Helen Caldicott & Nuclear Sin

One of the most strident opponents of nuclear technology is an Australian by the name of Dr. Helen Caldicott. On October 14, 1991, she was invited to speak at the University of Nevada Las Vegas by various groups, most notably Citizen Alert, American Peace Test, Boulder City Peace and Justice Committee, Nevada Desert Experience, Nevadans for Peace, Pace Bene Franciscan Center, Rainbow Coalition, the Sociology Department (UNLV), Student Health Services, Student Government and the Women's Studies Department .

Also sponsoring Caldicott was the state of Nevada's Nuclear Waste Task Force led by Judy Treichel (though when pressed she denied any monetary connection). Caldicott's concerns for the environment bordered on hysterics and the NWTF risked its credibility by offering moral support for such views. If Caldicott's environmental convictions were implemented, it would turn the Vegas Valley to a desert ghost town.

Among the many things decried by Caldicott in her speech were gambling, clothes dryers, TV's, air conditioners, advertising, and anything vaguely nuclear. Whether or not Judy Treichel and NWTF sponsored Caldicott directly, the doctor's speech serves as a good example of the apocalyptic environmental mindset enveloping Yucca Mountain. And if representatives of the state of Nevada did support a speech by someone who opposes nearly everything the state stands for, those representatives will need to answer why for themselves.

A question raised by the Caldicott appearance is why the Las Vegas media chose to downplay the outrageous statements contained in Caldicott's speech. Two reasons come to mind: 1) anti-nuclear protest is old news in Las Vegas; or 2) some of the media people who did attend Caldicott's speech were biased in her favor and swept the most outrageous comments under the rug.

It is interesting to note the tone of a report titled "Las Vegans Told To Switch To Solar" filed in the Las Vegas Sun by Mary Manning who covered the Caldicott speech:

"Southern Nevadans have been warned to close the test site, run Las Vegas on solar power and let California keep its hazardous and nuclear wastes." [Manning, Mary; Las Vegas Sun, Oct 15, 1991, p3A]

Even Mary Manning, known for her anti-nuclear biases, couldn't keep all of Caldicott's bizarre statements under wraps in her article. Still, some of the Doctor's most damaging statements were conveniently absent from the Sun piece. Specifically, Caldicott hammered gambling, the lifeblood of Las Vegas, as immoral and suggested the Nevada Test Site had made the area uninhabitable, but these potentially explosive statements were left out of the Manning report.

Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review Journal did have a few choice words to say about Treichel's support for Caldicott's speech. In an editorial on October 20, 1991, Frederick wrote:

"But on Monday, Treichel's Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force revealed its true colors when it co-sponsored Dr. Helen Caldicott's lecture at UNLV.

Among other things, Caldicott gave the audience tips on how to stop nuclear testing, accused President Bush of starting the Persian Gulf War to help the stock market, and generally assailed all things nuclear as well as the military establishment.

Treichel defends her organization's co-sponsorship of Caldicott by saying no money was expended. But she admits the Caldicott speech was sanctioned by the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force and is the kind of activity that fulfills her lucrative contract with the state."

Caldicott's statements are useful because the Australian's rhetoric shows in a nutshell that the Yucca Mountain is not principally a local affair. Instead, debate is driven by the dynamics of out-of-state and international anti-nuclear activists with extremist environmental agendas.

Update, the faculty newsletter for the UNLV campus, provided some biographical background for the Caldicott visit:

"Nobel Peace Prize nominee Helen Caldicott . . . is one of the foremost spokespersons for nuclear disarmament, saving the environment, and Americans' taking responsibility for their government. She has been honored with the Gandhi Peace Prize and the University Women Peace Award for her leadership with International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War. She is founder of Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament and International Physicians for Saving the Environment." [Update,University News and Publication, Sept. 23, 1991, Vol. 20, No. 39]

Rather than overly analyze Caldicott, we'll let her own words speak for themselves by quoting from her Las Vegas speech.

Helen Caldicott

October 14, 1991

I've never been to Las Vegas, although I've been to almost every other city and town in America. As I drive around it's interesting to see that there are real people actually, who live here, amongst all these pseudo castles, neon lights and parking lots and huge hotels. And in the hotel where we're staying, it's forever twilight with these poor little people, who clearly come from the lower levels of society it seems, particularly in my hotel, where they're pouring their money into these machines, and I just wonder who owns the machines and how much profit they're making and they're skimming. It makes it look like Disneyland or fairyland, but in fact it's ripping their money off. I suppose it's a good place for gamblers and those who are addicted to gambling. - - It sort of makes me feel a bit sick. I have to say though, that's just my first hour's impression of being here."

. . .(I flew in over) beautiful tall mountains, are they pines on them? They look like pines from the air. I just can't believe how we screw things up. Us. White people. . . [NOTE: there are no pine trees approaching Las Vegas, Caldicott apparently conjectured Nevada's desert scrub are mutated pine]

I know Uncle Walter (Cronkite) and he told me (that if the country knew what he thought they wouldn't let him past the front door). But I said, God, the country needs you. He said, years ago, that the America should disarm unilaterally. And he said if thousands of people lay down in front of tanks invading Europe from the Soviet Union, that that would stop them. I mean, that's where Walter Cronkite is. Amazing, he's an amazingly wonderful man."

Take it into your souls. Take it into your souls. Here lies the naidus of the second American revolution. It goes back to the problem of media culture. We all live in a projection room. And those politicians who are able to massage our egos get away with it. The projection room is in the lavatory, the bathroom, the bedroom, the sitting room, the kitchen and everywhere you go the television is blaring out this garbage at everyone, manipulating with subliminal sophisticated psychology. These ads are for manipulation, it's a form of social engineering. I think George Bush is the most deeply unprincipled man in American politics today. . . . . Now I knew Reagan, I spent an hour and a quarter with him in the White House. . . .

My daughter just went to medical school, for five years, and I didn't pay a penny. My government paid for her education. No college education, no university education, should be paid for, it should be paid for by the government, free, with your tax dollars. The government is there to disperse your tax dollars for your benefit. Not to put the money into the coffers of General Electric, who've made every nuclear weapon since time began, into Westinghouse, who makes refrigerators and stoves and nuclear weapons, into AT&T, thank you for calling AT&T (cynical inflection). AT&T runs Sandia Labs, who've designed all the nuclear weapons since time began, I've spoken at Sandia Labs to the scientists, that's what AT&T do (sic), As a side effect, they run a telephone system. But they also run satellites in the air that have wired the world up like a ticking time bomb ready to go off at in a minute in a nuclear war -- first strike nuclear war, which is still the policy of this country. So somewhere along the line, this country's lost its way and the corporation's got hold of you. Hands up, those of you who think they live in a democracy, a true democracy.

So let's get back to Nevada. So they're testing weapons here, ehh? And they keep testing weapons and they keep testing weapons even though there's no enemy anymore. The communists have disappeared. I used to be called a communist. They used to tell me to go to Russian when I said we'll have to learn to live with the Russians or we'll all die together. And Russian flesh burns at the same temperature as American flesh. And they said you're a communist, go and live in Russia. They can't call me that anymore, it's rather nice. I'm actually an Australian.

. . .And Ronald Reagan thought Star Wars was this yellow plastic shield over America, and that weapons came in and they went boink! And they just bounced off. That reminds me of Las Vegas here, with all those medieval castles with all that gambling and crime and stuff. He didn't understand. But Reagan was the one person in this country who really thought Star Wars would work.

. . . Hydrogen bombs are very easy to make and very cheap. And it was his idea (Teller) and Oppenheimer was opposed, because when he saw the first bomb explode in the desert, in New Mexico, and the bomb was called Trinity, after the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. And if the bomb didn't work, they were going to send a telegram to the president saying, it's a girl. But the bomb worked, so the telegram read, it's a boy. Note! Note! The revolting sexism in that. I mean, really, that's so offensive. . . .