Dr. Helen Caldicott discusses the ill-effects of a nuclear bomb going off
BROADCAST: Apr. 7, 1981 | DURATION: 00:54:05
The world spends 600 billon dollars on the arms race, which is rather puzzling to Dr. Helen Caldicott when 2/3 of the world's children are starving. Caldicott explained if a bomb went off in Chicago, there'd be a crater a half a mile wide and 300 feet deep. In addition, 90% of the people will be dead, some from being vaporized.
Studs Terkel Dr. Helen Caldicott feels there is a madness in the air. She feels the world has tremendous possibilities for beauty, for sanity, for art, for life. She also feels nuts are in charge the world over and perhaps we'll be blown up, blown up literally, within the next couple of decades, assuming we do nothing and stand by, and she isn't. Dr. Caldicott is a distinguished member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School and a renowned pediatrician, and she quit the job. Pretty steady job, I'd say, and a big one. She quit it to campaign, here and elsewhere, to stop nuclear disaster. She's a founder and one of the past presidents of Physicians for Social Responsibility. And so her reflections, thoughts, and her recipe for sanity.
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Studs Terkel Dr. Caldicott, your thoughts on hearing this song of Tom Paxton.
Helen Caldicott Well, that's how I feel all the time, really, we've got a lovely summer house on Cape Ann in Massachusetts and it's on a tidal cove called Lobster Cove. And when the tide goes out, the herons come in and catch the fish as they go out and it's the most beautiful place. One of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, and I look out on that and I think, this is probably a fantasy. How much longer will it be here?
Studs Terkel So you did what you did. You were highly respected -- You are, indeed, as a pediatrician, doctor, member of the staff of Harvard Medical School. Why did you quit it?
Helen Caldicott Well, I read a book when I was a 15-year-old girl called "On the Beach," and I lived in Melbourne in Australia and that was about a nuclear war that occurred by accident in the northern hemisphere and everyone died. Gradually the radiation came down to the south and then the only people left alive in the world were people in Melbourne, and some Americans came in a submarine to escape the fallout, and eventually everyone died and families gave themselves cyanide, and I've been frightened ever since, and I'm now 42 and I've watched the arms race increase for no apparent reason. I've never been able to understand it. The nuclear arms race. And then I went to the Soviet Union about 15 months ago and I went with some very knowledgeable Americans and found that two things were going to happen soon. One --
Studs Terkel These were doctors and physicists.
Helen Caldicott Physicists and political scientists. One, that the cruise missiles that were about to be deployed in Europe were our strategic weapons and very small and they're unverifiable by satellite detection. Once they're deployed, and the decision to do that has been made with no national debate, that will be the end of arms control and SALT talks and detente. That's the first thing. The second is that this country is developing a system called launch on warning where they'll be able to, by satellites and computers, launch weapons within about three or four minutes with no human intervention. In other words, computers will be in charge of our world and will be able to annihilate us. And computers make mistakes.
Studs Terkel As Norman Corwin once wrote in, a marvellous radio writer, wrote a script, "the human heart will be replaced by a coil of wire."
Helen Caldicott That's right. Or a crystal.
Studs Terkel Now, they're doing something, too. Both are, I assume, the military of both powers are building.
Helen Caldicott Well, in this instance America is about to deploy the cruise missiles in Europe and is developing this launch on warning system. Russia will have to do it, too, because the Pershing II missiles to be placed in Europe soon take only four minutes to get to Moscow, and they are going to have to respond very fast and that means the human mind can't respond as fast as that, only a computer can. So America wants [to hit?] and is ahead of the Soviet Union technologically speaking, but the Soviet Union will catch up if there's time for it to catch up.
Studs Terkel And so we're talking, aren't you, about two muscular figures. Let's assume this analogy: two hot-shot young macho guys, not a brain cell working in either, two macho muscular, going at each other in a car, they're playing a game called "Chicken."
Studs Terkel And they're going toward each other, and they're breaking the record and which one blinks first.
Studs Terkel That's right. Then they'll stop, and one blinks too late, neither blinks, and you got two dumb dead kids.
Helen Caldicott Yeah, but except 92 percent of the world's people don't live in either of those super-powers.
Studs Terkel So now we got the fact, why does -- Well, let's talk about the pos-- Why must the rest of the world, millions and multi-millions, die because of the stupidity of two powers? So we've got to come to, what happens? So they say to you, George Bush, our Vice President, in an interview with Robert Sherr some time ago, when Sherr was kind of leading him on, said "Could we survive a nuclear war? How many will survive? Five percent?" And Bush said, "No, more than that." He says, "You think we can win?" "Oh, we can win it!" Your
Helen Caldicott thoughts. He said that had five percent survivability of command and control. That means that the few top people in Washington go to caves, but without women.
Studs Terkel Wait, wait, wait, before we come to women. This man is talking seriously now about absolute madness.
Studs Terkel Yeah, that's right. That's right. You know, he's thinking, allegedly sane, thinking about "Yeah, five percent will survive." And he thinks that's thinkable, you see.
Helen Caldicott Well, he's practicing what we call "psychic numbing."
Studs Terkel What is "psychic numbing"?
Helen Caldicott That means denial. There's a split between reality and the perception of reality, and their perception of reality isn't real at all. They're not perceiving reality as it is. They're totally blocked. As you say, it's a power ethic that they get tremendous prestige in their minds, a sort of macho image by building more weapons. Lifton, [unintelligible] calls it nuclearization, these weapons are so dreadful, there must be some good in it, and they almost worship at the feet of the weapons. Kneel at the feet of the weapons, thinking that that will give them power and prestige. I think that's the dynamic. And I and I think it's epitomized by the fact that during Senate SALT hearings I called and they talked about how many missiles Russia had and how many America had, etc., this macho talk, and I called the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said, "Why hasn't anyone talked about the medical effects of a nuclear war?" And the man said, "Oh," he said, "The senators don't like to talk about that sort of thing, it makes them feel uncomfortable."
Studs Terkel What would be the medical effects? Or suppose there is a nuclear war, what happens?
Helen Caldicott Okay. Well, it's thought that every town and city in this country with a population of only 25,000 people or more is targeted with a hydrogen bomb. That's the same for the Soviet Union, Europe, England, and maybe China. That's most population centers. Now, if a 20-megaton bomb drops on Chicago, which is four times the size of all the bombs dropped in the second World War.
Studs Terkel What was the size of the one dropped on Hiroshima?
Helen Caldicott It was 13, 13 kilotons or an equivalent of 13,000 tons of TNT.
Studs Terkel And how much bigger is this one than the one dropped --
Helen Caldicott This is 20 million tons of TNT.
Studs Terkel So it's 1,000 times it's 30, nearly 2,000 times as big each one. Two thousand Hiroshimas in one crack.
Helen Caldicott Now, that's a very big bomb but Russia has a lot of big bombs because their bombs aren't very accurate. So they have to be big if they don't drop right on Chicago. Now, this bomb would do this to Chicago: It would form a crater half a mile wide and 300 feet deep. So everything would be turned to radioactive fallout, net volume. Every person out to a radius of six miles from the center will be vaporized and most buildings. Out to a radius of 20 miles from the center every person will be lethally injured or killed. If you are looking at the blast from 40 miles away, you'd be instantly blinded by the flash damaging the retina or the back of the eye. And it would form a firestorm of 3000 square miles where everything would spontaneously ignite, sucking winds in at hurricane-force speeds. So if you were in a fallout shelter, you wouldn't survive because all the oxygen would be used up. That means, really, the death of every
Helen Caldicott -- So, the shelters, though, are hoaxes as well. Are useless. Absolutely. Now, if you were in a non-targeted area, a small rural town and you are listening to the radio and you weren't asleep and you heard [air-raid tone] that was the emergency signal, run very fast to the nearest shelter. You have about 20 minutes to get there, because a nuclear war is going to take only about a half an hour to complete bilaterally.
Studs Terkel What was that again? Say that slowly.
Helen Caldicott A nuclear war between the superpowers will take about half an hour to one hour to complete bilaterally.
Studs Terkel Bilaterally. So it'll last no more than an hour.
Studs Terkel That's right. And what are the results?
Helen Caldicott Well, say you're in a non-targeted area. So you run to a shelter, if there is one. Now, you can't come out for two weeks because the fallout will be so intense you'd die. You probably didn't have time to collect your children nor your family to get there with you. When you come out, this is the scene that you'll see. There'll be millions of dead decaying bodies and the bacteria and viruses will multiply in the dead bodies and mutate to become more lethal. And our white blood cells that fight infection will be depleted by the radiation, so all the diseases we now control medically, polio, typhoid, plague will be epidemic. One. Two, we think so much ozone layer will be destroyed that we'll be only able to stay in the sun for three minutes before we get third-degree sunburn, which is lethal, and be blinded. There will be very few doctors, if any --
Studs Terkel By the way, if one looked up, one would be blinded,
Helen Caldicott wouldn't --? Well, you'll be blinded just as the ultra-violet radiation gets in from the sun. If -- There'll be very few doctors, 'cause most of us are targeted and hardly any hospitals left. There will be no food supplies, of course, because civilization as we know it will be just destroyed. All the art and the music, the literature, services, the architecture, gone and people will die of a synergistic combination of infection, of starvation, of radiation sickness, of blindness, of sunburn, and of grief. And we think that, the physicians and physicists think that, within 30 days after a nuclear attack, 90 percent of Americans will be dead. That's a full-scale nuclear attack.
Helen Caldicott Ninety percent.
Studs Terkel Of the population of any country attacked.
Helen Caldicott Right.
Helen Caldicott -- And last year the Boston Globe --
Helen Caldicott Right.
Helen Caldicott The Boston Globe, sorry. The Boston Globe last year reported that President Carter was stockpiling large quantities of opium just in case there was going to be a nuclear war.
Helen Caldicott Well, that will be used for euthanasia. If any of the doctors were alive and knew where the opium was, we'd inject it into the dying people to help them die faster.
Studs Terkel Let me get this now, where did this information come -- Someone say to you, "How do you know all this, Dr. Caldicott?"
Helen Caldicott Well, I am president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and we run symposia on the medical consequences of thermonuclear war in major cities for continuing medical education credits for doctors, and we have the senior physicians in this country, including the Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and others and senior scientists and physicists including Kistiakowsky and others, speaking --
Studs Terkel We should point out that George Kistiakowsky was President Eisenhower's chief science adviser.
Helen Caldicott That's right. And Cyrus Vance we had and other people like that, and we discussed the medical and scientific consequences --
Studs Terkel Who was one of the chief negotiators --
Helen Caldicott For SALT II. For SALT II under Carter. And we had the President of the California AMA last time, we're having the President of the Washington State Medical Society in Seattle in April. We have very senior people. And we discuss these effects and I'm just now quoting from the papers that are given.
Studs Terkel And so at this moment, we, if there were -- We can knock off the Soviets. We can over-kill each Russian, you say, 40 times over right now, and they can over-kill us, every American, about 20 times over. Some 40, 20, makes no difference, if we over-killed 20 or 40 times over.
Helen Caldicott That's a silly term, 'cause medically you can only die once.
Studs Terkel But we can -- We got 40 times and they got 20. Let's say it's 40-40 or 20, makes no difference.
Studs Terkel Doesn't matter. The overkill is beyond reality. May I ask then, what's the extra military expenditure for?
Helen Caldicott Well, I guess I'd have to ask you, because I'm an Australian.
Studs Terkel Yeah. That's never questioned, though, you see, on any TV or radio program when an administration official or a military man is questioned about the cuts in the budget, it's assumed we'll extend, build the military. That's never questioned.
Helen Caldicott -- The world spends 600 billion dollars a year on the arms race. Two-thirds of the world's children are starving. And the cost of one-third of a Trident submarine would eradicate malaria in the world, just to give you an idea.
Studs Terkel There you were, a pediatrician in Boston, highly respected, doing well, a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, and you were treating children for various
Helen Caldicott ailments. Cystic fibrosis.
Studs Terkel Cystic fibrosis. And yet you quit doing that.
Helen Caldicott Well, this disease is genetic disease and that's fatal. But we can keep these children alive now for 10, 20, 30 years before they die. And I, I had a terrible conflict. I'd look at my patients, I love them very much, and I think "What's the use of keeping you alive another 10 years when during that time you may be incinerated in a global holocaust?" So obviously my medicine wasn't very ethical, and so the only ethical thing I could do was try and save all the babies in the world.
Studs Terkel So do you reach doctors? We're talking about doctors now. You know, as Mike Nichols Elaine May would say when they did their skits, "And that man's a doctor," because a doctor is the most respected person in the community. Are doctors up on this? You're a doctor. Okay. Are doctors generally up on these dangers?
Helen Caldicott They haven't been. They've been practicing psychic numbing, too. But they're starting to become educated because we hold these symposia and they come. I and others go around and do what we call grand rounds. Every week in a major hospital they have a scientific medical meeting where one week they discuss renal disease, in the next week cerebral tumors, and I go in and I talk about the medical effects of nuclear war.
Studs Terkel When you visit hospitals and talk about this to members of the staff. Who invites you? How's that work?
Helen Caldicott Oh, the senior resident, or the chief of medicine, etc., and I do a lot of it at the Mass. General, in the Beth Israel, and the Children's Hospital, all over the place and doctors are incredibly responsive because we all took the Hippocratic Oath and as Dean Howard Hart from the School of Public Health at Harvard says, "Nuclear war will create the final medical epidemic for which there will be no cure." And the medical dictum is, if we have an incurable disease, the only medical recourse is prevention.
Studs Terkel And so here is a disease to end all diseases. The War To End All Wars and the disease to end all diseases ending the human race. And so therefore, there's no doctor around. So you want to prevent that disease.
Helen Caldicott That's correct.
Studs Terkel And so preventing a nuclear war.
Helen Caldicott That's correct, and we see it as a medical province where it really has nothing to do with politics. This is medicine. This will create the final disease.
Studs Terkel Now, with your group and one of your colleagues, is Kistiakowsky, who is Eisenhower's adviser. He made a crack at one of your gatherings, says "I'm close to 80 years old. I may be the only one here," these were younger doctors, younger physicists, scientists, around, he says, "I may be the only one here who will die in bed. "
Helen Caldicott That's correct. That's what he says. he's a sick man. He's told that to me often, that he thinks there'll be a nuclear war before 1990 and I have to say that I wonder if we'll survive the next four years. And my own gut reaction is I'll be very glad if we have another summer. Now, that sounds pessimistic but I'm optimistic in another way because I know most people are doing nothing about this. This democracy is a vacuum. Some people vote once every four years. Therefore, if we all get moving and do something about it, certainly we can stop this. There's tremendous hope, and we have to really almost make a religious commitment to change the course of our lives. We won't ever be comfortable again if we really take this on, because you go into a sort of a grieving process. It's very painful to face frontally the fact that this world may end.
Studs Terkel You know, here is this conversation is very surreal, you know that. This is a surrealistic conversation we're having now. I know that you're sane, and I hope I'm sane, and we're talking now about watching the whole human race
Helen Caldicott Destroy itself. Do you know what? I was on television this morning and I got a little bit passionate and she said, "You're emotional!" As if to say --
Studs Terkel This young woman who
Helen Caldicott was your hostess on the program. As if to say, "You'd better watch it or you'll be losing your credibility."
Studs Terkel Don't get emotional.
Helen Caldicott I'm very emotional and I'm very --
Studs Terkel She said you're emotion, too emotional.
Studs Terkel Yeah. Well that, I suppose there a sort of lobotomy has been performed, too, on us. In this case it's a lobotomy of the spirit as well. When someone says "You're too emotional about this," then something is wrong.
Helen Caldicott Well, do you know how I think it's being arrived at? Science removes emotion from the issue, because if you put emotion into your data, you bias your data. If I'm emotional with my dying patient, I can't treat them objectively. And so that's extended to all forms of life, and we mustn't show any emotion because that's unacceptable. Yet, as we move dispassionately towards our annihilation, we're being suicidal, and if a patient comes into my office who is suicidal, I hospitalize them immediately because they're sick.
Studs Terkel We continue with Dr. Helen Caldicott and this conversation that you are hearing at this moment, and she says, "I hope you'll be hearing conversations a year from now." It's funny, about four years ago I visited a Nobel Laureate, Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who discovered Vitamin C and now he's working on a cancer. He has a different approach, a multidisciplinary approach toward cancer his way. And I know Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi, so he welcomed me to his house at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, his laboratory and then he said, "I cannot talk into your microphone because I have nothing to say, I've been too despairing." He says, "The world will blow up." I says, "Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi, what do you mean?" He says, he was in Hungary. He was a great [scientist?] of Hungary when the Nazis came. He escaped and worked with Rutherford in England and he came back to establish science in Hungary and there was the heavy hand of Soviet heaviness and repression. So he comes to America. The Vietnam war goes on. He says, "I recognize the face. It was the face of -- It was the German face, the Russian face, the American face, of those in power; the military mind. He's says, "They're one and they're in charge," and he says, "It will be. There is no weapon ever invented that wasn't at one time or another used." So I said, "Are you giving up?" He said, "No, I'm still trying to work a cure for cancer." He says, "Out of my sense of curiosity." But, there's Szent-Gyorgyi saying it, there's Kistiakowsky saying it, but you say there's a chance. Four minutes to midnight says the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Once was seven minutes to midnight. Now it's four. As we talk, it's probably three.
Helen Caldicott Well, Jerome Wiesner, who's retiring as president of MIT who negotiated the test ban treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States, he, he's given up, he's wringing his hands, but he does say, he thinks the only hope is for the women to get moving now. I started the Women's Party for Survival just after Afghanistan because I was very frightened when I heard Brown, Secretary of Defense Brown, say "America will use tactical nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf against the Soviet Union." I was so nauseated, I couldn't do the washing-up, I had to go to bed. I'd never heard anyone say that before overtly. And I thought what energy is there that's not tapped. And I realized as I go around the country talking, it's our women who get it immediately. They cry. They're passionate. They don't have to know too many facts, except that we'll all be dead in 20 minutes or half an hour. And I and and Wiesner says this, he says the only hope is that women, if we can mobilize that passion and it's a nurturing caring principle which men have, too, if we can mobilize that, there's some hope. And I just know that women have the babies, now I've never done anything as creative as having my babies, and I want them to survive and I'll do anything to ensure that they do survive. And I want to mobilize millions of women in this country. Everyone, right, left, center, everyone, the right-to-lifers the people who are for abortion, everybody, because this issue will affect all of us.
Studs Terkel Talking to Dr. Helen Caldicott, who is one of the founders and president was someone who is now of the doctors, Physicians for Social Responsibility, former member of the Harvard Medical School staff and now working full-time, very full-time indeed, and passionately full-time, to stop the nuclear arms race. [pause in recording] And so Dr. Caldicott, you say women, Jerome Wiesner, former head at MIT said that, so I give you, "I give you!" as a British lawyer, Francis Sullivan, would say in some of the movies, "So I put it to you. Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and our UN representative, God help us, Jeane Kirkpatrick," Okay, three women I have named. I wouldn't say they're exactly passionate opponents of the arms race, at least they haven't given any indication of that.
Helen Caldicott Well, I'm a professional woman, too. I've been in medicine for 20 years, and I know that a lot of women must give up their feminine nurturing qualities and become almost men to achieve. And you can do that. And I guess I've done that from time to time. But what I'm say-- and the men, the women you talk about have almost become men in the way they function. I'm saying that we must retain our nurturing qualities, our caring for life. I'm not saying "Get back in the kitchen." I'm saying "Use the power we've found in the last ten years with the caring for life and go out and save the world." That's what I'm saying. And it doesn't exclude men. All men with the caring for life come, too. But unless we get moving very fast we won't survive. And unless you address women directly, they tend not to do anything, because if you look at the Congress and the Senate, how many women are there?
Studs Terkel No, because they don't tend to do anything, you're talking about a history now of deprivation to a great extent.
Studs Terkel But not now, we're not deprived now, we don't have to have babies now. But let's come back to to the race and women. The race! That's funny, race has a double meaning, doesn't it? The human race, the arms race, and racial memory, because you call on Jung here, too, I notice, but women; you think -- What are the, what's the effect of where you go when you say what you say?
Helen Caldicott How do we do it?
Helen Caldicott the effect? Well, what what I want to do is get lots women involved, and lots of them have time because although some work, lots don't, to organize town meetings, organize the churches who should be taking a leading role in this. The synagogues, the PTAs, the Rotary Clubs, and invite Dr. Zinn from Physicians for Social Responsibility to address the meetings and talk about the medical effects of nuclear war and to educate people, cause people are not thinking about this and what we need to do is shatter their psychic numbing and bring it
Studs Terkel home. Why do you think that psychic numbing is there? Is it that the idea is so overwhelming that if one were to think about it, you know, just and not do it and you go crazy.
Helen Caldicott Yes. See, if you really face what I'm talking about frontally. It's as if I've told you you've got cancer and you might die in about one or two years, and then you go into the grieving process, which has four basic stages. One is shock and disbelief, then the next is deep profound depression, followed by intense anger, followed by adjustment. And it's very uncomfortable. And one would do anything rather than go into those feelings. Yet if we don't do that, almost certainly we will annihilate ourselves. And when you do it actually you get a tremendous motivation and drive to do something about this specially during the anger process which can be used constructively and it makes you feel better. It's like if you have a pain in your throat or in a joint, if you take aspirin you feel better. If you do something about this, it makes you feel good and you know we're not really here to make me happy. I'm not here to make me happy. We're really here, I think, to help each other. That's the source of true happiness and Kubler-Ross describes this best with dying people.
Helen Caldicott Kubler-Ross, Dr. Kubler-Ross. The people who find it hardest to die and slough off a body that's ready to die are those people who've never loved and given who've been greedy and selfish. The people who die with grace and dignity, at peace, are the people who have given to other people. And so it's you get a feeling of profound joy and even if we lose, when the bombs go off, we know we've done the right thing.
Studs Terkel Yeah. I would rather not have done the right thing and survive, though, you know. So we're talking about that, aren't we? It does little good to know you did the right thing we're all going to be blown up. I come back to the, to the matter of the chances This is, why it is the numbing. You say that the Joint Chief of Staffs have testified Senate hearings that 50/50 chance of nuclear war by '85 means four years from now. But there's also a member of an anti-nuclear arms race opponent, former rear admiral, Admiral Lorac, and he made an interesting comment, he's one of the dissenters, military questioners and what is it he said again? "These guys talk about nuclear war and survival as if there is one." He says, "Forget it."
Studs Terkel So there is no victor. There is no victor.
Helen Caldicott Most military people know that.
Studs Terkel Most know that there is no
Helen Caldicott winner. Of course. You ask most people in the Pentagon, most people at MIT, most scientists who design those things, they laugh if you talk about survival.
Studs Terkel Well, if there is no winner, why do they insist on increased military expenditures?
Helen Caldicott Well, Studs, you know that the corporations make an incredible profit for making these weapons.
Studs Terkel Well, there's an obvious question. Okay. These people are inhabiting the Earth as well as you and I are, right? As well as their fellow millions millions of humans the world over. Now they're going to die, too, if there's -- They will die, too. Now, how do you explain -- They know they will die, too, horrendously as a whole 90 percent or more, they don't think they'll survive, now why?
Helen Caldicott A lot of them are older men and they say to me, "I don't really care because I'm about to die anyway." Do you know they've said that to me? And I say, "Well, what about your grandchildren?" They say, "Well, nothing I can do about that."
Studs Terkel Have you heard that said?
Studs Terkel Yeah. You know, Saul Alinsky was one of the fathers of organizers. Neighborhood organization. He said, "You show a guy at a multinational, say, he's going to make a profit tomorrow a big one but by virtue of making that profit he will be killed on Monday. He's, yeah, but today is Sunday."
Helen Caldicott That's right. That's right. And they sit around, I sit in planes with these guys all the time because I travel a lot. What are they doing? They're adding up money. All the time. I had lunch with two guys in the Washington airport who didn't know each other. What did they both do? They made missiles independently. And you know what they talked about the whole lunchtime? Government grants and money. I didn't say anything, I just listened.
Studs Terkel And so we're talking, aren't we, about -- These are businessmen. But there are scientists who work for the military, and there are many young scientists and they're very delighted when A from B to C and it's tremendous.
Studs Terkel call it a s-- Now, the end result may be the destruction of the human race, but that doesn't enter into the
Helen Caldicott -- That's right. They call it a sweet technological problem. And it's incredible fun, you have an insoluble problem, how to put 10 warheads on one missile.
Helen Caldicott Sweet, they call it sweet. Sweet. And you solve the problem, and you go home at night and make sure the kids have had a good meal and clean their teeth and make love to the wife and get up the next morning and solve another insoluble problem. The poor guys are blocked. They need help. I'm not saying they're intrinsically evil, but their actions are evil.
Studs Terkel Here where you recall that Dr. Oppenheimer himself at one moment there held up his hands high when that thing occurred Alamogordo. How sweet.
Helen Caldicott That's right .
Studs Terkel Then later on, horror, but he's how sweet.
Studs Terkel So there is that moment of discovery even though what you open is beyond what Pandora ever dreamed.
Helen Caldicott Yeah, and Oppenheimer, too, 20 years after that time, they said what do you think? He said, "It's too late." This was in the '60s. And they said, "What should have happened?" He said, "It should have stopped the day after Trinity." The day after that test. Which brings us back to what are the scientists doing these days? Why? I asked them why don't they stop, because they worried, some of them, they say, "Well, if I stopped, if I said something, they might label me as a bit kooky." I said, "Well, that doesn't matter."
Studs Terkel If you stop, you're kooky.
Helen Caldicott Yeah.
Helen Caldicott If you continue, you're sane. And I said, and I said, "Is there anything else?" and I said, "Well yes." And I said, "What?" And he said, "Well, I might lose my government grant."
Studs Terkel So what do you find now? Is there an increasing number of doctors and scientists who are speaking out? Or is it just, is the lobotomy, has lobotomy had its effect?
Helen Caldicott No. There's a real movement now.
Helen Caldicott one. We had no doctors two years ago, we've got 4,000 now, which is really
Studs Terkel incredible. That is, the Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Helen Caldicott We'll have 10,000 I think, by the end of the year. The American Medical Association wrote to Reagan recently, asking him to meet with senior members of the American medical profession to discuss the medical effects of nuclear war. The Federation of American Scientists has come out against nuclear war. More and more people are talking about it. Fourteen towns in Vermont the other day passed a freeze proposal at the town meetings calling for a bilateral freeze and production deployment and testing of nuclear weapons. A real grassroots movement is starting to occur because, for the first time, people are talking about having a nuclear war, actually saying that it's possible to fight and win a nuclear war.
Studs Terkel Do you know Sam Lovejoy?
Helen Caldicott Yeah.
Studs Terkel "I thought you would. Sam is this marvellous young guy of New England who "Lovejoy's War," it was a film, it was a film about U2. What's yours called?
Helen Caldicott "Eight Minutes to Midnight."
Studs Terkel "Eight Minutes to Midnight." And Sam and you obviously are colleagues and Sam is the one who ripped off a big, what was it called?
Studs Terkel Tower. Tower. And he defended himself in court, turned himself in to the police, and he won the case, and he won the support of the community, of the judge, of the police chief's wife, who was an ally of the National Guardsmen. And he says people have a remarkable capacity for understanding what it's all about, that they say experts, you know, if you only knew what we know, he -- That's gone. He says, "They understand quickly what it's about."
Helen Caldicott Yeah, I know that as a physician. A lot of my colleagues say, "Don't tell the people anything, they're too dumb. I've never found a patient who didn't understand what was wrong with him if you took the time to explain it
Studs Terkel to him. And this is what is happening here. You feel then, that the movement is growing.
Helen Caldicott Oh, yes, really growing very fast, but not fast enough, Studs.
Studs Terkel And yet you speak of the coverage now. The young, the hostess on the TV show, don't get emotional. There's the newspapers, there's the press, and there's TV and there's radio, the media. Now, you describe the reaction or non-reaction. There was a meeting involving Cyrus Vance, very dramatic, who had recently resigned from the Carter Cabinet because of the aborted rescue attempt. He was against it and he resigned, which is very dramatic. He's a speaker. Kistiakowsky, Eisenhower's chief of scientific advisers as well as Geor-- Paul Warnke. Was that
Helen Caldicott covered?. No, see, "The New York Times" didn't cover it. We had it in New York specially. And Cyrus Vance spoke of his passionate concern about nuclear war. It was the second time he's spoken since he resigned. The first time was a Harvard commencement. They had a full-page article on that, and they didn't come to this. And I called "The New York Times" and said, "Why didn't you come?" And he said, "Madam! There's an election going on!" I said, "But you had a whole article about a man shooting a moose in Maine today. Half a page! And you didn't cover this. Is this an editorial policy?" He said no, he said, "If you keep having these things, we'll cover them." They haven't.
Studs Terkel So we have that kind of -- You have a Committee for Social Responsibility and there is something called "You Don't Need Any Committee for Irresponsibility."
Helen Caldicott Well, yeah, that's running the place, what I'm scared about, Studs, is that the American people at the moment really seem to hate the Russians with a bitter passion. And I sit next to people on planes and I say, well, I explain the medical effects of nuclear war. And always it comes up. What about the Russians? What about Afghanistan? As if there's always a reason to have a nuclear war. And I'm scared, I'm frankly frightened, because I think there are a lot of people right now who would have a nuclear war. People call in to talkback shows when I'm on and they say, "You doctors, you kill babies." That's the first thing. Then they say, "I'd rather kill all the people on earth than be red." And that's not uncommon and I'll tell you what we've we've thought as psychiatrists, that living in the nuclear age is very, very frightening. In fact, a recent study done by a Harvard psychiatrist shows that adolescents largely take drugs and drink alcohol because they fear they haven't got a future. That's one of the main causes of the drug problem and the fear is so profound that instead of feeling the fear that I described, we project it onto someone else, and at the moment it's the Russians. A few years ago, it was the Chinese, could be the Martians. And the fear is so incredible that they become inanimate objects in our minds. And if they're inanimate objects, we can kill them all and not worry. And when we think like that, we lose our own humanity and we think that's the cause, or the etiology of the present dynamic in the world. And if we can diagnose the cause, maybe we can prescribe some treatment for this.
Studs Terkel As you say, the young, why they take drugs, why they do what they do. Jim Carroll is a young, well, for want of a better word, punk-rock artist. He's a not a -- And he's a poet, too. He's a street kid, a white street kid, Irish-Catholic kid of New York and Jim Carroll is very, I think brilliant. And Jim says, "Of course it's there, that feeling, we never talk about it. Kids never talk about the bomb, you go crazy if you did. But we are aware of it, deep down, that the world can be destroyed. And of course that plays a role in what we do because if the world has no future we have no future. You do whatever it is you do, hedonistically, you think, and you destroy yourself another way," he says, "But, of course, that feeling is always there." There's one little conversation recounted, a suburban couple and another couple meet and ask about the little -- "What did she say?" They're talking about a nine-year-old child, she says, "Live today, for tomorrow you may die." He says, "What do you mean?" "Well, because she feels there's not much. She's nine. Maybe she'll make 12." And when I was a kid says, when I talked about pollywog and things like that and, well, not today. And so I guess it affects every every generation every aspect of our lives then.
Helen Caldicott We've done a terrible thing to our children.
Studs Terkel So your point is, why treat this kid for cystic fibrosis, make the life a little less painful, or try to save a kid, if we're going to be blown up? So you're out, you're out to fight the big disease.
Helen Caldicott Yeah. I left medicine to save lives, but in fact I'm practicing medicine now.
Studs Terkel This is medicine.
Helen Caldicott This is the ultimate in preventive medicine. What I'm trying to do.
Studs Terkel The [element? ultimate?] in preventive medicine here is what you're doing now.
Helen Caldicott Yeah, and I'm not the only one. There are other doctors now giving out medicines to this.
Studs Terkel So coming back to the Women's Party for Survival, I raised that question about women in power who are hardly different from the men in power. But you say the Women's Party for Survival. How does that work?
Helen Caldicott Well, what we're trying to do is get a lot of women around the country to join, and then we'll send them out information about how to organize town meetings and churches and things, and how to get in touch with doctors to come and speak to their meetings, how to go and lobby their congressmen and place the baby on the table and say to the congressman "Why aren't you representing the life of this child?" So that's what we'll do. But in the long term we want you all to get out and organize and educate your local communities. If you want to learn more about it, you can read my book called "Nuclear Madness," which is out in Bantam in all the bookshops now.
Studs Terkel It is in the bookshops now.
Studs Terkel Sure. By the way, Dr. Caldicott, that's C-A-L-D-I-C-O-T-T, and the book is "Nuclear Madness" and Autumn Press, but the bookstores all have them, I think.
Helen Caldicott Sure., it's now in Bantam. Yeah. And you'll learn the basic facts about the arms race.
Studs Terkel May I ask, what about the Women's Federation of Women's Clubs and the Parent Teacher Association?
Helen Caldicott Yeah, we've got to get into them and get all the women's organizations coordinated on this. We've just started, we're only a year old.
Studs Terkel You've just started.
Helen Caldicott It's taking a long time to get
Studs Terkel organized. Since you mentioned Women's Party for Survival, after all, there's the group that sponsored the presidential debates.
Helen Caldicott Women's Electoral Lobby. Sure. And the National Organization of Women, all of those people we have to get involved. So we'll be doing that, we need a lot of help, we need money. Because don't forget the right wing, who are moving to build more nuclear weapons, are financed to the tune of billions of dollars. If I could have a million dollars right now, I think that with the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Women's Party for Survival, we could have quite a profound effect in this country and throughout the world.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking of yourself. Originally Australia. Originally Australia. And while there you read "On the Beach." And it was always, you always wanted to be a doctor, is that it, did you always?
Helen Caldicott Well, I wanted to be a teacher 'til I was 11, and I remember getting into bed with Mum one morning on a Sunday and saying, "I think I'll be a doctor, because I can help more people if I'm a doctor."
Studs Terkel This is Melbourne. In Melbourne. And coming here. And then the Cold War and then colder war, and of course if something is cold, very cold, it becomes hot, doesn't it?
Helen Caldicott Yeah.
Studs Terkel Smokes and then it burns you, doesn't it?
Helen Caldicott Yeah, I'm afraid it does.
Studs Terkel So where are we now, this moment? The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists [unintelligible] is published here in Chicago, 'way back when Dr. Leo Szilard helped -- Ruth Adams, editor of it now. They have a, they have a clock, don't they? And the clock ticks away.
Helen Caldicott Yeah, that clock started in 1945 and it's only moved 10 times since 1945, during the years of detente it was nine minutes to midnight. After Afghanistan, it was seven. And this January 1981, it was moved to four minutes to midnight.
Studs Terkel You know, I'm thinking of watching the Sunday shows on TV. "Meet the Press," the various other ones. Week after week, there is an administration person or a military person talking about what the Russians are doing. I don't remember for a long time seeing a scientist on who isn't talking about the danger of what nuclear war will do.
Helen Caldicott No, I wish they'd put someone on. I'd like to go on. Well, we've got a lot of physicians who could go on, a lot of scientists to yeah, to lay out what the actions of these administration officials may eventually lead to.
Studs Terkel By the way, you called it now the ultimate medical issue, but the religious issue as well.
Helen Caldicott Yeah, well, for me the life process is God, having studied the intricate mechanisms of a single cell and how very beautiful life is, that's God for me, I worship that. That's the product of evolution over billions of years.
Studs Terkel By the way, you've met, before we hear that song again, obviously it's the perfect lead in to Tom Paxton's song "Whose Garden Was This?" You've met Soviet scientists and doctors.
Helen Caldicott Yeah.
Helen Caldicott Sure. We had a meeting two weeks ago in Washington with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Eleven doctors -- Eleven countries were represented, including 17 doctors from the Soviet Union. Brezhnev's personal cardiologist led the delegation.
Studs Terkel Chazov.
Helen Caldicott Chazov. And we discussed the medical effects of nuclear war, we all came to exactly the same conclusions. There was unanimity in thought.
Studs Terkel What can they do?
Helen Caldicott Well Chazov said, he said, "You know," he said, "The politicians are our patients. We have a profound influence because we're really literally in charge of life and death of most people on the planet. And so we can tell the senators when they go to Bethesda Naval Hospital or wherever they're treated. "By the way, Senator, you know, you may be worried about your prostate or appendix, but there is a, there is another problem in the world."
Studs Terkel And he can tell that to Brezhnev.
Helen Caldicott He will. In fact, we wrote a letter to Carter and Brezhnev one year ago warning them of the medical dangers of nuclear war. Brezhnev sent us a personal letter back and they published it on the front page of "Pravda." And I had to raise $20,000 to publish that same letter signed by 600 doctors in "The New York Times."
Studs Terkel Yeah, but someone would say, "They're building, just as we're building."
Helen Caldicott True. True. But people say there's a censored press. Well, I say it's harder to get out --
Helen Caldicott A sense of what? A censored press. In the Soviet Union. I'm sure it is. But why did they publish it on the front page of "Pravda" and I had to raise $20,000. When Brezhnev wrote us a letter, we called the newspapers and said, you know, Chairman Brezhnev has replied personally to our letter about nuclear war, and the paper said, "So, what's news?" I couldn't get them to publish it. I got back from the Soviet Union very concerned about cruise missiles and this launch-on-warning system, I called the "Today" show and they said, "Well, you don't mean to tell me that the Russia isn't ahead of us militarily, we won't put you on. We don't want to hear about that sort of thing." And I wanted to talk about the medical dangers of nuclear war. It's starting to become a little bit more fashionable in the media now but the people in the media practice psychic numbing. The media is controlled a lot by the companies who make the bombs. General Electric make the triggers for the hydrogen bombs. They earn $3,000,000 a day from the defense industry from the Pentagon. Bendix washing machine make part of the hydrogen bomb. Union Carbide, this country makes or recycles three to 10 new bombs every day.
Studs Terkel So we come back to the ultimate disease, don't we? We come back to the ultimate disease, which would be nuclear holocaust, that would end all illnesses, all plagues to which man is heir to, since there won't be any
Helen Caldicott since there won't be any man. Or any bacteria.
Studs Terkel Or any bacteria. Well, can't --I understand cockroaches could survive, couldn't they?
Helen Caldicott We think, we're not sure.
Studs Terkel It's possible, so the world, as [Hal O'Shapley] says, "Left the cockroaches and the kelp," but cockroaches may not make it either, is that it?
Helen Caldicott See, there are --
Studs Terkel Now, I can make it if I believe in metamorphosis, you know --
Studs Terkel No, I don't think you can. And reincarnation. I'll tell you why -- I'll come back as Kafka's cockroach.
Helen Caldicott I'll tell you why. Because the National Academy of Sciences think if only 10 percent of the bombs used in both superpowers it could destroy 80 percent of the ozone in the northern hemisphere and 25, 30 to 40 percent in the south. It's thought that if only 20 percent of the ozone is destroyed worldwide, it could blind every organism on earth, including the cockroaches. And if the insects are blinded --
Studs Terkel Then they won't make it, either.
Studs Terkel Then we got to stop it.
Helen Caldicott That's only 10 percent.
Studs Terkel Kill the cockroaches. There's if ever there were now a raison d'etre for the whole thing, if it would hurt the cockroaches. Okay. You know what Dick Gregory once said, don't you?
Helen Caldicott What did he say?
Studs Terkel He said, you know, if during the Vietnam War, if some of the people who had gladly sent their sons to die in Vietnam were told their dogs would be drafted, why, there'd be a march on Washington tomorrow to stop the war immediately. So I'm talking about the cockroaches. And we're talking about Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Kistiakowsky, Eisenhower's adviser, Cyrus Vance, Dr. Bernard Lown, Dr. Caldicott, you yourself, distinguished, respected physicians and scientists who speak of the end of the human race. And Dr. Jerome Wiesner and many are in despair. You are not yet in that moment of despair. [unintelligible] And so there's got to be something to it. You know the old cliche, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." I hate to use those words, where there's smoke, there's fire. Why am I laughing?
Helen Caldicott Well, because I think when you get very anxious, laughter makes you feel a bit better.
Studs Terkel It's a safety valve, too, isn't it? Laughing to keep from crying, or to keep from raging, perhaps, a little more rage might be in order. Dr. Caldicott, thank you very much indeed. Helen Caldicott, the book, her book is "Nuclear Madness," it's available in all stores, and it's very clear indeed, and I haven't asked you about the, how to reach, for women who are listening to get in
Helen Caldicott touch with Women's Party for Survival. Oh, well you can call this number in Boston: that's 6-1-7-9-2-3-9-5-4-2.
Studs Terkel That's a Boston number.
Helen Caldicott Six-one-seven-nine-two-three-nine-five-four-two, or you write to Women's Party for Survival, 56 North Beacon Street, Watertown, Mass. 0-2-1-7-2.
Studs Terkel Suppose you wrote to Women's Party for Survival, Watertown, Mass. I bet it'll get there.
Helen Caldicott It might not. You've got to put 56 North Beacon Street, Watertown, Mass. Yeah. And the Physicians for Social Responsibility. If you want to call the local chapter here and get speakers, you can call this number. Dr. Richard Gardner and his number at work is 9-4-2-5-7-8-1. Dr. Richard Gardner, 9-4-2-5-7-8-1. They will supply physicians who'll come out and speak to your churches and to your city clubs, et cetera, et cetera, so that you can get yourselves organized and educated.
Studs Terkel Well, I hope we still live in that garden. Thank you very much.