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The Folly of Mindless Science

In 2000, I traveled to India, invited to speak at the organizing meeting of the Indian Coalition for Nuclear and Disarmament and Peace.  About 600 organizations, including some 80 from Pakistan gathered in New Delhi to strategize for nuclear disarmament.   India had quietly acquired the bomb and performed one nuclear test at Pokhran in 1974 but it was in 1998 that all hell broke out, with India exploding five underground tests, swiftly followed by six in Pakistan.

The trigger for this outbreak of nuclear testing in Asia was the refusal of the US Clinton Administration, under the pressure of the US nuclear weapons scientists,  to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that precluded laboratory testing and “sub-critical” tests, where plutonium could be blown up underground with chemicals without causing a chain reaction—hence defined as a non-nuclear test by the US and the nuclear club.  India warned the nuclear powers at the Commission on Disarmament(CD) where the CTBT was being negotiated, that it opposed the CTBT because it contained discriminatory “loopholes … exploited by some countries to continue their testing activity, using more sophisticated and advanced techniques”, and it would never agree to consensus on the treaty unless the ability to continue high-tech laboratory  testing and computer-driven nuclear experiments was foreclosed.

In an unprecedented move of colonial hubris, Australia, led by Ambassador Richard Butler, brought the treaty to the UN for approval over India’s objections, the first time in the history of that body that the UN General Assembly was asked to endorse a treaty that had not received consensus to go forward in the negotiating body at the CD.  I spoke to Ambassador Butler at a UN reception where the wine was flowing a bit liberally. I asked him what he was going to do about India’s objection.  He informed me that he had been visiting with Clinton’s National Security Advisor in Washington, Sandy Berger, and Berger said, “We’re going to screw India! We’re going to screw India!”, repeated twice by Butler, for emphasis.   Unsurprisingly, India and Pakistan soon tested overtly, not wanting to be left behind in the technology race for new improved nuclear weapons which was characterized blasphemously by the US in biblical terms, as its “stockpile stewardship” program to protect the ‘safety and reliability” of the arsenal.

Can there be any doubt that scientists driving US policy are out of touch with reality?  Officials talk about “risk assessment” as though the dreadful disastrous events at Chernobyl and Fukushima are capable of being weighed on a scale of risks and benefits. Scientists are constantly refining their nuclear weapons and designing new threats to the fate of the Earth.  After the horrendous devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely everyone with half a brain knows these catastrophic bombs are completely unusable and yet we’re pouring all these billions of dollars into perpetuating the weapons labs, as hunger and homelessness increase in the US and our infrastructure is crumbling. The high priests of Science are not including the Earth in their calculations and the enormous havoc they are wreaking on our air, water, soil, our biosphere. They’re thinking with the wrong half of their brains—without integrating the intuitive part of thinking that would curb their aggressive tendencies which engender such deadly, irreversible possibilities.   They are engaged in creating  the worst possible inventions with a Pandora’s box of lethal consequences that may plague the earth for eternity. Still, they continue on. Scientists are holding our planet hostage while they tinker in their laboratories without regard to the risks they are creating for the very future of life on Earth.”

Alice Slater is the NY Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Advisory Council of the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Power in Space