Dear CCI Friends across America,
Please excuse the lack of posts during these last few weeks. I’ve been putting together CCI’s activities for 2018 and also took time off to be with family in Oregon. As for the 2018 work, we will need your help to carry it out!
Today, I’m sufficiently excited and I want to share some thoughts with you. The monthly Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) just arrived by email. This is the organization that keeps the Doomsday Clock, which warns when there’s imminent danger to the planet. The clock is now down to 2.5 minutes before midnight (Doomsday)––not good.
I was delighted to learn that the lead BSA article this month is on Dr. Ira Helfand, the past President of PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility) and currently co-President of PSR’s global federation, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. He is also a noted authority on nuclear weapons and nuclear war. Helfand, with others, was seminal in the creation of PSR in the 1980’s when America’s doctors across the nation took the case against nuclear war to the American people. This led to rejecting even the notion of fantacizing about winning such a war with the U.S.S.R. He and PSR were critical to waking up America … including me.
It was 37 years ago that a San Jose physician looked across the bed of an unconscious patient and said, “We need you to help us start PSR in the Bay Area. I protested saying I was an ICU RN, not a doctor, which he quickly brushed aside and quipped, “We need all of the help we can get to educate the public.” That’s how I became a PSR volunteer which ended up radically changing the course of my life.
I learned everything I didn’t want to know about nuclear weapons, their firepower, immediate devastation, secondary and tertiary destruction, including the irrevocable consequences of a nuclear winter which would kill all food sources on the planet within a year or two … thus leaving the earth a barren ball of matter rotating in its orbit around the sun.
Year 1981 was precisely like today; the “projection of the enemy” was endemic among all levels of Americans. Fear and hostility were raging between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Speaking for PSR at Rotary clubs, town hall meetings and other venues (and often being called a Communist sympathizer), I soon realized that some group of American people had to go to the Soviet Union and investigate “the enemy.” PSR doctors were too busy, so friends and I decided that we ordinary citizens would find a way to get to the nation that was preparing to destroy America. We understood it was a totally naive idea, but felt we had to do something even if it made no difference. We flew into Moscow on a tiny Serbian plane on September 16, 1983. Just prior on September 1, the Soviets unleashed a missile that destroyed Korean Airliner 007 in air, sending 269 innocent people to their deaths in the sea below. It was a horrifying international catastrophe. Peoples of both countries feared it would provoke WWIII. Thankfully it didn’t, and by the end of the year CCI unexpectedly came into existence.
Fast forward to today: the current U.S.-Russia relationship started deteriorating again in year 2000, which few Americans noticed. I was registering rumblings, but thought they would abate. Increasingly the situation worsened over the ensuing years––to the place where now ominous discussions are being held about the use of nuclear weapons to resolve small-nation conflicts like North Korea. The U.S. and Russia have radically different interests and concerns in this region. Kim Jong-un and our current president are squaring off at each other threatening the use of nuclear weapons.
Even more dangerous are Pentagon speculations about considering a “First Strike” to knock out missiles of the other superpower (Russia) before they can respond. Shocking, isn’t it?! All of sudden it’s being realized on main-street U.S.A. that North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel, Lebanon, et al, that one or more of these smouldering hot spots could become a trigger point for a far more dangerous conflict between the U.S. and Russia … in which they and their loved ones could be obliterated.
So in this environment how could I be excited about the PSR article? As serious as the situation may appear, it’s good news that PSR is back––that Ira is speaking out and there is a possibility that PSR may intervene again in this current “war insanity.” I know of no other U.S. or world organization that has the capability and respect that PSR has. They have impeccable PSR history in the U.S. and they have positive history dealing with the Russians and internationally. Granted they would need to build citizen support across America again. But this is where Americans like us could come in. We can bring numerous mainstream American groups to the effort.
Physicians are the perfect population to get the attention of America’s mainstream citizens who for one reason or another have not paid attention as the situation has escalated. Some are waking up now and realize that we could soon be in a deadly situation. For some reason, North Korea has been a “wake up call” for many across America. But they don’t know what to do.
If physicians across the country speak out to their communities as in the 80’s, Americans will respond. If they explain that nuclear war is the ultimate health threat to their children, themselves and their communities, this will get them activated. If we all contact our local and Congressional officials and newspapers, we will begin to impinge on the political process. It could happen within a few months or even weeks, depending on how quickly local peoples get involved. Fortunately a groundswell is already building to change political direction in Washington. No one has clear solutions––but millions are fed up with both political parties.
I admit that I don’t believe that either political party has the insights, the courage or the freedom to act independently. They have both been bought by powerful sources.
However, there are a few courageous young Congress members in both parties (they call themselves “Realists”) who vote with each other on issues despite party affiliations. They would support good initiatives bypassing “politics as usual.” America’s political arena needs a new face to replace the ineffective, warring mentality that has dominated the past two decades …. and which has created today’s international wars and terrorists.
Our grassroots vocabulary is suddenly sprinkled with terms we haven’t heard before, like “the Deep State,” the “Wolfowitz Doctrine,” and “Full Spectrum Dominance”. Ordinary people are beginning to understand these terms and the role our country has played in smaller nations around the world. They are shocked. Is this what our tax dollars have been used for––800 U.S. military bases throughout the world? Wars we spent trillions on but didn’t win … when education, health care and infrastructure go under financed? Invasion of seven countries in five years was a goal of the Pentagon, General Wesley Clark told us in 2007! This has reeked endless horror and devastation and created more terrorists who are now striking within our own cities.
We are a nation of good people. Yes we have a lot that isn’t working well within our 50 states, but we have deep layers of the finest people in the world in our American cities. They are hard-working, principled citizens, given to honest relations, taking care of local issues, meeting the needs of their communities. I’ve traveled to and spoken at Rotary clubs all across this country in the past 35 years. Wherever I go I find noble human beings. It’s not from lack of good people that we suffer. It’s from lack of good political direction from the top down.
If thousands of us send educational information to our personal email lists, talk with our doctors about informing their patients (perhaps provide a PSR flyer to duplicate and pass to their patients), communicate with our media saying, “This situation is totally unacceptable for America. Help us stop this insanity!” It will get attention. Volunteers are needed to put together speakers’ forums and other venues. Yesterday I sent Ira a list of ideas that could be jump starters. I believe Americans like us across the country can become serious partners with the physicians.
I met Ira when he spoke to a small group at a large Rotary Conference in early 2016. What a knowledgeable and powerful speaker he was! At the time I was so curious … and wondered why was he not the keynote speaker of the entire conference? Now I realize that Americans just weren’t ready to hear his message, even two years ago. But the time is rapidly approaching when they will be ready or already are. We need to get our strategies in place immediately.
Please digest the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists interview with Ira which follows this message.
Aligning with PSR and finding out how we can interact with them holds a lot of promise.
I’m sure you have many great ideas. Please share them. Your ideas will be printed, not your identity. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best,
Center for Citizen Initiatives
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists interview with Dr. Ira Helfand can be found here.