5.04.2002

The New York Review of Books
May 9, 2002

Feature
The Road to Nowhere
By Tony Judt

In 1958, at the height of the Algerian crisis, with Arabs bombing French cafés in Algiers, Paris tacitly condoning the use of torture by the occupying French army, and paratroop colonels demanding a free hand to end terror, the French philosopher Raymond Aron published a small book, L'Algérie et la République.[1] Cutting through the emotive and historical claims of both sides, Aron explained in his characteristically cool prose why the French had to quit Algeria. France lacked both the will and the means either to impose French rule on the Arabs or to give Arabs an equal place in France. If the French stayed the situation would only deteriorate and they would inevitably leave at some later date—but under worse conditions and with a more embittered legacy. The damage that France was doing to Algerians was surpassed by the harm the Republic was bringing upon itself. However impossible the choice appeared, it was nonetheless very simple: France must go.

Many years later Aron was asked why he never engaged the heated questions of the time: torture, terrorism, the French policy of state-sponsored political assassination, Arab national claims, and the colonial heritage of the French. Everyone, he replied, was talking about these things; why add my voice? The point was no longer to analyze the origins of the tragedy, nor assign blame for it. The point was to do what had to be done.

In the cacophony of commentary and accusation swirling around the calamity in the Middle East, Aron's icy clarity is sorely missed. For the solution to the Israel–Palestine conflict is also in plain sight. Israel exists. The Palestinians and other Arabs will eventually accept this; many already do. Palestinians can be neither expunged from "Greater Israel" nor integrated into it: if they were expelled into Jordan, the latter would explode, with disastrous consequences for Israel. Palestinians need a real state of their own and they will have one. The two states will be delineated in accordance with the map drawn up at the Taba negotiations in January 2001, according to which the 1967 borders will be modified, but nearly all of the occupied territories will come under Palestinian rule. The Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are thus foredoomed, and most of them will be dismantled, as many Israelis privately acknowledge.

There will be no Arab right of return; and it is time to abandon the anachronistic Jewish one. Jerusalem is already largely divided along ethnic lines and will, eventually, be the capital of both states. Since these states will have a common interest in stability and shared security concerns, they will learn in time to cooperate. Community- based organizations like Hamas, offered the chance to transform themselves from terrorist networks into political parties, will take this path. There are numerous precedents.


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If this is the future of the region, then why is it proving so tragically hard to get there? Four years after Aron's essay, De Gaulle extricated his countrymen from Algeria with relative ease. Following fifty years of vicious repression and exploitation, white South Africans handed over power to a black majority who replaced them without violence or revenge. Is the Middle East so different? From the Palestinian point of view, the colonial analogy fits and foreign precedent might apply. Israelis, however, insist otherwise.

Most Israelis are still trapped in the story of their own uniqueness. For some, this lies in the primordial presence of an ancient Jewish state on the territory of modern Israel. For others it rests in a God-given title to the lands of Judea and Samaria. Many still invoke the Holocaust and the claim that it authorizes Jews to make upon the international community. Even those who reject all such special pleading point to geography in defense of their distinction. We are so vulnerable, they say, so surrounded by enemies, that we cannot take any risks or afford a single mistake. The French could withdraw across the Mediterranean; South Africa is a very large country. We have nowhere to go. Finally, behind every Israeli refusal to face the inevitability of hard choices stands the implicit guarantee of the United States.

The problem for the rest of the world is that since 1967 Israel has changed in ways that render its traditional self-description absurd. It is now a regional colonial power, by some accounts the world's fourth-largest military establishment. Israel is a state, with all the trappings and capacities of a state. By comparison the Palestinians are weak indeed. While the failings of the Palestinian leadership have been abysmal and the crimes of Palestinian terrorists extremely bloody, the fact is that Israel has the military and political initiative. Responsibility for moving beyond the present impasse thus falls primarily (though as we shall see not exclusively) on Israel.

But Israelis themselves are blind to this. In their own eyes they are still a small victim-community, defending themselves with restraint and reluctance against overwhelming odds. Their astonishingly incompetent political leadership has squandered thirty years since the hubris-inducing victory of June 1967. In that time Israelis have built illegal compounds in the occupied territories and grown a carapace of cynicism: toward the Palestinians, whom they regard with contempt, and toward a United States whose erstwhile benevolent disengagement they have manipulated shamelessly.

Israel poses no lasting threat to Syria or to the Hizbollah in Lebanon, the military wing of Hamas or any other extremist organization. On the contrary, these have long thrived on its predictable reaction to their attacks. But the present government of Israel has come close to destroying the Palestinian Authority. After the events of the last month Palestinian politicians foolish enough to take Israelis at their word will be castigated as quislings, and dispatched accordingly. The state of Israel has largely deprived itself of credible Palestinian interlocutors.

This is the distinctive achievement of Ariel Sharon, Israel's dark Id. Notorious among soldiers for his strategic incompetence—his tactical success with bold tank advances was never matched by any grasp of the bigger picture—Sharon has proven as bad as so many of us feared. He has repeated (or in the case of the expulsion of Arafat, tried to repeat) all the mistakes of his 1982 occupation of Lebanon, down to the very rhetoric. Sharon's obsession with Yasser Arafat brings to mind Victor Hugo's Inspector Javert, his life and career insanely given over to the destruction of Jean Valjean at the price of all measure and reason, including his own (the literary comparison flatters Sharon and Arafat alike).

Meanwhile he has single-handedly raised Arafat's international stature to its highest point in years. If he ever gets rid of Arafat, and the bombers keep coming, as they will, what will Sharon do then? And what will he do when young Arabs from Israel itself, inflamed by Israel's treatment of their cousins in occupied Jenin and Ramallah, volunteer for suicide missions? Will he send the tanks into the Galilee? Put up electric fences around the Arab districts of Haifa?


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Sharon and the Israeli political establishment—not to mention the country's liberal intelligentsia who, Pilate-like, have washed their hands of responsibility—are chiefly to blame for the present crisis, but they are not alone. Precisely because the Israelis assume that they have a blank check from Washington, the US is willy-nilly a party to this mess. All serious efforts in the past thirty years to find peace in the Middle East, from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton, have begun with American urging and intervention. Why, then, did the Bush administration step aside for so long, provoking international ire and jeopardizing its future influence?

Why did the American president continue to confine himself in late March and early April to the disingenuous suggestion that "Arafat should do more" to rein in suicide bombers, while the leader of the Palestinian Authority sat imprisoned in three rooms, a single cell phone at his disposal? Why, during the buildup to the present crisis, did a man of the sophistication and intelligence of Colin Powell docilely accept Sharon's cynical demand for an arbitrary period of "absolute calm" (saving sporadic Israeli assassinations) before any political discussions could begin? Why has the US stood by while, as The New York Times put it on April 9, "more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded since Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships rolled into the West Bank on March 29"? Why, in short, has the US voluntarily attached itself to a leash marked "terrorism" with which Sharon can jerk it to and fro at will?

The answer, sadly, is September 11. Until then, even Bush was mindful of the need to warn Israelis against "targeted assassinations," as he did last August. But since September 11 the very words "terrorism" and "terrorist" have silenced rational foreign policy debate. Ariel Sharon had only to declare Yasser Arafat the head "of a terrorist network" for Washington to fall sheepishly in line behind any military action he takes. We are mesmerized by the new rhetoric of this "war on terror": any politician who can convincingly label his domestic or foreign critics as "terrorists" is guaranteed at least the ear of the American government, and usually something more.

"Terrorist" risks becoming the mantra of our time, like "Communist," "capitalist," "bourgeois," and others before it. Like them, it closes off all further discussion. The word has its own history: Hitler and Stalin typically described their opponents as "terrorists." Terrorists really exist, of course, just as there are real bourgeois and genuine Communists; terror against civilians is the weapon of choice of the weak. But the problem is that "terrorist," like "rogue state," is a protean rhetorical device which can boomerang: Jewish terrorists were among the founders of the state of Israel and it may not be long before the United Nations passes a resolution defining Israel as a rogue state.

The first stage of any solution in the Middle East, then, is for the United States to abandon its self-defeating rhetorical obsession with a war on terrorism, which has put US foreign policy into Ariel Sharon's back pocket, and start behaving like the great power it is. Instead of being blackmailed into silence by the Israeli prime minister, Washington must require of him and any Palestinian representatives who have survived his attentions that they begin talking. Two years ago, even one year ago, it might have been reasonable to demand of the Palestinian Authority that all bombings halt before such talks begin. But thanks to Ariel Sharon, no Palestinian open to negotiations is in a position to meet such a demand. So it must be talks and a peace agreement with or without bombings.

The Israelis, of course, will ask how they can speak to men who have condoned suicide bombings of Israeli civilians. Palestinians will retort that they have nothing to say to those who claim to want a permanent peace but have built thirty new colonial settlements in the past year alone. Both sides have good grounds for mistrust. But there is no alternative; they must both be made to talk.[2] And then they will have to start forgetting.


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There is much to forget. Palestinians remember the mass expulsions of 1948, land expropriations, economic exploitation, the colonization of the West Bank, political assassinations, and a hundred petty daily humiliations. Israelis remember the war of 1948, the Arab refusal to recognize their state before 1967 and since, reiterated threats to drive the Jews into the sea, and the terrifying, random civilian massacres of the past year.

But Middle Eastern memories are neither unique nor even distinctive in their scale. For two decades the Irish Republican Army regularly shot to death Protestant civilians on their doorsteps, in front of their children. Protestant gunmen responded in kind. The violence continues, though much reduced. This has not stopped moderate Protestants from talking publicly to their Sinn Fein counterparts; Gerry Adams and Martin McGinnis are now accepted as legitimate political leaders. Elsewhere, less than six years after the 1944 massacre at the village of Oradour, where the SS burned alive seven hundred French men, women, and children, France and Germany came together to form the core of a new European project.

In the final convulsions of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Poles and Ukrainians were killed or expelled from their respective territories by neighboring Ukrainians and Poles, in a frenzy of intercommunal violence unmatched by anything ever seen in the Middle East; at their present rate it would take Jews and Arabs many decades to reach comparable death tolls. Yet today Poles and Ukrainians, for all their tragic memories, live not only at peace but in growing collaboration and cooperation along a tranquil border.

It can be done. In the Middle East today each side dwells within hermetically sealed memories and national narratives in which the other side's pain is invisible and inaudible. But so did the Algerians and the French, the French and the Germans, the Ukrainians and the Poles, and, especially, Protestants and Catholics in Ulster. There is no magic moment when the walls come down, but the sequence of events is clear: first comes the political solution, typically imposed from outside and above, often when mutual resentment is at its peak. Only then can the forgetting begin.

The present moment, with Ariel Sharon about to set in motion a long cycle of death and decay across the region, may be the eleventh hour, as the American president has belatedly acknowledged. It surely is for Israel. Long before the Arabs get their land and their state, Israel will have decayed from within. The fear of seeming to show solidarity with Sharon, which already inhibits many from visiting Israel, will rapidly extend to the international community at large, making of Israel a pariah state. Bad as he is for the Palestinians, they will survive Sharon. The prospects for Israel are less sure. For the rest of the world the Middle East crisis represents an enhanced risk of international war, and a likely guarantee that America's war on terror, however described, will fail.[3]

Well-meaning observers of the contemporary Middle East sometimes place their faith in the enlightened self-interest of the warring parties. Palestinians, they suggest, would be so much better off accepting Israeli hegemony in return for material prosperity and personal security that sooner or later they will surely abandon their demands for full independence. To the extent that there is a strategic calculation behind Sharon's tanks, this is it: sufficiently cowed, the Arabs will see how much they have to lose by fighting and agree to a peaceful life on Israel's terms.

This is perhaps the most dangerous of all colonial illusions. There is little doubt that most Algerian Arabs would have been better off under French rule than under the repressive indigenous regimes that replaced it. The same is true for the citizens of many of the postcolonial states once ruled from London. But the measure of the well-lived life is not readily taken by calculations of income, longevity, or even safety. As Aron observed, "It is a denial of the experience of our century to suppose that men will sacrifice their passions for their interests." That is why, in their treatment of their Arab subjects, the Israelis are on the road to nowhere. There is no alternative to peace negotiations and a final settlement. And if not now, when?

—April 11, 2002

Notes
[1] Paris: Plon, 1958. See also his La Tragédie algérienne (Paris: Plon, 1957).

[2] One real impediment is that Ariel Sharon is on record as opposing any final peace settlement remotely acceptable to anyone outside Israel. He cannot negotiate in good faith. The Israelis need to find someone who can.

[3] American commentators and officials are quick to deny any link between anti-Americanism and the Israel– Palestine conflict. But to just about everyone else in the world the relationship is grimly obvious.



These pieces were written by screenwriter Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane,"
"Murder in the First," "Wyatt Earp," "Passenger 57"). He's an
Israeli-American who served in the Israeli army and who is an ardent
supporter of the peace process. He recently went to Jenin to find out for
himself what happened there. His observations and insights are cogent and
much needed....
----------------------------------------------------
By Dan Gordon

4-19-02

As someone who has made a living for over thirty years by taking certain
facts and ignoring others in order to create dramatic myths on film, I know
propaganda when I see it. When I engage in it as a screenwriter it is to
write a movie whose first job is to entertain. What has been coming out of
Jenin this last week, however, is posing as unbiased journalism whose first
obligation is to seek out and report the truth. In some instances the
reports have been no less a fiction than what I write for a living.

When I write a screenplay, I start out with an agenda. I decide who my
hero is first, and who the villain. Then I fashion scenes to build my
dramatic case and make it believable. That is, I believe, exactly what
occurred with regard to at least one reporter on Tuesday, April 16th of this
year in Jenin. I was there. I saw everything they saw, I heard everything
they heard, I smelled everything they smelled and did not smell. And the
truth is there was no smell of death on that day, and absolutely no bodies
were found while the press tour, of which I was a part, was in the Jenin
refugee camp. Not one body, not one.

For the record, I am biased. I am an Israeli American. I served in the
Israel Defense Forces some twenty years ago. I was also and continue to be
a
peace activist who has held talks with members of the PLO and PFLP long
before Oslo. I have had high level and sometimes secret meetings in Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, long before it was legal for
an
Israeli to do so. I continue to believe that Israel will never have the
security it desires without a peaceful Palestinian state next to it, and
that
the Palestinians will never get the state they want without deciding once
and
for all to live in peace with Israel. I went to Jenin to find out what
happened there.

There was a tale told by the Israeli reservists who fought there, of
Palestinian suicide bombers, trained, equipped and sent out from Jenin.
There was a claim made that the suicide killers sent out from the Jenin
refugee camp were responsible for almost half the terrorist bombings that
have occurred, including some of the worst attacks in Jerusalem, Haifa,
Afula
and Netanya, which left over one hundred twenty Israeli civilians blown to
pieces in the month of March alone, and four hundred seventy killed in the
last eighteen months. That slow and ongoing massacre specifically targeting
innocent civilians, men, women and children, infants and the elderly, is not
an estimate. Those bodies have already been found and buried. The Israeli
reservists who fought in Jenin laid out a strong case, providing hard
physical evidence that the Jenin refugee camp was a factory for suicide
killers. That evidence was largely omitted or ignored by the reporter and
network in question. The reservists claimed that they were ordered by their
commanders to fight in such a way as to minimize civilian casualties as much
as possible. They claimed to have fought with light infantry arms only,
fighting house-to-house in fierce combat in narrow streets and alleys laced
everywhere with booby traps made up of propane tanks and shrapnel, bombs and
homemade mines and grenades that turned the alleyways of the camp from a
residential area into a death trap akin to what happened to the American
forces in the Blackhawk down, fighting in Somalia. Only then did the
Israeli
reservists bring in the giant D-9 bulldozers. They stopped the fighting and
got on loudspeakers and called for the evacuation of the buildings from
which
they sustained so much deadly gunfire that twenty-three of them were killed,
and almost seventy wounded. Only after evacuating the civilians who came
out
did they proceed to bulldoze the building. They went on like this, building
after building, house to house, pausing, calling for civilians to evacuate,
and then using the bulldozers.

These were the Israeli's claims, and there was a good deal of evidence in
the area to back them up, but the reporter in question didn't bother to
refute them. She simply ignored them. The camera starts on piles of rubble,
scenes of devastation as we hear the reporter's voice over, "Before the
Israeli forces invaded two weeks ago, this was the crowded center of the
Jenin refugee camp. There were apartment houses in twisting narrow streets,
bustling and busy. That neighborhood is now gone, erased by Israeli
bulldozers, turned into a river of concrete and twisted steel spreading over
two city blocks. Everywhere there is evidence of life interrupted."

Now, let me tell you what there is evidence of. Before one enters the
refugee camp, one passes through the very pleasant little town of Jenin.
The
entrance to the camp is simply another street feeding off the town's main
road, and only some one hundred meters from the rest of the town, which is
also a residential area, though one decidedly more middle-class. There are
handsome single family homes and yards, businesses and apartments. Not a
one
of those buildings appears to be touched; no bullet holes from Israeli
machine guns, not one house bulldozed, indeed, not even a broken window
anywhere in sight. All this is only one hundred meters away from the scene
of the fighting. The reason there is no devastation here is quite simple.
No one was shooting at the Israeli reservists from these buildings, and so,
quite properly, they did not shoot back. And who lives in these suburban
homes? Are they of a different racial stock, perhaps, and thus were spared?
Are they Swiss? No. They are the Palestinian Arab residents of the town of
Jenin. The difference between them and those waiting for the reservists in
the booby-trapped camp was a very simple one. They were not terrorists.
They were not fighters. Those waiting for the reservists in the camp were.

One reservist sensed the reporter's hostility. He was a soft-spoken man
who approached her and introduced himself as the reserve unit's medical
officer Dr. David Zangen. He spoke very politely to her and said he was
troubled by what he perceived as her bias. He told her that he worked in
the
trauma unit of Hadassah Hospital. He was the one who took care of most of
the suicide bombing victims in Jerusalem, whose killers, they had proof, had
been trained, equipped and sent out of the Jenin camp terrorists
organizations. His head nurse had a fifteen-year-old daughter who was blown
to pieces at the Sbarro Pizza. He knew exactly why he was in Jenin.
Moreover, he told her he was a doctor, not a soldier, a reservist, not a
regular army man. They were all reservists, fathers with children who were
all sitting at home on the first night of Passover, when the suicide bombing
in Netanya killed what has now totaled almost thirty people and wounded
dozens more. He told her that when the fighting was over, they found in
some
of the apartments which has been turned into booby-trapped forward
positions,
photograph albums of children from roughly six years of age up through early
and mid-teens. At first they didn't know what the albums were for, until
the
notations written next to each photo were translated. The notations
indicated that this one was ripe to become a suicide bomber right now, and
that one in another year, and this one in six months. It was an album of
photos of children who would be the next crop of suicide killers. The
reporter had no time for the doctor, however. You won't find him anywhere
in
the report, despite how compelling his story and how informative his claims
are if true. Instead, the reporter dismissed the doctor by saying, "Well,
perhaps you should ask yourself why."

"I do, Madam," he said, "I ask myself why. I can't imagine it. I can't
imagine sending one's child out to be a mass murderer who commits suicide to
murder women and children."

"Well, I can explain it," said the reporter, "For me it all comes down to
one word, 'occupation.'"

"But Madam," the doctor said, " Jenin hasn't been occupied for nine years."

But the reporter just turned and walked away. She was looking for scenes
of bodies being pulled from the rubble and was upset, I'm sure, that she
hadn't gotten the footage. You see, no bodies were found in Jenin when
we were there. So there would have been time for the Doctor's comments, but
they didn't fit the script she'd already written. So she simply used
footage
from another day, footage she hadn't shot, one bare foot sticking out from
under a piece of rubble, which she had never seen, which had been shot
evidently the day before, when the pickings were better.

Now, none of this would matter very much if the subject being reported was
the fat content of a particular brand of potato chips. This report,
however,
and others like it, are not just propaganda. They are dangerous obstacles
to
peace. There are myths being propagated of five hundred or more civilians
killed in cold blood, of war crimes and mass murder, and reports like this,
masquerading as truth, serve only to inflame the hatreds that are already
there, as are the next crop of suicide bombers, who are waiting to avenge
the
massacre that I believe never was.

4/22/02


The front page Sunday Report in the April 21st edition of the LA Times is
entitled "The Battle That Defines the Israeli Offensive." It in many ways
is
an article that typifies, if not defines, the coverage that has been coming
out of Jenin. "What exactly happened in the Jenin camp," says the article,
"has been cloaked in mystery, largely because Israel for days banned the
entry of rescue workers, journalists, and other independent eyes. Reporters
who circumvented the restrictions have pieced together the events of the
camp..." The impression given is that the writer is one who circumvented
those
restrictions of the Israeli military. That is simply untrue. The writer,
Tom
Miller, rode into Jenin, courtesy of the Israeli military, on an Israeli
armored personnel carrier. I know, because I rode in it with him.

Journalists were allowed into the camp less than a week after the
heaviest fighting ended. As Mr. Miller should recall, gunfire could still be
heard in the camp on the day we were there. The reason the Israelis gave
for
keeping journalists and others out of the camp for those first few days was
because the camp was still booby-trapped. Mr. Miller doesn't mention that
either, though most of the journalists who did report that fact pooh-poohed
the notion. However, on that same front page of the April 21st edition,
there is the report of a Palestinian medic in Jenin who suffered severe
injuries, "When he stepped on what local doctors said was a mine." Civilians
were kept out of Jenin for several days, precisely for that reason.

The Times Reporter could also have pointed out that the refugee camp sits
adjacent to the city of Jenin, and that the entrance to the camp is only
about a hundred meters off the main road. That is of interest because not
only are there no bulldozed buildings in the city of Jenin, one would be
hard-pressed to find a broken windowpane there. This is so because no one
fired on the Israeli soldiers from those buildings, and so they did not fire
back. That the Jenin refugee camp had been turned into a booby-trapped
armed
fortress is not a matter of conjecture. The writer and I both saw that with
our own eyes. Anyone who chose to stay in the Jenin refugee camp knew that
it would be a battleground, and chose to throw in their lot with the armed
terrorists who were determined to make a stand, and use the camp's narrow
alleyways for tactical advantage in the battle they knew was coming.

Had the Israelis attacked the camp, as American forces attacked similar
objectives in Afghanistan, or NATO forces operated in Yugoslavia, with
massive airpower from B-52's, or fighter bombers, they could have destroyed
the camp within minutes without the loss of a single Israeli soldier. They
chose instead to use light infantry and house-to-house fighting. As the
father of one soldier killed in action said, "My son died to appease CNN."
When twenty-three Israeli soldiers were killed, and close to a hundred
wounded, they brought in D-9 tractor bulldozers. It's very difficult to get
out of the way of a bomb. It's very easy to get out of the way of a
bulldozer, especially when the Israeli forces called out in Arabic to
evacuate civilians at every turn. The Palestinians have claimed that five
hundred to a thousand people were massacred. The Israelis say the numbers
are in dozens, not hundreds, and all overwhelmingly combatants. Thus far,
only forty-two bodies have been found. Thirty-six of them are men. Those
numbers bear out the Israelis' account, but that is a conclusion the writers
of the article refuse to draw.

The Israeli offensive didn't occur in a vacuum. The reservists were
sitting in their homes on March 28th as civilians, not soldiers. It was the
Passover Massacre in Netanya which brought the number of Israelis killed in
the month of March alone to over one hundred twenty dead, and hundreds more
wounded, that triggered Israel's offensive in the Jenin camp. All of those
killed were targeted civilians, not the inevitable accidents of a war that
Arafat and the Palestine authority brought upon themselves.





April 23, 2002

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW WITH DR. HELEN CALDICOTT, FOUNDER OF THE MODERN ANTI-NUCLEAR MOVEMENT

Amidst the smoke and fog of the Bush administration's permanent "war on terror," the looming potential for a nuclear disaster has been swept under the rug.

BuzzFlash was honored to recently interview Dr. Helen Caldicott. The world's leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr. Helen Caldicott is the founder of the Nobel Prize winning Physicians for Social Responsibility, and herself a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Both the Smithsonian Institute and Ladies Home Journal named her one of the most Influential Women of the Twentieth Century, and she has honorary degrees from nineteen universities. She divides her time between Australia and the United States, where she has devoted the last thirty years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age.

Dr. Caldicott's latest book, "The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush's Military-Industrial Complex," is available as a BuzzFlash Premium. * * *

BUZZFLASH: You have a new book, Dr. Caldicott, The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush's Military-Industrial Complex. You are quoted as saying, "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." Can you explain why you think this is such a critical time in terms of the potential for nuclear destruction?

HELEN CALDICOTT: Yes, well, I was very worried during the Reagan era with the people in charge then. And we knew that we were on hair-trigger alert with thousands of weapons in Russia and America, ready to go off with half an hour's notice. Then, during the Clinton era, nothing changed. Clinton tried to get rid of nuclear weapons, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military prevailed, so there's still two-and-a-half thousand hydrogen bombs in America on hair-trigger alert, and two-and-a-half thousand in Russia on hair-trigger alert, facing each other, even though the Cold War's over and they're best friends. Now after September 11th or on that date, the early warning system in America went onto the highest state of alert, just before the button gets pressed by George Bush. I don't know how long we stayed on a high state of alert, but I would think for quite a long time. That means there would have been planes circling in the air with hydrogen bombs, and the men in the missile silos ready to press the buttons.

And it would have been the same in Russia. The Russian early warning system has declined, so it's only operative eight hours a day, because their satellites are rusty and they've worn out. But their weapons still work. Now, added onto that, is the fact that most of us don't know that we're on hair-trigger alert and that we could have had a nuclear war on or after September 11th. We nearly had an accidental nuclear war in 1995, where Yeltsin nearly pressed the button. And those situations occur not infrequently.

We have the nuclear cowboys in charge now in the White House that just released their nuclear posture paper that says, for the first time in history, America will actually use nuclear weapons on non-nuclear nations if she so desires. So that lowers the threshold, too.

As well as that, the Middle East is blowing up like we've never seen it before. And that, of course, inflames the passions of many people around the world who care deeply about the Middle East. Israel's got at least 200 hydrogen bombs, and if necessary, I think she would use one or two, although it could be suicidal.

There are a million men facing each other in Pakistan and India, and they're nuclear armed as well. So that's a very volatile situation also.

George Bush is going around saying that the U.S. can fight sixty countries -- sixty more countries if necessary -- because they might have a terrorist. They are talking about using "backup nuclear weapons." And, in fact, Cheney is preparing the groundwork to go into Iraq, even though Iraq has had no relationship at all, apparently, with the terrorist attacks in America. Iraq could get upset. She could launch SCUD missiles towards Israel, and then God knows what would happen then. So you can see that the world has the flame lit. It's laced with nuclear weapons, laced with enormous conventional weapons, and it's more unstable, I think, than I've ever seen it in my life.

BUZZFLASH: Now you also argue that much of the current posturing or, I should say, Bush administration eagerness to build up both the nuclear arsenal and to threaten the use of nuclear weapons, is, in part, due to the nuclear industry urging this. You mention Lockheed-Martin and that Congress passed $300 million in additional funding for nuclear weapons. To what degree do you think this is somewhat industry-driven -- the arms industry -- and to what extent is it a reflection of what you call the Bush nuclear cowboy philosophy?

HELEN CALDICOTT: This is a corporate administration -- no doubt about that. We've seen that with their energy policy -- the Enron influence. The Petroleum Institute influenced the energy policy -- it was written by the energy corporations, even though global warming is occurring, and we're in serious trouble. If you look at the environmental appointees, they all come from the industry

But specifically, in the military area, Lockheed-Martin has an enormous influence in this administration. Many of the appointees are actually former employees of Lockheed-Martin. Lynne Cheney, Cheney's wife, sat on the board of Lockheed-Martin for twenty years and was handsomely paid. Cheney helped Halliburton become the 22nd largest Pentagon contractor.

And Lockheed-Martin has a role to play at almost every level of Star Wars. Lockheed-Martin helped to resource the expansion of NATO, and also to remove the restrictions on weapons sales to countries in Latin America that violate human rights. So Lockheed-Martin, through the Heritage Foundation, too, I may say, which pushes for Star Wars and everything else, and the Center for Security Policy, which is also influenced by Lockheed-Martin, and they push Star Wars, has an enormous influence in the media, in the Congress, in the administration, and every level of legislation and the media, and influence upon the American people.

BUZZFLASH: What about the Heritage Foundation?

HELEN CALDICOTT: The Heritage Foundation is funded by corporations like Hertz Rent-A-Car, Holiday Inn, Coors Beer, Ocean Spray Cranberries, and Reader's Digest. But Lockheed-Martin sits on the board. And the Heritage Foundation is a major force that is pushing for Star Wars in a most effective fashion, both in the media, in the administration, in the Congress, and at the Pentagon level. And the Heritage Foundation, as you know, every time we turn the television on, there's a spokesperson from the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation really is an advertising arm or body for the corporations. They call themselves a think tank, but they're not a think tank. They're advertising, really, the products that the corporations make a nd influencing foreign policy. I mean, I think the State Department has little say now in foreign policy. It's really run by the Pentagon and Rumsfeld, et al, and the corporations. I can't see any of the State Department's people playing a role here. Where are the wise and sagacious people that this country once really fostered here and around the world?

BUZZFLASH: When it comes to our nuclear policy, the administration has successfully overshadowed everything with the threat of terrorism, and put a damper on discussion of any other issues. And nuclear policy is one of those issues that seems to have gone underground, even though there were press reports and, for whatever reason, someone leaked this Pentagon nuclear posture review. It really didn't provoke much discussion beyond a day or two. It was just sort of a blip in the anti-terror efforts. And now the Middle East crisis. What do you think is going to awaken Americans or the world at large to what you call the new nuclear danger?

HELEN CALDICOTT: Well, I suppose, if India or Pakistan set off a couple of bombs, that would wake them up. If a terrorist decided to attack one of your 103 nuclear reactors, you could contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania so that people could never live there again, and produce an epidemic of cancers, leukemias and congenital diseases. That would wake people up. If it gets so bad in the Middle East that Israel decides to use one of her 200 nuclear weapons, that would wake people up. And if the international situation becomes so tenuous and fragile that, in fact, the early warning system was set off by mistake, by human error, by human fallibility, by anxiety, by computer error, and there was a nuclear holocaust. Of course, no one will be around to comment upon that situation later.

But I have to tell you that, having studied this issue for thirty years now, and as a physician, I think I've never seen the world in a more dangerous position, particularly if the media is ignoring the problem. You see, the issue of terrorism is underlined by the nuclear issue. You can't get away from that. And instead of using wise, sagacious policy to hunt out the terrorists, using all the intelligence agencies in the world, and bringing them to justice in the international court of justice, America went and bombed people with the most dreadful weapons in Afghanistan, and killed up to 5,000 people, most of them civilians. And terror begets terror; vengeance begets vengeance. And as someone once said, "in the dark time, the eye begins to see."

I think we're in a very, very, very dangerous situation and we must grow up emotionally and spiritually, so that we don't kill each other. We have to stop killing because killing will almost automatically, in the nuclear age, I believe, with Star Wars happening, and the building of more exotic nuclear weapons, create a nuclear holocaust.

BUZZFLASH: What are your thoughts on the Bush fiasco antiballistic missile system, particularly in relation to -- and you mentioned it earlier -- the ability of small groups of terrorists, even at this point, to build a small nuclear bomb, and, just carry it in a suitcase into Manhattan. I mean, the antiballistic missile system seems to give the appearance -- or the Bush administration would tout -- of increasing security, when it seems to be going over the target, so to speak.

HELEN CALDICOTT: Well, first of all, it will never work. And all reputable scientists worth their salt say that there is no way you can hit a missile with a missile. It's impossible to do. They're cooking the experiments now at the moment that they're conducting "tests" over the Pacific.

But what it will do is create a much more destabilized world, because Bush has already announced, I suppose through Cheney, that he will violate the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in June. The Antiballistic Missile Treaty is the underpinning or cornerstone of all other arms control, that is to say, nuclear arms control treaties. So that allows other countries to say, well, if you're doing it, we'll do it. We'll build nuclear weapons. Russia and America have said that if you build an antiballistic missile system, we'll just build thousands more nuclear weapons and missiles and saturate it. And that's the way to do it, so it will create a massive vertical nuclear arms race like we've never seen before. But it will also create a lateral nuclear arms race, as other countries who are currently non-nuclear say you're building an antiballistic missile system just to protect yourself? You've got nuclear weapons? Why shouldn't we? So we'll build nuclear weapons too. And even Australia is murmuring such things at the moment.

So we're entering an extraordinarily destabilizing era. And as well as that, America is about to militarize space. And it's going to have anti-satellite weapons knock out other people's satellites. The whole global economy now and communication systems depend on satellites. But they're building anti-satellite weapons as we speak. They're attempting to build laser-beam weapons that will orbit the earth that can literally vaporize cities at the speed of light. And probably -- I think inevitably -- they'll put nuclear weapons in space as well, because the antiballistic missile system won't work. So in their back pocket, they'll have nuclear weapons, which actually will knock out satellites on their way >from one country to another.

BUZZFLASH: You spoke of the new American policy on the possibility of strategic use of smaller nuclear weapons. How does that destabilize the situation?

HELEN CALDICOTT: Well, it crosses the firewall between conventional and nuclear weapons, so that the Pentagon views some nuclear weapons as just, sort of like conventional weapons, only slightly bigger. And in fact, that's the way quite a lot of the Pentagon spokespeople are speaking. Then they have removed the inhibitions to use nuclear weapons. Once one nuclear weapon is used in hostility in the world, it could trigger a global thermonuclear holocaust -- the nuclear winter and the end of most life on the planet. Once one is used, it could trigger the whole thing, so tenuous and fragile is the early warning system in Russia, America, China, France, Britain and Israel.

BUZZFLASH: Well, what do you think is going on in the mind of the Bush administration and the people who are proposing the option for the strategic use of smaller nuclear weapons that would preclude them from understanding that this could lead and trigger very quickly, if not immediately, to a nuclear holocaust. Is it just the hubris? Arrogance? What are they missing?

HELEN CALDICOTT: I think there are many levels. I think there is psychic numbing and denial. I researched the nuclear weapons labs. And they talk about nuclear weapons almost as people. And when a man designs a new weapon and tests it in the desert, he actually sleeps with the mechanism of the bomb the night before the test. He talks about giving birth to the bomb. He talked about having labor pains. And he talks about postnatal depression after the weapon is exploded.

I think we haven't explored the psyche of these men's minds adequately enough, because the cause of the nuclear disease, which infects the planet, is the psyche of these men. And the rest of us seem to be onlookers. I think others are truly, in a way, pathological. They hate so much, and they project their hatred onto other people, using this enormous power that we've harnessed -- the energy inside the sun. But they seem to see that as sort of normal and okay. I won't name them, but there are people in the Pentagon who are the leading hawks, who would -- who talk quite normally about using nuclear weapons, as if it's an everyday thing. And those people were actually associated with the Reagan administration, too. And then you've got the right-wing Christians actually who are hoping for Armageddon and Revelation
-- the end times, they call them. And they say when that happens that, you know, they'll rise up and meet Jesus in the sky. And some of those people are present in the administration. Not as many as there were in the Reagan era, b ut there's some.

And I think we haven't really adequately examined the psychology well enough. And somehow, people are too afraid to go into that area. But that's the etiology of a nuclear disease. Like, you know, you might have a rash that is itchy. But unless I can diagnose that you have Hodgkin's disease, and the rash is a symptom of your Hodgkin's disease, then I can't cure you. Instead of talking about numbers of nuclear weapons, and hair-trigger systems, and early warning systems, and wars here, there and everywhere, we have to look at the actual cause of the disease or we can't cure it. And it's in men's minds. And if those men in the Pentagon and the White House are not adequately wise enough to: A) not use nuclear weapons; B) to work with Russia to eliminate nuclear weapons in the world; and C) think that they could use nuclear weapons without disastrous results, they should be removed from office as a public health measure to protect the people of the planet. They're not appropriate, in the nuclear age, to have any power or control at all.

BUZZFLASH: If you were in the administration at this point, or let's say you were in the White House and you were President of the United States, what policies would you adopt the first day you assumed office in regards to nuclear policy?

HELEN CALDICOTT: I would just say I would make an appointment with Putin, and I would either fly to Russia or invite him to the White House, and have several days of discussion with my top people about how to actually, for the first time in the nuclear age, abolish nuclear weapons. Now you can't get rid of the plutonium that lasts a half a million years, but how to decommission the weapons bilaterally, multilaterally, in a civilized, concerted fashion. And that would be at the top of my agenda.

If I found I had people in the Pentagon who opposed those policies, they would not be in the Pentagon for much longer. There are many people in the Pentagon though, as you may know, who are deeply concerned about nuclear weapons. I would use the most sagacious people in the Pentagon as consultants. I would use the wise people in the State Department, of whom there are many. I would tap the universities around the country. And you have wonderful people in conflict resolution. And I would use those people to the best of my ability. I would call in France and Britain, and China and Israel, and say what I was going to do. All of those countries except Israel have said if Russia and America disarm, they will too. Israel would need its arm twisted a bit behind its back, but it would comply too.

I would then transfer the expertise of the Pentagon to the United Nations and work in harmony with the family of man -- men and women -- to create peace throughout the world. And police it properly using the United Nations peacekeeping forces. And never do anything that violates the U.N. Charter. I'd develop humility and help the American people to know that it's such a powerful country, and it has the ability to help to save the planet. Redistribute wealth around the world. Educate the women and provide them with free contraceptives to stop the overpopulation of the planet. Deal with children of the world. Educate them. Stop global warming. Have alternative energy mechanisms so that we stop producing CO2. Help to save the ozone layer. Plant millions of trees, so our children have a future. Save the species of the world that are being destroyed at a hundred a day. I mean, need I go on? There's so much to be done, and it's so easy - so easy to be done. It's so simple.

BUZZFLASH: At BuzzFlash, we recently read an article (Friday, March 29th, from the Associated Press) that nuclear power plants -- the industry in the United States -- are starting to take the name "nuclear" out of their plants. And that this is apparently an industry PR trend -- to try to make the plants seem safer. Are we maybe going to see nuclear bombs called energy-efficient bombs?

HELEN CALDICOTT: Well, Reagan called the MX "the peacekeeper," didn't he? Oh, well, euphemisms abound in this administration and have for awhile. I doubt if the people of America will buy nuclear power plants being called by nice names because they're very scared at the moment. They're old. They're rusty. And they could well be the next meltdown victims, and that would be the end of those people. But they're scared, too, of terrorists. I mean, all you need to do is destroy the cooling system of a reactor, which needs a million gallons a minute of water circulating in its system, and you'll have a meltdown. All you need to do is destroy the external electricity supply, which is very easy. You'd have a meltdown. All you need to do is infiltrate the control room and the controller, and like Three Mile Island, with a series of errors or planned errors, produce a meltdown. Or at Chernobyl.

BUZZFLASH: And I believe the Vice President, Cheney, a few months back, said it's time to start the nuclear power industry up again. He claimed that there was a sensationalistic fear of nuclear power plants. And we should be looking to them for a new generation of power.

HELEN CALDICOTT: I think he once talked about 410 new nuclear reactors in the country. And Cheney -- I don't understand Cheney at all. He's one of the most frightening people I think I've ever read about in my life. And then there's Rumsfeld, who Henry Kissinger called the most ruthless man he's ever known, including global potentates. And so Rumsfeld -- he consistently doesn't tell the truth to the American people, but he charms the media. And it seems nobody has the courage to take him on and question him in a potent, critical way. And he worries me enormously as well. Cheney tends to live underground at the moment.

BUZZFLASH: Except when he's fundraising.

HELEN CALDICOTT: Except when he's fundraising. He's so -- his secret government, which is not answerable to the Congress. So I think it's time we woke up and realized that we're in enormous danger, and that this is a wonderful democracy. And let's stop being paralyzed by fear. But let's use democracy to help not just to save this country, but the planet.

BUZZFLASH: Let me just ask a final question, which is about the book itself. What will a reader find in this book?

HELEN CALDICOTT: It's pretty comprehensive. I wrote a post-September 11th introduction, talking about what could and should have happened, I believe. And what has happened in Afghanistan, and the sort of weapons they used -- the bombs that explode with such force and negative pressure, it literally sucks people's eyeballs out of their cavities, and ruptures lungs. Over 5,000 civilians have been killed, and as I said in my book, body parts are body parts, whether they're black and a white hand holding each other, being found in the street of New York, or they're a child with its head blown off in Afghanistan. And I talk a lot about dropping bombs from 40,000 feet in the air - about unmanned drone predators shooting hellfire missiles by computer control. The book itself talks a lot about corporate control of this administration and the Pentagon. It talks about the nuclear weapons labs, the language they use, a new Manhattan Project, and all the extraordinary experiments they're doing to create more powerful weapons and maybe pure fusion bombs.

It talks about the nuclear weapons in Iraq. How the incidents of childhood cancer in those areas has gone up six times. How the pediatricians can't treat their patients because of the sanctions. They can't get chemotherapeutic agents, antibiotics, or radiotherapy instruments. And the incidents of congenital malformations have at least doubled, and that will continue on for the rest of time. I talk about the five layers of Star Wars, how each layer supposedly "works," and the militarization of space. I go through the medical implications of nuclear war yet again, and nuclear winter. And then I talk about the Bush administration and have an analysis of the major people in the Bush administration -- how they think and what they're doing. So it's fairly comprehensive. It's pretty dense -- an encyclopedia, if you will, of what is currently happening. And I think it's somewhat timely.

BUZZFLASH: Well, at the end of this bleak interview, is there any cause for hope?

HELEN CALDICOTT: My hope is always that I know from treating people on their deathbeds, or as their children are dying, the beauty of the human soul. And people that have lived rather wicked lives repent on their deathbeds. And you see the beauty of them. And I know as a physician that that's there all the time. And if I and others can get around to inspire enough people in this country, which is full of wonderful people, I know that people will have the courage of their convictions and of the beauty of their soul, and rise up and do the right thing. And it's really this country now that is deciding the fate of the earth. And I think the aphorism "In a dark time, the eye begins to see" - I think that's going to happen. And we have a lot of work to do.

We nearly ended the nuclear war. We did end the nuclear arms race in the eighties, but we didn't complete our work and abolish nuclear weapons. I'm now setting up an institute called the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. And it's going to be located in California to take on the Heritage Foundation full frontal in the media, so they stop lying -- or at least we catch them in their lies -- and teach the truth. So to create a mass movement through the media. And if you want to look that up, you can go to nuclearcommonsense.org, the website.

And if you have some major money you would like to contribute to saving the planet in this very fragile time, we would be very grateful for that. And as soon as I get some money, we'll be on television, taking on Rumsfeld.