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BTL Q&A: Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movement Organizing

BTL Q&A: Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movement Organizing Against Bush Nuke Policy Mon, 19 Aug 2002

---- From the radio newsmagazine Between The Lines ( ==============================

Between the Lines Q&A A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints on national and international issues under-reported in mainstream media for release Aug. 19, 2002

Veterans of Anti-Nuclear Weapons Movement Organize Opposition to Bush Nuke Policies
Interview with author and activist, Jonathan Schell, conducted by Scott Harris

Click here to listen: Needs RealPlayer

Despite the end of the Cold War a decade ago, the danger of nuclear war -- and the human catastrophe which such a conflict could inflict on the planet -- has not diminished. In recent months India and Pakistan have both threatened to use their nuclear arsenals in any future conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Bush administration, in their drive for military superiority, have abandoned arms control treaties and embarked on deployment of a controversial missile defense system; proposed the development of new battlefield nuclear weapons and threatened to use nukes against non-nuclear states.

In June, several veterans of the anti-nuclear weapons movement of the 1980s issued an "Urgent Call to End the Nuclear Danger." Drafted by author Jonathan Schell, Freeze Campaign organizer Randy Forsberg and David Cortright, former director of SANE, the call is an initiative to "engage and educate a broad public about the growing danger that nuclear weapons will be used, and about practical steps to reduce that danger." The document, first published in the Nation Magazine and circulated on the Internet, demands that the U.S. and Russia fulfill their commitments under the nonproliferation treaty together with the other nuclear powers, step by carefully inspected and verified step, to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Jonathan Schell, author of "The Fate of the Earth," who explains why the "Urgent Call" was issued now and his hope that a new anti-nuclear weapons movement can be organized to counter the threat of nuclear conflict.

Jonathan Schell: The time is right now because there's really a kind of nuclear revival going on. The administration is planning new uses of nuclear weapons. They're threatening first use of nuclear weapons. They're scrapping the policies of the Cold War in terms of containment -- which were flawed enough -- replacing them with worse and more dangerous policies of pre-emption. It's not my words, it's theirs, of attacking first -- something that's against the traditions of this country, brought up on the stories of Pearl Harbor. It’s a formula for military engagement for war, not just in Iraq, but in other parts of the world as well that explicitly includes the use of nuclear weapons even in first strikes. Also, they're gearing up the whole nuclear establishment behind this sort of cover of this rather deceptive treaty (between the U.S and Russia). They're asking for new types of nuclear weapons. One is called the "robust earth penetrator;" it sounds like something Dr. Strangelove ma de up, a kind of a joke,

Between The Lines: The leaders of this country, our political leaders sell the idea of military superiority as a must, a necessity to protect this country. Particularly after September 11th you have many people … enthusiastic endorsers of the notion that this country should be an unrivaled, unchallenged superpower with military dominance right down the line from outer space weapons to the latest blockbuster bombs.

Jonathan Schell: I don’t think that the public is as hawkish as the administration makes out actually. I don't think that it's really a warlike public.

Nevertheless, people think, "Yes, we'll be very powerful, we'll be safe." But all they have to do is think for a moment and ask themselves if some other country were saying that "We alone would have this superiority and military power, and the U.S. just had to do what we said," I'll tell you people would not like it here in this country, and they don't like it around the world either. So this provokes anger, this provokes hostility. People don't like to be pushed around.

Let me read you something that president Bush said in a speech. "America has and intends to keep military strength beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless -- limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace."

In other words, we're going to be so strong that no one else is even going to be able to think about challenging us militarily. Imagine if we heard, "Germany has and intends to keep military strength beyond challenge and so forth," we'd put our defense spending from $400 billion up to $800 billion. We wouldn't stand for that for a minute. But people around the world are not so different from us that way. They want equity, they want justice, and they want to participate. They want to be the masters of their own fate. They don't want a big global nanny telling them what they can do and what they can't do -- a global policeman what have you.

Between The Lines: After the demise of the Soviet Union the United States has stood alone as the remaining superpower. As you're saying here, people react with the view that the United States has become very arrogant now, with the pulling out of many international treaties and going its own way on so many issues. Is there a vacuum now in terms of some rival for the United States, that will invite a coalition of nations -- or a military build-up by one or two nations -- that will fill the vacuum left by the old Soviet Union? Are you concerned that we have another new Cold War on our hands at some point because of the U.S. swaggering around the world like it has?

Jonathan Schell: I think it is provocative, and it does arouse hostility. It may not be a Cold War, it may that people will choose economic retaliation. It may be that they will refuse to cooperate with us on things that we want, including the war on terror, so called. We may find that the doors are closing on our faces around the world. It arouses hostility and that's not good for the United States. We need to do business in the world; we need to be in cooperation with the world; our interests are bound up with the world. We can't just push people around.

Between The Lines: Just a final question. We have seen a lot of activism in this country and around the world that we haven't seen in several decades. A big part of that has been a global social justice movement that's challenged corporate-led globalization. And more recently with the conflict in the Middle East and the war on terrorism, we've seen the emergence somewhat of a new peace movement. Do you see the prospects in the near term of a new strengthened peace movement that will merge in some ways with an economic agenda that's already being pursued by a lot of groups worldwide?

Jonathan Schell: I think that has to happen. A world of escalating war is not going to be a world of economic justice. Look at the powers that are pushing the military policy here in the United States. You can forget about your agenda for economic justice if we go down the path of a militarized world and find ourselves in five or six wars.

Look at the militarization of the United States since September 11th. That's a dangerous path. So we've got to join up in this. It really is two aspects of a single cause, in my opinion.

Contact those organizing the "Urgent Call" at (617) 354-4337 or visit their Web site at (

Related link: Read the "Urgent Call " in the Nation Magazine:

Scott Harris is the executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (, for the week ending Aug. 23, 2002

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