helen Caldicot
CD: In your recent book, New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex, you state, “Never, in the almost three decades that I have been campaigning against the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear power have I felt that the world is in so much danger.” What kind of risks are we currently facing?
HC: The same risks that we faced during the Cold War, namely that Russia and America still target each other with thousands of hydrogen bombs on hair-trigger alert. Meaning that they are all on their missiles ready to go with the press of a button from either Putin or Bush, who get only three minutes of decision time to decide whether or not to blow up the world.
The increased danger from the time of the Cold War is this: No one knows those weapons are still there. Everyone thought that when the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended that [Russia and the U.S.] would get rid of these weapons. They didn’t; they’re still there. The Russian early-warning system is currently in a state of degradation. They can’t afford to keep it up, and the Russians are paranoid because they know that America still has a first-strike policy to fight and win a nuclear war against Russia. Canada is a part of [this] because you’re a part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD].
America is about to put weapons in space, which could initiate a nuclear war [and] America now has a policy to use small nuclear weapons on nations that are not nuclear nations - that’s the first time in the history of the nuclear age. They are planning possibly to use them on Iran. [And] George W. Bush, et al., have destroyed almost every single arms-control treaty. So, we are in grave danger.
Greed and Testosterone
CD: In New Nuclear Danger, you discuss the psychology of the arms race. What is the motivating force behind weapons proliferation? Is it as simple as greed, or is it something more complex?
HC: There are many factors involved. Some of it is greed. For instance, Lockheed Martin is the largest manufacturer of weapons the world has ever seen, followed by Boeing, and they pretty well run the White House. Twenty to thirty people from the Bush Administration, when it was first elected, came from Lockheed Martin and Boeing. So, they determine the foreign policy of America to a large degree. They determine whether or not to fight wars - and wars are very good for business.
Then I think that there is the testosterone factor. There is a very small minority of men whose brains have a toxic reaction to testosterone, and I would say amongst those are Cheney and Rumsfeld, and I think it’s those people that are totally inappropriate to be in control; they are sociopaths, in a way. They get to have power because they have a tremendous need for power.
CD: With an issue like this, there is a tendency to focus upon the U.S. and see them as the sole source of the problem. As a result, many are less inclined to take a serious look at the role played by smaller nations like Canada. To what degree are administrations like the Canadian government involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of militarism?
HC: The Canadian government is totally complicit. At the moment there is a movement by six nations, including Brazil and others, to bring back non-proliferation and disarmament into the United Nations agenda. Those two issues were destroyed by [U.S. ambassador to the UN] John Bolton. Canada has just stepped down [and] I think I know why. I was told by very high-ranking Canadians that, if you don’t go along with the Americans on nuclear war, missile defense, weaponization of space, and the like, they’ll cut off your trade, they’ll threaten you. He has been threatened and scared away. Well, the man has no courage. Canada, I believe, is a very courageous nation, and Canada has to be prepared to tighten its belt, and, if America threatens some of your exports, then so be it. You should do the right and moral thing.
You should not be in NORAD because NORAD is a part of the first-strike policy [and] part of the missile-defense policy, which will stimulate a massive new nuclear arms race with China and Russia. You’re part of the weaponization of space by being part of NORAD.
[Canada] is [also] exporting uranium all over the world. You’re exporting CANDU reactors, which are perfect proliferation weapons because they make pure plutonium. India made its first nuclear weapon from a CANDU reactor and Canadian uranium. You’ve got to stop that.
CD: You touched on missile defense. In the last year or two there has been a great deal of talk regarding the creation of an American missile shield. Canadians in particular have been divided as to whether or not we should take part. What would such a project mean, and would it be effective?
HC: It will never b effective. At the moment the missile-defense plan is to have one small hit-to-kill vehicle that can hit one hydrogen bomb in space. Well, you can confuse these hit-to-kill vehicles, not just by having 10 hydrogen bombs, but Russia could launch all its missiles with 2,500 hydrogen bombs. The hit-to-kill vehicles cannot discriminate between a Mylar balloon in space and a missile. There is no way on Earth that a missile-defense system would work.
The Military-University Complex
CD: One of the most apparent contributions being made by Canada is the close tie between our universities and our military. Both York University and the University of Toronto have received a great deal of funding from military sources, and, here at the University of Guelph, it’s common to see weapons manufacturers like SNC-Lavalin and Raytheon at job fairs and military recruiters on-campus. What kind of role do academic institutions play in the military-industrial complex?
HC: What’s happening is that Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are training students how to become purveyors of death. They are training them how to make weapons to kill people, and there should be no weapons manufacturing money on any campuses, no money from the nuclear weapons labs. That’s obscene. Students should rise up and get rid of those people and the funding.
Your administration has prostituted itself to Lockheed Martin, et al., and that has to stop. And it will only stop if students rise up and stop it like in the sixties, where students used to sit-in in the president’s office and paralyze the whole university. They demanded change during the Vietnam War, and you need to do it again, because you don’t have a future if they keep making these nuclear weapons and other weapons.
CD: All this brings up the issue in which we see this incredible integration between the military and our universities. For example, last year there was a protest at York University that called attention to Lockheed Martin’s presence on campus. York University responded by calling police onto campus to arrest and beat protestors, all to prevent people from making the connections between our campuses and military.
HC: Well, the police are there to protect Lockheed Martin. They’re the Lockheed Martin police, right? Make it very clear, write articles in your student newspaper, get on the radio and educate people that these police have no right to be supporting Lockheed Martin. [The police] are shills for Lockheed Martin, when they should be there to protect freedom of speech.
CD: In your book you quote from Thomas Friedman, a writer from the New York Times, who wrote: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist - McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army.” Can you discuss the intimate links that exists between imperialism, globalization and the military-industrial complex?
HC: Well, America’s nuclear arsenal allows America to be the globalizing force in the world, where tariffs are reduced and destroyed in every country so that America has free access to cheap labour. If you go to any American shop now, like The Gap, all the clothes are made with slave labour from China, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and the like. America has total access to all the resources, the minerals, the timber, and the like throughout the world.
So Thomas Friedman says the hidden fist in the velvet glove is the American military and its nuclear arsenal, which allows America to do what it wants with impunity and call itself the world’s policeman.
We don’t want to be policed by this arrogant nation. We want to do our own thing, and if America develops any humility, it would send forces from the Pentagon and combine with the family of nations at the United Nations to enact peacekeeping throughout the world, including in the Middle East. It wouldn’t have its own arsenal of weapons, because it doesn’t need them. The world must work together with mutual compassion, compatibility and humility to prevent these ghastly things that are happening in Sudan and the Congo and the Middle East. That’s the role that the United States needs to play. Canada, by helping America with its global police activities, and with globalization, is an enabler to America’s addiction to power.
Nuclear No Solution
CD: Moving away from the issue of weapons for a moment: It seems that in general there has been an attempt to reposition nuclear power as a legitimate solution to our growing energy problems. Can nuclear power be a sustainable and safe source of energy, or are we being lied to?
HC: You’re being lied to. They’re spending millions of dollars in a public campaign in North America and England to say that nuclear power is the answer to global warming, and it’s not. It produces massive quantities of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons - both of which are potent global-warming gases - in the production of uranium and the fuel and in the building of the nuclear reactor.
[Secondly] it produces massive quantities of radioactive waste, which must be stored safely for half a million years. There’s no solution for this, and over time it will produce epidemics of cancer, leukemia and genetic diseases, particularly in young people.
It’s replacing one danger with another. In fact, they are much, much more dangerous than coal-fire plants.
We’ve seen a lot of popular opposition to the Bush White House in the past couple of years, but we have yet to realize any great social change. Ultimately are you optimistic for the future?
The only optimism that I have is in the hearts and minds of young people. Young people have the verve, the vigour, the tenacity to create a revolution to save our lives. There could be a massive nuclear war; we’re polluting the water and the air with radioactive waste, which will over time cause cancer in hundreds of thousands if not millions of people; and global warm-ing is upon us.
[Young people] have to change the way that people think. You have to change the way you think; educate yourselves. Like Thomas Jefferson said, only an informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion.