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Letters

anon — October 1984

Send your letters to the Editorial Board, CANDIS, 736 Bathurst St., Toronto ON, M5S 2R4.

Focus on Nuclear Weapons

The article by Derek Rasmussen on ‘emerging technology’ weapons (Peac? Calendar, September 1984) was slanted and misleading. apparently written with the intention of confusing ET weapons using chemical explosives, with nuclear explosives. in order to stir up opposition to these weapons within the peace movement. We all are against war and for motherhood. but I have not personally formed a firm opinion about the overall value of these remarkable ET developments. What we all have to oppose utterly is the use of NUCLEAR weapons.

For this demanding task one of the essentials is clarity and accurate understanding of what we are talking about.

In the first paragraph. Mr. Rasmussen compares unspecified ET weapons with “the destructive potential of 3-4 kiloton nuclear bombs.” This is silly. The usual use of the word “kiloton” is the explosive power of 1,000 tons of TNT. For immediate killing nuclear bombs are very inefficient weapons in terms of deaths per ton (of TNT equivalent). One could as well compare a few ounces of nerve gas, efficiently distributed, to a nuclear explosion. Neither high explosives nor nerve gas can logically be compared with nuclear explosives; they are completely different in all other ways except that they kill people. The ET weapon systems make more efficient use of chemical explosives than conventional bombs and shells, but they are not like nuclear weapons.

The ‘Fuel-Air Explosives’ may welL as Mr. Rasmussen says. produce very high ,ltmospheric overpressures; but again, this is no reason to compare them with nuclear explosives. which produce their overpressures by an entirely different mechanism. and with all their other effects (radiation, EMP, Oash temperature. radiocative fallout) completely different. FAE’s can at most produce a few times the explosive power per pound of weapon as can TNT. since the basic chemical results are the same. principally the very rapid conversion of carbon and hydrogen in the explosive into carbon dioxide and water. Nuclear explosives produce a million times the explosive power, per pound of ‘fuel’ converted.

Another source of confusion in his mention of uranium-cored bullets without explanation. Most peace workers and readers of The Peace Calendar think of uranium in terms of its radioactivity and react adversely on that account. A uranium core for a bullet, however, is solely to add weight – uranium has twice the density of lead – and the radioactivity of a bullet-sized piece of uranium is completely negligible. “Depleted uranium” is quite cheap, and is used to shield patients and staff from the radioactive Cobalt-60 in radiotherapy machines.

Mr. Rasmussen goes on to discuss and reject the interesting possibility that the ET type of weapon may make nuclear war less likely, but here again he blurs the distinction between the much more efficient killing power of high explosive distributed by the new weapons, and nuclear weapons themselves. It is his type of journalism, not the nature of the weapons, that blurs the distinction. They ARE non-nuclear, and it is NOT a red herring to justify them so.

The important and unique characteristic of nuclear weapons is that a small fraction of the world’s arsenal, detonated in a war lasting only a few minutes or hours, would make the northern hemisphere, and perhaps the whole world, uninhabitable. Let us keep our wits about us as we try to thwart this terrible danger.

I am disappointed that you would publish this interesting but very slanted and possibly dishonest article without thorough editorial revision.

Alan F. Phillips, M.D.
Hamilton, ON

The author responds:

Dr. Phillips: Before responding to your complaints I must question two underlying assumptions of your letter. You say: “we all are against war and for motherhood ? what we all have to oppose utterly is the use of NUCLEAR weapons.”

Leaving aside motherhood (a painful process I’m glad I’ll never have to go through), I’m sure you’d agree that this “we’re-all-against-war” stuff is unadulterated crap. 95 of us joined the falsely-named “peace movement” to prevent our Buicksand bungalows from going up in a puff of radioactive smoke – not because we gave a damn about 25 million corpses of 150 conventional wars (all in the Third World) since 1945.

I fully agree that we must oppose nuclear weapons, but I don’t agree with your underlying implication that nuclear weapons are the one and only most important thing we should all oppose. Your letter and my article are being printed in something called The Peace Calendar. not The Anti-Nuclear Destruction of the Northern Hemisphere Calendar. “Peace,” according to my dictionary, is freedom from war – not just freedom from war on this continent. or freedom from nuclear. war.

But even if I did believe nuclear weapons were the “one and only” I’d still have to oppose conventional wars, because it is from these wars, mainly in the Third World, that

everyone (including Weinberger and his Pentagon cronies) believes nuclear war will start. And, as Daniel Ellsberg and others have proved, nuclear weapons have been USED by the United States at least 20 times since WW2. Just as I can use a loaded gun to extort money from you whether I pull the trigger or not, the U.S. has used nukes during interventions in the Third World – though so far without pulling the trigger.

I make this point because it is directly related to one of the four key conclusions of my article which you never address. Instead you nitpick about the varying “killing efficiencies” of different explosives starting a debate which dehumanizes all of us. My four arguments were:

  1. Canada is playing a key role in building these new hi-tech weapons
  2. these new weapons increase the likelihood of U.S. wars in the Third World
  3. these weapons increase the likelihood of nuclear war
  4. that peace activists should not support the new weapons as an “acceptable evil”,

I should also respond to your complaint that it is “silly” to compare ET weapons with 3-4 KT nuclear bombs; I strongly urge you to let NATO commander Gen. Bernard Rogers and his associates know your opinion, because the enthusiastic comparisons are theirs, not mine.

What pushed me to write the article, Dr. Phillips, was my fear that members of the peace movement, however repulsed by ET weapons would nonetheless support them as a “lesser evil” than nuclear weapons. I must admit, though, your response shocked me. You aren’t repulsed, nor do you see these weapons as any type of “evil” at all; in fact, you say that you haven’t formed an opinion about “the overall value of these remarkable ET developments.”

To help you in this regard I suggest you move to Lebanon and practice medicine there. According to Mary Kaldor, Israel tested some of the new hi-tech weapons during its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the effects equalled those of Lance nuclear. missiles. If Israel attacks again you will be fortunate enough to debate the “blurred distinctions” firsthand.

Finally, at various points you accuse me of producing a “slanted”. “misleading”, and “possibly dishonest” article. You are “disappointed” with The Peace Calendar, you say, for publishing the article without “thorough editorial revision”. Amnesty International has lists of many countries around the world which subject writers and the press to “thorough editorial revision”, perhaps you ought to consider moving to one of them.

Derek Rasmussen
Ottawa, On

US is the real threat

The decades of lies, half-truths and distortions that have gone into poisoning our relations with the Soviet Union are certainly paying off in large dividends for those who have a vested interest in their effectiveness.

That even the presumably well-meaning are ensnared is evidenced by how peace activists from the West persist in getting embroiled with so-called peace dissidents when visiting the USSR.

The fact that the dissidents are at odds with their govemmen~is apparently seen by western peace representatives as ample proof of their legitimacy, and sufficiellt reason to command our respect. Our patent eagerness to endorse them suggests we view these miniscule groups as symbolizing the true, genuine peace forces in their country.

The other side of that coin is to dismiss as “rubber stamps” for government policy the 80 million citizens whom the Soviets proudly vaunt as members of the peace movement. Little wonder authorities there become angry and objectionable.

Surely the criteria for appraising Soviet arms policy) and the validity of their “official” peace movement, are the proposals they advocate. The USSR, to cite a few examples, has consistently supported UN freeze resolutions, urges a ‘no first strike’ declaration, opposes the neutron bomb, and is against the deployment of cruise and Pershing II. The Soviet peace groups support these positions, as does the peace movement in the West.

It’s evidently difficult for some peace activists here to accept that the Soviet people genuinely support their government’s nuclear policies. But that can be readily understood if we recall that it is the US which has initiated every single new weapon in the arms race, from the atom bomb to the cruise missile. The USSR has always played catch-up in desperate efforts to achieve parity.

Details of the US lead in technology and weapons development are common knowledge in our peace movement, yet it does not deter some sincere peace workers such as Michael Rosenberg and Bert Keser (Letters, TPC, August 1984) from their view that Washington and Moscow are equally threatening to world peace.

We may legitimately criticize this or that aspect of Soviet policy, domestic and foreign, but we should not let our opinions in that area, nor our ideological differences, prevent us from objectively and honestly analyzing the Soviet stance on nuclear arms.

Toronto media critic Barrie Zwicker, in his excellent book War, Peace & the Media, emphasizes that there can be no fundamental resolution of the arms race while East-West tensions are fueled by Cold War distortions of the Soviet Union.

Clearly, attempts to develop ties with dissident “peace” groups do not contribute one iota to easing these tensions. Instead, such activity, while perhaps well-intentioned, plays into the hands of those who wish to maintain and exploit what Zwicker describes as the prevailing “grotesque stereotype” of the Soviets.

It is tempting and comfortable to equally the need for national spokespersons to deal with the media. How incredibly hierarchical! As if any person or small group of designees could possibly speak for so varied and widely scattered a peace movement as the Canadian. especially at this early stage, when many fundamental issues have not even been discussed, let alone resolved.

The creation of a national structure by the Canadian peace movement would at this point be so wildly premature as to be destructive. The extreme financial “overhead” and bureaucratic ponderousness of PPCC’s attempts at national coordination were loud and clear indications that there is no justification whatever for such phantasmal entities as “national offices” in Canada for some time to come.

It is not only structural. but political and strategic disagreements that made the Winnipeg PPCC conference last February decide quite emphatically against attempting to form a national organization out of the Caravan Campaign. It is unfortunate that a small minority of self-appointed peace movement leaders continue to struggle against this recommendation in their attempts to saddle Canada’s peace movement with a structure we neither need nor want and continue to do their utmost to wedge themselves into that saddle. Other forums, including ACTs strategy conference held at Toronto’s City Hall later that month, came to the same conclusion for the same profound reasons.

Issues which must be openly and publicly discussed before any national structure can be contemplated include:

  1. The need for the peace movement in both English Canada and Quebec to be clearly and publicly opposed to the warlike actions and nuclear weapons of the U.S.S.R. as well as the United States. The Canadian public cannot be expected to ignore the Soviet weapons pointed at them and their European relatives. Yet even the discussion of Soviet nuclear weapons is suppressed in organizations such as End The Arms Race. as was demonstrated by the failure of that organization to pass a resolution put forward by its main founder, Joseph Roberts, at a 1983 EAR general meeting. The defeated resolution read as follows: “The steering committee of End the Arms Race believes that both superpowers share the responsibility for the current state of affairs regarding the nuclear arms race.” Does anyone seriously believe that implicit prosovietism reflects the desires of even a fraction of Vancouver’s thousands of marchers or of Canada’s peace-loving majority in general?
  2. Defense of the right to protest and organize peacefully for peace and against the war-like actions of one’s own government and its alies East and West. This is an issue on which the far from “monolithic” British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has achieved a broad consensus, as have the even broader Europeans for Nuclear Disarmament. This is reflected in both the apportion the blame for the current nuclear impasse, At some point it may even have had some tactical merit. But if the irresponsible and hawkish Reagan regime is re-elected, we can expect a further dangerous escalation of the arms race. Accordingly, the only principled position which the peace movement can adopt is to remorselessly and fearlessly expose where the real threat lies.

John McArthur
Windsor, On,

No Coalition mandate

Gary Marchant’s arguments for the need for “some type of national co-ordinating body for the Canadian peace movement” are specious indeed.

He speaks of the ‘Refuse the Cruise’ campaigns being relatively uncoordinated. A central weakness in the otherwise national campaign against cruise testing was the lack of participation by Vancouver’s End the Arms Race coalition in two out of three coast-to-coast actions. This absence from actions that involved up to twenty cities and towns was primarily due to EAR’s inflexible methods of organizing.

Marchant speaks of the difficulties in launching PPCe. These difficulties arose because it was an artificial campaign thrust upon the Canadian peace movement from above – exactly what ,should never happen again!

He complains of the lack of a united response to the Peace Institute. What could be morc irrelevant to the Canadian peace movement than this last bureaucratic scrap thrown it by a waning government?

But it is Marchant’s final reason for a national structure that I find most distasteful; the need for national spokespersons to deal with the media. How incredibly hierarchical! As if any person or small group of designees could possibly speak for so varied and widely scattered a peace movement as the Canadian, especially at this early stage, when many fundamental issues have not evcn been discussed, let alone resolved.

The creation of a national structure by the Canadian peace movement would at this point be so wildly premature as to be destructive. The extreme financial “overhead” and bureaucratic ponderousness of PPCCs attempts at national coordination were loud and clear indications that there is no justificalion whatever for such phantasmal entities as “national offices” in Canada for some time to come.

It is not only structural. but political and strategic disagreements that made the Winnipeg PPCC conference last February decide quite emphatically against attempting to form a national organization out of the Caravan Campaign. It is unfortunate that a small minority of self-appointed peace movement leaders continue to struggle against this recommendation in their atte
pts to saddle Canada’s peace movement with a structure we neither need nor wantand continue to do their utmost to wedge themselves into that saddle. Other forums, including ACTs strategy conference held at Toronto’s City Hall later that month, came to the same conclusion for the same profound reasons.

Issues which must be openly and publicly discussed before any national structure can demand of their demonstrations and in their publications supporting independent peace organizations in the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR and Turkey. It is a fundamental issue which as not even been discussed knowledgeably by most English Canadian peace organizations.

These two political questions concerning our attitude toward the Soviet Union have produced the profound split in the peace movement in Quebec and are at the centre of the continuing difficulties in Toronto.

There are equally fundamental disagreements over strategy that confront the entire movement:

  1. Is the main purpose of the Canadian peace movement to lobby the government or to confront it? Are we mainly interested in rhetorical resolutions and “peace initiatives” or in concrete actions? Here in Toronto we saw Trudeau turn the soil for our civic peace garden 12 hours before he let the first cruise missile fly. Shall we continue to accept such counterfeit currency, such blatant hypocrisy? Worse, shall we pass it on the the public by encouraging faith in grand and empty words both here and at Geneva? It is important to understand that the “freeze,” in most forms, is just another rhetorical call for US-Soviet negotiations. In fact, just last year, the United States Congress passed a freeze resolution one week and approved funding for the MX missile the next. The quick freeze proposal, pledging elected representatives to support unilateral initiatives against arms spending is much more promising, and very close to CND (and ACT) strategy – but it is a little late for this election.
  2. What role does the fight for civil and democratic rights play in our campaign? Do we attempt to challenge bylaws restricting our right to distribute leaflets, put up posters and speak to the public? Or do we simply protest in ways and means that the authorities consider non-disruptive? It comes as no surprise that those who do not support the right to protest in the USSR also feel that the peace movement should meekly obey all authorities here.
  3. What about nuclear power, and its production of weapons grade fissionable materials, as well as uranium mining itself? Canadian activity in these areas helped to produce the Hiroshima bomb and to make India a nuclear power. Yet it is carefully left out of the demand for even a declaration of Canada as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.
  4. Finally, bilateralism has to be totally rejected as a strategy by the peace movement. We must oppose the concept that the destiny of the world is the property of the two superpowers that carved it up at Yalta. Our opposition to Canadian manufacturing and testing of American weapons should sensitize us to the vehement opposition of genuine peace activists in both Western and Eastern Europe to this bipolar mentality. Only the development of free, democratic societies dominated by no outside power will permanently remove Europe from its present powder keg status.

There are no shortcuts to solving these fundamental differences, and in a country the size of Canada, structural problems also become political ones. Any further attempts to impose national structures after the October 20th end of the PPCC will only fragment a fragile and superficial entity by misrepresenting and misdirecting Canada’s variegated peace efforts. We should instead encourage debate of all these important issues and a diversity of actions, coordinating actions on strategic days or weeks, as necessary.

Bert Keser
Toronto, On.

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