(Editor's note: Anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldecott delivered this speech below at a recent teach-in hosted by Code Pink, a women’s anti-war organization.)
I wrote an article for Marvel comics recently; they’re doing a book on non-violence. Marvel comics are read predominantly by men between the ages of 24 and 35. I just sat down to write this article and it just poured out of me, I didn’t even have to think about it. So I thought I would read it as an introduction to what I have to say today and to what’s happening at the moment in the world
(The publisher won’t publish it. When he read it, he got so angry that he threw it away and he refused to publish it. He said it’s because I’m angry.)
The latest batch of films coming out of Hollywood are epic tales of noble battles complete with blood-chilling computer-simulated battles. The financial success of “ Gladiators” stimulated producers and studios to realize that there is big money to be made in re-enacting the lives of great heroes such as Alexander the Great. But all epic tales are of violence and bloodshed.
What is the attraction of killing? What evolutionary situation necessitated that the killing reflex be located in the human (male’s) brain? I believe it started when we were Troglodites [?]. The world was hostile in those days, full of saber-tooth tigers, mammoth elephants and roaring tribes. While women sat in caves breast-feeding and nurturing their young., the males quickly learned to protect their genes by aggression and killing. This innate instinct led to the survival of the fittest, where the human race eventually dominated and conquered nature --indeed we have.
However the killing has continued long beyond the survival imperative. I always found it interesting and terrifying that when a conquering army invades a country their first act is to rape the women. What possible subconscious evolutionary imperative is served by this behavior. Do men need to sow their seeds in the wombs of the conquered tribes or countries to prove they are superior beings?
I was attending a wealthy socialite party during the first days of the 1991 Gulf war, when one of the men (an Australian, incidentally) announced that “Dr. Caldecott knows about this war”. Whereupon the men gathered around me in a circle, while the women, their partners, sat on the periphery. And it didn’t matter what I said about the medical monstrosities of war --people walking around with their intestines hanging out of gaping abdominal wounds, babies lying screaming on the ground in the arms of their decapitated mothers (think what’s coming…) --the men listening were almost clinically and psychologically dead. All they kept repeating were the mantras always used to justify war …‘The enemy is evil’…‘He deserves this’ (The enemy is always “he”)... They had absolutely no comprehension of the awfulness of hot metal slicing through human bodies. Interestingly, the women who sat on the periphery watching my interrogation and silently agreeing with me, had no courage to publicly take on their men for fear of later rejection and retribution.
It was then that I realized that when the scent of blood metaphorically enters the male nostril, it triggers the psychological imperative to kill – a primitive autonomic reflex located in the male midbrain. This must be a relic of their Troglidaic [?] days.
Violence and killing is condoned by societies dominated by male values, while the 53% of the population made up by women also condones this psychotic behavior by their silence.
As we know, killing has been a constant throughout the history of the human race. It has been glorified, revolutionized and legitimized by historians, politicians and society-at-large. Young men rushed off to battle in the first World War. So eager were they to participate in the noble act of killing that they lied about their age – and their parents were proud. Similar situations prevailed in the second World War. The Vietnam War finally revealed war in all of its horror with the advent of televised killing. Finally societies understood the revoltingness of war.
Because of this historical dynamic, the Pentagon now thoroughly, and with skilled mastery, controls the international acquiescent media which is forbidden access to the blood-soaked killing fields. Instead they act as Pentagon stenographers, playing and re-playing night-time images of missiles hitting missiles in mid-air, planes taking off from aircraft carriers and tanks ambling through the desert.
When the atom was split, Einstein said, “ The splitting of the atom changed everything except man’s mode of thinking. Thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” War at that time became obsolete because if society allowed the primitive killing instinct free reign, it was obvious that men would soon induce the extinction of most life on earth as they harnessed the energy of the stars.
But Einstein’s warning was unheeded. A massive nuclear arms race commenced, justified by the same rational male left-brain logic revealed by the men at that 1991 society party.
The pathology of the primal killing reflex embedded in the primitive midbrain is legitimized at all levels of society. It is activated in the news by religious zealots, to justify their own freedom as opposed to others' (like the fundamentalist Christians that control the Republican party in the White House at the moment.) It is used by commerce to sell films, video games, comics and books. It is used by governments to foster a spirit of intense patriotic support in a disparate and wavering constituency. And it is used by huge military corporations to encourage massive military spending throughout the world.
History largely consists of statuesque heroic conquerers celebrated in town squares, battle stories and sacred tomes, in revered war memorials military marches and majestic music. Two antithetical themes have inspired the most important and beautiful music and art throughout the ages – God and war. War is always fought in the name of God. I remember visiting the sacred halls of Westminster Abbey where the ceilings were draped with banners of war successfully fought and won. In that hallowed house of God, killing was glorified. This is ever so, whatever the religion.
Jesus, the great Jewish prophet said, “ Love thy enemy. Do good to those who hate you.” And the biblical God said, “ Thou shalt not kill”. All religions in one way or another call their flocks to love their neighbors as themselves. Here lies the fundamental dichotomy: love God --whatever the religion –and kill in the name of God. God is used to justify the primal killing instinct. This strange, aberrant, and deviant behavior is routinely and unquestioningly accepted by almost all members of the human race until such time when war becomes so ultimately dreadful that sobriety ensues; this lasts some years until the lessons of the evil and the killing are lost, and the same cycle repeats itself.
With the world laced with nuclear weapons (2,500 on hair-trigger alert in Russia, and 2,500 H-bombs on hair-trigger alert in America), with an ongoing US policy to fight and to win a nuclear war against Russia (did you know that?), with six other legitimate nuclear nations (France, Britain, China, Israel, Pakistan, and India), and with many others chomping at the bit to emulate the nuclear superpowers, the world is entering into a strangely volatile and destabilizing era.
For fifty-seven years humans have lived with the ever present but subliminal horror of imminent annihilation. This deep and now almost unconscious knowledge has severely traumatized our souls. If we know we can be eliminated any minute by accident, human fallibility, or conscious belligerence, than all of human consciousness is subsumed to this death-dealing reality. All innocence and wondrous delight in nature and the world is blighted, and jarring modern art and music reflect this discordant reality.
Question: Are we capable of the rapid psychological evolution necessary to subsume the primitive killing instinct before we blow ourselves to bits taking with us 30 million other species?
And therein lies the question for today, because never has the world been in a more dangerous situation than it is at this very moment. It’s not just that America is going to go in [to Iraq] with the hideous weapons of mass destruction that were used in Afghanistan (which I describe in my book). It’s that America and Russia still have each other targeted with 2,500 Hydrogen bombs, and that we got within 10 seconds of nuclear war in 1995, when Russia made a mistake and thought America had launched it’s first strike. President Yeltsin had a three minute window of opportunity to press his button and he got within ten seconds of annihilating you, when he realized that they were not under attack. Those mistakes occur not infrequently every year in the early warning system of Russia and America.
That’s the backdrop of the stage upon which this Iraqi situation is being played. Does George Bush know that? I don’t think he does. Does Cheney know that? Well, he probably does because he has been living in a fallout shelter since September 11th. There is a huge fallout shelter in Virginia; all the members of Congress are allowed to go in the event of a nuclear war, except a nuclear war only takes a half hour to complete and they won’t have time to get there. It’s huge, full of hospitals and everything. Interestingly, congresspeople can’t take their wives, they can only take their secretaries. (So I always take a good look at people’s secretaries when I go into congress!)
I hear Cheney is having a fallout shelter dug underneath his house at the moment, but that’s just a rumor.
Does Rumsfeld understand it? Well, maybe, I’m not sure but he would probably say that he is an old man, he has lived his life and he doesn’t care. Does Wolfavitz, who orchestrated singlehandedly this whole Iraqi situation (ONE man is the architect of the whole thing! Can you imagine the power of one man getting a quarter of a million troops, hundreds of tanks, five aircraft carriers over there? That’s Wolfovitz) Does he understand it? I think he is so disturbed that it doesn’t even enter his consciousness. Maybe he was abused as a child, I don’t know and I really don’t care. HE IS MEDICALLY CONTRA-INDICATED FOR THE PUBLIC HEALTH OF THE PEOPLE OF THE PLANET AND HE SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE.
Then there is Richard Pearl who is truly pathological --called by his colleagues in the Reagan era ‘the Prince of Darkness’. He and Cheney said recently ‘we’re going to fight wars for the next twenty years. We’re going to go into twenty countries and take over.’ If you want to read about their plans, read the American Mein Kampf –it’s called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” written by the right wing -- Cheney, Wolfovitz, Libby, Rumsfeld et al. and put out by the Project for the New American Century. It talks about how they are going to take over the whole world and this is just the beginning.
And they are bloody well doing it! Iraq is the first, Iran is the second, North Korea is the third and guess what? China is the main one. Because you’ve got to have a big enemy in order to steal the American taxpayer’s money. People will die in the streets. Already, one third of the [American] people under 57 now have no health insurance. So they can steal money and make weapons and kill people and blow up the planet….Read this, it is a most important document.
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in which he said he was going to kill all the Jews, invade Europe and kill 20 million Russians and no one believed him, but he did it.
I mean how dare, HOW DARE these men think they can do this. WHO DO THEY FLAMING WELL THINK THEY ARE? They are truly pathological and they should all be removed, as I have said, for the public health of the people of the planet.
Now 53% of us are women. We’ve had the majority and we’ve been absolute wimps. And it’s time we smacked their bottoms, removed them, and we took over. I’m not just joking --this isn’t funny. I am deadly serious.
Patch Adams and I were talking about the Y2K when it happened. We were talking about the possibility of a nuclear war because the Pentagon’s computers could go wrong causing a massive nuclear meltdown. But we couldn’t get the media to listen. So we were in the Herbst theater and Patch went up to the microphone and said “I’ve been telling Helen for six months that we need to take our clothes off and walk across America – two naked physicians.” So I went up to the microphone and I said “Hand’s up. Who will do it?” And fifty hands went up. One woman screamed out, “I’ll ring the media” She did, she told them that fifty of us were getting our clothes off and they were there in a flash – all the networks, Reuters, the whole lot. (Doesn’t that indicate where they live?)
I mean, REALLY! I went on Larry Kind for seven minutes with Frank Gaffney (oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way across the floor, that’s what they say about Frank Gafney) to talk about Star Wars and nuclear war. Who came on after me? It was Pamela Anderson, and she was on for an hour! Hmm, so I thought maybe I should have three breast implants in each breast so I can get on with Larry King. He can look down my shirt and I can talk about the medical dangers of nuclear war and just how dangerous it is.
Anyway, so they rang the media, we went out into the foyer and just disrobed. We just took our clothes off and walked out onto Van Ness. It was dark and we were naked and we started walking down the street. Someone started chanting “NUDES NOT NUKES”. It was a bit scary, it was cold, but none of us felt cold. People were screaming and hopping out of their cars and clapping for us – although I don’t think they knew what we were doing and why. There were people going home on the bus, really tired…and suddenly their eyes fell out of the sockets when they saw us. So then we came back and when we got back no one wanted to get dressed. I’ve never seen a group of more exhilerated and courageous wonderful people. They were standing around in little knots talking and I was on the sofa talking to ABC stark naked.
It was pure. What I realized then is that the human body is totally vulnerable before the nuclear threat. This country is targeted with two and a half thousand hydrogen bombs when there are only two hundred and forty major cities in the northern hemisphere.
A bomb dropping on this church [where the speech is being made] would cause a hole THREE QUARTERS OF A MILE WIDE and EIGHT HUNDRED FEET DEEP. It would vaporize everyone for a radius of up to FIVE MILES. Vaporize—even the skeleton. It would burn everyone for up to a radius of TWENTY MILES so dreadfully that they would all die. But don’t worry, the White House has been stockpiling large quantities of morphea [??] We physicians don’t know where that morphea [??] is, but our hospitals will be destroyed and we will be dead. Winds at FIVE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR will come in and suck people out of buildings at ONE HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR turning them into human missiles. Then the whole area (Washington, D.C.) will be engulfed in a firestorm of THREE THOUSAND SQUARE MILES. So if you are in a fallout shelter the fire is so intense that you will asphyxiate as people did in the firestorms of Dresden and die.
Now Washington is targeted with at least ten big Russian hydrogen bombs because there is such redundancy of weapons. Every town and city with a population of 25,000 or more in the US is targeted as I speak. And America’s got a policy defining that we’re in a nuclear war with Russia which makes the Russians really paranoid. The medical dictum goes: never threaten a paranoid patient because they get more jumpy, more anxious and they do totally irrational things.
Now let me walk you back. The Pentagon has been encouraging the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Iraq --Robust Earth Penetrators. Notice the language, really testosterone-driven language. They are going to dig under the earth with Uranium-238, really heavy, and explode it underneath the ground. And when you do that with a nuclear explosion, you create massive quantities of nuclear fallout, much more than if you exploded a bomb above a city, like Baghdad. So much so that it could kill up to 3.5 million people in Baghdad.
Do you know what this war reminds me of? The Spanish Civil War, when Hitler used his new weapons before he started the second World War, to try them out as an experiment like America dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an experiment. Picasso was so devastated by that that he painted Gurnica. And this is the most powerful anti-war painting that you have ever seen, with people screaming and having their heads blown off. Gurnica is in the United Nations and when Colin Powell conducted his speech recently do you know what they did to Gurnica? They covered it up. Isn’t that a Jungian archetypal symbol of what America is about to do?
They are going to go in and use what they call shock and awe. Can you imagine the language? And they are going to drop 3,000 guided missiles on Baghdad in the first two days, on people laughing and giggling and playing. HOW DARE AMERICA DO THAT. HOW DARE THEY. WHO THE HELL DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?? They’ll never get Hussein, but they are going to kill women and children. This is genocide. It’s better than Hitler because they’ll do it faster – they don’t want any American people to be killed.
Who are these [Iraqi] people that they are different from Americans? Why would this woman be less important than an American woman? Look at these children. A child is a child is a child, be they Americans, Iraqis, Nigerians. Life is sacred. These men are clinically sick that want to do this.
Men are going to fly in planes 40,000 feet in the air and drop boxes of bombs half a mile long and six hundred feet high and fly back to base and say ‘yes sir’ and ‘’no sir’. Do they ever smell the sickening sweet iron smell of blood? Do they every see people with their intestines hanging out, pus, the stink of peritonitis? Do they ever see babies with their heads blown off and body parts like you saw dropping out of the World Trade Towers? It shocked you, didn’t it?
Then they are going to use cluster bombs. Each bomb is made of 240 bomblets armed with razor-sharp shrapnel covering an area the size of 22 football fields. The shrapnel is made of glass and fiberglass so that when we get the patients who have been impeded with this stuff, we can’t x-ray them to find out where this stuff is because glass doesn’t show up in x-rays. That’s done on purpose so we can’t cure our patients and foreign bodies induce huge abscesses and septicemia and the like.
Up to 30% of those bomblets don’t explode. They are the size and shape of coke cans painted yellow. The food parcels that Americans drop with peanut butter and pop tarts are also the size and shape of coke cans painted yellow. The starving children run to pick up the food parcels and get their heads blown off.
Then they are going to use daisy cutters, fuel-air explosives. They’ve got a new one that is even more powerful than the ones they used in Afghanistan – five thousand pounds of TNT . So powerful is the explosion, it causes such negative pressure that it sucks people’s eyeballs out of their sockets, not just their lungs.
Then they are going to use depleted uranium weapons, anti-tank shells made of radioactive uranium. When it hits the tank it slices through the tank like a hot knife through butter, and its power produces tiny little particles that are inhaled into the terminal air passages. In Basir, where they used up to 800 tons of them in 1991, the incidence of childhood cancer and leukemia has gone up seven times. Little girls of 10 are getting breast cancer, and that is unheard of in the medical literature. My colleagues who trained at Great Orman Street Hospital in London literally stand at the foot of the childrens’ bed while they die, weeping because they have no chemotherapeutic agents and no radiotherapy instruments because of the sanctions.
Women are giving birth to monsters. The incidence of congenital anomalies has gone up three times. They are terrified to deliver babies – babies with cyclops (single eyes), babies with no eyes, babies with anencephaly (no brain) just a nubbin of midbrain. I’ve delivered such a baby –cough, cry suck, sneeze and die in a week. The trouble with this is that the half-life of uranium-235 is 4.5 billion years. So they are going in again to use it again.
If America uses a nuclear weapon in Iraq and the Russian early-warning satellite with its infrared detector picks up the heat from that explosion it could misinterpret that as an American first strike to launch its nuclear weapons and it could by accident launch their nuclear weapons (as Yeltsin nearly did). That would be the end of life on earth, not just America will be incinerated (and Australia because we are full of American bases). It only takes a thousand H-bombs exploding over a hundred cities to induce the end of life on earth because a huge cloud of black whirling radioactive oily smoke rises up to cover the earth and block out the sun for up to a year. That’s a short ice age, and will be the end of our species on this earth.
That’s the backdrop upon which we need to look at what is going on now. Not one person in the media has touched it, not one (except you who interviewed me for C-SPAN two days ago). The media hasn’t picked it up because war is an awful lot of fun, and it is great for the media. It’s great for the media because they can sell more hemorrhoid cream, more stuff that sticks dentures to the top of the mouth, and all of that absolute garbage that they sell on TV.
Well, I mean, you’ve got to have your hemorrhoids looked after and it’s good to sell more hemorrhoid cream –the best way to do that is to go and kill half a million people. I’m putting it simply but that is true.
We are on the edge of annihilation and I’ve written all about it in my book.
I’ve written to the Pope recently. I think the only thing that can stop this war is if the Pope goes to Baghdad because George Bush will not kill the Pope. People say ‘What about the Dalai Lama?’ but they will kill the Dalai Lama because they don’t like Tibet and it’s with China. They will kill whomever, but they won’t kill the Pope. So I’ve written the pope and if you want to know the email address, it’s in my book. (in a document about my new institute called the Nuclear Policy Research Institute which I am now setting up in DC in order to take on the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. We’re going to get people like Jekyll and Kilbaso and Alice Slater and the real experts in this country to get on television and debate with Frank Gaffney head on.). At the bottom of this document is an email address to the Pope. (Interestingly, people have been calling the Vatican and the women answering the telephone number say ‘Well it’s you stupid Americans who elected Bush in the first place!’ and they slam the phone down. Maybe you didn’t, but that is how the rest of the world sees you.) You can get the address and you can bombard the Vatican with emails and letters and phone calls and faxes and jam up their machines.
But you know what? Doing conventional things that we always do is not going to work. I am thinking now of Ghandi who went into India not in a uniform with a gun, but almost stark naked, in just a loincloth. He conducted an assault with great dignity and truth and he won.
So, here you are – what’s wrong with TAKING OUR CLOTHES OFF TOMORROW AT THE WHITE HOUSE…YOU WILL HAVE THE WHOLE OF THE WORLD’S MEDIA THERE BECAUSE WE ARE ON THE BRINK OF WAR. AND YOU WILL GET ON EVERY TELEVISION STATION AND EVERY NEWS OUTLET ALL OVER THE WORLD WITHOUT A DOUBT.
I think that that is the best thing to do. And you can just say that the human body is so vulnerable before the nuclear threat and you don’t want to be vaporized. And they will say, ‘what do you mean vaporized?’ and you will say, ‘ Well do you know that Russia has two and a half thousand hydrogen bombs on hair-trigger alert?’.
I’ll just end this by saying two things. First, that fifty-three percent of us are women and we have got to take over – I am really serious about that.
Second, my goal with the Nuclear Policy Research Institute is to end the nuclear age within five years. I’m sick of this. I’m 64 and I don’t want to die before it is finished.
So we are going to abolish nuclear weapons between Russia and America – it’s America that is holding it up, not Russia. This is the country that is doing wicked things; they are building new nuclear weapons and they want to militarize space and God knows what. So, we are going to abolish nuclear weapons. If Russia and America do it, France China and England say they’ll get rid of theirs. Israel will need to be forced with its arm around its back. Pakistan and India will be easier. Then we set up a powerful United Nations to really police the world with dignity and respect.
The UN should be right in there in the Middle East right now to separate the warring parties --because they have just gone mad in their blue berets and their blue helmets. It’s time to put Arafat and Sharon in a room and lock the door and say “You are not getting out until you negotiate and compromise peace so killing is stopped”.
The other thing I am going to do is close the one hundred and three nuclear compounds in America because terrorists don’t need nuclear weapons anymore.
So the nuclear age is obsolete and it was from the beginning to the end and WE are going to end it. Who is going to end it? WE ARE!